The Importance of Monitors

A lot of beginners in the world of recording music don’t really understand the importance of monitors. They may spend thousands of dollars on all kinds of gear and not even think about investing in some serious studio monitors. Or they may totally miss the point and spend a lot of money on something like this Bose system thinking that the idea with monitors is the same as with a stereo system you might buy for your living room.

It’s not. It’s a different concept entirely. It’s not about wanting what you’re mixing to sound “good,” it’s about wanting to accurately hear what you’re mixing.

A good example of what I mean is the way a fancy “hifi” stereo makes the bass boom. This may sound great to your ears, but if the system is making all of the bass boom regardless of what it actually sounds like then this means you don’t really know what’s going on in the low end of your mix. It may sound good but it is not an accurate representation.

And when your mix is played back on some other system it will sound completely different.

You don’t want this. You want to hear what’s happening in your mix as clearly as possible! This way you can make your mix sound as good as possible on any playback system. Whether it be those fancy Bose speakers or earbuds or tinny laptop speakers.

What about headphones? While good quality headphones (such as the Audio Technica M-50‘s I have and recommend) are a good investment and I do think it’s good to check your mixes on headphones (I personally love listening to music on headphones and many people listen to music that way these days) it’s not good to rely on them as your principle monitors.

Why not? Because they tend to exaggerate the actual sound. Something that may sound great on your headphones may actually sound not so hot when playing back on good quality monitors. Most obviously they exaggerate the effect of panning, but it’s more than just that. More importantly they also exaggerate fletcher-munson effects.

You must make it a priority to invest in some decent monitors. I use KRK5‘s which I’m happy with. They are $300 for a pair. But this post isn’t so much about recommending any particular set of monitors, it’s just to get across the point of how important they are.

Also extremely important: The acoustics of your room. They really makes a huge difference when recording and when mixing because poor acoustics can distort what you’re hearing (and what your mic is recording.) I recommend reading this book to learn about the topic (it includes very good information on how you can make your room sound better.)

It may be much more fun to buy various effects and plugins or whatever, but the accuracy of what you are listening to is far more important and it depends on the quality of the monitors you are listening to and the acoustic design of your studio. If you want to get serious about the sound quality of your recordings you need to get serious about hearing what you are mixing as accurately as possible.

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2 Responses to “The Importance of Monitors”

  1. Good explanation, thank you. I make my recordings and mix with headphones and it sounds disparate from speakers.

  2. “It’s not about wanting what you’re mixing to sound “good,” it’s about wanting to accurately hear what you’re mixing.”

    OMG, thank you! I’ve been going on about this forever, and all the people at the music store want to sell me is the most expensive setup, not one that will accurately depict the audio image.

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