Which audio monitors for your home studio?

Want to make sure your tracks sound good but all you have are small PC speakers? You want to be able to mix on dedicated audio monitors, then this guide is for you.

 

What is a studio audio monitor?

An audio monitor is a speaker specially designed to reproduce the sound coming out of your DAW as faithfully as possible. They are often sold individually (although there are models sold in pairs) and are active. That is to say that they require a power supply: often directly from 220v. They often have two membranes: a large one and a smaller one above. The idea is to have the maximum quality on the whole available frequency range. So, the small diaphragm will play the midrange and high frequencies and the large diaphragm will play the lower midrange and bass frequencies.

But that’s not all, audio monitors also offer a whole range of professional connections such as XLR and/or unbalanced 6.35mm jacks as inputs, a volume control and often equalization settings. This multitude of settings and connections will allow you to differentiate an audio monitor from a speaker more intended for hi-fi.

Monitors are also often declined in different sizes of speaker diaphragm given in inches. What you have to understand is that the bigger a monitor is, the wider its frequency range will be, especially in the bass range, and the more powerful it will be too. Power is a really important criterion, if your studio is very large. But in a bedroom, you will never push these monitors to the limit, nor will you use them to soundtrack a party with friends. They’re not meant to be played at full volume for hours and hours. After that, if you want to play sound for a party at a volume that allows you to talk to each other without shouting, this will do the trick. But if you want to make a party with music, you might as well look at the Hi-Fi speakers specially made for that and which are often much cheaper than audio monitors.

In any case, as you have to mix with a volume equivalent to a voice conversation, you will very rarely push your monitors to the limit.

However, there are speakers called “Hi-Fi speakers” that are more directed towards listening and their sound is not neutral. This means that they can’t be used for mixing because they attenuate or boost certain frequencies. In this guide, I have only selected monitors that are neutral enough for mixing/mastering. You can always choose more hi-fi oriented speakers for your music, just to give you a better idea of what it sounds like in pure listening.

Monitors can also be accompanied by a subwoofer. This is a rather large audio monitor that will be placed under your desk to bring more bass and sub-bass to your system. The sub-bass is a very low frequency that is inaudible to our ears but that makes our body vibrate. It’s a great monitor to feel the bass part of your mix, but it’s not essential since most of the people who will listen to your music will do so with systems that can’t reproduce these very low frequencies. You will need it when your songs are played live or at festivals. At that point, you’ll probably be able to afford a subwoofer or hire a studio equipped to handle that part. I’ll put you in spite of all the subwoofers associated to the different models of my selection, if there are any.

 

Why mix on audio monitors?
The interest of audio monitors is fourfold: they allow you to have an idea of what your track will sound like on loudspeakers; you have a more precise vision of the stereo of your track because your two ears hear what the two loudspeakers are sending; you have a much wider sound space than with headphones or earphones; you will feel more the vibrations of the instruments of your track in your body and finally, you can make everyone listen to your mix to decide in real time on future improvements on your track.

Listening, at some point, to what your mix sounds like on speakers is a must in music composition. You can’t rely on what you hear in your headphones to get an accurate idea of how your creation will sound on quality speakers.

Audio monitors are an indispensable part of your home studio. But in order for them to do their job well, they need to be placed properly.

 

How should they be placed then?

To properly place audio monitors, they must form an equilateral triangle with your head. In other words, with all sides equal. It’s pretty simple, right?

So, decide on a location for your monitors. In general, they will be at the same level as your screen(s). Don’t place them any further back than that, because you’ll lose frequencies that are blocked by the screens. Basically, you need to see the entire diaphragm of your monitors when you are at your computer ready to work.

There are two ways to position your monitors, relatively, to your head:

Method 1 : Place your monitors on either side of your screen(s) and then calculate the distance your head should be to form an equilateral triangle with your monitors. It’s easy. Draw a line with a string from the front of one monitor to the front of the other. Use the center of the larger diaphragm as a reference point. Measure the length of the string you have obtained. This will be the distance between your monitors and do: distance between monitors x 0.86603. This will give you the distance you need to be from the line that connects the two membrane centers you measured. You must, of course, be in the middle of your two audio monitors.

Method 2 : Draw a line with a string on which you will place your audio monitors. Stand in front of your workstation and measure the perpendicular distance between your head and this line. This will give you the height of the triangle we want to obtain. Also, take a reference point to have the middle between the monitors. Then calculate: height triangle / 0.86603. This will give you the distance you need between the two monitors. Finally, divide this distance by two and place your monitors on either side of your reference point, respecting half the distance you calculated.

For the height, the tweeters (the small speakers at the top) should be placed at ear level and of course, the monitors should be directed towards your head.

