Today we review the best studio monitor speakers for your home, semi-pro or even professional studio, whether you’re on a budget or have saved up a decent chunk of money. Studio monitors are exceptional in terms of sound accuracy, particularly geared towards musicians and producers mixing or mastering tracks. However, they’re also great for merely listening to music in general. As opposed to typical market speakers by the popular brands we see on TV, most of those either up the bass or treble frequencies or pay less attention to driver detail in order to appeal to the larger market. Monitors battle this by giving you the truest form of sound the artist intended for us to hear, evenly distributing their frequencies among the drivers and providing some powerful amps. Let’s review the top 10 best studio monitor speakers available today.
The benefits of studio monitor speakers
You’d be surprised at how many home studios have beautiful microphones, sets of MIDI controllers, even audio interfaces but lack one of the most important pieces of music equipment: proper sound output.
Studio monitor speakers are actually relatively affordable, and although dominated our best computer speakers article due to their versatility, are specialized for music recording and producing. Here are some benefits of studio monitors when they are included in your setup:
- Provide accurate sound among all available frequencies, low (subwoofers), medium and high (tweeters)
- Ideal for those who mix and master tracks
- Give you that step up from merely a desk with a few controllers to a real home studio
How to choose your studio monitors
Choosing your studio monitor speakers may seem a bit daunting at first, but all you need to do is take a few aspects into consideration. Here’s a list of things to think about:
- What is your budget? The more you spend, the more powerful your monitors will be.
- Woofer and tweeter size. The bigger the better? Yes and no — look at the material and make of them as well.
- Do you want a pair or just one? Not sure why we put this in here, but just be careful as some packages only come with one speaker and some in pairs.
- Size of your monitors. Some have a lot of space to work with, others have merely their desk.
- Any brand preferences? Yamaha, JBL and M-Audio are popular, but there are some other lesser-known companies to look at.
- Passive or active speakers? This passive vs. active speakers article is helpful, but we like active speakers as it is more common so we’ll focus on that for today.
- Do you need a subwoofer? For music production, the consensus is that it isn’t required. Two studio monitors will be fine as they give you enough of that low-frequency sound. If anything, a subwoofer will take away from the sound accuracy and boast the bass. However, you can always turn the sub off when you want. Read our best studio subwoofer article if you’re interested in adding a sub to your setup for times your mood feels bassy.
Fore more information on choosing studio monitor speakers, we recommend reading Sweetwater’s studio monitor buying guide.
The top 10 best studio monitor speakers, ever
Below is our list of top 10 best studio monitor speakers in the market. We’ve provided models of all price ranges, but have particularly gone for those with the highest positive reviews around the net as well as their overall power, quality of sound, and type of specs in combination of their price. Let’s take a look.
M-Audio Studiophile AV 40
Listed at #1, this pair of monitor speakers by M-Audio equipment has received numerous positive reviews, all stating its dependability in terms of long-lasting stability and accuracy of sound. For the price of ~$150 retail you just can’t beat the quality it provides. It isn’t necessarily the most feature-packed speakers and their subs/tweeters aren’t massive — so if you’re looking for a top-of-the-line monitor continue down our list. This is best for budgets and geared more towards the home studio. The frequency response is in the upper-average mark at 85 Hz to 20 kHz, but I really wouldn’t complain with the price. 4″ woofers and 1″ tweeters give it a nice feel in terms of low and high frequencies. What I particularly like about the Studiophile AV 40 monitors is the RF interference protection, not to mention the temperature help, transient and subsonic filters. The only thing we’d recommend is keeping the speakers off when you’re not using them to save their lifespan. Read our full review of the Studiophile AV 40 speakers for more info.
- Frequency response: 85 Hz – 20 kHz
- Type: Two-way reference
- 4″ woofers (polypropylene-coated woofers)
- 1″ tweeters (silk dome)
- Tweeter wave guides
- 20 watt-per-channel amp (Class A/B)
- Magnetic shielding to reduce interference
- Wood cabinet port design
- Front-panel controls: 1/8″ stereo aux input, 1/8″ headphone output, volume control
I’ve heard so many people talk about the solidity of the LSR305’s that we just had to put these after the AV 40’s. JBL music has been very solid with monitors (I mean, they make PA systems…) and this is their best speaker for music in our opinion. These monitors provide a very accurate and clean sound. The performance is very good, providing a much lower frequency than the AV 40’s (only down to 85 Hz). As a pair they can get a bit costly, but once you grab these you are set for a good 3, 4 or even 5+ years of investment. The woofers are above-average size at 5″ (most are around 4″) and the tweeters are just like all others, although their frequency transducer and image control wave guide help with an even cleaner sound on top of the drivers. If you have the money i’d seriously think about getting a pair of these for any studio. They aren’t necessarily as loud as some competitors (82 watts), but that isn’t always the key when looking for a good pair of studio monitor speakers. The JBL LSR305 studio monitor is reliable at a pretty doable price. The LSR305 review by MusicTech also praises these for their power and price point.
