Studio Monitors Buying Guide

Studio monitors are enclosure speakers designed specifically for professional audio production applications, such as recording studios, film, television studios, radio studios, and project or home studios, where accurate audio reproduction is critical.

Studio Monitors are designed to reproduce audio signals as flat as possible across the entire audible frequency spectrum. Unlike stereo speakers, which can be adjusted to produce strong bass response and sound punchy, good studio monitors don’t emphasize certain frequencies over others. A good monitor will give you accurate, consistent reproduction regardless of volume.

This allows you to listen critically to how certain elements of the mix sound at different volumes. They also capture fleeting musical transients that add subtlety and nuance to the sounds they reproduce. The first time you hear a high-quality monitor with a flat frequency response curve, the sound may sound completely wrong.

But that’s only because your ears are used to stereo speakers that use tuning tricks to artificially create bigger, punchier bass and more pleasant and friendly treble. So a big part of buying monitors is getting used to hearing things differently, and that means thinking about specs and features differently. Instead of looking for effects like bass boost, focus on how accurately your speakers reproduce sound in your particular studio environment.

Choosing Types of Studio Monitors

Nearfield Monitors

Nearfield Monitors are known for their compact size and affordability, and are among the most popular models on the market. Nearfield monitors are placed three to five feet from the listening position and use a simple two-way design with a compact four- to eight-inch driver. Because of their close distance and volume, near-field monitors help minimize the effects of room acoustics, making them an ideal choice for anyone working in an untreated environment.

They are also commonly used in professional studios to reference a mix on smaller speakers that normally sit on the meter bridge of a large-format console. However, nearfield monitors often have difficulty producing high output levels from a distance and often have a very narrow sweet spot. For this reason, nearfield monitors are best suited for private studios and personal audio work.

Midfield Monitors

Midfield monitors are smaller than farfield monitors, but larger than nearfield monitors. Midfield monitors are typically mounted on monitor stands behind a mixing console or workstation and are designed to be 5 to 10 feet from the listening position. These types of monitors typically use a three-way design with an 8- to 10-inch woofer to provide a smooth, balanced frequency response at moderate playback levels.

Because of their size and power, they can be placed farther from the listening position without any obvious loss of bass or detail. Midfield monitors also offer a larger sweet spot, making them ideal for collaborative projects. They are often used for critical listening and monitoring in professional studios.

They combine the extended frequency response and high output power of far-field monitors with the compact size and portability of near-field monitors, making them ideal for professional studios. At low volumes, midfield monitors minimize the effects of the acoustic environment, which also makes them very interesting for larger home studios and project studios.

Farfield Monitors

Far-field monitors are the largest type of monitor and are designed for use in large control rooms. Far-field monitors are typically placed about 10 feet from the listening position and can provide the widest frequency response. However, because of their distance from the sweet spot, they are also heavily influenced by room acoustics, making them best suited for heavily treated, purpose-built control rooms.

Farfield monitors are also referred to as main speakers and are known for their ability to withstand extremely loud playback levels. Most farfield monitors have a three-way design, although some models range from 2-way designs to 4.5-way designs and higher. The bass and midrange drivers of farfield monitors are usually between 10 and 18 inches or more in size.

These types of monitors are still found in many world-class studios. They are usually mounted on the ceiling behind a large-format console and are used primarily to impress customers with their high reproduction levels. However, to prevent fatigue, most mixing and critical monitoring is done with midfield monitors.


Subwoofers are designed to extend the low frequency range of smaller midfield and nearfield monitors. However, unlike nearfield monitors, subwoofers require high output levels to be accurate, which can cause problems in small or untreated rooms. These types of monitors typically have a single driver ranging in size from 12 to 24 inches.

In general, larger drivers are capable of producing deeper bass response, although this depends on the excursion of the drivers. Drivers with large excursion produce more deep bass, but tend to be less accurate.

Subwoofers are available with both closed and open enclosures. Closed enclosures limit the bass response and sound pressure of a subwoofer, but provide cleaner and more accurate reproduction of low frequencies. Open enclosures can produce higher sound pressure levels and are therefore ideal for larger studios or combination with particularly loud midfield monitors.

