When it comes to studio gear, engineers love experimenting with all kinds of microphones
, mic pres
and whatnot. The more flavors, the better. In terms of studio monitors
, pro audio manufacturers strive to keep their designs sounding authentic as possible. This leads us to a common inquiry, “Why do I see so many pictures of studios with multiple sets of monitors? Doesn’t the engineer just pick the right set of monitors that works for them and do their thing?” Well, yes and no…
First and foremost, yes, you do want to pick the right set of monitors that works for you. In a sense, speakers are a compass. We choose a set of speakers that we enjoy listening to and we learn them. How does our favorite music sound on them? How does the track you worked on last week sound? Last month? Last year? How do they sound when you turn them up vs. listening to them at a lower level? They become a window to how we hear what we’re working on vs. the rest of the world. Everyone has different opinions and preferences, but at the end of the day, you are the one that is going to spend countless hours in front of the speakers, so you want to pick something that you enjoy working on.
Next, what about the listener's experience? For example, let's say you use three-way monitors. Is that what everyone else listens to their music on? Probably not. In today’s musical landscape, most people are listening to music on headphones or two-way speakers. In the music production world, a lot of people like three-way designs because the midrange is very important when making critical mix decisions. But for the majority of music consumers, that’s not the case. This is why you’ll see a smaller secondary set of two-way speakers as an additional reference source. Whether you’re tracking or mixing, having that extra set of monitors will help keep you on track when putting in the long hours.
Then, there are the bigs. If you go back and look at some older pictures of famous recording studios you’ll see the big soffit mounted speakers in the wall behind the console. If you wanted high fidelity at a decent volume, bigger monitors were the easiest way to achieve that back in the day. As time has passed and technology has advanced, smaller monitors are now capable of achieving high-quality sound at a similar volume. With that being said, large monitors still have a place in the studio. Most of us have that sweet spot in our studios where everything sounds great, but that doesn’t always translate to the back of the room. If you have clients coming in and out to check a mix you want to have something on hand that everyone can enjoy without playing musical chairs. Larger monitors are perfect for a room full of people that you want to impress.
But what about the bass? In our minds, bass and big speakers go hand and hand. Before going big with large cabinets or subwoofers, exhaust what your current speakers are capable of doing. When properly positioned, an active three-way set of monitors can light up a room simply by tweaking how close they are to the front wall of a control room. When you find the sweet spot, a bottom octave can literally be a couple of inches away. If this isn't working for your studio, subwoofers are the way to go. Most brands create standalone subs that complement common three-way and two-way monitor designs.
When using multiple sets of speakers, a monitor controller
is an excellent tool to have on hand. It acts as the switchboard for all your audio sources (DAW, computer audio, phone, tablet, etc.) and also allows you to flip seamlessly between multiple sets of monitors and calibrate between them. There’s nothing more annoying than having a great listening level on one set of speakers only to have the volume drop when you switch to a secondary set. Or worse yet, have it get really loud.
Now that we've explained the reasons why some studios have multiple sets of monitors, it's time for you to take a deep dive into the world of nearfield, midfield, mains, subwoofers and more. Head over to our Buyer's Guide on studio monitors, get an education on the ins and outs of each kind of monitor and meet some of Vintage King's best sellers.