The Best Stage Monitors - Powered Speakers Under $500

The Highest Rated Powered Stage Monitors

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Nothing ruins a gig like bad monitoring. When band members don't hear each other properly, singers sing out of tune, the bass doesn't stick with the drummer and the guitars will be everywhere in between.

Great monitoring for yourself or your venue will make the difference between good gigs and bad gigs. Choosing the right stage monitor is just as important as choosing good FOH (Front Of House) speakers.

For this August 2022 edition, we make it easy for you to choose the right stage monitor for your needs. Most of the selections are priced just right so you can invest in multiple units even if you're on a budget.

If you're interested in trying something different, take a look at our guide to Wireless In-Ear Monitors which give you better isolation and can even be used for an entire band to practice 'silently'.

The Best Stage Monitors Under $500

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Best Powered Stage Monitor Speakers Under $300

These are market leading powered speakers that are highly rated as floor monitors in the sub $300 price range. Some of them are also great FOH speakers.

Behringer Eurolive B205D

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 1500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$179
Behringer Eurolive B205D 5.25” 150 watt Powered Floor Monitor

Cons

  • Limited Power / Volume
  • Lacks Bass
  • May not cover multiple performers well on stage.
  • Some defective units reported.

Pros

  • Good as a Personal Monitor
  • Super Lightweight and Compact
  • Mic Stand Mountable
  • Budget Friendly
  • Nice 3 Channel Mixer with Eq

The Behringer Eurolive B205D is the smallest and lightest in this list, weighing at just 7 pounds.

It's equipped with just a 5.25" LF driver, and a 150W amplifier which may seem way under-powered compared to the others but reviews reveal that the projection of this monitor is just enough for small stages and venues.

It is ideal as a stage monitor for vocalists and keyboardists thanks to its mic stand mountable design.

It's also a great speaker for small-scale public address - just plug a microphone directly into the B205D and you're ready to be heard.

And since it has front mounted controls, making on-the-fly changes to your sound is possible without the need for a technician's help.

Speaking of controls, the 3-channel mixer gives you mic and line inputs, including RCAs for music players. And the 3-band EQ lets you fine-tune your sound easily.

Note that there are a few out-of-the-box defects reported, while some report having problems within a year of buying. These can still be covered by warranty so it's not necessarily a deal breaker. But it would still pay to handle and setup this compact active speaker carefully, specifically when mounting it on a mic stand, you don't want it to fall down during a performance.

Tech Specs

  • LF Driver: 5.25"
  • Power Rating (RMS): 125W
  • Power Rating (Peak): 150W
  • Frequency Range: 105Hz-10kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 112dB
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR, 2 x XLR/TRS Combo, 2 x RCA
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (Mic/Line)
  • Mounting: Floor Wedge, Pole
  • Weight: 7 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
Youtube David Murphey 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Behringer Eurolive B112D

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$279
Behringer Eurolive B112D 1000 watt Powered PA Speaker
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Powered Stage Monitor Under $300 along with the Alto TS308.

Cons

  • No Preset 'Floor' Voicing
  • Controls positioned to suit upright usage

Pros

  • Full Sound with Good Headroom
  • Budget Friendly
  • PA Speaker Capability

Behringer knows how to balance price and quality, to the detriment of the competition. A good example of this is the B112D, which for the price gives you a 12" woofer, a 1.35" tweeter and a 1000-Watt amplifier with built-in DSP for speaker protection.

While it doesn't have multiple voicings, it does come with 2-band EQ controls, which you can use to shape the sound to match the venue and the sound source. When using this on the floor you should consider cutting the bass to offset the extra bass buildup this position can add.

All these features are packed inside a lightweight plastic cabinet, which makes the B112D a good portable stage monitor for those who are looking for one with 12" woofers. For smaller venues and pop up events, it gets the job done for not a lot of cash.

Tech Specs

  • LF Driver: 12"
  • HF Driver: 1.35"
  • Power Rating (RMS): Not Specified
  • Power Rating (Peak): 1000W
  • Frequency Range: 50Hz - 20kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 127dB
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS Combo
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge
  • Weight: 27.1 lbs.

Best Powered Stage Monitor Speakers under $500

Many high quality FOH (front of house) speakers in the $300 to $500 price range work just as great when used as stage monitors, thanks to built-in DSP that tweaks the voicing to meet the needs of stage monitoring. In this section, you'll see the best of these versatile speakers.

Yamaha DBR10

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Yamaha DBR10 10" 700 Watt Powered PA Speaker

Cons

  • Enclosure can be prone to scratching
  • Could have a better handle

Pros

  • Great all-rounder - suitable for most PA applications
  • DSP features with a 'Monitor' mode to prevent bass buildup when sitting on the floor
  • Professional appearance suitable for weddings and corporate gigs

With an option set these as a floor wedge plus the dedicated DSP mode for this the DBR10 makes a really good option as stage monitor. The 'Monitor' mode reduces the low frequencies to compensate for the bass build up when used in the floor position.

The angled section you rest it on seems a bit small at first but the cabinet balances sufficiently well. You certainly won't want to be resting your foot on it during a solo like you could with a dedicated floor monitor unit though.

