The Best Studio Monitors - Outeraudio

The Best Studio Monitors

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Looking for the best studio monitors can be a daunting task. There are so many makes and models. It’s hard to know which studio monitors are right for you. Furthermore, some monitors have features like room correction, high-pass or low-pass filters, and other EQ adjustments. Do you need these?

In this article, we take a look at 10 of the best selling studio monitors. We break down each product and give insight into the speaker’s features and, lastly, offer our best recommendations for application or use.

The Best Studio Monitors 1
Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor

If you’re looking for a flat, true sound, then you’ll love the HS8. They’re designed to deliver an uncolored response, and they do it exceptionally well.

Yamaha-HS8-Studio-Monitor

Best Studio Monitors – Quick Guide

Best Overall: Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor

We’ve looked at every studio monitor available on the market today and believe the Yamaha HS8 is the best studio monitor for people who are looking for a well priced high-quality product. If you’re looking for a flat, true sound, then you’ll love the HS8. They’re designed to deliver an uncolored response, and they do it exceptionally well.

Loudest Studio Monitor: BEHRINGER B2031A

The loudest studio monitors we reviewed was the BEHRINGER B2031A. The total power output of the two speakers is an impressive 265-Watt. The B2031A also has the biggest woofer of the studio monitors we reviewed at 8 3/4-inch.

Most Compact Studio Monitors: Mackie CR3

If size matters to you, then the Mackie CR3 is going to be your best option. The CR3 only slightly smaller than the Presonus Eris E3 so, if you prefer the Presonus, the size difference won’t matter too much.

Best Budget Studio Monitors: Presonus Eris E3

If you’re making your purchase decision based on cost, then your best bet is to go with either the Mackie CR3 or Presonus Eris E3. The Presonus Eris E3 is the better sounding of the two, while the Mackie CR3 is much better looking.

What are Studio Monitors?

Studio monitors are the speakers used to reference studio recordings and playback. Monitors are also used for mixing and mastering. They are called monitors because you monitor or reference audio through the speakers.

In most cases, studio monitors are near field speakers. Near field means you have to be in front of the monitors to hear the full frequency response and characteristics of the speakers. This is often referred to as “the sweet spot” by sound engineers and producers.

To achieve the sweet spot, you must be close to the monitors, but you also have to play with speaker placement to achieve the best results. Studio monitors also come with features like room correction, high/low pass filters, and other EQ adjustments to compensate for the surrounding environment.

Studio Monitors vs Speakers – What’s the Difference?

With regards to functionality, there is no difference between a speaker and a studio monitor. A studio monitor defines the application rather than the device itself.

In the case of a studio monitor, the speaker is being used to reference audio playback. This audio could be live or pre-recorded.

Now, there are some features you’ll find on a studio monitor that you won’t typically find in other speakers. The most prominent feature is a room or environmental correction.

Studio monitors play a crucial role in audio playback. The speaker needs to deliver a flat, uncolored audio response. While a speaker might be manufactured to produce a flat response, the room, and how you position your studio monitors will change the speaker’s characteristics, particularly in the low-end response.

To compensate for this, the environmental correction, or EQ, will change how the speaker produces its frequency response, thus correcting the sound. Some studio monitors also come with high and low-frequency correction to further tweak and fine-tune your sound.

Passive vs Active Studio Monitors

When shopping around you’ll likely come across passive and active (also referred to as powered) studio monitors. In short, active speakers have a built-in power amplifier while passive speakers require external amplification. All of the monitors we feature in this article are active so you won’t require an external amp to drive them.

To save on cost, some manufacturers will pair an active speaker with a passive speaker. For example, one of our budget options, the Mackie CR3, has one active speaker containing the power amplifier and a second speaker that’s passive. The passive speaker connects to the active speaker via a speaker cable.

For studio monitors under $500, such as all the speakers we feature in this article, you’re not going to experience much difference in performance. Where you will see a difference is in high-end audiophile or professional recording monitors where users will take great care in matching wattage and impedance to get the best sound.

What Are Near Field Monitors?

All of the studio monitors we feature in this article are near field studio monitors. Near field monitors are designed to be positioned close to the listening position. Typically about an arms-length or slightly more from where you are sitting. Ideally, near field studio monitors have a single focussed listening position for just one person.

Near field monitors allow you to sit directly in the sweet spot without experiencing any interference from reflections off surrounding surfaces. When selecting a pair of near field monitors, you’re looking for quality of sound rather than volume. As you’re sitting in close proximity, you don’t need high SPL.

Far-field monitors are usually reserved for large rooms and studios. These speakers are just as detailed as near field monitors, but with the ability to produce higher SPL. The sweet spot of far-field monitors is also wider, allowing better coverage.

1. Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor – Best Overall Studio Monitors

The Best Studio Monitors 2

Freq. Response
38Hz – 30kHz

Power
60W

Size
14 x 16 x 21″

Weight
28 lbs

When it comes to studio monitors, Yamaha is one brand you will find in every corner of the globe. The HS Series is one of Yamaha’s most famous studio monitors, with the Yamaha HS8 being the flagship model. The HS Series are active speakers, so installation is plug-and-play.

The main reason people love the HS8 is for the speaker’s flat, uncolored response. This flat response is particularly crucial for studio engineers when recording or mixing.

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The Design

The HS8 offers a minimalist design featuring a black enclosure and tweeter grille with a white low-frequency driver. You also have the option of an all-white HS8 with black trim around the woofer. A small Yamaha logo appears at the bottom of the speaker and illuminates when the speaker is powered.

