Studio Monitors for Music Production

Studio monitors look like high tech, expensive speakers; and that's because, well, they are...
But unlike an expensive stereo speaker system, they're purpose is much less fancy, and much more practical. The goal in any monitoring system is not to enhance the sound and produce the highest fidelity, it is to be as transparent as possible.
Studio Monitors, also commonly referred to as reference monitors, are the means of translating the sounds and music you are mixing, thus you want them to provide as accurate a translation as possible.
The obvious implication is that if you can hear whats wrong, you can fix it by learning to identify the source of the problem and then figuring out how to correct what isn't sounding right.
The ability to successfully utilize your monitoring system comes with time and practice, and requires three things:
  • You understand and know the intricacies of your monitors.
  • A well developed ear-able to identify problems, both in a mix and with individual frequencies.
  • An understanding of how to use your DAW tools to effect, process, blend and mix frequencies
Most pro and home recordists intuitively learn their monitors, and corrective action becomes second nature. If you are not there yet, just give it time, be patient, and keep at it.
Near Field Studio Monitors
In a home studio environment, near-field monitors are most common and not extremely expensive. (Compared to some older PA systems and wall speakers the size of a porta-john.) Near field is a term that describes the distance between the monitoring speakers and the ear. This distance is generally known to be no more than 10 ft. from the ear.
Near-field monitors are an inexpensive way to directly listen to your sounds. Monitoring your tracks inside headphones can be done without much consequence during recording, but having external studio monitors is highly recommended for mixing and mastering. Using external monitors helps the ear to hear a more realistic overall stereo image. Thus, placing the tones and frequencies that make up the mix can be done with more precision.
Active and Passive Studio Monitors
There are two types of near-field studio monitors, active and passive. Passive monitors are simply monitors without an amplifier built into it. While active monitors come with an amplifier built in to directly power the speakers.
Reference Monitor Setup Tips
When mounting a pair of monitors, a good rule of thumb is to place them at ear level and set each monitor equal distance from each other as they are away from the listener/producer. To minimize unwanted reflections, do not place studio monitors directly against or facing any walls. Spacing varies depending on a room's shape and size.
Summary
  • Studio monitors are a special form of speaker system designed to accurately reproduce an input signal. Not the computer screen used in your home recording studio.
  • The goal is to find a set of reference monitors that will allow you to measure the quality of your recordings until you are satisfied with a mix.
  • For most home studio environments near field reference monitors are what you're looking for.
  • Active studio monitors means they are already powered, and require much less work and headache for you.
Jamie Leger is an Independent Singer Songwriter, and Online Business Coach/Consultant in Ann Arbor, MI. He specializes in helping Entrepreneurs, Authors, Professionals, as well as Songwriters, Artists, and Musicians build their online presence through private training and step by step instruction; to learn and integrate strategies for better brand development, traffic, leads, and sales. He has been making music in his home recording studio and writing content for various online publications since 2004. Please enjoy his free guide to the Home Studio.