Are studio monitor speakers REALLY better than basic computer speakers?
Well, you said it yourself: BASIC computer speakers, right?
It offers improvements on how you would hear and consume music — especially if you’re serious about music.
Allow us to walk you through setting up your studio monitors in your recording booth!
Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Studio Monitors
Powering up your studio monitors can be a TRICKY process
You’re more likely to encounter different connections and configurations than what you have been accustomed to with computer speakers.
Let’s not waste any more time and just get right into it!
These are the FOUR SIMPLE STEPS you can follow to connect your studio monitors to your PC.
Step 1: Check the Input and Output Connections of Your Studio Monitors
The sockets of your studio monitors will vary depending on the different manufacturers tasked to build your sound system.
Regardless, there are THREE PRIMARY TYPES of input and output connections for studio speakers:
You can often find these connections on the rear surface of your monitor speakers.
Expect to either BUY OR PREPARE THESE CABLES, depending on the needs of your monitors.
Active Studio Monitors vs. Passive Studio Monitors
Of course, connections will also vary depending on the TYPE of your studio monitors:
- Active Studio Monitors – No need to connect them with each other
- Passive Studio Monitors – Need to connect the master speaker with the slave speaker
Sound will ONLY be produced when your passive studio monitors are connected with each other.
It will be best to double-check the needed wires for you to use the studio monitors as computer speakers.
ALWAYS ensure that you have balanced cables for better sound quality overall.
Step 2: Connect Speakers to Audio Interface
First, ensure that your audio system is TURNED OFF to avoid spoiling your monitors and audio interface.
The connection procedure should then come to you intuitively:
- Connect your balanced cables with the INPUTS of your studio monitors.
- Connect the other ends of your balanced cables with the OUTPUTS of your audio interface.
- Plug the interface into your PC or Mac computer system.
Audio interfaces will usually have a USB connection as a tie-in with your computer.
You don’t have to worry about anything as a good interface will be fully equipped with preamps and AD/DA converter.
You can, however, invest in better MIXING EXPERIENCES through various controllers. We’ll talk more about this later.
Step 3: Configure the Audio Device on Your Computer
The next step is to know which computer speakers to use.
When on a PC
- Go to the Control Panel
- Select Sound
- Press Playback
The computer should play an alert sound by then.
A successful configuration would allow you to successfully hear this alert straight out of the monitor speakers.
When on a Mac Computer
- Go to System Preferences
- Select Sound
- Press Output
- Set the studio monitor device as the sound output
Once your system has been set up, turn down the volume of your computer, audio interface, and studio monitor.
Adjust the knobs of your monitor system as you listen to the quality of the output sound.
Settle for a studio quality that you are satisfied with.
Step 4: Adjust Your Studio Monitor Settings
To further configure your studio monitors, you should also pay attention to the different settings in your recording studio.
Adjusting the gains of your studio monitor controls the tone of your audio.
- Start your interface volume halfway.
- Play audio from your interface to studio monitors.
- Adjust your gain or volume knobs to a level that makes sense for you.
Input Sensitivity Settings
The quality of your audio will also depend on the input sensitivity of your studio monitors.
Likewise, this will vary depending on the requirements of your recording studios.
- Professional equipment – sends and receives a signal with GREATER voltage utilization.
- Consumer equipment -sends and receives a signal with LOWER voltage utilization.
The result will deal with the audio interface’s line-level voltage.
HF / LF Trim Settings
These switches will help adjust your studio monitors’ low frequencies and high frequencies.
You should be able to distinctly hear the difference in bass and treble each switch results in.
Just choose the settings most suited to your taste AND the vibe of your recording home studio. The settings should be the same on both studio monitors.
And that is it!
Those are the four simple steps to follow to use studio monitors with a computer in your music booth.
Fine-tune your equipment and have a PROFESSIONAL STUDIO in no time!
Studio Monitors Layout: How to Use Studio Monitors Properly?
More than setting your studio monitors up, you should also pay attention to HOW and WHERE you set them up.
Here are a few tips you should keep in mind for your music booth revamp.
1. Symmetry: Form an Equilateral Triangle
The shape of your room will affect the sound from your left and right speakers.
