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Explaining The Different Types of Studio Monitors

Posted on April 12, 2016 by Eric There have been 3 comment(s)


Throughout our two-week Monitor Mission, we've been offering ways to upgrade the monitoring situation in your recording studio. In an effort to help music makers better understand what they are listening to their creations on, we're breaking down the barriers of understanding studio monitors by explaining the elements of their construction. Learn what's inside your speakers so that you can make an informed decision when picking out your next pair.

ProAc Studio SM100 (Passive Speakers) and ATC Loudspeakers SCM45A Pro (Active Speakers)
Active Monitors v.s. Passive Monitors
There are a lot of different pros and cons to using active and passive monitors, but the biggest difference between the two is that active monitors have a power amplifier built in and utilize an active crossover as opposed to a passive one. This means one less piece of rackmount gear for your studio as your speakers power themselves and there is no need to worry about matching your speakers with an amplifier and crossover. Less wires, less math and quality audio. While this might seem to point you in direction of active monitors, don't give up on passive so easily. With modular designs, passive monitors offer studio owners the ability to easily upgrade their system, which allows for you to add new pieces as you save up more money.

Barefoot Sound MicroMain27 (Near-Field Speakers) and ADAM Audio S6X (Far-Field Speakers)

Near-Field v.s. Far-Field
When you're building out a studio, it's important to pick monitors based on your room's size. Tight quarters won't yield great audio results if you are using far-field monitors and the same can be said if you're farther than five feet from near-fields in a larger setting.

For clean sounds in smaller rooms, near-field monitors are ideal as they are meant to be placed closer in range to where your sitting. By keeping this distance small, these types of monitors allow you to hear audio before it hits the rest of the space you work in. In terms of far-field monitors, these speakers should be placed 10 feet from where you are listening and used in studios that have been treated with acoustic material. These monitors are designed to withstand higher volumes.

Dynaudio BM9S MKII and Focal CMS Sub

As asked by Ryan McGuire last week in the blog, The Questions You Need To Ask Yourself When Upgrading Monitors, are you making music that has massive low-end? If you are big into hip-hop or electronic music, sub-woofers can be an incredible resource for you and your studio. Sub-woofers extend your set-up's frequency response by enabling to you to make better decisions when mixing the low-frequency portion of your recordings.

Amphion One15 (Metal Tweeter), PMC Loudspeakers TwoTwo.5 (Soft Dome Tweeter) and Eve Audio SC407 (Ribbon Tweeter)
Handling the high-frequency side of things, tweeters come in many different forms, but there are three definitive types predominantly used in the studio setting; soft dome, ribbon and metal. All three bring different elements to the table, as soft dome is thought be a more manageable for longer sessions, ribbon offers a larger area of frequency that allows for making easier decisions and metal tends to be more detailed.

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  • I once heard that in the '50s, '60s and early '70s, some studios did the final mix on a 6"x9" oval speaker mounted in the side of an empty wine bottle crate or something so that as they mixed the tune, they would be hearing it as 80-90% of their audience would hear it. Of course, as time wore on many people had better sound systems in their cars than many studios had in their control rooms, so the "mix it for the masses" paradigm got kind of turned on its head. Still, you've never heard "Be My Baby" till you've heard it blasted out of a 6"x9" oval mounted in the rear deck of a '63 Pontiac with the dust and dead moths and stuff bouncing off the grill in time to the music. Those were the days . . .

    Posted on April 12, 2016 at 2:57 pm

  • You said it Uncle Ralph! Those were the days..what I learned from back in the day has served me well. I mix with my monitors. Then I check playback on a boom box, home stereo system, thru my band pa, and my car. When the tune sounds nice on all that I know I'm done.
    I love this site .I'm learning by leaps and bounds!

    Posted on April 14, 2016 at 2:46 pm

  • I agree with listening to your mixes on as many audio sources as possible. The 'boom-box', the automobile stereo, headphones and even that miserable set of computer speakers will give you a better handle on what your audience will hear and what frequencies become a problem. If space and money allow, utilize a set of reference monitors at the proper distance and alternately switch to a near field set of monitors in your control booth.
    Although, as unfortunate as it may be, many listeners will be jamming ear buds into their ears to hear your final product. STILL, mix under the best conditions using your best-flat reference monitors for your initial decisions then go to the other, less glorious monitoring devices and tweak-away. Come back to your best monitors for the final decisions. DO NOT finalize your mix by depending upon what you heard coming out of poor audio sources! Many serious listeners actually do have suburb speaker systems. Don't make them suffer.

    Posted on April 16, 2016 at 8:31 am

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