Best Budget Studio Monitor Review – Top Rated Models in 2020 with Buying Guide
This short paragraph will help you find the best budget studio monitor, especially if you are short on time. Finding good budget studio monitor speakers is a necessity when producing music in a small studio. We found out that the Yamaha HS5 model is a great choice. That is because it has two drivers that are large enough to provide the volume needed. The frequency range is also good and it will allow you to listen to clear sounds. With the noise-reduction technology present, the sound waves will be smooth and uninterrupted. Sometimes you can’t find the Yamaha HS5 for sale and if that’s the case, look for the JBL LSR305 model.
Our Top Choice
This is a monitor speaker that will be a good choice whatever your purpose. The drivers are large enough to provide the desired volume and the frequency range that they can cover is also impressive. This ensures that the lows and the highs can be heard well. With a power of 70 watts, you will be able to fill the room with sound.
You might want to add a subwoofer to this set as around 50 Hz the sound is hard to hear and a bit distorted.
This budget-friendly option offers professional capabilities for any amateur music producer. It offers the clarity needed for critical listening.
For a beginner music producer, this studio monitor is excellent because it allows the user to position it anywhere in the room and the speaker will still be able to put out a clear sound. The frequency range is one that allows for enough space to work with. Also, as the company makes its own electronics, the quality of the final build is obvious.
Weighing a bit over 10 pounds each, the two monitors require stands to be placed on if you position them on your desk.
The overall balance that the monitor offers is great and the imaging that you will be able to achieve when using this model is something that recommends it.
Being so compact, this small monitor will be easy to position on a desk or a bookshelf. The light green rims give it a cool look. If you’re looking for clear high-frequency sounds, this monitor can deliver. And irrespective of the volume, you will receive a neutral sound, and that is what you need when mixing your favorite tunes.
With a frequency range that starts from 80 Hz, it’s clear that the low-frequencies lack depth and feel less punchy.
A great-looking pair of speakers that can be neatly placed almost anywhere, these sleek monitors are solid and the sound they provide is surprisingly good.
8 Best Budget Studio Monitors (Reviews) in 2020
Quality budget home studio monitors should be able to provide a clear and natural sound, even in studios that lack the latest technologies. Each monitor has its good and bad points, but in the case of budget models, they should be suitable for most purposes. Here are our budget studio monitor reviews for some of the models that we believe to be a great choice. If you think you need more than a studio monitor, you might try some studio headphones too.
- 1. Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor, Pair
- 2. JBL Professional LSR305 First-Generation 5″ 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor
- 3. Mackie CR3 3 inch Monitor Speakers – Black
- 4. Edifier R1010BT – 4″ Powered Bluetooth Wireless Multimedia
- 5. KRK Rockit Powered Studio Monitor RP6G3
- 6. PreSonus Eris E3.5 3.5-inch, 2-way, High-Definition
- 7. Adam Audio”F5 5″” Powered Studio Monitor”
- 8. KRK RP5G3- 59107 NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor
- Yearly Guide & Report
- Frequently asked questions
- Best studio monitor brands
1. Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor, Pair
If you are looking for a monitor that can provide quality in every aspect, this model will not let you down. The woofer is one that measures 5 inches and is capable of providing enough volume, while the tweeter is 1 inch wide.
In terms of frequency range, this monitor is able to offer sounds between 54 Hz and 30 kHz and that means the high sounds will be heard really well. The Yamaha brand is known to make quality products and this model is no exception.
Accepting both balanced and unbalanced XLR and TRS inputs, the device has a great look and it fits well in any room. It also provides a high trim response control, for the best sounds. The power that it can put out is 70 watts in total.
That is enough for a small or medium room. The noise reduction technology used in this monitor ensures a clear sound at all times.
One of the main reasons this monitor is great for a small studio is the fact that it creates a really pleasant sound in a small room, with just the right amount of volume.
It’s got a woofer of 5 inches that won’t produce too much bass sound, which is exactly what you need when you have to hear every small change in the sound.
