The 10 Best Stage Monitors
10. Nady Personal PM-100
9. JBL Portable EON612
8. Peavey PV12M
7. Seismic Audio
6. Behringer B205D Eurolive
5. JBL JRX212 Portable
4. QSC K10.2
3. Electro-Voice ZLX12P
2. Rockville RSM12A 12-Inch 1000 Watt
1. Yamaha DBR10
How Stage Monitors Can Improve Your Sound
Musicians have to deal with a ton of distractions when performing on stage. Amateurs in cover bands deal with drunken hecklers at the bars they play, more experienced indie artists deal with the strange acoustics of small but popular clubs, and wildly successful professionals have to contend with the clamor of thousands of adoring fans. All of these distractions can make it harder to hear and to concentrate on the music you’re playing.
Many players and singers will turn to in-ear monitors to give them live feedback while performing, but these require everything from fully charged batteries to a capable and trustworthy sound engineer. The best thing for you to use when trying to maintain a reference to your sound during a live performance is a stage monitor.
Whether you’re a musician yourself or you own one of the venues described above, a few investments in your PA system will pay greater dividends. That’s because when a musician can hear a balanced mix of the song they’re playing, they’ll be able to make any and all adjustments needed to make it sound the way it does on their records or in their heads. An out-of-tune vocalist can find their pitch, or a soloist lost in the chord changes can find their way back to the rest of the group.
The best example of the need for a good stage monitor, however, comes in the form of the drummer. In the majority of rock bands, the drummer traditionally sits behind the guitarists, bassists, singers, keyboardists, and pretty much every other imaginable instrumentalist. All of those performers place their amplifiers on stage alongside the drummer, where he or she can scarcely hear what’s coming out of them. That makes it very hard for the backbone of the band to know what’s going on in front of them. If the guitarist skips a section of the verse and starts the chorus early, the drummer might not pick up on it until it’s too late. Unless, of course, there was a stage monitor sitting next to the drum kit, pumping out a perfect mix of the song that's underway.
What To Look For In A Stage Monitor
The vast majority of stage monitors are built to sit at an angle, so that when you place them on the ground in front of you, their sound will travel up toward the ears of the intended musician. Since this basic build can make one monitor seem very much like the next, it’d be tempting to just grab the most powerful model that you can afford and call it a day. There are, however, two very important questions you need to answer first: where will you be using your monitor? and what kind of music do you play?
If you’re in a rock band and the venues you frequent are rather loud and rowdy, you’re going to need something with some significant power. Fans at these venues can get rather rambunctious, and there are usually drinks on stage that are liable to spill at any moment. That’s why investing in a stage monitor that boasts a high degree of durability is key here, even if it doesn’t put out the highest-fidelity sound.
Tamer musicians like folk artists can afford to invest in a monitor that ignores ruggedness in favor of superior sound quality, and their genre doesn’t demand a tremendous amount of power, either. If you’re a singer/songwriter type, then a monitor that can double as a miniature portable PA system in its own right is an excellent choice, especially if you can plug a guitar and a microphone into it and even do a rudimentary mix between the two. These mixing options can also come in handy if you want to adjust your monitor's performance without consulting the engineer.
All of the above points are true for venue operators, as well. A rock club needs more powerful, more durable monitors that don’t need to sound as good, while a coffee house can get away with something much smaller and daintier.
Other Tools For Perfecting A Live Performance
Stage monitors can make an incredible difference in the quality of your live sound, but they are by no means the only thing you can employ to improve your performance. Obviously there’s no replacement for time spent in rehearsal, but a musician can only rehearse so many hours in the day, and there’s no reason not to give yourself a competitive edge over the next act.
As we mentioned above, in-ear monitors are a great solution for live feedback, especially if you have the time to perfect their settings and the live engineer to help you integrate them with the venue’s PA system. These aren’t necessarily a replacement for stage monitors, either, as you can use a stage monitor to relay the sound of the band, while putting just your own voice through your in-ear monitor, giving you enough audible separation to make sure that you’re in tune with the music. However, venue owners should shy away from in-ear monitors as an investment, since asking Saturday night’s band members to wear the same ear monitors that Friday night’s musicians wore is no way to endear yourself to the artists.
A good rack-mounted tuner is another invaluable piece of equipment, as multiple band members can share it and make sure that everyone is in tune to the same standard. There are several rack-mounted effects out there that can make you sound great live, but the tuner is likely the most important one among them.
Finally, there’s the microphone you use to sing, and this piece of equipment is vital. If you’re used to relying on your venue to provide you with a decent mic, then you know how wildly one club’s options will differ from another’s. By investing in your own mic that you take with you wherever you play, you both ensure the baseline quality of your vocals and keep the band’s songs sounding as consistent as possible, which will only strengthen your brand.