The Complete Guide to Studio Monitors


Studio monitors play an important role when creating songs, arrangements, mixing and mastering. The purpose of monitors in the studio is to make the sound as transparent and clear as possible.

This is important so that you have the opportunity to see all the details of musical composition and make corrections in those places where it is really necessary.

In this article, we will tell you everything about studio monitors, their features, types, and give you all-in-one buying guide. At the end of the article, you’ll find a list of monitors for the different price categories. Let’s get into it!

The Complete Guide to Studio Monitors

Chapter 1: Things to Know Before Choosing Studio Monitors


Studio monitors are a very important part of every home recording/professional studio. In this guide, we to guide you through the buying journey, so that you know what you should be looking for when choosing a pair of monitors.

The main purpose of studio monitors is to give you the opportunity to hear all the details of a musical composition, show your mistakes made in the recording and allow you to improve the overall balance of the mix.

Before you start choosing monitors, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • The purpose of buying studio monitors (recording music, mixing, mastering, casual listening, small project studio)
  • Budget!
  • Main characteristics that shape the sound

To get answers to all these questions, you need to figure out which monitors are currently available, how their specs work out for you, and what you should consider when choosing a particular set of monitors.

There are 3 types of studio monitors:

  • Far-field (quite large in size, they are bought for large recording studios and as a rule installed in the wall)
  • Medium field (medium-sized 3-way speakers, spaced 1.5 to 2 meters apart)
  • Near field (small size, especially popular for home and other small recording studios)

In this article, we will consider near-field monitors, which are perfect for most home and small recording studios.

Things to Know Before Choosing Studio Monitors

Budget

The budget, along with the goals, is your starting point. The budget will pinpoint the price segment which you should be looking for. In this article we will sort out different monitors by price, so you can look through different monitors in each price segment.

One thing is for sure: good monitors should NOT be on your save up list. A good studio monitor today, like several years ago, is expensive. When buying cheap studio monitors, especially from unknown brands, you should understand that you take risks: nobody would use a 100$ monitor in a professional recording studio. It could be an alternative or a reference monitor for a home studio.

However, do not be overwhelmed, as Bob Power told at his mixing masterclass, “The good news is that there is a lot of great monitors way under $10,000 now. There is a whole class of staff now really between a $1,000 and $3,000 that are really pretty good.”

So, ideally, studio monitors should be of the highest quality and, as a consequence, quite expensive.

However, if you are just starting to build your first recording studio, you still can afford a decent pair of monitors for just $500-1000.

Although the monitors of this price range do not reproduce honest sound, they are still positioned as professional monitors. And if you position them properly in your room environment and can compensate for the sound, they will give an acceptable result.

So, you are done with the budget and goals, what exactly should you be looking for when choosing a monitor? There is a couple of things to consider.

Active vs Passive

One of the most important aspects of choosing monitors is understanding the difference between passive and active monitors:

  • Passive monitors (without an amplifier) are acoustic cabinets without a built-in amplifier, which must be purchased SEPARATELY.
  • Active monitors have a built-in amplifier, you get a speaker system completely ready for use.

In recording studios, the most popular monitors are ACTIVE monitors, since they are more convenient and are tuned from the factory so that when you buy them, you immediately get a system with decent sound out of the box.

On the contrary, the sound of a passive monitor can be affected by the type of amplifier, its setup, technical features, and even cables for the speakers. Moreover, the connectors on these cables can influence the sound.

Passive monitors require an additional amplifier. Due to this, and also due to the availability of only an analog input (Speakon or TRS jack), this type of studio monitor is not so popular even though it has a simpler design than active ones.

When buying active models, you can be always sure that the manufacturer has selected and precisely coordinated the work of the amplifier and speakers for you.

Advantages of active monitors:

  • Versatile in use;
  • Easy to connect;
  • There is no need to configure an additional amplification path;
  • Allow you to configure settings for a specific room;
  • Precisely selected and verified by the manufacturer circuitry protects the speakers and amplifiers from failure.

Disadvantages of active monitors:

  • You’ll have to buy a pair of cables for the monitor;
  • Difficult construction, entailing the complexity of the repair;
  • Do not allow changing the sound volume in hardware.

Discussions about which studio monitors are better, active or passive, do not make sense. Both categories have high-quality and budget models. Most of the market is occupied by active models, which are used both at home and in professional studios. This does not mean that passive systems are not popular – they are simply used less frequently.

