So, you just entered the world of studio gear and you want to pick up a pair of studio monitors. How different are these compared to your old hi-fi system or that CD player catching dust in your living room? How does a studio setup work? And do I need an amplifier with my new set of speakers? Answers to these questions and more below!
- The Two Types of Studio Monitors
- Active and Passive in One Pair
- Pros and Cons of Passive Studio Monitors
- Pros and Cons of Active Studio Monitors
- See Also
The Two Types of Studio Monitors
In case you don’t already know, there are two kinds of studio monitors: active and passive models. Passive speakers need an external amplifier while active speakers don’t since they feature built-in amps. Just like a standard set of PC speakers, it’s simply plug-and-play with active models. Passive studio monitors are more like hi-fi speakers and don’t consume any power. It’s only when you input an amplified signal, that they can produce sound. So, if you’re a beginner on the verge of buying your first studio rig, active monitors are the obvious choice.
A pair of active studio monitors
Since active studio monitors come with built-in amps, they also come with a power port and, nine times out of ten, a power cable will come included. Just by their power ports alone, it’s easy to tell an active monitor from a passive model. When browsing our range of monitors, you can use the search filters to quickly find what you need. You’ll also notice there are way more active models available than passive ones.
A pair of passive studio monitors
Active and Passive in One Pair
There are also budget studio monitors available that are sold in pairs but come with a single power connection. This means there’s one active and one passive speaker in the pair where the active speaker drives the passive speaker via an audio cable. Needless to say, you don’t need any external amp with these sets.
A ‘mixed’ pair of studio monitors with the active speaker on the left
The Pros and Cons of Passive Studio Monitors
- The freedom to pick an external amplifier of your choice. This is something more seasoned studio engineers like to make use of. Those in the know are probably aware of the fact that there are studio monitors out there that cost upwards of a million pounds. You’d definitely want the right amp for those!
- Your (expensive) passive monitors will still work even if your amplifier breaks.
- At least your amp will still work if your passive monitors give up the ghost one day.
- While passive monitors are generally cheaper than active models, you’re also going to have to fork out for an amplifier.
- Every amplifier is different, meaning that using one that isn’t as good will affect the sound quality of your monitors – the very reason you’re investing in studio monitors in the first place.
- There aren’t as many models to pick from compared to active monitors.
The Pros and Cons of Active Studio Monitors
- The built-in amp has been specifically designed or selected to match the performance of the monitor.
- No extra costs except for maybe some audio cables.
- Lots of choice since active monitors are the popular pick.
- If one of your active monitors breaks, you’re in trouble. With a pair of passives you can simply swap out the amplifier.
- Active studio monitors need power and power sockets are often placed in awkward spots. Tip: if you already know you’re going to be expanding your set-up with an active subwoofer some time in the future, grab a power strip with at least three sockets.
- Following up on the previous con, active models have power switches, which can be difficult to reach once everything’s set up. Tip: use a power distributor with an on/off switch so you have ‘central’ control and maybe make sure it’s got built-in overload protection as well. After all, paying a few quid extra for a power strip to ensure your £1000 a pop monitors are safe at all times.
- These days, new technology is focussed on saving power. That includes studio monitors, which now often feature an automatic shut-down/stand-by feature that can actually be pretty annoying.
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