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Need new studio monitors but don’t want to break the bank? You’re in luck, as there are plenty which give you great quality, unbiased sound at a price point that’s acceptable for most producers.
Here’s out pick of the best studio monitor speakers under $500.
Krk Rp5 Rokit 5 G4 – Best Overall
- Two-way configuration
- 5.25-inch Kevlar aramid fiber woofer
- Available in black and white noise color
- 55 watts power consumption
- Includes a 1-inch tweeter
Our best overall studio monitor speaker is the KRK RP5 Rokit 5 G4, a speaker which comes from KRK Systems' ROKIT RP near field monitor series.
According to the manufacturer KRK Systems, the models of the ROKIT series are the best-selling monitors in recent years. In terms of price, we are in the range below $200.00 – the entry-level class for nearfield monitor speakers.
The speakers are 2-way systems with bi-amping class D amplifiers. With the ROKIT RP5, the system power is 55 watts. The system has to fire a 5-inch mid-bass driver.
Both the 1-inch tweeter and the woofer/mid-range speaker are made of Kevlar, more precisely a glass-aramid composite.
The advantage is if you have a shootout in your studio, then we recommend going to safety behind the CRCs. It's that well-made! The material used is also used in bulletproof vests, for example. The disadvantage is the difficult production of the fiber composite.
KRK Systems manufactures the chassis itself, and it is evident that they are doing an excellent job here: From a purely visual point of view, the chassis appears robust and of very high quality. A big plus for the speakers from Nashville, Tennessee, and not just in this price range.
The 1-inch tweeter should go up to 40 kHz, and the fact that the woofer and tweeter are made of the same material means that KRK promises a more homogeneous sound across the entire frequency spectrum.
Finally, there is an option to mount speaker grilles to protect the complex chassis.
The housing of the KRK Systems ROKIT RP5 G4 is of very high quality and made with routine and “hand-tested,” i.e., the laying on of hands when playing very bass-heavy sound material, indicates that the housings are very stable and, above all, low in resonance. That may not sound very scientific, but experience has shown that loudspeaker systems sound much more spatial and more precise if the enclosures behave quietly during playback.
Incidentally, this does not mean any droning because the speakers from KRK are a long way off. Speaking of droning: we also think the resonance-inhibiting “EVA foam pad” under the speakers is great. It ensures a stable stand and good decoupling. The vibrations are very restrained even when used directly on the studio table.
The backs of the KRK Systems ROKIT RP5 G4 are tidy: an XLR / jack combo socket (symmetrical), a display, and a rotary control can be found there, together with the IEC connector and the power switch.
The KRKs have a standby mode (which can be switched off), which comes into effect if there is no signal for 30 minutes.
This is expressed in the fact that the illuminated CRC symbol on the front pulsates slightly when it is idle. If there is a signal again, the ROKITs report back without popping. The glowing logo can also be dimmed or deactivated entirely. Well done, KRK!
What We Didn't Like
We can't point to any downside on this speaker. Except that a few users thought it comes in a pair. But does anyone think a quality speaker like this can be sold for less than $200 a pair?
This is a good solution, especially for speakers that are used in smaller studios with a latent lack of space. This speaker makes a statement for small nearfield monitors in the lower price segment. It is, therefore, a clear recommendation!
- High-quality construction
- balanced sound
- pronounced spatiality
- a lot of technology for the money
Edifier S2000mkiii – Premium Option
- High-end bookshelf speaker system with Bluetooth® (version 5.0 with aptX)
- Has a remote control, digital and analog inputs
- Rear bass reflex channel for rich bass reproduction
- Includes removable loudspeaker covers
- 4 inches woofer
- HiRes audio certified
- Supports digital audio signals
- Sampling rates up to 24 bit / 192 kHz
The S2000MKIII from Edifier is a powerful high-end bookshelf speaker system with Bluetooth® (version 5.0 with aptX), remote control, digital and analog inputs.
It has a rear bass reflex channel for rich bass reproduction. It's an active loudspeaker with controls for volume, bass output, and treble. It comes with removable loudspeaker covers.
With the dimensions of 34.2 by 27.6 by 19.8 cm (HxLxW) and a weight of around 17 kilos, the bookshelf speakers from Edifier are quite massive.
The speakers compensate for this shortcoming with their sound and offer you a differentiated sound reproduction. It has a clear and neutral sound, which makes the loudspeakers ideal as a soundbar.
Practical, you can connect your television, console, or Blu-ray player directly to the speakers via the two line-in inputs. In addition, the speakers support Bluetooth 5.0 and aptx HD so that your music is reproduced particularly clearly.
However, the bass has a little depth, and the highs sound pale. If you can live with it and have the necessary space in the studio, then these speakers offer you a pleasant sound for under $400 and many connection options to connect you to your television, smartphone, or console.