It is important to remember that when choosing a monitor, sound and the way it works for you play a decisive role. If you like the sound of a particular model, if you know how to mix properly on it, then there is no difference which studio monitors to buy. No one will say that you made a mistake with the choice of a passive or active system. What really matters is what you hear in the result.

Do not forget that the budget has a significant influence on the choice of studio monitors. As already noted, passive systems require a separate amplifier, the purchase of which does not always fit into the budget.

Front vs Rear-Ported Monitors

When we listen to music, the monitor’s speaker moves back and forth, such additional movement creates additional air pressure in the cabinet. Excessive air pressure can negatively affect the sound; therefore, to disperse it and reduce the pressure, the cabinets are equipped with ports.

The port also makes the air inside the cabinet resonate at frequencies close to those that the monitor cannot reproduce. This resonance extends the dynamic range of monitors, allowing them to give out more low frequencies compared to a conventional closed monitor.

It also allows you to remove part of the vibration of the cabinet, reducing its vibrations and increasing returns.

Front-Ported Monitors

Front-reflex studio monitors suitable for easier installation

Many modern studio speaker systems are front-ported. This design can affect the sound properties of the monitor.

The main purpose of the front-ported design is to expand and amplify the low-frequency spectrum reproduced by the speakers.

This design extends the low-frequency range. The flip side of the coin may be a decrease in the intelligibility of the low-frequency component. The manufacturer compensates for this shortcoming by improving the design of acoustics.

Front-reflex studio monitors are considered the optimal solution for limited workspaces. With this design, sound waves and are not reflected from the back wall. Consequently, the monitor speakers can be installed almost close to the wall. This will not affect the sound reproduction quality and will not distort the sound field.

Rear-Ported Monitors

It’s recommended to install a rear-ported monitor at a certain distance from the walls. On average, it is 30-40 cm. Manufacturers can indicate the optimal distance in the accompanying documentation for their models.

The sound wave is reflected from the wall and returns to the listener. Thus, you need to calculate the distance between the back of the monitor and a wall. If you install the speakers closely, phase distortion will occur and the accuracy of the sound will suffer.

Such models will be a good solution if the size of the room allows you to perform the correct installation. In this case, the interaction of the port with space will provide deep, clear bottoms. It is necessary to pre-measure the room and calculate the parameters of the workplace.

XLR vs TRS (1/4″) vs RCA

Unlike multimedia speakers with standard 3.5-inch jack (TRS) and tulips (RCA) connection, professional monitors offer different cables and connection standards.
You should aim for balanced cables that are relatively immune to interference noise from radio frequencies, electronic equipment, etc.

Studio monitors from different manufacturers may differ in the way they are connected. The standard connection is a balanced XLR input. This reliable balanced input can be found on the speakers from most manufacturers. They are shielded and reduce noise.

“You want the cable to be as short linked as you need. The longer the run, then, generally speaking, the more chance of a picking up some kind of interference”, Sean Divine says. You can also aim for quad balanced cables that have redundancy in terms of how they are carrying the signal. It will give you more shielding and lower noise. On practice, however, there’s not much difference between them.

As an alternative to XLR input, a balanced TRS Jack is also used. Both connection types will carry a balanced signal and, as a result, should work well. However, phantom power on most sound interfaces is routed to XLR inputs. These inputs often have mic pre-amps. TRS inputs are at line level and have no mic pre-amp, consequently, they do not have phantom power.

Some monitors are also equipped with unbalanced RCA connectors, which do not allow you to squeeze the most out of your monitors and used mostly on multimedia speakers.

Headphones vs Studio Monitors

“Why would I fork out for a pair of monitors when I can buy decent headphones that translate the sound good?” Well, it all narrows down to the way you hear the sound from both systems. Before buying a pair of professional monitors for a studio, you need to understand that the acoustics of your room is a KING.

In fact, the sound you hear from the speaker is affected by everything, ranging from the size of the room (the larger the room, the greater the reverb), to furniture placement and electrical appliances (computer noise can get into the recording). Therefore, before making a purchase, you must correctly perform the acoustic design of your room.

If this is your first time doing it or if you don’t have enough money for acoustic foam, that’s when the headphones come into place. They allow you to listen to the sound as accurately as possible since they will be connected directly to the sound card and the sound will go right into your ears without reflections and room reverb.

This is, of course, a compromise, but it’s good for starters. Also, the use of headphones will allow you to track particular frequencies of sound which monitors can’t show. For example, stereo effects can sound different in headphones than in studio monitors. Long story short, headphones are just an ADDITIONAL tool in your studio arsenal.

