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No matter what type of music you’re playing live, a good monitor is a must-have. Whether you’re a solo singer/songwriter playing the local open mic circuit, or a full band rocking a block party, there’s a set of stage monitors out there to help amplify your music and ensure that your set sounds solid.
What Are the Best Stage Monitors?
The best stage monitors will help make sure that your vocals are synced up with the music and mix, and that the audience can hear you loud and clear. Most importantly, a good stage monitor ensures that you can hear yourself. As its name suggests, these are speaker monitors designed to sit on the stage, within listening range of the vocalists and instrumentalists.
What Makes a Good Stage Monitor?
Sound: The goal of a stage monitor is a crisp, clean sound that won’t start to distort at high volumes. Some monitors have separate amps for the woofer and the tweeter, giving you the full range of sound without the crackling distortion that often comes with cranking it up. Others may include an analog limiter and overload protection circuitry, so you can get loud without worrying about blowing out the insides. Also, if your whole band will be plugged in, make sure it covers the entire sound spectrum — especially the low end.
Active vs. Passive Speakers: An active speaker provides the power needed for amplification, while a passive speaker plays off the active one and further expands the sound. If you’ve already got a good amp, passive should suit your needs just fine. If not, you’ll need an active speaker, which you can then pair up with other passive ones.
Watts: Wattage is important when it comes to power. The more watts, the louder you can rock out. More isn’t always needed though, and sometimes a smaller speaker will do when playing intimate venues like coffeeshops or churches. Plus, smaller generally means easier to carry. For gigs like pubs and parties, however, you’ll probably want something that can cut through all the crowd noise.
Casing: If you’ll be traveling to various gigs, your monitors are all but guaranteed to get knocked around and roughed up, so a sturdy shell is vital. Most speakers are covered in carpeting too, in order to help minimize impact of dings and drops.
Ports: XLR output is pretty universal among speakers for a connection, but some amps offer other options like USB, and even Bluetooth. A few feature a locking cord connection for a secure hold on speaker wire, if you choose to go old-school. Plenty of monitors come with more than one port, so you and a friend can both plug in and play too.
RMS Rating: The Root Mean Square (RMS) rating refers to the amount of continuous power the speaker can handle. As your output and volume increases, the distortion of the sound does too. The RMS lets you know the max amount of sound your speaker can handle at once. If your goal is to get loud, go for a higher RMS.
Mounting: A raised-up speaker can reach the people in the back row, but a floor monitor can allow you to hear yourself better while not blocking the view for any audience members. If you’ll be using this on a pole, make sure it’s got the proper mounting setup. Not all monitors do.
We’ve selected some of our favorite options to get your new speaker setup started. The selections here are meant more for smaller stages (and studios and practice spaces) rather than big clubs and concert halls, but can still be safely turned up to make sure the crowd hears every nuance of your performance.
1. Rockville 1000 Watt Two-Way Active Stage Monitor
This little speaker is surprisingly powerful, and features a 12-inch woofer with a 2.5″ KS voice coil, designed to deliver a deep and punchy bass without breaking up.
Go ahead and plug in your microphone, mixers, guitars and keyboards. There’s a built-in 1/4″ and USB port for easily connecting your devices, and an SD card slot too. It’s also Bluetooth-ready, so you can play back your music right from your phone, up to 32 feet away.
The casing is constructed from medium-density fiberboard for a strong structure and anti-vibration effect, with each speaker being assembled by hand. A heavy aviation-grade carpet finish protects it from damage on the road as well. There’s also a three-band equalizer, LED indicators, built-in feedback filter, as well as a handle that makes loading in and setting up even easier.
2. Grindhouse Speakers Eight-Inch Passive Monitors
Each one of these powerful speakers is 250-watts RMS-rated, and work with your existing system to boost your sound.
Since this is a passive speaker set, you’ll need a separate amp to drive the power. But at just eight inches high, this angled duo is designed to widely disperse whatever you play.
The bass booms nicely on these, and the internal one-inch tweeter produces solid quality sound. Connecting your gear is easy, whether you’re inputting speaker wire or 1/4-inch cables.
3. Sound Town Two-Pack Passive Stage Monitor Speakers
This two-pack of 10-inch, two-way speakers are professional grade and easy to daisy-chain with your existing PA speakers through the included 1/4″ jacks.
With a wide coverage, the 10-inch woofers produce consistently clear sound — up to a 300-watt peak — and are ideal for a rehearsal room or open-mic acoustic set.
The exterior is tough and rugged, lined in a black carpet finish all around with a heavy-duty metal grille up front. At 22.9 pounds, they’re mildly heavy, but a built-in handle makes lifting and carrying short distances simple.