- Frequency range: 43 Hz – 24 kHz
- Weight: 10 lbs
- 3-series Class D amps
- JBL transducers
- Woofer: 5″ Long-throw
- Tweeter: 1″ Neodymium
- One XLR and one TRS balanced inputs
- Type: Active speakers
- Image Control Waveguide
- -10 dB/+4 dB sensitivity switch (ability to hook it up to pro gear without input overload)
- LF Trim and HF Trim “TRIM” switches
- 41-watt class D amp (low and high-frequency) for a total of 81 watts of power
Alesis Elevate 6 Active
Alesis recording equipment has always created solid, long-lasting gear in our eyes. The Elevate 6 are brand new and an upgrade from the original Elevate 5 monitors that have received a lot of positive reviews since it’s release. The Elevate 6 active speakers (they also have a passive version we list above but you’ll need an amp for those) features a waveguide that is elliptical as opposed to a straight or even curved, which has been applied in engineering frequently and is stated to give a more smooth frequency range (no sudden drops or peaks at the highs\lows). A larger than normal 6″ woofer and a standard 1″ tweeter here and the wattage is a total of 75 (50 low and 25 high), so they’re not too crazy in terms of shattering windows but are very feasible for most budget-friendly studios. The wood cabinets with bass porting doesn’t hurt either, making these a very solid pair (if you buy two separately) of studio monitor speakers. I would say the Alesis Elevate 6 active speakers are relatively standard but quite low in terms of price with something of this woofer size and overall clarity. The frequency response is very flat so you’re getting a nice, accurate sound to be confident with in your mixes. Here’s a cool video overview of the Elevate 6.
- Frequency response: 55 Hz – 30 kHz
- 75-Watt output power per speaker
- Bi-amplification (50 woofer and 25 tweeter)
- Flat frequency response
- Wood cabinets (high-density)
- Eliptical waveguides
- One XLR and 1/4″ input (balanced) and RCA input (unbalanced)
- Trim switches for HF and LF – -2 to 2 dB
- Power-saving auto shut-off
Yamaha music instruments are on point when it comes to speakers. These studio monitors are extremely popular, just falling a bit behind the JBL’s in terms of popularity around the net (probably because they’re a bit more expensive). If you can take a step up in terms of budget, we recommend grabbing these. They’ve got a whopping 8″ cone woofer and a 1″ tweeter (the lower models basically go down in woofer size, hence their model names). The frequency response is above-average and what I particularly like is it allowing you to go down to 38 Hz for bass mixing. The wattage count is very high at 120, so if you turn this baby up you’re getting the walls to feel it in the infrastructure. It’s a bi-amp design so only two-way here, but the mid’s aren’t lacking whatsoever. The Yamaha HS8 monitors also have something built-in called the ‘ROOM CONTROL’ which allows for trimming of low and high frequencies for a better, accurate sound based on your liking. Lastly, it’s got a standard XLR and TRS jack but no RCA. These things are beastly and note that they’re pretty damn heavy but hey, what do you expect with something this powerful? These are the cream of the crop. If money wasn’t a factor, these would win for best studio monitor speakers.
- Frequency response: 38 Hz to 30 kHz
- Weight: 23 lbs
- 2-Way bass-reflex bi-amp
- 120-Watt power (75 low-frequency and 45 high-frequency)
- Woofer: 8″ cone
- Tweeter: 1″ dome
- ROOM CONTROL and high trim response controlling
- Ports: XLR and TRS on back
KRK RP6G3-NA Rokit 6 Generation 3
These babies are highly regarded in the music equipment arena. KRK Systems make very solid pairs of headphones and monitors. The Rokit 6 have made it to the 3rd generation version and for good reason, offering a bi-amp 1″ dome tweeter and 6″ woofers (glass-aramid composite). Goes up to the standard 35 kHz in terms of frequency response and as low as 38 Hz (same as the Yamahas). The power is about 100 watts but the 20 watt difference between these and Yamaha is barely noticeable in terms of power, so grab these if you want to save a few bucks, although the woofers are 2″ less. A big plus of the KRK Rokit 6 G3 studio monitors have been stated by many are the especially clear highs. Some have complained about the size being full-sized bookshelf speakers, so take that into consideration if you need to keep space in mind. All in all, you won’t be disappointed in these; they are cherished by a lot of gear heads.
- Frequency response: 38 Hz to 35 kHz
- Weight: 20 lbs
- Woofer: 6″ Aramid glass composite
- Tweeter: 1″ soft dome
- Amp: Class A-B
- Type: Active 2-way
- Inputs included: RCA, 14″ TRS and XLR
- Black vinyl wrap finish
- Front firing port (reduces coupling)
M-Audio BX6 Carbon
It was either between this speaker or M-Audio music‘s original, highly regarded BX5 D2 studio monitors but we’ve went with their middle-model of the BX Carbon series as it is a personal favorite of ours. We’ve reviewed all models from their newest studio monitors and just love the accuracy and stability of these. The flat frequency coupled with the 6″ woofer (woven Kevlar — great make) and 1″ tweeters combined with a 130-watt (Class A/B) create a powerful monitor. M-Audio has also included their Acoustic Space Control tech, which lets you have some more control over the mixing environment to adjust speaker placement. The frequency range is not necessarily as wide as a lot of speakers (45 Hz to 22 kHz), but the quality of the woofers and tweeter makes this worth it. Take the BX6 Carbon studio monitor into serious consideration if you have the dough, or you can check out the lower versions (albeit smaller woofers) to save a few bucks.
