For a long time, studio monitors have been linked with sound technicians and play a massive role in recording, mixing, and mastering. They’re seemingly similar to standard speakers, but are they suitable for DJing?
In contrast with PA/DJ speakers, which are purposefully built to throw out sound at much louder volumes, studio monitors are not designed to fill an entire room with music at a much wider angle.
Studio monitors can be used for DJing. However, it is not an ideal option. Studio monitors have a flat audio response, which ends up with crystal clear audio, but have a reduced bass output. DJs need enhanced bass. You may need a matched subwoofer to get the punch you might expect from the music.
Whether you’re already mixing and looking for new speakers or you have studio monitors and getting into DJing, this article will clarify if studio monitors are worth the investment. Let’s dive in.
DJ Speakers vs. Studio Monitors
DJ/PA speakers are often intended to boost or intensify audio levels by upping the bass or bringing out deeper tones in the mids and highs. Studio monitors, however, are intended not to intensify the sound at all, keeping all frequencies flat. What you get: clearer, more accurate sound for more precise mixing.
DJ speakers have a predetermined frequency setting built into them to distort or amplify certain sounds, changing how a sound is heard. A studio monitor utilizes a flat frequency response for playback audio and doesn’t boost any frequencies, such as the bass or treble frequencies in the sound wave.
While hi-fi or DJ speakers are often referred to as “passive” speakers (implying they need an external amplifier), studio monitors are “active” or “powered” speakers, which indicates the power amplifier is constructed into the speaker cabinet directly.
Since the amplifier and speaker are specifically made to work together, you’re less prone to blow out your speakers. All the crossover parts (including the amplifiers, drivers, and speaker enclosures) also come together, making studio monitors a safer pick for steady, reliable sound, but not so much for hearing the bass while mixing.
One last distinction: most DJ speakers are intended to blast sound throughout the room. Studio monitors are more subtle, created to only project sound a short span, to stop anything in the place from muddying up any frequencies.
Manufacturers spend a lot of time designing DJ/PA speakers to enhance sound quality with middle frequencies, high frequencies, and rich bass. On the other hand, studio monitors prioritize a flat response and don’t increase the system’s sound to maintain the actual rate.
This studio monitors’ quality does nothing for us DJs, as we generally don’t want to maintain a track’s actual frequency and overall sound.
Studio monitors are also known as nearfield or reference monitors. They are intended to be set up on the producer’s studio desk a couple of feet away from the producer so that he – and he alone – can listen to the music he’s producing or recording and hear as much detail as possible.
Not only are they not made to fill an entire room with music, but you can also actually damage them by blasting your tunes through them for several hours.
It’s more helpful to use the correct tools for the job and bypass the temptation to use studio monitor speakers for something they are not intended for.
If you gig (or plan to) regularly, getting proper DJ speakers is an excellent investment. It’ll let you take gigs at a moment’s notice, and the fact that you’re prepared with the right equipment will make you seem more professional, leading to more gigs.
DJ Monitors vs. Studio Monitors – The Key Differences (article)
Advantages of Using Studio Monitors for DJing
I read somewhere once about studio monitors:
If you make it sound good on studio monitors, you can make it work on basically any speaker setup.
Where ‘any speaker setup’ indicates headphones, cheap computer speakers, and gigs you might play.
There can be a few niche situations for using studio monitors as a DJ, for example:
- You live in an apartment/dorm and want to have the volume as low as possible. You want minimal bass and a minimal volume of the sound leaking outside of that room. You also can position your speakers at the proper ear height (which indicates speaker stands or shelves on the wall if you stand up to DJ).
- You’re confident that you will produce your own music in the near future and are on a very tight budget.
Beware, you will criticize the shit out of your mixing, though, because of how even the response is. You will hear every flaw, and even the smallest slip will be very obvious beyond what you’d expect. I regularly playback a set on my monitors when I can, and what I learn will always amaze me.
Essentially, it will give you a very clear picture of what you should and shouldn’t do. It’s a precision tool.