Choose Between Active and Passive Monitors

Studio monitors come in two types: active or passive. Active means that the monitor has a built-in amplifier specifically designed to power the speaker. Passive monitors require a separate amplifier to power them.

Active Monitors

Active monitors are the most common on the market due to the advantages of their design. Instead of matching a monitor to the most suitable amplifier, active monitors have amplifiers that are specifically designed to meet the speaker’s requirements and provide a more efficient and transparent sound. Active speakers have a compact design.

They owe their high sound quality to dual or triple amplification with a built-in crossover. The crossover automatically routes the correct frequencies to the woofer (bass) and tweeter (treble). They can be easily expanded with additional speakers for surround sound monitoring and do not require an external power amplifier. This makes them ideal for project/home studios. They are also cost effective, easy to connect and, being purpose-built and small, do not require fans.

Passive Monitors

Passive monitors are less common today, but they were the most common design until the mid-1990s. Even though there are fewer options today, there’s a reason they’re still being produced. Some studios may have already spent a lot of money on external amplifiers, so a passive solution would better fit their needs. For others, it may be a matter of budget if they want to use an existing amplifier. The main advantage of monitors without amplifiers is that you can customize your system.

You can pair the monitor you love with the amplifier you love. There are drawbacks, however, as the passive crossover components can heat up from the power being applied, which can change their characteristics. In addition, active amplifiers require a fan, which creates ambient noise. When connecting an amplifier to a passive monitor, it is always a good rule of thumb to double the wattage of the amplifier to match the speaker’s requirements.

For example, if a monitor requires 100 watts of power per side, it should be coupled to a 400-watt amplifier. This will then deliver 200 watts per side, double the requirement. The extra power provides more headroom for sounds that stand out in a mix, resulting in a more open sound. Another reason for doubling the power is that it saves the speaker from premature fatigue and failure. If the power of a 100-watt amplifier is exceeded and passed to a speaker that meets its requirements, the speaker will reproduce the distortion produced by the amplifier.

Studio Monitor Volume Controllers

If you’re serious about making your mix sound good, you may have several pairs of monitors set up in your studio. Maybe you use both mid-field and near-field monitors in your home studio to have different reference points. Or maybe you want to leave the accuracy of your studio monitors to see how your recording sounds on a consumer stereo system.

If any of these situations apply to you, you’ll need a good studio volume control that lets you quickly and easily balance levels between monitors and switch between speaker sets. Be sure to find a controller that supports the number of speaker outputs you need. And if you want to switch between different audio sources, make sure the controller offers that option as well.

The Size of the Monitors VS The Size of Your Room

Although it is easy to assume that louder is better, this is not always the case. The optimal mixing level is 85 dB, which is about the volume of city traffic while you’re sitting in your car. That may not seem like much and may come as a shock to the volume junkies among you, but sounds above 85 dB can be harmful to your ears depending on how long and how often you are exposed to them. Speakers have an optimum power level, meaning they reach their true “sweet spot” when a certain decibel level is reached.

So if you buy an 8″ monitor for a 2 x 2 meter room, you’re going to have problems. Room volume, speaker diameter and sound pressure level must be well balanced in a room, regardless of its size. In smaller rooms, reflection management is critical – you can use diffusion or absorption treatments to greatly minimize reflections in your chosen sweet spot. If you’re working in a particularly lively or dull room, you’ll need more acoustic management, especially at low frequencies.


Every professional monitor has balanced inputs, either XLR, TRS or combined. Your specific needs will depend on the outputs of your audio interface, but cable adapters for any situation are readily available.

If your interface doesn’t have balanced outputs, consider upgrading, as unbalanced lines can pick up noise from other equipment, electrical lines, RF interference, etc. That being said, many monitors also offer unbalanced input jacks such as RCA or 3.5mm inputs in case you want to connect an unbalanced signal directly to the speaker.

