Choosing the right studio monitors can be a daunting task. With the popularity of home recording, there’s thousands of monitors out there to choose from. Also, some of us have home studios that are smaller than average and live in small apartments. How do you select the best ones for an environment like this? First I’m going to explain a couple of things you should consider before making your choice.
Q: Can’t I just mix with headphones?
A: Generally you do not want to mix with headphones alone. Headphones are rarely neutral sounding and tend to color the sound greatly. This will end up causing your mixes to sound good in your headphones, but then weird everywhere else. It’s okay to use a pair of headphone as a second reference source, but you should definitely have a good set of ‘flat response’ monitors to make your primary reference.
Q: What does ‘flat response’ mean?
A: Flat response has to do with what I was talking about in the headphones answer. ‘Flat’ in this context means, neutral, uncolored, as in no extra bass frequencies, or any enhanced frequencies at all. Many headphones and commercial home stereo speakers have a TON of added bass frequencies these days. If you mix with something like this, your mix will end up sounding thin. This is because you were mixing to compensate for the extra bass in the speakers.
Q: Are all studio monitors ‘flat’?
A: Not really. Some are quite colored as well. But this is usually the ones that are geared more towards the novice and doubling as gaming or computer speakers. You will want to make sure to get some that have a good reputation.
Q: Why does it matter how big my apartment is?
A: Room acoustics have a lot to do with how good your mixes end up sounding. If you have a very small apartment, you don’t want to buy something too big for the room. Not only because of acoustics, but also because of space and being considerate to your neighbors. You want to have the correct power and size for your room. For a small bedroom, I recommend woofer sizes from 5″ to 6.5″, if you have a slightly larger room, then 8″ may be appropriate.
Another thing to know is that some studio monitors are not sold in pairs. They come separately, so this should be considered when pricing your monitors. Unless they actually say “pair” then you should assume the price is for a single monitor. In addition to that, you should also understand the difference between “passive” and “active” monitors. Passive means they’re not powered, and active means they are powered. The difference here is that with passive monitors you will need a poweramp to use them. I will only be recommending active monitors in this post.
So here’s the list:
Best for a tight budget in a small room is the Tascam VL-S5 5.25″ studio monitors. These come in a pair and are perfect for a very small apartment. They have balanced XLR inputs, silk tweeters, and 5.25″ Kevlar woofers. The frequency response goes from 60hz to 22khz. They are 40 watt woofers which is good power for a small room. Tascam has a long history in home recording and these high rated monitors are a great deal for the money. They’re only about $190 for the pair.