Getting a good mix is something every audio engineer strives for. With more popular and affordable studio monitors, it is much more important for you to know your speakers, as well as your room. The more time you spend working on these monitors, the more you understand how to get the mix right.
When you go for high end studio monitors, they sound consistent regardless of what genre of music you are working on. The translation is right on point, and you don’t have to sit there and ‘learn your speakers’. When you hear your tracks as they are, you’re able to address the inconsistencies in your mix resulting in tracks that sound good regardless of what speakers you play them on.
Good monitors are a lot more obvious. You do not get any ear fatigue regardless of how much time you spend in the studio. When you’re spending money, you get something that is a lot more granular. You get to hear minor details that you had been missing out on the whole time.
However, high end monitors do not negate bad room acoustics. As a matter of fact, your room is even more important than your actual monitors. You will have better results with inferior monitors in a treated room than having word class monitors in an untreated room. It is absolutely vital to address your room acoustics before you go ahead and spend a ton of money on a more advanced monitoring solution.
Once you have that covered, you’ll find yourself being able to work a lot quicker. You’ll also be more confident in your sound. There is a point where a hobbyist musician transitions into a professional, for a lot of audio engineers, a good monitoring solution is where that happens.
Finally, nothing good comes cheap. A good pair of studio monitors will cost you a pretty penny. Don’t hold yourself back, because it will all be worth it in the end. If you do not have a good budget at the moment then take your time and save up if you have to. You should look at this as an investment that is going to pay off dividends throughout your production career.
Best High End Studio Monitors Reviews
Dynaudio LYD 48 (3-way Powered)
The Dynaudio LYD 48 is a three-way active studio monitor featuring a proprietary Magnesium Silicate Polymer driver (midrange and woofer) as well as a soft dome tweeter. The monitor boasts Class-D tri-amplification which supplies 50W to the 1.1-inch tweeter, 50W to the 4-inch mid-range driver, and 80W to the 8-inch woofer for a total of 180W. Furthermore, it has a frequency response that ranges from 32Hz-21kHz, a crossover frequency of 490Hz, 5.6kHz, and a max peak SPL of 112dB.
The backside of the monitor includes an XLR input, an RCA input, a sensitivity switch, a standby mode switch, and three DSP settings: Bass Extension, Sound Balance, and Position. Physically, the Dynaudio LYD 48 weighs 23.2lbs measuring at a width of 369mm, a height of 234mm, and a depth of 328mm.
As for the DSP controls, low frequencies require exponentially more energy to output than high frequencies, which is why the monitor’s sound level depends on the bass extension setting. It also allows you to control the range of the bass, which provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to the low-end. Moreover, the Sound Balance DSP setting tilts the spectrum by 1.5dB to either brighten or darken the frequency response (depending on your studio treatment) by using minimum phase filters. This filter modifies the tone without producing perceptible phase anomalies, increasing the loudspeaker’s linearity. Finally, the Position DSP setting allows you to correct any abnormalities caused by reflections off the rear wall, particularly the low frequencies.
Regarding the sound quality, the LYD 48’s incredible performance well exceeded our expectations. It produced a fantastic, rich sound character with an incredible stereo image. We could clearly hear the separation of the mix’s instruments in the stereo field; it felt like 3D glasses for our ears! The highs also sounded incredibly well-balanced without feeling harsh or fatiguing to listen to, despite cranking the volume up to maximum. Additionally, the mids were amazingly precise while also being very comprehensive, thanks to its dedicated midrange driver.
However, the low-end really stood out while testing these monitors. The bass extension was amazing as it provided an incredible kick with a very powerful bass without being exaggerated. Furthermore, the LYD 48 felt very neutral and honest. It provided no coloring to any of the mixes that we had produced, which makes it a great choice for music production.
Compared to the BM series, the LYD 48 seems to really stand out as it is a completely different model. While the LYD 48 has a different architecture and a different woofer size, it’s no secret that the LYD 48 outperforms other monitors from the BM series in every aspect. In terms of sound quality, we found the LYD 48 to demonstrate the same definition of the mids, however, it now provides better highs and punchier lows.
Furthermore, the LYD 48 now offers a handful of new settings such as the Standby mode switch, which is a great quality of life feature. Other controls also include a Bass Extension switch, a Sound balance switch, and a position switch. All of which are new DSP settings that were not featured in the BM series. However, the BM series included other settings which were not featured on the LYD 48 as well, including the HIGH PASS, LF, MF, and HF. We found the choice behind removing them to be reasonable since studio monitors must provide nothing but a flat and neutral response.
