Reference Monitors for the Personal Studio

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Over the last ten years studio monitors have undergone some of the most dramatic changes in the recording world. What used to be a limited realm dominated by expensive, high-end reference monitors—with one affordable (and as a result ubiquitous) close-field exception, the Yamaha NS-10M—has become a thriving universe of affordable high-quality and powerful choices for the studio owner. Passive monitors are fading fast, and powered monitors now rule the roost, eliminating the need for a separate power amp and cutting down on nuisances like line loss and out-of-phase wiring.

Monitors aren't just the yardsticks by which you measure the accuracy of your mixes; they're also partners in your creative life. Days of long sessions listening to the same material over and over again on less than ideal speakers—even ones that pass the accuracy test—can lead to fatigue and bad judgments about your mixes. A monitor that sounded sexy in the showroom can have you screaming for divorce after a few studio dates if you marry it for the wrong reasons.

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And it's easy to pick the wrong partner. As I pointed out in my March, 2005 roundup of powered monitors priced between $600 and $800, today it's easier to list manufacturers that don't make powered monitors than to name those that do. But even though the bar has been raised for quality, convenience, and performance, powered studio monitors still exhibit disparities in design and craftsmanship and often sound deceptively good-pleasing but flawed in the areas of frequency response, stereo imaging, or power handling. Two recent round-ups and an excellent primer on monitor design by Brian Knave can help you put together a smart wish list for your studio.

By Rusty Cutchin

Good References
June 1, 2001, Electronic Musician, By Brian Knave
This article covers the various designs, components, and properties (including terminology) of reference monitors, as well as how they work - in short, all you need to know to make informed decisions when selecting close-field reference monitors for your personal studio.

Sound Judgment:
Feb 1, 2003, Electronic Musician, By Larry the O
A roundup of 2-way powered systems with woofers between 6 and 7 inches in diameter, priced between $1,895 and $2,098.

Why Powered Monitors?
Feb 1, 2003, Electronic Musician, By Stephen Webber
Should you trade in your unpowered monitors for powered ones?