When you need to work on your recorded music you need to hear exactly how it sounds, warts and all. Generally speaking, multimedia and hi-fi speakers are not suitable for the task because they tend to color the sound. This is where good studio monitors come in, they reproduce sound as transparently as possible, so you can make honest assessments and apply the right adjustments to your mix. As such, it is imperative for anyone who is planning to record and produce music, to get a good pair of studio monitors.
Things To Consider When Buying Studio Monitors:
While most studio monitors are versatile, there's no one pair of monitors that can satisfy everybody, so you'll need to find the ones that fit your needs and resources. The best studio monitor for you will depend mostly on your budget, your studio space, and the type of music you're producing.
To start off, you'll want studio monitors that fit your budget, so we have listed their street prices below for a pair of monitors, since you'll usually be getting two at a time. We also conveniently organized them into two price brackets to make it easier to see which ones fit your budget, or plan ahead if you'll need to save money for something that fits your needs better. Knowing where you'll place the studio monitors and the space they will require is also important, and to help you with this, we have provided their dimensions and also included weight - in case you want them setup on speaker stands.
Finally, you'll want speakers that fit your musical preference, for example, if you are into mostly DJ and electronic music, you'll want bigger monitors that can handle the added low frequencies that are usually associated with these styles. On the other hand, if you'll be working with acoustic instruments and vocals, you will find the added bass to be irksome, so its best to go for flat response studio monitors. This is the reason why it is a good idea to have more than one set of monitors - for you to have more sonic references for which to work with.
The Best Studio Monitors under $1000
This is where you'll find highly rated studio monitors that are ideal for any home studio. Some of these are bigger and bulkier so they require more space, but they let you hear more detail and allow for more people to hear your mix, great for impressing clients or your friends. Not all of them are big though because there are also small reference monitors from premium brands included here for small home/room studios. If you want to, you can skip ahead to the Under $500 section.
NB: All street prices listed below are for a pair of monitors because most people will need buy 2 at a time.
With Yamaha being the original leaders in the near field monitoring market with their legendary NS10s, it's no surprise to see them included in this list. Just a cursory comparison of reviews and ratings will show that most, if not all their active studio monitors, have obtained impressive scores, and they've done so with a huge number of ratings - proving that great quality can move busy musicians to write good reviews! This is one of the many reasons why Yamaha's iconic white-coned HS series studio monitors are seen in studios world over. The Yamaha HS8 in particular has garnered great ratings and so gets a prominent spot in this list.
Yamaha HS8 Features:
- 8" cone woofer, 1" dome tweeter
- Bi-Amplification: 75-watt LF, 45-watt HF
- Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" (TRS)
- Frequency response: 38Hz to 30kHz
- Dimensions: 9.8" x 15.4" x 13.1"
- Weight: 18.1 lbs.
While there's nothing really outside conventional in this particular model, Yamaha was able to make all the usual parts click together - resulting in outstanding monitoring experience that both experts and users attest to. With its 8" woofer, paired with its room and high-trim response control, it can easily adapt into any type of room, from cramped vans to medium sized studios. Above all, this studio monitors has helped many musicians create better sounding recordings, and do so reliably for a long time. And it also helps that the HS8 is not too expensive, you'll have enough spare to buy other important studio gear. So if you're not sure what to pick, the Yamaha HS8 is the best one to get, just like so many of its users - you'll be surprised with how great your music production experience will be.
A cool looking pair of white finish Yamaha HS8 speakers are available at Amazon, and since they are bundled with freebies, they give you more value for your budget.
KRK Rokit 10 G3
KRK Systems is easily one of the most familiar brands in the studio monitor market, and the distinct yellow colored woofers of their Rokit line is a staple in many home studios. At the sub $1000 price range, the company now offers the third generation of their loud three-way active studio monitor called the Rokit 10. Sporting a 148W 3-way amp and speaker configuration, this monitor has more low end than others of the same price point - making this the ideal for DJs and for studios that produce music with a heavy bass component.