Throughout our tests, we came across some of the LYD 48’s drawbacks. For one, we found the LYD 48 to produce a slight hissing sound, even after setting the sensitivity switch to -6dB and with nothing connected to the monitor. The hissing sound was also clearly noticeable as we were able to hear it at a nearfield distance (1.5-2.5 meters), which is also much more prominent than other monitors in this price range. Therefore, if you have sensitive ears, and hissing sounds bother you, you might have to keep that in mind.
Additionally, the LYD 48 does not offer a volume knob, which might be quite a surprise to some consumers. While we are not a fan of this approach, we would’ve preferred if the monitor had a more dramatic sensitivity (+/- 12dB for example) rather than merely a +/- 6dB switch. Alternatively, the monitor could’ve offered a volume control knob which is far more user-friendly and flexible.
Overall, the LYD 48 is an incredible high-end studio monitor for its price. The bass extension was a true highlight thanks to its wide frequency response which extends down to 32Hz. The highs and the mids were also amazing, while also providing an incredible stereo image, which makes the LYD 48 one of the best high-end studio monitors you can go for.
Dynaudio LYD 48 Benefits
The monitor offers an incredible stereo image
The LYD 48 features amazing highs without feeling harsh or fatiguing to listen to
The unit offers fantastic DSP settings which help in setting up the monitor in your studio
Amazing bass extension
Dynaudio LYD 48 Drawbacks
The monitor produces a slight hissing sound
The monitor does not have a volume knob, but a sensitivity and bass extension switch to adjust the volume level.
Adam Audio A7V
The Adam A7V is an active-bi amplified studio monitor featuring Adam’s rotatable HPS waveguide, X-ART tweeter, and multi-layer mineral fiber woofer. The monitor features two different Class amplifications where the tweeter is powered by Class AB amplifiers (20W) and the woofer is powered by Class D amps (110W) for a total of 130W. It also measures 200mm wide, 28mm deep, and 227mm tall, with a total weight of 19.2lbb. On its backside, the monitor offers an RCA unbalanced input, an XLR balanced input, a volume level knob, an input select toggle, and a remote-control input (ethernet).
It also features four room adaptation settings including Bass, Desk, Presence, and Treble toggles all of which allow you to compensate for the monitor’s response to your environment. The voicing toggle can also be set to one of two different voicings. The first is “Pure,” which sounds extremely true and neutral. It is the most consistent voice for mixing and mastering. The “UNR” (universal natural response voicing) on the other hand, delivers a dynamic, natural-sounding response that is great for casual listening.
Furthermore, the A7V boasts a frequency response of 40hz-45kHz(-6dB) with a max peak SPL of 105dB and a crossover frequency of 2.8kHz. You can also connect your studio monitor to a network to set up any frequency control and EQ settings using your PC (with the Adam’s A series software), allowing you to easily customize your correction curve to your specific environment.
As for the sound quality, we found the A7V to offer an incredibly powerful and punchy output. It also demonstrated a precise sound, while also preserving its neutrality. We also found the HPS waveguide to play a great role in the monitor’s sound accuracy as it emitted precise high frequencies, with an amazing sweet spot. It demonstrated a wide horizontal dispersion with a narrow vertical dispersion, resulting in off-axis consistency, a fantastic stereo image, and minimal reflections off of your surroundings.
The monitor also demonstrated excellent sound in both the nearfield and distant ranges, which is something that most studio monitors in this price range typically lack. We tested the A7V side by side with other nearfield studio monitors, and honestly, the A7V outshined most by providing incredible separation between the various instruments of a mix. The drivers are also crafted to work together to provide a high and distortion-free output. We also recommend playing various mixes on the A7V for at least eight hours before using them for an important project as it benefits from burn-in time.
The A7V builds on the legacy of the A7X (its predecessor) to provide an amazing successor. For one, the A7V extends its frequency response down to 40Hz compared to the 42Hz on the A7X. However, the A7X offers 5kHz more in the high range (45kHz on the A7V vs 50kHz on the A7X). Furthermore, the woofer is now crafted using multi-layer mineral stone fiber, providing a noticeably better low end than the A7X.
Despite having a larger wattage (150W), the A7V employs both Class-D and Class AB amps, which produce highly accurate and powerful output, as opposed to the A7X’s Class-D amps. In terms of EQ settings, the A7V includes new room control, and voicing settings, that were not featured on the A7X (such as voicing, desk, and presence toggles). As for the size, both monitors have the same measurements, with the A7X being 1lbs heavier than the A7V. The A7V also now includes integrated (DSP) digital signal processing that features better tuning accuracy. Finally, the A7V now offers automated room correction as they’ve teamed up with Sonar Works to make that possible.