A symmetrical room addresses the issue of listening imbalance caused by the uneven bouncing of sound on your walls.
Here’s how you can achieve this:
- Use a rectangular room as your music booth
- Find a single clean wall with a comfortable and workable length
- Center your studio monitors good along the wall
- Factor in where you will set up your computer in
Just make sure that your speakers form an equilateral triangle with your listening position — this means the same distance from EACH OTHER and YOU.
The best STEREO IMAGE will be best in the area where the speakers overlap in the middle.
This alignment is more ideal than setting up your studio on a corner.
2. Short Wall: Position Your Studio Monitors Here
Position your studio monitors along the short wall.
Sound and distance also matter when deciding on your music booth layout.
The intensity of the sound level will be better, but it will also arrive EARLIER compared to a wall positioned farther from you.
3. Ear Level: Align Your Studio Monitors Around This Height
Following the same logic of the short wall, sound from your studio monitors will also be best when directly in front of you.
- Horizontal and vertical direction affects the consistency of your sound.
- Elevate your computer speakers using a speaker stand if needed.
Unless faced with unavoidable height adjustments, just make sure to position the high-frequency content is directed at your ear.
This is important because studio monitors are designed to project sound at a straight angle when in use.
4. Reflections: Avoid Them At All Costs
Sound from your computer speakers can combine with reflected sounds. This produces an ALTERED SOUND known as comb filtering.
This is why you should AVOID REFLECTIVE SURFACES directly in front of your monitors such as:
- Television Screens
- Plaster Walls
- Framed Posters
Instead, you can acoustically treat the music booth to optimize the produced sound and music.
There are fortunately vital REFLECTION POINTS around the room that you should pay close attention to:
- Above your head
- On the left wall
- On the right wall
It is highly recommended to add absorption panels on each of these surfaces.
These four layout tips can definitely improve how you hear and listen to music.
Listening through a Studio Monitor: What Can You Expect to Hear?
A studio monitor speaker is THE choice if you wish to listen MORE ACCURATELY.
As a listener and producer, you’ll be able to hear the recording as naturally as possible in the music booth.
More specifically, a careful listen would yield these observations:
- Flatness of sound – each frequency response will be easier to hear for future sound production and mixing
- Balanced bass and treble – the sound will be more distinct from each other to improve on the overall sound later on
Flatter sound production indicates the clarity and precision of your recording.
This will make IMPERFECTIONS easier to spot for a music producer with a computer.
Of course, this is done to improve on the track while the music is STILL in the sound booth.
Will I Enjoy It As A Casual Listener?
Well, not really.
The sound from a studio monitor will NOT let you enjoy the overall experience when you finally hear the music.
As mentioned, you use studio monitors to let you HEAR RECORDING FLAWS. So as a casual listener, you may want to opt for computer speakers instead.
We’ll discuss this more in detail in the following section.
Studio Monitors vs. Regular Speakers
Of course, it will be better to discuss their differences before you settle on a purchase.
You should know by now what a studio monitor does and is for, right?
So to make things easier, let’s answer this systematically — by discussing both sound and aesthetics.
We have to establish that there IS a difference between expectations of a PROFESSIONAL and REGULAR listener.
Studio Monitors vs. Computer Speakers: Sound
To begin, it would be best to acknowledge the intended audience of each option:
- Studio Monitors – for audio professionals and music production majors
- Computer Speakers – for the regular listening audience
Computer speakers produce a sound that is the FULLY RENDERED AND MASTERED VERSION of the music.
Its built-in amplifiers make you listen to all the different tones and notes of the song simultaneously.
Computer speakers are what you are accustomed to hearing on a daily basis:
- Naturally enhanced sound within the walls of your room
- Richer audio and better frequency management
In contrast, a studio monitor works to MINIMIZE ENHANCEMENT of your sounds and overall sound.
This option would be best for you if you are into music and audio mixing.
Studio Monitors vs. Computer Speakers: Aesthetics
When designing your music studio, it is expected that you would look at the physical appearance of the two options.
Here are the key differences between how studio monitors and computer speakers look like:
1. Studio Monitors Are Bulkier
This is because a studio monitor has more features. They will often come with built-in amplifiers AND crossovers.
What does that mean for you?
