Having flat, neutral monitoring is one of the most important aspects required to achieve a good mix. To get that, you will need a good set of studio monitors. If you are in the market for a new pair of studio monitors for your home studio, you must think about a few key considerations.
Read on as we break down some factors you will want to keep in mind and a few of our favorite monitors that get the job done!
One of the first things you need to consider when shopping for monitors is the acoustic treatment in your home studio. Regardless of what monitors you go with, they will always perform their best in a well-treated environment. If nothing else, you should at least make sure you treat the initial reflection points in your studio. This will help reduce early reflections & standing waves that tend to blur the otherwise neutral response of your monitors.
One of the limiting factors of using headphones to mix is how they can color the sound they are reproducing. The same principle applies to studio monitors. Within an untreated space, you can’t get an accurate representation of the mix’s frequency response. You will likely run into issues with comb filtering and standing waves which can ruin a mix.
A good set of monitors can go a long way to helping you get a great mix, but unless they are in the right kind of space, they will not function the way they were designed to.
When deciding on a set of monitors, it’s essential to consider both budget and room size. Most monitors come in either 5”, 6.5”, 7”, or 8”. Many will find that smaller monitors get the job done just fine in a normal-sized room for home producers. However, if you mix with a lot of emphasis on the low-end and need a little extra bass without adding a sub, then a larger monitor is your best bet.
If you go with a larger monitor size but mix in a smaller room, you will have issues with the lows unless you’ve treated the room. Utilizing bass traps wouldn’t be a bad idea in this scenario.
While larger monitors can be tempting, you will simply want to be honest about what’s appropriate for your space. For the most part, 5” speakers will be perfect for smaller rooms, and there are many high-quality, affordable monitors out there in this range. If you go this route and find yourself desiring a bit more low-end, you can simply tack on a small subwoofer.
On the other hand, if you’ve got the appropriate space and the money to invest in a large set- by all means, go for it!
For the most part, researchers have determined that the ideal level for mixing is around 85 dB SPL. This is because at 85 dB SPL, our ears have a fairly flat frequency response. While that curve may flatten slightly more at higher volumes, the potential for injury is also much higher. Also, if you notice your speakers buzzing, the volume may be too high. For help dealing with your speakers buzzing, check out this article on How to Fix Speaker Buzzing.
Though 85 dB SPL isn’t particularly loud, it’s not exactly quiet either. That being said, this is just a suggestion and not a hard and fast rule. The listening level comes down to your preference. There are even some fantastic mixers who famously work much quieter than most people are willing to. Whatever works for you.
Top Home Studio Monitors in 2021 for Any Budget
Kali Audio has built a reputation for its incredible speaker designs that come at a surprisingly affordable price tag. Designed in California, their LP series offers both a 6.5” & 8” monitor that start at $149 apiece.
The LP (‘Lone Pine’) series allows you to hear the nuance of the mix thanks to their impressively accurate frequency response. These monitors also feature easy-to-use switches on the back, which allow you to calibrate the monitors to their placement in your studio.
If you are looking for a solid set of monitors on a budget, look no further than the Kali LP-6s. You’d be hard-pressed to find another set of monitors of this quality for a mere $300. That aside, these speakers should be noted foremost for their quality, not their price tag. They aren’t just “great for the price,” they are a great set of monitors, period.
When Yamaha created the HS series, they based them on the design of the legendary NS-10 monitors, and they struck gold. One of Yamaha’s most popular lines, the HS series offers an impressively accurate & uncolored monitoring experience.
The series offers 5″ (HS5), 6.5″ (HS7), and 8″ (HS8) options and comes with a series of switches that allow you to fine-tune the speakers to your studio space. These options include a low-mid cut/ boost and a high trim/ boost that you can dial in accordingly.
All-in-all, these monitors are a great option if you have a little bit of a budget but aren’t looking to drop a serious amount.
Focal has built its name on producing high-end and highly capable audio equipment. With the same standards in mind, Focal created the Alpha series, which was meant to deliver the same performance for a more affordable price.
For a home studio, the Alpha 50s (5”) or 65s (6.5”) can really enhance your setup. A pair of 50s begins around $600. They do offer an 8” version of the monitors; however, these are probably overkill at $1k a pair.
If you are looking for the highest quality monitors within the realm of affordability, the Alphas are your move. Though these speakers have a few fewer features to calibrate to your space, these things will really shine in a well-treated room.
It’s tough to find an all-around set of monitors that beats the performance and price of the JBL 3 series. The series offers the usual 5”, 6”, and 8” options. With prices ranging from $129 to $200, these are an extremely reasonable option for many home setups.
The monitors feature JBL’s unique Image Control Waveguide, providing accurate imaging and a nice wide sweet spot. If you have an unusual home setup or have trouble nailing your speaker placement, these monitors can help dial it in.
The Eris series is a relative newcomer to the industry, but it is rapidly making a big name for itself. The E5, E5XT, and E7XT models are built to provide professional quality performance in smaller, more intimate mixing spaces.
Starting around $300 a pair for the E5 XT’s, these are an excellent middle-of-the-road option if you have a little bit of extra money to spend.
These monitors feature a pristine high-frequency response and a 100-degree horizontal dispersion, allowing you to create a nice wide sweet spot. This makes them great for listening in a group and collaboration, according to PreSonus. If you are not the type to work alone, these speakers are a really great option for your studio.