Nearfield and Farfield Studio Monitors

Near-Field, Mid-Field, Far-Field Studio Monitors – Their Uses, Pros & Cons

In Audio Adviceby MusicGearo

There are different types of studio monitors in the market today, namely: Near-Field, Mid-Field, and Far-Field. Understanding their capabilities and uses will help you make informed decisions when choosing the best studio monitors for your music production needs.


First, What Studio Monitors Are?

Studio monitors are speakers designed for professional music production, but you can use them for daily activities like filmmaking, or just watching TV. They may include one or more drivers such as a tweeter, woofer, bass drum or single-driver subwoofers.

Types of Studio Monitors

There are three main types of studio monitors:

  • Near-Field
  • Mid-Field
  • Far-Field

Near-Field vs. Mid-Field vs. Far-Field Studio Monitors Compared

 

Near-Field Studio Monitors

 These types of monitors are small enough to sit on a stand or desk close to the listener. They’re specifically designed for listening to close distances so that the greater proportion of direct sound goes directly to the listener rather than reflecting off walls and ceilings.

near field studio monitor

Near-field monitors including two speakers:

  • Woofer (Driver)
  • Tweeter

Common Uses of Near-Field Studio Monitors

It is commonly used in the recording studio to position the microphones and the voice in the mix. They’re a favorite for home and small studio as they are cost-effective and versatile.

Pros and Cons of Near-Field Studio Monitors

Pros

  • Their placement enables the sound emitted by the speakers to reach the listener more quickly than the reflections from the walls, therefore providing a more realistic sound of what is being played.
  • Great for the environment with poor room acoustics
  • They’re perfect for balancing lower high and higher low frequencies which fall within the human audible range.
  • They have a small driver size, but they don’t produce extremely low frequencies which are harmful to human’s health.
  • They have inbuilt controls
  • They have a louder playback as compared to other studio monitors

Cons

  • Their multiple devices require separate on-off controls
  • They have limited access to perfecting volume controls

Mid-Field Studio Monitors

Mid-field studio monitors are typically larger monitors than Near-field studio monitors and are designed and optimized for large studio rooms. They have larger woofers typically of between 8 to -10” and often have got three-way designs.

mid field studio monitor

Common Uses of Mid-Field Studio Monitors

With Larger cabinets for more bass extension, better mid and high-frequency dispersion at greater distances, mid-field studio monitors are designed for bigger studio rooms.

Pros and Cons of Mid-Field Studio Monitors

Pros

  • Their larger drivers and more powerful drivers enable them to fill larger studio rooms with a higher quality of sounds than near-field monitors and be positioned further away from the listener without degradation of sound quality.

Cons

  • Due to their more extensive monitoring capabilities; it’s higher volume and better bass extension. They’re prone to exaggerate the room ‘modes’ which are the acoustical cancellations and reinforcements at various bass frequencies which are usually related to a room’s dimensions resulting in inaccurate readings.

Far-Field Studio Monitors

Far-field studio monitors are usually directed towards the room. Think of a musical concert. You would refer the stage speakers facing the crowd as Far-field studio monitors. They’re generally used for fun listening where high dB ratings, i.e., more volume, as opposed to fine acoustics, are required.

Far-field studio monitors usually have 2 to 3 speakers:

  • Low Range Driver
  • Mid-Range Driver
  • Tweeter

Common Uses of Far-Field Studio Monitors

  • Have you ever been to movie theatres and heard that low-frequency bass sound when an action scene was in play? Well, that sound was coming from a Far-field studio monitor.
  • Great for creating virtual environments in scenes where real-life sounds that are required in films.
  • They’re also used by large studios with big space and heavy acoustic optimized room and are used for sound effects and background scoring. They’re usually not ideal for home studios.

Pros and Cons of Far-Field Studio Monitors

Pros

Far fields are deployed in larger studio rooms and usually take advantage of the room acoustics to impact the sound. They use the entire scope of the studio room, and this allows for the development of lower frequencies to be heard smoothly.


