Main Differences Between Studio Monitors and Studio Headphones

In Audio Advice by MusicGearo

Studio monitors and studio headphones are crucial components in both home and professional studios. They are known to help producers analyze sound and come up with the best instruments for their audience.

The two seem to work completely fine until the question “which device is better when someone can’t afford both” comes up.
This tends to raise a profound argument with everyone favoring the device they frequently use to produce their music. For anyone to make the best pick, they need to know more about studio monitors and studio headphones, what they are and the main distinction between the two.

The Key Distinction between Studio Monitors and Studio Headphones

Studio monitors are active loudspeakers designed to produce quality audio for professional applications. Studio headphones, on the other hand, are designed with distinct capabilities to produce high definition sound directly to the ears of the listener. From that perspective, it is thus appropriate to say that studio monitors and headphones are quite alike. They are both used by professionals to analyze sound. But then there is more into it than just what they can and can’t do.

To better understand the main distinction between both studio headphones and studio monitors, more emphasis is required to be placed on how the brain of a person perceives sound. Studio headphones are often the best option when making an in-depth analysis of the instrumentals. This is because audio is produced directly into the ears of an individual, and so he or she can make a comprehensive analysis of the same. This is, however, different from the studio monitor.

When using a studio monitor, the person needs to analyze numerous factors for him or her to get the exact audio being produced. One of the main factors to be considered is the placement of the speakers about the listener. If someone places the speaker wrongly, then delays will be experienced, and the sound engineer will not be able to make a proper analysis. The monitors are also designed to produce flat sound. There are also specific audio depths that a person can’t hear when using studio monitors.

This means that despite using the two for professional purposes, the sound produced is quite different. One is much more detailed than the other. That is why different people using both rather than one of them when dealing with professional production. Such a step enables them to make an extensive analysis of the audio. With both, they can listen to every detail, and this permits them to achieve professional results.

Main Cons of Studio Monitors over Studio Headphones

There are quite several cons that come with using a studio monitor. These cons are however not experienced by a person using studio headphones, for instance.


1. The quality of sound is dependent on the room acoustics

Before using studio monitors, an individual should consider treating his or her environment. This is because audio produced by the devices often get affected by the room acoustics. Treatment will prevent early reflection of sound as well as standing waves, and this will help the engineer to get the best audio quality. This means that an individual will have to spend additional cash. This is not the case with headphones which tend to work best regardless of the environment.

2. Studio monitors are both loud and invasive

Unlike headphones, it is quite hard to use studio monitors when a person is either living in a quiet environment or with another person. This is because studio monitors are very loud and so they will end up invading other people spaces. The only way to use them without annoying the neighbors is when using them in a treated environment. Headphones, on the other hand, can be used even when the significant other is seated right next to the user.

3. It requires expertise to manage low-frequency levels

What makes using studio headphones a remarkable option is that a person does not need to be an expert for him or her to achieve any level of frequency. Studio monitors, on the other hand, require some form of expertise for someone to do the same. This is because low-frequency levels tend to minimize the essential details contained in the audio.

Main pros of studio monitors

Studio monitors also come with several pros that often makes them much more preferable by professionals. Some of the main advantages of using them include:


1. An individual gets to achieve similar audio frequency in all devices

What makes a particular audio great is when it maintains its effectiveness throughout various peripherals. Whether the music is played on a home theater, a Blu-ray audio device, headphones or car stereo, the experience needs to remain the same. Studio monitors can only achieve such consistency.

2. Ear fatigue is no longer an issue

Studio monitors are excellent when it comes to mixing for long hours. This is because the mixer doesn’t get to experience ear fatigue at any point. This is because there are no padded devices continuously pressing the ears of the sound engineer. It is thus advisable for an individual to invest in studio monitors if he or she wants to end up mixing for long hours.

3. The mixer gets an accurate audio

Using studio monitors is one of the best ways to achieve sound accuracy. This is because the audio they produce is flat and so every aspect can be heard plainly. The output of studio monitor enables an individual to fine-tune every aspect of the sound while mixing. This is because it delivers audio that with all the components incorporated thus giving the individual an easy time when it comes to mixing different details of audio. Also, read this post about Near-Field, Mid-Field, Far-Field Studio Monitors for more information on how to choose the right ones for your studio. 

studio monitors studio headphones
Wikimedia

Main cons of studio headphones over studio monitors

Studio headphones are known to have several disadvantages compared to studio monitors. Some of the drawbacks they come with include:

1. It is hard to achieve consistency

Every studio headphones are designed to ensure the listener is served with quality music. This means that they will either boost the frequency or lower it for the music to sound great. The sound engineer may thus think that he or she has made the best audio, only to hear it come out completely different on various devices like iPods, smartphones, computers, car stereos, and loudspeakers. This is a scenario that one cannot suffer from studio monitors.

2. Panning is not easily achieved using headphones

Everyone knows how it feels when different channels are delivered from the right ear that is left or right. This is what panning is all about. When using studio headphones, panning can be hard. A person may end up with excellent music, which later scatters when played using speakers. The right channels start coming from the left speaker, and the left channel comes from the right speaker making the audio less appealing.

3. Studio headphones are tiring

Carrying the weight of studio headphones for hours is quite tiring. It also leads to ear fatigue, ear itching, and sometimes ear problems. This is because headphones tend to press the ears continuously against the person’s skull. In the end, it becomes hard to work for long hours with studio headphones. This is not the case with studio monitors.

Main Pros of studio headphones

Studio headphones also come with several pros, for instance:

1. They provide excellent isolation that is inexpensive

Studio headphones are fabulous when it comes to providing an isolated environment where an individual can work undistracted. No one gets to complain of noise, and the person gets to have an easy time mixing the audio.

2. They are portable

Studio headphones are very portable. This means that a sound engineer can do his or her mixing tasks anywhere. All the individual has to do is pack up their laptop and the earphones and go wherever he or she feels it’s more comfortable to do the mixing.

3. They are very affordable

Unlike studio monitors, studio headphones are very affordable. What makes them even great is that they don’t need additional expenses like treating the room to be used. This one of the main reasons why most people are going for studio headphones. Here is our review of AKG Q701 Studio Headphones in compare to AKG K121 and other headphones – feel free to check this out. These are no longer for sale, but you can still get one on the eBay!

Should I use both headphones and monitors at the same time?

Yes, professionals often advise that if anyone can afford both, then it is much better than using either on its own. That is so far the best way to achieve incredible sound quality. With both devices, the sound engineer can analyze every detail of the audio conveniently. He or she is also able to work both on the go and within a treated environment, thus increasing his or her output a great deal.

In a nutshell

Both studio headphones and studio monitors come with both merits and demerits. The only difference between the two is how comfortable someone is when utilizing either. Professionals recommend a person uses both if he or she wants to achieve a remarkable output. It is also the only way to enjoy the benefits that come with both devices.

Featured photo by Wikimedia, Author: Andrew Pilling