The goal of a reference monitor speaker for a beatmaker who is making the beat, mixing, and mastering is to have flat response.
Essentially, this means translation. You want your mix to sound the exact same in the studio as it will out there in the real world where who knows what someone is listening to your music on.. (Maybe on a phone, $9 ear buds, in a car with a sound system, or maybe even a high-fidelity audio system!)
If you are new to beatmaking, this concept may be new to you, but what happens is when you buy a regular set of speakers or headphones, these companies often emphasis certain frequencies on these consumer audio devices (we producers use professional audio devices).
They boost the bass, or increase the high frequencies, to add excitement to the music.
Can you mix your music on consumer audio devices? Sure you can! It’s all about knowing your speakers and audio environment, then going out there and testing your music on different audio systems..
But generally as a music producer, we do want a flat response speakers (which still sounds good), that allows us to mix accurately, and make that translation process as easy as possible so that no matter where your music is listened to, it sounds very close to how you mixed it!
The biggest thing, even over VERY EXPENSIVE speakers is actually your room, and dealing with room acoustics.. but that’s another story.
Here’s a couple popular speakers I’ve seen out there, as well as my own, but make sure to read below to understand what I look for when buying reference monitors speakers when beatmaking in FL Studio.
My Personal Speakers [Yamaha HS80m]
These Yamaha HS80m’s have been a pretty nice speaker, I like them, but even after 5-6 years of use, I still haven’t been able to get used to them.
I’d recommend them, they are nice, but I’m not dead set on them, so feel free to browse around at other reviews.
As mentioned below, I do like an 8″ speaker to really hear that low-end bass, and I do use them with a music production subwoofer.
M-Audio BX8 Speakers
The M-Audio Bx5a Deluxe were the first set of speakers I had (I am recommending the M-Audio BX8 speakers).
The 5″ speaker was lacking HEAVILY in the low-end, making beatmaking REALLY hard, as we beatmakers really need to hear our bass.
However, I matched the 5″ speaker with the same subwoofer I mentioned above.. (the subwoofer is also by M-Audio)..
But what I want to get across to you is that some of my best mixes have been off the M-Audio speakers (even though it was on 5″ speaker with the sub), and suggest you look at the M-Audio BX8 .. or BX5.. series of reference monitor speakers).
I can’t promise anything, as I haven’t used them, but I did use a previous generation, and thoroughly liked them, and just want to stress that. Looking back, I upgraded to the Yamaha HS80m speakers, which have been great, but I did like my 5″ Bx5a Deluxe and subwoofer set up.
One Last Speaker to Look at..
In recent years Adam Audio has started to make some really cool looking speakers. I haven’t tried them, but what makes them so cool is that they have ribbon tweeters, which are supposed to help with clarity in the high-end, however, they are quite directional, so it’s important to have your speaker listening triangle set up to really sit in the sweet spot as a producer.
Again, I have not tried them, but I did want to mention them.
Let’s move onto what I look for in a reference monitor speaker. (Even though I’ve been making music for over 10 years, there’s still so much for me to learn, and cannot truly give a 100% recommendation on speakers).
Speaker Size, Active vs. Passive, and Room-Type Overview
Before you actually make a purchase on your studio speakers, I think we should first cover some basics:
- Speaker Size – Do you want a 5″ or a 8″ woofer?
- Active vs. Passive Speakers – Active speakers are waaaaay more convenient!
- Room Type and Acoustics – Speakers will sound different depending on the type of room you’re in!
Here’s a quick story:
My first set of studio reference monitors were only 5″ woofers.
When making my first speaker purchase, I was so excited waiting for them to ship!
The day I received them, I opened them up, and was so impressed with how they looked.
They gave my studio such a professional look with their clean looking studio cabinet!
After plugging everything in and listening to one of my tracks.. I was so disappointed.
What do I mean.. disappointed?
These 5″ speakers lacked so much low-end, I could barely hear any bass on my kick drums and bass lines!
It left me having to buy a sub woofer to hear the low-end.
This was a good compromise.
I was able to hear a more accurate representation of my mids and highs because of the studio reference monitors, and the subwoofer filled in the gap for the low-end.
I’m telling you this story, because I personally recommend an 8″ speaker if you are creating dance, hip-hop, or even pop-type music.
You may be able to get away without a subwoofer, however, I personally like one as it does make mixing more enjoyable to hear the whole frequency spectrum.
Active vs. Passive Speakers
I personally have no experience with passive monitors, but I recommend active for the following reasons:
- No need for a separate amp
- Simple plug-and-play!
With a passive speaker, you will have to buy a separate amp in addition to your speakers.
With an active speaker, the amp is built into the speaker itself.
All you have to do is plug in your speaker cable and power cable, and you’re on your way.
The speakers I recommend below are all active because of the convenience they add to our life!
Room-Type and Acoustics
Every speaker sounds different, especially in the type of room the speaker is listened to in.
This makes it hard to tell you the right speaker to buy..
The frequency graphs companies slap on the back of their speaker boxes shows what the speaker should sound like, but this is not a reliable source!
(There’s a bit of controversy in terms of honesty and false advertising on these frequency response graphs.)
So.. are we just left to reviews of the speaker them self?
Reviews do help us! (Especially when you look at the 3 and 4 star reviews.)
But the type of room you listen to your speakers in is very important.
If your room is very echoy, this makes it hard to get an accurate mix because your room is tricking you into thinking the song sounds a certain way when it really doesn’t!
That’s where acoustic treatment comes into play.
There’s a saying:
Expensive speakers in a poorly treated room is worse than average speakers in a well-treated room.
This means that the room you listen to your speakers in is very important.
Speaker Recommendation Overview
Okay, we’re close!
We will go over speakers in just a moment.
I just want to prepare your mind for smart buying of speakers!
These are things I’ve learned when purchasing speakers for myself over the years:
Speaker Price Point:
Speaker technology has become much better than what it was back in the day.
With that said, even a $300 pair of speakers will give you reasonable results!
These type of speakers vary in price from affordable to pro-level, as you can imagine!
Speaker Size – 8″ is Recommended
I suggest an 8″ woofer which allows you to monitor your low end better if you create beats.
If your price-point doesn’t not allow you to get 8″ speakers, that’s okay!
5″ speakers will get you going, but in my opinion, there wasn’t enough low-end for me to really hear what was going on inside my mix.
If you have a 5″ speaker with a sub, this is quite a good set-up. Some companies also offer a 6″ woofer, too! (Which may help you hear the low-end better as a beatmaker).
If you’re just starting up, you should be more focused on learning your DAW anyways, so a 5″ speaker will be suffice for now 🙂
So that’s my suggestions for you when picking out a studio speaker.
(You can see my current speakers I use above!)
I am aware not everyone’s living situation allows them to use speakers, or have a big 8″ reference monitor speaker, but in my years of making beats, I do like the 8″ and a sub, but listening back to some of my older music, I did like my mixes on a 5″ with a sub.. maybe some tests will be coming one day 🙂
Please let me know if you have any questions!