Studio Monitors vs Speakers (Hi-Fi)

The cost of monitors is higher than the price of a Hi-Fi class system; however, many monitor models are active, meaning additional amplification is not required.

The main point is that the Hi-Fi acoustics, especially if it is equipped with an appropriate amplifier, tends to smooth out defects in audio, compensate for recording quality, etc., allowing the listener to get the smoothest sound. If you know all the disadvantages of such a setup and can compensate for all the mistakes it shows, you can go for it.

Will it make your mixing easier? Well, let’s say, technically, you can cross the ocean in the bathtub, but why would you want to do so? DO NOT cheap out on your monitors! A good pair of monitors is a key element of your studio.

Sure, there is a gazillion of Hi-Fi systems and regular speakers on the market, and they do sound good. Legendary Yamaha NS-10 is originally a Hi-Fi system, but a situation like this is more an exception than a rule.

Chapter 2: How to Choose the Right Studio Monitors


GRAMMY-winning and platinum-selling engineer Bob Power told there are a couple of things you want from monitors: “I want to know what is there without any exaggeration of any particular area. The most important thing for monitors is that they reveal everything that’s there for you!”

“Rather than being good or flat, it’s much more important that you know them well and you know how the staff will translate”, he adds.

Things to Know Before Choosing Studio Monitors

Choosing the Right Studio Monitors

Remember that no article can tell you exactly which pair of studio monitors that you need. It all depends on your experience and understanding of what you hear.

If you are buying your first pair of monitors, you would probably change them in the future. And that’s NORMAL! This means you are learning from things and you will know what works well for you and what you need to mix well.

However, there are certain things you want to know so that you choose wisely:

  1. Listen to your favorite songs on the speakers you are interested in.
  2. Decide on the type and location of monitors so that the store can simulate your room environment. The ideal arrangement of near-field monitors is at the corners of an isosceles triangle. Monitors should be aimed at your ears.
  3. Determine the location of the port. If your monitors will stand close to the wall, you need to choose front-ported models. If the distance from the back of the monitors to the wall is at least 30–40 cm, the ports can be located at the back.
  4. Monitor power – this is not the main factor. It may turn out that at a power of 30–50 W you will hear those nuances that your home acoustics could barely reproduce.
  5. Take a look at the size of the woofer. The larger it is, the better the return on the bottoms. At the same time, remember that you are purchasing near-field monitors, not a subwoofer. Do not expect them to issue a full low-frequency spectrum with smaller woofers. Later, buy a separate subwoofer for this purpose, or upgrade to the higher tier models.
  6. Estimate how much time you plan to spend in the studio. If it’s about 10 hours a day, it’s best to choose models with a ribbon tweeter: your ears will be grateful to you for this.
  7. Weight of the monitor. Are you looking for an easy way and want to choose a lighter model? Should you, though? The heavier the monitor, the more stable it is.
  8. Take a look at the brand. We don’t want you to look solely on the brands, but it’s usually better to buy something that a lot of people can vouch for, especially if you are looking for your first pair of monitors. The most common monitors in the studios are KRK, ADAM, Alesis, Yamaha, JBL, Mackie, Presonus, Genelec and less often – M-Audio, Behringer, Pioneer, Axelvox, Fluid Audio, Tannoy, Samson.
  9. The number of different adjustments: the more there are, the more accurately you can adjust the monitor to the acoustic of the room. Having a built-in EQ and Room Control is a good bonus.
  10. Optimum technical characteristics for near-field monitors: the power of at least 100 W, frequency range 50–20,000 Hz, 5–8 inches woofer.

Chapter 3: Best Studio Monitors


We will try to provide you with a list of studio monitors with the best value for money. For this reason, we ignored the top models, which, in our opinion, will be too expensive for a home studio. The price range that we took into account ranges from under $500 to $2000 per pair.

Best Studio Monitors

Best Studio Monitors Under $500 (Per Pair)

Do not expect accuracy and detail in this budget segment. Nevertheless, even inexpensive monitors will provide better sound quality and clarity compared to conventional acoustics.

KRK ROKIT 5 G4

KRK ROKIT series is inexpensive, but quite a popular model of a studio monitor. The KRK ROKIT 5 G4 is a compact active two-way near-field monitor with a total power of 50 W with a 5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter. In the updated series, the developers raised the upper range to 35 kHz.

The shape of the port is also improved, which gives more detailed and accurate low frequencies. Class A / B amplifiers are updated, due to which the max SPL indicators are increased.

