What is a Nearfield Monitor?A nearfield monitor is a type of studio speaker that is designed to be placed close to the listener, typically within a few feet. The nearfield design is important for accurate sound reproduction because it reduces the amount of room reflection involved in the sonic waves, allowing the listener to hear more of the captured signal and less of the room and its inherent distortions. Nearfield monitors are typically compact, with a smaller size than main monitors, and are composed of two drivers—a woofer and a tweeter. The proximity to the listener and the lack of a midrange driver make nearfield monitors ideal for fine-tuning the mix and hearing all the details of the sound.
What are Nearfield Monitors used for?Nearfield monitors are primarily used for music production and audio recording in a studio setting. Because they sit so close to the listener, you’re able to hear every detail and nuance of the audio, from the subtlest background noise to the loudest peak, making it easier to make informed mixing and mastering decisions. Additionally, those working in smaller studios often prefer nearfield monitors over larger studio monitors because they have a smaller sweet spot, meaning that the sound is consistent and accurate only within a narrow listening area. This reduces the risk of making mistakes in the mixing process due to differences in the sound of the speakers and the room they are in.
What makes a Speaker Nearfield?In general, nearfield speakers are smaller in size compared to traditional studio monitors and are meant to be positioned on a desk or a nearby surface, as opposed to being placed across the room. The close proximity of the speakers to the listener allows for the sound waves to reach the listener directly, minimizing the impact of room reflections. Additionally, nearfield speakers are designed with specialized drivers and waveguides to provide a more precise and focused sound image, even at close distances. This allows the listener to get a better understanding of the mix and make more accurate adjustments.
How far apart should my Nearfield Monitors be?The optimal positioning of nearfield monitors is crucial to achieving a balanced and accurate sound representation. The ideal distance between the two monitors should be equal to the distance from each speaker to the listener, forming an equilateral triangle. This setup ensures that both speakers are equidistant from the listener, creating an accurate stereo image. As a general guideline, the monitors should be positioned about 1 to 1.5 meters apart, with the listener positioned about 1 to 1.5 meters away from the center of the speakers. However, the exact positioning will vary depending on the size of the room, the placement of furniture, and other acoustical factors. It's important to note that the monitors should also be angled slightly towards the listener to enhance the stereo image and provide a more focused soundstage. Experimenting with the placement and angle of the speakers can help you find the ideal setup for your specific listening environment.
How to Choose Nearfield Monitors and Speakers for Your StudioWhen it comes to setting up a home or professional recording studio, choosing the right nearfield monitors and speakers is crucial. Here are a few key factors to consider when making your selection. By taking the time to consider the factor belows, you can choose nearfield monitors that will help you create the best possible mixes and recordings in your studio.
EnclosureThis is the box that holds all the components. Enclosures come in all shapes and sizes, with nearfields generally being compact. This is for two reasons; they do not have to be as loud and powerful as main monitors, and they usually only have a woofer and tweeter, with no midrange speaker. Enclosures can make a huge difference in the resulting sound of a given speaker, with much attention paid by the maker to the cabinet material (to eliminate negative resonances) and the front fascia. This is especially true around the tweeter. In order to shape the outgoing sound waves, many manufacturers have proprietary curved designs to harness the inherently directional nature of high-frequency sonic waves. Genelec and Neumann are typical examples.
CROSSOVERThe crossover gets its name from its function, as it is a network of circuitry that determines where the frequency band gets split up and sent to different speakers. The point where the signal stops going to the woofer and heads for the midrange instead is one of the “crossover” points on the spectrum. Part of the reason for crossovers is simple energy management. As you might expect, it takes more energy to create lower bass frequencies than it does higher frequencies. Since speaker types are specialized, you want your finely tuned tweeters to be spared the task of having to deal with the low end too. It wears them down when they want to be flying high. Although outboard crossovers are available, most of the time they are built into the enclosure and tailored to the specific drivers of that enclosure.
SUBWOOFERThe subwoofer (or “sub”) is the basso profundo of the speaker world. It’s designed to reproduce all the lowest frequencies, sometimes even those you can’t hear, but only feel. A typical crossover frequency is 120 Hz; below that, the sub handles all the duties. It’s usually big and power-hungry, and despite its size, the sub can really help in nearfield monitoring due to the physics of sound. Low bass frequencies are much less directional than mids and highs, so you don’t have to have your sub sitting on top of the mixing console. It can be moved to a convenient location nearby and you will still hear/feel it doing its thing. Because it’s so power-hungry, a subwoofer is usually self-powered, or active. Often the sub will also have an adjustable crossover to let the user decide which frequencies it should handle.
