Choosing Reference Monitors for Film and Video Editing

Choosing Reference Monitors for Film and Video Editing

To edit your sound for video and film projects, you’ll need some speakers to play back that sound. You could just use whatever speakers for headphones or earbuds you happen to have kicking around, but its really difficult to get a consistent sound with these.

So what do you do when you’re ready to take your sound to the next level? You may want to look at reference monitors. These are speakers which are specially designed to play back your recorded sound as accurately as possible. This will help you find and fix any problems with your sound.

In this episode, we have a look at 5 different reference monitors (below) and talk through which of them might suit you best, especially if like me, you’re editing in a small spare bedroom at your home.

Room EQ Wizard:

How to use Room EQ Wizard (Courtesy of GIK Acoustics):

Also, special thanks go out to B&H Photo/Video for lending us the monitors for evaluation:

If you’d like to improve your sound recording skills for film, please have a look at our Sound Recording for Video course over at

Visit us at for more updates on how to improve your lighting and sound for video. Also be sure to subscribe to get new weekly episodes!

Gear mentioned in or used to record this episode:


Focal CMS 40 Monitor (4” woofer – this was my pick for sound editing in small rooms)

B&H Photo:


Focal Alpha 80 Monitor (8” woofer – this was the most exciting monitor and would work great in larger rooms

B&H Photo:


KRK Rokit Powered 8 Monitor (I’ve had a set of these for 6 years and they’ve served me well. They’re quite good in rooms with bass traps)

B&H Photo:


JBL LSR308 (8” woofers. They’re quite good in rooms with bass traps, but do have rear facing ports – best for larger rooms)

B&H Photo:


Yamaha HS8 (Very popular monitors in the music production world. 8” woofers. They’re quite good in rooms with bass traps, but do have rear facing ports – best for larger rooms)

B&H Photo:


Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro Reference Headphones (open back)



Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 Audio Interface


B&H Photo:


Mogami Gold Cables (1/4” TRS to XLR balanced)


B&H Photo:

Copyright 2016 by Curtis Judd

Ethics statement: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means that if you click on them and buy, I get a small commission. You don’t pay more by clicking these links than if you just went to the retailer’s web site on your own. I use the proceeds to buy additional gear to review and help you improve your sound, lighting, and video. Thanks for your support!


  1. Oh great! I just sprung for some 8" Tannoy Reveals. Time to finally buy those bass traps! The other problem is negotiating space for them along with my dual LCD monitor setup. Inevitably, I’m having to spread them further to the sides than I would have preferred.

  2. Did you test same speakers multiple times? As the response can change hugely if the placement is even a little bit different. So take speakers down then try to place them again the same way and you will have a bit different curve. I have Focal CMS65 and it took a great while to get them into perfectly best place in the room.

  3. This is a great video that every sound or video guy needs to see. It’s also one of the few videos of it’s type that also sounds good. There are thousands of horrible sounding videos telling me how to do sound. Your’s sounds great. I know many working professionals who have no concept of the things you mentioned.

    One area I might disagree with you is on bass. In my home studio I use Focal CMS 50 speakers and a CMS Sub. Here’s why I included the sub – the dialog mic records EVERYTHING, highs and lows. A subwoofer will make plosives and deep A/C rumble very apparent. Yes, adding more bass to a small room brings problems, but I think you can learn your room and know the problem areas. When I EQ a man’s voice, I almost never want to cut any of the lows in his voice. If he has a deep, rich voice, I want to preserve that. I need to know where exactly to place the high pass filter so that I’m cutting out room noise, but retaining his voice.

    I know professionals in music production make hit records on NS-10s which have no bass, but all of those mixes have later gone to a mastering engineer who had a full range system. In video production, I think it’s important to know just how bassey that epic soundtrack is, rather than guessing.

    I do also have a bunch of acoustic panels in my home studio and bass traps. It’s far form perfect, but very workable now that I’ve been using it for a while. My work studio is much better and I’ve been in it with the same speakers for 15 years. After 15 years, I finally have a pretty good idea of what will come out of it. 😉

    That’s my two cents… I’ve just discovered your channel, I’m really looking forward to viewing more!

  4. I cant stress enough when doing audio mixing and editing. You need a listening room! Not the editing room but a room setup with a set of high quality speakers and a couch. Some place where you can demo your work after you think it is done. The reason is that your flat near field monitors might not reveal things that you will hear in a listening room. I know for many people this will be a hard sell but it matters. I cant tell you how many bad recordings I’ve listened to where they sound OK in a mixing studio. But bring them back to a higher end HIFI and everything falls apart.

    In a perfect world I would tell people to never mix near field. In a perfect world you would mix in a living room sized room with your speakers being full ranged maybe withe even more than one set of speakers. I know we cant all be Bob Ludwig but take a look at photos of his mixing room if you want to see how a fanatic does it. His mixes sound so good because he is actually listening to the music.