The S2000MKIII from the Edifier Studio series impresses with its sound properties and is versatile thanks to dual stereo inputs, an optical input, a coaxial input, and Bluetooth.
The bookshelf speaker series generates impressive and spatial sound results with its 130 watts RMS output power. The speakers have bass reflex channels on the back, which ensure powerful and precise bass.
Thanks to the integrated amplifier, the sound system can be connected directly to all stereo sources such as TV or PC. Thanks to the integrated Bluetooth, music can also be streamed from a tablet or smartphone.
What We Didn't Like
If you are looking for a loudspeaker with a powerful voice, you should look for something else. The balanced sound comes at the expense of a certain liveliness.
The EDIFIER Studio Bluetooth bookshelf speaker is perfect for the studio. You can use it with your TV, PC, notebook, tablet, smartphone, etc. It's a pair of loudspeakers with a passion for detail for audiophile music lovers.
- Differentiated and balanced sound
- Soundbar alternative
- Many connection options
- Versatile speaker system
- They're too massive as bookshelf speakers
- Very neutral sound
- Dull highs
Presonus E4.5 – Budget Choice
- Two-way monitor speakers
- 70 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response
- 4.5 inches driver made of wooden composite
- 25 mm frequency transducer
- 50 wattage power consumption
Whether the DAW software, controller, mixer, or studio monitors – almost the entire studio can be equipped with this low-budget Presonus. In doing so, one advises not only the professional but also the home user. The Eris E4.5 BT are compact speakers with a wide range of features.
In addition to two-band tone control, there are inputs in the form of cinch, TRS, and mini-jack sockets. That's not all, because Bluetooth and a powerful headphone jack on the front leave almost nothing to be desired.
If you look at the Eris E family, there is a suitable model for every requirement and budget.
However, in the product description on the website, Kevlar is named the material for the woofer for the Eris E3.5 and E4.5, which is to be used in the entire series. Eris E3.5 BT and E4.5 BT are supposed to be composite membranes for all models.
At the top, the field is rounded off with the Eris E66 with D'Appolito arrangement, which, by the way, relies on curved Kevlar.
The simple and cleanly processed MDF housing with vinyl cover is inconspicuous with the straight baffle and has rounded edges. Each box is 14.1 cm wide, 16.3 cm deep, and 18 cm high. The weight of both speakers is only 2.9 kg. The passive box is the lighter one.
There are two drivers on the front, with the tweeter protected behind a grille. The active box has a power LED, headphone, and line-in sockets in the form of two mini-jacks and a toggle switch. The function of this is self-explanatory. Every active box has a power switch on the front.
The subtle blue LED signals the operating status, flashes in pairing mode for Bluetooth, and lights up white when there is an active connection.
Unfortunately, there is also a slight audible background noise that increases at the maximum level.
The Bluetooth function is a useful addition, albeit with minor restrictions. Although Bluetooth 5.0 is specified as the standard, neither AAC nor aptX is supported as a codec, and so you have to rely on the soundly restricted SBC codec.
Two devices can be paired alternately, which works with very little latency and a usable quality compared to the standard. With quiet operation, you can adjust the bass and treble for a personal feel-good sound if necessary.
Rattling and clinking are part of the craft, so Presonus advertises the unbelievable precision of the monitors as velvety soft highs and an extended sweet spot.
The Presonus Eris E4.5 BT sounds a little bigger than expected. They easily reach the lower limit of 70 Hz, while the basses are quite crisp and not artificially inflated.
Nevertheless, the tuning is not quite as neutral, especially in the bass range, and tends slightly towards HiFi, but that is also acceptable considering the target group.
Finally, as mentioned, the sound can be adjusted, and the bass lowered for better assessment. Considering the price, you still get very good speakers, but unfortunately, without automatic shutdown.
What We Didn't Like
On the other hand, we wouldn't quite call them reference monitors because they lack a bit of balance. They tend towards the fun box but would probably play the whole range of PC speakers on the wall in a specialist store.
We would particularly recommend the Eris E4.5 BT for electronic musical instruments. They are a good recommendation for multimedia applications, editing suites, and in places with little space unless very neutral monitoring is required.
- Good workmanship, great manual
- Rich sound for little money
- Extensive connection options
- Tone control
- No automatic shutdown
- Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC codec
Mackie Cr-X Series – Top Alternative
- 3-inch polypropylene-coated woofer
- 50 to 160 watts clean stereo sound
- 0.75″ ferrofluid-cooled dome tweeter
- Sleek in design
- Multimedia monitors with Bluetooth®
The American manufacturer Mackie is not only known for mixing consoles. It has also been known for its active monitors for stage, studio, and multimedia applications.
