The Best Stage Monitors Under $500 - Powered & Passive

Guide to the Highest Rated Powered & Passive Stage Monitors

First published on May. 24, 2016 and last updated on .

Disclosure

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Sweetwater
This guide is supported by Sweetwater and contains links to their product pages, however the recommendations below have been made independently by us at Gearank.

Further information is in our Privacy Policy.

PA System Guides

We have a range:of guides related to PA systems which you will find helpful:

Here we take a look at the highest rated stage monitors in the sub $500 range where most are looking, taking into consideration the most recent reviews, ratings and discussions up to July of 2019.

This time the Electro-Voice ZLX-15P and RCF ART 310-A MK III were added to our recommended list at the expense of the Electro-Voice ZLX-12P and Yamaha DBR12, which although still highly rated, they were surpassed by the two new options we included.

Stage monitors, also called floor/wedge/foldback monitors, are speakers positioned to let performers hear themselves properly on stage. As such they are as important as FOH (Front of House) speakers, some say even more so, because they directly affect performance. While alternatives like in-ear monitors are available, many still prefer the coverage and practicality of floor monitors.

The Best Stage Monitors Under $500 - Powered & Passive

Powered Stage Monitor Speakers

These are market leading powered speakers that are highly rated as floor monitors. Incidentally, many of them are also great FOH speakers.

Yamaha DBR10

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Yamaha DBR10

This highly rated powered speaker cabinet is a market favorite when it comes to portable and versatile speaker systems. Weighing in at just 23.2 pounds, the Yamaha DBR10 packs quite a lunch of punch, with its 10" LF Driver, 700W (Peak) power rating and max SPL of 129dB. And since it is also top rated PA speaker, it can serve as a reliable backup for your FOH speakers. Its power, portability, flexibility, and Yamaha's reputation for quality makes for a potent mixture of practical traits that many are looking for in a stage monitor.

Features:

  • 10" LF Driver
  • 1" HF Driver
  • 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.

Pros
Most commendations point to its clean sound, good projection and portability. Many acknowledge experiencing a big jump in sound quality improvement after switching to the Yamaha DBR10, which is quite special considering its affordable price point, and its light weight. While it does work great as FOH mains and side fills, experts have noted that it works even better as a floor monitor, with its clarity and quiet operation - especially for vocals and acoustic instruments.

Cons
The rating would have been higher if not for some users who wanted more bass and projection from its compact 10" speaker, they should have known better and bought something bigger. An expert reviewer cautioned that it can't handle too much lows, but said that this is a physical limitation rather than a fault on the speaker - and it would not be an issue for most musicians when used as a stage monitor.

Overall
If you are looking for a quality monitor that's light on your back and your bank, then definitely get this one.

Turbosound Milan M12

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$400
Turbosound Milan M15  15" Powered PA Speaker

The Turbosound Milan M12 is a powered loud speaker that packs quite the punch. It sports a powerful 1100W (Peak) amplifier, and a 12" woofer, more than capable of handling main speaker duties, yet it is well loved for its fuller sound when used as stage monitor. It also has a switchable 100Hz low-cut filter, which works in conjunction with its built-in DSP to give it more midrange emphasis and stops low-end rumble when used as a floor monitor.

Features:

  • 10" LF Driver
  • 1" HF Driver
  • Power Rating (Continuous): 275W
  • Power Rating (Peak): 1100W (Peak) (1000W LF and 100W HF)
  • Frequency Range: 50Hz - 18kHz (±3dB), 45Hz - 20kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 128dB
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge, Fly
  • Weight: 45.1 lbs.

Pros
Market response to the Milan M12 is quite positive, with most users pointing to its value for money and enhanced low end as its best traits. One user describe the sound as having a "serious low end", which is important to DJs and musicians who need to emphasize the bass frequencies often.

Cons
Even those who are not familiar with the brand find themselves impressed enough to buy one after testing the speaker. The speaker's bulk and weight is also a cause for concern, but it is still relatively light compared to others with the same size and power rating.

Overall
If you're looking for a stage monitor with more low-end oomph and projection, then get the Turbosound Milan M12.