The mids are what make this monitor a great one, and they sound natural, showcasing any imperfection in the mix.
The bass produces a very natural sound, and that’s how it should be, taking into account this is a studio monitor.
Its highs are also natural, letting you hear any imperfection.
If you have a small room where you like to mix, due to how they project the sound, these monitors are great for that.
They only work in small rooms. You can’t hear them well from afar.Buy from Amazon.com for ($399.98)
2. JBL Professional LSR305 First-Generation 5″ 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor
The black design offers a pleasing feeling while visually ensuring you that the monitor is capable of delivering quality sound and good volume. The manufacturers have made it a priority to build this monitor in such a manner that it sounds good no matter where you position it in the room.
That is what will provide you with accurate sounds wherever you are, close to the monitor or far away. The brand is known as one that produces its own electronics and that helps with allowing it to construct the monitors as it wishes. In the making of this model, the brand uses components that can be found in high-end models.
One advantage of doing this is that the monitor provides great low-frequency sounds. The bass is something that stands out well when using it. With 41 watts of power, the monitor isn’t the loudest but it allows the listener to hear everything he or she needs.
For some budget studio monitors, these ones look exceptional, with sleek lines and a nice glossy finish.
They also come with plenty of connection points, and that helps with their functionality whilst not complicating them too much.
They come with the brand’s Image Control Waveguide, which essentially spreads the sound waves better so that you can have a wider central image, so you can hear them well from more positions.
The woofer is designed to allow more bass to flow through, and allowing the low sounds to spread better in any room.
With the many connection ports that they offer, you can use them with any type of equipment, from a smartphone to a professional DAC.
You also get to control the volume of highs and lows better, with the help of trim switches.
They could do better in the mid-range, where the sound isn’t as clear.Buy from Amazon.com for ($141)
3. Mackie CR3 3 inch Monitor Speakers – Black
This monitor isn’t big at all and that is an advantage when you have a small studio and a budget to match it. It will sit very well on a workstation, bookshelf or next to your computer. Although small, it’s a model that is very sturdy. The company also offers some bigger variants too and they all come with the striking green colored rims that give them a special look.
In the construction of this monitor, the makers have ensured that the quality of the lows, mids, and highs was heavily tested.
That resulted in a monitor that is capable of delivering great high-frequency sounds and the clarity of those sounds is impressive. No matter the volume, the sound is a neutral, natural one, and that is always a good thing for music producers.
Having a frequency that ranges from 80 Hz to 20 kHz, the monitor lacks a bit in the bass department but it is still suitable for studio use.
Coming with 50W of power, these monitors are surely capable of filling up a small room with sound, and even a medium-sized room if they have to.
With them, you also receive a set of accessories, amongst which some isolation pads that will keep the bass to a minimum, so you can focus on the other frequencies.
You get a lot of connection options, from the possibility to use a smartphone with the monitors, or plug them into a computer.
Both of these speakers are small, and they’re made of good-looking wood which helps with their resonance.
In terms of sound, they produce good bass, with the possibility to roll off the excessive bass.
The mids and highs are also bright and clean, and although these monitors don’t sound like professional ones, they still do a great job.
When pushing them too much, to a high volume, you will notice that the casing will start to vibrate, causing some noise.Buy from Amazon.com for ($89)
4. Edifier R1010BT – 4″ Powered Bluetooth Wireless Multimedia
Design-wise this monitor is really impressive. Being so compact and featuring wood veneer paneling on the sides, this monitor speaker will sit well on any desk. It features gray cloth covering panels but they can be removed to expose the neat-looking woofer and tweeter.
As you might expect, this model offers near-field capabilities and that means that you should position it on your desk or very close to where you are working. The package contains two speakers and each of them has a 4-inch woofer and a 13mm tweeter. Together they are capable of delivering 42 watts of power.
Given those numbers, the two speakers are capable of putting out a good volume. However, when the sound is too loud, the speakers tend to distort it. To work against this issue, the manufacturers have included a port that lets air flow better but that doesn’t work well when you turn up the volume to full.
