Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 1, last updated 6/25/2013
18.104.22.168 Monitor Loudspeakers
Just like you use a video monitor on your computer to see the graphical elements you‟re working
with, you need audio monitors to hear the sound you‟re working with on the computer. There are
two main types of audio monitors, and you really need both. Headphones allow you to isolate
your sound from the rest of the room, help to hone in on details, and ensure you don‟t disturb
others if that‟s a concern, but sometimes you really need to hear the sound travel through the air.
In this case, professional reference monitor loudspeakers are needed.
Most inexpensive computer loudspeakers, or even high-end stereo systems, are not
suitable sound monitors. This is because they're tuned for specific listening situations. The built-
in loudspeaker on your computer is optimized to deliver system alerts and speech audio, and
external computer loudspeakers or high-end stereo systems are optimized for consumer use to
deliver finished music and soundtracks. This often involves a manipulation of the frequency
response – that is, the way the loudspeakers selectively change the amplitudes of different
frequencies, like boosting bass or treble to color the sound a certain way. When producing your
own sound, you don‟t want your monitors to alter the frequency response because it takes the
control out of your hands, and it can give you the impression that you‟re hearing something that
isn‟t really there.
Professional reference monitor loudspeakers (which we call simply monitors) are
tuned to deliver a flat frequency response at close proximity. That is, the frequencies are not
artificially boosted or reduced, so you can trust what you hear from them. Reference monitors
are typically larger than standard computer loudspeakers, and you need to mount these up at the
level of your ears in order to get the specified performance. You can purchase stands for them or
just put them on top of a stack of books. Either way, the goal is to get them pointed on-axis to
and equidistant from your ears. These monitors should be connected to the output of your audio
interface. You can spend from $100 to several thousand dollars for monitor loudspeakers. Just
get the best ones you can afford. Figure 1.22 shows some inexpensive monitors from Edirol and
Figure 1.23 shows a mid-range monitor from Mackie.
Figure 1.22 Edirol MA-15D reference monitor loudspeakers
Figure 1.23 Mackie MR8 reference monitor