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Q. Can I use hi-fi speakers for studio monitoring?

There are good reasons for using dedicated studio monitors such as the Tannoy Reveals...There are good reasons for using dedicated studio monitors such as the Tannoy Reveals...

I am beginning to expand and improve my home studio, and am now deciding on a monitoring system. After studying the subject, I have noticed that 'studio' speakers appear to be something quite different to regular hi‑fi speakers, especially in terms of cost.

If I could use hi‑fi speakers, this would dramatically increase my options. Also, for the price of low‑end 'studio monitors' I am able to get very high‑end hi‑fi speakers. My question, therefore, is simply whether there is a fundamental problem with mixing and monitoring on hi‑fi speakers, provided that they are of high quality.

Joris Wittenberg

Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: There are some specific differences between hi–fi and studio monitors. In general terms, hi–fi speakers are designed to be complimentary or flattering to source material, whereas proper studio monitors are intended to reveal any sonic flaws and faults. As you say, though, for the price of a decent studio monitoring speaker, you could by a very hi‑end hi‑fi speaker, which would tend to be a lot more revealing and honest about its source material.

The next point is that studio monitors tend to be rather more robust — they are often listened to at elevated levels for extended periods, they have to tolerate the thumps of mics being plugged with phantom‑power applied, and they have to survive howl‑rounds.

Few hi‑fi speakers are magnetically shielded, whereas most studio monitors are, allowing their use near computer monitors and on top of meter bridges.

Finally, most of the active professional monitors have facilities for tailoring their response to suit the room and their location within it — something no hi‑fi speakers have — which is very important if you want your mixes to sound right on other systems.

You can use hi‑fi speakers for monitoring, and plenty of people do. However, you must be very careful over your selection and just as careful when you use them. Personally, I would go for a decent studio monitor every time. Try small passive models like the PMC TB2S, HHB Circle 3, Spirit Absolute 2, Tannoy Reveal, or the Dynaudio BM5. If your budget stretches rather further and you can afford active models, check out the Tannoy System 800, the Spirit Absolute 4P, and the HHB Circle 3A or 5A.