If you’ve spent time hunched over a tiny laptop screen, frantically dragging around plugin windows, piano rolls and mixer panels then you will know that when it comes to choosing the best computer monitors for music production, real estate is your friend. Maybe it’s time to consider giving your eyes (and patience) a break and upgrading to an external monitor.
With many home studios now revolving almost entirely around digital audio workstations (DAWs) like Ableton Live and Logic Pro, the humble computer monitor has never been more important. In this guide we’ll explain the kinds of things you should consider when looking for a new monitor, along with offering some recommendations of the best computer monitors that suit home studio use.
Best computer monitors for music production: Our top picks
For us, ultrawide monitors are simply the best type of computer monitors for home studio applications. Working on an arrangement with it spread across the entire depth of an ultrawide screen is a sight to behold, and you’ll struggle to go back once you’ve tried one.
As a great ‘first’ ultrawide, the LG 34WN80C-B is easy to recommend. It has enough connectivity for most users, and – if you’re upgrading from a laptop screen – all that extra real-estate will feel genuinely game-changing.
Best computer monitors for music production: Product guide
While ultrawide monitors may look bonkers at first glance, they actually make a lot of sense for content creation. The LG 34WN80C-B is a great choice for home studio users, and it has more going for it than simply having a large viewing area.
We particularly liked the way its height can be adjusted – not a given with computer monitors – and the USB-C connectivity. The slight curvature will put some people off, but here it makes a lot of sense and means the screen fills your peripheral vision nicely.
In TV terms, 27” doesn’t seem that large, but for computer monitors we’ve always found this to be a more than sufficient size. The Samsung C27F398 (snappy name, guys) delivers a crisp, full-HD screen, with more than enough space for your DAW and plugins.
We liked the eye-saver mode, which reduces the amount of blue in the screen, but would have liked an extra HDMI slot. It’s not going to have the same colour splash as a more expensive monitor, but pound-for-pound we feel this is a great option for most people.
You have to hand it to the gaming world, in many ways. A lot of the advancements we see in computer technology are the result of PC gamers constantly demanding more, better and bigger boosts from their gear.
The MSI Optix AG32C is a great example, packing in a huge 32” full HD screen which gives music producers a heck of a lot of space to work with. It’s another one with a curved screen, which makes sense when the panel is the size it is, while the 16:9 aspect ratio means session timelines will have plenty of room to breathe.
While primarily marketed as a monitor for graphic designers, on account of it featuring pro-level colour calibration, the ASUS ProArt series actually represent decent value for other creative pursuits. If, for example, video forms part of your workflow then the ProArt monitors are a great option.
We could see the ASUS ProArt PA248QV making an ideal second monitor, to supplement an existing setup. It’s fully adjustable in terms of its layout, so it could be placed vertically next to a main monitor and quite happily host your plugin interfaces, leaving a larger screen to handle DAW sessions.
With so much of the music production process now managed by a computer or laptop, it can be easy to spend hour after hour staring at a monitor. We’ve all been there, with the bleary eyes to show for it.
In the ASUS V279HE there is a monitor built specifically to combat the effects of long sessions, thanks to flicker-free technology and the addition of a blue light filter.
Looking past its built-in eye-saving features, the VZ279HE is a nicely designed monitor with an extremely thin bezel, making it ideal to link two or more together.
In the Samsung CRG9, there exists possibly the most crazy-looking monitor on the market today. While it’s nominally listed at 49”, it’s possibly better to picture two curved 27” monitors next to each other.
The QLED screen ensures the sharpest images – perfect for reading those tiny parameters in your DAW – while there is a whole host of connectivity onboard, albeit no USB-C.
It’s expensive, sure, but for the right studio the CRG9 would provide a commanding centrepiece.
For the vast majority of home studio users, there is little need for the bells and whistles that come with high-end panels. The HP 27f does a superb job at providing everything a studio user would need, including a flat, bright 27” screen, a couple of HDMI inputs and a solid – if a little conservative – design.
The 27f isn’t likely to set too many hearts racing, but it does provide a sensible option for anybody who wants to buy a monitor and doesn’t fancy obsessing over tiny details.
At the top end of the scale, you have the LG 27MD5KL-B. This rather expensive monitor is maybe too much for the average user, but it’s easy to see how it could provide value if you also work with video or graphics.
A glorious 5K screen with incredible colour reproduction means it’ll light up any room it’s in, while the large array of connection ports means it’ll complement your new Apple gear perfectly.
Best computer monitors for music production: Buying advice
When you’re shopping for a new monitor, there are likely two main factors that will come into your decision-making process; size and cost. For music-making, it’s not as important to have high-resolution images, or snappy refresh rates. Leave that to the gamers. For home studios, you’re looking for as much screen real estate as you can afford.
That’s not to say you necessarily need to look towards the enormous TV-sized monitors; indeed, if it’s located on your desk mere inches from your eyes, we’d probably advise against anything larger than 32”. What you’re looking for is that balance. Large enough so you can fit everything on and it be at a decent enough size that you can read it, but not so large that your eyes start to ache after an hour’s use.
The jury is out on curved monitors. For some, a gentle curvature of the screen means less time turning your head. For others, they are more of a fad. Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes.
What is interesting, particularly for DAW users, is the new breed of monitors which have grown in popularity in recent years. Ultrawide monitors, which offer a 21:9 ratio, are near-perfect for use with DAWs. The extra width offers the ability to fit more of your timeline in view, while also enabling you to place multiple applications next to each other and see them all at the same time.
You could, for example, have your DAW fill three-quarters of the screen, and use the remaining quarter to display your plugins. Admittedly, this isn’t unique to ultrawide monitors, but that extra width makes it a lot more palatable than a regular screen.
If the monitors are being used in a home studio, then you can look past the built-in speakers as they will most likely be bypassed. Connectivity is important, however, and is dependent on your laptop or PC’s video output capabilities. HDMI is the most common, however desktop PCs may also offer DisplayPort outputs. Newer laptops – particularly Apple models – will also offer Thunderbolt as an output source for your monitor.
Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.
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