If I were to ask for everyone’s impression of what a particular instrument, effect or even microphone sounds like, most of you would have a fair mental picture (or sound) in their mind. Website forums and email groups are swamped with users’ opinions on the sonic merit of all sorts of gear, from acoustic instruments and hard or soft synths, through to the alleged pristine clarity of 192kHz/24-bit analogue to digital converters. But without the benefit of reliable sonic binoculars, how can anyone be entirely sure they have the right view of what the music world sounds like?
Enter the role of the loudspeaker, for without it, all these opinions would not be possible.The loudspeakers used for studio applications are often called reference monitors. Their precise and uncoloured reproduction across the audible frequency spectrum is what sets studio monitors apart from the sorts of speakers that accompany the average hi-fi system.
It’s not that hi-fi is a bad thing. In fact, high-end audiophile products are often equally at home in a pro studio. However, it’s the majority of systems out there, indiscriminately shoved in the ‘high fidelity’ basket, that you must be wary of. Behind their fancy fa?ade of flashing lights and exotic plastic are weak amplifiers with poor distortion specs, nasty drivers with limited frequency range and non-linear power output, plus a maze of ports that alter the sound like the spine-chilling resonances of a church organ.
With sub-standard monitoring, you’ll end up altering your music to make your speakers sound good, only to find the mix sounds wrong when played on other systems. This is the main reason why certain speakers (and amplifiers) fail to meet the expectations demanded by audio engineers for any sort of critical work. We need monitors we can depend on to produce mixes that will translate as expected to the intended audience’s listening environment: their home, car or even Walkman.
If you’re considering a new amplifier and speaker system for your studio, get monitors designed with production work in mind, and leave the steroid-enhanced, neon lightshows for the lounge, or better still, on the showroom floor.
If you want to create some studio quality beats then I recommend that you check out my review of btv solo.