The rear of the speaker is where you’ll find the inputs, controls, and switches to adjust the HS8’s sound profile.

The HS8 features an 8-inch woofer below a 1-inch tweeter. The drivers are bi-amped with 75W of power to the low-frequency driver and 45W to the tweeter delivering an impressive 120W of sound.

Features

The HS8 features two switches on the rear of the speaker to control the sound profile. The “Room Control” allows you to attenuate the bass response by -2 or -4 dB. This setting will help with rooms that produce a lot of low-end or a “boomy” bass sound. You will usually experience this if you have the speakers near a wall or in the corner of your room.

The second switch is to adjust the highs. You can either boost or attenuate by 2 dB at 2kHz. Again, this will depend on your room and speaker placement.

Inputs and Controls

The HS8 features a single input channel that allows for either XLR or 1/4-inch audio inputs. A rotary fader above the channel controls the volume. Having the volume on the rear might be a slight annoyance as you will have to reach around the back of the speaker to adjust the volume. If you’re using the HS8 with your PC, then you’ll use the soundcard’s controls.

What Does The Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor Sound Like?

If you’re looking for a flat, true sound, then you’ll love the HS8. These speakers are designed to deliver an uncolored response, and they do it exceptionally well.

Even though the HS8 delivers a flat response, the low-end has a remarkable weight to the sound with a solid punch. Even bass heads will love the bass response of the HS8.

The mid-range and high-frequency response provide an incredible audio experience. Vocals and instrumentation sit proudly in the mix without ever getting harsh or losing tonality, even at high volumes.

With the HS8, you also experience fantastic stereo separation with a wide sound stage, allowing you to pick out every frequency and instrument in the mix. The detail and clarity of the HS8 are phenomenal for a studio monitor under $500.

Best Applications

The Yamaha HS8 is a versatile studio monitor. The speakers will perform well in professional studios, but consumers will also love the sound these speakers produce. The speakers are easy to install and should sound good in most rooms.

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  • High-Performance Amp Unit
  • Low Resonance Enclosure Design
  • Advanced Noise Reduction

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2. JBL Professional 305P MkII

The Best Studio Monitors 3

Freq. Response
49Hz – 20kHz

Power
82W

Size
12 x 7 x 9″

Weight
10.43 lbs

Trusted by audio professionals the world over, JBL should always be at the top of your list for speaker considerations. For affordability and sound, the JBL Professional 305P MkII is one of the most popular monitors for small studios, PCs, and home entertainment.

The 305P MkII is the latest iteration of JBL’s 3 Series studio monitors. Also included is a 6.5-inch and 8-inch version. The 305P MkII is the smallest of the 3 Series, specifically targeting entry-level aspiring studio engineers/producers looking for great sound at an affordable price.

The JBL Professional 305P MkII stands just under 14-inches, making it perfect for small installations like home offices and apartments. Although small, the 305P MkII produces high-quality sound, even at low volumes. So, you don’t need to pump these speakers to get good clarity and detail.

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The Design

The 305P MkII features an all-plastic speaker enclosure with a single woofer and tweeter. The first thing you’ll notice when it comes to the 305P MkII is the striking high-gloss finish. Why? Why JBL did you do this?

For the most part, the high-gloss finish has gone out of fashion. In my opinion, a gloss finish makes a speaker look cheap. The other big issue is the speaker becomes a magnet for fingerprints and other smudges.

With that said, the 305P MkII is a standard looking monitor with a 5-inch low-frequency driver under a 1-inch tweeter. The tweeter is mounted within what appears to be a horn, but, according to JBL, is not a horn. Confusing? Yes.

Features

The horn is actually JBL’s Image Control Waveguide. Image Control Waveguide does a couple of things to enhance your listening experience.

Firstly, it widens the sweet spot of the speakers while keeping audio consistency, no matter what room you place 305P MkII in. The Image Control Waveguide also allows the speaker to deliver improved detail and clarity. More on Image Control Waveguide in our sound review below.

You have three settings to play with on the back of the 305P MkII. The first is for input sensitivity, which allows you to switch between +4dBu for high-impedance or line-level inputs or -10dBv for microphone inputs.

Next, you have a Boundary EQ, which allows you to adjust the speaker’s low-end performance with how much bass the room produces. Lastly, you have a High-Frequency (HF) Trim to either boost or attenuate a 10kHz shelf by 2dB.

Inputs and Controls

The 305P MkII has a single input channel and rotary volume control with the option of either XLR or 1/4-inch jack. Each speaker has its own input with a Class-D amplifier, so you need to run separate signal and power to both your left and right 305P MkII.

What Does The JBL Professional 305P MkII Sound Like?

JBL has done a remarkable job with the 305P MkII. The most impressive thing about the 305P MkII is the amount of bass the 5-inch woofer produces. The bass is well defined with a substantial low-end punch.

Whatever JBL has done with the Image Control Waveguide, it works! The detail and clarity in the mid-range and highs are exceptional. The mid-range is forward in the mix, providing excellent vocal clarity. The soundstage of the 305P MkII is also very impressive for a speaker this size.

Best Applications

The 305P MkII is an excellent upgrade for your standard PC speakers. You’re going to experience audiophile quality sound at a budget-end price point. At under $100 per speaker, you’ll hardly be breaking the bank for a pair of 305P MkII monitors. If you’re looking for a pair of monitors for the studio, I would recommend the 6.5-inch 306P MkII or 8-inch 308P MkII. These larger monitors will provide you with a more prominent bass response and greater headroom.