The series is well delimited from one another and differs in terms of equipment. The “Creative Reference Monitors” of the CR-X series are an upgrade to their predecessors, which were alternatively available as a Bluetooth version. And there is now also an eight-inch version and a subwoofer.
They mark the lower price segment. The lowest-priced 3-inch version is priced under $100, and the 8-inch variant is a bit over the $300 range.
There are eight models from 3 to 8 inches: CR8S-X BT, CR8-X BT, CR5-X BT, CR5-X, CR4-X, CR4-X BT, CR3-X, and the CR3-X BT. If you buy the first, you can do without Bluetooth.
Presumably, the subwoofer is crucial for offering models without Bluetooth, but the price difference is unlikely to reflect the additional technical effort.
All CR-X loudspeakers come without balanced XLR connections, but the 6.35 mm jack connections are symmetrical. In addition, there are unbalanced cinch sockets, volume controls on the front, and headphone connections.
The larger models from CR5-X onwards also have a 3.5 mm jack input on the back and in the Bluetooth versions, the “Running Man” not only serves as a status LED but also as a pairing button.
The high-quality front panel made of brushed metal is particularly eye-catching. This makes it look and feel even more elegant than the representatives of the MR series.
In addition to an audio cable (2x cinch to mini jack), a speaker cable with a length of 1.8 m is included with the instructions. Mackie also included insulation pads and a mini-jack cable to the larger models: the CR5-X, CR5-X BT, and the CR8-X BT.
While the speakers differ in the size of the polypropylene-coated woofer, they all have the same 0.75-inch silk tweeter, which is cooled with ferrofluid.
The crossover frequency is specified as 3 kHz; with the CR8-X BT it is 2 kHz. Here the tweeter cleverly takes on a little more in the upper-frequency spectrum due to the slower woofer.
Regarding the sound, you have to give Mackie one thing; they know their stuff. Of course, they are not in the sub-bass range, but with normal music in small rooms, what is offered is more than sufficient.
If you want to go deeper, you can choose the CR5-X or CR8-X BT; with the latter mentioned, the subwoofer should almost be superfluous.
What We Didn't Like
It is more annoying that Mackie has forgotten that you always want to switch off a subwoofer from time to time. This is only possible on the back and requires a switchable power strip or the sporty crawl under the table after each use.
The studio monitors are ideal for content creation, gaming, home studio, and other multimedia applications.
- Sound comparatively good and balanced (CR4-X BT)
- Complements the small monitors well (CR8S-X BT)
- High-quality craft and design
- Volume control on the front or remote control
- Bluetooth without AAC and aptX
- No automatic switch-off
- Subwoofer can only be switched off at the rear
JBL Professional 305P Mkii Bundle – Best Bundle
- Active studio monitor with 5-inch woofer
- Includes a 1-inch tweeter
- 43-22,000 Hz (-10 dB) transmission range:
- Volume, bass, and treble adjustable
Packed to save space but well padded, the pair of the JBL 305 MkII has a pair of small self-adhesive rubber feet for surface-friendly, non-slip installation and a touch of acoustic decoupling.
The front section is clad with high-gloss plastic, which is particularly noticeable in the curved shape of the waveguide. The JBL 305p MKII seems less professional to us than it can sound. The workmanship is also impeccable.
The volume control is large, sits firmly, and impresses with its feel. Its coarse grid allows for quick, accurate alignment of the speakers in a stereo or surround setup.
The tone control includes simple 3-way switches for bass and treble (both shelving filters). The former reined in the bass sensibly when placing the JBL 305p MkII on the studio table.
The filter works upwards from around 4.5 kHz and so does not give the impression that there is an imbalance in the frequency response.
The professional standard of the JBL 305p MKII, despite its low price, is also reflected in the socket formats: XLR and jack are on board, both for symmetrical signals.
Of course, additional cinch sockets would have been useful (for DJs, for example), but after buying the 305, you will certainly still have enough money for decent jack cinch cables, compared to when you choose our Premium Pick.
All in all, the JBL 305p MkII delivers excellent sound for the price range. The sound is largely balanced, very detailed, and transparent. The only thing that tarnishes the excellent overall impression is the background noise. It is audible during breaks in playing and on pieces with a lot of space between individual sounds.
With reasonable room acoustics and, if necessary, suitable filter settings, the frequency response of the JBL 305p is very balanced (for the price range).
We rarely discover frequency ranges that jostle in front of others. There are subtle resonances in the high bass, but they are hardly worth mentioning and, all in all, do not mask the deep mids.
The bass potential is adequate for a 5″ woofer – some occasional five-inch speakers are a bit lower, but that is no reason to criticize the JBL 305p. Much more important: The “crispness” of the bass stands out positively.
