While all equipment plays an essential part in setting up a home studio, a good set of studio monitors are really what is going to take your recording to the next level. The ability to listen to your music as it actually sounds is integral to how you make most of your decisions in the studio. You aren’t investing in a great home multimedia system here, you’re investing in recording quality sound.
I’ve broken down what I think are the best studio monitors for a home recording studio bearing these factors in mind. You can spend a lifetime trawling through online reviews of these but ultimately, they’re all good monitors. Choosing one is really just about finding the one that clicks with you the most at a price you can afford.
What Are Studio Monitors?
Studio monitors are high-quality speakers designed to give you a professional, recording quality sound. If you’re looking for this, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of flat sound response. A flat responding speaker is a golden ticket to high-quality sound because it plays all of the frequencies at the exact same volume. It won’t alter the variations in sound coming through from the source, meaning it is flat or accurate.
In other words, a good studio monitor will play your music exactly as it sounds allowing you to hear the most precise version possible of it. Really important when you’re making music in the recording studio.
Why Are Studio Monitors Important?
Everyone hears things differently. You’ve probably got an idea of how you enjoy music – maybe some more bass, or a little extra treble in places – and you know the person next to you will have a different idea. Throw a whole bunch of different music styles into the mix and a multitude of different listening platforms and you have a huge number of variables.
So how do you get around this? By stripping music back to its truest sound when you’re recording it. That’s what flat sound is – getting rid of as many variables as possible, like EQ and effects, so you can hear your music exactly as it is.
Also, it’s possible that your professional microphone might sound better or worse depending on the quality of your speakers.
What Studio Monitors Should I Buy?
Achieving flat sound is a mathematical and audio engineering feat, one which some brands do better than others. And just like any purchase, you still need to factor in price and the way they look – you’ll hopefully be spending a lot of time with these guys.
Tips For Buying Studio Speakers
1. Check your connection – Before you buy, be sure to check your connections and find out whether your speaker comes with outputs that are compatible with your audio interface. And as I’ve said before, sound is different for everyone so make the purchase of a studio monitor as personal as you can. After all, you’re the one who will be spending the most time with it.
Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor
Why buy the Yamaha HS5?
- Less bulky than larger versions, good for a smaller setup
- Flat, clear sound for listening and mixing
- Extra-large magnets that deliver high-res sound over an extended frequency range
- Less vibration than other similar models
Why not buy the Yamaha HS5?
- Higher price range, you might have to save a little longer to get these
- Clarity gets a little muffled at very high volume
- No protective shield on the front
Additional information about the Yamaha HS5
- 2-Way bass-reflex bi-amplified nearfield studio monitor with 5″ cone woofer and 1″ dome tweeter
- 54Hz-30kHz frequency response
- 45W LF plus 25W HF bi-amp system for high-performance 70W power amplification
- Room Control and High TRIM response controls
- XLR and TRS phone jack inputs accept balanced or unbalanced signals
You’d be hard pressed to find someone with anything truly bad to say about these speakers. They’re at the higher end of the price range for a lot of home-style setups, but that’s because they’re as close to professional studio quality as it gets. If you trawl through internet reviews, you’ll likely find that these are one of the highest rated speakers for listening to hip-hop on.
Where to buy the Yamaha HS5?
KRK Rokit 5
Why buy the KRK Rokit 5?
- Pretty decent, balanced sound, especially for the price
- Well-built, heavy but compact construction
- Great price point, one of the cheapest
- Comes in white or black
Why not buy the KRK Rokit 5?
- Sound quality isn’t super accurate, specifically the low-end, but still good for an entry level speaker
Additional information about the KRK Rokit 5
- 1-inch soft-dome tweeter provides clarity and extended response up to 35kHz
- 5-inch glass-aramid composite woofer delivers clear mid-range and tight bass
- Proprietary waveguide technology optimized for superior stereo imaging
- XLR, 1/4-inch and RCA inputs for universal connectivity in any studio environment
- 50-watts total bi-amped, class A/B amplifier offering maximum headroom with minimal distortion
Buy these with confidence. There are no surprises with a Rokit 5, you know what you’re getting and for that reason they’re one of the most popular speakers on the market. The sound isn’t the most accurate on the market, specifically the low end, but if it’s your first foray into recording, or you can’t part with too much cash right now, these are my pick.
Where to buy the KRK Rokit 5?
Why buy the JBL LSR305?
- Detailed sound across a broad spectrum, bass to treble – a great all-rounder
- Impressively flat
- Fantastic price
Why not buy the JBL LSR305?
- Looks aren’t the important thing, but… they are quite ugly
- Fairly big, the 305s are OK for a small to medium sized room, but don’t be tempted to go for the 308s if your space is restricted
Additional information about the JBL LSR305
- Bi-amplified Studio Monitor with Magnetically-Shielded 5” Low Frequency Transducer and 1” Soft-Dome High Frequency Transducer and Image Control Waveguide
- Class-D 41 Watt RMS Amplifier for LF, and 41 Watt RMS Amplifier for HF
- Balanced XLR and ¼” TRS Inputs with Detented Level Control, HF and LF Trim Controls
They might look like some $50 speakers you’d find at a garage sale but looks can be deceiving. Perhaps that’s why these are one of the lesser reviewed speakers you’ll find out there. Don’t let that deter you, this is a monitor that isn’t about the looks, but ALL about the sound.
Where to buy the JBL LSR305?
Dynaudio BM5 MKIII
Why buy the Dynaudio BM5 MKIII?
- Tremendous flat sound
- Quiet – you won’t get the same background hiss and hum that some other brands produce
- Sleek, contemporary design
Why not buy the Dynaudio BM5 MKIII?
- These are at the flat end of flat. If you’re not used to it, it might sound a little harsh and sharp
- Expensive (in this range)
Additional information about the Dynaudio BM5 MKIII
- Extended excursion 7″ woofer with pure aluminum voice coil.
- 1.1″ soft dome tweeter with pure aluminum voice coil.
- Bundled with IsoAcoustics ISO-L8R155 speaker stand for decoupling and proper angling.
At the end of the day, it’s a personal preference with these speakers. The audio is crisp, clear and bright but if you’re used to a warmer sound, or your room acoustics aren’t up to standard, you might find them a little much. They’re a solid model though, and it’s tough to fault them for accuracy.
Where to buy Dynaudio BM5 MKIII
Why buy the Mackie MR5mk3
- Excellent, durable build
- No extra electrical noise
- Sound quality is second to none with minimal distortion across the frequency response
- Acoustic space control allowing three settings according to the size of your room
- Very reasonable price point
Why not buy the Mackie MR5mk3
- While they sound amazing, they’re technically not the ‘flattest’ speakers out there
Additional information about the Mackie MR5mk3
- Music-centric voicing perfect for modern mixing, monitoring and multimedia applications
- Enhanced Waveguide system delivers unmatched clarity and openness
- Perfectly matched amps and drivers for optimized performance
- Flexible inputs for simple connection to almost any audio source
- Customizable frequency control for your studio space
One touch of these and you can tell they’re quality. The Mackie is a truly solid monitor, free of gimmicks and built to last. They’re a brand that focus on producing a speaker that will play your music in its full range and natural character. Amen to that.
Where to buy the Mackie MR5mk3