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  • Optimized Damping
  • Broad Sweet Spot
  • Updated HF and LF Transducers

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3. Kali Audio LP-6 Studio Monitor

The Best Studio Monitors 4

Freq. Response
38Hz – 25kHz

Power
80W

Size
10 x 9 x 14″

Weight
15.45 lbs

Kali Audio is one of the “new kids on the block” when it comes to consumer audio. Previously, we reviewed the Kali Audio LP-6 and LP-8. When it came to choosing which of these we prefer for the best studio monitors, we decided to go with the Kali Audio LP-6 Studio Monitor.

With its 6.5-inch low-frequency driver and smaller footprint, LP-6 will operate well in most rooms, whereas the LP-8 is better suited for large rooms or studios.

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The Design

Upon first inspection, you’ll notice the Kali Audio LP-6 features its bass port on the front of the speaker, as opposed to the back. Kali Audio’s reason for this is to allow air to move freely from the bass port without interference or reflections from the rear walls or other surfaces.

If you are positioning your monitors in a confined space, this speaker design might be better suited to your room. The front-facing bass port will reduce coloration and deliver a tighter bass sound. Check our sound review below for our verdict.

Other than the front-facing bass port, the LP-6 is a standard looking studio monitor comprising of a plastic enclosure in a matt finish. There is a 6.5-inch low-frequency driver with a 1-inch tweeter kicking out a solid 80W of power.

Features

The LP-6 has one of the most comprehensive environmental controls you’ll find on any studio monitor. Using a combination of dip switches, you can fine-tune your LP-6 monitors to meet the exact specifications of your room and speaker placement.

Even a novice can follow the easy instructions Kali Audio provides to help guide you through the process of finding that perfect sound. You also get a high-pass and a low-pass filter to get even more detailed.

Inputs and Controls

The LP-6 features a single input channel that allows you to connect RCA, 1/4-inch, or XLR. The RCA input is isolated to prevent any interference. A dip switch will enable you to activate the input when required. Next to the inputs is a rotary fader for master volume control.

What Does The Kali Audio LP-6 Studio Monitor Sound Like?

For a speaker on the budget end of the spectrum, the Kali Audio sounds excellent. We were pleasantly surprised at just how impressive the LP-6 and LP-8 sound.

It’s important to note that, unlike JBL or Yamaha, the LP-6 doesn’t sound great out of the box. The LP-6 boundary EQ settings are not there for show. You have to tweak the LP-6 speakers to get a good sound. Once you have them locked in, however, they sound fantastic.

The bass is tight and punchy, while the mid-range is forward with excellent clarity and detail. While the JBL and Yamaha sound slightly more refined, the Kali Audio LP-6 isn’t far off at a more affordable price.

Best Applications

The Kali Audio LP-6 is a great monitor for those who are battling to find a good sound for small rooms. While the speakers are powerful, the front-facing bass port allows you to position the speakers right in the corner of a room without coloration. The LP-6 will make great PC speakers and will produce acceptable sound quality for a small home studio.

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  • 3D Imaging Waveguide
  • Exceptional Dynamic Range
  • Superior Accuracy

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4. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers – Best Reference Speaker

The Best Studio Monitors 5

Freq. Response
75Hz – 18kHz

Power
42W

Size
7 x 10 x 6″

Weight
10.8 lbs

One of the most popular bookshelf speakers on the market is the Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers. A pair of Edifier R1280T will set you back under $100, making them perfect for those looking for good sound on a budget.

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The Design

The Edifier R1280T features a mostly wood veneer covering a plastic speaker enclosure. The wood finish gives the Edifier R1280T a classy aesthetic, which will look good in most living spaces.

The fabric speaker grille covers a 1/2-inch tweeter over a 4-inch low-frequency driver. The bass port is also located on the front of the speaker allowing for improved low-end performance. As the Edifier R1280T was designed as a bookshelf speaker, the front-facing port makes this sort of confined placement possible.

The back of the speaker is where you’ll find all your inputs, while on the side of the primary Edifier R1280T, you’ll find the controls. This placement makes it easy to make necessary adjustments without having to move the speakers.

Features, Inputs, and Controls

The Edifier R1280T doesn’t offer much in the way of features. These are simple plug-and-play monitors without any EQ trims, but you do have some EQ controls.

On the primary Edifier R1280T, you will find separate bass and treble faders for adjusting these tones. Unfortunately, it’s unclear what frequency these pots boost or attenuate. Below the EQ faders is a master volume. These controls adjust tone and volume for both Edifier R1280T speakers.

On the back of the primary Edifier R1280T, you have two RCA inputs. One for line-level or digital and another for analog devices such as a turntable. There is also a speaker output to connect the passive Edifier R1280T.

What Does The Edifier R1280T Sound Like?

The Edifier R1280T produces a pleasant sound, perfect for listening to music or as basic PC speakers. With only a 4-inch low-frequency driver, the Edifier R1280T doesn’t create a big bass sound; however, the speakers are incredibly warm sounding. The low-end is controlled and punchy and doesn’t distort, even at high volumes.

The mid-range and treble response lends well to most genres of music with sufficient clarity and detail. Podcasts and other vocal heavy content will also sound great through the Edifier R1280T.

Best Applications

The Edifier R1280T is one of the best bookshelf speakers on the market for a reason. For under $100, the speakers sound excellent, allowing you to connect your PC or turntable without requiring any additional hardware.

