Flattery Vs Honesty: The Right Desktop Speakers Or Studio Monitors For You
I know, the title is confusing. It will soon make sense though. Desktop speakers and studio monitors look the same but sound very different for a reason. They serve 2 very different purposes.
In this article we will first take a look at the similarities and differences between the two types of speakers. We will then have a look at 2 examples I consider to be the best solution for your specific needs.
Design: It is basically impossible to tell tell the difference between a pair of desktop speakers and studio monitors. The box-like design looks identical and variations in design can be applied to both type of speakers.
Sound Creation: Both speakers use a woofer and tweeter to create sound at low and high frequencies respectively. The composition, placement and housing, as well as the distribution of power to these two main components, play a crucial role in the quality of sound they produce.
Power: Both desktop speakers and studio monitors can be either active (powered with a build-in amplifier) or passive (unpowered). Passive speakers require an external power source like an amplifier/stereo receiver in order to function at all. (Some low-powered inexpensive computer speakers use the power supplied by the USB cable to operate. The quality and sound is just completely unacceptable to even consider them for any serious use.)
Sound Quality: Now we reached the most important feature that divides desktop speakers and studio monitors, which will also clarify the heading of this post.
Desktop/Hi-Fi speakers' main aim is to flatter your audio. In other words it makes it sound as good as possible by adding its own "color and warmth", and enough bass to fill a room. This way it hides flaws and possible weaknesses in the recorded audio and provides you with a pleasant overall listening experience.
Studio monitors' aim is the opposite. Its aim is to provide you with a brutally honest and unflattering reflection of your recorded sound. It provides a flat and neutral sound, with plenty of detail of all aspects of your recording. It does not always provide a pleasant listening experience. But once you're satisfied with the way your recording sounds on a good pair of studio monitors, you are almost certainly guaranteed it will sound great on any other type of speaker.
Room Preparation: Desktop speakers are designed to sound great in any room. By simply moving it around in the room, you should be able to find a suitable spot where they sound just right.
Studio monitors are are much more particular and finicky about the room they are placed in. They may sound horrible and produce a completely inaccurate sound in an unprepared room. However, placed in an acoustically prepared room with the right positioning and proper reverberation reducing materials in place, they perform optimally giving you the a clear and accurate sound you require.
Distance: The final big difference between desktop speakers and studio monitors. You will find that desktop speakers sound great when listening from quite a few feet or more away, revealing more detail as the volume are increased.
Studio monitors on the other hand, sometimes called "nearfield" monitors, are build to provide a clear and accurate sound from a very close distance. The sound is also not meant to travel very far and fill a large room. As a result a sound engineer can sit right next to a pair of nearfield studio monitors and get a very accurate impression of the sound produced without turning up the volume.
(Form more information on the difference between desktop speakers and studio monitors, I address them in more detail in this article.)
Now that the differences are clarified and the title less of a mystery, you will most probably wonder which of the two you should choose.
For this very reason I propose 2 options. The first is a compromise between accurate sound quality and a pleasant listening experience in the form of the Audioengine A5+ desktop speakers. The second is a much more focused and detailed sound for the serious recording artist, in the form of the KRK Rokit 5 studio monitors.
Please not that both the Audioengine and KRK are active speakers. (Meaning they are powered by their own build-in amplifiers and do not require an external powers source.) Lets have a closer look at both.
If you are looking for a speaker that will provide you with great overall sound, yet preserve enough detail and balance to be used in the recording studio, the Audioengine A5+ is the answer. It may be on the pricey side for a desktop PC speaker but as you will soon see, you get more than your money's worth.
The A5+ has fairly simple but elegant and attractive design. To fit in with your setup, it come with a choice of black, white and maple wood color.
Made of MDF wood, these speakers have a very good build quality and sturdy feel to it. As a result, these speakers tend to be on the heavy side. (Respectively weighting 15.4 pounds for the left and 9.6 pounds for the right speaker.) Some critics points to a lack of portability due to the substantial weight.
Most people who are purchasing these speakers though, almost surely have no intention of moving them around. On the contrary, the added weight and sturdiness help reinforce the impression of perceived build quality, as well as reducing susceptibility to vibrations and other outside interference.
With dimensions of approximately 11 (height) x 7 (width) x 9 (depth) inches, these medium sized speakers are small enough to be placed on a desk, but also big enough to not look out of place when put on separate stands.
The dimensions of the cabinets allow the housing of kevlar made 5 inch woofers, with 0.75 inch silk dome tweeters situated above them.
The build-in amplifier enables the speakers to produce 50 watts per channel, with peak power rated at 150 watts for the set. This is more than enough to fill a studio or large room (This power output is mostly stated for academic purposes, as the quality of sound plays a much more important role than volume.)