The sound pressure is up to 106 dB SPL in the range from 45 to 36 thousand Hz. Bi-amping (separate reproduction of the lows and highs) is supported. Amplification power: LF – 30 W, HF – 20 W.

Cabinet material is made of MDF. Overall dimensions – 188x284x246 mm, weight – 5.9 kg.

Pros

  • High-quality assembly
  • Auto power off
  • Reliable shielding
  • Wide frequency range
  • Solid design

Cons

  • There are complaints about product defects

Axelvox PM-5A

The price for Axelvox PM-5A is for a pair. This model is positioned by the manufacturer as a “compact” monitor for project-studios. The efforts of engineers were aimed at maximizing the purity of sound and detail in the mid and high ranges. This was possible to implement thanks to the careful selection and adaptation of mid-range / low-frequency drivers with the corresponding frequency response parameters.

The monitors have tweeters with fabric domes. They can easily deal with the subtle and accurate transmission of high frequencies, producing a pleasant, non-edgy sound. Thanks to a thorough study of circuitry, sufficient overload capacity for comfortable audio production is provided. Due to the use of fourth-order filters in crossovers, it was possible to flat crossover frequencies.

The power of the studio monitor is 75 watts. The crossover frequency is 2.6 kHz. Frequency range – 70 to 20 thousand Hz. Separate low and high frequencies amplification is supported. Amplifier powers: LF – 50 W, HF – 25 W.

5-inch woofer, the material is cellulose; 1-inch tweeter. Ports on the rear panel. Inputs – linear and balanced inputs 6.3 mm jack. Dimensions – 185x280x225 mm, weight – 11 kg. The cabinet is made of MDF with a wall thickness of 17 mm.

Pros

  • Good specs for a small project studio
  • compact
  • affordable price

Cons

  • Lackluster stereo image
  • Lack of bass

JBL LSR308

American company JBL is famous for its high-quality acoustics and audio equipment. This is a two-way active near-field monitor with a total power of 112 watts. In this model, the manufacturer introduced patented innovation – Image Control Waveguide. The technology is designed to achieve the highest quality sound without spatial distortion, even in large rooms with high ceilings.

This model features a woofer from a model of the upper-range price segment. Among other notable advantages is clear sweet spot, the ability to select the input sensitivity through a special switch (- 10 dB / +4 dB); high and low frequencies to compensate for room acoustics (TRIM switches).

Diameters of speakers: 8 inches woofer, 1-inch tweeter. The sound pressure is up to 112 dB SPL in the range from 37 to 24 thousand Hz. The amplification powers for LF and HF are the same – 56 watts each. Separate high and low frequencies gain control is supported. Inputs – balanced XLR and TRS. Overall dimensions of the monitor – 254x419x308 mm, weight – 8.6 kg.

Pros

  • Flat frequency response
  • High detail
  • Uniform sound field
  • Wide stereo image
  • Reasonable price with all the advantages

Cons

  • Hissing tweeter in a standby mode

Yamaha HS8

The Yamaha HS8 are studio monitors manufactured by the famous Japanese company Yamaha. It’s like a “Shure-57” in the studio monitors segment. The manufacturer replaced dynamic heads with a different type. According to company representatives, it was done to provide increased returns at low frequencies and even frequency response.

Twitter is increased from 3/4 to 1 inch. Traditionally, white subwoofer cones are made of polypropylene. The domed fabric twitter is fenced off with a metal grill that protects it from damage. Rear-ported design.

Two filters cutoff frequency switches and volume control knobs are included. If you need to control bass, you can use the special ROOM CONTROL mode. High frequencies are “cut off” with the HIGH TRIM switch. The gain power of 120 watts is distributed between low and high frequencies, 75 and 45 watts, respectively.

The studio monitor reproduces sounds in the range from 38 to 30 thousand Hz. The amplification of low and high frequencies is separate. The size of twitter is 1 inch, the woofer is 8 inches. XLR and TRS connectors are used (balanced and unbalanced sources). The body is made of MDF. Dimensions are 250x390x334 mm. Net weight – 10.2 kg.

Pros

  • The flat sound throughout the range
  • improved range compared to equivalent models
  • Clear, distinct middle frequencies
  • Compact modern design

Cons

  • Require a lot of space
  • Biting high frequencies

Mackie MR-524

It is worth saying right away that the monitors of the new MR-series inherited some design features that are used in the top-ranged HR and XR Series. Among such features are: a proprietary “logarithmic” woofer, providing an ultra-wide “sweet spot”, “Acoustic Space” switch, which allows you to control the reproduction of bass depending on the distance of the speakers from the wall.

