You can record and evaluate your voice over performances with a good set of headphones but at some point you might want to add a set of monitor speakers.
Monitor speakers allow you to hear the audio in the natural room environment that it is likely to eventually be played.
So, how do these monitors differ from the run-of-the-mill speakers you’d find in your buddies surround sound set up? And how do you sift through all the technical jargon to find a quality, yet affordable, set of home studio monitors? Here are four qualities and a tip to keep in mind when looking for a home studio monitors.
1 – These aren’t your father’s hi-fi speakers! Studio monitors are “near field” speakers used to listen to audio within a four-foot range. Hi-fi speakers are designed to fill your living room with sound. Also, many hi-fi speakers tend to boost up the treble and bass, whereas studio monitors have a flat frequency response, not emphasizing any particular range more than the other. This characteristic is perfect for hearing exactly what you recorded ensuring a consistent sound for auditions and performances submitted to clients.
2 – You’ve got the power! Your home studio monitors should be “Active” compared to “Passive” monitors. Active monitors have a built in amplifier that is carefully matched to the capable frequencies of the speakers. Passive speakers require an external amplifier to power the monitors and require additional wiring that can pick up stray noise. Active speakers have studio quality sound and take up less space.
3 – Rugged like a bear! Home studio monitors can take a “lickin’ and keep on tickin”. There’s nothing worse than hearing a blown speaker. However that is one thing you won’t have to worry about because monitors are designed to handle unexpected peaks without being destroyed. That’s not to say you should test this out by turning them up to “eleven” and play your favorite speed metal track. They will last indefinitely when used at comfortable audio levels.
4 – Keep your arm and leg! Like much of anything technology related, the price can go from inexpensive imposter brands to exorbitant technophile range where you can make an initial down payment of an arm and pay the final balance with your first born. However many professional brands are available in the price range of $300 per pair. Check them out online and at your local music store. They will have a better selection of actual monitors than an “electronics” store. You can also compare them various models side by side. Bring several of your favorite music CDs to listen to and also a CD of your voice recordings. You want to hear a clear neutral sound.
5 – Now that you have them… turn them off! Don’t record with your monitors on. Turn them off and use your headphones when tracking. Recording with the monitors on will cause feedback or bleed into your track. Use the monitors only for editing and playback.
Consider these four qualities in your evaluation and you will find it easier to select a set of monitors that not only gives you accurate sound but also brings your home digital studio to the next level. With many brands producing affordable active monitors your decision will ultimately be determined by which monitor sounds the best to your ears!