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Active Monitors

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Whether you’re a budding bedroom producer or running a professional recording studio, active monitors are an essential ingredient.

A quality pair of active monitors can inspire and help you craft the most accurate mix possible. If you want your music to translate across a wide range of listening setups - from car speakers to TVs - you’ll need a set of active monitors. Active studio monitors are also a great choice for casual music listening, too, as they tend to deliver a superior sonic experience.

An active studio monitor is a lot more convenient and easy to use than a passive monitor, as everything you need to get going is built in. No external amps or crossovers are needed. Power it on, plug it in and you’re good to go. Another advantage of an active monitor is that the internal amplifier has been specially matched to the speaker, resulting in optimal audio performance.

Here at GAK, we stock a wide selection of active studio monitors across a range of price points so you’re guaranteed to find the perfect pair for you - no matter the size of your studio space or budget. We proudly offer all the best-selling studio monitor brands, including KRK, Adam Audio, Yamaha, PreSonus, M-Audio and Mackie. We also have plenty of premium, high-end studio monitoring brands, such as Focal, Genelec and Neumann.

If you need advice on choosing the perfect active studio monitors for your professional, project or bedroom studio, contact us or head down to our Brighton store where our Pro Audio team is happy to demo any studio monitor you’re interested in.

How much power do I need?

This is arguably the most crucial decision you can make, as it’ll affect the size, cost and - most importantly - the overall sound of your studio monitoring system. You should aim for the most power your setup and budget can accommodate. This is because a higher wattage doesn’t only affect how loud the monitor is. It gives you additional low-end response, headroom, dynamic range and transient detail. With extra wattage under the hood, you can make more informed decisions when it comes to dialling in bass and tweaking compressors/limiters. We recommend figuring out the loudest you’re going to be monitoring and mixing at first, then going from there.

If you’re lucky enough to have a space where you can crank it up and drive the speaker hard, you’ll definitely benefit from a substantial speaker. However, if you’re a bedroom producer, are working in a small, untreated space and don’t benefit from understanding housemates/flatmates/neighbours, you may not get the most from a large monitor. As a rule of thumb, you’ll get better results driving a smaller speaker than running a bigger one at a quiet volume.

Single-amp, Bi-amp or Tri-amp?

Whether a studio monitor is a single-amp, bi-amp or tri-amp design is determined by how the input signal is divided up. On the whole, bi-amp and tri-amp active monitors reproduce audio with more natural, flat and accurate frequency response. Despite this, some single-amp monitors still have their place in studios. A classic example is the iconic Auratone MixCube, which has become indispensable for many professional mixing engineers. If you can get your mix right on a MixCube, it’ll sound good on practically any system.

The majority of active studio monitors use a bi-amp configuration, where the signal is split into two separate bands. Each band has a dedicated amplifier. A tweeter delivers the highs and a woofer caters for the mid/low frequencies.

As you start looking towards high-end options, you’ll start seeing monitors with a tri-amp configuration. A tri-amped monitor divides the signal three ways and features a third speaker that is solely dedicated to mids. This saves the woofer from having to handle them. As a result, a Tri-amp monitor will tend to boast superior clarity and definition, as each frequency range is more precisely reproduced.

Ported or Closed Cabinet?

An advantage of a ported cabinet is that it can produce an extended bass response compared to a closed cabinet. Whilst this may seem like a clear advantage, it can get in the way of sonic accuracy. If the monitor has rear-facing ports and is placed close to a wall, it can affect your ability to mix bass. In this case, we recommend looking at an active monitor that has a closed or front-ported design.

Nearfield or Midfield?

For a home studio or bedroom-based setup, you’ll likely want a pair of nearfield monitors. Nearfield monitors sound optimal when you’re positioned around one to two metres away from them. This is the usual proximity you’ll be from your monitors when tracking or mixing. Plus, if you’re working in an acoustically challenged space, nearfield monitors are less affected by unruly reflections.

Midfield monitors feature larger cabinets, pack beefier power amplifiers and sound best roughly 2 to 4 metres away. They have a wider “sweet spot”, which can support more than one listener at a time. Professional studios that benefit from a sizeable control room with proper acoustic treatment tend to have a set of nearfield and midfield monitors.

How important is acoustic treatment and placement?

The room that you set them up in is going to make a massive impact on how your active studio monitors are going to sound. Although many modern monitors (such as the KRK Rokit G4 series) feature onboard digital signal processing (DSP) or EQ which can help to tailor the frequency response to your room, a bit of acoustic treatment can go a long way. If you plan on doing any mixing on your monitors, controlling the reflections of your studio space is absolutely vital.

We also recommend grabbing some isolation pads or stands alongside your monitors, as they improve low-end performance and eliminate early reflections that can colour the sound.