I have a YouTube channel that I started as a hobby but is growing to a point where I want to invest some equipment so I can produce better music. I've been using really crappy speakers for the longest time now, and was now thinking of purchasing better speakers to create better sounding music. What's the difference between Audio Monitors and normal Speakers? My dad's a bit of an Audiophile and after a bit of research, he recommended I buy KEF Q100w Bookshelf speakers. While I have yet to go into a store to hear the sound (I'm sure it sounds amazing), is it ideal for music production?

  • 3
    Monitors are supposed to sound accurate. Speakers are supposed to sound good. – Todd Wilcox Jul 12 '16 at 3:42
  • So regardless of how good those KEF Q100W speakers might be, look for Studio monitors instead? – Matt Park Jul 12 '16 at 3:55
  • 1
    What makes a speaker "good"? If you're just getting started, just get something that sounds comfortable and just listen to them all the time until you know their sound backwards and forwards. Your brain and ears will always be your most important tools. With enough practice mixing and listening, you'll learn on your own what to listen for in your second set of monitors. – Todd Wilcox Jul 12 '16 at 3:59
  • You might consider spending half as much as the Q100s on your first pair. Save your money until your ears and brain can justify the expense. Plus your room is going to fight you hard unless it's designed specifically for mixing. I'd almost rather have a pair of old original Yamaha NS-10s from eBay than anything else at this point. – Todd Wilcox Jul 12 '16 at 4:10

There are some particular design features that are often used in monitor speakers with the objective of making them "sound accurate" rather than "sound good".

  • They often have built-in amplifiers, to eliminate differences arising from the different performance of external amps - not only their frequency response as measured by the amplitude of the output, but also variations of phase shifts with frequency, and differing amounts of control of damping (i.e. mechanical "ringing" of speakers at particular frequencies which can colour the sound output.) Damping can also be affected by (long) speaker cables - though that issue is sometimes used to justify snake-oil sales techniques for ridiculously expensive pieces of wire!
  • They are designed for reproducing audio before it has been mixed - i.e. the dynamic range and/or frequency content (at both ends of the frequency spectrum) may be greater than a "hi-fi speaker system" is intended to handle.
  • They are often designed for listening at close range (so-called "nearfield monitors") which helps to eliminate the effects of the room acoustics on the sound.

But before you spends lots of money, consider what your real requirements are. If you are producing audio content for YouTube, most of your audience will be using low quality speakers in poor acoustic conditions, and/or listening on headphones instead of speakers - and your the final audio mix will be acoustically shredded by MP3 sound compression in any case.

Buying two or three different and relatively cheap "consumer quality" systems (including headphones) and checking your mixes sound OK on all of them might be a better strategy than aiming for sound quality that most of your listeners will never hear.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    The last sentence is the best thing written on this question so far, IMHO. Unless you're spending $2K+ on monitors, it doesn't matter as much what exactly you get. – Todd Wilcox Jul 12 '16 at 12:30

'Monitoring' is listening to audio that is at some kind of intermediate stage of production, rather than being 'the final result' that the 'consumer' or 'audience' listens to. Studio monitors are something you use to listen to individual tracks, or the mix, as the recording / production process is going on. (Equally, a stage 'monitor' is a speaker used on stage so that the musicians can hear themselves individually, but again isn't intended to be what the audience are listening to.)

So, 'monitors' are just speakers that are used as - or sold as suitable for - monitoring in the studio. Often they might claim to have a flat frequency response, and introduce a minimum of phase shifts across the frequency range, but these may be considered desirable characteristics in speakers for consumer use too, so there's no clear distinction as to what a 'monitor' is apart from it being used or sold as such. The Yamaha NS-10s that Todd Wilcox mentioned are classic monitors that were originally sold as hi-fi speakers.

As to whether the KEFs would be good for your particular recording and mixing workflow, it's hard to say without knowing what your workflow is, what material you are producing, how unsuitable your current speakers actually are, and so on - not to mention the fact that most of the trick in getting speakers to sound good is positioning them well in the room and getting the room acoustics right.

| improve this answer | |
  • Having used several different mid-level studio monitors and also several mid and high-end home stereo speakers, I found that monitors were primarily designed and marketed for accuracy and generally were less pleasing sounding. The just sound clinical. Nice home stereo speakers have a way of making things sound better, which of course you don't want if it's your job to make it sound better. – Todd Wilcox Jul 12 '16 at 12:28

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.