The 5 Best Studio Monitors for Home Recording | 2022

Choosing the equipment that allows you to hear (or “monitor”) your mix signal is not a task to be taken lightly, because it’s the window through which you’ll be viewing everything you do. For those on a strict budget, however, the unappetizing reality is that monitoring is one of those areas of audio technology where the amount of cash you’re prepared to splash really makes a difference. This is particularly true with regard to your studio’s primary monitoring system, which needs to combine warts-and-all mix detail with a fairly even frequency response across the biggest possible slice of the 20Hz to 20kHz audible frequency spectrum—a set of characteristics that doesn’t come cheap. That said, when choosing the stereo loudspeakers that will fulfill these duties in all but the most constrained studios, there’s a lot you can do to maximize your value for money. First off, furniture-rattling volume levels aren’t tremendously important for mixing purposes, despite what you might guess from seeing pics of the dishwasher-sized beasts mounted into the walls of famous control rooms—most mix engineers use those speakers mainly for parting the visiting A&R guy’s hair! “There just aren’t many situations where the main monitors sound all that good,” says Chuck Ainlay. “The mains in most studios are intended primarily for hyping the clients and playing real loud.”1 “I don’t use the big monitors in studios for anything,” says Nigel Godrich, “because they don’t really relate to anything.”2 You’ll get a more revealing studio tool at a given price point if you go for something where the designers have spent their budget on audio quality rather than sheer power. As it happens, the most high-profile mix engineers actually rely almost exclusively on smaller speakers set up within a couple of meters of their mix position (commonly referred to as nearfield monitors). If you sensibly follow their example in your own studio, you shouldn’t need gargantuan speaker cones and rocket-powered amplifiers, even if you fancy making your ears water

SURROUND MONITORING

Before acquiring a multispeaker surround setup for a small studio, I’d advise thinking it through pretty carefully. Until you can reliably get a great stereo mix, I for one see little point in spending a lot of extra money complicating that learning process. In my experience, a limited budget is much better spent achieving commercial-quality stereo than second-rate surround, so I make no apologies for leaving the topic of surround mixing well alone and concentrating instead on issues that are more directly relevant to most small-studio denizens.

Another simple rule of thumb is to be wary of hi-fi speakers, because the purpose of most hi-fi equipment is to make everything sound delicious, regardless of whether it actually is. This kind of unearned flattery is the last thing you need when you’re trying to isolate and troubleshoot sneaky sonic problems. I’m not trying to say that all such designs are inevitably problematic in the studio, but most modern hi-fi models I’ve heard are just too tonally hyped to be of much use, and maintenance issues are often a concern with more suitable pre-1990s systems. Speakers with built-in amplification (usually referred to as “active” or “powered’) are also a sensible bet for the home studio: they’re more convenient and compact; they take the guesswork out of matching the amplifier to your model of speaker; they’re normally heavier, which increases the inertia of the cabinet in response to woofer excursions; and many such designs achieve performance improvements by virtue of having separate matched amplifiers for each of the speaker’s individual driver units.

what is the BEST MONITOR?

Beyond those issues, a lot of monitor choice is about personal preference, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people prefer bright aggressive-sounding monitors, others restrained and understated ones, and neither choice is wrong as such. The main thing to remember is that no monitors are truly “neutral,” and every professional engineer you ask will have his or her own personal taste in this department.

Mike Senior

Adam Audio A7X

The A7X is balanced. Versatile. It copes with wide-raging frequencies without wearing you out. Modestly sized and yet has a solid and knowing bass response. The precision-made German X-ART tweeter is run by a 50w A/B amplifier while the bass and mid-woofer are driven by a 100w PWM amplifier. It’s all about cleanliness and precision, reproducing the exact sonic details no matter how small. They have a depth of tone, a clarity of image that has resonated with Producers.

On the back, you get a single XLR balanced input and the return of the unbalanced RCA. Three recessed controls allow you to tweak the low, mid and tweeter independently. They are designed to be set and then forgotten about as these speakers will never leave the space once installed.

KRK ROKIT 7 G4

Inside is a new design of Class D amplifier giving an even power through the speakers with more efficient distribution, less heat, and better audio integrity. This is combined with matching Kevlar drivers which minimize listening fatigue and give great transparency. The high-end has a pleasing amount of detail while that front-facing port pushes the low-end nicely.