I personally own both Studio Monitors (Tannoy Reveal 502) and a nice PC speaker system (Altec Lansing ADA995). I work with the Studio Monitors when producing and the Altec Lansing for DJing.
Another benefit of studio monitors is that they don’t need a separate amplifier, they have excellent sound clarity, and they’re portable.
All speaker companies want their speakers to be accurate and detailed. The idea that studio monitors sound worse is a joke, presumably based on a misconception, and manufacturers have overblown it in the name of marketing.
I’m all but convinced that the idea comes solely from the Yamaha NS-10, which was actually produced as an audiophile bookshelf speaker. Except it failed. The highs were rigid and had no real low end, but they did get the midrange very right. They re-branded them as studio monitors, and a lot of folks went gaga over them due to that detailed midrange. But, they indeed didn’t sound as “great” as better audiophile speakers from the time.
- Do not buy KRK Rokits. They aren’t really that great, in spite of a lot of the talk of them. They are okay, but you can get sounder studio monitors for a similar price (like the JBL SLR305).
In my opinion, there is nothing like “unforgiving accuracy” presented in the KRK Rokits, notwithstanding them being very recommended speakers for home producers. The bass is just weird, they’re sluggish, they smear over details, etc. In the right room, they can sound well. But certainly not to the level of “unforgiving accuracy” that some Redditors actually talk about.
Disadvantages of Using Studio Monitors for DJing
Studio Monitors are created as near-field, which indicates they have a very narrow angle for audio focus.
They are also designed to have a “sweet spot,” to use your monitors properly, they have to be precisely set up, and you would need to stand or sit in a precise spot to hear them properly. DJs are often standing, bouncing around, and dancing, not sitting or standing still in a “sweet spot.”
The system setup (studio monitors and DJ controller) should be installed within the front 1/3 of the room. Doing so will reduce the reflection buildup of peak frequencies.
The system setup’s left and right sides should be centered an equal distance from the left and right walls. That will produce even mid and low-frequency responses and preserve stereo imaging.
With studio monitors, you should also avoid a listening position (your ears) that is closer than 1 meter (3 feet) from any wall and large objects (such as lamps or decorations) near the studio monitor and listening position.
Two studio monitors should be around 1 to 1.5 meters (3 to 5 feet) apart and directed at a 60-degree angle toward the listening location.
Equal distance to both sides will form an equilateral triangle. Both left and right studio monitors must be level matched.
All this indicates that Studio Monitors are about the exact opposite of what you want in DJ speakers.
If you must go with studio monitors for DJing, keep this in mind: Studio Monitors are intended for exactly one person to listen to them. Do not ever use them for a party.
Otherwise, you are 100x better off buying a 2.1 Speaker system like the kind used for a PC. I highly recommend beginner DJs to buy the Logitech Z623.
At only $120 for 200W and a subwoofer, it will easily beat anything else in its price range. It’s plenty loud enough even for small house parties. It has RCA and 3.5mm inputs so you don’t need weird adapters to plug into this PC speaker system.
The Conclusion: Can You Use Studio Monitors for DJing?
You can, but only if you must. Studio monitors behave differently from DJ speakers as they are intended for people who work with audio and for critical listening. They pick out sonic flaws and give cleaner and better sound than PA/DJ speakers.
Also, a studio monitor works differently from a PA speaker to handle different elements of audio production. A regular speaker uses an amplifier and other audio control devices to enhance your personal audio experience.
The principal idea of any speaker is to enhance the amplitude of the frequency. Therefore, it’s essential to note that various speakers will have different limitations on what they can produce. A studio monitor improves the frequency and alters the original sound wave to extend the distance in which it travels.
Honest opinion: Do not buy studio monitors at all for DJing unless you are sure that you will also become a producer of music.
DJ speakers and studio monitors come in all shapes and sizes. An average speaker is the most common audio output device in most houses, while a studio monitor is for back-end production.
You can obtain a real DJ speaker for $100 and above, depending on your budget. But if this is your first one, I’d advise something affordable. Besides, a regular DJ speaker can also serve you for the enjoyment of the sound at home.