Monitor speakers (Monitors), active, passive, near-field, far-field, subwoofers, explained…

What exactly are monitors?

So you’ve heard everyone mentioning the type of “monitor” speakers they have, and you may be wondering exactly what that means.

Well, monitors, in the music/audio production context, refers to the speakers used.
They are intended to not enhance the sound at all (unlike home HI-FI type speakers for example). The purpose of this is to provide you with an untainted reference for your sound in order for it to translate well across headphones, car audio, mobile phones etc.

Active and Passive

In basic terms, passive monitors require a separate, additional amplifier to drive them, whereas active monitors have the amplifier built into them.
The main advantage of passive speakers is letting you choose an amplifier, or plug into an existing amplifier – of course they have to be suitable for the purpose.
Passive speakers also just need ‘speaker cable’ ran out to them from the amplifier, and your sound interface level out goes to your amplifier.
Active speakers don’t require an additional amplifier, therefore don’t take up any rack space, however they do require power sockets fairly close to each speaker of course.
Your level out from your sound interface will go straight to each speakers, rather than through another amplifier.

Far-field and Near-field

If you’re studio is a very tight space, you will get much better results using near-field monitors.
These are intended to be placed quite close to where you sit – I suggest within 5 feet of each ear. By having them this close also helps to reduce audio reflections from the room.
Far-field, as you have probably guessed, are for bigger spaces – probably around 10 feet from each ear. They will generally be listened too at much higher volume, but this can cause reflection issues in the space, so room treatment becomes much more important with those types.


A subwoofer only pumps out low frequencies, so good for bass. Could help if you’re producing hip-hop or dance music. However this may be something you might want to look at getting at a later stage, if at all.
However, there needs to be a method of filtering the lower frequencies away from your main monitors, and only to the sub.
These are sometimes not entirely straight forward to integrate into your current set up, as some require special amplifiers, and others provide the speaker outputs. So further research would be needed to see what might be suitable for your system.

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