I wouldn’t recommend these speakers for studio use. The Edifier R1280T is simply too small, and the speakers don’t deliver a flat response. The Edifier R1280T will, however, make a great reference speaker for listening back to mixes.

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  • Natural Sound Reproduction
  • Reliable Performance
  • Ideal as Reference Speaker

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5. M-Audio AV42 Reference Monitor Speakers

The Best Studio Monitors 6

Freq. Response
75Hz – 18kHz

Power
40W

Size
7 x 6 x 8″

Weight
7.49 lbs

If you’re looking for an upgrade to your current multimedia PC speakers, then the M-Audio AV42 might be just what you’re after. M-Audio is well known for its range of speakers and controllers, specifically for digital music production.

The newer AV32 and AV42 follow on from M-Audio’s popular AV30. There has been some significant improvement to both sound and aesthetics in the latest iterations while pricing remains competitive.

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The Design

The M-Audio AV42 features an all-over plastic enclosure in a matt finish with a gloss finish surrounding the tweeter. The master volume, 1/8-inch AUX, and 1/8-inch headphone output are all located on the front of the primary M-Audio AV42.

On the back, you’ll find an RCA input, bass port, power switch, and speaker out to the second passive M-Audio AV42.

The M-Audio AV42 features a 1-inch tweeter with 4-inch woofer capable of producing up to 20W per speaker. The speakers feature M-Audio’s OptImage IV, which is said to enhance low-end performance while delivering crisp, clean highs. More on that in our sound review below.

Features, Inputs, and Controls

The M-Audio AV42 doesn’t provide much in the way of features. The speakers are plug-and-play without any environmental switches or controls. The only control is a master volume fader located below the woofer.

You have the choice of RCA or 1/8-inch AUX for audio inputs. The 1/8-inch AUX is located on the front of the speaker for easy access. You also have a headphone output if you want to listen using headphones. With M-Audio processing, you’ll enjoy better sound quality through the headphone output than you would via the PC.

What Does The M-Audio AV42 Sound Like?

The M-Audio AV42 sits somewhere between a studio monitor and a PC speaker in terms of sound quality and performance. They’re not as good as studio monitors but significantly better than PC speakers.

The bass is tight and punchy, however not as prominent as you would want from premium studio monitors. The mid-range offers sufficient clarity, but lack detail. The M-Audio AV42 produces a fun sound that gamers and bedroom DJs/producers will enjoy.

Best Applications

It has to be said that the M-Audio AV42 is not a studio monitor. These speakers are an upgrade from regular PC speakers. If you’re a bedroom DJ or producer looking to take things to the next level without breaking the bank, then the M-Audio AV42 will be ideally suited for your needs.

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  • Media Creation
  • Immersive Gaming Sound
  • Reference Monitor

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6. PreSonus Eris E3.5 – Best Budget Studio Monitors

The Best Studio Monitors 7

Freq. Response
80Hz – 20kHz

Power
50W

Size
6 x 6 x 8″

Weight
8 lbs

The PreSonus Eris E3.5 features an all-over plastic enclosure in a trendy matt finish. The speakers are smaller than your typical studio monitors, making them suitable to install in most rooms.

The 3.5-inch woofers feature a woven composite or Kevlar speaker cone. Most speakers feature a paper or cardboard cone, which means the Eris E3.5 should be significantly more durable than your average speaker.

Below the speaker drivers, you’ll find a power switch, volume control, 1/8-inch AUX input, and 1/8-inch headphone output. Having these elements on the front of the Eris E3.5 makes the speaker better suited for multimedia applications.

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Features

The Eris E3.5 provides high pass and low pass tuning via two rotary faders located on the rear of the primary speaker. Each speaker also features a rear-facing bass port for improved low-end performance.

Inputs and Controls

On the back of the primary Eris E3.5, you have a single audio channel with the option of stereo 1/4-inch or RCA inputs. There is also a 1/8-inch AUX input on the front of the Eris E3.5. The master volume control on the front of the speaker controls the level for all three inputs.

A speaker output links the primary speaker to the second passive Eris E3.5.

What Does The PreSonus Eris E3.5 Sound Like?

I think people will be pleasantly surprised with the sound from the PreSonus Eris E3.5. Although small, the speakers produce a decent amount of quality bass. The low-end is tight and punchy with excellent definition.

The mid-range and highs produce a surprising amount of detail and clarity for a speaker of this size. The Eris E3.5 has the characteristics of a studio monitor but comes in at a bookshelf speaker price.

Best Applications

The Eris E3.5 is perfect for bedroom DJs/producers looking for a premium sound at an affordable price. The great thing about the Eris Series is you can build on your system as you go or even a multimedia surround sound system. There are two different sizes for center speakers, a 5-inch and 8-inch in the Eris range. The E3.5 is also available as a Bluetooth version.

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  • Acoustic Tuning
  • Affordable
  • Better Suited for Multimedia Applications

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7. Focal Alpha 50 Studio Monitors

The Best Studio Monitors 8

Freq. Response
45Hz – 22kHz

Power
55W

Size
10 x 9 x 12″

Weight
16 lbs

Focal produces a wide range of speakers, including for consumer and professional audio applications. The Focal Alpha Series features the Alpha 80 (8-inch), Alpha 65 (6.5-inch), and the speaker we’re reviewing for you, the Alpha 50, a 5-inch active studio monitor. It’s important to note that the Focal Alpha 50 is a professional studio speaker that requires a run-in period of about 20 hours. During this time, you won’t want to push the speakers beyond 60% volume while they acclimate to your room and environment.

