Best Studio Monitors of 2018
Buyer's Guide and Reviews
You may have already purchased some of the important components to build your studio, such as an audio interface or a quality microphone. One of the most important components to your setup, however, is proper sound output so that you can hear a high-quality sound. Once you have the equipment to record your audio, you then need the right equipment to replicate that audio.
Purchasing a great pair of studio monitors is important to complete your studio whether for use in a home studio or a professional one. The speakers you use will have a big effect on the quality of your productions. Studio monitors reproduce an accurate sound on all frequencies. The subwoofers handle the low frequencies while the tweeters handle the medium and high frequencies.
You may be surprised to know that even many of the best studio speakers are pretty affordable. You don’t have to buy the most expensive option to get good quality.
Studio monitors are not just useful in studios. You can use them to upgrade your desktop speakers for better sound when gaming. You can connect them to your TV to get a higher quality sound. You can also use them if you just want a better listening experience in general when playing music. Even if your budget isn’t very flexible, there are a perfect set of studio monitors available for you.
There are a lot of options out there, so we have broken down everything you need to know- from the different types, to a complete buyer’s guide on what to look for to choose the best studio monitors for you.
Active or Passive
Our Picks for the Best Studio Monitors
1. Mackie CR Series CR3 - The Best Studio Monitor of 2018
Coming in at number one are the Mackie CR3 speakers. Designed to deliver studio-quality sound, they are the perfect addition to help produce your multimedia creations. They have been built using only the best components.
Equipped with high-output drivers, a true studio monitor waveguide system, and an all wood cabinet, the CR3 speakers are carefully designed to deliver the best quality sound. The wood cabinet is superior to the usual plastic ones you will find on many other studio monitors. Custom-tuned rear firing bass ports contribute to a nice bass sound.
The controls are conveniently located on the front panel for easy access. The aux input allows you to connect your smartphone or tablet. There is a headphone output as well as a volume knob that is also used as the on/off switch. To give you more control over your system, the left/right speaker placement switch allows you to choose which side of your setup has volume control.
The ¼”, 1/8”, and RCA inputs allow you to connect almost any audio source.
Featuring a frequency range of 80 Hz-20 kHz, the CR3’s offer a full-range listening experience. The subwoofer measures 3-inches and delivers satisfying lows. The silk dome tweeters deliver smooth, articulate highs. This combination produces full-range sound with wide, consistent dispersion and superior stereo imaging.
The CR3’s pack 50 watts of power which allows for deeper lows and clearer highs at all listening levels. The monitors measure 8.5 x 15.3 x 11.5 inches and weigh in at 6 pounds. Mackie has taken the quality and performance of bigger, more expensive monitors, and packed it into a compact and affordable option. Their small size allows them to be easily placed on your desktop without taking up a lot of space. They can be used in even the tightest of spaces. They come in a small package but produce a big sound.
Included in the purchase are all the cables you need to use with the various inputs. A 6’ speaker cable is included to connect the left and right speakers together. Also included are isolation pads that have an angle design so that you can tilt your monitors up or down to focus the sound just where you want it. Since everything you need comes with the speakers, you can start using them right away.
These studio monitors are versatile and perfect for use in home studios, gaming, multimedia creations, listening to music, or anything else you want to use them for. They are the best cheap studio monitors around right now.
2. Edifier R1280T Bookshelf Speakers - Best Budget Studio Monitor 2018
The Edifier bookshelf speakers are a great choice as some of the best budget studio monitors. Featuring a 4-inch bass driver and a calibrated, flared bass reflex port, they are guaranteed to deliver that deep, rich bass that everyone loves. The 13mm silk dome tweeter produces crisp highs.
The treble, bass, and volume controls on the active speaker unit give you full control over the sound and help you achieve the perfect balance in your music. You can use the convenient wireless remote control to adjust the volume or mute the sound.
Equipped with two RCA inputs, the speakers can be connected to two different audio sources. Included is an 8-foot speaker wire and a 3.5mm to dual RCA AUX cable so that you can start using the system right out of the box. Also included is a 2-year warranty which guarantees high quality performance.