    Consider that the music and to a lesser degree dialogue you are mixing on a sub 1000$ pair near filed monitors. Might end up being played through a 2-5K$ set of speakers being driven by 1000 – 10000$ worth of HIFI. I know for many people a 5000$ HIFI seems ridiculous but you would be surprised at just how many people have this stuff in their living room.

    Obviously if you are doing commercials, corporate gigs, or weddings. Much of what I said doesn’t apply. For that kind of stuff near filed monitors are just fine. But if you are doing instrumental music performances, choirs, art films, or indy films, or anything else with a full range of audio that will be critical to the experience. Then don’t forget about who might be listening to it later and on what type of system they might have.

  5. This review makes me feel so much better about my Yamaha HS50M’s, now I don’t have bigger woofer envy! 🙂 PS, we have the same curtains! hahaha and iMac and OWC Thunderbay, which I think we’ve covered before, haha. Love seeing your setup, and possible custom speaker/computer stands.

  6. Hey Curtis, it’s been quite a while since I’ve dropped in to check out what you’ve been doing, and of course you’re still putting out great content. I think you might like some of the videos that DIY Perks here on YouTube has done. I’d also like to mention that for people on a tight budget but with a little extra time on their hands, they might want to consider DIY speaker kits. Designers like Paul Carmody have designs even for nearfield work. His are the Hitmakers and the kits are available on sites like DIYSoundGroup and Parts Express. Jeff Bagby is known in the DIY community for higher end, accurate designs. I think it’s worth checking out if for nothing else than people knowing they have even more options. All the best.

  7. Am I silly to want studio monitors to listen and enjoy music? Headphones are becoming way expensive and pc speakers aren’t great.

  8. Great Episode! I am using my Mackie MR5 mk3 Studio Monitor Speakers and NI Komplete Audio 6!

    So far all of your reviews are great! Looking forward to seeing some good stuff! Especially the Zoom F4! =)

  9. Hi Curtis.. First, I would like to thank you for this video.. It’s really helpful.

    Second, I have a question that I hope you would be able to answer for me. I know it is always better to monitor sound using a reference monitor.. However, I usually work in a shared space, so it would be difficult to use such monitors, and I have to rely on headphones.. So, I have been reading a lot about reference headphones trying to decide which model to choose.. The main issue for me is whether I should choose a closed-back or an open-back model.

    From what I read, I personally think the open-back would be better, since, as I understand, they give the sound more room to breathe, which makes them closer to the reference monitors. AT LEAST, THIS IS WHAT I GOT FROM THE DIFFERENT GUIDES I READ :D.. I know they leak sound, but that won’t be an issue to me, since they will never be as loud as the reference monitors.

    I would like to know what you think.

    Thank you very much.

  10. Extremely helpful video. I’m looking to buy a pair of studio monitors for a small apartment, and have been gravitating towards the Focal Alpha series. I was considering either the 50 or the 65, but based on your advice – I think I should go for the 50.

  11. Do you know if the focal CMS 65 speakers would be sufficient enough for mixing hip hop music with deep bass?

  12. Thanks for the video, is just I need. My studio is small and Focal cms 40 are perfect for it. My sound engineer (from AES) recommend me this product. Best.

  13. Are the CMS 40’s magnetically shielded?
    No interference from your CRT monitor or Wi-fi connection?

  14. Hi. i have a 3x4m room, would you recommend the cms 50 or 65? is the cms series is your favorite? or you prefer the "shape"? or something else? thanks. how do you connect them to a sub woofer?

  15. Good video, i just started my own video production company and i’m about to buy all this stuff. This helped me a lot! Thanks Curtis!

  16. i’m using the focal alpha 50 for my desktop (personal usb audio listening pleasure)…love them for bang for buck value.
    Roon, Tidal, microrendu/lps power supply and iFi micro isds dac (soon to be replaced by the chord hugo 2)….i am even considering upgrading from these to the dynaudio xeo 2 or 4…butfor bang for buck (i have an untreated room as i’m not a mixer)

  17. Looking at your low spikes it looks like you are getting some room modes. Check to see if your bass traps are graded for the correct frequencies, I have a feeling they are set wrong creating a dip on the wrong frequency

  18. Great review. You may want to check the Stealth Monitors by Emotiva Audio from Franklin TN., they cost as much as half as much as everyone else but out performs them. The Folded Ribbon Tweeter has terrific dynamics, and accuracy. The Composite woofer has great extension, and transient response. The Flagship of the Emotiva line up. The Airmotiv 6 takes most of what the Stealth 8 has to offer in even a more affordable price. By the way, most of the Recording studios here in Nashville are using Stealth 8 Monitors for mixing, and mastering. I use the Airmotiv 6s in my mastering station.

