As you know, studio monitors function is to bring true and accurate sound. It helps us monitor quality of sound in recording process and give more accurate decision in mixing and mastering.
This topic will talk about 4 common designs of monitor speaker and effects of each one on trueness and accuracy of sound. Understanding more about each designs helps you a lot with choosing suitable studio monitors. Your choice won’t be based on subjectivity or luck.
1. Nearfield or Farfield?
These are two designs of monitor speakers with completely different purpose. Nearfield is near field monitor speakers designed to have 1 feet to 3 feet distance from human ears. Farfield is far field monitor speakers which is usually 6 feet – 13 feet far from human ears.
When you look at big studio, you’ll see they use different monitor speakers, some put on the head of mixer, some placed in the wall,…
- Direct sound from speakers to your ears
- Reflected sound from surfaces in the room to your ears
So, nearfield monitors sound is usually more detailed and accurate than farfield monitors. It’s not because nearfield monitors produce better sound but being put near your ears. Therefore volume of sound directly delivered from nearfield monitors to your ears will be much more bigger than reflected sound in your room.
Farfield monitors problem is the distance to your ears is farther than nearfield monitors. So, in order to reaching the volume as nearfield, farfield monitors capacity has to be expanded bigger, which result in the effects of reflected sound in the room on what your ears hear.
Maybe you’re thinking that farfield is with all the defects, faults why do people produce it?
Main purpose of farfield is providing you with different aspect of the mix. Hearing sound from far distance even though it’s not detailed and accurate as near field listening, it’s just like listening in many real situation such as listening to music at home or in clubs.
Having another look at the mix is always better because you can imagine how your mix will change in different conditions.
In short, if you just have option to buy studio monitors, I recommend you to buy nearfield monitors because of its accuracy, detail results from not being affected by reflected sound in room.
2. Active or Passive?
After choosing nearfield or farfield design, we have to face with passive or active design. Simple way to put it, active monitors is the one with amps in its cabinet and passive is the one that we have to buy external amps.
A. Passive monitors:
Passive monitors require you to have experience of choosing external amps as well as setting between amplifier and speakers for the most balanced and best quality sound.
Passive monitors have a little advantage is that upgrading possibility. At first, you can buy a passive monitor with middle-grade or used amps then upgrade to a better amps when you can. This prevents spending much money on the first time.
But the problem is when you’re beginners, you may not have enough experience to know where actually need to be upgraded or how to set amps and speakers for balanced sound!
B. Active monitors:
The great points of active monitors are:
- Producers have already chosen the best amps for monitors in order to create the best balance between monitors and amps.
- They set up accurate optimal Line Level Crossover to make sure each monitors run with frequency which they are designed with.
- Length of wire from amps to monitor is very short because amps is available in cabinet.
Can you forget about passive when active has this many benefits! 🙂 When digging more about active monitors, they are divided into two types:
b.1#: True Active Monitors:
In each monitors put two separate amps, one controls woofer speaker (bass) and one controls twister speaker (treble).
b.2#: Powered Monitors:
Powered Monitors have only one amps in one monitor and it provides signal to each speakers in monitor through passive crossover.
Powered studio monitors usually produce better sound than true active studio monitors when they’re at the same price. Simply because you just have to pay for one ampli instead of two separate ampli in true active monitors and you still can utilize benefits of active monitors.
In short, if you need to buy monitor speakers, first thing to do is to limit your money under $500 and there’s nothing to think about, just pick a pair active monitors.
3. Ported or Sealed?
This is the turn of the third problem, Ported or Sealed design? You’ll confused if I talk about their operation, so I just introduce you their affecting sound function.
- Sealed is close design, cabinet is made to be hermetic, inside air can’t interact with outside air.
- Ported is opposite, this design has one or two resonant hole on cabinet helps inside air and outside air exchanging. Depends on the producer, this hole can be in front (front-ported) or behind cabinet (rear-ported).
When comparing sound from two designs ported studio monitors and sealed studio monitors with the same size:
- Ported produces better bass sound.
- Sealed produces more natural sound especially middle and high sound.
In short, each producers will have their own designs and improvements to reduce as much as possible defects of ported and sealed design. You can see that many legend studio monitor models brands such as GEnelec, Even, KRK still use ported design.
Moreover, some producers like Mackie (Mackie is famous with HR series like HR824) produce the hybrid design. It means the hybrid will be optimized and combined the strong points of ported and sealed.
And my advice is, not matter it’s ported or sealed, if the response frequency of speakers is enough to meet your demands and its sound is quite accurate, feel secure to choose it.
4. Front-Ported or Rear-Ported?
Okay, assuming you choose ported for you dear studio monitors, don’t be happy so fast, you still have another last headache element, front-ported or rear-ported?
Front-ported is design with resonant hole put in front of the cabinet and rear-ported has it on the back of cabinet.
These two design theoretically doesn’t have affects to sound quality of studio monitors. In facts, using is different because it depends on where you put this pair of speakers in room.
When you put monitor speakers at the corner or near the walls, it will prevent the outside and inside air from exchanging result in the sound of monitors can’t be true anymore.
If compared to rear-ported, front-ported just is affected a little bit less. So, you always have to put speakers far away from the corner or walls.
Eventually, you just finishing the parts of 4 common designs in studio monitors and their features. This knowledge can also be applied for normal speakers. Hope you choose the best studio monitors for your home recording studio!