Studio monitors are a must-have piece of equipment. This is true whether you’re recording, mixing a large project, or producing your own demos. Compared to systems like home stereo or laptop speakers, studio monitors will allow you to hear your recordings with accurate detail. However, when you decide to purchase a pair of studio monitors, many questions might arise. What makes a good studio monitor? How do they differ from standard sound systems? How is a good and accurate studio monitor supposed to sound? In the following article, we will provide you with some important information regarding this subject. 

Basic understanding

One of the most important aspects which differentiate studio monitors from other systems is accuracy. When you record an instrument or work on mixing, you want to have as little sound coloration as possible. Unlike home stereo speakers, which may have a hyped bass or treble response, quality studio monitors don’t, or shouldn’t favor any frequencies over others. No matter what the volume level is, a good monitor will ideally offer you an accurate and constant response. This allows you to objectively listen to how different elements of the mix sound at various volume levels. They also reproduce better musical transients, which give the sound they recreate more complexity and depth.

Choosing the right size of studio monitors

Studio monitors are available in a range of sizes. In most cases, a pair of so-called “near-fields” would probably be enough for your home studio. This term means that the studio monitors should sit close to your listening position. The largest speaker’s cone size (driver) defines the studio monitor’s size. This is expressed in inches. In most cases, depending on the size of your room, you should consider getting 5 or 6-inch studio monitors. These would be enough if you intend to convert one of your house’s bedrooms into a studio. If you have more space, you might consider getting 8-inch ones. Finally, if you plan to acoustically treat your studio, an extra sub-bass speaker might not be a bad idea.

The bass response

We all like a good strong low-end response, but if it’s too much or too little, it will result in EQ decisions that don’t translate well to other sound systems. This means you may hear exactly the amount of bass you want in your own studio, but on others, you will hear either too much bass or perhaps too little.

It’s worth noting that if you’re making any other music genre than techno or future bass, or similar electronic music genres, you might not need the deepest bass response. Near field monitors with 5” or 6” drivers can suffice, despite the absence of the lowest octave of bass. After some time adapting, you should know what well-produced commercial music sounds like on them and just strive to that balance.

However, if you work in a genre where the music often plays on systems with really deep bass, you need to know what’s happening down there. In this case, you might consider getting a larger woofer/cabinet (8”-10”+) or coupling a smaller pair of monitors with your sub-bass speaker. Be careful to balance right the latter with the small monitors!

Get to know your studio monitors

The truth is that you will ll need some time to adapt and become acquainted with your studio monitors. Pay close attention not only while you’re recording, but also while listening to a variety of your favorite songs. In time, you will discover how your monitors react to various musical materials. This will help you learn not just what they’re good at, but also what they’re not—and how to compensate for that so your mixes sound better.

Don’t look back after choosing your pair

Once you’ve established your size, budget, and done some research, make your purchase and move on. When it comes to different pairs of monitors, people have different experiences. This is mostly a question of personal choice, as well as many other criteria that influence the listening experience.

For instance, the sound coming from your speakers will be colored and changed by your own room. The sound coming out of your DAW and into your speakers will be colored and shaped by your D/A converters. The way you hear what comes out of your speakers is colored and shaped by your listening location in the room, and so on.

In a few words, stick to your informed choice of monitors, get used to your new system, and then focus on getting the most out of it.