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This is Why Studio Monitors are Sold Individually

I was looking on the net the other day at a deal on an individual studio monitor that was for sale. In the comments section, I saw terrible reviews of people who bought but thought they were going to get 2 monitors. The comments were outrageous. So I thought I’d write this article on why you can purchase individual studio monitors instead of pairs.

Studio monitors are sold individually because, in a professional recording environment, it would be beneficial to check your mix in “true mono” with one speaker centered and setup. You might also need to have additional individual monitors if you are listening to your mix in surround sound.

There are actually a few more reasons why studio monitors are sold individually. And some of the reasons make practical sense and perhaps you wouldn’t have realized them before. Let’s take a detailed look into why you would need to purchase only one studio monitor.

But before we get into that, if you’re looking to buy some studio monitors, be sure to check out our recommended monitors for any budget here.

This is why studio monitors are sold individually

Studio monitors are sold individually for many more reasons than you would think. However, the main reason would probably be that you would need to listen to your mix or audio in mono, or you would need an additional monitor to add to your stereo setup. Let’s look at these situations in more detail.

Stereo and surround sound listening

In some cases, you may be mixing your audio for movies or television, and this requires you to mix the audio in a surround sound setup. Hence, for this reason, you might need to buy your brand of monitors individually, depending on the type of surround sound that you are going to mix.

What is stereo sound?

Recordings that are recorded in two or more channels and are played back on the left and right side of you are referred to as stereo. One thing to note is that the term “stereo” can refer to many multi-channel recordings and is not just limited to 2 channels.

Breaking it down even more so you can understand. Think about listening to your favorite song. No doubt it is going to be recorded in stereo. You will most likely have the drums, bass, and vocals coming down the center of the track, and then you will have the other instruments panned left and right depending on what effect you would like to achieve with them.

Some cool ways to use stereo recordings are to pan an instrument to either the left or right side of the mix and then put effects on those instruments and pan those effects to the opposite side of the mix, creating depth and presence.

This would be a reason you would need to buy a studio monitor individually rather than in pairs. If you need an extra monitor for an extra channel that you are recording, then you would more likely need to buy 1 monitor rather than a pair.

Multi-channel stereo recordings are referred to as surround sound. You may know this already. There are two main types of surround sound setups where you would perhaps need to purchase studio monitors individually instead of in pairs.

Types of surround sound

You get two standard types of surround sound setups, and they are either 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound setup. You do get newer setups, which are termed Atmos surround sound setups, and these include speakers that are installed on the ceiling of the room.

However, the Atmos setup is primarily used for home theater and movie theatre sound reproduction. We will just cover the 5.1 and 7.1 setups.

5.1 surround sound

In a 5.1 surround sound setup, you would have 5 normal mono monitors and 1 subwoofer for low bass frequencies. The setup would be:

  • 2 speakers aligned left and right and placed in front of you.
  • 2 speakers aligned left and right and placed behind you.
  • 1 speaker aligned center and placed in front of you.
  • 1 subwoofer placed on the floor.

So you can see for this setup, you would need to purchase a studio monitor for the center-aligned speaker because you only need 1. It would be a waste to purchase 2 monitors.

7.1 surround sound

In a 7.1 surround sound setup, you would need 7 normal mono monitors and then 1 subwoofer. for the low bass frequencies. The setup would be:

  • 2 speakers aligned left and right and placed in front of you.
  • 2 speakers aligned left and right and placed behind you.
  • 2 speakers aligned left and right and placed directly behind you next to the other two rear speakers.
  • 1 speaker aligned center and placed in front of you.
  • 1 subwoofer placed on the floor.

As you can see by this setup, you would need to purchase an individual studio monitor for the center-aligned speaker, just like the 5.1 surround sound setup.

Watch Axiom audio explain what surround sound is.

Watch FrenchToastPhillip explain the differences between 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound.

Mono listening

One of the reasons you would purchase an individual studio monitor is that you would setup up your studio monitor pairs as usual for stereo listening and then set up a single studio monitor for “true mono” listening.

Checking your mix in mono

Checking your mix in mono will definitely improve the overall quality of your mix. If you regularly check your mixes in mono, then you can easily pinpoint any problems that you may have in your mix such as:

  • Checking for instruments and other elements that can be to wide

If elements of your mix are too wide, then on specific systems, they can be weak or even nonexistent. You would be surprised because these systems are used more often than you think in the likes of mobile devices, Twitter, and Instagram.

Your phone only has one speaker and is set up for a true mono sound. The social media applications convert your audio to mono because, as you expect, those applications are viewed on mobile devices with one speaker.

  • Checking for problems with your EQ settings

Checking your mix in mono could help you identify whether some aspects of your mix are muddy or too concentrated. These aspects of your mix would show up more easily when played back in true mono.

Producers and major recording studios have been using this technique of listening to the mix in true mono to check the mix since the 1970s.

This would probably be the main factor why you would be able to and would purchase studio monitors individually. It would be much easier to have a separate monitor centered for mono listening than having to reroute your stereo monitors every time you want to check your mix in mono.

Watch FrenchToastPhillip explain and demonstrate the differences between mono and surround sound.

Marketing

Manufacturers will sometimes advertise single monitors in hopes of fooling you as a consumer to purchase it, thinking that you are getting 2 monitors at a lower price.

This technique is used for marketing purposes, and sadly enough, it works more often than not. A consumer will think they are buying 2 monitors at a very low cost when they are actually only purchasing 1 monitor.

Financial reasons

You might be strapped for cash and want to build up your studio. Sometimes it’s better to purchase a single quality studio monitor and then down the road purchase your second one rather than buying 2 studio monitors that are of not a great quality.

This could be great because rather than having studio monitors which are not suited for your needs, it would only take one or two months to purchase both monitors.

Always weigh your options and decide what is best for you and your studio setup.

Replacing a monitor

Studio monitors are more often than not active monitors. This means that the monitors have a built-in amplifier that drives the speakers.

There are many elements to consider that drive, power, and makeup a studio monitor, and sometimes they can and do break. The internal amplifier is just one component that can break or go bad in a monitor.

Check out my other article on – Can You Use Bookshelf Speakers As Studio Monitors. I go into a bit of depth here about studio monitors and their different components and aspects.

Luckily if the manufacturer of your brand of monitors has them for sale individually, you can replace the one monitor instead of shelling out a ton of cash to replace both.

Conclusion

So there are a number of reasons why studio monitors are sold individually. The main reason would probably be because it would be easier to set up a single mono speaker in your mix to listen to true mono audio.

Having to reroute your two stereo monitors would become a hassle, especially if you need to switch back and forth from stereo to mono, trying to fix any problems that have arisen in your mix.

Other factors include marketing ploys from manufacturers; however, I don’t think that this is the main reason that manufacturers sell monitors individually.

Then the final factors include financial reasons. This is where you would want to buy a nice pair of studio monitors; however, you cant afford the pair, so you buy them individually. The last reason would be that sometimes studio monitors break and it is cheaper to buy a new one individually, rather than having to replace both monitors.

Devlon Jarrod Horne

I am passionate about everything I undertake with music being my first love! I started playing guitar and singing at the age of 13 and have toured extensively throughout the UK, SA, and the UAE, playing and recording in original bands, cover bands, theatres, shows, and productions. I graduated top of my class at Damelin College of Music in South Africa and have his graded classical theory and composition from the Royal Schools Of Music in London. I have taught privately, for schools, companies, and online since 2006, and have founded Master Music Talent Academy where I employ and share my love of music with some of the top pro players, performers, and teachers in the South African music industry.

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