Accurate Audio Translation

There are many different types of speakers; some offer different features such as surround sound or amplified bass. What sets studio monitor speakers apart from other audio devices is their precise sound reproduction. Precise sound reproduction means that your studio monitor speaker reproduces the music as it sounded when it was recorded.

This capability gives you a listening experience as if the music were live. However, accurate audio reproduction can be both a blessing and a curse. If the audio recording is amateurish or poor, it will be reflected in the audio quality. There is no way to mask the track to make it sound better, because the music is played back to you in its original format.

The audibility of a speaker is important, both in pre-production with a sound engineer and in post-production when it is monitored. For sound engineers working on a song or podcast, a studio monitor gives them the opportunity to hear a track in its pristine form, so they can spot mistakes and clips they can work on to improve the sound.

Frequency Response

Frequency response depends on the individual monitors you use. So simply saying that all small speakers don’t produce enough bass would be inaccurate. You may have heard something along the lines of “speakers with less bass are better for small rooms because they excite less room modes.”

While the fact that they excite fewer room modes is true, the key drawback is that you can’t hear the sub-frequency range. Many 5″ and 8″ nearfield monitors do not provide adequate bass response. In fact, most lack a full octave of potential sub-bass content.


Some monitors offer equalization controls, cow-tail filters, or high-pass filters that can be used to adjust for the acoustic anomalies of your room. These can also be used to compensate for the sonic effects caused by the placement of the speakers in relation to the rear or side walls in the room.


How the input signal is split to power the drivers in a studio monitor determines whether it is a single-amp, bi-amp, or tri-amp configuration. Many studio monitors are equipped with two speakers: a tweeter for high frequencies and a woofer for low and mid frequencies. Some add a third speaker so that the low frequencies are directed to the woofer and the mid frequencies are directed to a dedicated midrange driver.

In a single-amp configuration, a crossover splits the output of an amplifier that sends the appropriate frequencies to each speaker: low frequencies to the woofer and high frequencies to the tweeter. In a bi-amp configuration, the crossover is connected in front of two separate amplifiers, each feeding the tweeters and woofers. A studio monitor that splits the signal three ways to feed three amplifiers that drive each tweeter, midrange, and woofer separately is a tri-amp configuration.

In general, bi-amp and tri-amp configurations have flatter (more accurate) frequency response and better definition. Because each speaker is driven individually rather than all by a single amplifier, each speaker can reproduce its assigned frequency range more accurately. When comparing single-amped monitors to bi-amped or tri-amped monitors that are similar in terms of speaker size, the bi-amped and tri-amped monitors generally sound clearer and more defined.

Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)

The THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) value is also an indicator of overall accuracy, but in a different way than frequency response. The THD value indicates how cleanly a monitor can reproduce the audio signals fed to it. In most cases, the term THD refers to THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise), so when you see THD, you can usually include noise in the equation.

Every audio circuit adds some amount of noise and distortion; the only question is how much. A clean audio circuit should be very close to zero in terms of the distortion and noise it adds, about 0.001%. A poorly designed audio circuit will add quite a bit of distortion, in the range of 0.3% to 1%. Such values are not to be expected with monitors, but they are often this high (and higher) with consumer speakers and headphones – another reason why they should not be used for recording.

Setting a Budget

The truth about the budget you set aside for studio monitors and acoustic treatment is that you can get great results for just under $500. If you increase your budget, you’ll have more options for studio monitors and acoustic treatment, but that doesn’t necessarily make the difference between a “good” mix and a “bad” mix; or rather, the ability of the mix to translate well to different playback systems.


Even though more speakers are touted as having high sound quality, most studio monitor speakers still have better quality. Studio monitors are enclosure speakers designed specifically for professional audio production applications, such as recording studios, film, television studios, radio studios, and project or home studios, where accurate audio reproduction is critical.

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
The Bollyinside editorial staff is made up of tech experts with more than 10 years of experience Led by Sumit Chauhan. We started in 2014 and now Bollyinside is a leading tech resource, offering everything from product reviews and tech guides to marketing tips. Think of us as your go-to tech encyclopedia!


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