Best Studio Monitor Review – Top Rated Models in 2018 with Buying Guide
You might think that a pair of headphones is enough to allow you to listen to all the complexions in a song. But that is not the case. Finding the best studio monitors is a necessity, and it’s a hard thing to do. That’s why our guide is here to help you and to let you know that the Edifier R1700BT monitors are the model that you should really have a look at first. It offers both wired and wireless connectivity, and it provides a neutral sound, which is what studio monitors should. The mids are well balanced and the lows and highs won’t scratch your ears. If you are unable to find these studio monitors for sale, you might want to have a look at the JBL LSR305 5″ model.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
A set of good studio monitors should be capable of delivering a crisp sound, preferably in any environment. There are different types of monitors, each more suitable for a certain job or room. Below we present some models that we believe to be a good choice for most studio applications. Before diving deeper into this guide, we thought that you may also be interested in the alternative, a pair of studio headphones.
If you’re looking for some speakers that have a stylish look and are moderately sized, these are for you. They offer a 19mm “Eagle Eye” tweeter and a 4-inch woofer, both capable of delivering clear sounds. You will be able to connect the monitors through wired means or wireless if you want to do so.
Their sound is balanced and no matter what kind of music you’re listening to, they will deliver the decibels needed in all the frequency ranges. And the sound is not their only quality – they also look great. They have a classy vintage style and that is given by the walnut vinyl finish.
The midrange is warm and colorful enough and everything is unfuzzy, which is great when you’re critically listening to a piece of music. The bass is not something that stands out too much, but that is to be expected from a studio monitor.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($149.99)
JBL LSR305 5″
At first glance, these look like regular monitor speakers, but they do have some unique design details. Their corners are rounded so you won’t hurt yourself when accidentally hitting them. Most importantly, they are built in such a way that they provide a consistently good sound, no matter where you’re positioned in the room they are in.
They will allow accuracy in listening whether you’re close to them or not. Because the brand is a big one and it also produces some really high-end, professional equipment, that technology can be put into these monitors too.
One of the features borrowed from high-end equipment is the ability to accurately and powerfully reproduce low-end sounds. So the bass will sound great with these monitors.
The frequency response is between 43Hz-24kHz and they provide 41 watts of power. So they are great for small or medium-sized studios.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($177.76)
Featuring a wood veneer paneling on the sides and a top that’s matte finished, they will look good on any desk. They’re quite compact, and the gray cloth covering their drivers can be removed. They look great anyway.
Because they’re so compact, it should be noted that they are near-field models, meaning that the listener should sit relatively close to them when trying to critically listen to tracks. There are two speakers, each having a 4-inch woofer and a 13mm dome tweeter. A port that lets air flow better is also included in the construction.
In terms of performance, they deliver what’s needed from studio monitors – a neutral sound across all frequencies. But if you want to flavor the music, you can use the control knobs to boost the bass for example. They provide 42 watts of power so you can make them deliver some great volume before the sound becomes distorted.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.99)
Savvy musicians know that small monitors, when well placed, provide an invaluable source of quality when it comes to critically listening to something.
Most near-field monitors sound mediocre and don’t have the power when they’re placed on console shelves or workstations. But that is not the case with these monitors from Yamaha.
Weighing only 11.7 pounds, they can accommodate even the smallest rooms and they have a low-shelving cut below 500Hz that can be set to 2 or 4dB, meaning that they have the force needed to accurately let out bass sounds in a small room.
The frequency range is set at 74Hz to 24kHz, –3dB, meaning that they’re great in high frequencies and have a good sound variation of only 3dB. But they do suffer in the bass compartment. You will need to add a subwoofer to them if you want to mix low bass sounds too.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($199.99)
PreSonus Eris E4.5
From a design point of view, things are simple with these monitor speakers. The main drivers aren’t covered, although the tweets have a small integrated grille over them. However, the matte black finishing is something that’s always appealing and the ergonomics of the monitors make them suitable for most surroundings.
It’s clear that the manufacturer invested more time and ideas into the quality of the sound that the monitors can produce. The amplifier is capable of delivering 50 watts in total, which is enough for most studios.
You have the possibility to choose what frequencies to focus more on, due to the knobs that allow you to increase the volumes of mids, lows, and highs.
The frequency response is surprisingly flat, but in certain situations, they might provide more bass than a studio producer would need. That can, fortunately, be adjusted with the use of control knobs.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($192)
KRK is always looking to make improvements to their products. And that can be seen in the RP5G3-NA model too. They have worked on making the monitor small, yet still providing it with enough power. The yellow drive cone of the woofer is the center of attention when it comes to the design.
The tweeter is a standard one, measuring one inch across, bigger than its counterparts from other monitors. But the real hero of the ensemble is the woofer.
Measuring 5 inches and made of glass-aramid composite, it’s capable of delivering precise and powerful sounds. The 50 watts of power that the monitors offer is enough for small or medium-sized studios.
Most studio monitor reviews agree that one thing that characterizes these monitors is how flat their sound is. KRK did really well with leveling the response rate across all frequencies. The mids are well defined, and the lows and highs are tight and warm.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($299)
People that got these speakers were impressed with how solid and sturdy they feel. At the same time, the monitors are sized well so they can sit perfectly into the bookshelf or on workstations. The light green colored rims give them a special look. You can choose different dimensions when purchasing them, so they’re one of the most versatile models.
The lows, mids, and highs are well balanced and it can be seen that the manufacturers made the effort to intensely test them.
They excel at producing high-frequency sounds. The clarity in those areas is surprising. Also, when listening to them at a reduced volume, they still offer a neutral, natural sound.