They have a classic look, a cuboid shape with smoothed edges, they are made of beautiful-looking wood and with faux leather on top.
Their build quality is also impressive, and even if you drop them a bit, they won’t be damaged.
Furthermore, the monitors come with foam pads on the bottom, so when they produce a lot of bass they won’t move around or vibrate.
The main advantage of these speakers is the fact that they come well-prepared for wireless connectivity, and they come with a Bluetooth v4.0 connection which will allow you to play any music from a mobile device or anything with Bluetooth connectivity.
You also get the possibility to adjust the bass level to 6dB more or less than it’s initially set.
It lacks finesse in the high frequencies, and that could be a problem when listening to and analyzing high-pitched music.Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.99)
5. KRK Rockit Powered Studio Monitor RP6G3
The distinctive look of this device has been a common presence in the studio in the past years. This particular model has been manufactured so it appeals to the budget-conscious or beginner studio owner. But the sizes of the woofer – measuring 6 inches, and of the tweeter – one inch, make it impressive.
The working frequency range is also one that stands out, with the sounds that the monitor can produce being between 47.5 Hz and 34.5 kHz.
A sound variation of 3dB shows that the monitor is capable of offering good sound, no matter the volume. And with a total power of 75 watts, the speaker can deliver the sound needed to fill a medium-sized room.
A frontal bass port ensures that, when positioned close to a wall, the speaker is still able to deliver the low sounds with ease.
Coming with an impressive frequency range between 47.5Hz and 34.5kHz, you know that this monitor will deliver you precise sounds no matter how high or low they are.
Capable of delivering a sound volume of 107dB the speaker is enough to let you enjoy working with them from close proximity or further away.
The tweeter dispersion and that of the woofer are matched in a crossover point where all the waves cross, and that is the ideal listening spot in the room.
This monitor comes with a front-mounted bass speaker meaning that they won’t make the walls vibrate when you place them close to the corners of your room.
You can find on the real panel all the needed controls, without anything too complicated.
The lower-mid sounds seem to be a bit muffled, giving the impression that they come out of a box when they are played.Buy from Amazon.com for ($179.99)
6. PreSonus Eris E3.5 3.5-inch, 2-way, High-Definition
Featuring a pair of Kevlar drivers, these monitors are capable of offering clear low-frequency sounds without the danger of distortion. The tweeters are silk-dome and they are used to offer balanced and smooth highs. In total, the monitors offer a sound that you can rely on, even when mixing the most complex pieces of music.
In the case of budget studios, you might be forced to place your monitors close to a wall. And that is usually a bad idea because that causes the walls to vibrate at very low frequencies and makes them act like speaker cones too. But that is not the case with these monitor speakers, as they feature acoustic tuning controls to counter that issue.
You can cut the bass with 6dB and that can make a huge difference in tight spaces. Additionally, the power is 50 watts. This is enough for a small to medium room and it offers the user enough space to operate in.
This speaker system has a large optimal listening area created by the one-inch dome tweeter and the 3.5-inch low-frequency driver that creates a wide dispersion pattern.
When you place the two monitors on different sides you will get a good image, as they allow you to pinpoint where each instrument is positioned in the music composition.
Despite being small, with a reduced footprint, they are still capable of delivering good sound volume.
You get all the connection ports you might need, allowing you to connect them to professional mixing tools, as well as computers and smartphones.
There is no bass boost in the end sound and no EQ, meaning that all that you hear is as natural as possible.
The sound is a smooth one, with no harsh points.
They don’t look to be made from durable materials, so be careful not to drop them or bump into them.Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.95)
7. Adam Audio”F5 5″” Powered Studio Monitor”
The Adam brand is known for providing quality speakers but only for professional use. However, it has created some models that are targeted for the more casual users, or for those that want to start to create music, and this is one of them. This series has two models and this is the smaller version. Both of them have a subwoofer that can be added to the set.
Surprisingly, the tweeter has a folded-membrane construction and it’s handmade in the company’s Berlin factory. There is a front-facing port that is slightly flattened to allow the air to flow and reduce the noise.