The youngest model has a 5.25-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter with a silk dome. As for the declared output power, it is 50 W for each speaker.

The amplifiers themselves are 2-way A / B class. MR-524 is equipped with two balanced (XLR and TRS) and one unbalanced (RCA) inputs.

The monitor housing is made of MDF. Rear-ported round shape design.

Control options include adjustable input sensitivity and separate equalization at high and low frequencies.

Pros

  • 5.25-inch woofer
  • Neutral sound
  • Room control feature
  • Wide dispersion

Cons

  • Rear-ported design
  • Bulky design

Best Studio Monitors Under $1000 (Per Pair)

Focal Alpha 80

Now we include higher range models in terms of price and quality. This is an active two-way near-field monitor with a 40-watt tweeter and a 100-watt woofer. Positioned by the manufacturer as one of the most “innovative” monitors. Here we see a one-inch inverted twitter made of aluminum with a domed membrane, capable of reproducing not just high frequencies, but even minimal equalization defects.

The eight-inch cone-shaped woofer is made of fiberglass-reinforced polymer. This composition of the membrane provides neutral sound throughout the middle and bass spectrum. A characteristic feature of the model is a unique bass reflection design – large dual front ports that improve the acoustics of the sound in a closed environment.

The studio monitor produces a sound pressure of 109 dB in the range from 35 to 22 thousand Hz. Separate adjustment filter for high (4.5-22 kHz) and low (0-300 Hz) frequencies. XLR, RCA inputs. There is also a toggle switch input sensitivity + 4 / -10. Auto-Standby mode is supported -turned off after 30 minutes of inactivity and turned on when a signal is detected at 3 mV.

Individual features of the model: punchy bass, neutral sound without distortion; minimal sensitivity to room environment; the same sound balance at high and low volumes; the ability to connect two sources; optimal acoustic integration. The cabinet is made of 15 mm thick MDF. The dimensions of the device are 287x397x348 mm, weight is 12.8 kg.

Pros

  • Value for money
  • 3 dimensional sound
  • Front-ported
  • Minimal sensitivity to the room environment
  • Auto-Standby mode

Cons

  • Require a lot of space if placed on a table

ADAM Audio A5X

The ADAM Audio A5X made a lot of noise, won a bunch of awards and is mentioned in over 40 reviews around the world.

Non-standard front-ported design. Legs or special rubber gaskets from the bottom of the case are not provided.

On the front panel are the power switch and sensitivity control. Besides, the control panel is equipped with a power indicator and stereo link mode.

The A5X uses ribbon tweeters with X-ART technology.

According to the manufacturer, the frequency range of the new tweeters is expanded to 50 kHz

Type: Active two-way
Frequency range: 50 Hz – 50 kHz
Power: 50 W / 75 W Maximum SPL ≥110 dB
Twitter: X-ART
Woofer: 5.5 “Carbon / Rohacell / Glass Fiber
Crossover frequency: 2500 Hz
Control panel: Input Sensitivity, High Shelf EQ> 5 kHz, Low Shelf EQ <300 Hz, Tweeter gain Dimensions: 280 mm x 170 mm x 220 mm Weight: 14.6 lb (6.6 kg) A5X has balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs. The monitors have StereoLink technology.

Pros

  • Detailed, clear mids and highs
  • Front ported design
  • Acoustic space control
  • Quality build

Cons

  • A bit sharp high frequencies
  • Lack of bass for electronic music producers

Fluid Audio FX8

The purpose of the monitor is to represent a realistic soundstage where you can mix and place each instrument exactly where you want. The dual-concentric design should help you to achieve this, and by listening to some mixes on the FX8, it becomes apparent that there is a well-detailed space.

There is a very good sense of positioning the sound through stereo distribution. By mixing the track with the FX8, you will be able to clearly hear all the instruments and pan them to the desired position.

The clarity of sound is very good in the entire frequency range, and 8-inch woofers will give you a lot of low frequencies; although if you think that this is too much for you, you can cut them on the back panel.

The use of a double concentric speaker also reduces the height of the monitor.

The tweeter was designed in a way to maximize the transition between the low and high frequencies. Using a crossover of the 4th order, coherence and a smooth transition between the woofer and tweeter are achieved.

A 130 W Class A / B built-in amplifier (1 monitor) with an external heat sink ensures reliable sound pressure at a significant volume level. In addition, the volume slider and the front-ported panel complement the simple aesthetics of the monitor.

Frequency response: 35 Hz – 22 kHz.