Electro-Voice ZLX-15P

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$499
Electro-Voice ZLX-15P Powered PA Speaker - 1000W

Electro-Voice continues to make a name for themselves, thanks to their good quality to price ratios as exemplified by the ZLX-15P. Driving its 15" woofer and 1.5" tweeter is its built-in Class-D powered amplifier section, rated at 1000W. This configuration makes this speaker viable as a FOH speaker, but it also works well as a stage monitor, thanks to its floor-friendly wedge cabinet profile. Another cool feature of theZLX-15P is its built-in DSP, which gives you the ability to choose between 4 presets (music, live , speech, and club), which tunes the speakers for use in different scenarios.

Features:

  • 15" LF Driver
  • 1.5" HF Driver
  • Power Rating (Continuous): 250W
  • Power Rating (Peak): 1000W
  • Frequency Range: 42Hz-20kHz (-10dB)
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 127dB
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR/TRS, 1 x 1/8" Aux
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge
  • Weight: 38.1 lbs.

Pros

The Electro-Voice ZLX-15P is a versatile powered speaker that can handle both FOH and monitoring duties really well. Reviews are dominated by favorable comments that point to its flexibility and reliability, While it gets most of its thumbs up from those who use the speaker as FOH, there are a good enough number of owners who are happy with its performance as a floor wedge speaker. Many are also impressed as to how the ZLX-15P can handle louder type of music,

Cons

This speaker is a bit on the heavy side at 34.39 lbs, but it still relatively light when compared to other active speakers with 12" woofers. Of the few other complaints, we found that they are mostly about shipping damage and manufacturing defect claims that would be resolved through the retail store.

Overall

If you're looking for a loud and versatile powered speaker that can work as FOH or stage monitor, then check this one out.

RCF ART 310-A MK III

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
RCF ART 310-A MK III 10" Powered PA Speaker

The RCF ART 310-A MKIII is an active loudspeaker with two voicings, flat and boost. The boost voicing offers more low end, while the flat voicing gives you a more transparent sound that is ideal for monitoring use. With its 10" woofer, 1" titanium dome tweeter and 400W (RMS) rating, the ART 310-A MKIII has enough juice for most applications, and can even handle FOH duties for smaller venues.

Specifications:

  • 10" Cone, 2.5" Voice Coil LF Driver
  • 1" Titanium Dome, 1.5" Voice Coil HF Driver
  • Power Rating (Peak): 800W (600W LF, 200W HF)
  • Power Rating (RMS): 400W (300W LF, 100W HF)
  • Frequency Response:50Hz - 20kHz(-3dB)
  • Frequency Range: 42Hz - 20kHz
  • Crossover Frequency: 1.8kHz
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 127dB
  • Inputs: 1 x XLR-1/4" Combo
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR, 1 x TRS
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge, Fly
  • Weight: 27.77 lbs.

Pros

The RCF ART 310-A MK III impresses users with its sonic response and detail, with many reporting that they can hear nuances that they could not hear when using other speakers. There are plenty of reports of it working well in various scenarios, from music playback for DJs, to vocal monitoring to acoustic instruments, it is even reported to be good enough for loud stages. Build quality of its cabinet and its overall rigidity also get a lot of thumbs up.

Cons

Unfortunately, not everyone is pleased with the its flat voicing, as seen in some reviews where users are looking for more bottom end.

Overall

The RCF ART 310-A MK III is a good all around 10" powered speaker that will make a good addition to anyone's setup.

Budget Option - Powered Monitor Speakers

Behringer Eurolive B205D

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 1300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Behringer Eurolive B205D 150 watt Powered PA Speaker

The Behringer Eurolive B205D has been the most popular small powered stage monitor with Gearank readers over the last year.

It's the smallest and lightest in this list, weighing at just 7 pounds, 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.

The Behringer Eurolive B205D 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 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. Whether you're looking for a convenient stage monitor or a portable PA system, the Behringer B205D is a solid choice.

Features:

  • 5.25" LF Driver
  • 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.

