How Do Studio Monitors Work?
Before you buy a studio monitor for your home theater setup, you should know how it works and how best to use it. A studio monitor is designed to provide you with an accurate representation of the sound you are producing, but it is not suited for movies and television. A studio monitor works by reproducing sound exactly as it is recorded. The tone and frequency range are accurate, which sounds great for music, but for TV and radio, you may notice some undesirable characteristics in the sound. Some sounds will be louder, and others will be softer than they are in real life. This is particularly true if you are listening to the TV or radio at a normal volume level.
If you only listen to music from a speaker system (not headphones), it makes more sense to use studio monitors (or a matching set of passive monitors) as you will be able to hear the full dynamic range of the music.
When might you want studio monitors in your home theater?
If you like the idea of using pair of speakers for your home theater but are concerned about the lack of bass, then adding a pair of small studio monitors might be an option to consider.
They also don’t take up much space, are great for music listening, and provide users with the option to adjust bass, mid, and treble output.
Unlike your home theater speakers, which are built to produce powerful, rich, bass music, a pair of studio monitors are designed to provide a flat and accurate reproduction of the programs or the music they are playing.
While studio monitors won’t produce much bass, if any, they will have less distortion and will enable you to hear more of the subtle tones and sounds that you might normally not hear on your home theater speakers.
Active Speakers Vs. Passive Speakers
Computer speakers, home theater speakers, and studio monitor speakers all have their basic similarities as well as significant differences. To make a smart buying decision, you need to understand the different speaker types and their features, strengths, and weaknesses.
There are many differences in the technology, materials, and production process between speakers. The main difference is the size of the speaker. Studio monitors tend to be smaller than home theater speakers and computer speakers. This is because these monitors are designed to be used in a studio environment. They’re small enough to be placed near the operator, so the engineer can quickly make adjustments as needed.
Another difference between studio monitors and the other types of speakers is the way they produce sound. Compared to other speakers, studio monitors offer more accurate sound reproduction. During the design process, audio engineers use a combination of carefully calibrated drivers, a low-distortion crossover networks, and a linear-phase crossover filters to provide neutral and extremely accurate sound. These qualities are crucial for studio monitors, because it allows the engineer to clearly hear all the subtleties in the music, improving accuracy and allowing for easy fine-tuning things of the balance and volume. Studio monitors are the perfect choice if you’re the type of person who has a keen ear for sound.
Advantages of Active Speakers
Most consumers do not understand the difference between active and passive speakers, or even know that there is a difference. This is due to most manufacturers selling passive speakers more than active speakers.
Because of this, this article will focus more on passive vs. active speakers and why you should use an active speaker system in your home theater. It will not tell you how to professionally set your speaker system up, but it will tell you what active speakers can do for you.
The common misconception is that a passive speaker system is always better than an active speaker system. However, just like a passive speaker is not always better than an active speaker, the reverse is also true.
Units from companies like JBL, Dynaudio, Yamaha, Klipsch, Infinity, and Martin Logan use transducers that are either made specifically for them, or these companies buy them from another vendor. They are then assembled, and their speakers are sold individually or as a set. However, the transducer you buy could be the same model that is available as an active speaker, minus the electronics.
In this scenario, it is the active speaker which has the advantage. You can buy the model of your choice and then control the crossover frequency, level, and phase.
With a passive system, there is no way to adjust the crossover frequency, level, and phase, and you may need to buy a separate preamp because of this.
Disadvantages of Active Speakers
Active speakers have their benefits, but in the case of home theater use, they present a couple of disadvantages.
Since active speakers – or amplified speakers – have built-in power amplifiers, they limit the options when pairing the speakers with an external amplifier and receiver. Because the active speaker’s amplifier is built-in and doesn’t connect to other components via a single cable, you can’t independently control the volume of the speakers and subwoofer using the receiver. So if you want the speakers to play at a consistent volume level, it’s easier to do with passive speakers.
If you don’t have a neutral speaker cable for your active speakers to connect to an external amplifier and receiver, then you’ll have to either run the speakers from your amplifier’s output or use speaker wires to connect the main speakers into your receiver. In some cases, speaker wire may degrade the audio quality of your audio system.
Also, if you don’t already own an amplifier and receiver, you’ll need to purchase one as well as the zeros and one speaker wire adapter.
Advantages of Passive Speakers
Today the average home theater has come a long way from the days when we were watching a grainy monochrome image on your uncle’s television. You probably have a 50” plasma, a 5.1 or 7.1 surround-sound system, and a range of options to stream content to your TV.
