Alrighty, now that you have your interface and it’s likely that you’re hooked on making beats and sounds of all kinds, the next step is working towards a pair of studio monitors and hearing your mix in stereo.
Like your headphones, your monitors will have a flat response. Monitors introduce your listening space and the room acoustics into the equation. Plus both ears will be hearing both channels, giving you a listening experience that headphones don’t provide.
Generally speaking, most people who end up listening to your music will be using speakers of some kind (All kinds?!)… All kinds literally means that the good, the bad, & the ugly are the gateway for your tunes to be heard… Your monitors give you the ability to work in the environment of an average listener, which is pretty invaluable. As producers, we are aiming for our craft to sound great on everything from laptop speakers to a high-end hi-fi. Nail this and you’ve nailed a well-produced track, life goals!
If you only ever use headphones for mixing, it’s really REALLY easy to misjudge your mixes. There are common mistakes that can make it hard to mixdown, for instance judging how much of an effect to use should be a decision that’s made through listening on both cans and monitors.
A reasonable set of nearfield monitors is always a better option for long-term listening, although it’s perfectly possible to write a track mainly on headphones and then check it on your monitors only during the final stage of a mixdown doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Your monitors and headphones are a team.
** I’ve dug up some nuggets that I have found help with mixing in headphones. Keep an ear out for ’em.
Your monitors be the center of your studio and backbone of your production growth. Your monitors will ensure that you hear every sound design move you make. They will give you to the ability to hear all of the blunders and the wins. Keeping you on the on the path to leveling up… The level up means you’ll get to (let’s face it), hunt for even BETTER monitors! …
**On a side note you, the level up applies to your headphones and treating your room as well. A vortex for a way down the road…
Like learning your DAW, your going to learn how your monitors and your room sound.
These 3 elements of combined are the hub that will turn your hours and hours of music making into a process that is faster, better, stronger and loads of fun. Your craft!
**Disclaimer; Honing your craft has an extremely high likelihood of obsessive side effects.
Feeding your obsession with all things music, during any spare moment easily leads to drooling over studio porn.
I get my daily fix here…
Studio_Porn a top-notch way to;
A) Want to spend all of your money on gear… & (more importantly)
B) Be inspired.
Choosing the right monitor for you will come down to your space and your taste.
There are loads of possibilities.
Passive vs Active.
Active doesn’t require an external amplifier for power and passive do.
Near field or Far field?
Near field monitors are typically heard from about 3 ft away and are not as reliant on the room acoustics and are mostly found in home studios.
Far field monitors bring the room acoustics into the mix in a big way. They are mostly found in professional studios and generally used with a set of near field’s as well.
Ported vs Unported
Ported lean towards more bass extension for their size, where the sealed unported cabinets lean towards more accurate, clean bass.
There are a few different ways the cabinets can be ported. Taking into account the space, the size, quality, and budget I recommend front-facing ports.
It is a rabbit hole of options and compromises involved in engineering all monitors. We could easily dive further in… The result would still be a personal, space and taste decision.
This quick breakdown of terms will help you make your decision and talk shop;
Monitor Size. The size of the monitor you want largely depends on how much space you have. Some have limited space on their desk so smaller speakers will work best for them. For small spaces, using small speakers will produce more accurate results for mixing. If you have more space or can mount them, you can go for larger speakers. You should also think of how you will set them up to produce the best sound.
Frequency range. It is important to pay attention to the frequency range of any speaker that you are interested in to make sure it can handle the full frequency range of your recordings. Frequency range is measured in hertz (the lowest frequency) and kilohertz (the highest frequency). Most recording work requires a frequency range of 50 kHz to 20kHz.
Power. The number of watts the speakers have will be important to consider when thinking about the room size you will use them in. Larger rooms will require more power to deliver sound into every corner of the room. For smaller areas, like a home office, you will not need as many watts.
Woofers. If you will be recording music, think about what kind of music you will be dealing with. For lighter music, you can go for some nearfield monitors with 4,5, or 6-inch woofers and that will be enough. For rock or hip hop music, you will want to go for monitors that pack more punch so that those bass sounds will shine.
Connections. Before making your purchase, make sure that the speakers actually offer the connections that are compatible with your other equipment. Monitors usually have RCA, ¼”, TRS, XLR, or S/PDIF jacks. Some have unbalanced inputs, balanced inputs, or both.
