A recording musician or music producer needs some means to listen to what he does. Your average laptop speakers are way too flimsy to do any work on. As long as you don’t do any critical recording or producing/ mixing your average stereo set will do the job. Higher end computer speaker sets that are made for gaming and such are in many cases beefy enough, but will give a very skewed picture of what you are producing. Fact is that higher end gaming speaker sets are not that cheap either.
The difference between “real” studio monitors and the above solutions is that studio monitors are designed to give you an accurate as possible representation of what is recorded or produced. Hifi speakers are not designed with accuracy in mind. They are designed to “fill the room” and make you enjoy the music.
The speaker sets I will discuss here are “near field” (home) studio monitors in the low/ mid price range. Although they pack a punch and can fill a small to medium room easily, they are intend to be used “at close range”, hence the label “near field”, thus eliminating as much interference of the room acoustics as possible.
By small I mean that in most cases the woofer diameter doesn’t exceed 6″. Bigger woofers are counter-productive in smaller spaces. The extra bass of 8″ woofers is completely lost at the listening position (“sweet spot”) in smaller (acoustically untreated) rooms.
Small also means easy positioning on a desktop for example.
The monitors here are of the “active” type, meaning the amplifiers are incorporated in the enclosure and tuned to the speakers. In most cases they feature active cross-overs with separate amplifiers for the highs and the lows.
Do not forget to buy appropriate cables if needed (check your audio interface’s connection options)!
The KRK Rockit powered monitor speakers are quite popular, especially amongst dance and rap producers. I think the bass is a bit “hyped” by a bump in the mid-low range and they sound too “boxy”. But hey, that’s me. A lot of users don’t agree and are very happy with them. These are really a step up from 3 inch woofer speakers in the 100$ to 150$ a pair range, but I like the Mackie MR5mk3 5-Inch 2-Way Powered Studio Monitors a lot more.
These are monitors I own and use in my home studio on a daily basis. I compared them to a lot of other speakers: Tannoy Reveal 402, KRK Rockit’s, Yamaha HS5 and even a pair of Dynaudio BM5 MKIII’s (the Dynaudio’s are REALLY good speakers, but they are also much much more expensive).
The Mackie’s where quite close to the Dynaudio’s to my ears. Really “flat” and no hyped bass but enough bass for mixing most kinds of music. I rate these speakers a lot better than the Rockit’s.
When I went shopping for new monitors for my home studio to replace my oversized Yamaha HS80’s (they are so big and my space was so small that I had the impression wearing 8 inch woofer headphones) I first bought the Tannoy Reveal’s.
This are good speakers. They are also VERY small. So if space is a major concern these are very good contenders. When they first appeared on the market I believe the where around a 100$ / piece (in the country where I live). They where worth their money. At approx. 280 bucks a pair, I don’t know. The sound that these little ones produce is impressive given their size, but it doesn’t sound “relax”. Again, at that price, the Mackie’s perform a lot better. Do buy the Tannoy’s (402’s) if desk space is a real concern. If not: the Mackie’s are not really big speakers and have a lot more relaxed sound to them. I traded them for the Mackie’s, enough said.
I did have the 8″ version of the previous model. They where good, but overkill for my situation (small room). I recently had the chance to use this model (5″) and was positively surprised (I still prefer my Mackie MR5mk3’s!). The Yamaha’s had more bass than I expected and translated quite well what I already recorded. I know the model I propose here is white, but you get speaker stands and cables for free. If white is not your thing and you prefer black you can always choose these (cables are free too).
I personally don’t have any experience with these, but Presonus is an established pro-audio brand. Specs look good on paper and the average customer review is positive. According to the spec sheet this model should go as low as 53hz which is good for this size of speaker. I like the way the bass reflex system is front ported, making positioning less critical (back-firing bass reflex port systems should not be placed too close to a wall). The price is right and in line with the competition.
Who doesn’t know JBL? JBL is a speaker manufacturer with a longer track record than any of the other brands mentioned here (except maybe for Tannoy). Both JBL and Tannoy where once household names in the studio business. A recording studio once had either JBL’s or Tannoy’s (or both), period. It’s a good thing JBL nowadays also makes more affordable monitor speakers. A 4.6 stars customer rating speaks for itself.
Well, this is a difficult one. Every one of these monitors is a good option, depending on your needs and taste. In my opinion, the Tannoy reveal 402’s are a little small for critical mixing duties, but they are real space savers that don’t sound bad at all. The other monitoring systems should give you a good idea of what your music sounds like and you could do a decent mixing job on them. Only the deepest of bass will not be present and because of this I would always double-check the bass with a good pair of headphones.