- Frequency response: 45 Hz to 22 kHz
- Woofers: 6″ woven Kevlar
- Tweeters: 1.25″ natural silk dome
- Waveguide with LED placement cues for imaging
- Acoustic Space Control
- 130-watt bi-amp (Class A/B)
- Low-frequency: 70-Watts
- High-frequency: 60-Watts
- Inputs: One XLR and one TRS
PreSonus Eris E4.5 2-Way
PreSonus equipment flies a bit under the radar, but their equipment is very solid and pretty affordable. The woofers are 4.5″ but are Kevlar, so a bit smaller than a few others out there but made quite nicely. The tweeter is the standard 1″ (25 mm) with silk domes. The amp is only about 50-Watts so it’s around half of the bigger boys out there, but this is also half the price without sacrificing too much besides power. Not that these won’t play loud (they’re more than enough for a small home studio), so don’t let that turn you off. The Eris E4.5 2-way monitor has gotten a lot positive reviews about its near-field listening accuracy as well as praise with their smaller size. No cheap plastic, knobs are made quite nicely — just a solid build altogether. Something to look at in the $200 per pair area, especially if you want something to fit on your desk.
- Frequency response: 70Hz – 22kHz
- Weight: 14 lbs (pair)
- Woofer: 4.5″ Kevlar cone transducer
- Tweeter: 1″ silk dome
- RF interference limiter
- Temperature, transient and subsonic protection
- 25 watts of power (each)
These are the cheapest we’ll go, and for the price and power the MS16’s are rated very highly. Firstly, you’ll notice the front panel controls, something that never hurts — mic level, bass, treble and volume, giving you a pretty custom listening experience. Behringer gear has been highly regarded with their equipment and these bring you an affordable pair (one of the best) under $100. Featuring a relatively decent frequency response, pretty big tweeters (1.5″) and a standard 4″ woofer, we’ve got nothing to really complain about here besides the low-wattage. The power is very minuscule compared to others in our list but hey, they’re around the $100 and under mark. The Behringer MS16 monitors are something to look at if you need a cheaper solution to audio.
- Frequency response: 80 Hz to 20 kHz
- Woofers: 4″
- Tweeters: 1.5″
- 8 Watts per speaker
- Smaller in size for home studios
- Dedicated volume, bass and treble controls
- Magnetically shielded for near-computer placement
- Inputs: stereo RCA, 1/8″ TRS, 1/4″ TRS mic
Audioengine‘s make of their studio monitors are great and we definitely recommend going with one of their models. These have been compared against almost every popular monitor out there, so we figured it was for a reason. People talk about these in terms of “saving up for them” as they’re $400 a pair, but they are some of the best in the market we’ve seen. Featuring a decent frequency response from 50 to 22 kHz, the most eye-popping quality is their 150-watts per speaker — the most on our list. If you’re looking for power grab these because they also have very clear sounds in terms of both low and high frequencies (despite the 3/4″ tweeter — they can get away with 1/4″ in our opinion). Amazing sound quality on the Audioengine 5+ studio monitors and if they’re a bit too expensive for you the lower models are listed above.
- Frequency response: 50 Hz – 22 kHz
- Type: 2-way active bookshelf-style
- Woofers: 5″ (Kevlar)
- Tweeters: 3/4″ silk dome
- Dual class A/B amp
- 150-watts of power
- Available in black, white or bamboo
- Remote control included
- USB power charge port
- Magnetically shielded
- Includes all cables you need
- Front panel: volume control and power indicator
- Back panel: Audio input (2 of them), USB power, passive speaker output, power on/off, voltage select
Alesis M1 Active 320
We love these because they are extremely affordable and perfect for those on a budget. A frequency response from 80 Hz to 20 kHz but man, are these things powerful for being $100 (even less on a few sites). The woofer is relatively standard and a bit smaller than the bigger monitors we’ve spoken about thus far, but 3″ isn’t too bad of a sacrifice if you have a home studio. The tweeter is standard as well, a silk dome 1″ . This is basically the lowest priced studio monitor that’s worth looking at besides the MS16’s — you get the essential features all monitors should have, plus a USB hookup for convenience. Headphone jack, RCA inputs…nothing to complain about really. It isn’t a beast like the Yamaha’s and we feel that it isn’t necessarily what the Alesis M1 Active 320 monitor lacks — it just doesn’t have much of flashy features but the price point justifies it tremendously.
- Frequency response: 80 Hz – 20 kHz
- Woofer: 3″ magnetically-shielded
- Tweeter: 1″ silk dome
- Integrated USB audio interface and playback
- Inputs: 1/8″ stereo, RCA and 1/4″
- Front-mounted headphone output
- Works with iPad with Apple USB adapter
- Switchable power