However, this praise does not mean that the A7V is flawless. For one, the A7V’s power switch is located on the back of the monitor, which we find somewhat inconvenient. It would’ve been much better if we could turn on/off the monitor without having to go to the monitor’s back, but it is still manageable. Furthermore, we found the monitor to be pretty tall relatively, which might be annoying if you’re upgrading from a smaller monitor as you might not have enough space. While it may not be as practical, you can rotate the monitor’s waveguide to place it horizontally.
With everything considered, the Adam A7V is one of the best high-end studio monitors. Its EQ settings as well as its incredible accuracy allow it to provide outstanding performance for its price, making it an amazing nearfield (and for range) studio monitor for music production.
Adam Audio A7V Benefits
The monitor offers an incredible HPS waveguide which provides a great sweet spot and a great stereo image.
It features a network connection to easily set it up from your PC using the A-series software
The monitor has minimal distortion
Amazing EQ settings for room compensation.
Adam Audio A7V Drawbacks
Power switch on the back
The monitor works really well as a single monitor, but not when paired up with another monitor.
Neumann KH80 DSP
The KH 80 DSP is Neumann’s first digital signal processing monitor, which is a two-way active studio monitor ideal for near-field monitoring and multichannel installations. It offers a 4-inch long-throw driver woofer and a 1-inch tweeter with Class-D amplifiers which deliver 120W peak to the LF and 70W peak to the HF. The monitor also features a frequency response of 57Hz-21kHz and a 108.8dB max peak SPL with a crossover frequency of 1.8kHz.
As for its enclosure, the KH80 DSP is front-ported which provides, punch, exceptional low-end extension, and room positioning flexibility. Furthermore, the monitor’s backside offers an Input Gain, Output Level, Acoustical Control, Local Control, Network Control settings, XLR input, ¼ – inch combo input, and an ethernet network control input. Additionally, the monitor has network-accessible DSP-regulated bi-amplification, enabling system configuration using a central controller.
After setting up the monitor, we found the KH80 DSP’s real sound quality to break in after a week, and its performance was incredible. The monitor demonstrated an amazing stereo image and a consistent off-axis response. We found the monitor’s MMD waveguide to be its most distinctive feature as it allowed us to test it from a distance of about 5 feet while still maintaining the same stereo image.
Throughout our tests, the monitor provided amazing top-end sharpness, and bottom-end tightness, especially considering its size. The bass felt very well-assembled, which was more than adequate for the rock and punk recordings that we’ve been playing through them. if you mix/produce low-end heavy music genres (hip/hop, electronic music, etc..), we always recommend that you get a subwoofer for monitors under 5 inches, but the KH80 is truly an exception! We have never heard a monitor this size to deliver a strong low end which is really a unique selling point for the KH80. Do not be fooled by the small size, the speakers are really outstanding in every way.
Compared to its predecessor, we found the KH80 DSP and KH120 to have different characteristics. While the kh120 has more headroom, the KH80 DSP outputs much clearer sound. Furthermore, we tested two different testing settings—a small room and a big one—for each monitor (both were treated), and the KH80 performed incredibly. The KH120 indeed has a somewhat wider frequency response and can go significantly lower and higher, however, the KH120 does not offer DSP, which considers your room’s acoustic when outputting sound.
Both monitors have different characteristics depending on your room. In terms of performance, the KH80 DSP provided great results no matter the environment, unlike the KH120 where you need a well-treated room to get the most of them when mixing. It is necessary to treat your room, but if you can’t afford that, the DSP option is an amazing choice. The KH80 calibrated itself to the room (using the software) which can be done with answering some questions (Guided Alignment), automatically (Precision Alignment), or freely using the included 8-band fully parametric equalization (Manual Alignment).
However, the KH80 DSP is not perfect as we discovered some of its downsides. While the monitor’s sound quality is fantastic, we felt that its build quality was not the best. It is mostly made from plastic and the rear plate breaks very easily. The rear part of the monitor is also attached by plastic clips which are responsible to push the backplate on the monitor. Therefore, if you ever need to open the speaker, exercise extreme caution. If you accidentally break one of these clips, which is likely because they are made of plastic, you will never be able to close the speaker properly again.
The software used by the monitor also does not provide complete control on every platform. Additional user control is offered through the iPad app in the form of manual EQ adjustments and logo adjustment (We also found the light emitted from the logo to be annoying when working in a dark room, so we dimmed it using the iPad app). The built-in features of this monitor cannot be accessed in any other way, and Neumann provides a separate software for other platforms. The desktop version shares virtually no functionality compared to the iPad app. There is also no Android app, and it is unlikely that one will be developed in the future, which can be rather limiting for many customers. Consequently, if you need full access to the monitor’s built-in features you’ll need an iPad.
