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Studio monitors today

Personally to me, as a great lover of quality sound reproduction, it is very difficult to understand the fact that modern studio monitors are in a stage of agony. The situation itself is more quite controverse: the audio industry has reached its top in precise sound reproduction during the eighties of the last century. From then, the quality gradually decreases. The market is full with active monitors "All in one". The best main models of even the most famous manufacturers are getting "smaller" from year to year until they become two line near field models. Maybe the companies fully gave up the production of the real monitor sound drivers and electronics, not to mention the professional studio sector of products in general.

Compare that stupid situation with a rapidly growing market of video reproduction and video recording. Modern video formats provide a picture not only of cinema quality, but also cinema dimensions. Plasma, projection, LCD TVs and video-beams are making year to year progress in increasing the size and improving the quality of picture but also in reducing prices. And this tendency is a characteristic not only for audio formats and music materials, but also for film audio materials: DVD-Audio, SACD, Blu-Ray etc. Now we can look into material costs of projects. Development and implementation of these formats, matrix displays, projection chips for video-beams, digital controller, not to mention the high technology and complexity of construction of those devices. Can modern manufacturers of analogue devices make quality studio product taking into account modern technological progress? Why is plain sound drivers so special? Membrane, suspension, magnet ... All these parameters have been modeled on the computer for a long time and there is no need to invent anything new, because most of the discoveries in this field are discovered long ago.

Who is guilty of fall down of the modern analogue audio systems? I would say that everyone is guilty, both manufacturers and customers. In the early nineties studio activity began to move from large professional studios who could afford exquisite professional equipment, to a homes of musicians and other collectives. That is how the term domestic or home studio emerged. Do you compose your own music at home? Are you willing to spend 10-15 thousand Euros for a monitor? What about good quality amplifier? The answer is obvious. Are quality and expensive products really necessary although only few people buys that equipment not just because of price but that type of quality is not needed for majority of home studios that exist today. Why should companies keep their drive units empty, paying salaries to workers and engineers and suffer direct losses from that? Because, when they cover all the expenses that products will cost a fortune and only a few dozen studios or small group of audiophiles can afford buying it during the year? And what do you prefer to buy? Passive, unknown two- line Kinoshita monitors for 40 000 euro or active three-line Genelec speakers from the advertisement for 12 000 euro? Of course you will choose the second option. If you see the more expensive option before the other one, you will not probably notice it. But the better option would certainly be the first monitor no matter that it is passive and two-line! It looks quite paradoxal, doesn’t it? That shows us that it has come to degradation not only of modern audio technique but also of our view to it.

Modern studio monitors, besides that they have decent features and a huge army of fans around the world, it is a bit different from home acoustics. If we speak about two-line models - they have simple sound drivers. Exceptions are for example: ATC, Dynaudio, JBL, and few others that produce their own sound drivers. While, for example, Genelec monitors have drivers for home use Vifa and Scan-speak. In the three-band speakers this company used Volt, while the woofers and tweeters look just like ordinary only with horn design. Even one of the most famous brands - Westlake, has a base of JBL and Audax. And that is characteristic of all modern monitors. But why in this case studio monitors sound better than home, if they all basically have same drivers? The thing is that companies that produce professional acoustics, however, cannot put in the market "bad stuff" because sound engineer hearing that is quite sensitive and trained. It obliges manufacturers to carefully select and test the sound driver and electronics. For the home sector sound-drivers are selected from position of more beautiful and original design or savings, and do not pay attention to their curve of amplitude-frequency response and dirty, embellished sound. For example, distortion of amplitude-frequency characteristics of the home models priced 800-1500 Euros, can easily have a value of +5-7 dB, while the same distortion within cheap monitors of 250 Euros, rarely exceed+/ - 3-4 dB. And we should not forget the active crossover and multi-system amplification that can even in primitive combination raise a sound of any sound driver to a whole new level.

The sound of existing acoustic control sound systems differs a little from one another. That does not mean that there is no difference at all, but all these differences, positive and negative, have absolutely no significance when compared with the representatives of Studio Ultimate. And I heard practically all modern machines: three-lane Genelec, two-lane and three-lane PBX, digital three-lane Dynaudio and ADAM S4 with hale emitters, not to mention the dozens of ordinary cheep two-lane models. That was because the first one were digital and the second one had specific mid-tones.