The speaker receives its input signals through ⅛" stereo mini-jack and RCA ports. (The presence of RCA ports leave little doubt that these speakers are build to be used for more than just casual listening, as RCA input ports are normally associated with professional studio monitors.)
Output ports include RCA ports, passive speakers output and a USB port.
One thing it lacks though,is more extensive controls for adjusting the sound, such as an equalizer and balance control. Instead, it is limited to single volume control at the front and power switch at the rear.
I don't see this as a drawback however, as its important to leave the sound in its original form to preserve the recorded tone and balance. You can produce optimal sound quality by rather moving the speakers around in the room/studio to obtain the best position for the best performance.
This section is by far the most important feature of any speaker, and it is here that the Audioengine A5+ really shines.
The speakers are able to produce a natural and crisp sound that can be attributed to both the performance of its high quality tweeters and woofers, as well as the integrated amplifier.
The silk dome tweeters are able to produce very crisp and bright trebles, providing a lot of detail and variation on the high end.
The 5 inch woofers do not fall into the trap of many other computer/desktop speakers by producing a generic base heavy sound. Instead, the base is responsive and also provide a lot of variation and just the right amount of saturation.
Mid-tones may come across as a bit generic and neutral, but this do not distract at all from the overall sound quality.
As a result the speakers provide a natural and pleasant sound, while still able to preserve almost every recorded detail by steering away from adding too much base and adding unnatural color to "spice" up the sound experience.
It is not hard to see why Audioengine A5+ speakers are so highly rated. Although not the cheapest speakers available in category, it provides certainly provides the best value for money.
The mid-sized speakers produce audio quality that is comparable to components a lot more expensive. The natural and pleasant, yet detailed sound it produces, makes it very versatile as well. It can be enjoyed as a desktop speaker, but will be just as suitable to be used in a home recording studio to provide accurate feedback during the production process.
All in all a great quality speaker that does everything that is asked from it very well and exceeds most expectations. It comes highly recommended.
Get more information and pricing on the Audioengine A5+.
KRK Rokit 5 G3
Anyone who has had some experience in professional recording studios or has seen videos and pictures of recording studios, will be very familiar with KRK studio monitors. With its distinctive yellow woofers, KRK studio monitors are well known for providing professional yet affordable components to the recording industry.
The Rokit 5 series of monitors are even more budget friendly without compromising on quality.
The cabinets are made of good quality MDF, while the baffle is made of high quality composite materials. By moving away from the more traditional boxy design, the monitors have an aesthetically pleasing look. (Some purists are critical of the design, but it probably comes down to a matter of personal taste.)
The size are considered to be above average for a studio monitor in this category. Still, with dimensions of 11.10 (height) x 9.06 (depth) x 7.28 (width) inches, they are compact enough to be placed on a desktop.
With a substantial weight, coming in at 14.1 pounds per unit, the monitors stand firmly on any surface, and the added stability helps to making it less prone to vibrations and surface movements.
The speaker houses a 5 inch glass-Aramid composite woofer and 1 inch soft dome tweeter. These quality components housed in a sturdy housing creates the perfect environment for delivering optimal performance.
Signals can be received via RCA, ¼ inch TRS or XLR input ports, enabling basically any professional audio device to be connected to it.
You will also find acoustic controls on the back of the unit. They include controls for HF trim, LF trim and volume control.
The build-in amplifier in each speaker are able to deliver 50 watts per channel, which is more than adequate for any home studio.
The sound quality is exactly what you would demand and expect and from a good pair of studio monitors. It produces a flat, crisp and detailed sound throughout the frequency range. Trebles are tight and bass have enough range at the lower end.
Don't expect a warm sound sound with a booming bass that fills the room, masking any flaws in audio and provide a pleasant listening experience all round. What you get a is a very honest and realistic reflection of your recorded sound, exposing any recording errors or flaws that desktop or hi-fi speakers sill hide.
And that is exactly what you want from a good pair of studio monitors.
If you are a serious home recording studio user that requires an accurate and honest reflection of your recorded audio, you cannot go wrong with the KRK Rokit 5.
Not only does it provide a very accurate and crisp sound quality, it is also surprisingly affordable for a serious studio monitor.
A top and highly recommended piece of hardware for the serious home recording studio.
Get more information and pricing on the KRK Rokit 5 G3.
We have never been so spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing audio hardware than we are today. Desktop speakers and studio monitors are no exception.
As with many other audio components, these two speakers are by no means the only quality options available. But depending on your needs, you will definitely not be disappointed by any of these 2 options.
Feel free to leave me any comments or suggestions you may have. Remember to join my Mailing List to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.
Catch you in the next article and happy recording!