Taking all their aspects into consideration, they are suitable for studio use, but they might be even better to be used for casual listeners. Their frequency range is between 80Hz and 20kHz so that’s why they lack a bit of bass.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($79)
Entry-level music producers often have a difficult choice to make – should they get some cheap computer speakers or should they invest in a professional setup? These monitor speakers from M-Audio offer them the possibility to start producing music without a heavy investment.
They are made to accommodate any use, from casually listening to music, playing games on a computer or even mixing music in a studio, they are versatile enough.
Smaller and lighter than expected, they have a decent build quality. The speakers offer 20 watts of power, which isn’t massive, but it’s enough for a small room.
They are, as expected, near-field, and the listener needs to be close to them to hear all the sounds well. In terms of connectivity, they offer enough, providing you with the possibility to connect the monitors to your laptop, tablet or smartphone. But you can also plug them into your mixer using a phono cable.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($149)
Alesis M1 Active 320
These monitors are qualitative, although their design doesn’t necessarily show that. The cabinets are boxy, black and compact. The woofer and tweeter are covered with fixed black grilles and there is a small button that lets you change the volume and it’s placed on one of the speakers’ bottom-left corner.
The 1-inch tweeter and the 3-inch woofer don’t offer the greatest volume, but they are great in small rooms. The monitors are thus capable of offering 10 watts. However, what’s really surprising about these drivers is that they have a low-frequency limit of 58Hz.
You will mostly want to work with these monitor speakers using a computer. That is due to their connectivity, which mainly employs a USB port. But you can also add a keyboard or mixer via a ¼-inch or ⅛-inch jack input. You will be able to directly output to your computer when adding a mixer.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($95.58)
Yearly Guide & Report
Studio monitors have a lot of characteristics, each influencing the sound produced. It is important to have at least a general knowledge on what those characteristics are. We’ve tried to help you with that and wrote about some of the aspects that we believe to be most important.
Just as is the case with studio recording microphones, this is one of the main aspects that have a great impact on making a device such as a monitor worthy or not. You’ll want your monitor to handle the full frequency range of what you are recording. Many models have a frequency range between 50Hz and 20kHz and that is adequate enough for any use.
What’s more important though is that the monitor should not only be able to achieve all these frequencies, but also do it without distorting the sound. So, the frequency range doesn’t tell how well a sound can be heard but rather that it can be produced. This is where another aspect comes into play.
The sound variation is measured in decibels and it expresses how much a difference in frequency range affects the sound volume. A variation of 3 decibels, give or take, is something that usually provides good sound.
How many watts?
Even if you never had the opportunity to work with studio monitors, you surely went to some parties where there was a powerful audio speaker and where there were discussions about how many watts the speakers had. This is the main way to measure a monitor’s power and see how well it can blast the music in a room.
But in the case of studio monitors you don’t really need that much power, you just want to hear everything well. So a power of 10 to 60 watts is enough in an office-sized studio. More may be needed in larger rooms.
And if you have a large room, and you like to record instruments too, you should consider buying overhead drum mics for your drummer. And you can also get some good home studio mics that are good for all kinds of recordings.
Also known as THD, total harmonic distortion is, in a different way, an indicator of the monitor’s accuracy. You will sometimes see the abbreviation THD+N, meaning that noise is also added into the equation, but the annotations mean the same thing.
Because monitors use audio circuits to work, they inevitably produce some noise. But the better ones make less noise and it’s the job of the THD indicator to show how much there is. A well-made device should only add around 0.001% noise or distortion to the end product, while poorly designed or cheap studio monitors can add as much as 1%.
When recording an acoustic instrument, such as a blues guitar or a sweet sounding cello, thus, without it being electronically connected, you need a very low level of noise, both when recording and when listening. This is where the THD indicator becomes a critical aspect.
The sweet spot
Looking for studio monitors, you’ll see that some of them discuss near, mid or far-field capabilities. That refers to the listening configuration that they have been created to provide. A near-field monitor is one that is optimal when used at a close listening distance, while a far-field one, as the name suggests, sounds best when the listener is positioned further away.
The ones that have a small design are compact studio monitors and they’re usually near-field models. They are a good choice for studio use because they let you hear all the sounds directly, with no interference from the objects in your room. The sound doesn’t bounce around too much and it’s thus more natural.
They are easy to position so that the head of the listener sits right in the tip of an equilateral triangle formed with two of the speakers. This is the optimal listening position because it provides a balanced, stereo sound, and it’s called the “sweet spot”. Apart from the quality of your home studio monitors, the way you position them is the most important thing.
Mid-field or far-field monitors are a bit trickier to position and that is mainly because you need bigger rooms to do that. And finding the perfect triangle is more difficult. Also, you need to make sure that the room is acoustically treated so that the sound doesn’t get hampered by the walls and furniture or other objects.
Ultimately, you’ll need to make this decision based on how big your studio is. If you don’t have the required space, it might be better if you stick to a pair of headphones for music production.
The drivers are the actual piece of equipment that produces the sounds. In a typical monitor, there are 2 drivers: a woofer and a tweeter. The woofer takes charge of the low and mid-range sounds, while the tweeter controls the highs. As you can see, their names suggest their function too.
Certain monitors also use a subwoofer that produces the very low sounds, or a mid-range driver that takes care of the mid-range sounds. When making a driver, manufacturers use different materials, depending on their final purpose.
Carbon or glass are the most used when there is a need for better high power handling, but metal alloys do well here too. They produce an accurate and high frequency (HF) response.