The conclusion consists of a description of essential features of the best manufacturers of control monitors. Below you will see that there are not too many. All manufacturers have in their program three-lane speakers and some of them high-quality two-lane speakers.

Kinoshita (Rey Audio) and JMF

Legendary Japanese school representatives only have two-way main models. Rey Audio manufactures acoustic systems with TAD drivers, but uses a DAC amplifier and other equipment of French JMF. JMF is applying the modernized TAD compression drivers and Davis Acoustics lower tones, made on specific order. Remember, these are the only studio monitors that have spherical shape which all audiophiles adore. In JMF there are special crossover DSP boards which turn their DAC indo digital crossover. The same OEM solutions are identical for Rey Audio. The older models of both manufacturers provide a lower frequency range of 20 Hz, and a point of band division is at 600 Hz. Rey Audio has a infrasound passive subwoofer (Infrasonic Monitor), which operates from 9 Hz and it has four TAD woofers in a special sound box. It is not only the best studio equipment and electronics in the world , but also the most expensive: the price of two-lane JMF stereo system is nearly 75 000 Euros.

Reflexion Arts

This manufacturer has very interesting "collecting" concept for his products. In their two-lane midfield speakers are built in well-known vintage 15 "Subwoofers JBL 2235H, that are manufactured no more and 1" compression driver Beryllium TAD TD2001. Of the amplifiers and active crossovers they are using products from Russian company Neva Audio. Most of today sound projects of engineer Philip Newell have these products.

Stage Accompany

This company is well known in the concert sector of the market with its very high quality equipment, although the products have three models of studio monitors. Drivers of their speakers are of own construction and development with membranes made of paper, and a ribbon driver (a joint project with Philips) that covers the whole range of frequencies of 1 kHz and more. The company also manufactures its own amplifier and a digital processor with a FIR filter for all models of their acoustic systems. The part of their amplifiers is special crossover-panels that besides the data on the frequency range and overload protection schemes have one more novelty and that is Dynamic Damping Control system (Dynamic Damping Control DDC). Amplifier with the support of another pair of wires monitors the driver status and with making de-emphasis signal it does not allow entering the self-oscillating mode. The result is fantastic, clean and solid bass. No other monitor or a subwoofer is able to provide such accurate bass. That is why Stage Accompany subwoofers are probably the best choice and will be ideal in combination with Kinoshita monitors and JMF subwoofers.

PSI Audio

In the studio monitors the company realized the two know-how of technology: the correction of phase-frequency characteristics of the acoustic system (CPR Compensated Phase Response) system and the adaptation of the output amplifier resistance (AOI Adaptive Output Impedance) that is system very similar to the systems of previous companies. The company’s top model is three-band mean-field monitor with 10 "woofer. But despite the special company features, the price of these monitors are not so high, which makes them a serious competitor of famous brands, such as ATC, Dynaudio, and even Adam.


JBL is a brand company, which is well known for its professional speakers. One of the few manufacturers that use its own drivers. Today it only produces two-band active near field monitors and a passive tri-band model. Although almost no one knows that for the Japanese market (see site www.harman-japan.co.jp), this company still produces big studio monitors. Those monitors like other speakers made earlier do not have any special characteristics and they are simply large, good quality speakers. Therefore today are not interesting only simple studio models of this company but its Hi-End Top Model, Everest. For the entire group of Synthesis models first class studio drivers are still manufactured. Passive acoustic JBL Everest systems and few others have inside Beryllium sound driver with horn, very similar to TAD.


Westlake represents High quality passive vintage type monitors with studio JBL drivers, although those drivers are no longer manufactured. There are different models of home and studio monitors. Top-models of the company are five-band main system monitors with horn. All models are very expensive.


Adam Is a revolutionary company in the market of studio monitors .First, one of the few companies that have four-band system models. Second, a special feature of the product of this company is application of midrange and tweeters Hale emitters. Therefore this frequency bands when playing on the speakers have phenomenal detail and dynamics. Subwoofer and mid-woofers are also quite original. These are the products of German company Eton. They have vibrodempfing material that is "locked" between two layers of Kevlar. In one of the main-monitor models there is low range Precision Devices driver. Those are the only decent "All in One “class monitors which fully justify the money spent. Among the subwoofers there is a special model of 21" with the Precision Devices driver.


