What size monitors?

So you’ve listened to a few studio monitors, and you’ve picked the brand and model you want…but it comes in 3 or 4 different sizes. Now what?
The common mistake is buying the big ones with the 8″ drivers because you want good bass response. While larger drivers do produce lower, bigger bass (it’s physics!), you will find that if you’re in a small room, you’ll get a much better bass response from smaller speakers (it’s still physics!).
Here’s a quick run down of what’s behind it all:

A larger speaker, due to its size, is more physically able to produce lower frequencies (that have bigger, longer wavelengths) than smaller speakers. However, once you stick those speakers in a room, the physical properties and dimensions of that room have a huge effect on the sound you hear. In a small room, there’s less space for lower frequency wavelengths, causing these waves to build up and overlap; this results in a boomy, excessive low-end with little or no definition. You see, although only a quarter of the wavelength is required for adequate bass response, the length of a 20Hz wave is 56.6 feet! So you don’t physically have enough space for wavelengths of this size. In a large room, there is space for these longer wavelengths, so you get a good bass response at lower frequencies. On the other hand, if you place a small speaker in a large room, the speaker is too small to fill the space, so you get a smaller sound that is pretty much bereft of low-end.
The key is to form a workable relationship between the speakers and the room. You’re looking for a balance in sound, and a distinguishable and defined bass response.

Before you develop a frown and the early signs of a headache, I’ll leave you with this simple guide:

4-5″ Drivers
Room length of less than 3-4 metres

5-6″ Drivers
Room length of 3-4 metres

8″ Drivers
Room length of more than 3-4 metres

*As a form of future proofing your gear, if you are in a small room now but will have a larger room in the future, you can simply add a sub to a small set of monitors to get your low-end extension back.

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