Studio monitors – how to find the best value setup

If you think high-quality, finished-article audio can only be produced at a professional studio, think again – get the right set of studio monitors and you can reach these levels from the comfort of your own home recording studio.

Why does your studio need monitors?

While standard speakers have a range of built-in settings to enhance the sound of the recordings being played through them, studio monitors produce a much flatter sound that to offer a more accurate reproduction of the original recording. This ‘bare bones’ recording means you’ll have a better idea of how and where to make adjustments at the mixing stage, to ensure finished piece sounds as good as it possibly can.

The trouble is, the cost and quality of monitors varies wildly, so to help make sure you get the most bang for your buck, here’s what you need to look out for when shopping for studio monitors.

What do you want from your monitors?

Before you commit to buy a studio monitor, the first thing you need to consider is what exactly you want to achieve – a high-spec monitor might come with an impressive array of functions, but if you’re not using them all, you’ll have wasted money on expensive kit.

The flip side of this is that while a low-priced monitor might seem appealing to cut costs, especially if you’re just setting up on a tight budget and there’s lots of other home studio equipment to buy, if they don’t offer all the functionality you require, you’ll quickly realise you need to upgrade, making your nearly-new monitors redundant.

This means it’s important that you make the most of your budget and buy the best quality monitor you can possibly afford, and don’t forget to factor in things like portability if you’ll be recording in a variety of places.

What’s the best sized monitor for you?

This question relates not only to physical size, though it’s important to buy monitors that actually fit in alongside everything else, bearing in mind most home studios won’t need massive monitors (50 watts should be enough), but the power output of your system.

Work out the maximum wattage you’ll need – a higher power wattage not only relates the monitor’s maximum volume, it also means it offers more detailed sound and less distortion, giving you greater control over the audio.

What makes a good studio monitor?

When shopping for studio monitors, you’ll want ones that offer a wide range of frequencies, to allow you to reproduce both high and low-end sounds with a little distortion as possible (preferably none at all).

It’s worth investing in ‘active monitors’, which have built-in amps, as these offer a flatter sound ad take away any trace of room ambience, which can alter the sound significantly.

The main thing you want from your studio monitor is for it to offer as accurate a reproduction of your original audio recordings as possible, so you can pinpoint and edit out any weaknesses, so the finished product sounds exactly as you want it.