Pros
Aside from its obvious budget friendly price advantage, the Behringer Eurolive B205D is well loved for its portability, as stated by majority of reviewers. Many are also pleased with how it sounds, in terms of both projection and quality. From small cafes to a Las Vegas rock band stage, the general consensus is that it gets the job done quite well for the size. The ability to be mounted on a mic stand is also a plus, allowing the performer to better hear the sound coming off the speaker, and giving them easier access to the onboard controls which include a 3-channel mixer and EQ.

Cons
There are a few out-of-the-box defects reported, while some report having problems within a year of using. 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.

Overall
Easily the best value compact stage monitor on the market today, since you can save a lot by buying this unit, we recommend that you also get a mic stand to get the most benefit.

Passive Monitor Speakers

If you already have an amplifier, or you want to setup your stage monitors using a dedicated amplifier, then check out these four highly rated passive stage monitors.

Mackie C300z

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$350
Mackie C300z Passive Loudspeaker 300-Watt 12" Woofer

Since it is a passive speaker, there's not much going on in terms of extra features, but it does stand out with its non-traditional form factor, 12" LF Driver and relatively big 1.75" HF driver. Speaking of form factor, tilting the C300z on its side allows it to work as a floor monitor with extended low and high frequencies thanks the size of its drivers.

Features:

  • 12" LF Driver
  • 1.75" HF Driver
  • Power Rating (RMS): 300W
  • Power Rating (Peak): 750W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 45Hz-20kHz
  • Sensitivity: 1W/1m: 98dB
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 123dB
  • Inputs: 2 x TS, 1 x Speakon
  • Mounting: Pole, Floor Wedge
  • Weight: 46 lbs.

Pros
The Mackie C300z simplicity and practicality continue to win the hearts of musicians and sound system owners. Many of which are happy with how it provides good sounds without the hassle of having to find a power port to plug it in. A number of users also commented on its "clear, crisp and distortion free" tone. One even noted that it sounded clean even with the kick drum mixed in.

Cons
For a passive 12" speaker, the Mackie C300z is quite heavy, but this extra weight is justified by reports of users who are happy with its reliability.

Overall
This affordable 12" passive speaker is a great low-cost option, do check it out if you're budget is limited.

Yamaha Club V Series SM12V

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$350
Yamaha Club V Series SM12V

The SM12V continues the success story of Yamaha's Club Series line, which as the label implies is now on its 5th iteration. Stand out features of this speaker include the Eminence designed 12" speaker, and its larger than usual 2" tweeter. This works in conjunction with its bulky enclosure for improved high power handling and provides enhanced bass frequencies and projection. Having mentioned all that, its best feature is still its longevity and reliability, as attested to by the many positive reviews that it continues to receive.

Features:

  • 12" LF Driver
  • 2" HF Driver
  • Power Rating (Program): 350W
  • Power Rating (Peak): 700W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 60Hz-16khz
  • Sensitivity: 1W/1m: 97dB
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 125dB
  • Mounting: Floor Wedge, Pole
  • Weight: 47.2 lbs.

Pros
The Yamaha Club V Series SM12V speaker gets a lot of thumbs up from users who describe it as a well rounded versatile speaker. Many are satisfied with both its physical build - from the solid feel of its cabinet, to its weight. It is also described as having a a pleasing and well balanced sound. Some even use the SM12V as FOH speakers with good results, a testament to its inherent projection and clarity.

Cons
There are a few who comment that the low-end is a bit lacking, while others wish for better positioning versatility.

Overall
Still, the Yamaha Club V Series SM12V is a great buy for anyone looking for a tried and tested 12" floor monitor.

Yamaha Club V Series SM15V

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$410
Yamaha Club V Series SM15V 15" Passive Stage Monitor Speaker CabinetYamaha Club V Series SM15V 15" Passive Stage Monitor Speaker Cabinet

The Yamaha Club series has been a long time popular choice for many, and so it is not surprising that the fifth generation secured a second spot in this list with the SM15V. Compared to the previous versions, this one has a larger enclosure for better low-frequency performance, improved HF and LF drivers for higher power handling, enhanced crossovers, and sturdier grilles. With its peak power at 1000W, this passive stage monitor can get loud when needed, and with its bigger 15" LF driver, it can handle instruments with extreme lows, like kick drums and bass guitars.

