When recording or mixing in a professional or home studio monitors are essential to get a true sound of your recording and listen to it exactly as it was recorded. There are a number of different things to consider when choosing a set of studio monitors, things such as frequency range, frequency response, the inputs and outputs on the speaker, the size of your room in comparison to driver size and frequency response should all be taken into consideration. The most popular type of studio monitor for studio use is an active monitor as it requires no external amplifier to power it and usually has better sound quality.
It is important for a producer or engineer to get to know their studio monitors in order to know how they sound at different frequencies and be able to use them effectively. It is important to use studio monitors in a recording or mixing environment instead of using a stereo hifi because studio monitors will give you a flatter frequency response and a more accurate sound of the recording or mix, a stereo hifi is designed to make a signal coming through it sound good by colouring the sound and boosting certain frequencies. All speakers are transducers and basically work the opposite way to a microphone. It takes an electrical signal and turns it into acoustical energy.
Types Of Studio Monitors
There are two different types of studio monitors, active studio monitors and passive studio monitors. It is important to know the difference between the two when making the choice of which studio monitors to purchase. Active studio monitors are powered, which simply means that each speaker has a built in amplifier so it does not require an external amplifier to power it. Passive studio monitors are not powered, meaning they must be plugged into an external amplifier in order to be used. Active are usually more expensive than passive but you also do not need to buy an external amplifier so you might end up saving money. With passive being cheaper if a speaker fails to operate it would be cheaper to replace than it would if it were active. Within the college studio we are require to know whether or not the speakers are active or passive so we know to use an external amplifier or not.
There are two or three different types of drivers on a speaker, depending on which type of system the speaker has, a two way system has a woofer and a tweeter, but a three way system has a woofer, tweeter and an additional driver called a mid range driver. A two way system is a lot more common than a three way system, three way systems are also have much larger drivers. A woofer is usually the biggest driver on the speaker and produces the low frequencies and low mid frequencies. A mid range driver produces mid frequencies and will be a medium size between the woofer and tweeter. A tweeter is the smallest driver on the speaker and produces the high frequencies and high mid frequencies. It is important to understand the way drivers work on a speaker in order to choose the right speaker for the room you’re going to be working in or the style of music you will be working with. Common sizes for woofers are 5”, 6”, 8” and 12”, tweeters will usually be 3/4”, 1” and 1.5”. On a three way system woofers and tweeters will be a lot larger and mid range drivers can be up to 5” or larger.
The frequency response of a studio monitor refers the output amplitude of a specific frequency. A flat response is considered the be perfect but no studio monitors are truly flat, although some are extremely accurate. The main reason for using studio monitors is because they give a clear and uncoloured sound, you will hear your recording or mix exactly how it sounds, studio monitors don’t boost or cut any frequencies to try and make the output sound better. Some studio monitors specifications will tell you that they have a range of 40Hz-20kHz +/- 3dB, this means the that the signal in between that range will be boosted or cut at 3dB at different frequencies on the spectrum.
The frequency range of a studio monitor is the range on the frequency spectrum it can reproduce audio. It is essential to know the range of the speakers your using as you while be dependent on your speakers to reproduce the frequencies your working with, if the speakers cant do this you will end up with problems on your recording or mix when you listen on a different system. The threshold range of the human ear is 20Hz – 20kHz, although it’s very hard to hear frequencies below 40Hz – 50Hz, so a set of monitors with a range of around 40Hz to around 20kHz will be fine for anything you’re going to play back. If it is essential for you to hear the extremely low frequencies of a recording or mix it would be advisable to use a sub-woofer as a set of studio monitors that will produce them frequencies either won’t exist or will be extremely expensive. Looking at the Event BAS 20/20 studio monitors mentioned previously, these monitors have a frequency range of 35Hz – 20kHz, which makes them almost able to reproduce the entire range of the human ear. Even though the frequency range of a studio monitor might say they can produce 30, 40 or 50Hz this could mean the studio monitor rolls off at this point, so they might reproduce frequencies lower than this but at a lower amplitude.
The outputs of a studio monitor don’t often vary from speaker to speaker, with there being two main outputs that you find on most studio monitors. These are XLR and TRS, other outputs you might find are TR and RCA. XLR is a balanced three pin connector which will connect a studio monitor to an interface of audio source, TRS is a balanced 1/4” jack and stands for tip, ring and sleeve, because it physically has a tip, a ring and sleeve and two bands on the connection. TR stands for tip and ring and is the same as a TRS connection but it doesn’t have a sleeve, only has one band and is unbalanced. RCA is also known as phono cables, and contains two connections on each end, usually coloured with one red connection and one white connection on each end of the cable. It is useful to know these different cables as they are also used in different areas of a studio such setting up microphones or guitar amps. Knowing how each type of connection and cable looks and how it works can save you time when working with audio equipment.