You don't have to be a professional to appreciate that not all speakers are created equal. However, if you are a pro, or even just a hobbyist with high standards, nothing less than a proper high-end studio monitor is good enough for your recording setup. Monitors have a very important job: accurate reproduction of sound in situations where every note, each sample and every vocal are absolutely crucial. When you're recording, you need a speaker more precise than any you'll expect the sound to be played back on if you want to make sure it will sound right on every system.
What sets powered studio monitors apart from unpowered ones is that they have their own built-in amplifier. That means they don't need an amp head to power them—you can just plug a powered monitor directly into an electrical outlet, hook it up to an audio source, and you'll get sound. This ease of use makes powered monitors a great choice for studios just getting off the ground that don't have an amplifier head on hand. They're also perfect if you're an audiophile, providing the best sound quality with a home stereo system. Since the amplifier in a powered monitor is specifically designed for the speakers it shares its cabinet with, it also takes some of the guesswork out of putting together a studio setup.
There are still a few things to think about, though. Mainly, you'll want to be sure the monitors are a good size for the application. If you're working out of a very small studio, then you can get by with a compact set. If you're using them as stereo speakers or in a big studio space, then look at some larger monitors instead. It's also a smart idea to match the speaker configuration of the monitors with the type of music you'll be working with—for example, if you're recording hip-hop with deep, thumping bass, the ideal monitor will probably be one with a big woofer that can best handle those heavy low frequencies.
No matter how you plan to use your powered monitors, from the studio to recreational listening to the sound booth, they're a choice as individual as the hardware and software you connect them to. Take your time when looking at the available choices, and look for the monitors that fit your space, your style and your budget.
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