The Best Music Production Monitor Speakers for Home Studios
The Best Music Production Monitor Speakers for Home Studios
In this article, we will explore the best affordable options for home studio monitor speakers. These speakers can be used for music production and DJ practice. As there is so much choice in the market we thought it wise to help our music production and DJ courses students choose the right speakers for their studio. We will also have a look at the differences between them and what monitors may be suitable for your needs! Be it a bedroom or a professional recording studio, there will be something in this guide for you!
Depending on your budget, there are many options available on the market, which can be confusing. Here are some common questions new music producers and DJs ask us and our answers. Use these common questions to help you understand what speakers you need for your home studio.
“Do I need specific music production monitors, or can I just use any speakers?”
In theory, yes you can use any speakers you wish to use, but there are a few advantages to using a monitoring system that is specific to what you are doing (DJing or music production.)
For example, monitor speakers that are designed for DJing can typically handle higher volume levels and are generally more robust than standard speakers. DJing monitors also tend to be better suited to events/house parties/environments where a powerful speaker system is needed, especially if an audience is in attendance.
These speakers tend to emphasise the bass and treble frequencies, making them sound “larger” or more “exciting” than a standard monitor speaker set.
Whereas monitors designed for music production tend to have a ‘flatter’ frequency response, which essentially means that the low and high frequencies aren’t exaggerated or ‘hyped’, to sound more appealing or lively. So, to the untrained ear, these types of monitors can sound ‘boring’ or ‘lifeless’, but this is needed within a studio environment to accurately hear your music. Music producers will favour studio monitors that give a flat responce.
This is even more important with the mixing and mastering process where some monitors can ‘colour’ the perceived sound. Other factors, such as room size, acoustic treatment and distance of the monitors from walls can also affect the sound quality.
“Where would I put them, for the best sound quality?”
This is quite dependent on the size and shape of the room or space you are planning to use the monitors in. The position of your monitors is of high importance for music production, whereas it's not as significant for DJ practice.
In a typical home studio, space can be an issue, so placing the monitors in the perfect position may be difficult. For typical two-way systems (more on this later) the recommended height of the monitor's tweeter (high-frequency driver) is at the ear level, along with equal distance between the monitors. Also, placing the monitors higher, ideally on stands, with a slight tilt will minimise reflections.
Monitor speakers should be aimed towards the listening position.
Keep in mind that sound is reflected by the walls, ceiling and floor. If the room surfaces have not been designed to scatter or absorb the sound energy then some sound will reflect and negatively affect the perceived quality of the sound. Good studios will use acoustic treatment like panels on the wall that absorb sound and limit reflections.
If you're on a budget and want to improve the sound quality of your home studio use plenty of soft furnishings. They will help absorb the sound reflections. Typical items that will help would include sofas, rugs and curtains.
“What is the difference between active and passive monitors”
Simply put; active monitors have built-in amplifiers that make setup and connection straightforward, whereas passive speakers require an external amplifier with additional wiring to operate. You can think of active speakers as being all-in-one, the speaker and the amp.
Most music production monitors tend to be the active type. However in some high-end recording studios, passive speakers are still used. Also, in the audiophile world hi-fi connoisseurs tend to favour passive speakers. This is of course, down to personal preference! We recommend (if possible) auditioning several pairs of different monitor speakers, to find what works for your taste!
“What is a subwoofer and do I need one?”
A subwoofer is a type of speaker dedicated to reproducing only low frequencies. They tend to be larger than monitor speakers, as they usually have bigger drivers, typically 8,10,12 or 15 inch woofers. When correctly set up in the right studio space they can add extra depth and bass to the existing system. This will add to the listening experience and enrich the sound.
They can also be incorrectly used, which unfortunately happens often. When used incorrectly subwoofers can add too much bass, or even worse, cancel out bass from your main monitor speakers. This cancelling effect results in no low-frequencies being heard, which defeats the purpose of using a subwoofer!
As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the studio space you're working in, the lesser the need for a subwoofer. Most beginner producers have no need for a subwoofer.
“What size monitors are best and how powerful should they be?”
Typically, smaller two-way speakers with 4,5 or 6 inch woofers (mid/low-frequency drivers) are better suited for smaller studio setups. This is because their bass frequencies won’t generate as many bass reflections as larger monitors.
The amount of power output you will need depends on where you’ll be playing and how many people will be in attendance. However, when you're buying speakers for a home studio you don't need a pair that will go very loud, at least in comparison to a club sound system.
There are larger monitor speakers with 8,10 or 12 inch woofers including some with 3-way designs (low, mid & high frequency drivers) but these tend to be better suited to larger studio spaces.
Recommended Small Active Studio Monitors For Music Production
Here's a list of the most affordable and high-quality monitors for home studios. This is the most concise list of monitors for music producers who want a speaker system for a small home studio.
Yamaha monitors are the most popular choice for music producers who want an affordable pair of speakers for a good price. The HS5 and HS7 models are active speakers and provide a flat-responce perfect for music production. The HS5's are five-inch speakers which make them suitable for a desktop or small space. The HS7s are a bit larger and they are bigger for medium sized studio rooms. If you're in a small bedroom the HS5s are normally the best choice. You can also buy the larger HS8s which are suitable for even bigger recording studios.
Both sizes delivery excellent sound quality and are durable. They will last your many years as long as you don't push them too loud.
You can also use these speakers for DJing also but they won't sound as bass-heavy as other brands like KRK.
If you want to spend a bit more money and get a set of monitors that delivery excellent audio clarity consider getting a pair of Focal monitors. These speakers will help you spot any imperfections in your mix. They give a clear and crisp sound that allows you to fine tune your music productions. These speakers are good for beginners and pros alike. They are often found in the studio of mix engineers.
Focal offers a large range of monitors at different price points but the Focal Alpha line is the most affordable. There are three sizes in the Alpha range including models 50, 65 and 80. Just like the Yamaha range they offer different speaker sizes for different sized rooms. Go for the small 50s if you have a small studio but a large model for bigger rooms.
Adam monitors are well established in the music industry due to their innovative folded-ribbon tweeter design. This technology allows Adam's to delivery brilliant but balanced sound. As with other brands, Adam offers a range of different monitoring systems from budget to blow out. The most famous range is the A7 and the most popular speaker is the A7V, however the smaller A4V is also popular.
Genelec are another pro choice for studio monitors. They are known for delivering tonally neutral sound. They reproduce exactly the same frequencies that are in your mix allowing you to truly judge how your mix sounds. Made in Finland, they offer a high build quality that will last many years. They are used in many industry that need accurate monitoring including TV, film, music production and the games industry.
In conclusion, be sure to have a realistic budget when looking at monitor speakers. While it may be tempting to get the cheapest on the market, especially when you’re just starting, it’s important to keep in mind that these are an investment - you don’t want to be upgrading only a month after purchasing your monitor speakers!
You also need to buy speakers that are suitable for the size of your room. If you have a tiny studio room make sure you buy small monitors. Don't make the mistake of buying monitors that are too large for your small space.