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The Design

The first thing you’ll notice is the Focal Alpha 50 is larger than the average 5-inch speaker. The woofer is mounted with a significant amount of space around the driver. The 1-inch tweeter sits just above the woofer flush-mounted opposed to a flare mount like most other brands.

Below the woofer are two large bass ports for improved low-end performance. Having the ports on the front means you can position the Focal Alpha 50 as close to rear surfaces as possible without coloring the speaker’s response pattern.

Features

On the back of the Focal Alpha 50, you have two EQ settings to compensate for the room or placement. The low-frequency shelf allows you to boost or attenuate at 250 Hz by 6 dB while the high-frequency has the same functionality at 4.5 kHz. Using the rotary pots as opposed to switches is far more accurate at fine-tuning that perfect sound.

Inputs and Controls

Each Focal Alpha 50 speaker is individually powered with power and signal inputs on the rear. There is a single input channel per speaker with the option of balanced XLR or unbalanced RCA inputs. There is also a sensitivity switch allowing you to boost the input by +6 dB if needed.

As these are professional studio monitors, it’s a little strange the Focal Alpha 50 doesn’t offer a 1/4-inch input connection. Still, most sound cards will have an RCA output anyway.

What Does The Focal Alpha 50 Sound Like?

The Focal Alpha 50 is an excellent sounding studio monitor. Overall the speaker delivers a flat response, perfect for recording or mixing. The speaker is warm with a tight low-end response. The mid-range and treble offer excellent clarity with exceptional detail.

Best Applications

The Focal Alpha 50 produce high-end sound quality, perfect for home or professional studios. These speakers can handle high SPL without ever distorting or breaking up, making them suitable for professional recording and mixing.

If you are looking for studio-quality sound for your PC, then the Focal Alpha 50 will surpass your expectations. The Focal Alpha 50 is a professional near field monitor, which means you won’t want to position the speakers further than a little more than an arm’s reach from your listening position. If you require more power and more prominent bass, you might want to consider the larger Alpha 65 or Alpha 80.

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  • Compact Design
  • Neutral Sound
  • Low Directivity

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8. KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4 Powered Studio Monitors

The Best Studio Monitors 9

Freq. Response
43Hz – 40kHz

Power
55W

Size
25 x 16 x 13″

Weight
28.2 lbs

KRK is a budget speaker and headphone manufacturer under the Gibson umbrella. The KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4 is the fourth generation of the Rokit series. The G4 has some significant styling and sound upgrades from the G3 as well as a new onboard DSP-driven Graphic EQ with 25 settings.

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The Design

The most significant change you’ll notice from the G3 to the G4 is a complete facelift of the speaker enclosure. The G3 had a lot going on with tapered curves, loud branding, and a strange matt/gloss finish.

KRK has toned down the G4 with cleaner lines, minimal branding, and a shape that closely resembles that of the Presonus Eris E3.5. The RP5 Rokit 5 G4 also features a Kevlar woofer and tweeter. Below the woofer is a large bass port for an improved low-end response.

Features, Inputs, and Controls

The RP5 Rokit 5 G4 is one of the most feature-rich studio monitors we reviewed for this article. On the back of the speaker, you’ll find a DSP-driven Graphic EQ operated via an LCD.

Using the master volume control, you can tweak and adjust the EQ to match your environment. If you’re not sure how to use an EQ, you can make use of one of the 25 pre-programmed presets. The interface is simple to use and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to figure out.

KRK also has the Active Room Tuning app available for both Android and iOS. Using the app, you can calibrate EQ, optimize speaker placement, and use the Room Acoustic Analyzer to fine-tune your RP5 Rokit 5 G4 studio monitors.

The RP5 Rokit 5 G4 has a single input channel for each left and right speaker. The channel allows for either XLR or 1/4-inch inputs.

What Does The KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4 Sound Like?

The KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4 is closely matched to the Kali Audio LP-6. Both speakers sit at the high-end of the budget spectrum in terms of quality and cost.

The Kali Audio LP-6 does, however, have a slightly more refined sound with more detail and clarity. With that said, the RP5 Rokit 5 G4 delivers a nice punchy low-end response, again, not as tight as the LP-6 or other premium speakers.

The mid-range and treble response is good enough for playback and bedroom DJs/producers, but won’t be suitable for professional mixing.

Best Applications

The KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4 is an excellent choice for those looking for an upgrade to your standard PC speakers. These speakers sound significantly better than most PC speakers on the market and, at just shy of $170, won’t hurt the wallet too much. For bedroom DJs and amateur producers, the KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4 will be great, but the Kali Audio LP-6 is slightly cheaper and better suited for this application.

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  • Feature-Rich
  • LCD Screen
  • 25 Pre-Programmed Presets

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9. BEHRINGER TRUTH B2031A Studio Monitor – Loudest Studio Monitor

The Best Studio Monitors 10

Freq. Response
50Hz – 21kHz

Power
265W

Size
11 x 10 x 16″

Weight
30.9 lbs

If you like your speakers bulky, then you’ll love the BEHRINGER TRUTH B2031A Studio Monitor. It’s an absolute behemoth that’s been on the market for about a decade. BEHRINGER is one of the most trust names in budget professional audio systems. Although affordable, BEHRINGER products are by no means cheap in quality, and their after-sales service is excellent.