Yamaha DBR10 Front Floor Monitor View
Yamaha DBR10 Front Floor Monitor View

The feel of the cabinet is pretty sturdy for such a lightweight unit and you get the impression it would be able to take a fair bit of impact. The moulded enclosure however does look like it could scratch pretty easily and others have reported this happening but so far I've only experienced a few minor ones as you can (or can't) see from the photo above.

The sound is quite clear, loud and surprisingly full, and the smaller size is handy if you have limited stage space.

One issue is that the mixing panel on the back is difficult to access or see when floor mounted which makes it impractical to adjust settings live. Some sound guys might see this as a virtue, stopping performers from messing with their settings.

Another criticism I have of the body is that it would have been good to have handle on the side that you can grip properly to carry it around. Instead there's just a slot on the top where you can slide you hand in and carry it upright. It works Ok because it's such a lightweight unit but it's not as secure as I would like and could be fatiguing for some people's fingers.

Despite my minor concerns, this is a fantastic, affordable, lightweight speaker that sounds great and offers a ton of versatility. It looks good and has been a reliable workhorse for many (including me) that is backed by Yamaha's 7 year warranty. It's suitable for use everywhere from practice at home, on stage as a monitor or an instrument amp, as the main speakers for smaller venues or coupled with subwoofers in larger venues.

If you're interested in the FRFR aspect of the DBR10, we go into much more detail in this extended review.

Tech Specs

  • LF Driver: 10"
  • HF Driver: 1"
  • Power Rating (Continuous): 325W (260 LF | 65 HF)
  • Power Rating (Dynamic): 700W (500 LF | 200 HF)
  • Frequency Range: 55Hz-20kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 129dB
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS Combo, 1 x Stereo
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge
  • Weight: 23.2 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Gearank Daniel Barnett 98/100
Sound On Sound Paul White 98/100
YouTube Gear It First 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Mackie Thump15A

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$399
Mackie Thump15A Powered Speaker 15" - 1300W

Cons

  • Overkill if you don't need/want the bass /response
  • 1 Year Warranty and reports of mediocre service
  • Sharp corners can get dented

Pros

  • Strong Low Frequency Response
  • Good for Drums, Keyboards, Bass
  • Has a Specific 'Monitor' Voicing
  • Main PA Speaker Capability

Who would need a stage monitor with a 15" woofer? Actually, a lot of musicians including drummers, bassists, keyboardists, DJs and more.

And this need is addressed by the Mackie Thump15A, with its 15" LF driver that better emphasizes low frequencies compared to its smaller siblings. But aside from its bigger woofer, everything else about this speaker follows the same specs and configuration as the Thump 12A, including having a 1,300 watt Class D amplifier and Mackie's Dynamic Bass Response technology.

Many Bands and DJs use this as a main FOH speaker but it's also well used as a stage monitor for drummers who use electronic drums, keyboardists and electronic musicians, bassists and even guitarists who use guitar modeling processors.

Importantly it includes a DSP driven 'Monitor' mode to tame that bass 'thump' for floor use especially. There's also a mode for use with a subwoofer which can use without one plugged in if you need to tame the bass even more. There's a 2 channel combo mixer and built-in thermal limiter for speaker protection.

If you're just looking for a generic floor monitor for vocals then this unit is probably overkill, but if you need a monitor with extra emphasis on bass frequencies then the Mackie Thump15A is highly recommended.

Tech Specs

  • LF Driver: 15"
  • HF Driver: 1.4"
  • Power Rating (RMS): Not Specified
  • Power Rating (Peak): 1300W
  • Frequency Range: 32Hz-23kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 127 dB
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" Combo
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (Mix out)
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge
  • Weight: 34.8 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
LiquidAudio Stefan 85/100
AudioFanzine JimboSpins 80/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

QSC CP8

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$500
QSC CP8 Powered PA Speaker
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Powered Stage Monitor Under $500.

Cons

  • A bit lacking on the bottom end - not the best drum monitor

Pros

Although far from being the cheapest on this list, the CP8 has been the most popular floor monitor with Gearank readers since 2021.

I've installed QSC speakers at a local venue and calibration was a breeze and I found they work well as either FOH or monitor speakers.

The CP8 features QSC's brand of premium sound quality at a reasonable price (compared to other QSC speakers), and its ability to reproduce sonic detail and nuances make it ideal for stage monitor use.

It has a 1000W Class D 3-channel amplifier that drives an 8" woofer and 1.4" tweeter, all designed and built to QSC's strict quality requirements. To achieve a clear sound that the brand is known for, CP8 comes with QSC's DMT (Directivity Matched Transition) and Intrinsic Correction DSP.

In addition to its dedicated floor monitor voicing, it comes with 5 other contour modes which include speech, dance and subwoofer ready modes and it sounds good in all of them.