The Edifier R1280T studio monitors are packed with 42-watts of power and have a frequency response of 60 Hz to 20 kHz. Both speakers measure 6.9 x 9.4 x 5.7 inches and weigh in T 10.8 pounds.
A classic wood finish on the sides and gray front panels give the speakers a classy, sleek look that will pair nicely with your computer. The front grilles can be removed to expose the drivers if you like that look better. The sound can also be clearer with the grilles off. When not in use, however, it is best to cover the drivers to protect them from dust. If you are looking for the best home studio monitors, these are a great option.
3. JBL LSR305
After one look at the JBL LSR305 studio monitors you will notice their sleek design which allows them them fit into any setup. The textile dome at the top has rolled surround which aids in the sound and prevents any distortion.
The 5-inch poly cone woofer has butyl rubber surround to give off a clean bass sound. Using JBL’s patented Slip Stream low-frequency port, these speakers give off an accurate bass response even at low playback levels. Many other studio monitors will not provide a good bass when playing at low levels.
Equipped with a total of 82 watts raw power, they really pack a punch. They have a frequency range of 43 Hz- 24 kHz and a crossover frequency of 175 Hz. The wide frequency range provides more accuracy for your mixes. The efficient Class D amplifiers provide a lot of power to deliver the output and dynamic headroom needed for even the most demanding production styles.
These are some of the best budget studio monitors and have been designed for the serious audio engineer or music producer in mind. One of the things that really makes them stand out from the other best studio speakers is that they feature an innovative Image Control Waveguide which creates a well-defined and dimensional stereo image. This allows you to not only hear every sound clearly, but also to make accurate sonic judgements. The Image Control Waveguide is a real asset to those in the professional music business.
The HF and LF trim controls allow you to fine-tune the speakers according to your room’s acoustics. The increased HF detail provides greater depth and ambience to your recordings. Even subtle details in a dense mix can be easily heard.
Featuring a broad sweet spot, these studio monitors deliver natural sound across a very large room. This means that you do not need to be directly in front of the speakers to hear an accurate sound and make adjustments accordingly. No matter where anyone is in the room, everyone will hear an accurate sound. So if you have clients in the room, no need to worry about them having to be in a specific part of the room.
For all of the high-quality features they contain, the JBL LSR305 speakers are some of the best cheap studio monitors. They provide professional quality at an affordable price.
The PreSonus Eris E4.5 studio monitors are driven by two 25 watt Class AB amplifiers for a combined 50 watts of power. Packed with plenty of power, they are some of the best home studio monitors and also some of the best studio monitors under $200. Even though they have a budget-friendly price, they give you the same kind of quality you would find in many more expensive studio monitors.
The silk dome tweeters measure 1” and are covered by a protective grille. The 4.5“ low frequency transducers provide a great bass sound. Made of Kevlar, the transducers are durable and also produce a crisp sound. You will not just hear the bass, you will feel it.
They have a frequency response of 70Hz- 22kHz. They weigh in at 13 pounds and measure 10 x 15 x 10 inches. Since they are small and light, you can easily transport them to different venues. You can suspend them without having to worry about them toppling down because of their heavy weight.
The quality tweeters and woofers give you clean highs and lows. The clear, rich sound they produce makes them ideal for multimedia work as well as for playing games and listening to music. You can use them to upgrade your desktop or you can use them for an acoustic setting.
Perfect for mixing, the acoustic tuning control feature provides superior accuracy. This is a very useful feature to have since different rooms will cause the sound waves to behave differently. The acoustic tuning control gives you the power to overcome any acoustic challenges. Using the acoustic space setting feature, you can integrate these monitors into your studio to listen to an accurate playback.
Designed using quality components, the Eris E4.5 speakers are durable and built to last. Even the knobs are solidly built - no cheap plastic used. To add to their lifespan, they feature over-temperature, transient, and subsonic protection.
Both of the speakers are connected with 2 wired speaker cables. On the active speaker there are the balanced TRS left and right inputs and the unbalanced RCA with a ⅛-inch to ⅛-inch RCA connection cable. The combination of inputs and outputs gives you a lot of flexibility.
For such compact speakers, they deliver quite an impressive sound, and at the same time they are affordable.
