Can You Record Music or Vocals Without Studio Monitors?

More and more people are beginning to record content in bedrooms and home studios.

This new wave has triggered an increase in people looking to learn basic recording processes. A common question enthusiasts have is if they can record audio without expensive professional gear such as studio monitors.

You can record music or vocals without studio monitors. You only need headphones to monitor recordings effectively, especially if you don’t have a control room separate from the recording area. Ideally, music and vocals shouldn’t be monitored with studio speakers.

This article will look at a standard recording scenario, describe how to record vocals or music, and explain the best practices. We’ll also examine conditions for recording vocals using studio monitors.

Table of Contents

Can You Record Music or Vocals Without Studio Monitors?

Standard Practice for Recording Without Studio Monitors

Recording without studio monitors isn’t uncommon. It’s considered the standard best practice for recording vocals and music.

To make a good-quality recording, you need the following recording equipment:

Can you record without Studio Monitors?

All you need to monitor what you’re recording are your headphones.

If you’re recording someone else, you only need two pairs of headphones; one for yourself and one for the vocalist or musician who is performing.

Note that the above list doesn’t include a studio monitor. Even if you have studio monitors in a home studio setting, you shouldn’t use them to listen to an in-progress recording. We’ll elaborate on this later in this article.

Why You Shouldn’t Record Music or Vocals With Studio Monitors

In large studios with vocal booths or recording areas different from the control room, recording engineers monitor vocals or music being recorded through studio monitors.

It’s important to note that, in this case, the control room is acoustically separated from the recording area. 

Unlike professional studios, home studios tend to be small. Often, they’re also single rooms. These environmental conditions pose unique challenges in making home recordings. 

With this information, let’s try and understand why you shouldn’t record any audio with studio monitors in small home studios. There are two major reasons this is a bad idea; we’ll elaborate on them below.

Audio Feedback

One thing that anyone working with audio knows to avoid is audio feedback.

This most often occurs in the home studio when a sound is picked up by the microphone, amplified, and played out on the monitor while the microphone is still active. 

The microphone will pick up the sound from the speaker, and it will again be amplified and played out of the same speaker. At a certain point, the result will usually be a loud howl which you certainly don’t want.

Sound Bleed

The second reason it’s a bad idea to record audio with home studio monitors is that the microphone will pick up the track being sung or played to, so you won’t have a clean take. 

Of course, the monitor volume has to be set low for a recording even to be possible. If the volume is reasonably loud, the audio feedback will make it impossible for any home recording.

How You Can Record Music and Vocals With Studio Monitors

There are certain special situations in a home studio when you can record voice or music with home studio monitors.

We’ll explain these using two scenarios, one for vocal recording and the other for recording music.

Recording Music With Studio Monitors (stereo speakers)

When recording musical instruments, two routes can be taken.

Home recording can be done via a DI box or microphones in front of speaker cabinets.

When you record an electric guitar with a DI (Direct Inject) box, a jack plug is connected to the guitar’s output and plugged into the audio interface or mixer.

In this situation, you can only hear the guitar’s sound from a decent pair of studio monitor speakers or through headphones. So, there will be no open microphone to pick up the sound in the same room, causing audio feedback.

If the electric guitar is recorded using microphones placed in front of studio speaker cabinets, a pair of studio monitor speakers within the same space will result in audio feedback and a bleed of the backing track into the recording.

Thus, even in a home studio, it’s possible to record musical instruments while monitoring the recording through studio monitors, but only if the instrument is recorded using a DI box.

Recording Vocals With Studio Monitor Speakers

Monitoring vocals (which can only be done via microphones) using studio monitor speakers requires much more work.

Pulling this off requires a good understanding of how frequencies cancel themselves out.

To successfully record vocals or music with studio speakers, follow the steps described below:

  1. Position the microphone so it is not directly opposite the home studio monitors.
  2. Set your microphone volume to the optimum level and your monitor output to a volume the singer or artist can hear without audio feedback.
  3. Have the artist take a position/posture that they can remember.
  4. Record the artist’s performance.
  5. Open a new phase-inverted track in our recording program.
  6. While maintaining your previous settings, have your artist take the same position they did for the first recording.
  7. Begin to record, but have your artist mime their vocals this time. They should, however, try to replicate any gestures made during the first recording.
  8. After the second take, merge the two tracks.

The idea is to create two separate recordings in which everything except the vocal performance is identical. 

With the phase of one track inverted, you create an exact mirror image of the sound, which then cancels itself (known in physics as destructive interference).

With the mirrored frequencies canceled, you’ll only be left with the vocal performance, which was only recorded once and had no mirror image.

There’s no justifiable reason why anyone will want to take this route except for experimental purposes.


Home studio monitors are essential for sound clarity in editing, music production, mixing audio, or mastering your work in a home studio.

While you can use headphones for these tasks, you’ll likely suffer ear fatigue and may not deliver the best results. However, you can and should record music and vocals without home studio monitors.

Juan Louder
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Juan Louder

I started SoundStudioMagic to learn how to record my own audiobook at home, and now I'm addicted to all the latest techniques and gear.

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