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Choosing a Studio Monitor for Your Home Studio
By Kendall Scott

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The Case For Nearfields
The number of studio monitors on the market today is quite staggering. There are models available to fit on the smallest desktop and others that approach the size of a home refrigerator. Let's have a look at some of the choices in the nearfield range, as they are probably the most practical alternative when considering a personal system. Midfield and farfield monitors work great in larger spaces but nearfields can be used in both smaller and larger room situations, come in a wide range of prices, and are easily transportable from one workspace to another.

Nearfields are easily transportable from one workspace to another

Speaker Placement
Not all of us have the luxury of working in a perfectly-designed acoustic space, but we can at least adhere to some universal rules on speaker placement, to get started. Monitors are designed to focus sound into a defined sweet spot at the listening position. Nearfields are best placed in an equilateral triangle arrangement with your head and each speaker making up each corner. This positioning can put your speakers in close proximity to your computer or video monitor, so make sure that they are magnetically shielded to prevent visual distortions. The speakers should be as close as possible to ear level and located away from corners, if possible. We all know that many of these optimizations are not always possible in our home studios, and in most cases compromises will have to be made. Acoustic treatments will also help, but that will be a discussion of its own in a future article.

If you do not have the appropriate space on your desk or console, speaker stands are a great way of placing your monitors in a more desirable position. Raxxess speaker stands are available in 36" and 42" heights in various grades and wooden-style finishes. The Ultimate Support series uses a high-tech aluminum design and is available in both 36" and 45" sizes. The best way to mount a speaker would be to float it in mid air to avoid coupling, or sound transference, with the surface that it would be resting on. Since most of us will have to place our speakers on some unsuspecting piece of matter in our studio, there are a couple of things that we can do to de-couple our monitors. Most of the above mentioned stands are hollow to allow you to fill them with sand bags and all of them offer minimum ground contact. There are also products like the Auralex MoPad and Primacoustic IsoWedge that not only help isolate your speakers but also allow you to angle them if necessary.

Active Monitors
Much of the action today is occurring in the active monitor market, and with the great number of choices available you should have no problem finding something that fits both your budget and needs. Active monitors have internal power amplifiers that are optimally matched to their speakers. Unlike most passive alternatives, it is common practice to provide a separate amplifier for both the high-and low- frequency drivers within the cabinet. As volume is increased, lower-end frequencies take more energy to reproduce than their high-end relatives. One advantage of having separate amplifiers for both frequency ranges is that it allows the upper range to be unaltered by the higher power draw of the low range.

Active monitors have internal power amplifiers that are optimally matched to their speakers

Not only do internal amplifiers help deliver a more uniform speaker response, but they eliminate the need for separate components and double the wiring needs. This makes for one compact portable package. The Fostex 6301BEAV, Yamaha MSP3, and Auralex PH5vs are all small, ruggedly packaged multimedia monitors that are perfectly suited to portable use as they offer protection for all or most of their sensitive components. The 6301BEAV in particular can be found in hundreds of audio/video control rooms, remote recording trucks, and editing facilities of all kinds. When you need to pack something small with your laptop recording studio, any of these would do fine. If you are on a very strict budget, you could have a look at a few desktop multimedia options like the Edirol MA15 or M-Audio AV-40.

The Choice Is Yours
As we continue with a listing of a few recommended speakers, it is important to remember that they are categorized by price, with woofer size provided for your convenience. Price does not determine how a speaker will sound, but categorizing by speaker size is not always a good choice either. There are plenty of well-designed smaller monitors that can outperform larger ones. Specifications can only go so far when it comes down to the final test of your ears. There are always exceptions to every rule and bigger does not always mean better. Yes, it is true that a larger monitor has the potential to move more air. If you and your clients need a wider soundscape with more punch, just make sure that the size of your monitoring area can support the added volume and low frequency output of larger speakers. Too large a choice in a small space can work against you by not allowing the sound waves to develop, thus creating dangerous standing waves.

Select model to view features and specifications.

Under $500 per pair

Manufacturer Model Woofer Size
M-Audio BX-5A 5”
KRK RP-5 5”
Yamaha HS50M 5”
M1 Active 520 5”
Tascam VL-X5 5.25”
Event ALP 5 5.25”
Event TR6 6”
KRK RP-6 6"
Alesis M1 Active MkII 6.5”

$500 to under $1000 per pair

Manufacturer Model Woofer Size
Genelec 8020A 4"
Tannoy Reveal 5A 5"
KRK V6 6"
LSR4326PPAK 6.25”
Alesis M1 Active 620 6.5"
Dynaudio BM5A 6.5"
Mackie HR624 6.7"
KRK RP-8 8"
Event TR8XL 8"
Yamaha HS80M 8"
KRK V8 8"

$1000 to under $1500 per pair

Manufacturer Model Woofer Size
Genelec 8030A 5"
Event Studio Precision 6 6.6"
Adam A7 6.5"
Adam P11A 7"
Event Studio Precision 8 8"
Tannoy Reveal 8D 8"
Mackie HR824 8.75"

$1500 to under $2000 per pair

Manufacturer Model Woofer Size
Tannoy Precision 6D 6"
Dynaudio BM6A 6.5"
Tannoy Precision 8D 8"

Above $2000 per pair

Manufacturer Model Woofer Size
Genelec 8040A 6.5"
Tannoy Ellipse 8 8"
Adam P22A 8"
Genelec 8050A 8"
JBL LSR6328P 8"
Dynaudio BM15A 9.5”

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