Pros

  • Front-ported design
  • Fader at the front
  • Good imaging
  • COAXIAL speaker

Cons

  • No EQ adjustment

EVE SC205

EVE SC205 is a very interesting model that deserves your attention. The sound quality of the EVE SC205 monitors is at a high level.

SC205 features 5-inch SilverCone woofer and tweeters that are very similar in appearance to the X-ART tweeters used in the ADAM AX series monitor. The woofer material has a honeycomb structure and is made of fiberglass.

The manufacturer calls its tweeters Air Motion Transformer. Given the joint work of manufacturers in the past, we do not exclude the possibility that tweeters can have a completely similar design.

It is important to note here that these tweeters are used in almost all models of EVE monitors.

Special metal grilles are included to protect tweeters from mechanical damage. Surprisingly, no tools are required to install them. They simply magnetize to the tweeter body.

A cabinet is made of MDF. Rear-ported design. Bottom and rear holes with a thread for installing speakers on special brackets are provided.

On the front panel, there is a multi-function knob that controls all monitor settings.

Separate adjustment is available here at high, medium and low frequencies, and there are also two options for indicating the volume level.

Monitors provide a balanced connection via XLR; for unbalanced, there are RCA inputs.

Frequency range: 53 Hz – 21 kHz, which is good for the dimensions of the monitors.

The power of a monitor is 100 W.

If you are looking for small monitors with great sound, then the SC203 is your go-to choice.

The SC203 is good if you have a semi-professional studio and little space.

Pros

  • Neutral sound with detailed midrange
  • High-quality components
  • Flexible adaptation to the room
  • Multi-function knob on the front panel

Cons

  • Lack of bass due to 5-inch woofer

Neumann KH 80 DSP

Neumann KH 80 DSP is a two-way nearfield studio monitor.

This compact model is designed to work in various professional studios (including design, broadcast, and post-production), but is also well suited for use at home.

The main feature of the new product, which is even reflected in its name, is the presence of a built-in DSP processor, due to which it is possible to adjust the sound of the monitor to the acoustics of the room.

The speaker configuration of the monitor includes a 4″ long-throw driver and a 1-inch dome tweeter.

The speakers are connected to the separate Class D amplifiers, while the total output power of the monitor is as much as 190 watts.

Below are some specifications of the monitors:
Frequency range: 57 Hz – 21 kHz;
Maximum SPL: 108.8 dB
Maximum input level: +24 dBu;
Crossover section frequency: 1.8 kHz;
Dimensions: 233 × 154 × 194 mm;
Weight of one monitor: 3.4 kg.
Enclosure Type: Front ported

An abundance of adjustments and high-quality materials will give you an incredibly clear sound.

Pros

  • Phenomenal sound
  • Compactness
  • Flexible sound settings through the control application

Cons

  • Only analog audio input via a combi XLR

Best Studio Monitors Under $2000 (per pair)

Mackie HR824

It is more than a worthy system, which over the years has repeatedly proved its high quality and wide capabilities. This monitor is a professional two-way studio monitor focused on a stereo or surround mixing.

The THX PM3 certification confirms its suitability for creating high-resolution audio for music production, movies, and modern video games. The system is equipped with an 8.75-inch woofer with minimal distortion and a titanium dome twitter to transmit realistic sound throughout the wide range frequency spectrum.

High performance is provided by built-in amplifiers of 250 watts of output power (150 watts – low frequencies, 100 watts – highs).

Diffraction in this model is minimized by Zero Edge Baffle cast aluminum shielding. The waveguide is optimized to provide wide coverage of sound. Midrange artifacts are reduced to zero due to high-quality internal damping.

The studio monitor is technically compatible with any professional equipment – you can connect it via the RCA, TRS and XLR connectors located on the rear panel.

Low- and high-pass filters are configured separately so that the monitor can work great in any specific workplace. The size of the low-frequency speaker is 8,74 inches, and the high-frequency one is 1 inch.

The studio monitor develops a peak sound pressure of 120 dB SPL in the frequency range from 39 to 20 thousand Hz with a resistance of 6 ohms. To connect to an external power amplifier, a standard 6.3 mm jack connector is used. There are also balanced and line inputs. The overall dimensions of the system are 427x274x351 mm, and the weight is 15.7 kg.

Pros

  • High-quality bass, comparable to much more expensive models;
  • High-quality detail;
  • Perfect microdynamics;
  • Fast impulse response

Cons

  • Bulky design

JBL LSR6328P

JBL has been a leader in acoustic design for many years, and studio monitors are one of their leading areas.