The subwoofer is placed under the desk between the two monitors.

 

How to mix with monitors?

To mix with monitors, you first need a treated room, as anechoic as possible. That is to say where there is no or little echo. There are tutorials on the internet on how to treat a room to reduce its natural echo by using absorbing foams. Note that a very cluttered room with furniture, wallpaper or posters on all the walls will have much less echo than an almost empty room.

Next, you should mix at a volume equivalent to a conversation, depending on the size of your studio. If you mix at too low a volume, you risk increasing the volume of your instruments too much and ending up with a mix that is saturated or lacks hierarchy. If you mix at too high a volume, you risk having a bad vision of the volume of each instrument because you will hear them all too loud. But a good mix is also a certain balance and hierarchy of sound level between the different instruments of your track.

There is nevertheless an interest in mixing at a low volume at certain times, because you will hear the instruments that are most prominent in your mix. So, if at low volume, you can hardly hear the sung voice even though it is the main part of your song, it is too weak in your song. Similarly, if an instrument that should be in the background is clearly too present at low volume.

A good practice is to choose a level on which to mix and a level on which to have other people listen to your track. To do this, memorize the volume position of your output so that you can return to this reference volume as soon as you need it to mix.

 

Which membrane size to choose?

It’s pretty straightforward in the end, because, as I wrote above, the diaphragm size will determine the bass frequency range, the power, but most importantly the footprint. Yes, you will need enough room on your desk to place the monitors on either side of your screen(s). So, if you are a beginner or have a small studio, like a small room, with a small desk, get a 4, 5 or 6 inch. 5 inches is a good compromise between space and power. If you have a big desk and enough room to form the famous equilateral triangle, then go for a 7 or 8 inch which will give you a bit more bass.

Lastly, it is preferable to isolate audio monitors from the surface on which they are placed. The idea is to prevent the vibrations from the monitor from being transmitted to the desk or stand and creating unwanted noise that could distort your mix. There are special stands and foam pads to put your monitors on. You will also need XLR cables to connect your monitors to your sound card. If you have a USB sound card, you will probably have TRS jack outputs. So you will need either two TRS jack cables or two TRS jack to XL cables.

I give you links to buy all this at the end of the listing below.

Now that you know what you need to know about audio monitors, here is my selection:
(The prices listed are the prices I found at the time of writing this article in mai 2021.
They may have changed on the vendors site by the time you read this).


Mackie CR-X | from 119 to €189

Mackie is a brand that became known among budding producers thanks to its CR series speakers, of which the CR-X series is the worthy successor. These speakers are not strictly speaking audio monitors because they are more designed for multimedia. Moreover, the smallest model is 3 inches long, which makes it very portable. But their sound quality and especially their very low price (less than 200 € for the pair!) have made them very popular with beginners.

The CR-X is also available in white for the 3 inch model and also in bluetooth version. This can be very interesting for a use as an extra speaker at parties. Having heard the 4 inch version during a small private show, I can say that these small speakers are really good.

Features :
– Inputs : Unbalanced Jack, RCA, Jack
– Volume control on the front

CR3-X (3″ Version) :
– Bandwidth: 80Hz – 20kHz
– Output power: 50 watts
Thomann : €119
Thomann (Bluetooth) : €128
Thomann (Blanc) : €119
Thomann (Blanc – Bluetooth) : €129
Amazon.fr : €113
Amazon.fr (Bluetooth) : €140
Amazon.fr (Blanc) : €119

CR4-X (4″ Version) :
– Bandwidth: 65Hz – 20kHz
– Output power: 50 watts
Thomann : €129
Thomann (Bluetooth) : €159
Amazon.fr : €150
Amazon.fr (Bluetooth) : €179

CR5-X (5″ Version) :
– Bandwidth: 69Hz – 20kHz
– Output power: 50 watts
Thomann : €189
Thomann (Bluetooth) : €222
Amazon.fr : €182
Amazon.fr (Bluetooth) : €200

CR8-X (8″ Version) :
– Bandwidth: 69Hz – 20kHz
– Output power: 50 watts
Thomann : €189
Thomann (Bluetooth) : €222
Amazon.fr (Bluetooth) : €339

CR8S-X (Subwoofer) :
– Bandwidth: 69Hz – 20kHz
– Output power: 50 watts
Thomann : €199
Amazon.fr (Bluetooth) : €184

Images : (click on the images to zoom in)


JBL LSR 30xP | from 118 to €198

JBL is a very well known brand in the world of Hi-Fi for its speakers, headphones or for its wireless headphones. The LSR is a monitor model that is both powerful, neutral and very well priced for the quality it offers. I am well placed to know it because it is the model I use 🙂

Nevertheless, it offers less high frequencies than the KRK Rokit and the Yamaha HS.

