Bookshelf Speakers vs Studio Monitors: You Want One, Then There’s The Other.

Speakers are the new cool in this generation. Going to the movie theatres is still an exhilarating and fulfilling experience. However, with new streaming services coming up, the significance of movie theatres have decreased vastly. You may buy Netflix, Disney+, HULU, or Spotify, but without the proper sound system, it is bland.

When looking for the best sound experience, two options will arise; the long war of difference between bookshelf speakers and studio monitors. At first glance, they both look alike, the resemblance is uncanny, and people often mistake one for the other. Now, when getting a sound system, you need to differentiate between the two, which is what this article entails.

What Is Bookshelf Speaker?

As the name suggests, these speakers are small, compact, and gives you a smooth listening experience. Bookshelf speakers are what one might call retro. These give you a high roller sound experience while also being aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Bookshelf speakers have always delivered decent sound quality and probably the best home theatre experiences.

With high performance comes drawbacks. Now, that is not an actual saying, but it is true nonetheless. Bookshelf speakers, unlike traditional, modern speakers, require one extra component: an amplifier. Amplifiers give these speakers life; it delivers the sound and power to them and needs a little studying to verify compatibility.

Amplifiers are the core of the sound system; they control how loud or crisp the sound should be. It controls the treble, impedance, etc. of a signal, amplifies it, and transmits it to the speakers. Most bookshelf speakers require an amplifier but, some manufacturers build these speakers with a built-in amp. This may seem convenient, but if you want an authentic home theatre experience, getting an external amplifier is the call!

Bookshelf speakers deliver an excellent surround sound system when placed in the right place. The speakers themselves emit a sound so that it can be heard all around you, even if they are facing you, a technology now known as the surround sound system. What it does is that the sound bounces from wall to wall giving you the feeling of being inside the movie!

Furthermore, with the help of amplifiers, sound tuning has become a breeze. You can hear the live feedback as you turn the nobs to adjust quality. Most movies on Netflix often have enhanced sound effects rather than the dialogue volume, and this can be annoying. With amplifiers, you can retune the quality to adjust them to your liking.

Finally, bookshelf speakers are an investment; if you want a similar experience like  IMAX or Dolby Atmos, bookshelf speakers have the means! Moreover, if they break down, you don’t have to replace the whole unit instead, replace the damaged part, and you are good to go. All in all, bookshelf speakers give you a retro vibe and astounding quality.

Top 5 Bookshelf Speakers to Buy Today

SVS Ultra Bookshelf Speaker

Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers

Klipsch R-41M Powerful detailed Bookshelf Home Speaker Set

Acoustic Audio AA321B Mountable Indoor Speakers

ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 Bookshelf Speakers

What Is Studio Monitor?

The term studio monitor may sound out of place as it is a speaker. But, the terminology is correct in technical terms. Studio monitors focus on an individual rather than a large room. These speakers produce crisp, clear sound without distorting the signal, making it lossless.

Studio monitors are often used professionally in music studios, radio stations, filmmaking, and other professional sound recording applications. If you are a small-time artist or a gamer, they are also home studio monitors. Studio monitors nowadays have become so compact and robust; every personal computer has one.

The leading attention-getter of studio monitors are the subwoofers. Most manufacturers now provide a subwoofer included with the speakers for greater bass control. These subwoofers come with an amplifier built-in, and so you don’t have to buy an external unit. Just plug the speakers, connect your device, and play.

You may wonder how studio monitors differ from the conventional ones; the answer is within the name itself. These speakers reproduce unaltered sound. That means it emits the raw unmixed sound without adding any alterations, unlike regular speakers. This feature is crucial for music industries as they have to produce the best possible sound without changing the original.

Additionally, game streamers and YouTubers who entertain people for a living have to make sure the sound delivery is optimal and without delay. Tech YouTuber MKBHD uses the Yamaha HS8 studio monitors for sound when editing his videos. They provide exceptional acoustics and also require cable management, which is always appreciated.

Without the need for an external amplifier, choosing a studio monitor is easy. Since you don’t have to match the impedance, power output with your speaker unit, all you have to do is go over to the store, test some tunes to your liking and get yourself a speaker. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, these do not come cheap! Standard Hi-Fi speakers, however, are an inexpensive alternative, but it is nowhere close to being a studio monitor.

Studio monitors are for audiophiles who are looking for a more exceptional raw sound experience. Sure, you can get by with conventional Hi-Fi speakers, but it will never match the quality and delivery of a studio monitor.

Furthermore, monitor speakers do not have a wide range of audio transfer. This feature makes their placement substantial for the optimal sound experience. Ergo, place them directly in front of you or facing towards you nearby as they are built for that distance.

Last but not least, studio monitors can be expensive, but the right one can get you a long way. Since you will be spending most of your time in front of the computer, why not add the best speakers and complete the setup.

Top 5 Studio Monitors to Buy Today

JBL Professional 305P MkII Next-Generation 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor

JBL Professional 1 Series 104-BT Compact Desktop Reference Monitors

M-Audio AV32 | Compact Active Desktop Reference Monitor Speakers

Edifier R1280T Studio Monitor Speaker

Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor

How to use Studio monitors as regular speakers?

Difference Between Bookshelf Speakers and Studio Monitors:

With speakers getting smaller and compact, most of these are visually indifferent, especially studio monitors and bookshelf speakers. This issue makes it difficult for decision making when buying new speakers. Both speakers are focused on two different target parties.