Coming in at number 5 are the Edifier R1700 BT Bluetooth bookshelf speakers. What stands out about these studio monitors is of course the Bluetooth connectivity option. You can connect your phone, tablet or computer for a wireless, hassle-free experience. They are compatible with any iOS, Android, MacOS, or Windows device.
These speakers are truly versatile and ideal to use along with your gaming console, computer, or TV for superior sound quality. The built-in Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and Dynamic Range Control (DRC) prevent distortion.
The 19mm silk dome tweeter creates a crystal clear sound while the 4-inch bass driver in each speaker creates those rich lows. Designed with a front facing bass reflex port, the low frequencies are intensified to provide a powerful bass. On the side of the right speaker are the controls for audio, bass, and treble.
To create an even better listening experience, the speakers are set at a 10-degree angle to direct the sound right at you for a better listening experience. The Edifier R1700BT monitors are equipped with 66 watts of power and have a frequency response of 60Hz-20kHz. They weigh 14.6 pounds and measure 8.8 x 9.1 x 9.8 inches. Their size allows them to easily fit into any setup.
Equipped with two auxiliary inputs, you can conveniently connect any device that has a 3.5mm headphone output or dual RCA output. You can connect two devices at the same time using the auxiliary outputs without having to switch cords around. You can use the remote control to switch input sources as well as control the volume and mute functions.
These speakers get really loud even without turning up the volume all the way- plenty loud enough to fill a large room.
Finished with a high quality MDF walnut wood effect vinyl, these monitors are a great compliment to your existing home decor. Included is a 2-year warranty which guarantees high quality and reliability with hassle-free parts and labor warranty for two years.
If you are looking for some affordable monitors without sacrificing on sound quality, and also want lots of options for connectivity, these are a great option. They are definitely some of the best studio monitors available for under $200.
6. M-Audio AV42
Feature uncovered speaker cones for better sound quality. Compatible with mobile devices.
7. Yamaha HS5
The built-in cutting edge noise reduction technology guarantees a clear sound. The range of inputs allows you to connect things like mixers, keyboards, and audio interfaces.
The bi-amped class A/B amplifier offers large headroom and low distortion. Multiple audio input connectors allow you to connect any equipment you use in your studio.
When you want to hear a classic sound, you can use these studio monitors to play your favorite vinyl records. Also compatible with many MIDI interfaces, smartphones, tablets, and HDTV.
Feature an integrated USB audio interface so that you can plug them right into your computer, no driver install required. They are some of the best cheap studio monitors on the market right now.
Best Studio Monitors Buying Guide
Below are some important things to keep in mind before making your purchase:
Price. Some people think they need to look for the higher priced options to guarantee they get a quality product. This isn’t necessarily true, as some of the best studio monitors are under $200. Of course this doesn’t mean you should go straight for the cheapest option either, but you definitely don’t need to break the bank to get a good set of studio monitors.
Monitor Size. The size of monitor you want largely depends on how much space you have. Some have limited space on their desk so smaller speakers will work best for them. For small spaces, using small speakers will produce more accurate results for mixing. If you have more space or can mount them, you can go for larger speakers. You should also think of how you will set them up to produce the best sound.
Frequency range. It is important to pay attention to the frequency range of any speaker that you are interested in to make sure it can handle the full frequency range of your recordings. Frequency range is measured in hertz (the lowest frequency) and kilohertz (the highest frequency). Most recording work requires a frequency range of 50 kHz to 20kHz.
Power. The number of watts the speakers have will be important to consider when thinking about the room size you will use them in. Larger rooms will require more power to deliver sound into every corner of the room. For smaller areas, like a home office, you will not need as many watts.
Woofers. If you will be recording music, think about what kind of music you will be dealing with. For lighter music, you can go for some nearfield monitors with 4,5, or 6-inch woofers and that will be enough. For rock or hip hop music, you will want to go for monitors that pack more punch so that those bass sounds will shine.
Connections. Before making your purchase, make sure that the speakers actually offer the connections that are compatible with your other equipment. Monitors usually have RCA, ¼”, TRS, XLR, or S/PDIF jacks. Some have unbalanced inputs, balanced inputs, or both.