Features:
– Inputs: XLR/unbalanced jack

305P (5″ version):
– Bandwidth: 49Hz – 20kHz
– Output Power: 82 watts
Thomann : €119
Amazon.fr : €118

306P (6″ version) :
– Bandwidth: 47Hz – 20kHz
– Output Power: 112 watts
Thomann : €169
Amazon.fr : €166

308P (8″ version) :
– Bandwidth: 45Hz – 20kHz
– Output Power: 112 watts
Thomann : €222
Amazon.fr : €198

310S (Subwoofer) :
– Bandwidth: 27Hz – 200Hz
– Output Power: 200 watts
Thomann : €399

Images : (click on the images to zoom in)


Kali Audio LP-x | from 155 to €245

Kali Audio has made a name for itself in the world of home studios with these audio monitors. Although the design is not very impressive, the monitors are really good in terms of sound reproduction. In terms of pure sound, I find them close to the JBLs. But they seem to have better definition in the bass thanks mostly to the fact that you get a 6.5 inch for the price of a 5 inch and the Bass Reflex vent is on the front.

Features:
– Inputs: XLR/unbalanced jack and RCA
– Available in black and white for the LP-6 model

LP-6 (6.5″ version):
– Bandwidth: 39Hz – 25KHz
– Output volume: 112 dB
– Output power : 80 watts
Thomann : €155
Thomann (Blanc) : €166
Amazon.fr : €157
Amazon.fr (Blanc) : €177

LP-8 (8″ version) :
– Bandwidth: 37Hz – 25KHz
– Output volume : 112 dB
– Output power : 100 watts
Thomann : €245
Amazon.fr : €199

Images : (click on the images to zoom in)


KRK Rokit RPx G4 | from 155 to €494

The KRK Rokit has become a staple in the beatmaking world. We often see the yellow membranes characteristic of the brand in videos on the subject. This speaker is not lacking in qualities. Already, the speaker is quite neutral and its large front vent helps to limit distortion in the bass range.

Features:
– Inputs: XLR/unbalanced jack
– Screen of adjustments with control wheel

Rokit RP5 G4 (5″ model):
– Bandwidth: 43Hz – 40KHz
– Output volume: 104 dB
– Output power : 55 watts
Thomann : €155
Amazon.fr (la paire) : €350

Rokit RP7 G4 (7″ model):
– Bandwidth: 42Hz – 40KHz
– Output Volume: 110dB
– Output power : 145 watts
Thomann : €198
Amazon.fr : €198

Rokit RP8 G4 (8″ model):
– Bandwidth: 36Hz – 40KHz
– Output Volume: 111 dB
– Output power : 203 watts
Thomann : €239
Amazon.fr : €397

Rokit RP10-3 G4 (10″ Model):
– Bandwidth: 26Hz – 40KHz
– Output Volume: 112 dB
– Output power : 300 watts
Thomann : €479
Amazon.fr : €419

Subwoofer :
8S2 (8 inches) :
Thomann : €349
Amazon.fr : €349
10S2 (10 inches) :
Amazon.fr : €429
S10G4 (10 inches) :
Thomann : €349

Images : (click on the images to zoom in)


Yamaha HSx | from 155 to €269

Yamaha is a very famous brand in the world of motorcycle but also in the world of Hi-Fi. The HS range became very popular in the world of the homestudio for their accessible price and the quality of manufacture of Yamaha. The frequency response is, in general, quite neutral although a little less wide than the Rokit.

Characteristics :
– Inputs: XLR/Jack unbalanced
– Available in black and white

HS5 (5″ model):
– Bandwidth : 54Hz – 30kHz
– Power output: 70 watts
Black version : Thomann : €155 | Amazon.fr : €155
White version : Thomann : €155 | Amazon.fr : €185
Black version – the paire : Thomann (+ mousse) : €315 | Amazon.fr : €379
White version – the paire : Thomann (+ mousse) : €319 | Amazon.fr : €379

HS7 (6.5″ Model):
– Bandwidth: 43Hz – 30kHz
– Output power: 95 watts
Modèle Noir : Thomann : €198
Modèle Blanc : Thomann : €199 | Amazon.fr : €198
Modèle Noir – la paire : Thomann (+ mousse) : €399 | Amazon.fr : €479
Modèle Blanc – la paire : Thomann (+ mousse) : €399 | Amazon.fr : €479

HS8 (8″ Model):
– Bandwidth: 38Hz – 30kHz
– Output Power: 120 watts
Modèle Noir : Thomann : €266 | Amazon.fr : €266
Modèle Blanc : Thomann : €269
Modèle Noir – la paire : Thomann : €636 | Amazon.fr : €580
Modèle Blanc – la paire : Thomann (+ mousse) : €549 | Amazon.fr : €610