The fourth generation of KRK ROKIT monitors is the smoothest yet. They’re scientifically designed to offer exceptional low-end with punch and accuracy. The enclosure has evolved, become less striking in form while retaining the trademark yellow cone, but that’s not the only thing that’s changed.

On the back is a DSP-driven graphic EQ with 25 presets to help you model it to your room and acoustic environment. It’s incredibly versatile if you know what you’re doing and if this is your first serious monitor then the presets will take the effort and worry out of it.

For connections, you’ve got balanced TRS and XLR combo jacks and a simple volume control. The power output of 145 Watts is impressive and gives the ROKIT 7 an edge over the more petite ROKIT 5. The surprisingly affordable G4 range goes all the way from the 5″ ROKIT 5 to the mid-field 10″ ROKIT 10-3 so if you need something bigger or smaller then there are options. But for me, the ROKIT 7 is the sweet spot, being able to fill a room without compromising while not dominating a smaller space.

Kali Audio LP6 2nd Wave

All in all these are significant improvements which brings the Kali Audio LP6 to our attention for the first time.

These Californian made monitors are on their “2nd Wave” and spent three years in development to improve upon the originals. They strike a balance between good looks, performance and affordability making them a great mid level choice. The core features remain from the original version including the waveguide technology, bass reflex system and large woofer magnets. The big improvements come in the design of the amplifier which has been upgraded to a Class-D shaving a huge 12dB of noise off the signal while added a further 3dB to the input sensitivity. The tweeters have been tweaked for a better high frequency response, they also get upgraded membranes and a better cabinet structure.

Neumann KH120

The Neumann KH120s are all about maximum signal fidelity and distinctly contoured transients across the entire, neutrally designed frequency response. In other words, they sound amazing. The curves and the design ensure a flexible listening position with its Mathematically Modeled Dispersion waveguide. Bass response is always kept under control and the optimized driver design keeps it clean all the way down to 50Hz.

Neumann has an unparalleled reputation for the beginning of the studio signal chain. Their microphones are legendary. Their speakers have been a more recent development, but they have already acquired a lot of admirers for their compact size and punchy, transparent and detailed sound. They are not the most stylish of speakers you’ll come across. In fact, they’ll give Genelec a run for their money as the oddest-looking studio monitors. It’s all curves and mathematically correct lines that give them a somewhat dated look. But they more than make up for it in the stunning representation of frequencies. The build quality is also excellent, and these things are never going to break or fall apart.

The acoustic controls offer a 4-position bass, low-mid and treble switch allowing it to sit comfortably in a diverse range of acoustical environments. The list of features is very long. It’s a masterclass in design even down to the dimmer switch on the glowing Neumann logo, just in case you find it annoying.

IK Multimedia iLoud MTM

The key to these speakers is in setting them up correctly for your room and for that they include their ARC reference microphone and acoustic calibration technology. Put the mic where you would normally sit and at the push of a button, the speakers create a customized listening sweet spot. That is genius.

Usually thought of as multi-media speakers, the iLoud from IK Multimedia has gotten an upgrade with the surprisingly awesome iLoud MTM studio monitors. They use a symmetrical mid-tweeter-mid design with a pair of 3.5″ high-performance woofers and one 1″ high definition back-chamber loaded tweeter. It’s quite an unusual configuration but it aims to provide an ultra-precise, defined, point source sound. This means that it has a narrower field of dispersal, but this is corrected by having them on tiltable stands which minimizes reflections and gives it a transparent sound to rival much larger and more expensive speakers.

The iLoud MTM monitors are going to work best in smaller rooms and their compact dimensions and stands are perfect for that. The naming convention that IK Multimedia use in “iLoud” makes you think of iPhones and iPads and multi-media devices, which is a shame because these are far more serious and useful in a small studio context. So don’t let the name put you off.

Budget is always your first constraint and if you are starting out then those M-audio speakers are a great purchase. If you have a bit more cash then finding a way to decide between the Yamaha and Rokit speakers could keep you awake at night. They have comparable versions, similar features, good reputations. In many ways, I’d suggest going with personality. Are you an extrovert? In which case, it’s the ROKITs all the way. Or are you more reserved and chilled? Then it has to be the LP6’s. Choosing between the Neumann and Adam Audio is a similar conundrum. Your best bet is to get yourself to a music shop or dealer and demand the opportunity to try them out with some of your own material. But you won’t lose out either way.

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