What monitor do I chose?
Updated: May 28
Hey, It's Spencer the owner of Spencer Studios a recording studio in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Let's talk about monitors.
The world of studio monitors is vast and confusing. We will briefly discuss
frequency response, speaker size, and acoustic design.
There are two schools of thought with regard to frequency response. Modern
thought is to aim for as flat of a frequency response as possible and we
discussed why in our previous article below.
If you have an acoustically treated room and only if the room is properly
treated likely including large amounts of bass trapping, a similarly priced set of monitors will always be better than headphones due to the fact that the frequencies are split amongst two larger drivers and not one small driver. This lowers harmonic distortion. The other
school of thought is to have a slight increase in the mid-range as this is
the most important frequency band. Having mid information slightly more present
during the mixing session can increase the end clarity of your mix which would
also counteract any issues of having an increase in this range with regard to overall balance. Focal and ATC commonly take the increased mid approach.
Moving on to monitor size, if your room is treated PROPERLY then the size of
the speaker cone doesn't matter with regard to speaker response issues however, some speakers require a minimum listening distance. If you are using a large 3-way monitor or multi-diaphragm monitor, sitting too close will cause issues with phase coherence at the specific listening position. Always consult manufacturer guidelines with regard to listening distance. You can also use the recommendations from PSI at the link below for similarly sized monitors.
If your room is not properly treated you might want to select a monitor that has a cutoff frequency above your fundamental room mode to offset any mode related bass build up issues. You can find many calculators to determine your room resonance online by searching "room mode calculator."
Lastly we look at monitor construction. There are essentially two types of monitors, loaded and infinite baffle. Terms that are a little more specific would be ported, passive radiator, and sealed. Both front and rear ported monitors essentially function the same. Rear ported monitors have the advantage of sending any audible air chuffing away from you so it will not impact your mix however, they also require a minimum distance from a wall. Front ported can be placed against the wall but with the disadvantage of potential audible air movement sound directed towards you. If a ported speaker is not designed well you might get some resonance in the port causing a negative impact on the evenness of frequency response.
Monitors with passive radiators like the Focal shape series or Amphion nearfield monitors aim to strike a balance between ported and sealed however, are ported leaning. Placement matters less than ported monitors and there will not be any air chuffing as there is no actual hole. Bass is in theory a little more accurate with reducing possible resonance and giving the powered diaphragm pressure to push off of. The acoustics of the box when comparing frequency response show a drop off more similar to a ported design. Monitors with passive radiators are essentially ported without a lot of the potential issues but at the sacrifice of cost and complexity.
Sealed monitors have the advantage of a slow roll of but this can also be seen as a disadvantage. They entirely avoid many of the problems ported designs face. A sealed monitor will start to lose flat frequency response in the bass region sooner than a similarly sized ported design however, they have much greater low frequency extension in most cases. Let's take a look at the low end of the Amphion One 18 (passive radiator) and ATC SCM12 (sealed) and Genelec 8040B (rear ported) all of which have a 6.5 inch woofer.
Amphion one 18
ATC SCM (low end zoomed)
Lets pick the frequency of 60Hz. We see on the Genelec that this is within the flat portion of the response. On the Amphion being the middle ground we've started a gentle roll of before the cliff and on the ATC we've already reduced a bit however, this can be corrected with some Eq it's just a few db. Now let's look at 20hz being the bottom of our hearing. The Genelec technically can't even play that frequency at an audible range. You might be able to hear it on the amphion due to the passive radiator design. On the ATC you are only down about 15db being the only monitor on the list that can strongly create that pitch.
Now you might start to wonder which way to go. There is no right or wrong answer here. Would you rather have a cleaner image of the sub-bass or is it more important that the high bass is obsoletely flat, do you want to have an in-between option?
If you want to know more consider scheduling a free session with us,
Spencer Miles Spencer Studios 313 W Liberty St, Lancaster, PA 17603