Therefore, the KH80 DSP is a decent high-end studio monitor for its price as it provides incredible highs and lows, while also preserving its neutrality. Its stereo image was the highlight of our tests as it was very accurate with an amazing range. It works well in any environment, making it a great choice if you’re on a specific budget.
Neumann KH80 DSP Benefits
The KH80 DSP offers a great stereo image with decent separation and a wide range.
The bass is incredible for certain music genres.
It offers software that allows you to adjust features remotely
The monitor offers digital signal processing which takes your room’s acoustics into consideration
Neumann KH80 DSP Drawbacks
To access the monitor’s built-in features, you’ll need an iPad which can be restrictive for customers.
The monitor is made of plastic, which can break easily.
According to the scoring model, you’ll find the highest variance in the frequency response, wattage, and the sound quality categories. As you can see, the Neumann KH80 DSP is the main reason behind this wide variance as it scored last in every category mentioned with a score of 7. However, it outscored its competitors in the wattage category, while also scoring an incredible 9 in the price to performance category, which was reasonable given its price. Nevertheless, it’s no secret that the main competition of this lineup is between the Adam A7V and the Dynaudio LYD48 as they go head to head in almost every category.
The Adam A7V performed consistently throughout our tests, while also scoring the highest in the Frequency response, price to performance, and additional features categories. Its wattage was its lowest scoring category with a score of 7.5, but this is not to say that it is not loud. In fact, it demonstrated excellent sound quality with decent volume level. However, the reason for that was because it employs two different types of amplification classes; Class D amps which reduce distortion while producing a linear response, and Class AB amps which produce smooth high frequencies. It also scored the second in the sound quality category with a score of 8.5.
However, the Dynaudio LYD 48 remains an incredible alternative. While it does not provide the same value for the money, it does outperform the Adam A7V in the wattage and the sound quality categories. There wasn’t much of a variance between the LYD 48 and the A7V as the highest difference across the categories was only 1 in the price to performance, and frequency response. The LYD 48 is much pricier than the Adam A7V, but that’s because it offers a different architecture (three-way system). The Adam A7V does outperform the LYD 48 with an overall average variance of 0.2. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth a shot if you’re going for a three-way monitor since it shines in certain aspects. The main reason why it lost here is the higher price, so if you’re okay spending a lot more then the LYD 48 is an excellent choice!
With that being said, out of this line up, the best high end studio monitor is the Adam A7V as it provided incredible sound quality with a wide frequency response. Its HPS waveguide demonstrated a fantastic stereo image with great separation between the mix’s instruments, which was the monitor’s highlight. The A7V also offered a wide variety of useful features such as the A series software and the EQ settings, helping you provide decent correction to your environment. However, compared to its predecessor, the A7V seems to be a great improvement as it now offers automated room correction, better low-end, and integrated digital signal processing, all of which add to its sound quality. While fairly new, the Adam A7V already proved itself to be one of the best high end studio monitor on the market, making it an excellent choice for its price.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of getting High end Studio Monitors over more affordable ones?
Good studio monitors will have a more accurate playback. They will let you hear your tracks in a more neutral form without any color so you’re able to really focus on your mixes. There is also a lot more detail, you’ll hear things in your tracks that you have never heard before. They let you get really granular with your mixes, and when you’re done you end up with something that sounds good regardless of what type of speakers you play it on. Finally, with cheaper monitors you have to learn your speakers, they can sound vastly different in different spaces but more high end monitors will be more consistent and you will not experience much variance regardless of what environment you are in.
Do High end Studio Monitors always sound good?
They are a lot more consistent, however, you still have to treat your room. There is no way around acoustic treatment since the surfaces in your room directly impact the sound waves. You would have better results with a cheaper monitoring solution and a treated room than a more high end setup in an untreated room. So make sure to take care of that first before you actually go and make your purchase.
How important is speaker size with High end Studio Monitors?
Speaker size is important because anything under 5 inches will have issues in the low end. However, high end monitors (not all but some) even small ones deliver really well on the low end. The thing is, if you are spending money then you are buying a product that has been tested and assembled with care. It is not mass produced like the cheaper variants so you get something that is high quality. Smaller monitors such as the ones reviewed in this list will also deliver high quality audio so you do not have to worry about missing out. Not all monitors are made the same though, so do your due diligence before you actually make a purchase.
Other than Studio Monitors, what equipment do I need for a High end Studio setup?
Studio monitors are how you get your output, so whatever you are working on, the final result is going to be mixed based on the sound you get from your monitors. However, inputs are equally as important and for that you are going to need an Audio Interface. Other than interfaces, you need a laptop, and a DAW to record music on. All those things are the essentials, you will also need mics and musical equipment and anything else depending on the style of music you play and want to record.