Have you ever noticed, with studio monitors a term is widely used? Near-field and Far-field. Do you know what are near-field and far-field studio monitors? In this article, we will go through the comparison between the near field vs far field studio monitors.
You will also gain the full knowledge of the near field and far field studio monitors as well as which will work better in your studio. All these things are included in this article. So keep reading.
In the speaker-mechanics, Field is derived as the area as far as the sound does not damp down. In any speaker, after a certain distance, the impact of sound is started damping. This distance is referred to as “Field” of that particular speaker.
I think you understood the term field. Now its time to gain some knowledge of different type of Fields.
There are 3 types of fields in speaker mechanics.
The range of field is directly proportional to the size of the driver. The driver size decides whether the speaker is near field, midfield or far field.
As this article is the comparison between near field and far field, we will only discuss these two terms here.
What is a nearfield Studio Monitor?
Near-field monitors are generally made of 2 speakers.
- Woofer (Driver)
As I have told above, the size of driver decides the type of field in a monitor. Near-field drivers are generally small in size – 3″ to 6.5″. In near-field monitors, the field falls under 3″-5″, which is a quite good distance for desktop placement.
Now let us see a couple of advantages of near field monitors.
Every authority in the recording field said that near-field monitors are ideal for song mixing. Do you know why?
Because in near-field monitors, you will replicate the effect of the normal speakers which are widely used in transport, lifts, computer desktops, small rooms etc.
If you mix your songs with near-field monitors then you can perfectly balance the lower high and higher low frequencies, which are the most important frequencies in the human audible range. You should know that human vocal also falls in this range.
Due to this advantage, near field monitors are widely used in the home as well as professional studios.
The second advantage of near-field monitors is as they have a small driver size, they don’t produce extremely low frequencies, especially below 45Hz which is good for your health.
As well as they don’t produce the high-intensity sound which could reflect from your studio walls and ruin your mixing. For a recordist, his ears are the most important organ of his body.
Nobody wants to lose their hearing by continuously working in an environment full of noise.
Here near field monitors help you a lot. You can use them to monitor and mix your sound under the acceptable sound intensity level.
What is a far-field Studio Monitor?
Far-field monitors have 2 to 3 speakers.
- Low range driver
- Mid-range driver
I have mentioned here it does not mean that a far field monitor must have midrange driver. Many far field monitors don’t have a mid-range drive. Actually, we can separate far field monitors from near field on below points.
- Far-field monitors are made of 7″ and above driver size.
- They produce a big amount of sound which is not the acceptable range for small studios.
- Their sound starts to damp after 6 feet. Do you want to be at the front of the speakers which could ruin your listening power? You can’t use them on or just behind your recording table.
- The low frequency could go as low as 15Hz which is under the audible range of human ears. If you own a far-field monitor in your home studio, you will get a huge amount of bass reflections and ruin your mixing.
Well, I know you are curious about if far field monitors are not used in studios then where is the application of these type of speakers?
The purpose of using far-field monitors
I think you are aware of extremely low-frequency bass sound in movie theaters, especially when an action scene is going on.
You cached right. Far-field and midfield monitors are widely used in film scoring and background studios. In film scoring, you have to create a virtual environment in the scene which requires real-life sound too.
Without Far-field monitors, its never been possible to create the real-life situations in a theatre.
So, here you went through some of the features, advantages, and disadvantages of near field and far field monitors.
Now its time to go some deep within. Keep reading as this is the ultimate guide to this concept and help you to choose the best pair of studio monitors for your recording studio.
Near field Vs Far field Studio monitors – The difference
In this section, I will show you the difference between Near-field and Far-field studio monitors according to the various aspects of a speaker system.
For a studio monitor, dynamic range play a very important role. It is considered one of the pillars of the good mixing process.
If your monitor has a good dynamic range you can deliver a good mix. Dynamic range is the difference between the largest and smallest point of the audio signal in the frequency graph produced by the audio monitor.
Suppose you have a soundtrack which as you know is a mixture of sound frequencies. Now consider, at a certain time period the frequency graph shows the bunch of sound frequencies which includes the highest intensity sound as well as the lowest intensity sound.
Let us consider in the music track,
- The lowest intensity sound = -20dB
- The highest intensity sound = -2dB
- Then the dynamic range of this music = 20dB – 2dB = 18dB
This image will explain that to you.
A speaker has a dynamic range to produce certain frequencies. The more dynamic range your monitor has the more accurate mix you can deliver.
Do you know why?