JBL LSR6328P / PAK – is a pair of studio monitors. They are great for both recording and post-production studios. However, they can also be used as a system for home listening.

The JBL LSR6328P is a studio monitor with a Bi-Amp-In amplification system with a total power of 370 watts. At the same time, the power of the woofer is 250 watts, and the tweeter – 120 watts. It is equipped with an 8 “woofer with a carbon fiber diffuser and a 1” titanium treble driver.

It operates in the frequency spectrum from 50 Hz to 20 kHz and a pressure of 96 dB. The built-in active crossover provides a 36 dB response and operates with a cutoff frequency of 1.7 kHz. It is connected via a combined balanced XLR / Jack connector and has all the necessary controls for signal level and equalization.

This model has a reinforced open housing with a rear-ported design. It has all the necessary mounting points, as well as convenient handles for transportation. Also, it has magnetic shielding, thanks to which it can be located near devices with a large noise, such as televisions, computer monitors, radio stations, and so on.

Pros

  • Titanium tweeters;
  • Magnetic shielding;
  • Differential Drive technology for low-frequency expansion with minimal compression

Cons

  • Only XLR connection

Genelec 8030A

An interesting production model of the Finnish company Genelec. This is a relatively compact, but quite powerful near-field monitor, which is preferred by many professional studios.

The monitor’s measuring 189x285x178 mm is made according to the special patented Minimum Diffraction Enclosure technology, and has rounded corners; the front panel and sides are slightly curved. This shape minimizes interference from the return signal and generally achieves even frequency response and overall high-quality sound with a minimized angular diffraction cabinet.

This model, like all 8000 series monitors, uses a progressive design of ports, an improved aluminum cabinet with a characteristic matte surface, optimized airflow, waveguides of the Genelec Directivity Control Waveguide trademark, and a protective mesh with its own acoustic optimization.

Unlike the previous model, this monitor is equipped with a full magnetic shielding, electronic circuits have overload protection. The maximum power of the device is 80 watts. It develops a maximum sound pressure of 108 dB SPL in the range from 58 to 20 thousand Hz. Crossover frequency 3 kHz. The size of the high-frequency speaker is 1 inch, the low-frequency one is 5 inches.

Due to its lightweight of 5.6 kg, the monitor can be easily mounted on the wall due to the integrated mounting on the back and additional thread on the bottom. Another mounting option is a floor stand. Each device comes with a special Iso-Pod stand.

These stands allow you to perfectly align the monitor for even sound in the vertical and horizontal directions. With its help, you can easily manually adjust the direction of the sound.

Pros

  • High detail
  • Punchy bottoms as for such a compact size
  • Front-side control
  • Compact sizes

Cons

  • XLR connections only

Focal Shape 65

Focal Shape’s new line of studio monitors was unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Musikmesse.

Shape 65 is the standard of the Shape line. Although designed for near-field monitoring, this monitor provides exceptional monitoring quality from low to highest frequencies. This simply necessary monitor will fully reveal its potential at a distance of 1 meter.

The thickness of the MDF is 15 mm. Quality design eliminates resonances even at a high volume. The manufacturer decided to use A/B amplifiers.

The tweeter is made of aluminum-magnesium alloy and has a concave rather than convex profile. Aluminum gives rigidity, and magnesium increases damping.

Focal engineers developed a new diffuser material called Flax which gives rigidity, lightness in weight and good internal damping.

XLR and RCA inputs are available for connection. Unfortunately, there is no adjustment of input sensitivity. The inputs are pretty loud.

Low-Shelving Filter allows you to adjust the sound to the room.

The High-Shelving Filter allows you to tune high frequencies, again, if the room is heavily damped or if the speakers are not aimed exactly at the listener, but at a certain angle.

The most unusual regulator is a filter with a frequency of 160 Hz. An excellent feature to remove the extra emphasis on midbass. Very often, monitors are placed on the table or the console. In this case, an unpleasant resonance occurs, which cannot be eliminated by any other method.

Pros

  • Fantastic clarity of sound
  • Good EQ control and dynamics
  • State-of-the-art materials

Cons

  • Inability to turn off Standby mode
  • Controversial passive radiators

Adam A8X

Further in our rating follows a striking example of the legendary German quality. This is an active two-way near-field monitor, developed in Germany, and produced there.
Total power – 200 watts. Although this model is formally considered as a near-field monitor, due to its sufficient power and radiation characteristics, it is also suitable for the middle field – and a lot of sound engineers confirm it.

