6 of the best studio monitors

With so many different studio monitor options on the market, choosing the right ones can be a daunting task. In this end user focus, we feature the products of six companies and hear from top professionals about the product they like to use and why…

Dynaudio LYD 48

Goldie: “My Dynaudios sit 120cm apart at the perfect angle. And I sit in that perfect place and I listen. It’s the perfect place to be”

According to Dynaudio, the LYD range of monitors was designed to be used without needing a manual because, getting “started in your engineering or producing career…is daunting enough without needing to decipher another complicated set of switches and dials”. Good point.

There are four speakers in the range: LYD 5 (with a 5” woofer), LYD 7 (7” woofer), LYD 8 (8” woofer) and LYD 48 (a three-way fully active speaker with a 4” midrange driver and an 8” woofer). They all use the same lightweight aluminium voice-coils as the company’s high-end hi-fi speakers, paired with Class-D amplification as well as a 24-bit/96kHz signal path with advanced DSP. Artist and producer Goldie uses the monitors in his studio in Thailand.

Unity Audio Rock MKII

David Wrench: “The low mid is excellent and that’s an area where I find a lot of smaller speakers tend to struggle” 

Unity Audio’s Rock MKII is described as “a small and stylish speaker”, designed for a wide range of applications including tracking, mixing and critical mastering.

It is equally at home sat atop a large-format mixing console, in a home studio or a mastering facility. The Rock is equipped with two 180-watt Class D amplifiers and the Tim de Paravicini designed input/crossover. The Rock uses a 50KHz folded ribbon tweeter and the 180mm woofer features a 0.2mm aluminium foil. The combination of drivers delivers a frequency response of 37Hz-38kHz +/- 3dbB and provides a microscopic view of any programme system, incorporated to eliminate cabinet flexing.

David Wrench has two Rock MKII’s in his studio. “I’m a huge Rocks fan and bought my first pair a while ago,” he says. “They’re different to any of my existing monitors. I usually use three different sets of monitor in order to get a good contrast.

“The Rocks low mid is excellent and that’s an area where I find a lot of smaller speakers tend to struggle.”


Gareth Johnson: “Tracking with them is really exciting” 

PMC’s IB2S XBD-A loudspeakers offer all the benefits of the company’s large ATL reference active monitors but in a more compact form. The three-way IB2S-A master cabinet is paired with a single-driver XBD bass cabinet that adds an extra 3 dB of low frequency headroom to create the IB2S XBD-A system. These Class-D powered cabinets are DSP-controlled and incorporate PMC’s ATL (Advanced Transmission Line) bass-loading technology. The bass units in both cabinets are identical and feature 10-inch carbon-fibre/Nomex piston drivers.

Producer, mix engineer and multi-instrumentalist composer Gareth Johnson uses the speakers in his studio at Metropolis Studios, London.

“When I was designing this place, I wanted the largest monitors PMC made that would work in here,” he says. “That’s why I got the IB2 Actives with the XBD bass unit. Tracking with them is really exciting and they’re brilliant for checking that you’ve got the bottom end right.”

Focal SM9

Steve Aoki: “I wanted to make sure both studios had Focal because I’m very confident with the sound, I really can trust the speakers” 

According to Focal, the idea for the SM9 was to “create the most sonically transparent monitoring system ever built”. The SM9 offers two monitoring speakers in one cabinet: a two-way monitor (Beryllium tweeter, 6.5” ‘W’ woofer, which offers a frequency response from 90Hz to 40kHz and a three-way monitor featuring a Beryllium tweeter, 6.5” ‘W’ woofer, 8” ‘W’ subwoofer and an 11” passive radiator. This monitor offers a frequency response from 30Hz to 40kHz.

DJ and producer Steve Aoki uses the speakers in both of his studios: “I wanted to make sure both studios had Focal because I’m very confident with the sound, I really can trust the speakers,” he says.

Genelec ‘The Ones’ 8331

Andy Barlow: “The definition is second to none”

Billed as “the world’s smallest three-way studio monitors”, the smallest in ‘The Ones’ range allow for longer, fatigue-free working hours than traditional loudspeakers, because according to the company, unnatural imaging – a main contributor to listener fatigue – is minimised.

Genelec refers to them as being in “an elite league of their own”. Dispersion is controlled over an unusually wide frequency range thanks to the large integrated waveguide (DCW) with hidden dual woofers; and orientation may be either horizontal or vertical. The monitors integrate with the Genelec GLM calibration software, allowing the listener to compensate for detrimental room influence and delay, regardless of whether they work in mono, stereo or immersive formats. “The definition is second to none,” says Andy Barlow who produced U2’s Songs Of Experience.

“The room is far from perfect with little in the way of acoustic treatment, but with GLM weaving its magic, the 8331s fill the room in an amazing way. Also, for such a small speaker with no sub, the bottom end is physics defying. The top end is refined and smooth, and the stereo sweet spot seems much bigger than any other speaker I’ve used.”

Adam Audio S3H

Opher Yisraeli: “I’d been researching various three-way speakers for months and tested a number of models. What I found was that the Adams performed equal to or better than monitors that cost almost twice as much”

The S3H builds on the successes of Adam Audio’s most popular studio monitors, the S3A and S3X-H, and, like its predecessors, sets new standards in terms of technical innovation and design.

Adam Audio’s newly developed DCH, a 4” hybrid dome/cone mid-range driver, is powered by a 300 W Class D amplifier and handles audio above 250 Hz and below 3 kHz, its hybrid design offering the sonic advantages of both cone and soft-dome drivers in a single, one-piece unit.

Frequencies above 3 kHz are routed to the innovative combination of the S-ART treble driver (each handmade at ADAM Audio’s Berlin factory), the new precision HPS waveguide, and a 50 W Class A/B amplifier.