Quested is a representative of British school. It has models of all categories of monitors and subwoofers, including four-band models, passive and active. Subwoofer and mid-woofers are also English - Volt. In models of middle and far zones are established dome midrange speakers and monitors themselves are connected to the scheme of RA. In the active models are built OEM version amplifiers of well known MC2 Company. In the catalog there is a digital crossover of the same manufacturer. Originally, but looked closer you cannot say anything special for it.


Genelec is the famous manufacturer of studio acoustics. Practically it is the standard for all studio equipment. Which monitors are best to buy? In 90% cases you will receive one and the same answer-Genelec. There is nothing more to do. Brand, advertising, you can always find it in store. There are various models of monitors and subwoofers in all categories. The monitors of high and far zones have the English Volt drivers. Cheap two-lane models have Scan Speak and Vifa drivers, etc...Generally speaking, nothing special.


ATC is another British manufacturer that produces all models of studio monitors and subwoofers. It has special application of high dampfing drivers of his own production: soft midrange and tweeters covered with a black layer. They have very little distortion of amplitude-frequency characteristics of (- + 2 dB). These are the most neutral acoustic systems. It is not matter of wide advertising campaign and flat amplitude-frequency characteristics. Such neutrality is often a result of loss of sound information and a fall at the borders of driver frequency range because of the overdempfing of membranes and flat frequency response.It is also interesting that midrange driver operates from 400 Hz. The main positive feature of these systems include acoustic is dome midrange transducers. So there are many pluses and minuses. But it is certainly much better choice than, Genelec.

Klein + Hummel

Is not so famous German manufacturer of acoustic systems, that is actually a department of the company Sennheiser acoustics. They have very rich product line. They have Volt woofers, midranges and tweeters of soft dome. The most interesting things are in their top-model tri band main monitor, where are located inside high-performance DAC and FIR filter, that corrects the amplitude-frequency response of the system. They have great character of the sound - a hybrid ATS and Genelec. Who knows how that will affect the sound of digital signal correction system. They represent a good choice, if you do not want to spend money to purchase and install a separate DAC.


The firm also has all the models of control studio monitors and subwoofers. There are digital models of monitors, home, car and passive version of acoustic system. One of the few manufacturers that uses the composite material drivers of their own manufacture. They have a sound similar to sound of polypropylene speakers: quite detailed, smooth, but at the same time without tonal distortions and resonances. All models in all sectors of the market have a flat amplitude-frequency response, which is no surprise, because all the drivers were made of the same material.


Modern inventions of this company are truly "modern". All their models of monitors have digital input and an internal DSP, which allows the usage of programmable equalizer. It makes the delay between channels, and the monitors are phase-linear. Especially pleasing is a possibility of choosing the tri-lane near field acoustic system.


For some reason, are considered the best monitors. It seems that people think - the more expensive the better. It is the only manufacturer of monitors which uses sound box type "labyrinth". But the word "manufacturer" is not so appropriate because the company is making the hull and maybe the MF and HF drivers. They use the crossovers and amplifiers of the company Bryston and woofers - Volt. Nothing special, it's just good advertising.

It looks like this was a whole list of high-quality manufacturers of studio monitors. All other companies produce only two-line medium quality monitors. So I think that there is no need to write about their characteristics, which simply there is no. With the analysis of information, one can make several important conclusions:

  1. Very few manufacturers use their own manufactured sound drivers. They absolutely do not hesitate to use the drivers used in home acoustics. Calming effect has the fact that those manufacturers chose and match the right sound-drivers in their products. They purchase electronics mainly from other companies.
  2. The most widely used woofers and mid-woofers are of Volt company.
  3. More or less good indicators of cost-effective analysis are: ADAM, Dynaudio, ATC, Klein + Hummel, PSI Audio, ATD2.
  4. Best studio monitors have TAD drivers. Using them the finest quality PA monitors of any size can be made.


Basics of studio sound reproduction

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