Building a Home Studio - Studio Monitors & Headphones

Studio Monitors

Studio monitors speakers that are designed for audio production and recording applications. The main difference these speakers have over ordinary speakers is that they have a relatively flat phase and frequency response. What this means is that they allow for a more accurate and faithful reproduction of audio quality and the stereo field. If you haven’t listened to your favorite songs over a pair of studio monitors you're missing out; the quality of sound you get out of them is great (assuming it's a decent pair). As with everything, when it comes to studio monitors you get what you pay for. In addition to higher quality components there are monitors with various extra features such as room correctional software and other goodies.

Monitors plug into your Audio Interface and act as the primary output for your setup. That’s right, if you’re serious about your audio productions its best that you throw out your old computer USB speakers and buy a decent pair of studio monitors. They can range from $150 to $17,000 depending on size & quality. A large number of professional studios use standard 8 inch monitors. Other common studio monitor sizes are 6, 8, 10, and 12 inches. Of course there are larger ones but they wouldn’t necessarily be suited towards a bedroom or home setup.

Active or Passive?

Studio monitors are available in active or passive varieties. Active monitors have built in preamps that allow you to plug them directly into your audio interface, while passive monitors require a separate amplifier to power them. Since active monitors require less equipment to use they are the most common type for a home studio setup. Keep in mind most studio monitors are sold separately, so you'll have to buy the left and right speaker separately.

Headphones

Headphones are obviously great for keeping noise down in a shared space, but they're main use is for private monitoring when tracking. For instance a singer would wear them while singing so they can hear how they sound in the mix and stay within time and tempo of the song. Over-ear headphones are the most popular type for this purpose and they come in two variations: closed-back and open-back. These terms are used to describe the nature of how the outer cups of the headphones are constructed. Closed-back headphones have a hard enclosure on the outer cups to prevent sound from leaking out. Open-back headphones are constructed with the intention of having some sound leak out of the headphone as to provide the listener with a more natural sound. Each has its own uses; for instance closed back headphones are recommended to vocalists while tracking to prevent any sound coming out of the headphones from leaking into the microphone.

Take note that headphones require headphone amplifiers to power them, these have high impedance values from 250 Ohms to 600 Ohms. It's said the higher the impedance provides for a better quality sound.