You have the option to adjust the volume of specific sound frequencies that you want to come out of the monitor. Controls placed on the rear panel allow you to filter sounds above 5 kHz and under 300 Hz. It’s important to mention that the monitors’ frequency range is 52 Hz to 50 kHz.
This brand is usually associated with high-end speakers, and when creating a budget-friendly alternative like this, they also get to implement some stuff from the more expensive models, which is a plus.
In terms of design, the monitor looks like it’s going to deliver lots of power in a raw form, and that is true, taking into account the highly-optimized shape.
Another thing that makes them stand out is how compact they are, as the brand wanted to make them good for desktop use.
The tweeter is what helps this monitor produce the sound it’s capable of, and it’s a tweeter borrowed from more expensive models, and the performance is exceptional.
The woofer also does a good job and although it’s small, it has a nice range.
In the high-pitched frequency range, you get some good, natural sounds, but that’s not always true when listening to compositions that have more bass in them.Click to see the price on Amazon!
8. KRK RP5G3- 59107 NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor
With its own research department, ready to come up with new ideas, KRK created this model, an improved one compared to its predecessors. The company has worked to make it as small as possible yet still capable of providing lots of power.
Design-wise, the yellow cone captures the attention and has become a trademark of the company. In terms of drivers, the model offers a one-inch tweeter that is slightly more powerful than similar drivers and a 5-inch woofer. Being made of glass-aramid composite, this woofer is capable of putting out precise sound waves.
In total, the drivers offer 50 watts of power and that is good enough for a budget studio that is placed in a small or medium room. The sound is flat and neutral and that makes it a joy to listen to songs in the purpose of mixing them.
With the front-mounted speaker ports, the monitors can now be placed near a wall or a corner without the sound being reflected off the walls, making them vibrate.
Offering 50 watts of power, the monitors provide enough to fill up a small or medium-sized room with sound.
The back of the cabinets come with interesting controls, amongst which an HG and an LF button for trim control, and a general volume knob.
The most important aspect that these speakers will provide is a flat sound; exactly what you want from a pair of studio speakers.
You will find that the mids are well-defined, and the treble bits are smooth, clear, and warm.
The fact that the power controls and the volume are placed on the back is annoying.
You need to position the speakers really well if you want a good sound with a flat response, otherwise, you risk getting too much or too little low frequencies.Buy from Amazon.com for ($298)
Yearly Guide & Report
Low budget studio monitors don’t offer all the features that can be found in professional models, but they should still let you experience a natural and consistent sound. We believe that the following aspects are important when choosing a monitor for your studio.
What gives the monitors their specific power are the drivers. These are the physical parts that create the sound. A usual speaker has two drivers: a woofer and a twitter. Their names suggest what kind of sounds they can produce.
Tweeters are the ones used for high-frequency sounds, while woofers are the ones that produce the lows and mids. In certain cases, monitors have additional drivers that are used to help the woofer. Some such drivers can boost a higher volume in the mid frequencies while others are better at low frequencies and are thus called subwoofers.
Different materials can be used when producing the drivers and based on the intended purpose of the final product, each material has its qualities. When there is the need for higher power handling, a driver is made of carbon, glass or metal. These materials produce the most accurate sound and a good high-frequency response.
The drivers are used for pumping out sounds and the higher their watt power, the more volume they can provide. Most casual users are accustomed to this concept. However, studio monitors don’t really need a high power because they shouldn’t be used to blast music in a room.
They just need to produce a volume that is good enough to allow the listener to distinguish the sounds well. That is why a power between 10 and 60 watts is enough to fill a small or medium-sized room. If the room is bigger you might need something in the range of hundreds.
But volume is not the only thing that watts affect. The quality of the sound is also a factor. Monitors with a higher watt power will produce less distortion for certain sounds like the hit on a snare drum. If you have a pop song that’s full of kick drum sounds, you will surely need a monitor with some high watt power.