Cons

Far-field studio monitors are typically dependent on the acoustics of the studio room. To get the best of Far-field studio monitors, you’ll have to invest some money in equipping your studio to provide an excellent acoustic environment.

Technical Aspects of Studio Monitors

Technical aspects differ from each of the studio monitors available in the market. They include the following:

  • Headroom
  • Frequency Response
  • Dynamic Range
  • Placement

The technical aspects of studio monitors are discussed below in detail:

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is among the most critical aspects of a good mixing process. A Dynamic range is that difference between the largest and smallest point of an audio signal in a frequency graph produced by the audio monitor.

For example:

A must track has the following datasets;

  • Lowest intensity sound = 20dB
  • Highest intensity sound = -2db
  • Dynamic range of this music = 20dB – 2dB = 18dB

The image below illustrates this example:

dynamic range

A studio monitor which is dynamically optimized is one that balances the low intensity sounds with the high-intensity sounds within an audible range that everyone can hear. That process is referred to as perfect mixing.

Far-field Studio Monitors

Their dynamic range is usually low, which is quite ideal for large studios but not ideal for small studios where space is limited.

Mid-field Studio Monitors

Mid-field studio monitors aren’t optimized for mixing. Their drivers and tweeters can be regarded as average when it comes to mixing but not ideal if you’re looking out for professionally done work.

Near-field Studio Monitors

Near-field studio monitors perform exceptionally well in small-sized studios because they have dynamically rich drivers and tweeters.

 

Headroom

Headroom is that reserve or extra decibels (dB) above the recommended or nominal signal handling level also called a safety zone that allows transient audio peaks to exceed that recommended single level without damaging the speakers.

head room

All studio monitors types are equipped with enough headroom, therefore providing a decent allowance for music producers to push their systems a little bit further when necessary for short periods to achieve desired effects.

Frequency Response

Frequency response is the range of audible frequencies a speaker can reproduce between 20 Hz (deep bass) and 20 kHz (piercingly high frequency) which is considered the range of human hearing.  Usually, our hearing doesn’t extend up to 20 kHz, especially when we get older, and bass frequencies below 30Hz are mostly felt than heard.

Near-Field Studio Monitors

Near-field studio monitors aren’t able to produce sounds below 45 dB, and that’s making them ideal for mixing of music production.

Mid-Field Studio Monitors

Their frequency range falls within the same range as Near-Field studio monitors, but they aren’t ideal for music mixing. For mixing purposes, I would recommend you stick with Near-field studio monitors.

Far-Field Studio Monitors

Far-Field studio monitors can produce sounds as low as 15 HZ, an audible range lower what the human ear can hear, making them ideal for film studios.

Crossover Frequency

The Crossover frequency is the frequency range that a studio monitor produces the most intensity of sound. All types of studio monitors have got different crossover frequencies, and it’s these frequencies that decide the actual work that a particular type of studio monitor will perform.

Near-field Studio Monitors

Near-field studio monitors optimized to operate at lower mid to higher mid-range of 600 Hz to 3500 Hz depending on the driver and make of the studio monitor.

Mid-Field Studio Monitors

Mid-field studio monitors such as the LYD 48 from the LYD series have a crossover frequency of 460Hz to 5500KHZ. They have received rave reviews from many music producers who state that the studio monitors provide unmatched accuracy at any volume level.

Far-Field Studio Monitors

Far-field studio monitors are also active at the same frequency range of near-field studios but have a secondary crossover frequency at the low range of 100 Hz to 600 Hz. Far-field monitors have a certain amount of bass, which is usually not ideal for mixing but very important in film scoring.

Wattage

Wattage refers to the amount of electrical power expressed in watts. It determines the volume, dynamic range, and the sound of your studio monitor. The rule of the thumb is the higher the wattage, the better chances you have of hearing better sounds.

Far-Field Studio Monitor

Far-field studio monitors have got bigger drivers than other studio monitors, therefore require more power to operate them. Their high wattage amps produce deafening sounds that Near-field or Mid-field studio monitors can’t handle.

Mid-Field Studio Monitor

Mid-field studio monitors are slightly larger monitors than Near-field studio monitors, and with their three-way designs, they generally require more power. Their wattage requirements are usually around 200W to 300W.

