A common question asked by beginners regarding studio monitors is this: what is the difference between studio monitors and hi-fi speakers? It is a pretty complex question but see if we can simplify it down where the answers can be straight forward.
Purpose of hifi speakers vs studio monitors
In essential, both are speakers but they serve different purposes which results in different optimizations. One has to realise that all speakers is about compromise. Gear designers have to sacarifce something for another within a budget range in order to satisfy the needs of different groups.
In our case, hifi speakers are meant for casual music listeners while studio monitors are meant for audio engineers. The former listens to music for leisure while the latter listens as part of their job. In both cases, the audience is looking for different things.
What are the differences between hifi speakers and studio monitors
Let’s take a closer look at how these 2 types of speakers differ in their capabilities and functionality:
#1: Flat frequency response
As a audio engineer, you want to listen to what we called “honest” music, i.e. the version of the music that can translate well to other system. Hence, having as flat a response as possible will allow you to hear preciously this kind of honest music. With it, you can easily balance the lows, mids and high of the music so that it sounds better overall. Studio monitors excel in producing such flat response music.
In contrast, hifi speakers add a lot of bells and whistles to the music because they want to enhance the joy of listening. Sound coming from them are meant to be enjoyed as it is, without the need to worry about well it will translate to other systems. This is why you tend to get more bass etc from such speaker types, compared to studio monitors.
#2: Built in amp
Most studio monitors I know come with build in amps (we called them active studio monitors) while you usually have to get separate amps for your hifi speakers. Having an in built amp can be both a pro and a con. The pro is that you avoid the complicate set up. Selecting the right amp takes a lot of trial and error to get right so a studio monitor saves you all the potential trouble.
The con is that you can’t upgrade your amp if you find them to be underwhelming. Most amps in studio monitors are designed to improve the quality of the sound such that the flat response is enhanced while hifi speakers are usually not set up to do this.
Note: there are passive studio monitors where you the amp is separated from speakers.
A studio monitor provides a powerful way of listening to sound that isn’t possible with a normal hifi speakers. The different parts of the music frequency, be it low, mid or high, can be heard with so much clarity that it makes mixing the music a more accurate and easier task.