Let us face it, recording, filmmaking, radio, and home studios surely will never be complete without studio monitors. But what are these studio monitors? Well, studio monitors are speakers or loudspeakers that are designed for any type of audio applications. Studio monitor speakers are also designed to produce flat linear phase audio and flat frequency response. They can emphasize and de-emphasize a particular frequency range. Moreover, they can provide precise tonal quality reproduction of the original audio source. Some studio monitors, of course, have built-in amplifiers, but more often, you would also need to purchase an individual studio monitor amplifier to enhance the audio quality of your studio monitors further.
Buyer’s Guide: What is a Studio Monitor Amplifier?
Studio amplifier is a device that further amplifies and enhances the tonal quality of the studio monitor, and your choice of studio monitor amplifier will also be critical to the quality of your mixing. If your monitors, for example, are not giving you the right sound, then you will have a problem with your mixing. If that is the case, then you need to enhance your studio monitors to improve the quality of their output further. You can do this by purchasing a monitor speaker amplifier. Your choice of an amplifier, however, should be compatible with your studio monitors, and as such, you need to be cognizant of the succinct tips on how to find the compatible amps for your studio monitors.
Professional studios benefit from the use of a studio power amp. The reason for this is that the use of passive studio monitors sometimes is not enough for you to track the audio signal inputs. You need to enhance the audio inputs; therefore, that goes into the passive speakers. Hence, it is often necessary to include a power amp in your setup. Finding a power amp nowadays is no longer difficult given the myriads of power amp models and manufactures at hand; yet you must still be cognizant of the critical factors to consider for you to buy the right one.
Factors to Consider When Shopping around for Studio Power Amps
There are important factors you need to consider so that you can zero in on the right power amp, and here are these succinct factors:
The Number of Your Studio Speakers
Your choice should be commensurate to the number of speakers you would like to amplify. Hence, at the onset, you should primarily look at the sets of speakers you need to power. Afterward, you can go on buying amps relative to the number of speakers you have. You surely have a variety of amp choices ranging from single-channel amps to four-channel amps for powering two complete speakers sets. However, most studio monitors are dual; hence, you are more likely to buy a two-channel amp for powering two studio monitors.
Consider the Range of Listening Volume
I would surely love to bump up the volume of the speakers on many occasions, so for me, the range of listening volume is critical to my choice of a studio monitor amp. On my part, I only have large studio room. My average level of listening volume is from 70 to 74dBC. This listening position requires me to be one to two meters away from the monitors. Hence, I use a power amp to drive the passive monitors further. With a 50W or less amplifier, I can have a perfect and convenient experience of monitoring the audio outputs despite the two monitors having the same sensitivity specs.
Check Out the Wattage!
It is crucial that before you zero in on a particular power amp brand or model, you should first check the speakers’ wattage. You surely don’t want to underpower your speaker by choosing an amp with less wattage, for this will make your speaker produce a thin sound that could make your monitoring experience even worse. The rule is—your monitoring amp should be at least around 30% more powerful than that of your speaker, allowing you a lot of headroom and enhanced dynamic range. A good setup would be to have a desktop monitor amplifier to drive your speakers and a provision for a distinct headphone out.
Check the Impedance-Frequency Relationship
You should understand that an amplifier with the capacity of supplying twice the amount of current needed for rated power of the speakers can better deal with a difficult load. Moreover, always remember that amplifiers are happier when they are driving higher impedance because it means that they are required to bring in less current.
Impedance is the measure or level of opposition that is presented by a circuit to a current when a certain voltage is applied. At the onset, therefore, it is better to consider the monitors’ impedance curve and figure out where the impedance is low in the frequency range. If it is low in the frequency band where the volume is higher, then it will need a higher current supply and would be required to work even harder. If, however, the impedance is reasonably lower in that region, then the amplifier will have a breeze working at that level.
Consider Its Dimensions and Stack-ability
It is important that you buy an amp that can be easily stacked away if not in use. This is necessary because most home studios are not large enough. This will also allow you to organize all your channels within your studio making it easy for you to move around and operate within your studio. A good or tight setup would surely make your recording or mixing sessions easy and well-organized. It pays well to be organized, and your mind will be keener and clearer if everything is well-organized.
Check Out the Distortion Level
You should also consider the distortion level produced by your amplifier. Contemporary amplifiers have significantly improved when it comes to lowering down the levels of distortion they produce, and now, the level of distortion has been reduced to the minimal manageable and acceptable level. Of course, the lesser the distortion it creates with flat frequency respone, the better your amp would be.
Features and Crossover Functions
Once you have set up the amps, it is surely time to consider the excellent crossover functionalities of your prospective amp. Remember that a good crossover is required for the speakers to precise playback those specific frequency ranges. You should get a quality crossover because this will help you find how your amplifier is sending frequency signals to specific drivers like those of the high frequencies to tweeter or sub frequencies to that of the subwoofer.
Ideally, power amplifiers should have balanced inputs because their (entry-level) DAW interface should be equipped with monitor outputs. Most Hi-Fi power amps don’t have, so the use of hi-fi power amps is immediately ruled out if you want to have balanced inputs. However, there are advantages and tradeoffs when it comes to this issue about the use of hi-fi power amps, and you can go around this problem by hooking up to your amp’s unbalanced inputs your balanced outputs.
Most Recommended Studio Monitor / Speaker Amplifiers
You can surely make your mixing and recording of soundtracks a breeze if you have the best studio monitor amplifier. Hence, if you are shopping around, you could check out this list of the most recommended studio amplifiers on the market today:
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1) Avantone Pro CLA-200 Studio Reference Amplifier
Designed for pairing with CLA-10, the Avantone Pro CLA-200 Studio Reference Amplifier can work well with any speaker monitors. It features very low distortion, consistent performance even under heavy professional use, and great transparent sound. With these characteristics, this amplifier is a heavy favorite for those needing nearfield monitoring in studios that necessitate high power output sans fan noise.
