Struggling to choose the RIGHT set of studio monitors? The guys over at Sounds Easy, one Australia’s leading audio specialist retailers, have written this great article to help you make it easier!
In a time when there are so many great choices when it comes to studio monitors how can you pick what is going to be the right set for you?
The ear is a funny thing. It’s very subjective – what I hear can be very different to what you hear. The difference can be quite drastic too. We need a kind of universal guide when selecting monitors rather than just listening to a set and saying they sound good or bad, (which is how most people do it) because what may sound good to me may not sound so good to you.
The human ear adapts to the sound coming from speakers very rapidly. Have you ever been auditioning two sets of speakers and when you switch from one to another one set sounds out of phase yet after about 10 seconds of listening the phasing disappears? This is typical and it’s not the speakers that are phased, it’s your ear trying to adjust to the slight differences in frequency and time when you switch between them.
A great HiFi speaker designer once told me never switch between two sets of speakers when trying to decide between them; he said listen to one, stop the music, switch to the second and turn the music back on. This way your ear will have enough time to make critical objective decisions on both.
If you can listen to Frequency, Detail and Imaging in isolation trying not to focus on the entire overall sound you will be able to pick out problems a lot easier.
Listen and concentrate on just the frequencies – note the amount of treble, mid and bass frequencies. Is it even? Are you feeling that bass? Do you squint when you focus on the mid register, does the top end sound hard? Note these things down and move to number 2.
Listen to the amount of detail in each frequency band. Focus on each band and determine how much detail you can hear. Can you hear the front of a bass note? Is the bass undefined or can you easily separate the bass instrument from say the kick drum. Move to the mids. This is where you should hear the most details. Can you hear all the instruments clearly? You should be able to hear the space around the instruments (the air). Now move to the highs. Can you clearly differentiate between high hat cymbals and the ride.
Now listen to imaging. Is the stereo image wide or narrow? Can you visualize the instruments or players in the stereo field? If you can clearly pinpoint each player or instrument you are listening to a set of speakers with good imagining. If the speakers sound two dimensional and narrow and the sounds and instruments blur into each other the imagining is not so good.
There are so many good speakers to choose from and I understand that you’re not going to get a chance to hear every speaker side by side, but even if you can’t the method above should give you a good basic guide to work with and should make your decision a little easier.
The last thing I would suggest is choosing a speaker that is the right size for you room. If you’re in a bedroom studio don’t get an 8” speaker. The bottom end is just going to bounce around your room and get amplified. Did you know that when bass frequencies hit a wall it would be amplified by about 6db. Corners can get up to an 18db kick when the 3 walls meet. So as you can see big speakers in a bedroom sized studio can get a bit out of hand.
On the flipside if your space is the size of a garage you may want to get a bigger speaker so that you are not pushing a little set of 5” speakers to their max.