The benefits of studio monitor speakers
You’d be surprised at how many home studios have beautiful microphones, sets of MIDI controllers, even audio interfaces but lack one of the most important pieces of music equipment: proper sound output.
Studio monitor speakers are actually relatively affordable (some of them at least, unless you’re going the professional engineering mastering route). They’re specialized for music recording and producing. Although we do hear many recommend using mastering headphones to mix, we know others who need studio monitors on top of their other gear for obvious reasons. Here are some benefits of studio monitors when they are included in your setup:
- Provide accurate sound among all available frequencies, low (subwoofers), medium and high (tweeters), while many consumer-based speakers only provide a component for all of the above (which sacrifices even distribution of frequencies)
- Ideal and recommended for those who mix and master tracks at any level
- Give you that step up from merely a desk with a few controllers to a true home studio
- Great for leisure listening — don’t think they’re just for mixing and mastering (or can function for both depending on your use that day)
How to choose your studio monitors
Choosing your studio monitor speakers may seem a bit daunting at first, but all you need to do is take a few aspects into consideration. Here’s a list of things to think about:
- What is your budget? Typically, the more you spend, the more powerful as well as accurate your monitors will be. There’s quite a range when it comes to the best studio monitor speakers, so we made sure to cover all bases for our different readers out there — from high-end to super budget-friendly.
- Woofer and tweeter size – The bigger the better? Yes and no — look at the material and make of them as well. The larger they are, the more capacity of frequency they’re able to handle, but if it’s super over-priced with a marketed “big” size, be weary. The overall build and materials used to make the tweeter and woofer are also important (look for carbon and fiber).
- Do you want a pair or just one? Not sure why we put this in here, but just be careful as some packages only come with one speaker and some in pairs. Unless you only need one, of course.
- Size of your monitors – Some have a lot of space to work with, others have merely their desk. We wouldn’t let your studio size determine which monitors you should get, so we recommend making room if you have to.
- Passive or active speakers? This passive vs. active speakers article is helpful, but we like active speakers as it is more common so we’ll focus on that for today. Passive speakers will need some amplification, but some prefer those to have some more customization over their sound and power.
- Do you need a subwoofer? For music production, the consensus is really split with the need of subwoofers. Two studio monitors will be fine in smaller uses and home studios as they give you a feasible amount of that low-frequency sound. We’ve heard many say that if anything, a subwoofer will take away from the sound accuracy and boast the bass. However, you can always turn the sub off when you want (we do it all the time). Read our best studio subwoofer article if you’re interested in adding a sub to your setup for times your mood asks for some extra thump.
To start off our guide, we want to bring one of the heavy-hitters up first to start us off strong. Adam Audio has a big reputation when it comes to high-end audio gear, particularly within the monitoring category. Ask anybody what the “best” is when it comes to engineering and these guys are right there. The A7X in particular is one of their many awesome studio monitors. It provides us with an advanced tweeter (X-ART) with great highs and mids (uncompressed for that raw sound) and solid mid/mid-woofer with 100 Watts PWM amp.
The overall build of the Adam Audio A7X is top-of-the-line, coming with a 7″ woofer made of carbon, glass fiber and rohacell. That tweeter we were talking about is handmade in Germany if you fancy the location of creation, and the overall frequency response is quite wide at 42 Hz to 50 kHz to cover all your bases. The A/B amplifier achieves solid power, and although these things come with a price (and typically sold separately so you’ll have to times that price by two for a pair), you won’t be disappointed and be among with the pros with these babies on your desk.
- Frequency range: 42 Hz to 50 kHz
- Size: Near-field
- A/B amplifier with 100 Watts PWM
- 7“ Woofer (Glass Fiber/Carbon/Rohacell)
- X-ART 2″ Tweeter (German Handmade Precision)
- Max peak SPL: 106 dB
- Dimensions: 8″ by 13.5″ by 11″
- Weight: 20.3 lbs.
Coming in as another one of the best studio monitor speakers ever, Genelec gives Adam Audio a run for their money when it comes to professional and high-end models. The M040 is one of their many monitors worth looking at if your budget allows. This one in particular gives us excellent active crossovers, room response compensation, some “Natural Composite Enclosure” tech, “Directivity Control Waveguide” tech, and amazing optimized amplifiers. So what do these fancy technology terms mean? Well, they don’t just play music.
To sum it up a bit, the DCW gives some advanced mechanisms for a wider listening area and improved sound stage\stereo imaging. The NCE on the other hand describes their enclosure build — injection-moulded wood (half wood fibers), flame retardants, lubricants and more. For only those familiar with the advanced builds studio monitors truly come with, it may be the perfect choice. The Genelec M040 is a favorite among the music’s pros, and grabbing two of these will have you set in the audio part of your studio for years to come.