The TRUTH B2031A is close in price to the KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4 but with bigger drivers and more sound. The speakers are huge, so make sure you have the right size room and space to position these speakers.

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The Design

Each TRUTH B2031A stands 15.75-inches high and weighs 31 lbs. This is significantly larger than many of the best studio monitor speakers we reviewed.

The drivers sit inside an aluminum die-cast chassis with the outer enclosure comprising of plastic. The speaker features a 1-inch tweeter and a long-throw 8 3/4-inch woofer. This is the largest low-frequency driver on our list.

On either side of the tweeter are bass ports. Just below that, you have a power LED and limit indicator to let you know when you’re driving the TRUTH B2031A too hard.

Features

The BEHRINGER provides some simple switches on the back of the speaker to fine-tune your TRUTH B2031A. There is both low and high-frequency adjustment. The low-frequency adjustment allows you to attenuate by up to 6 dB while the high-frequency can be boosted to +2 dB or attenuated to -4 dB.

The Room Compensation switch will match the performance of the speaker with placement. Again, you can attenuate up to 6 dB. Instructions for these settings are located on the back of the TRUTH B2031A and in the user manual.

Inputs and Controls

Also on the back of each TRUTH B2031A monitor is a simple power switch. You have the option of on, off, or auto. The auto power mode is a standby or power-saving mode that will turn the speaker off when no audio signal is present.

Below that an input channel with the option of XLR or 1/4-inch inputs. Each speaker also has its own trim or volume adjustment.

What Does The BEHRINGER TRUTH B2031A Sound Like?

The BEHRINGER TRUTH B2031A is a surprisingly flat sounding studio monitor. I say surprisingly because, as a budget pair of studio monitors, you wouldn’t expect such a flat response from the TRUTH B2031A.

The other thing you’ll notice is these speakers sound as big as they look. The speakers deliver some serious power with a total output of 265W. The bass is also prominent and chunky. If you’re mixing EDM or urban music, you’ll love the low-end response from the TRUTH B2031A’s 8 3/4-inch woofers.

The mid-range delivers excellent clarity, but lack nuance and detail. Certainly not as refined as the Yamaha or JBL studio monitors. The tweeters perform well with a crisp high-frequency sound.

It’s important to note that some users have reported issues with the TRUTH B2031A tweeters. The drivers are delicate, and some people have managed to blow them. You will probably find many of these users are DJs using the TRUTH B2031A for parties where speakers tend to run near full volume for long periods. My advice would be not to run these monitors at full volume to prevent blowing the tweeters.

Best Applications

The TRUTH B2031A is an excellent entry-level studio monitor. If you need a lot of headroom at an affordable price, the TRUTH B2031A is going to be your best option.

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  • Ferrofluid-Cooled Tweeter
  • Ultra-Linear Frequency Response
  • Enormous Power Reserve

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10. Mackie CR3 Studio Monitors – Most Compact Studio Monitors

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Freq. Response
80Hz – 20kHz

Power
50W

Size
6 x 6 x 8″

Weight
9.4 lbs

One of the most affordable and widely used studio monitors is the Mackie CR Series. With 3-inch drivers, the Mackie CR3 is the smallest in the range. You also have the option of a 4-inch or 5-inch speaker. A Bluetooth version of the CR3 is also available.

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The Design

If you’re looking for something trendy and different, you’ll certainly get that with the Mackie CR3. The speaker features a plastic enclosure with sleek rounded corners, a premium matt finish, and the signature Mackie green accents.

Around the woofer, tweeter, and volume control is a luminous green LED that illuminates when the speakers are powered up. These lights add a funky ambiance to your monitor set up.

Features, Inputs, and Controls

The Mackie CR3 is a straightforward plug-and-play studio monitor with no room correction, frequency filters, or other environmental adjustments.

The only feature is a left/right speaker selection. Using this switch, you can choose whether the passive or active speaker is your left or right reference. Why is this necessary? 

Let’s say you prefer your volume control on the right-hand side. The volume control is located on the active speaker which, by default, is the left speaker. If you want to move this to the right, you can switch your passive speaker to receive the left audio signal and thus swap speakers. You may also need to swap speakers if your power socket is closer to the right rather than the left.

The CR3 has a single audio channel with either stereo 1/4-inch or stereo RCA inputs. There is also a 1/8-inch AUX input located on the front of the CR3. The master volume on the front of the speaker controls the input level for the channel. A 1/8-inch headphone output is located next to the AUX.

What Does The Mackie CR3 Sound Like?

With just 3-inch woofers, the CR3 doesn’t produce a lot of bass, but the low-end does have a nice punch. I’d compare the low-end response to a premium Bluetooth speaker.

As these are basic multimedia speakers, don’t expect fantastic frequency separation or detailed mids and highs. The CR3 is going to be better than your average pair of PC speakers but will lack the nuance and clarity you get from studio monitors.

If you’re looking for more bass, you will want to consider the CR5, 5-inch monitors. You also get slightly better sound quality with a better soundstage than the CR3.

Best Applications

The Mackie CR3 is a great reference speaker for YouTubers and other digital media producers looking for an upgrade from their PC speakers or headphones.

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  • Ultra-wide Frequency Range
  • Ideal for Multimedia Creation and Entertainment
  • Affordable

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Studio Monitors Buyers Guide

As always, we’ve put together a detailed buyer’s guide to help you make that purchase decision. In this guide, we hope to answer all your burning questions when it comes to choosing a pair of studio monitors that are right for you.