Tech Specs

  • LF Driver: 8"
  • HF Driver: 1.4"
  • Power Rating (RMS): 1000W
  • Power Rating (Peak): Not Specified
  • Frequency Range: 56Hz-20kHz (-6dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 124 dB SPL @ 1m
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" Combo (Mic/Line), 1 x 1/8" (Aux)
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR (mix out)
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge
  • Weight: 25.5 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Sound On Sound Mike Crofts 94/100
Production Partner Anselm Goertz 97/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Things to Consider When Buying Stage Monitors

Powered (aka active) vs Passive

Powered stage monitors come with built-in amplifiers, while passive ones require a separate amplifier. There's no clear winner between the two, rather, they each have their own advantages over the other. Powered stage monitor speakers make setup simple. Passive monitors require an amplifier. The most practical method is to consider your existing equipment when getting stage monitors, if you already have a dedicated amplifier, then get a passive monitor, if none then go powered. Also remember that powered speakers need to be plugged into a power outlet. Note that since our 2020 edition, we've decided to leave out passive stage monitors entirely, since most people are now looking for powered stage monitors due to their ease of use and convenience.

How many do you need?

The number of monitors you need is influenced greatly by the size of the stage and the number of performers. The most ideal is to setup is a monitor for each performer, otherwise they may have to share a monitor. A good rule of thumb is to start with two monitors for small to medium sized venues, and add as the need for more arises - you'll often need one dedicated to the drummer as it can be difficult to hear every performer from the back of the stage where the drummer is usually positioned.

Speaker Size and Weight

The size of the woofer (LF Driver) is significant in that it will dictate the stage monitor's bass handling and projection. You will want smaller speakers (8" to 12") for vocals and other common instruments that include guitars and keyboards. While bass heavy instruments like drums and bass guitars generally require bigger (12" to 15") woofers - note that some drummers use an additional subwoofer or a dedicated drum monitor for stage monitoring. Portability is an important consideration if you're performance venue constantly changes, and to help with that, we have put the weight of each stage monitor listed on the features section.

Can be used as FOH (Front of House) or General Speakers

Most modern powered PA speakers can double as good stage monitors, making them great bang per buck choices. This means that they can serve as back up FOH speakers should your mains have problems.

Differences between a Floor Wedge and a Stage Monitor

Stage monitor refers to speakers that can be used as monitors, while floor wedge refers to the shape and position of a stage monitor. Many of today's powered speakers have back wedges that allow them to be positioned as floor wedge monitors. And many also come with built-in DSP that can let you switch the voicing of the speaker to compliment the floor wedge position.

The best Stage Monitors for Drummers

There are some great sounding powered monitors that are specifically designed for drummers, we feature the best of them in our guide to the Electronic Drum Amps / Drum Monitors.

Best Stage Monitor Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on August 24, 2022.

This guide complements our Powered PA speakers guide, focusing on top-rated stage monitors that are readily available at major American music stores. After surveying the major retailers we placed the most promising 45 options on our short-list for closing examination.

We gathered relevant reviews, ratings and recommendations for each model and fed the data to the Gearank algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 that you see above. Over 16,500 sources were processed for this edition - an 18.7% increase over the previous edition. The resulting scores allow us to rank each monitor according to their ratings and we selected the highest rated ones to recommend above. The list is broken down into sub $300 and sub $500 price categories for convenience. See How Gearank Works for further details on our methods.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

I'm an experienced audio engineer, not only in the studio, but on stage as well. Having done live sound for numerous international touring acts and festivals, I have years of both technical and creative experience in the field and have taught seminars on basic live sound setup in the mid 2010's.

Contributors

Daniel Barnett: Yamaha DBR10 Review.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Created by Gearank.com using photographs of the QSC CP8, Behringer Eurolive B205D and Yamaha DBR10.

The individual product images were sourced from their respective manufacturers' websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation except for the Yamaha DBR10 Floor View which was photographed by Daniel Barnett.

Comments

Looking for a monitor there

Looking for a monitor there are other considerations such as weight and controls on the front, durability. You can sit at a desk and evaluate but when you have to move equipment around and use it during an event these things are as (or almost) important as quality. So I did get much from this.

Got a Yamaha DBR10 and it is

Got a Yamaha DBR10 and it is great. It’s light, and works great as a stage monitor. Much better than the QSC K10 we were using

I'd like to have seen more

I'd like to have seen more reviews of monitors with a 10" woofer. I know that Yamaha makes one. I have two of the Kustom 10" and I like them for my situation which is in a small church with a relatively small staging area. There has to be other 10" monitors out there under $300.

As part of our December 2017

As part of our December 2017 update we looked very carefully at 10" speakers, however the passive ones at this size didn't rate highly enough for us to recommend them despite powered versions with this size woofer rating quite highly with some being recommenced above.

Nice overview. I would add

Nice overview. I would add that the Peavey PV 12M horn drivers do blow. From my experience, that happens about every 8-10 years if the monitor is used 3-4 times a week in performance and rehearsal. My bands have pushed these units to the limit. They've been impressive and held up to everything we've thrown at them.
How do I know they blow every 8-10 years? I date my drivers when I install them, originally because I was curious as to how long they last. I'm glad I started to do that as I doubt I would remember accurately when I had last replaced them.
These guys are extremely durable and will deliver clean, crisp audio for decades. the pole mount allowed us to use one as a main when we blew a speaker once. And like most Peavey gear, these speakers will handle much more power than Peavey says they will.