In the past, studio monitors were the real deal. Everyone used them for recording, mixing, and similar uses. HiFi speakers and wireless earbuds weren’t born yet, and the headphones available weren’t good enough for something as sensitive as recording.
Now, with many variants on the market, you may wonder if studio monitors are worth it anymore. In the end, they’re bulky, expensive, and you have other speakers you may use. Plus, no one will likely listen to your music on a studio monitor; they’ll use regular headphones instead.
So, do you need studio monitors for home recording?
Do I Need Studio Monitors for Home Recording?
Yes, you need studio monitors for home recording. You may need regular headphones, too, to test the sound that other people will hear. In the end, listeners will probably use headphones or laptop speakers to listen to your music, so doing a brief quality test is necessary.
That doesn’t eliminate the need for studio monitors, though.
For starters, consumer-grade speakers or headphones won’t give you the full picture. So even if your music sounds good, it won’t be enough to judge. If someone plays your music on high-end monitor speakers, all the impurities will come out.
Recording on studio monitors in the first place will give you an accurate picture of the translated sound. All the unwanted frequencies will appear, and you’ll be able to detect the problem and solve it before finishing your recording. Otherwise, you’d just be doing a blind recording.
Why Are Studio Monitors Better Than HiFi Speakers for Home Recording?
Most home recorders already have HiFi speakers lying around, so they take the easy way out and use them for recording. Well, there are plenty of reasons you shouldn’t do that, and instead, use studio monitors. Here’s a brief roundup:
The most significant difference between HiFi speakers and studio monitors is the way they work. For one, HiFi speakers are mostly passive, which means they need an external amplifier that’s fully equipped with speaker outputs.
On the other hand, studio monitors are active; they have the amplifiers built into their cabinets, so
If you want to know whether your speaker is active or passive, check whether it has a mains inlet. All active speakers have those.
Active speakers have leverage over passive ones because they usually have multiple amplifiers built into them. They mostly have an amplifier for the woofer, the tweeter, and the mid-range speaker. As a result of this, you get accurate dynamic responses.
If you’re wondering why having multiple amplifiers is better, it’s because no speaker takes the energy from the other. For example, the woofer needs a lot of power on each kick drum hit and bass note; that’s why it’s better when it has its own amplifier.
On passive speakers, they’re mostly powered by only one amplifier, which may meddle with your crossovers.
Generally, having multiple amplifiers makes it easier for you to create good crossovers because the active circuitry will help you achieve steep filter slopes. As a result, the overlaps between the three main speakers will be reduced, and the sound will be overall clearer.
It’s true that listeners have different mindsets than recorders. Listeners only want to enjoy the music; they don’t care if it’s full of impurities or unnecessary sounds. If they like it, that’s it—nothing else matters.
They don’t care if the music matches the artist’s goals. That’s the artist’s job to take care of. In the end, it’s a subjective matter. Listeners will look for speakers that’ll improve their listening experience, while artists need to find speakers that’ll translate their sounds well.
As an artist or a recorder, you want to hear the plain truth with no hidden impurities. If there are background noises or wrong notes, you need to know so that you can fix them in the final draft. You’ll only be able to catch them if you have a solid studio monitor for the mixing phase.
HiFi speakers won’t give accurate sounds enough for you to judge.
Why Are Studio Monitors Better Than Headphones for Home Recording?
When you’re wearing headphones for home recording, the sound is too close to your ear. It’s true; this is helpful for catching pops or clicks in the sound. However, you won’t be able to judge the sound well when it’s too close to your ears.
As with everything else, you need to take a step back and look at the full picture. To do this, you need studio monitors.
Aside from the closeness issue, headphones usually color the sound. They hide the impurities, which may result in inaccurate sounds. Even if you use headphones for the mixing phase, you’ll still need studio monitors to judge the final result.
It’s worth noting that you can still mix using your headphones. But it’s also essential to have studio monitors to test the sound and look at the full picture.
How to Choose the Right Studio Monitors for Home Recording
When testing your studio monitor of choice, make sure you play your own music first. If you carry out a demo with a well-recorded song, you won’t be able to judge the studio monitors. The music will sound good either way, even if the monitors are subpar.
That’s why it’s essential to play music that already has flaws. If the monitor allows you to catch the flaws and impurities, then it’s a good choice for home recording.
Keep in mind that you don’t need a studio monitor with the best sound quality there is. Instead, you need its sound to be clear and bright without any hidden notes.
If your music sounds good on a pair of accurate studio monitors, it’ll sound good anywhere else.
The Final Verdict
To answer your question, yes, you do need studio monitors for home recording. Of course, you can manage without them, but the resulting sound may not be accurate. You won’t be getting the full picture, so you won’t be able to judge your sounds correctly.
It’s better to invest in a high-quality pair of monitors for the sake of mixing and recording.