Studio quality reference monitors cost a ton of money, upwards of hundreds of dollars each, which leads many home recording enthusiasts to wonder: are reference monitors really that important? Can a quality recording be made without good reference monitors?
Here’s a look at what reference monitors are, what they do, and whether you need them for your home recordings.
Your Ear – First of all, let’s start with the obvious; your home recordings can only be as good as you can hear them. Your ear and the way that you hear sound is what leads to every mixing decision that you make; that’s why it’s so important to listen to your recordings in as many different ways as you can, and that’s why great studios have great reference monitors–they strive for accurate sound, which makes accurate mixing easier to accomplish.
How Reference Monitors Are Different – “Okay,” you say, “but I’ve got a pretty nice pair of desktop speakers.” And I’m sure you do. I’m very happy for you, in fact, but they simply won’t do the job that dedicated reference monitors can do.
Reference monitors are unique in that they play music in a more flat way than other speakers; they’re designed to give a realistic version of the musical signal, rather than just a “good sounding” version of the signal. Other speakers are great for listening to music, and you may be able to even incorporate them into your mixing, but they’re not designed to give the same flat response, and so reference monitors are an essential tool of any serious studio. The good news is that while they’re expensive, you can use websites like Craigslist and eBay to find some really great deals on monitors for your home studio, so you can usually get a decent set for under a few hundred bucks.
Mixing Without Reference Monitors – If you mix without using reference monitors, you’re in an uphill battle right from the start of your recording session. However, you can make your mixes better by listening to as many sources of your music as possible; on good speakers, bad speakers, car speakers, every system that you can get a hold of. It’s not the same as using reference monitors, not even close, but it’s better than just using your computer monitors or any single set of speakers in the mixing process. If you can invest the money, though, reference monitors are a great tool for your home studio and a good first investment.
Do you have a good suggestion for reference monitors for home recording? Post in our comments section below.