KRK Rokit 10 Features:
- HF - 1" silk-dome tweeter / MF - 4" aramid glass-composite midrange / LF - 10" aramid glass-composite woofer
- Tri Amplification: 30W HF / 32W MF / 86W LF
- Inputs: RCA, 1/4" TRS and XLR
- Frequency response: 25 Hz - 30 kHz
- Dimensions: 14.4" x 12.8" x 21.5"
- Weight: 43.9 lb
Speaking of bass, the KRK Rokit has a front-firing bass port which lets you hear low frequency sounds that would be muddied by smaller speakers. The midrage woofer is also mounted on a flexible module, which makes positioning the speaker more convenient. Since this one is part of the 3rd Generation of Rokits, punch and balance is prioritized. While it doesn't have many ratings at the time of writing this, the people who wrote reviews mainly had great things to say, but it would've been nice if it was a tad bit cheaper and lighter. Still, this is the studio monitor to get if you're planning to record bands and work on DJ/EDM style music.
Mackie HR624mk2 active studio monitors have attracted high ratings from owners and experts alike, in fact their ratings are on par with other premium studio speaker brands. With Mackie's ever growing reputation for quality music gear, I'm not surprised that many are loving the HR624 MK2.
Mackie HR624mk2 Features:
- 6.7" LF driver 1" Titanium HF tweeter
- Bi Amplification: 100W LF, 40W HF
- Inputs: Balanced XLR, TRS, and unbalanced RCA
- Frequency response: 45Hz - 22kHz
- Dimensions: 13.1" x 8.6" x 12.6"
- Weight: 23.4 lbs.
One of the most lauded features of the HR624mk2 is its no port cabinet layout, made possible by its "passive radiator" design, resulting in good bass response without the muddiness associated with ported baffles. Also raved about is its wider horn dispersal, which allows for a wider sweet spot, making positioning a bit more convenient. With this monitor, you can invite more people to listen in on the mix. If you are looking for a transparent flat response pair of speakers, and you have the budget, these are highly recommended.
Some online retailers offer a pair of HR624 MKII speakers bundled with free pads and a condenser mic, you can check those out if you want to get more out of your money.
Yamaha MSP7 Studio
The MSP7 Studio is Yamaha's second entry into this list, and since this is the company's top-of-the-line near-field monitor, it has impressively high ratings and review scores as you would expect. The general consensus is that this is among the cleanest, clearest, and most balanced studio monitor in its size and price bracket. And more importantly, users have reported that they experience less ear fatigue when working with these monitors - and this is thanks to the MSP7 Studio's crystal clear sonic details.
MSP7 Studio Features:
- 6.5" LF driver 1" Titanium HF tweeter
- Bi Amplification: LF - 80W / HF - 50W
- Inputs: XLR
- Frequency response: 45Hz-40kHz
- Dimensions: 9.2" x 8.6" x 13"
- Weight: 26.9 lbs.
Ironically, this flagship studio monitor does not have as many features as some of the others, even the input is limited to just XLR. But it could very well be this straightforward design that continues to endear it to many. There were a few that complained about the speaker's lack of low-end punch, but this should be expected, and even desired, of near-field monitors. With its great mid and upper range response, this is the best studio monitor to get if you're into recording acoustic instruments and vocals.
Usually only found on the upper echelons of the market, Genelec is a brand trusted by many professionals and is used in many high-end studios. Thankfully, they have a representative in the sub $1000 market, giving us the chance to take a peak at what the pros use, albeit in a smaller package. But don't underestimate this monitor because of its size, reviews rave about its balanced, flat and full sound with details that even bigger speakers can't seem to produce.
Genelec 8010 Features:
- 3" LF driver 0.75" HF tweeter
- Bi Amplification: LF 25W | HF 25W
- Inputs: XLR
- Frequency response: 67Hz-25kHz
- Dimensions: 4.6" x 4.8" x 7.7"
- Weight: 3.3 lbs
Those familiar with the bigger and more expensive Genelec monitors have attested that the smaller 8010 carries the same sonic quality. Obviously, the low end will be lacking but it can reproduce low frequency signals quite well without many problems. Ear fatigue is also not an issue with this speaker, because of its low distortion performance and its clean mids and highs. It would have been nice if the price tag is a bit lower, but the quality more than makes up for the cost. If you're looking for a portable studio monitor, or if you have a small studio space to work with, the Genelec 8010 is highly recommended.