Single-amp, bi-amp, or tri-amp. These terms refer to how the input signal is divided to power the drivers. Single-amp monitors divide the output power of one amplifier using a crossover network which then sends the right frequencies to each monitor. In bi-amp monitors, there are two separate amplifiers- one to power high frequencies and the other for low frequencies. A tri-amp configuration divides the signal three ways into 3 amplifiers to drive high, mid, and low frequencies. Bi-amp and tri-amp configurations usually have a more accurate frequency response and produce better sound quality.
Cabinets. The design of the cabinets has a direct effect on sound quality. To prevent the cabinet from altering the sound, it should be made of a stiff, sturdy material like metal or a dense plastic.
All of these factors don’t mean you have to spend all your $, you can get great sound quality out of monitors at all the price ranges. If you’re producing out are producing out of your bedroom like 90% of the other producers out there, it’s probably not the not the hugest of spaces. The best thing about this is that the perfect monitors will be smaller and smaller = cheaper.
With this in mind, I’ve gone with all 6-inch active models. You’ll save on bucks and space without the need of an amp and the 6-inch woofers give enough punch and power to make spending a little more than you would on the 5-inch models a completely worthwhile use of your $$$.
To be honest this list is well-rounded and containing monitors that are well engineered and completely capable. They are all solid in their own right and all have a sound to them.
The hunt for your perfect audio companion is the same deal as with your headphones, a completely personal (and fun) choice. At the end of the day its up too you, your ears and your wallet!
The Pioneer s-DJ60x’s – These are the sweet spot in the Pioneer SDJ range. Not too loud, but still sounding good. The SDJ60X’s offer a very good balance of features and quality for the price. They are aimed at DJ’s and have a very well controlled sound with some nice bass, the 6-inch cones are considerably better than the 5’s with great separation between bass, mid, and treble… All standing on their own. Your frequency response range comes in at 45Hz~20kHz.
The Krk Rokit 6 G3’s… Every blog out there mentions the KrK’s, most focus on the 5’s. We all think that the 6’s are a considerable jump on bass and quality here in the office. If you have purchased a set of Krk headphones, this is probably the direction best suited to you. You can find Krk’s very easily second hand, a lot of producers start with them and then upgrade. I personally feel as though they have hyped the bass, this doesn’t mean they sound bad in any way though. It’s simply a factor that you will get used to when you are mixing! The speakers come mats on the bottom, which helps with reflections in your production space, the cabinet is a well-tested shape, and they are iconic in the production scene. Especially when it comes to bass and hip hop! You’ll get a frequency response range of 38Hz-35khz.
The Samson ResolvSE6 is a good contender with no exaggeration in any frequencies and a nice deep sound even at low volumes. Allowing you to mix in environments that require some discreetness. Comparatively to the Rokit’s may people feel as though everything just tightens up and clears up when switching to these, you can hear what I am speaking about with the “hyped bass” when you compare the 2 styles of monitors. The ResolvSE6’s provide affordable accurate monitoring. Your frequency range comes in at 40Hz – 27kHz +/-3dB.
At the time of writing this, we still have some of the Mackie MR624’s kicking around. Mackie has redesigned them and the MK2 is amazing and also considerably more expensive. The MR624’s are a great monitor and are coming in at a much more affordable price point, there are secondhand options as well out there, they make some of the best affordable speakers you can get for a budget-conscious home studio build. Great stereo imaging and warm bass response, in a very slick cabinet. You’ll get a frequency response range of 45Hz-20kHz (-3dB).
You have your classic JBL LSR306P MKIII’s. They have a unique & revolutionary JBL Image Control Waveguide, keeping your highs super controlled. They are have been around for a very long time, are a classic, and have an extremely clean response. Your frequency response is 47Hz-20kHz (±3dB), 39Hz-24kHz (-10dB). They are a quality contender…
Then we’ve got the custom-built underdog, the Fusion Series powered monitors from AVE. These monitors are comparable to the Pioneer’s and have a very clean and flat response, in the most affordable package of all the monitors that I have mentioned. The woofers are made from a glass aramid composite with custom 6.5-inch drivers. They have a frequency response range of 50Hz – 20kHz and if you have the room for it the 8-inch version packs even more of a punch. If you are on a budget, these monitors will do everything you need and more for the next foreseeable stages of your production growth.
I guess the point that I am getting across today is that all of these monitors are quality, all have a different flavour and they will all need to be learned as you go on in production journey. You should go into a store and A/B all of your choices with your mixes and music you listen too, your ears (and budget) will choose for you.
Here is a great video that I’ve found on where to place your monitors so you can get the most of them.
Have fun guys!