The Best DJ & Studio Monitors
How to choose the best studio monitors for you!
Every DJ or producer needs a decent pair of monitors (speakers). There are many options out there at various price points ranging from as little as £100 to £100,000+ so it's crucial that you do your homework and avoid wasting money on something that is not fit for purpose. Luckily for you, we've created this handy guide to help you understand more about studio monitors for DJing and production to help you choose the right pair!
Just like when you're buying a car, there are a lot of things to consider when looking to purchase speakers. If you're a DJ you will likely want a pair that gives out a good amount of bass without requiring an additional subwoofer. Whereas, a producer or mix engineer will want a pair of speakers with a flatter sound, meaning that the levels are truly reproducing the original audio signal without boosting any particular frequencies. It's not as simple as saying 'these are the best' as even the most expensive and widely renowned speakers could be the wrong choice for you.
Monitors or Speakers?
So, why are all these speakers referred to as monitors and not just studio speakers? Monitors is the name given for speakers that are specifically designed for studio use. All studio monitors will aim to give you a true and balanced sound, meaning they will be able to produce the full audio frequency range from as low as 20hz or 30hz right through to 20Khz without distortion, where traditional HiFi speakers colour the sound you hear to make them more pleasant to listen to.
Passive and Active
When looking to purchase speakers you will come across ones that are labelled as 'active' and others labelled as 'passive,' but which ones should you be looking for any why? The difference between the two is that active speakers have the amplifier built in, whereas, passive speakers require an external amplifier to power them. You will find that most studio monitors are active.
This is the best option to go for as you won't have to look into the specifications of your speakers to find an amplifier that will perfectly suit them. The other major benefit will be that the manufacturer will have gone through a lot of testing and configuring to ensure that the amplifier built in to their speakers will deliver a true sound, where as when working with passive speakers you would need to make sure you purchase an amplifier that will deliver the correct power and not colour the sound you are hearing.
If you have some speakers and you're unsure if they are passive or active you can tell them apart by whether your speakers have a power input, all active monitors will require a power supply for the built in amplifier where passive speakers will just have input connections for audio cables.
Nearfield and Midfield
Most people will be looking to purchase nearfield monitors for home use! Nearfield monitors are designed to be placed 1-2 meters away from the listener, if you have ever seen a photo of a big recording studio these will be the speakers that are sitting on top of the sound desk. Midfield monitors are designed to be placed 3-4 meters away from the listener and fill the room they are in, again if you look at a large recording studio these will be the speakers that are either towards the back of the room or built in to the walls.
Size counts, but bigger doesn't mean better.
Most monitors will have a variety of sizes in the series, for example, the Yamaha HS series comes in HS5, HS7 and HS8 with each speaker getting a bit bigger the higher the number. Larger speakers will produce more volume and often more bass information, but this does not mean that the biggest will be the best choice for you! Something that is all too often overlooked when purchasing monitors is the space they are going to be living in.
If your studio is a small room or situated in the corner of a larger room (most commonly your bedroom) then going for the HS8's would be a bad decision as this would result in an unbalanced sound and a less than ideal mixing environment, you would achieve a much more even and balanced sound by purchasing the HS7's. The difference in getting monitors that suit your environment is immeasurable and is by far the most important thing to consider when you're looking to purchase studio monitors!
Here's a selection of some of the most popular monitors we regularly see being used in professional and home studio's and a little snippet about them.
Yamaha monitors are undoubtably the most famous brand amongst producers and mix engineers. Their legendary NS-10M near field studio monitors are now considered to be a vintage model, yet you will still see them in any professional studio. A lot of people are surprised on hearing NS-10M's for the first time as they sound terrible for casual listening, but it's their flat response makes them perfect for a working environment by easily showing up any problems you have in your mix.
Yamaha's modern day active monitors (mainly the HS series) are much more pleasant to listen to and widely used by both DJ’s and producers. For bang for buck they are probably the best on the market! They deliver a great sound and plenty of volume making them ideal for DJs and music producers to work with, but won't break the bank in comparison to a lot of speakers of a similar standard available on the market. In conclusion we recommend the HS series to students who want to DJ and home and produce.
Just like the Yamaha monitors, KRK speakers are very common and deliver a decent product at a low price point. KRK speakers are well known for having a good bass response, even the smaller models, which makes them great for DJs to use. When working with them as production monitors they provide a great level of volume and a good frequency response, but the heavy low end can make it tricky to achieve a balanced mix so watch out! The powered KRK Rokit series are a home studio favourite, you will find them in the bedrooms tonnes of producers as well as in the studio's of professional engineers and artists to use for reference.
Focal are a very popular brand of monitors with producers. They deliver a very crisp and clean sound which helps show up any imperfections or unbalanced elements of your mix. You will find these speakers in the studio's of producers and mix engineers who work throughout the industry, not just dance music producers! Focal speakers are a fair bit pricier than the ones previously mentioned, but they have recently released their Focal Alpha series which are much more affordable than their usual range.
Adam Audio monitors are famous for their groundbreaking folded-ribbon tweeter design known as ART (Accelerating Ribbon Technology) giving a brilliant but balanced sound. I would say that the most well known monitor in their collection is the A7x, you will find these monitors in leading studios internationally, as well as in the home studios of serious producers. Similarly to Focal, Adams' are on the more expensive side for home studio monitors, they have recently released their T series which aims at making a more affordable product whilst maintaining the high quality they are known for.
Genelec are another of the elite brands of studio monitors. Known for producing highly professional speakers designed to be tonally neutral in order to reproduce exactly the same audio quality heard live in the recording studio. The Finnish made speakers can be found in the studio's of sound designers, movie and game audio editors and top producers as well as in radio and TV stations, basically anywhere that the audio quality needs to be very accurately monitored and assessed. They aren't at all colourful to listen to but that's the point!
Pioneer are the industry-leader when it comes to DJ equipment and they also have a range of monitor speakers ideal for practicing your DJ skills at home or in a small studio. The S-DJ range comes in three sizes. Many students at London Sound Academy purchase the SDJ-50X speaker pair which will deliver more than enough volume for DJ use. However, we do not recommend these speakers for music production as they do not provide a true flat sound. Perfect however for your home DJing and small house parties!
In addition, Pioneer also have a small pair of speakers on the market that are really affordable for Beginner DJs. The Pioneer DM-40 or the DM-40BT-W speakers with bluetooth are a great option for those on a tight budget. Costing only £119 for the basic pair and around £160 for the bluetooth model. We highly recommend these for DJ practice only, very small spaces or spaces where you cannot go loud anyway. Perhaps your neighbours are not going to be to happy with a bigger model!
You need to do your homework! Firstly think are you going to need monitors for both DJing AND music production. How big is your room and how deep is your wallet! Don't cut corners and read our blog through again before purchasing!
If you have any questions about studio monitors feel free to get in touch with us for advice on what would be the best option for you, we're happy to help anytime. Click here to contact LSA.