If you want to output enough volume you need good studio recording microphones, and that is very important when you want the music to sound well.
But even if you have all the watts in the world, you still need the monitor to be able to provide accurate harmonies in all the frequencies. This is, at the end of it all, what makes a monitor good or not. The frequency range is an important indicator in the use of headphones for music production too.
You want the speakers to handle all the frequency ranges of the music you are recording and that is why a range between 50 Hz and 20 kHz is employed by most models because it’s good in almost all applications.
Most studio monitors, as you will be able to see, show their frequency range, but some provide more information and display the sound variation as well. This variation shows what is the difference in volume between certain frequencies played.
For example, a number of + or – 2 or 3 decibels describes a monitor that is capable of providing almost the same volume no matter the frequency range. You also need to make sure that you have the recording capabilities in place and for that, you need quality home studio mics. Also, if you record drums a lot, you should have your own overhead drum mics to be able to record all the frequencies.
Near, mid or far-field models
Small studio monitors are most often the ones that provide a near-field sound. It means that they are best heard when the listener is close to them. The “field” thus means, in this case, how far away the monitors should be positioned from the listener in order to provide the best sounds.
Compact models that provide sound in a small area around them are generally good budget studio monitors because they allow the listener to hear the sounds directly, without any bad influence from the environment. That is a great thing when you haven’t invested that much in your studio.
Because the sound only travels a short distance, it doesn’t interact that much with most objects in your room, thus it doesn’t get distorted. They’re also quite easy to position, even if you set them on your desk. The important thing is to know that you need to place them so that your head forms the tip of an equilateral triangle with them.
This is the sweet spot of listening as it offers a natural sound that can be heard stereo. But if you have a bigger room, you will need larger studio monitors that are able to provide more power in a medium-field or far-field manner.
Of course, finding the perfect spot for big speakers is always hard, particularly when you don’t have a professional studio, but if you manage to acoustically treat your walls and eliminate most objects in the room, you will have a great listening experience.
If you’re a musician that’s always on the road and you need to record your ideas quickly, you should have a look at our guide on audio recorders. Also, if you use your small studio to mainly record vocals, see what we have to say about studio microphones for vocals.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What is a studio monitor used for?
Studio monitors are used by musicians, as you expect, in their recording studios so that they can hear what they are working on in a precise manner. Producers or audio engineers also use them for the same purposes.
Depending on the purpose of the monitors and their size, there are three kinds. The first of them is the near field monitor, which is mostly used in small studios or home studios. They can also be used in recording studios but being less effective. Using these monitors the musician or producer will be able to perform most of the producing and mixing elements.
As the name suggests, they are made to sit close to the listener, between 3 and 6 feet. Bigger than these monitors are the mid-field ones, which are made primarily to work in recording studios. They are better in bigger rooms and they should be placed further away from the listener as they should be capable of filling the room with sound.
There are some people that like to mix on mid-field monitors exclusively. The biggest monitors, the far-field ones are not usually used for mixing purposes, but for listening to the final result.
Q: What is the difference between studio monitors and speakers?
There isn’t much difference between speakers and studio monitors at first sight. The main thing that separates them is that monitors should be designed to follow stricter standards compared to their counterparts. Quality monitors should be able to deliver the sound as precise as possible, with no coloration or effects in it.
Monitor speakers are designed to create the flattest response they can, and as a result of that, all the frequencies leaving the monitor should have the same volume compared to one another. This is different from consumer speakers that will often boost a certain frequency range, most often the bass.
They should also be “revealing”, letting you sense any mistake that you might have made during the recording and mixing process. For that, they should have a clear sound, which is often dependent on quality materials and a well-built monitor. The design should be a sturdy one, as to not allow the monitor to change its shape and as a result, worsen its sound.
You also want the monitors to be fast-responding, as to accurately accentuate each sound. The bass line, for example, is something that needs more attention from the drivers.
Q: Do studio monitors need an amplifier?