WOOFERThe woofer handles the low end. In the early days of speaker design, this name was chosen to imitate the type of sound the larger speaker reproduces, i.e. the woofing of a dog. Yes, it’s that simple. More complicated is pinning down the exact specs of a woofer. In speaker design, everything is relative, so there is no fixed size for a woofer. It could be 4” or 15” across. The key point is that the woofer is the driver inside the enclosure designed to deliver the low end. In a typical main monitor, this would be a very large cone driver. In a nearfield reference monitor, the size is more typically 6-8”. Because most nearfields have only two drivers, the woofer also has to handle some of the midrange frequencies. This is where a good crossover becomes critical in deciding where to split up the spectrum for the best reproduction.
MIDRANGEA true midrange will be part of a three-way (or more) monitor system, which is almost always found in main monitors. In nearfields, this driver is usually absent and its role split between the woofer and tweeter.
TWEETERTweeter is not just a character in a Traveling Wilburys song; its' more important role is to reproduce the high end of the sonic spectrum. And of course, tweeter got its silly name for the same reason as its big brother. It's an imitation of the sounds it makes, such as the high-pitched tweeting of birds. A tweeter is also relative and has no fixed size; it may be larger in nearfields because it has to reproduce some of the midrange as well. In main monitors, the tweeter can be smaller since it handles a narrower spectrum, and there may be more than one.
POWER AMPLIFIERPower amps make everything go on their “excursion,” the technical term for how far from its resting point a speaker will travel back and forth. In this analogy, the power amp is like the car and the speaker is like the driver. Good thing they’re called drivers, isn’t it? Well, every driver needs an amplifier. In the past, this was always a standalone piece of gear, usually stored well away from the speaker because of its heat generation, and connected by heavy duty copper cabling to the speaker terminals. This made the speaker passive, simply sitting there waiting for power to be delivered so that it could go on its excursions. But in the last few decades, the trend has been to have an active monitor, with the power amp(s) right inside the enclosure. Advanced technology in amplifier design has made them smaller, lighter, more efficient, and highly accurate. Plus, they can be fine-tuned to work with exactly the drivers held in the enclosure, and often each driver has its own amp (a technique known as bi-amping or tri-amping). A side benefit is a lot less cabling to deal with, but either way works. Passive proponents want to use their own favorite amp, while active advocates want a neutral source that is convenient and efficient. There is no wrong choice, only options.
Active vs. Passive Monitors
All monitoring systems require an enclosure to hold the speakers; a crossover to split the frequency bands for different speaker types, some combination of subwoofer, woofer, midrange and tweeter and a power amplifier to drive those speakers. The power amp can be internal, making the monitor self-powered or “active,” or it can be a piece of outboard gear, making the monitor “passive.” A majority of monitors today are self-powered, but plenty of passive models are still around, such as Amphion, ATC Loudspeakers, Auratone, Avantone, ProAc, and Quested.
Best Nearfield Monitors and Recommendations For Your StudioIn the end, all that really matters is the sound. With so many manufacturers creating nearfield monitors and each doing it in their own way, there are a lot of different options for your studio. Continue below to browse through some of our best selling nearfield monitors and click on the corresponding link to learn more about each specific model.
How Do I Set Up My Nearfield Speakers?Properly setting up your nearfield monitors is a crucial step in ensuring that you get the most accurate representation of your audio mixes. Here are the steps you should follow to get your nearfield monitors set up correctly:
- Choose the Right Location: Your nearfield monitors should be placed in a location that is acoustically treated. The ideal location is on a desk or stand that is symmetrical with the listener and equidistant from any walls.
- Positioning: The speakers should be angled slightly towards the listener and spaced an equal distance from each other, forming an equilateral triangle with the listener's head as the top point. This placement will provide the best stereo imaging.
- Level Matching: After positioning your speakers, it is important to make sure that the levels of both speakers match. This can be done using a sound pressure level meter or by using a pink noise generator.
- Volume: The volume of your nearfield monitors should be set to a comfortable listening level. It is recommended that you start with a low volume and gradually increase until you reach a level that is comfortable for long-term listening.
- Calibration: It is important to calibrate your speakers using a room correction software or a calibrated microphone to take into account the unique acoustic properties of your studio space. This will help you to get an accurate representation of your audio mixes.