Studio monitors are an essential part of the recording and mixing process. Whether you are in a bedroom studio or a top-class facility, you will see monitors of some kind. But how are they different from HiFi speakers?
While studio monitors and HiFi speakers often look pretty similar, they are designed to function very differently. To explain it in simple terms, HiFi speakers are designed to provide good sound quality in any space. On the other hand, studio monitors are designed for critical listening so that you can pick out any sound imperfections and fix them.
Studio Monitors vs. HiFi Speakers – User Experiences
Music professionals listen to music with a mindset very different from that of music consumers. If you are a music enthusiast, you will want to enjoy your favorite music in the best possible way. It is not essential if the music you hear is as accurately represented as the musician intended. What matters is your subjective impression.
This is why most music listeners prefer speakers that appear to enhance a listening experience. HiFi speakers generally accomplish this goal by improving or enhancing the top and bottom ends; this can cause a lift that makes the music more crisp and powerful
Musicians, engineers, and producers have entirely different requirements; they want the speakers to show them all the imperfections in an unedited, reference way. From their speakers, they expect no artificial sculpting or enhancement of the sound signature. They have the exact expectations in a professional studio and often their home studios.
If you are a musician and your music has imperfect sounds, extraneous noises, poor frequency balance (or any wrong notes), you want to address all these issues before your listeners notice them. You want speakers that provide quite a lot more detail than a regular HiFi speaker. While you are doing the mixing, you have to listen carefully for the perfect balance without any changes to each frequency.
This is why you need linear and accurate speakers to make mixed decisions about the bass and treble with a degree of certainty. And this is only possible with good quality studio monitors.
Studio Monitors vs. HiFi Speakers – Technical Differences
There are several technical differences between studio monitors and regular speakers. Some of these are:
Active & Passive Power Supplies
Studio monitors are active because of the built-in power amplifiers. On the other hand, HiFi speakers are most often passive as they receive power from a standalone amplifier.
Individual Power Amplifiers
The most effective active speakers like studio monitors generally have several power amps in a unit. Therefore, the tweeter or treble, woofer or bass, and midrange cones have individual power sources. This makes the sound more accurate.
In addition to the individual power supplies, a crossover separates frequencies to go to the correct speaker or driver. Because of this reason, there is greater precision and clarity, ensuring that you get to hear each detail in the EQ range.
The design of studio monitors ensures that they have a precise, flat sound for nearfield usage. In other words, they don’t emphasize one particular frequency. Due to this reason, you get an accurate impression of a mix and can pick out the imperfections.
What Is The Difference Between Active And Passive Speakers?
Studio monitors are generally active speakers, which means that they are powered. To determine whether your studio monitors are dynamic speakers, look for mains connections on the backside.
HiFi speakers require external power and are therefore in the category of passive speakers. You will have to use a central amplifier to power these. The same principle applies to cabinets and guitars.
There are times, especially in surround sound HiFi or wireless HiFi home stereo systems, where you might experience powered speakers but it is rare.
What Qualities Does A Good Studio Monitor Have?
While this sounds like a simple question, the answer is rather complex. Choosing the right studio monitor is an important decision, one that you must think about carefully.
You have to think about speaker specifications, features, and the amount of money you are willing to spend. You should expect minimal distortion, comprehensive frequency response, exceptional stereo imaging, high volume, and neutral sound coloration when you get a good studio monitor.
A good studio monitor should have a neutral advantage. This means that it should not be too dull or too bright. Your goal is to have sound with tonal acceptability on a wide range of systems.
This means any system ranging from a super expensive HiFi system to AM radio or an MP3 player. You will then need a tonal balance of a nearfield monitor used up close with its back to the wall.
What Does Nearfield Mean?
Nearfield is a term often associated with studio monitors. It means being close to the listener or user. And ‘close’ means just a few feet so that you get an immediate and clear sound. This helps you avoid hearing the natural reverberations and get an upfront and precise impression of a mix.
Other related terms are midfield and Fairfield. Midfield is often a few meters distance, and Fairfield generally aims to fill the room and is nondirectional.
Standard HiFi speakers are usually considered Fairfield because their design makes them sound good from any direction and in any room.
So in summary, Nearfield is how a Studio Monitor operates whereas FarField is how HiFi speakers are typically work.
Can You Use HiFi Speakers As Studio Monitors?
Not generally. It is always better to use studio monitors for mixing, mastering, or recording for more accurate sound. Using standard speakers for these purposes can result in an imbalanced mix.
You want as close to reference audio quality as possible with a studio monitor. Clean, crisp, unaffected sound as close to its original recording quality as possible. Unlike HiFi speakers which can often take on the nature of the company that makes them.
This is why so many people choose their HiFi speaker by their sound signature.
That said, home speakers are occasionally present in some studio setups. This is because some speaker series are favored due to their ability to identify sonic inconsistencies and blemishes. This is immensely valuable for the mixing process. As a result some speaker iterations continue to be sold as they are intended purely for studio use.
To conclude, home speakers are good but not accurate. So if you are looking for a professional quality fool-proof, almost ‘dry’ mix, go with the studio monitors.
Can You Use Studio Monitors For Home Hi-Fi Use?
Perhaps. Studio monitors, especially nearfields, have a design system that sounds good from a particular perspective and distance. While using these in your home, you may find the sound different when you are in front of the studio monitors.
And you will not enjoy this when you are home listening. As you will likely be moving around in your room where the music is playing, you will want it to sound good irrespective of whether you are near the speaker or far. With the studio monitor, the sound will be different depending on where you are in the room.
Studio Monitors are a great choice for home office and desk arrangements. Where you are seated in a stationary position and are close to the speakers.
All in all, listening to music casually on studio monitors is not bad at all, just different from what you may be used to.
In summary – the nearfield and pure audio experience of a Studio Monitor means they are perfect for close, exact and reference style listening. Add some desktop speaker stands and you have a great set-up for a studio or home office desk for audio purists.