Choosing the Right Studio Monitors

There are a couple of things to consider when selecting a pair of studio monitors. The first is the size of the drivers. Often we try to go for the biggest possible size our budget will allow. But this isn’t the right way to choose your monitors.

The most significant deciding factor when choosing the size of your monitors is your room. If you have a small room, you don’t need 8-inch monitors. You’ll likely be sitting arm’s length away. All that extra headroom is pointless.

Most home studios are in a small office, bedroom, or basement. For small rooms, a pair of 5-inch speakers is all you need. If you have a larger room, perhaps with a mixing console, and space for three or more people, then 8-inch monitors will make more sense.

Another factor to consider is price. Keep in mind you’re likely going to need a soundcard or audio interface to connect your speakers to your computer. If you only have $500 to spend, don’t go for $499 studio monitors, or you won’t have anything left for your soundcard.

What About Watts?

Usually, when choosing speakers, you want the most powerful speakers you can afford. Not so when buying studio monitors. With studio monitors, you’re looking for the best sound quality rather than whether or not you can annoy the neighbors.

For small rooms, 10W to 60W is perfect. Remember, you’re going to be sitting right in front of these bad boys, so power isn’t essential. Having said that, it is still crucial to have some headroom so you can hear detail in the mix.

For larger rooms, you might want to consider upwards of 60W and perhaps even a pair of passive studio monitors.

Cheapest Studio Monitors

If you’re making your purchase decision based on cost, then your best bet is to go with either the Mackie CR3 or Presonus Eris E3. The Presonus Eris E3 is the better sounding of the two, while the Mackie CR3 is much better looking.

Here are all our best studio monitor picks in order of price:

Studio Monitors Under $100 Mackie CR3
PreSonus Eris E3
Edifier R1280T
Studio Monitors Under $200 M-Audio AV42
Kali Audio LP-6
BEHRINGER B2031A
JBL Professional 305P MkII
Studio Monitors Under $500 KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4
Yamaha Hs8
Focal: Alpha 50

Loudest Studio Monitors

The loudest studio monitors we reviewed was the BEHRINGER B2031A. The total power output of the two speakers is an impressive 265-Watt. The B2031A also has the biggest woofer of the studio monitors we reviewed at 8 3/4-inch.

Most Compact Studio Monitors

If size matters to you, then the Mackie CR3 is going to be your best option. The CR3 only slightly smaller than the Presonus Eris E3 so, if you prefer the Presonus, the size difference won’t matter too much.

The Best Studio Monitors 12

How To Connect Studio Monitors to a PC

Unlike regular PC speakers, professional studio monitors usually don’t have a 1/8-inch AUX, USB, or HDMI port to connect to your PC. The best way to connect studio monitors to a computer is via a soundcard. Even if your monitors do have a 1/8-inch AUX input, a soundcard will deliver better sound quality than the output on your computer.

A balanced XLR connection from a soundcard to a PC is the best option. An XLR connection will allow you to run long cables and eliminate the chance of introducing noise or electric hum into your system. The next best thing is a 1/4-inch TRS connection. Try to avoid RCA or 1/8-inch cables as they are usually composed of cheaper materials with high impedance.

It is possible to use other audio interfaces like a DJ controller or a digital mixer. These sorts of devices will usually have a USB or infrared connection to link to your computer, with XLR, 1/4-inch, 1/8-inch, or RCA to connect from the controller to your monitors.

You must connect your speakers to your PC correctly before starting with monitor placement and calibration. For example, don’t use the 1/8-inch headphone out on your PC to set up your speaker placement and then switch to a soundcard later. This will have a severe impact on the sound. You’ll likely have to play around with your positioning and calibration to adjust for the new connection.

How to Setup and Position Your Studio Monitors

If you’re looking to get the best possible sound from your studio monitors, then you’ll need to pay close attention to how you set up and position your speakers.

Does speaker position matter?

For most people, the answer is no. If you’re just hooking monitors up to your PC for gaming or to upgrade from your PC speakers, then I’d say set the speakers roughly equidistant apart, plug them in and have fun.

Worrying too much about speaker position is a waste of time, and within a few weeks or months, you’ll no longer care because you won’t hear the difference.

I would say, only if you are a recording or mixing engineer should speaker placement matter. It takes a lot of focus to listen for speaker placement. The only people listening that intently are sound engineers. And trust me, they don’t enjoy it. It’s work!

Even the most pedantic of audiophiles will hear their speaker whether or not they are “in the sweet spot” for the briefest of moments before forgetting about it and simply enjoying the music.

Positioning Studio Monitors

One of the most common speaker placements is a 60-degree triangle. To start, you’ll want to angle each speaker at 60-degrees from the desired listening position.

If you have a mixing console or PC monitor in front of you, you’ll want to make sure each speaker is equidistant either side of this. Symmetry is crucial for speaker placement, especially when it comes to listening to stereo mixes.

For example, if your left monitor is hotter than your right, then you might assume an element in the mix is panned left and then compensate for this. When the final mix is played back on another system or headphones, the error will stand out.

Surrounding Walls and Surfaces

Another thing to watch out for is how your speakers are positioned in relation to surrounding surfaces. If you have one speaker in a corner and the other has no wall or surface around it, then the chance is the speakers will sound different. If you are mixing in a corner, then try to get monitors with forward firing bass ports to avoid rear reflections.

One placement technique recommended by PreSonus is that “…speakers should be a different distance from the back wall than from the walls on either side.” It doesn’t matter whether the distance between the back or sides is wider; it only matters that the distances are different. This positioning is to avoid any phasing which might occur.