Most studio monitors produce good quality sound with enough volume naturally, and as a result, they won’t need something to amplify that sound. Furthermore, if you have too much volume coming out of monitors, the sound gets altered and you won’t be able to work well on the original track.
Studio monitors have amplifiers already incorporated in their cabinet, and these amplifiers are well-calibrated to offer the best accuracy possible. Inspired to offer you the utmost precision, monitors rarely need modifications. That being said, however, there are two types of monitors – the active ones and the passive monitors.
The active models can be split into two categories as well. The first of them are models with distinct amplifiers, and the second kind of active monitors are the models with inbuilt amplifiers that use a regular passive crossover to serve the drivers through.
However, passive monitors do need external amplifiers, as they don’t have built-in amps in them like the other models. The advantage of passive monitors is the fact that they are easier to customize, and you can always mix and match them with different amps to find the ideal sound for you. But if you don’t know much about monitors, active models should be the choice.
Q: Can I use studio monitors to listen to music?
The short answer to that is yes, you can. The main advantage of doing so is the fact that as you listen more, you will be able to learn how plain music should sound, and you will have a better feel of all the sounds that appear in a piece of music.
Studio monitors are created to reveal small details that often don’t get reflected by consumer speakers, and they deliver a flat response in all frequency ranges. Hearing music like this for the first time may sound strange to you, and you will probably feel the need for more bass or high frequencies, depending on the song.
However, that doesn’t mean the speaker isn’t good; it’s just giving you another perspective on music. There are many consumer speakers that are annoying, providing too much volume in certain frequencies, or sometimes having drops in volume in places you wouldn’t expect.
Monitors will give you the opportunity to listen to a more natural representation. Of course, that is not always what people prefer, and you might not enjoy it. But you can at least try it. Furthermore, with good monitors, you will always have the possibility to make small adjustments to boost certain things.
Q: Do studio monitors need a subwoofer?
Decent monitors should be able to provide a frequency response that reaches the lower limit of 40Hz or maybe even lower. Taking this into consideration, there are really very few scenarios in which you would need to hear frequencies lower than that. If that is the case, however, you also need the room to cope with such low frequencies.
Most often, you don’t need to worry about subwoofers if you want to hear lower sounds better. Instead, you should check the level of bass you are able to receive from the monitors. Start by playing a bass-heavy song and walk across the room trying to find spots where the bass is less or more powerful.
If you can sense major changes in the volume, then the lack of a subwoofer is not your problem. In fact, adding a subwoofer could make matters worse in such a scenario. Chances are the monitor is already doing a good job, but you need to improve the sound-proofing of your room.
The nature of the acoustic treatment you apply to your room and its consistency is really important in getting the most precise low-frequency sounds. You need to treat your room with precise bass-traping materials.
Best studio monitor brands
This is a brand that specializes in creating musical instruments and it’s known as the company with the most piano sales. Taking this into account, it’s no wonder that the brand is capable of producing quality studio monitors too. The Japanese company uses its knowledge and the latest technologies in creating great monitors.
You will be able to find both professional models and budget studio monitors that it sells. It has been creating them since the 1970’s and its monitors have been a standard in the industry due to their consistency and accuracy. Its models are designed to offer an honest and precise sound.
If you really like products made in the US, you will be glad to find out that JBL is a brand that is based in Los Angeles. What recommends it is the fact that it specializes in producing loudspeakers and the electronics needed in them. It offers a wide range of monitors and it has two divisions, one for consumer products and one for professional musicians.
Because it produces its own electronics, the company has enough potential to create what it wants. It has also patented some components that it uses in making the monitors. Its care for looks can be observed in the nice designs that its products have.
This company is based in Florida and it has been providing monitors and control room solutions since 1984. Offering its products through online dealers, the brand makes professional studio monitors, headphones, subwoofers and basically any sound-producing device that can be found in a studio.
Its monitors are made for professional purposes and they have been used by professional musicians in mixing their albums. The models can be usually characterized by a large frequency range and a good vocal clarity. You can find in the company’s offer some monitors that have front-facing bass ports that allow you to position them in the room more freely.