You can buy a flat sounding bookshelf speaker or an inaccurate studio monitor for a relatively low price. But it defeats their purpose. While bookshelf speakers should deliver decent surround sound from a distance, in contrast, studio monitors are supposed to sound clean in close range.

The difference between these two speakers is not only the target parties but their capabilities and features.

Positioning:

When it comes to bookshelf speakers, whether you place them on an actual bookshelf, a speaker stand, or a cupboard, the positioning should be proper. The rule of thumb is to put them at an elevated position, preferably at your ear level, and angled towards your listening preferences. For the best experience, place them two feet away from the wall.

On the contrary, studio monitors should not be placed far away from you. These are meant for close range audio experience and should always be positioned in front of you. They are not used as home theatres but rather studio productions.

Amplification:

Most bookshelf speakers come without amplification. It is the power for the signal in a sound system. These speakers go for a more traditional approach and require the purchase of an external amplifier unit. Moreover, it also needs a subwoofer for the low bass sound.

On the other hand, studio monitors are a full package in itself. They come with built-in amplification and also a subwoofer unit. All you have to do is plug and play. Even though amplifiers give you more control over the sound, you can always get a universal audio controller with your monitors like the Apollo Twin MkII.

Purpose of Usage:

This is the main difference you are looking for between the speakers. Bookshelf speakers deliver an ambient surround sound ideal for home theatres to give you a close movie theatre experience. If you want to listen to music from every corner of the room, bookshelf speakers are your go-to.

On the contrary, studio monitors are for deep audiophiles who work with sound and production. You can use them as desktop speakers for gaming, music production, or sound editing. These can be expensive, but several mid-range versions also provide a similar experience. For unmixed, raw sound, studio monitors are the best!

Design:

Designed for enhanced audio, a bookshelf speaker is rich in bass and perfect for mid to high-frequency responses. It delivers a louder playback ideal for movies and music on a Sunday afternoon, meaning it covers a large, more full area.

Studio monitors, in contrast, are designed to produce clean audio. It means the sound output frequency is on the same level giving sound engineers more room to make better mix decisions. These speakers are loud but are more suitable in the near field region. Additionally, some may have advanced controls integrated into the speakers to alter the output based on the room’s acoustics.

Input & Cables:

You can identify a bookshelf speaker from a studio monitor by taking a look at the back of the device. For bookshelf speakers, the ports may be unfamiliar to you. They require banana plugs, sport binding posts, pin plugs, or spade plugs as input connectors. In comparison, studio monitors have a somewhat familiar back setup. They comprise of XLR, 0.25” Jack or RCA professionally graded input connectors.

Aside from the input connectors, the apparent difference is the amplification and the need for cable management. Bookshelf speakers are mostly passive and need a lot of cables since there is an external unit required for power, unlike studio monitors, which are easy to plug and play.

Pros and Cons of Bookshelf Speakers:

No matter the merits of these speakers, a list of pros and cons should give you an overview.

Pros:

Provides excellent surround sound.
Suitable for a large area of coverage.
More sound control with an amplifier.
Aesthetically pleasing with a retro look.
The speaker unit themselves are reasonable in the mid and low range.

Cons:

It needs an external amplifier to power the signal and the speakers.
The placement has to be proper and accurate for the best quality for money.
Amplifiers and speakers must be compatible with each other to avoid damaging the system.
The whole amplifier speaker combination makes it expensive, even if it is a mid-range speaker.
Most of the models do not come with a subwoofer and may need to buy one.

Pros and Cons of Studio Monitors:

You have seen how useful these monitors can be and what makes them so unique. A good list of pros and cons should be underway.

Pros:

The system comes ready to plug and play and does not require extra studying.
Has a built-in amplifier and a subwoofer (depends on the model, can be an external subwoofer unit but included with the speakers.)
Does not need a compatibility verification ergo, eliminating the risk of damaging them,
Delivers raw unmixed sound.
Suitable for music studios and TV stations.
It can double as a personal sound system.
Damaged input cables are easily replaceable due to their standard connectors.

Cons:

They do not cover a large area.
Focused on the near field region.
Expensive, since they deliver mirror sound quality.
May not go with your furniture.
Not suitable for use in a home theatre setup.
If the unit is damaged, you will have to replace the entire system and not just a part of it.

What’s Best For You:

It all comes down to these two questions, what do you want in your sound system? And what’s best for you? The answers are simple. Choosing between the two types of speakers comes down to preference.

If you are an audiophile, DJ, musician, or music producer, studio monitors are your answer. Bookshelf speakers can never fulfill those requirements; however, there are also inevitable tradeoffs such as you cannot treat it as a home theatre system or have control over your sound output.

In the case of a movie setup, dance room, or even a game room with a VR setup, bookshelf speakers will do the job. The surround sound capability and loudness makes the experience surreal and perfect for those activities. The tradeoff here is the need for an external amplifier, but it does not matter since the control is possible with the amps.

KRK Rokit 8 G4 vs Yamaha HS8-Comparison between two best Powered Studio Monitors.

 

Parting Words:

Sound gives meaning to what you are watching. With the right quality and sound system, you can experience what it’s like being inside the movie. Some sounds provide relief; some help you sleep while others change the mood from hostile to friendly.

All of these are possible with the right speaker setup.

These speakers are expensive and seem over budget for just audio, but nobody appreciates distorted noise if you think about it. It is an investment when buying a speaker, and making the right decision can get you a long way. Look at MKBHD; he has been using the same Yamaha HS8’s for six years. They are an expensive pair and a good one at that!