Monitor Stands

One way to get an uncolored sound is by using monitor stands, which could be physical telescopic stands or simple desktop monitor pads. Monitor stands isolate your speakers, preventing unwanted noise or reverberation.

With monitor stands, you can also get your speakers positioned level with your head, so the drivers are firing directly at your ears.

If you have to place your speakers on your desk, then monitor pads are a must. Not only do monitor pads aid in preventing noise and vibration, but they are usually tapered so you can angle your speakers towards head height.

Calibrating Your Studio Monitors

If you really want to get technical, you might also want to calibrate your studio monitors. Speaker calibration involves using a test tone like pink noise to ensure every frequency band is at the same level. Otherwise known as a flat response.

Speaker calibration can be achieved simply by using your ear, with a reference microphone and software, or even a mix of both. This subject can get very technical and involved, so if you want to do some more research, check out this article from PreSonus.

Using a Power Conditioner

One area everyone forgets about, even the pros, is power. A power conditioner is going to isolate your equipment.

Why do you want to isolate your studio monitors?

A couple of reasons. The first is protection. You’ve just invested in some new speakers, and you don’t want a power surge or lightning strike to fry them. The second reason is isolation will prevent, or at least reduce, AC noise from entering your system.

It’s important to note that everything in the chain must be connected to the same power source, and if you’re using a conditioner, then everything must go through that too. If your speakers are going through a power conditioner and the computer is not, then any noise introduced to the computer will transfer to the speakers.

You can also use a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) which will not only isolate your equipment but also prevent your system from shutting down in the event of a power outage. With a UPS, you’ll have time to shut everything down correctly to avoid any damage.

How to Add a Bluetooth Input to Studio Monitors

Most studio monitors do not have Bluetooth inputs. A cable connection is far superior to any wireless connectivity, so Bluetooth or WiFi isn’t used by audio professionals.

If you want a professional sound but still want the convenience of Bluetooth, then there is a quick and cost-effective fix for this. For less than $20, you can pick up a Bluetooth adapter on Amazon.

There are a couple of options. The first is a 1/8-inch Bluetooth adapter that plugs into the AUX port. As most studio monitors don’t have an AUX input, this might not work for everyone.

The second adapter is the best, even if you have an AUX port. It’s a small box with RCA outputs that connect to your monitors. You can place this device neatly on your desktop, and run cables to your speakers. If your monitors don’t have an RCA input, you can get RCA to 1/4-inch adapters.

The Best Studio Monitors 1
Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor

If you’re looking for a flat, true sound, then you’ll love the HS8. They’re designed to deliver an uncolored response, and they do it exceptionally well.

Yamaha-HS8-Studio-Monitor

Studio Monitors FAQ

Do You Need a Subwoofer?

If you’re planning to produce bass-heavy music like EDM or hip-hop, you might want to consider a subwoofer. Also, if you’re mixing for surround sound, a subwoofer is crucial to get the right sound. Without one, you might overcompensate on the low end.

A subwoofer will accurately reproduce those sub-bass frequencies regular studio monitors can’t handle. Always try to match your monitors with the same brand and range, if possible.

What is Total harmonic distortion (THD)?

In many studio monitor specifications, you’ll find a total harmonic distortion (TDH) rating. TDH refers to how accurately a monitor will reproduce an audio signal in relation to the noise and distortion a speaker will also produce.

With this in mind, it’s evident that you want the lowest possible TDH rating your money can buy. What you will find is that as this number goes down, the price goes up.

Every speaker (or electrical circuit for that matter) produces some noise and distortion. Cheaper parts and poor manufacturing standards will typically lead to more noise.

What is a Bi-amped Studio Monitor?

Powered monitors are driven by an internal power amplifier. Most often, studio monitors are bi-amped. Bi-amped means there is a separate amp driving the woofer and tweeter with a crossover network to distribute the frequencies to each driver.

What is a Speaker Cabinet?

A speaker cabinet or enclosure is the outer casing that houses the speaker’s components. Most studio monitors are constructed with a heavy-duty, non-resonant plastic to prevent the speaker from vibrating or producing any noise.

What is Ear Fatigue?

Most people would have experienced ear fatigue from listening to headphones for extended periods. It’s not usually common for someone to get ear or listening fatigue from speakers, but since you sit so close to studio monitors, ear fatigue is very common. Funnily enough, it’s usually the most accurate studio monitors that produce ear fatigue for producers and engineers.

What is Mixing and Mastering?

At times during this article, we have referred to mixing and mastering. In case you are not familiar with these terms, here is a brief definition of each. For both of these processes, a studio engineer will use either studio monitors, headphones or a mix of both.

Mixing is the process of adjusting elements of a song (vocals, instruments, reverb, etc) so that they sound balanced. Once an artist has recorded a song, the tracks are sent to a mixing engineer who balances everything. Mixing can be done on a physical console or using professional software.

Mastering is the final stage of the recording process. During the mastering process, the engineer will add compression, EQ, normalization and other techniques to achieve the final audio mix we can then play through audio devices, streaming services, and radio.

What is Phasing?

Phasing occurs when two sound waves are out of phase and thus cancel each other out. The most common frequency affected by this is bass. It’s not uncommon for studio monitors to incur phasing issues where a specific frequency at your listening position is inaudible. This is why speaker placement and features like room correction are necessary for studio monitors.

Matt Hallowes
Written by
Matt Hallowes
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