If you have started out recording with a simple home studio setup (like these ones under $300) then you may likely be using a pair of studio headphones for all of your tracking and monitoring needs. There is no shame or handicap in this, let me be clear.
In fact this is how I started out my recording career and it served me well! When you decide to incorporate a pair of studio monitors, however, let me give you 3 simple tips to help steer you clear of hype, myth, and money wasters!
1. Choose Monitors That “Fit” Your Room
Studio monitors come in many different sizes. Most of us will want a pair of “near-fields”, meaning they will be in close proximity to our listening position. Most near-field monitors are measured by the largest speaker cone size and come in a few different flavors. Most typically you see 5 to 8 inch speakers. What you need to figure out is which size of course.
Despite the obvious suggestion by some to get the biggest speaker you can afford for the purposes of better bass response, I say forget all that. Choose a speaker size that better matches the size of your control room. If you have a typical spare bedroom in a house or apartment then you likely don’t need anything bigger than a pair of 5 inch monitors. In fact, I mix on 5 inches in my own studio.
If however you are in a bigger control room of sorts (or a bigger basement studio let’s say) you might be better off pushing more air with 8 inch speakers. Of course there isn’t a rule on this, but you get the idea. Most of us will lean towards the 5 to 6 inch speakers in our home studios and be better off for it.
2. Choose Monitors That “Fit Your Budget
Now that you know what size speaker you need based on your room size, it’s time to consider the other non negotiable, budget. Unless you are foolish, you really shouldn’t spend more money than you can afford on any given piece of gear and that includes monitors.
If you have $700 to spend on speakers great. If you only have $300, fine. Just determine your budget (Hint: take a look at how much expendable money you have sitting around in your bank account, not your credit card limit), then get online and price out a pair of monitors in your needed size that falls in at that price. With so many great manufacturers producing great speakers at every price point, you don’t need to spend much time looking these days.
3. Choose Monitors And Then Don’t Look Back
My third tip may seem lame, but it’s vital. Once you’ve determined your size, budget, and have done some research, you should simply make your purchase and move on. Studio monitors, despite what people might claim, are not the end all be all of your recordings. YES, proper monitoring is key. Obviously we are discussing an auditory art form, so hearing your tracks well is key. But studio monitors are only one part of the equation.
Your room will color and change the sound coming out of your speakers. Your D/A converters will color and shape the sound coming out of your DAW and into your speakers. Your listening position in your room will color and shape how you hear what is coming out of your speakers. And add to all of that, each monitor speaker sounds different and is coloring and shaping your sound anyways. You get the idea.
You are not limited by your studio monitors. They are a tool and a means to an end. Grab a pair you can afford and just get to work.