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A Beginner's Guide to Studio Monitors

What are studio monitors?

Studio monitors are loudspeakers that allow musicians to hear what they have recorded in precise and accurate detail. They sound very different to commercial hi-fi speakers, which are designed to produce more attractive bass and high sounds as opposed to giving an accurate reflection of what has been recorded. Studio monitors are able to handle the finer details of programming songs to a high standard, something which hi-fi speakers are generally not capable of doing.

What makes a good studio monitor?

A typically good studio monitor will offer a reliable and consistent response across the breadth of the volume range. Speakers described as flat, accurate or uncoloured should give a precise version of what is recorded, while consumers may wish to be wary of products that offer any artificial exaggeration of frequencies.

The key to monitoring successfully is often thought to lie in understanding how the mix translates to other listening conditions. Even the best monitors may sometimes add a bit of 'colour' to the sound, but they will do this far less than other speakers. Cheaper monitors often create sounds that are too heavy on bass and highs and it is important to consider this and produce your music to such specifications.

What kind of monitor do I need?

Customers should probably bear in mind exactly what they want from their studio monitors before deciding which ones to buy. Medium size desktop monitors, for example, are considered to be good for hip hop tracks or pop songs, while a subwoofer assisted 2.1 system goes well with the production of songs and soundtracks. Larger monitors, up to 5.1 systems, are for those requiring lots of power, with monitors featuring woofers of eight inches or higher recommended for recording rock bands.

Monitors available on the market

One of the cheapest available studio monitors is the Behringer 1C Studio, which costs £38. The product boasts "an ultra-linear frequency response ranging from 60 Hz all the way up to 23 kHz", with full-range output and low distortion. It is designed to be used in home recording studios and as part of surround-sound systems.

Higher up the price range is the Genelec 6010A Studio Monitor for £330. It also comes in a pair and is designed for use with close proximity listening applications and computer sound systems. The speakers are compact and connect easily to mp3 players, preamplifiers and computer sound cards.

At the top of the range is the Genelec 1037C 3-Way Monitor, which costs £2,399.99. It is designed for moderate-sized control rooms and is capable of producing high quality frequency balance and stereo imaging in challenging acoustic environments.

What else should I consider when buying studio monitors?

Those looking to buy studio monitors may wish to consider what accessories they might need to go with them. Cables that are specific to the input needed on the unit they want to connect to could be a necessary additional purchase, as could a product such as the Studio Monitor Speaker Stands for £39.95. Soundcards could also be important, with these ranging in price from the £59.99 M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 Soundcard to the £686 RME HDSP AES-32 PCI Soundcard.

Posted on 27 Apr 2009 12:19 to category : Tips and advice

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