It can produce over 200 watts each channel, making this amplifier a perfect choice for medium to large speakers in a studio control room setup. It is convection cooled, meaning it doesn’t produce any fan noise, making it highly suitable for use in a control room installation. Moreover, the combination of the CLA-200 amplifier and CLA-10 nearfield monitor will be a perfect combination for your studio.
2) Stewart Audio PA 50B 50W
The Stewart Audio PA 50B 50W is perfect for powering low-powered speakers and passive studio monitors. This amplifier features a world-class system known for its reliability as well as clean full power range that offers excellent sounding audio, even with its diminutive size of half-rack size, at 25 watts per channel (8 ohms) and 50 Watts per channel (4 ohms).
It also features a passive cooling design that assures you that it will not generate any fan noise, allowing you to keep your mix clear sounding, and free from unwanted noise.
It features a compact size, a two-channel amplifier that is optimized to drive 4/80, a convection cooling system, clean full-range dynamic power, and world-class reliability. It is meticulously designed for meeting the strict requirements of high efficiency, sonic accuracy, extended duty cycles, and low power consumption.
3) Crown XLi1500 Two-channel, 450W
Crown XLi1500 Two-channel, 450W at 4Ω Power Amplifier showcases a power amplifier that belongs to the new era of affordable yet of excellent quality power amplifiers. It has a very rugged construction but is powerful and reliable. It features a parallel/stereo/bridge mono mode, with user selectable input sensitivity of .775V and 1.4V. It features a very efficient system of forcing cool air to prevent excessive thermal buildup within the system. It also comes with the XLR inputs, binding post, electronically balanced RCA and speaker outputs.
The Crown Xli1500 features a two-level control system, power switch; power LED and six LEDs that indicate signal presence. It also has clip and fault for each channel. Moreover, there is a remarkable improvement in its sound, and it is noticeable that this amp can surely provide body and depth to sound. This amp is a good option for the home studio.
4) ART SLA-1 100-watt Power Amplifier
Among the top three bestselling power amplifiers is the ART SLA-1 Power Amplifier. It features a robust but compact power amplifier that you can use in your studio and even in live applications. It showcases clean and quiet power. It also provides excellent sound characterized by less distortion and ultra-low noise.
The ART SLA-1 Power Amplifier comes with a broad frequency response ranging from 10Hz to 40kHz. It is also equipped with a thermal-dependent cooling system and very low-noise electronics. Moreover, it features a single rack space design.
As a power amplifier, the ART SLA-1 is perfect for pro studio and many other projects. It operates at 100 watts RMS per channel at 8 ohms and 130 watts RMS each channel at 4 ohms along with 260 watts per bridged mono at 8 ohms. This power amplifier is ideal for powering various passive studio monitors. Besides, it features a rugged steel chassis.
5) Behringer A500 Professional 600-Watt
Behringer A500 Professional Studio Amplifier is an ultra-thin power amp that is ideal for use in recording studios, live sound production, HiFi production, and post-production. It is capable of delivering 2 x 300 Watts into four Ohms or eight Ohms bridge. It also provides you with a lot of headroom for keeping yourself on the safe side. Moreover, it features an advanced convection-type cooling technology that ensures noise-free and stable operation. It can also surely virtually drive any type of passive speaker.
Regarding its input connections, you can connect it on balanced XLR, 1/4″ RCA, and TRS connectors. It also has speaker outputs via its “touch-proof” binding posts as well as the 1/4 TS connectors.
Your speakers and amplifier are well-protected by its thermal-overload protection system for preventing thermal overload issues. Moreover, it features rugged construction for longevity and high-quality components. It also leaves a minimal footprint with its small dimensions of 19 x10 x 4 inches, and it is very lightweight at 19.4 pounds. You can surely get value for your money if you opt for this studio amplifier.
6) Monoprice 300-Watt
The Monoprice 300-Watt (150w RMS x2) Studio Audio Amplifier is a power amp that produces 150 watts per channel RMS into the 4-ohm load in its stereo mode. Whenever it is driving a 2-ohm load, it undoubtedly produces 250 watts per channel RMS or 500 watts per channel peak. However, when it is bridged for mono mode, it delivers 500 watts RMS into a 4-ohm load or 360 watts RMS into an 8-ohm load. It also comes with a selectable limiter that serves as its brick wall for its volume to prevent volume levels from pushing the amp into clipping that may eventually cause damage to the speaker.
7) Pyle Pro PTA1000 – Bluetooth Power Amplifier
Pyle Pro PTA1000 Professional Audio Bluetooth Power Amplifier is an audio amplifier that features awesome power with its 1000-watt power output.
It does feature a built-in Bluetooth connection to enable you to amplify your music from smartphones, laptops, tablets, and computers. It also features a hassle-free receiver pairing that allows for instant wireless streaming of audio. It also features a rack-mountable 2-channel design along with its bridge-ability mode that makes it ideal for use for various sound and studio applications.
The Pyle Pro features additional system connectivity with its 1/4″ TRS and XLR Input connectors, speaker terminal, Speak-On Output Connectors, Binding Post, Banana Plug Connectors.
There are three safety features that I like the most in this model are the Aluminum heat sink, dual ventilation cooling fans, and the overload protection indicator features that will protect and prevent your equipment and audio input from overloading.
Moreover, it comes with a safety conscious power switch that has a unique feature of having a three-second delay when the power amp is turned on. This reduces the turn-on transients that are usually associated with any equipment connected to the amplifier; this feature protects the loudspeakers likewise.