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Do you have 20/20 vision? If you do, consider yourself lucky. Nothing is stranger than sitting with an optometrist and seeing things more clearly when you thought your vision was fine before you walked in. Your ears are similar. You never know what you’re missing until they have been introduced to a brand new sound perspective.
Computer speakers won’t deliver accurate audio, since they are designed for viewing Web videos or playing the audio tracks from Warcraft. Subtle sounds such as air conditioners humming through your voice-over track, excessive mic preamp hiss or distortion from level overloads are commonly overlooked by project studios simply because of inaccurate monitoring. Save yourself the potential embarrassment, if you’re using simple computer speakers, and take a look at the wide world of studio monitors. While computer speakers usually have a mini-plug or USB plug for connection to your computer, professional studio monitors don't, and as such require that you connect them through an additional piece of hardwire like a FireWire or USB audio interface.
For a basic studio setup, a set of near field monitors with five-inch speakers like M-Audio BX5as or KRK Rokit 5s would be a good place to start. Either of these would offer a sound deal for the price, with the BX5As being favorites for post production with their slightly scooped mid-range frequencies. The Rockit5s are favored by musicians for their added mid-range, great for listening to guitars and vocals. Tannoy, a famous recording studio monitor manufacturer, has a new option as well. The REVEAL 501as are its entry-level monitors that are tailored for small rooms, with a large bass reflex port on the front for optimal placement near walls. They will also give you a bit better sound detail and a wider “sweet spot” from which you can mix.
Spending up to $600 will give you access to monitors that will translate your audio better for TV and radios applications. One of the most exciting monitors we have is the new JBL LSR 2328ps which is related in design to JBL's higher-end models, but without the built-in room correction (which may be purchased separately). The sleek curves of the LSR not only look good, but they also widen the sweet spot so there’s a larger “perfect” area for you to occupy physically when you experience the mix.
If you’re in post production and prefer a small setup, but with a super-big sound, see the 2.1 setup of the new Blue Sky EXO 2. Easily expandable to 5.1 audio, they’ll take up a small footprint on your production desk, and let you check all the booms and whooshes of your sound design accurately with the included subwoofer.
If you’re strictly mixing music and you are old school, the HS50ms from Yamaha may be a favorite for you. The signature white cones adopted from their popular NS-10ms give far more frequency response than the historic studio classics, but will stlil sound slightly familiar and give you a great mid-range presence for rock and acoustic music.
Small editing suites in post production and recording studios need professional options for clients who are spending thousands of dollars. This critical listening requires more precision in terms of construction and calibration, but keeping the size down will also keep the price down.
The Adam A3x and the Genelec 6010a are both miniature versions of their larger speakers, but with smaller woofers and less low-end frequency response (which can be aided by a subwoofer, if needed). The A3x will feature Adam’s ribbon tweeter design, which is brighter in sound, while being a really smooth listen. T the 6010a will deliver a slightly “hyped” sound that is also notorious for excellent real-world translation.
Genelec 8020 and 6010s
Professionals who need full-range monitor solutions have more choices now than they did 10 years ago. The Genelec 8020 is from the series of monitors trusted for years to deliver real-world translation and great frequency separation to enable you to isolate issues that may not be apparent in other monitors.
Those who take the path less chosen can take a look at the Focal CMS40’s. I had the pleasure of sitting in a room full of professionals when these were demonstrated. Complete shock registered over all present. People were searching the floor for a subwoofer in disbelief. Their low-end woof has stunning fidelity. It’s truly a competitor worth investigating if you're willing to break the Genelec mold.
If you don’t like the frequency curve styles of the Genelec or Focals, then the Adam a7x monitors are a great contender. The Adams present a rounder midrange, which will render different definition for guitars and vocals when you're panning and eq’ing.
Common Questions About Monitor Accessories
The TC Electronic Level Pilot is a simple knob with balanced XLR ins and outs for simple control of your monitors—without having to leave your chair.
The Monitor Station from Presonus has up to four headphones out, each with its own volume control, speaker source and selections. There’s even a talk-back button and built-in mic, if your talent is a little too far away for vocal cues.
Of course, but the sound may also transmit directly through the wood or other material. Decoupling the speaker would stop this from occurring. Foam Aurlex MoPads and well built Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers are a good fix.
Ideally, if you can get the speaker off the desk an onto its own stand, you’d be in much better shape. Getting Raxxess ERSS or Ultimate MS stands and filling them with sand or shot will give the best surface for the speakers to sit on.
Matching a studio monitor to your setup and needs is a much easier process than it used to be. With several good-quality solutions at prices in all ranges, you can be sure to find the right size and quality, and at a price point within your grasp.