Near-Field Studio Monitor

Near-field studio monitors have small drivers; therefore only require minimal power to operate. Their wattage requirements are between 15W and 100W.

Placement

Your positioning of your studio monitors affects how you listen to them and therefore affects the quality of mixing. Different types of studio monitors require different layout designs and positioning for maximum effectiveness.

placement of studio monitors

Near-Field Studio Monitor

The ideal placement is between 3 and 5 feet away from the listener. The speakers and the listener’s head are placed on an equilateral triangle, which enables the reduction of poor room acoustics.

Far-Field Studio Monitor

They generally have larger drivers and are usually placed along the perimeter of the studio room and a distance of around 10 feet away from the listener. They’re usually mounted on a stand or the wall behind the mixing desk. They take advantage of room acoustics to offer a more holistic listening experience.

Mid-Field Studio Monitor

They are typically placed within 2 and 4 meters away from the listener.

Factors to consider when buying a studio monitor

A home studio cannot be complete without a pair of studio monitors. Here are a few basic guidelines that will provide you with the necessary knowledge to assist you in narrowing down your selection.

Nature of Work

The nature of work you intend to use your studio monitors for will determine the type of studio monitor you should purchase. If you’re searching for a studio monitor for mixing purposes, then a Near-field studio monitor that sits on your mixing desk as opposed to a far-field studio monitor is recommended.

Sound

Go for studio monitors that aim to sound as accurate and precise as possible. The ideal set of studio monitors should reveal every detail in your mix, both good and bad. While you must test the studio monitors at the music shop before purchasing them, it is utterly impossible to predict how they sound in your room since the acoustics in your room affect what you’ll hear while you’re mixing.

Acoustic Treatment

If you intend to perform professional sound mixing in your studio room, then I highly recommend that your room should have some basic absorbent acoustic treatment. It allows you to hear more of your studio monitors and less of your room’s reflections.

For more info, check our post on how to improve acoustics in your home studio.

Power: How Many Watts Do I Need?

The power handling capacity of a studio monitor not only determines its volume range but also influences its dynamic range, amount of headroom available. One of the benefits that higher wattage provides is the ability to hear more transient details, which then allows you to make more precise adjustments to your compressors and limiters.

Connections

Choose studio monitors which offer connections that are compatible with your mixers and other audio devices in your studio.

Many of the powered studio monitors have a balanced audio input via XLR and ¼” (Tip/Ring/Shield) phone jacks. These jacks are mostly found at the back of studio monitors although in some cases you may find a single jack that accepts both types of plugs.

Other studio monitors offer unbalanced input via an RCA jack or 1/4” TS (Tip/Sleeve) phone jack. These connections come quite handy when hooking up your studio monitors to your audio devices.

studio monitor connections

 Type of Music You Are Recoding

Small scale acoustic recordings don’t too many demands on monitors and a pair of Near-field studio monitors with a 4” or 6” woofers would do the job correctly, but if you’ll be doing some heavy lifting which would involve hip-hop tracks or rock music, then more extensive and more powerful studio monitors would be required. Adding a sub-woofer usually, does the trick for it allows you to hear your low-frequencies better, during your mixing.

Size of Studio Room

Studio monitors come in different sizes and features. You may be tempted to go for the biggest speaker your budget can accommodate, but I would tell you to forget it. Choose a studio monitor size that matches the size of your studio. A 5” Near-field studio monitor would do just well in a typical standard bedroom.

Budget

You shouldn’t spend more than what you can afford on any music production gear, and that includes studio monitors. Once you have settled on the speaker size based on your room size, shop around for the most affordable brand you can access.

Conclusion

Having a good understanding of your music requirements and technical capabilities of the different studio monitors available will equip with the prerequisite knowledge of knowing the best studio monitor for your home studio.

By no means, this is our list of the types of studio monitors available, and it’s up to you which ones you will choose.

 

Featured Image Credit – Metalworks Institute – Campus Studios – Studio 6 – Music College Diploma

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