The monitor deserves special praise for one of the best price and quality ratio. The studio monitor has an X-ART 2,2-inch tweeter and an 8-inch woofer.

The upper corners of the monitor are beveled, like all other models of the AX series. This was done, of course, not for a design purpose, but to minimize interference from the reflected signal.

The front-ported design ensures maximum return at the low-frequency range.

Two amplifiers make this monitor the most powerful in the entire AX series: 50 W for a high-frequency ribbon tweeter and 150 W for a woofer. It gives a peak sound pressure of 120 dB SPL in the range from 38 to 50 thousand Hz. The crossover frequency is 2.3 kHz. Built-in overload protection is envisaged.

High and low frequencies are regulated separately. Line and balanced inputs are located on the rear panel. There are two equalizing filters and an input sensitivity adjustment. Overall dimensions of the device – 255x400x320 mm, weight – 13 kg.

Pros

  • Front-ported design;
  • Ribbon tweeters with excellent microdynamics;
  • Flawless sound balance;
  • Vertical and horizontal placement possible.

Cons

  • Rare claims for the lack of magnetic protection.

Conclusion

Although an abundance of different models may beat you out of reason, do not be overwhelmed. As mentioned before, if you are looking for your first pair of monitors (especially a budget one), you will probably change them in the future.

You should choose your monitors taking into account your goals and different “external” aspects, such as room size, music style, voltage stability and the presence of grounding, monitor purpose, and, of course, your sound taste.

Someone is crazy about the bass range, for someone the stereo image and clarity of all instruments is the key.

So, remember that there is no such thing as “the best studio monitors” – everything is relative and depends on many factors. Choose what fits into your budget, sound preference, and goals.

Chapter 4: FAQS

Can studio monitors be used as speakers?

The main purpose of the monitor is a very neutral reproduction of sound. The reason behind it is that they should show the mistakes and flaws of your recordings. While Hi-fi speakers are allowed to add more coloration to the sound. At that point, there are two sides to every story; because each person has their personal definition of a good sound and a bad sound, and in this regard, a little bit of coloration can also be fun. So yes, you can use your studio monitors as speakers.

If you’re looking to use your studio monitors as PA speakers for live gigs, however, we would recommend against it. Studio monitors are designed to be unidirectional, meaning that the sound sounds good directly right in front of the speaker. If you move to the side, the volume quickly decreases and don’t sound quite right anymore. Using studio monitors as PA speakers will also risk damaging the gear during transportation and having the volume up too high for too long.

Can you use studio monitors for DJing?

In fact, you should, because Djing is aimed at mixing too. However, there are certain things you should keep in mind when choosing monitors for DJing. Firstly, they should be loud for the size. As most of the DJs work in the home environment or on the road, the size of the monitors plays a huge role.

Active monitors do not require additional amplifiers and which means they are portable. With the abundance of models on the market, you will be able to choose a decent pair of monitors for DJing.

Can you lay studio monitors on their side?

Radiators of active monitors are designed to be placed at a specific position. If vertical positioning is provided, then it is not recommended to place them horizontally or on the sides.
As a rule, the manufacturer provides instructions for the optimal position of the monitors.

In case horizontal positioning is envisaged, most sound engineers prefer to lay monitors in a way that tweeters located closer to the wall. It improves a wider stereo image.
Can you connect studio monitors to a laptop?

It should be noted right away that you need to connect studio monitors only to an external sound interface. Using monitors with an integrated sound card of your laptop will nullify all the advantages of professional acoustics due to all kinds of distortions.

A balanced XLR/TRS connection provides the clearest and transparent sound with zero noise level. The vast majority of studio monitors have this input, it is important to make sure that the used audio card also has a similar connection.

How many studio monitors do I need?

For most home and project studios a single pair of monitors is more than enough. However, professional studios have several pairs of monitors for better control. They all sound different and there are no “perfect” ones. Even hi-end models do not guarantee 100% control; that is why it’s useful to listen to the recording on different monitors.

As an alternative, you can listen to your mixes on regular speakers or headphones.

Are studio monitors necessary?

It all narrows down to your goals. Sometimes amateur musicians and sound engineers lay too much responsibility on the monitors. They think that expensive monitors will make their mixes perfect and the slightest boost or cut of EQ will be noticeable. This is wrong.

A studio monitor is just an instrument aimed at identifying and solving a particular problem. If you can’t see a problem no studio monitor will help you with it.

With practical experience and a clear idea of how the particular speaker distorts the sound, an experienced sound engineer can produce great mixes. But they know the response of the speaker and they know how the staff will translate.