Well, quite a few things actually:
- NO ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT PURCHASES to produce sound
- LESS ROOM FOR OTHER DEVICES next to your studio monitor on the desk
- MORE TEDIOUS LAYOUT PLANNING for your studio monitors
Of course, you can expect the opposite for computer speakers: they will be easier to manage.
2. Studio Monitors Have More Settings and Knobs
The many features of the studio monitor also come with A LOT MORE SETTINGS compared to the regular computer speaker such as:
- Dials for changing different parts of the music
- Knobs to adjust the power and frequency levels of the music
- Switches to use different music absorber options
A regular listening audience would opt for the simplicity of the basic computer speaker.
You can expect to use knobs to alter the volume, treble levels, and bass levels for basic usage.
3. Studio Monitors Cost More
The extra features would also entail additional costs for you.
Remember: studio monitors are mostly used by PROFESSIONALS.
Additional equipment should also be expected to be paired with the monitor speaker:
- Audio Device Interface
- Stands and Padding
These peripherals are necessary to connect your monitor speakers to your computer.
That said, you should consider ALL OF THESE DIFFERENCES when choosing between a studio monitor or computer speakers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can I Add to My Music Booth to Minimize Sound Diffusion?
The back wall of your home studio is the best starting point.
Mixing with a FLAT back wall can be improved by incorporating the following:
- Regular Padding
- Foam Panels
These will help absorb or scatter the sound energy for a better listening experience!
PRO TIP: Consider thicker absorption panels if you have a smaller room. This is because diffusers will usually take more space than the other options.
Just make sure that you leave enough space for your computer!
Which Is Better for Listening to Music At A Distance?
Your choice should be the computer speaker.
This is because studio monitors project sound BETTER when you listen at a SHORTER DISTANCE — smaller spaces naturally help decrease the sound frequency.
That said, you would need to appropriately layout the space better should you settle for a studio monitor.
How Big Should My Music Booth Be?
Home booths are ideally SMALL.
This maximizes space the BEST.
However, it would be best if you did NOT go any smaller than a 15 x 10 ft. space. Else, you compromise future sound reflections.
Here is a small chart depending on the size of your woofers:
- Woofer Size of 3 x 3.5 inches: Area Size of 9 x 7 ft
- Woofer Size of 5 x 6.5 inches: Area Size of 13 x 10 ft
- Woofer Size of 8 x 10 inches: Area Size of 15 x 10 ft
That said, it would be best to get 8 x 10″ speakers for you to start with.
Can I Use Studio Monitors Even If I’m Not a Professional?
Of course, you can!
If you listen to music out loud from your computer AND in your room, then the monitor should be fine!
However, casual listening in a SPACE FULL OF PEOPLE may be quite difficult:
- The area’s composition will affect the sound quality of a studio monitor
- The layout of your area is vital to the use of a studio monitor
If this is the case, you are STILL better off with computer speakers when listening to music.
Where Can I Use My Monitor Computer Speakers?
If not your room straight from your computer, then here are a few other options for you to consider:
- Music booth
- Home theaters
- Playing video games
Compared to the regular computer speaker, you can expect to hear BETTER music from your monitor speakers.
However, it would be best if you did NOT forget to apply the ideal room setup as you move away from a smaller space: your monitor speaker should be within your ear level.
Can I Use Studio Headphones Instead of A Regular Speaker When Listening to Music?
Studio headphones work similarly to studio monitors.
You can expect to hear FLATTER SOUND and FLATTER FREQUENCY RESPONSES. This is why studio headphones are considered to be MORE INTIMATE listening devices.
Studio monitors offer IMPROVEMENTS for your computer speaker setup.
The studio monitor makes the music listening experience from your computer BETTER FOR MUSIC PRODUCTION.
Hooking it up to your computer is also easy with just FOUR SIMPLE STEPS:
- Verifying the input and output connections of your studio monitors
- Connecting the studio monitor speaker to the audio interface
- Configuring your device on your computer
- Adjusting the studio monitor settings manually
Of course, you would also have to pay attention to how you layout your room — this is the tedious part.
Nonetheless, you are guaranteed to hear amazing recording sessions and listening parties for your final music product, thanks to a studio monitor!