Focal Alpha 50
Focal is another brand that's familiar to more experienced studio owners. Thankfully the Alpha 50 gives musicians who are just starting to record access to Focal's brand of quality and features. Instead of playing it safe by following conventional studio monitor designs, the Alpha 50 has some cool features, one of which is its low directivity which allows for a more balanced distribution of sound across the room, going against the common sweetspot focused design used by other manufacturers.
Focal Alpha 50 Features:
- 5" polyglass cone woofer | 1" aluminium inverted dome tweeter
- Bi Amplification: LF 35W | HF 20W
- Inputs: XLR and unbalanced RCA
- Frequency response: 45Hz-22kHz
- Dimensions: 12.3" x 8.7" 10.2"
- Weight: 16.1 lbs
Most of the reviews rave the speaker's uncolored, clear, lively and balanced sound. Some even mention that this bottom-of-the-line speaker (at least for Focal) can outclass more premium alternatives. Another cool feature of the Focal Alpha 50 is its automatic standby mode, which conveniently turns off the speaker after 30 minutes of inactivity. Ironically, there were some that complained about the standby mode and wanted a way for it to be disabled - proof that you really can't please everyone. Still, there's no argument when it comes to its sound quality and reliability.
The Best Studio Monitors Under $500
Here are great value reference monitors that have satisfied the needs of many. While they may not have the same quality as more expensive ones, they are more than enough to handle the daily grind of home studios. With these speakers, you don't need to spend more than half a grand to improve the quality of your recordings, saving you some money for other essential studio gear.
NB: All street prices listed below are for a pair of monitors because most people will need buy 2 at a time.
M-Audio BX8 Carbon
M-Audio makes it to the sub $500 portion of this list with the BX8 Carbon, a budget friendly studio monitor with impressive specs. Experts and regular users have dubbed this as one of the best, if not the best, among the many entry level studio monitors that flood the market. And it is all thanks mostly for its bang per buck value, giving you a viable workhorse reference monitor without having to drill a hole in our pocket.
M-Audio BX8 Carbon Features:
- 8" LF Kevlar driver 1.25" Silk Dome HF tweeter
- Bi Amplification: LF 70W | HF 60W
- Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x TRS
- Frequency response: 38Hz-22kHz
- Dimensions: 11.8" x 9.8" x 15.1"
- Weight: 26.4 lbs
For its price, the BX8 surprised many reviewers with its clean flat response and wide sweet spot. While some of them were expecting performance close to basic multimedia speakers, they were surprised to hear crisp details, making the BX8 Carbon viable reference monitors for most styles of music. Another notable feature is its better low frequency response, which makes this versatile speaker useful even for upcoming DJs and EDM producers. Just make sure to handle this one with care, and take the time to set it up properly, and you'll have yourself a good piece of equipment to start your recording projects with.
KRK Rokit 6 G3
The KRK Rokit 6 G3 is the third iteration of one of the most popular studio monitors in the market today. This 6" Kevlar/aramid composite woofer equipped Rokit has invaded many studios world over, as evidenced by its consistent positive ratings and recommendations - you can also see their unmistakable yellow woofer on many YouTube videos. Its combination of quality and great value have helped propel it to fame, and reviews have been consistently positive.
KRK Rokit 6 G3 Features:
- 6" Kevlar/aramid composite woofer 1" Soft Dome HF tweeter
- Bi Amplification: LF 48W | HF 25W
- Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x TRS, 1 x RCA
- Frequency response: 38Hz-35kHz
- Dimensions: 17" x 12" x 14"
- Weight: 18.5 lbs
A notable feature of the Rokit 6 is its extended bass frequency response, which makes this the ideal speaker for budding DJs and Electronic Music producers. Other positive traits mentioned on reviews include durability, reliable operation and many like it's compact design. However, the downside is that some people report it can produce some ear fatigue when listening to intricate acoustic instruments and vocals. If you're just starting out or you're budget is limited, this is a great versatile reference monitor that you can get for a bargain.
