speakers, headphones and your music

The Truth About Speakers, Headphones, and Your Music

Whether you’re a seasoned audio engineer or a bedroom beat maker, deciding on the best type of speaker to play your music back through can leave you scratching your head and maybe even getting frustrated and settling for something that you might regret later.

I mean, why do I need big expensive studio monitors anyway? Why can’t I just use my home stereo speakers or the EarPods that came with my new iPhone?

Questions this article will help you answer:

  • Which type of speaker do I need to create my music?
  • Should I use and buy expensive studio monitors?
  • Should I use and buy professional studio headphones?
  • Should I use home stereo speakers to make music?
  • Should I use the earbuds that come with my mobile device?
  • Should I use my computer speakers?
  • Should I use the speakers built into my laptop?

In my last article I went over some key things to look for in a professional audio interface. My aim with this article is to cut through the crap and help you decide which type of speaker is right for your music. Here we go…

I’m a strong advocate of making do with what you have. From my experience, creating music has nothing to do with having the best equipment. I believe buying professional studio monitors is optional when you’re just starting out. Yes, it feels good to know you have options available when you need them, but most of the time having extra options lying around can be a distraction from creating the music itself.

 

When I started creating my own music, I used small external computer speakers and headphones I bought from Radio Shack. Eventually, I needed to better hear and feel the low end of my music, like the kick and bass patches. So I upgraded to large home stereo speakers I found at a yard sale. I did not have the extra cash to run to Guitar Center and buy expensive professional studio monitors. On top of that, I was still learning why I needed professional studio monitors instead of just a boom box rigged up to my computer or the speakers built into the computer.


Small and Large Speakers

The Feeling

When you use smaller computer speakers or earbud headphones, you don’t get the full effect of your music. Whether you are a consumer or a professional, larger speakers enable you to feel as well as hear the music. 

Many times, whether or not a track is complete is subjective and based on the vibe and the feel you get when listening to it. When studio monitors or larger speakers are used, you can “feel” if the track is right. You can also judge by the feel of the music if the track is lacking anything or has too much of something, which is very important if you’re creating music or fine-tuning a mix.

The Low End

With smaller speakers it can be hard to hear enough of the low end of your music. The low end of your music is crucial when you want your music to be felt too. This is also important because it can be the deciding factor (if your aim is to sell or place a beat) for whether an artist chooses your track or not. Most artists want to be able to feel and connect emotionally with the music, which is another selling point for larger speakers.

MOTIVATION

As a musician, inspiration is very important. It’s hard to create anything, let alone anything good, when you’re not feeling inspired. Larger speakers allow you to feel your music as you’re creating it. Hearing and feeling the drums or bass can spark inspiration, activating your internal creative bank so that ideas start falling down out of the air.


As an aspiring artist, beat maker, or producer, professional studio monitors sitting in your bedroom, home, or small studio can also make you feel more official, causing you to operate in a more professional manner, which can lead to more professional sounding music.

HEADPHONES

Although it can be tricky to get your music to translate correctly, it is possible to master mixing on headphones. They can also be an indispensable tool for creating your music.

Headphones can be used for better focus. This can boost your creativity while brainstorming or help you zero in on a specific element in a mix when trying to hear flaws in a track like clicks, pops, and other unwanted noises that you might have missed with your speakers.

Though they don’t give quite the same feel as larger speakers, headphones can also provide a unique feeling that can stimulate creativity. In a sense, they remove the room, simulating a feeling of being in a different environment.

Headphones can also help you create music anywhere and any place. This is true especially if you have a newborn in the house, have roommates, or have neighbors that complain about noise levels. Of course there are solutions for using studio monitors or large speakers in places where these limitations exist, but I will cover that at another time.

TIME TO BUY

I recommend investing in professional studio monitors that fit your budget and at least one pair of professional audio headphones. If you don’t have the money to buy new ones yet, check your local pro audio retail store for a used pair. Sometimes the store will put their lightly used demo items on sale. The other route you can take is investing in a pro audio pair of headphones and using another pair of consumer-grade headphones and speakers to check your mixes back and forth on. Don’t be afraid to use the speakers and headphones you already own. Everything is a learning experience and we learn from what we do, not from what we hear or read.

Summary

To create music, expensive studio monitors are not required. Don’t let anyone tell you your tracks will suck or your songs won’t sound good unless you buy the biggest and most expensive studio monitors. Studio monitors are a tool. Don’t get distracted by all the hype and the overwhelming selections of speakers or monitors; just buy a pair or experiment with something you already own and get to work. Remember, the trick to mixing or listening to music on any speaker is getting to know your speakers, analyzing them and understanding how they translate your music after it leaves its original environment. If you focus and spend the time to get to know your room and speakers, your music will come out the way you want it to sound and you’ll be making music you’re proud of.

If you would like me to recommend a set of studio monitors or headphones or have another questions, leave me a comment below.

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