When you mix a music, your aim is to balance the low intensity sounds with the high-intensity sound as anyone can listen to that low-intensity sounds along with high-intensity sounds. Balancing low and high intensity sounds in an audible range is called perfect mixing.
A dynamically rich monitor speaker produce high and low-intensity sound clearly as you could mix them perfectly.
In Far-field monitors, the dynamic range is usually low which is helpful to monitor from distance but it is not ideal for small studios where space is limited.
On the other hand, nearfield monitors perform well in home studios as they have dynamically rich drivers and tweeters.
I have thoroughly described Headroom in my other post How To Choose Studio Monitors For Home Studio [Ultimate Guide] So, I am not going deep here. but here is the quick brief on Headroom.
Every studio monitor system is capable to handle signal up to a particular range which is called nominal signal handling level of that monitor.
Manufacturers reserve few extra dB above this nominal signal handling level which is called safety zone and allows transient audio peaks to exceed the nominal level without damaging the system or the audio signal.
This safety-zone is called Headroom.
See this image
I think you are now aware of Headroom.
This is the second pillar of the perfect mixing. But headroom does not do much effect on near field and far field monitors.
Because headroom is important for both types of monitors, it has a more or less headroom either it is far-field or near-field.
Just opposite to headroom, the frequency response is an important factor used to divide both the monitor types.
Near field studio monitors are not capable to produce sounds below 45dB but far field monitor can do this. They produce sound as low as 15Hz which is lower than the audible range of human ears.
This is the main reason why a far field monitor is widely used by the film studios. On the other hand, the near-field monitor does not produce sounds lower than 45Hz but are ideal for music mixing.
The crossover frequency is another factor which differs both the monitor types.
If you don’t know what is crossover frequency here I am going to describe.
First, see the image below.
A monitor produces the most intensity of sound at a certain frequency range. This frequency range is called Crossover frequency. A monitor is most active at that particular frequency range.
Every monitor set has a different crossover frequency and this crossover frequency decides the main work of that monitor system.
Near-field monitors are most active at lover mid to higher midrange(600Hz-3500Hz) depending on the driver and make of the monitor.
Far-field monitors are too active in this range but they also have a secondary crossover frequency at low range(100Hz – 600Hz).
This feature differs far-field monitors from the near-fields. We can add a certain amount of bass with far-field monitors. This is not ideal mixing condition for music but very helpful in scoring. We need this feature in our monitors to create a virtual environment in the movie.
The driver of far-field monitors is generally bigger than 6.5″ so need more power. They are equipped with high wattage amps which delivers a huge amount of sound which your small home studio can’t handle.
Near-field monitors have small drivers. They don’t need more powerful amps to produce the sound. The wattage normally ranges between 15W-100W which is quite sufficient for home recording studios.
We can’t place far-field monitor just a few feet away from our ears. They have a bigger active field area, usually more than 6 feet. So, if you place them near your ears, probably you would lose your hearing capacity.
Far-field monitors need an extra large room where the sound could play, not ruin your listening performance.
Near field studio monitors are just opposite. You can use them with any room-size. The only requirement is to place them close to your ears.
Acoustic Treatment of Room
Far-field monitors require a heavy acoustic treatment which normally needs a plenty of money. A home studio owner can’t afford that investment. So, far-field monitors used by Hollywood and other big studios.
Near-field monitors don’t require a heavy acoustic treatment. As their active field are not more than 5 feet so they don’t impact on the wall more. The reflections are minimum so you can mix in a partially acoustic room too.
The Use of Near Field Monitors
Small recordists mostly use nearfield monitors as they are the best fit for home and small studios. Near-field monitors are ideal for home studios as there is the minimum impact of the environment on the mixing.
The Use of Far Field Monitors
Far-field monitors are used by big studios who have a bigger space, heavy acoustic treated room and their main work is sound effects and background scoring. They are not ideal for home studios.
Now I think you have a better angle of view for both kinds of monitors. I have tested both the monitors in my studio. As usual near-field monitor worked well in my studio.
I am using a near-field monitor for a while and satisfied with this. I have used Alesis M1active 5″ monitor, Yamaha AV42 monitor and now have a pair of Yamaha HS8 pair and satisfied with it.
Now chose is yours. To compare nearfield monitors in your price range just go to my this article.
If you have a query on this article feel free to drop a comment right below and share this article in your social circle as your fellow recordists could read this.
Gautam Roy is a professional Blogger and Freelance Mix Engineer from India. He loves leading looks, listening to music and travelling.