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Studio monitors

The studios have long history of using the active studio monitors or simply, active speakers. Modern representatives of studio monitors have changed and have all the necessary electronic parts unlike their older predecessors that were manufactured in the period from the sixties to the eighties of the last century. Therefore, by my opinion, it’s better to call modern studio acoustics not just active monitors but, active monitors class All-In-One (It's term used with some models of computer motherboards).

They have drivers, amplifiers, preamplifiers, timbre-blocks and active crossovers. Thanks to that you are buying a finished product and there is no need to deal with the choice of amplifier and its adjustment to the passive acoustic system. But this is not the only plus, besides that, all electronics is built in sound boxes and every major part (crossover, driver, and amplifier) is adjusted to work also within other electronic schemes. This allows the "connection" of acoustic system within itself, where you get a better sound reproduction quality as a result. Such approach gives us possibility to economize with the electronic components and makes monitors much cheaper, but the prices of high quality studio monitors always were and will be high.

A real differences between studio and home acoustics are:

  1. There is no need of choosing the right speaker-amplifier combination, because the manufacturer already done that.
  2. Even in cheap acoustic systems are built a quality drivers, which have a flat amplitude-frequency characteristic and substantial power reserve. They are carefully selected in order to avoid distortions and holes of the amplitude-frequency characteristics in the transitional frequency zones.
  3. No matter that sound box consists of electronic parts, it has quite compact dimensions. This means that you do not need mats, beds, transport is easier, you can put on the table, shelf, attach to the wall and etc.
  4. The existence of a special balance input for signal source connection enables the use of signal and line cables to the acoustic system on a distance of a few tens of meters without losing quality. Usually monitors have standard RCA input.
  5. They usually don’t have the protection grids and nets and also have a bad design. Most monitors look like plain black boxes with a bass-reflex in the front.
  6. They have the possibility of input signal correction: the level of input sensitivity, limiting low-frequency filter with a sharp decline due to the combination with a subwoofer and they also have volume controller for each speaker.
  7. Each monitor has its own power supply which enables separate supplying of speakers but it can also make some additional problems.
  8. Using proven, high quality technical solutions.
  9. The use of active electronic crossover, which completely excludes the parasite voltage and electrical impulses, inevitable in the passive filters which represent a ballast of any amplifier, due to great imbalance of its resistance, depending on the frequency. Such crossover usually has a fall towards the frequency range limit up to 24 dB , which corresponds to a fourth order filter. Thanks to it, all drivers are totally independent from each other by its frequency range, which is impossible to achieve even with the most complex passive filter.
  10. Previous point enables multisystem amplification of sound signal at the acoustic systems. In that case, the crossover's output of each frequency range is connected to separate amplifier optimized specifically for its type (A, AB, D...), under the required area and the specific parameters of drivers that works with. Every of these amplifiers work in a limited frequency range and practically with linear ballast that significantly reduces its distortion.

Previous points give us:

  1. Sound pressure level of 120 dB which is inaccessible for most home acoustic systems and enables full use of the possibilities of formats such as DVD-Audio, DVD, SACD, Blu-ray, etc.
  2. Power and high sound pressure level from small boxes. Absence of distortion with the overloaded drivers and amplifiers.
  3. Dynamic, powerful and transient bass sound.
  4. Even cheap monitors with a price of few hundred Euros per piece have very flat amplitude-frequency response (+/- 3-4 dB) and a clear smooth sound.
  5. Sound material reproduction with high resolution.
  6. Better relation of price and quality. Studio monitors are 3-5 times cheaper, than home amplifier-speaker combination with similar features and quality of reproduction.
  7. Such quality reproduction which even premium Hi-End models don’t have, can be achieved using three-way studio monitor.

Studio acoustics has three types of major listening zone gradation which, in most cases, determines the quality of acoustic systems, the number of frequency field, the dimensions of LF speaker (or their general surface, if there are few) and the distance to the listener (the dimensions of the room). Usually the manufacturer itself determines the class of the monitor, which is sometimes wrong. Personally, I think that the best classification of monitors is by size or area, if there are few:

Till 8" near field. The Distance to the listener is 1 m. There are only two-way models. The Price is 150-2 000 Euros per speaker. Those are attributes of cheap home studios. Models with price of 500 Euros have middle class electronics and drivers. They are attribute of the low-cost and home studio. But, like any other two-way speaker their characteristic is distortion of middle and transitional frequencies. For good bass reproduction, subwoofer is required.

10-12" midfield. Distance to the listener is 2 m and they are used in most studios. Prices are from 2 000 Euros to 7 500 Euros per speaker. They have three-way system construction with better quality electronics, much closer to next class of monitors. They require acoustic treatment of rooms. With such loudspeakers is desirable to use high-quality sound materials (SACD, DVD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray) and a decent DAC. Subwoofer is your choice, depending on, whether you like or not the drop of amplitude-frequency characteristics at frequencies lower than 30-40 Hz.

15"/2x15"/2x18"mainfield. Distance to the listener is 4 m and they are used in the most famous studios. Prices between 7 500 and 45 000 Euros per speaker. They have the best sound quality reproduction, best electronics and best drivers of premium manufacturers. They have PA class system that requires a very high quality audio material (SACD, DVD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray) and first-class DAC for the realization of full potential of such monitors. Acoustic treatment of the room is necessary. There are two-, three-, four- and five-way models. In most cases the use of subwoofer is not needed, because a huge LF drivers provide lower limit of 20-25 Hz (-3 dB). Only few huge companies manufacture such speakers.

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