HS 8S (Subwoofer) :
– Bandwidth: 22Hz – 120Hz
– Output power : 150 watts
Thomann : €463
Amazon.fr : €463

Images : (click on the images to zoom in)


Adam Audio TxV | from 159 to €189

Adam Audio makes mostly professional studio monitors, and the prices that go with them. They are a major player in the business but their products are still expensive for beginners and independent producers. Adam has therefore released a range of monitors that are much more accessible from a price point of view (under €200). Here is the T series which despite its contained price boasts the tape tweeter that made Adam famous.

Features :
– Inputs: XLR, RCA

T5V (5″ model):
– Bandwidth: 45Hz – 25kHz
– Output Power: 70 watts
Thomann : €159
Amazon.fr : €159

T7V (Modèle 7″) :
– Bandwidth: 39Hz – 25kHz
– Output power : 70 watts
Thomann : €129
Amazon.fr : €189

T10S (Subwoofer) :
– Bandwidth: 28 – 120Hz
– Output power : 130 watts
Thomann : €399
Amazon.fr : €376

Images : (click on the images to zoom in)


Adam Audio AxX | from 259 to €525

We are here in the middle of the range of Adam Audio. The price is certainly higher but the sound is also more qualitative. The monitors of the A series have a weighty advantage: a tweeter capable of going up to 50khz! This is thanks to the technology developed by Adam Audio. If you have the means, I could not recommend these speakers enough.

Characteristics :
– Inputs: XLR, RCA

A3X (4.5″ Model):
– Bandwidth: 60Hz – 50kHz
– Output Power: 50 watts
Thomann : €259
Amazon.fr : €279

A5X (5″ model):
– Bandwidth: 50Hz – 50kHz
– Output Power: 100 watts
Amazon.fr : €361

A7X (7″ Model):
– Bandwidth: 42Hz – 50kHz
– Output Power: 150 watts
Thomann : €529
Amazon.fr : €525

T10S (Subwoofer) :
– Bandwidth: 28 – 120Hz
– Output power : 130 watts
Thomann : €399
Amazon.fr : €376

Images : (click on the images to zoom in)


Foam pads and cables

Here are the essential elements you will need to connect your monitors to your sound card and isolate them from their support so that they can deliver the best of their possibilities. The isolation mounts are to be taken according to the size of your audio monitors. I advise you to take them a little larger than your monitors in case you come to change them to models with larger diaphragms in the future.

Cables :
XLR male to Jack 6.3mm TRS (3 meters) : If the output of your sound card is in Jack and the input of your monitors is in XLR
Thomann : €7,30
Amazon.fr : €9,99
Amazon.fr (pack de 2) : €23,99

XLR male to XLR female TRS (3 meters) : If the output of your sound card is in XLR and the input of your monitors is in XLR
Thomann : €4,90
Amazon.fr : €4,00

TRS Jack to TRS Jack (3 meters) : If the output of your sound card is in Jack and the input of your monitors is in Jack
Thomann : €7,30
Amazon.fr : €9,40

ISO-Pad isolating foam pad:
for 5 inches: Thomann : €14,70
for 6 inches: Thomann : €15,70
for 7 inches: Thomann : €16,70
for 8 inches: Thomann : €19,70

IsoAcoustics supports:
ISO-130 :
Thomann : €89
Amazon.fr : €97,90

ISO-155 :
Thomann : €105
Amazon.fr : €105

ISO-200 :
Thomann : €179
Amazon.fr : €179

ISO-200 sub (for subwoofer) :
Thomann : €79

 

I can help you out a bit with your choice with the list of “If” :
If you don’t have a lot of money then, I’d suggest going with the Mackie CR-X which does a good job for the price.
If you’re in the €300 range for the pair, I’d recommend the JBL LSR 305P or the Kali Audio LP-6.
If you want to have the most pro rendering possible then, you have the choice between the Rokit, Yamaha HS and Adam T or A.
If you want the best value for your money then the Rokit or Kali Audio are for you.
If you can afford it, go for the Adam A’s without question.
If, for you, music production is just a hobby then, I would recommend the JBL LSR or Kali Audio which are good, yet have a contained price.

That’s it, you’ve reached the end of my selection. There are still a lot of models out there, but you should expect to pay at least €300 for a good pair of audio monitors, because below that you will have to make concessions on the quality of the sound reproduction.

I hope this guide will be useful in your choice. Leave me a message in the comments if you know of any other studio headphones, if you have any comments to make or if you have any questions or topics you’d like me to talk about.

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