Features:

  • 15" LF Driver
  • 2" HF Driver
  • Power Rating (Continuous): 250W
  • Power Rating (Program): 500W
  • Power Rating (Peak): 1000W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 55Hz - 16kHz
  • Sensitivity: 1W/1m: 99dB
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 129dB
  • Weight: 61.7 lbs.

Pros
Loud and clear is how many describe the Yamaha SM15V. As a monitor, many liked its high headroom and good projection, easily handling loud instruments with extended bass like drum kits and bass guitars. Another common theme among reviewers and experts is their appreciation of the unit's clarity and audio quality. The company attributes this to the help of Eminence which custom designed the drivers to meet Yamaha's preferences.

Cons
There are some low ratings that are attributed to shipping issues, which is unfortunate. Some complained about the bulky size of this speaker and its weight, but then again, this should be expected of a bigger 15" woofer.

Overall
Considering its sound and build quality - its hard to find fault with the Yamaha Club V Series SM15V.

JBL PRX412M

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$499
JBL PRX412M Passive PA Speaker - 600 Watt RMS

JBL describes the PRX412M as a multi-purpose passive speaker, able to handle monitor and FOH duties. It features a 12" woofer paired with a 1" tweeter, a typical configuration used on many speakers, only this one comes with JBL's brand of quality and reliability. To ensure durability and reduce resonance, the PRX412M comes with a birch/poplar cabinet with DuraFlex coating, while the front panel is secured by a 16-gauge steel grill cover.

Features:

  • 12" LF Driver
  • 1" HF Driver
  • Power Rating (Continuous): 300W
  • Power Rating (Program): 600W
  • Power Rating (Peak): 1200W
  • Impedance 8 ohms
  • Frequency Range: 55Hz-19kHz
  • Sensitivity: 1W/1m: 95dB
  • Maximum Peak SPL: 126dB
  • Inputs: 2 x XLR-1/4", 1 x Neutrik speakON (Parallel)
  • Mounting: Floor Wedge, Fly
  • Weight: 35 lbs.

Pros
Many are wowed by its craftsmanship, specifically pointing to how good the cabinets and inner workings are assembled. Sound quality also gets a praise from users of different musical backgrounds, including band musicians, venue owners, church sound technicians and more. Many users who switched to the JBL PRX412M also appreciate its lighter weight, when compared to others of the same price and value.

Cons
There aren't any notable complaints regarding sound, but there are a few who wish for practical features like extra handles. Some owners caution that its one handle design makes it difficult to carry around, especially when you have to climb up or down a flight of stairs.

Overall
With JBL's big-brand backing and its positive market response, the JBL PRX412M is an easy recommendation.

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. Just remember that powered speakers need to be plugged into a power outlet.

  • 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 every 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 speaker (LF Driver) is significant in that it will dictate the stage monitor's bass handling and projection. You will want smaller speakers (10 to 12") for vocals and other common instruments that include guitars and keyboards. While bass heavy instruments like drums and bass guitars will require bigger (12" to 15") woofers - note that some drummers use an additional subwoofer for stage monitoring. Mobility 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 main one have problems.

  • What is the best Stage Monitor 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

This guide complements our Powered and Passive PA speakers guides, and like those, this guide focuses on top rated stage monitors that are readily available at most major American music stores. For this update, we decided to limit the price range to $500, the price range that suits the vast majority of our readers.

As always, we allow the numbers to speak for themselves by gathering relevant reviews, ratings and recommendations and feeding all of them into into the Gearank algorithm. Over 9,400 sources were processed for this update. The resulting scores allow us to rank each monitor via their ratings and we selected the highest rated ones to recommend above. The list is broken down into powered and passive categories for convenience. See How Gearank Works for further details on our methods.

Comments

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.

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.

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

Post a Comment or Question

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <b> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.