Single-amp, bi-amp, or tri-amp. These terms refer to how the input signal is divided to power the drivers. Single-amp monitors divide the output power of one amplifier using a crossover network which then sends the right frequencies to each monitor. In bi-amp monitors, there are two separate amplifiers- one to power high frequencies and the other for low frequencies. A tri-amp configuration divides the signal three ways into 3 amplifiers to drive high, mid, and low frequencies. Bi-amp and tri-amp configurations usually have a more accurate frequency response and produce better sound quality.
Cabinets. The design of the cabinets has a direct effect on sound quality. To prevent the cabinet from altering the sound, it should be made of a stiff, sturdy material like metal or a dense plastic.
Check out the video below for tips on buying the best studio monitors for you:
The Different Types Of Studio Monitors
Active Monitors Vs. Passive Monitors
Active monitors have a built-in amplifier and utilize an active crossover instead of a passive one. They have become increasingly popular for those who want to do home recordings since they are easy to use and have a plug-and-play design. All you have to do is connect them to your DAW or mixing board and you are good to go. They eliminate the need to buy a separate amplifier and crossover to match your speakers. Active monitors will save you money in the long run since you won’t have to purchase several different components. The built-in amp in an active monitor is designed specially to work with the other components of the speaker.
Passive monitors, on the other hand, do not have a built-in amplifier and require a separate amplifier. Passive monitors still have many advantages since they allow for more versatility. Professional studios often use them because they can buy specific amplifiers to meet their needs. The amplifiers they use are often higher quality than the amplifiers used in active monitors. When you can use a separate amplifier, you have more control over the sound since it has its own settings.
Near-Field Vs. Far-Field
Near-field monitors are compact and designed to be used for listening at close ranges. They are usually placed three to five feet from you. This allows the you to hear a more direct sound from the speakers instead of hearing sound that has bounced around the room. This reduces the effect of poor room acoustics. If you will mostly be recording yourself singing and/or playing guitar, a pair of near-field monitors will meet your needs.
Far field monitors are placed further away from the listeners and are able to handle louder volumes than near-field monitors. Using far-field monitors, you will hear more of the room noise as the sound bounces around the room.
The Different Brands Of Best Studio Monitors
Edifier was founded by a group of music lovers in 1996 in Bejiing, China. Using cutting edge technology, they specialize in producing top quality sound systems. Edifier supplies their products in over 70 countries including countries in North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific regions. They produce 8 million units every year. Edifier not only has a passion for sound, but also a passion for design.
They are committed to not only making products that make your music sound amazing, but products that also look amazing. Their designs have won some prestigious design awards such as the Red Dot Design Award, the iF Product Design Award, and the CES Design & Engineering Showcase Honors.
Edifier is also involved in helping hearing impaired children discover the power of sound. Through their donations, they have helped many hearing impaired children from low-income families to receive cochlear implants.
In 1995, PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc was founded by Jim Odom and Brian Smith in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Since then, PreSonus has become a leading designer and manufacturer in the field of audio. They produce live-sound software, microphone preamps, signal processors, digital audio interfaces, control surfaces, digital mixers, and of course, studio monitors as well as other products. Their products are used worldwide for sound design, internet audio, sound reinforcement, and recording.
PreSonus still has its roots in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and in 2014 they moved into a new high-tech HQ and research facility. PreSonus is well known for their software, especially Studio One, which was created when they partnered up with Kristal Labs in Germany. They have since developed other groundbreaking software. PreSonus continues to produce innovative and professional equipment at affordable prices.
Studio Monitors Wrap Up
Whether you want to upgrade the sound system for your computer or TV or you want to do some recording at home or in a professional studio, finding the best studio monitors will greatly improve the sound quality.
Before deciding which ones you should buy, decide which type will work best for you. Most people go for active speakers, and all of the top picks on our list for the best budget studio monitors are active speakers or have one active speaker in the set. Decide if a near-field or far-field setup will work best for you since there are studio monitors designed for either use.
Speaker size, woofers, tweeters, frequency range, power, connections, and cabinets are all key features to pay attention to before making your purchase.
For those of you that plan to use the monitors at home, keep our list of the top 10 in mind since it includes the best home studio monitors.