A lot has changed. But even though the equipment in the average home theater has evolved since its earliest beginnings, most people are still using the same speakers they bought along with the original equipment. This is unfortunate.
But many manufacturers are releasing passive speakers that are designed for home theaters. Passive speakers are considered more modern and provide people with endless options. While these speakers are similar to the older speakers people used – with a few improvements – they are not the same, and there are advantages when you use them.
Disadvantages of Passive Speakers
Passive speakers have some disadvantages.
The first and probably the largest disadvantage is the fact that they are, well, passive. Because passive speakers do not have a built-in amplifier, they won’t sound very good when you pair them with cheap amplifiers.
If you don’t like to have lots and lots of components taking up space on your outboard equipment shelves, you’ll dislike passive speakers. Each time you want to use speakers with an amplifier, you need to plug a set of speakers into the amp, and then plug your amp into the wall. It’s not the size of the process of attaching and removing the speaker wires from your power source that makes this a chore, mostly it’s the number of times you have to do it.
If you like your speakers to show off the space you have in your room, you’ll probably not like passive speakers. Because passive speakers need lots of room to function effectively, you’re not going to buy these speakers if you’re lacking space. Also, they’re not as pretty since most of them are just a big box with a hole or a grill on the front.
Studio monitors are designed to give you the most detailed, uncolored, and flat sound, and using them for your home theater will give you the most accurate reproduction of dialogue and score. But as always there are caveats.
They are not speakers that are designed to be placed within the room where you watch TV/movies, which means that critical techno-babble like explosions and crashes may seem deflated on your movie watching. This isn’t a technical flaw with the speakers or a problem with your hearing, it is just the nature of the beast.
Also, because studio monitors are designed to be used in a mixing room environment, they are designed to be placed on top of something to get them to the right height to allow a person to mix music without being slouched over all day. Most people use one of the studio monitors as their primary music listening speaker and put it atop their hi-fi or AV receiver. These are great because they are typically the right height and they are positioned in a way that allows the speaker to sound good. They are also usually close to the main listening position, so they allow for a more natural sound.
Do you need additional equipment to use studio monitors?
Most speakers capable of reproducing quality sound are good for home theater. However, there are a few situations when you may need additional equipment.
One situation is when you have no NAD or other pre-amp. Another situation is when you have a surround sound system and are looking to upgrade to Bose, JBL, or Klipsch speakers.
When it comes to choosing a speaker system for your home theater, a common mistake many people make is to choose a set of passive speakers (without an amplifier). The idea of passive speakers is to save as much money as possible, but active speakers have a wide range of output, which makes them suitable for a whole variety of situations. When combined with a surround sound system, a set of passive speakers is simply not powerful enough.
You can find out more about getting high-quality sound for your home theater with our guide to home theater speakers.
Can you hook up studio monitors to a TV?
Studio monitors are designed for producing audio in recording studios. With a flat frequency response, they provide very detailed audio with no other distractions that might affect the quality of the production. While studio monitors are great for making sure that your recordings sound the way you intended, they are not ideal for home theaters.
For home theaters, you want to have speakers that enhance the movie-watching experience by providing a surround sound experience by reproducing positional audio that interacts with the video content. Since studio monitors do not produce positional audio, they do not provide a great experience for home theater setups.
Are active speakers better than passive?
A lot of people ask me whether they can use their studio monitors for home theater. If you read my review, then you know that Studio 82 monitors are a great choice for a home theater setup. So, at first glance, it seems like a great idea.
However, it’s not quite that simple – there are limitations if you’re using studio monitors for movie watching.
If you are set on using monitors, your listening position matters. If your seating distance is 3-5 feet away from the studio monitors, you will not get the sound mix as it was intended, unless you modify your audio mix to suit your position or you upgrade your studio monitors.
It’s not true that you can’t use active speakers for home theater. The difference between studio monitors and home theater speakers is that the main goal of studio monitors is to present the music or the audio mix as clear as possible. This means that when the movie is being mixed, the audio is professionally adjusted for the studio monitors.
Studio monitors make great speakers for music, particularly when working on it in a studio. But most incorporate dipole technology, which means they are not designed to provide bass. Always bear in mind that when using studio monitors for home theater purposes, the final goal is to get as close to the original playback as possible.
If you have surround, you could use the extra monitors for those. An affordable speaker cabinet with a subwoofer would be a nice way to go.
Most people think studio monitors are designed exclusively for recording studios, and they have no use in home theater. I’ll admit these speakers might be a bizarre choice compared to regular home theater speakers. They sound like they were designed for a band rather than for a relaxing movie session in your home theater room.