If like me you're tired of the usual black color schemes used by studio monitors, check out the White finish Rokit 6 which are sold as a pairs.
JBL is so popular that even non-musicians are familiar with their brand, so it's not surprising to find one of their products in this list, specifically the LSR305 Studio Monitor. This particular speaker has over 600 ratings and reviews, a testament to its popularity and accessibility, and on top of that, it retains a very high Gearank score - which means that almost all of the experts and users who have reviewed this product were satisfied and pleased.
JBL LSR305 Features:
- 5" LF driver and 1" HF driver
- Bi Amplification: LF 41W | HD 41W
- Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" TRS
- Frequency response: 43Hz-24kHz
- Dimensions: 11.75" x 7.28" x 9.88"
- Weight: 10.12 lbs
Many reviewers liked the LSR305's deep and well defined sound, along with its extended low frequency. Others thought that the upper register was smooth and precise, which gives it a well rounded and balanced sound. Add to that its wide center image design, and you have a super versatile and super affordable studio monitor. There are some that comment on the speaker's subtly weaker midrange, but this could be a result of comparing the LSR305 with more expensive units. The JBL LSR305 is easily the best bang per buck studio monitor in this list, and is highly recommended.
KRK Rokit 5 G3
Another 3rd generation Rokit from KRK Systems made it to this list, the Rokit 5 G3, an affordable reference monitor designed to compete against other entry level studio monitors. It brings with it the same cool yellow woofer scheme and stylish exterior as the bigger Rokits, only this one is meant for beginners and for those with small home studios. The same reliable build and sonic quality is also utilized, albeit with the sound levels being a bit tamer, and more importantly this is the most affordable of the Rokit line.
KRK Rokit 5 Features:
- 5" Aramid Glass Composite woofer 1" Soft-dome tweeter
- Bi Amplification: LF 30W | HF 20W
- Inputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x TRS, 1 x RCA
- Frequency response: 45Hz-35kHz
- Dimensions: 11.2" x 7.4" x 9.7"
- Weight: 17lbs
Like its bigger siblings, the Rokit 5 has the same extended low frequency response, thanks to its front-ported design. This makes it ideal for bass heavy music, but it can be too boomy for more intricate styles of music. So if you're into DJ, EDM and other bass heavy music, then this is ideal. You'll want a flat response monitor if you'll mostly work on other musical styles. Another great feature of the Rokit 5 G3 is its portability, its very light and easy to carry around in case you want to work on your production in different venues. If you get this one, you'll find that it will exceed your expectations, much like the many (almost 500) experts and users that gave this speaker their thumbs up.
Rokit 5 is also available in White Finish, which are sold as pairs.
PreSonus Eris E5
Compared to other more established brands, PreSonus (founded in 1995) is a relative new comer in the reference monitor market, but that didn't stop them from creating quality entry level studio monitors. One of which, the Eris E5, secured a spot in this list with its impressive transparent sound and flat response. It has garnered quite the number of positive reviews from users and experts alike, and is a serious contender for the stop spot in the entry level studio monitor market.
PreSonus Eris E5 Features:
- 5" LF Kevlar driver 1" HF Silk Dome tweeter
- Bi Amplification: LF 45W | HF 35W
- Inputs: 1 x 1/4" (XLR), 1 x RCA (Unbalanced)
- Frequency response: 53Hz-22kHz
- Dimensions: 11" x 14" x 10"
- Weight: 10.2 lbs
Even with its front ported design, the Eris E5 is surprisingly balanced and full sounding, making it an ideal speaker for listening to vocals and acoustic instruments. Even voice-over artists have provided positive feedback, saying that the E5 reproduces nuances and details that they didn't expect considering its price. On the flipside, this flat response may not be ideal for bass heavy music, this makes the Eris E5 the polar opposite of the KRK Rokit. There are a few that reported durability issues, so you'll want to handle this one with care. Other than that, this is a great entry level mic for singer-songwriters who are just starting out to record their compositions.