- Frequency response: 44 Hz to 21 kHz (-6 db)
- 6.5″ woofer
- 1″ metal dome tweeter
- Optimized amplifiers
- Protection circuitry
- Room Response Compensation
- Natural Composite Enclosure Technology (NCE)
- Laminar Integrated Port Technology (LIP)
- Directivity Control Waveguide Technology (DCW)
- Weight: 15.4 lbs.
I’ve heard so many people talk about the solidity of the LSR305’s that we just had to put these after the AV 40’s. JBL music has been very solid with monitors (I mean, they make PA systems…) and this is their best speaker for music in our opinion. These monitors provide a very accurate and clean sound. The performance is very good, providing a much lower frequency than the AV 40’s (only down to 85 Hz). As a pair they can get a bit costly, but once you grab these you are set for a good 3, 4 or even 5+ years of investment.
The woofers are above-average size at 5″ (most are around 4″) and the tweeters are just like all others, although their frequency transducer and image control wave guide help with an even cleaner sound on top of the drivers. If you have the money i’d seriously think about getting a pair of these for any studio. They aren’t necessarily as loud as some competitors (82 watts), but that isn’t always the key when looking for a good pair of studio monitor speakers. The JBL LSR305 studio monitor is reliable at a pretty doable price. The LSR305 review by MusicTech also praises these for their power and price point.
- Frequency range: 43 Hz – 24 kHz
- Weight: 10 lbs
- 3-series Class D amps
- JBL transducers
- Woofer: 5″ Long-throw
- Tweeter: 1″ Neodymium
- One XLR and one TRS balanced inputs
- Type: Active speakers
- Image Control Waveguide
- -10 dB/+4 dB sensitivity switch (ability to hook it up to pro gear without input overload)
- LF Trim and HF Trim “TRIM” switches
- 41-watt class D amp (low and high-frequency) for a total of 81 watts of power
Yamaha music instruments are on point when it comes to speakers. These studio monitors are extremely popular, just falling a bit behind the JBL’s in terms of popularity around the net (probably because they’re a bit more expensive). If you can take a step up in terms of budget, we recommend grabbing these. They’ve got a whopping 8″ cone woofer and a 1″ tweeter (the lower models basically go down in woofer size, hence their model names). The frequency response is above-average and what I particularly like is it allowing you to go down to 38 Hz for bass mixing. The wattage count is very high at 120, so if you turn this baby up you’re getting the walls to feel it in the infrastructure.
It’s a bi-amp design so only two-way here, but the mid’s aren’t lacking whatsoever. The Yamaha HS8 monitors also have something built-in called the ‘ROOM CONTROL’ which allows for trimming of low and high frequencies for a better, accurate sound based on your liking. Lastly, it’s got a standard XLR and TRS jack but no RCA. These things are beastly and note that they’re pretty damn heavy but hey, what do you expect with something this powerful? These are the cream of the crop. If money wasn’t a factor, these would win for best studio monitor speakers.
- Frequency response: 38 Hz to 30 kHz
- Weight: 23 lbs
- 2-Way bass-reflex bi-amp
- 120-Watt power (75 low-frequency and 45 high-frequency)
- Woofer: 8″ cone
- Tweeter: 1″ dome
- ROOM CONTROL and high trim response controlling
- Ports: XLR and TRS on back
KRK RP6G3-NA Rokit 6 Generation 3
These babies are highly regarded in the music equipment arena. KRK Systems make very solid pairs of headphones and monitors. The Rokit 6 have made it to the 3rd generation version and for good reason, offering a bi-amp 1″ dome tweeter and 6″ woofers (glass-aramid composite). Goes up to the standard 35 kHz in terms of frequency response and as low as 38 Hz (same as the Yamahas). The power is about 100 watts but the 20 watt difference between these and Yamaha is barely noticeable in terms of power, so grab these if you want to save a few bucks, although the woofers are 2″ less.
A big plus of the KRK Rokit 6 G3 studio monitors have been stated by many are the especially clear highs. Some have complained about the size being full-sized bookshelf speakers, so take that into consideration if you need to keep space in mind (size really shouldn’t dictate whether you buy these or not — we say make room if you have to). All in all, you won’t be disappointed in these; they are cherished by a lot of gear heads.
- Frequency response: 38 Hz to 35 kHz
- Weight: 20 lbs
- Woofer: 6″ Aramid glass composite
- Tweeter: 1″ soft dome
- Amp: Class A-B
- Type: Active 2-way
- Inputs included: RCA, 14″ TRS and XLR
- Black vinyl wrap finish
- Front firing port (reduces coupling)
Credit: wirerealm 2017. Shortened for ease of use.