  19. Another great video. Just wondering if the common dip between 60 to 80 Hz part of your room’s mode? Looks like they all have a dip between those frequencies. Not sure if it is an inherent characteristics of monitors or if it because of the room. I haven’t had experience yet with measuring monitors and rooms so I’m curious to know how to interpret them (apart form trying to look if the frequency response recorded within a room using a specific monitor is flat) so I’m curious. Btw, you are right about monitors for film making. Unless you have a dedicated control room that is designed for replicating sound inside a theatre, you are better off with small monitors. Unless of course you are mixing for internet use only.

  20. Appreciate your comparisons. I have two Mackie HR 834 II on my edit desk. They were (more) expensive but I worked for a production company for years as a full time editor and these were in the edit suites and grew to know and like their sound. They do crowd my desk a bit though. Good note about the 8" woofers which mine have but these are not ported. My edit space is a bit bigger: about 4 x 8 meters: wood ceiling, one wood wall and some curtains. Wondering if I need base traps or other acoustic treatment. The base on these monitors sound pretty tight to me but without a comparison or measuring my perception is only that.

  21. i used yamaha hs7 and now i`m using focal alpha 50. i`m confident now that focals are another level beasts. the sound is much better than in yamahas.

  22. Awesome information
    Do you have an update on best monitor for small rooms? The 4” monitors are no longer available.

  23. Read the manual.
    If you’re trying to measure the freq response of a particular source [e.g. a speaker], measure with the mic pointed at the source (which will minimize the effect of the mic body).
    Microphone pointed straight up at ceiling or tilted slightly toward front speakers – Room acoustics/calibration measurements

  24. This is a very helpful video! I was wondering how loud the noise floor was on these monitors? I own a set of Tannoy Reveal 502 and I use them for music production. The sound is pretty decent but the noise floor is pretty annoying..

  25. Excellent work Curtis! Is there anything under than sun, with respect to independent filmmaking, that you don’t cover? 🙂 I have been in the filmmaking business since 2005 (covering both audio and video post & production roles) and have come to realise that you are one of those rare one-person channel’s who is such a comprehensive resource for those seeking advice on their purchase decisions. You are a tireless champ! Keep up the great work.

  26. Love my Focal CMS 40s! Had them for a number of years now. Interesting to see how they compare to the (newer) Alpha line from Focal. The beryllium-alloy tweeter might also contribute to that high end accuracy.

  27. This guy omit to say that today there is no good music anymore like elvis presly, michael Jackson, tina turner, the beathles, pink Floyd, the bee gees, etc. So , i don’t need costly studio monitors with costly complicated audio interfaces with 8 inputs. I then bought edifier s350db speakers set at only 300$ with digital inputs for my tv and computer audio where i listen for free pink Floyd, bee gees, elvis presly, michael Jackson, etc. I also listen my tv, so these interfave don’t have tv. I can also stop to listen to this horrible audio mix that are just programmed distortion noises and they are no music. WE can all bet 20$ that no good music have been made on these audio studio monitors ever. If they say on which studio monitors pink Floyd the wall have been mix, than i will buy them today

  28. Thanks for this nice review! Did you review headphones? If yes, can you send me the link. Thank you very much

  29. I use the KRK Rokit 6 G1 and the 10s sub for monitoring. I agree with your comment about no sub needed so I have a foot switch plugged in the 10s to kick it in and out. That changes the low freqs sent to the 6’s so when no sub on more low freqs go to the 6’s. This gives me the ability to mix properly with no sub low mud but I can still check for low freq rumble, pops, and clutter. It amazes me how many videos and radio stations (Howard Stern show) I hear that have mic pops and rumble that are very obvious on high performance car audio and home sound systems. I know that is because the audio guys that mixed it did not have subs to hear it.

  30. Hi Curtis! What is considered to be small and what big room. my room is really asymetrycal the longest side is bout 7m and the other 6m the wall is 2.10 is that a small room?

  31. Curtis, thank you so much for this.
    I have been using reference headphones and it’s time to step up to some monitors.
    As always appreciate your knowledge and info.
    Cheers, Pete

  32. If you get a chance to review the Equator D5 studio monitors, I think you will like them. They are very accurate and have a point source (they have a concentric bass/tweeter) for a great sound stage. Front bass port too. For the price (very reasonable) I think they are amazing! They are not as well known as the "big" brands, but certainly worth the effort to listen to…. and have all the features you need (Bal/ubal, sensitivity, and boundary adjustments).
    Great videos & Keep up the great work!

  33. Hi Curtis, great video thank you. I’m just getting into editing my first work and it would help me to understand why you use speakers instead of headphones, please?

  34. KRK vxt-6 are very good. The rokits are good but there is a marked difference but the price difference is marked aswell. That would have been an interesting matchup since it’s really nice to see where your money is going when you change up a level and the best way to do it is within the same maker. Great video again curtis.

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