The mids and heights are perfectly transported. Sibilants (sibilants in vocals) only sound acrid when they have been microphoned with a certain degree of sharpness.
Compared to other competitors in the same price range, the JBL 305P is a little less neutral. Below 100 Hz, the loudspeaker noticeably loses its pressure, which it tries to compensate for by tuning the bass reflex down to around 50 Hz.
Overall, we are up against one of the most promising contenders for the price-performance throne of all current studio monitors. It's ideal for ambitious beginners and advanced learners in home recording, producing, composition, DJing, podcasting, and more.
What We Didn't Like
Asides from the high noise floor, we found nothing on this speaker set.
Anyone looking for nearfield monitoring for around $300 would be extremely ill-advised not to try out the JBLs. They are ideal for podcasting, video editing, or music production.
- Largely balanced frequency response
- Very differentiated stereo image with a clear phantom center
- Unusual sound fidelity for the price range
- Good construction
- The noise floor could be lower
How To Choose Monitor Speakers – Things To Consider
A key part of a studio, a monitor speaker, has the role of reproducing sound in a perfectly neutral way so you can hear exactly what is produced without any modification.
This lets you know if your sound is good or not. If it doesn't need any modification on your monitor speaker, it will be good for mixing and/or for any use.
They must be differentiated from PA speakers, which aim to diffuse sound in large spaces.
The so-called Hi-Fi speaker that, contrary to what their name implies, is used to produce a report enjoyable and subjective; or even multimedia speakers that can be found, for example, on computers or televisions.
However, they are the only ones capable of performing the monitoring work necessary for a studio. They will allow you to hear your sound as they are as they are really without artifice or embellishment.
Before choosing one of the selections of the best budget studio monitor speakers, we suggest you go over the main features to remember to be able to make the right choice.
The Frequency Range
By definition, monitoring speakers should be flat over the entire audible frequency spectrum (20 to 20,000 Hz).
The goal, of course, is to make mixing easier thanks to speakers that do not color the sound and behave as neutral as possible.
Logically, therefore, one of the technical specifications to look at first is the frequency range, reflecting the frequency range over which the speaker is supposed to be flat.
For example, if the model you are looking at says “47 Hz – 22000 Hz”, then that means it is supposed to be flat over that range.
Ideally, you need studio speakers that cover the 50Hz – 20,000Hz frequency range as a minimum.
If your speakers do not go down to 50 Hz, you will be limited to mixing everything that is the bass drum, bass, kick drum machine, etc.
If your speakers go lower, for example, around 35 Hz, it will undoubtedly be more comfortable to mix. Be careful, however, between a model that goes down to 42 Hz and another that goes down to 38 Hz.
Finally, suppose low frequencies are extremely important to you (for example, in the case of electronic music or some experimental music). In that case, one option will be to add a subwoofer to your speakers.
But hey, in most home studios, and especially if the acoustic treatment is not perfect, adding a subwoofer will not make much sense because it is largely oversized.
The Size Of The Driver
Most studio speakers are made up of:
- a tweeter, which reproduces high frequencies and high mids;
- a woofer, which reproduces the bass frequencies and the low mids.
The larger the diameter of the driver, the lower the frequency response of the speaker will be. The size parameter is therefore important to take into account when making a choice.
Different Speaker Sizes
Without going into too technical details, here are our tips according to the size of the drivers:
- 5 inches: These are really in the borderline and should be selected only if you have a small room and therefore really don't have room to have something bigger;
- 6.5 to 7 inches: These are the standard size for home studios. They are more than enough for good mixes.
- 8 inches: These are a bit larger for a more detailed bass response, but of course involving a higher price and speaker size.
The Distortion Rate (THD)
The THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) rate is generally indicated in the technical specifications provided by the brands.
To put it simply, the initial signal sent to the speakers is necessarily distorted, either from the amplification circuitry or from the construction of the speakers themselves.
The THD is usually low enough on the monitor speakers so that it is not a problem – however, we recommend that you keep this measurement in mind, at least to compare the models with each other.
The Technology Of The Tweeters
Each manufacturer of monitoring speakers has developed its technology for tweeters.
While it is not interesting to launch into an exhaustive comparison of the materials used, you will, however, find two main types of tweeters: those with dome and those with ribbon.
Dome tweeters, in general, will sound a little more lively, with an enhanced ambiance effect.
On the other hand, Ribbon tweeters will be much more analytical and precise, but a little tiring at times.
So, if you plan to use your speakers for both mixings and listening to your music collection, we recommend dome tweeters.
Passive Or Active Speakers
You may have heard of it: there are active monitors and passive monitors.
Concretely, for the speakers meant to generate sound, the signal sent to them must be amplified via a power amplifier.
Active speakers have a built-in amplifier circuit, while passive speakers do not contain an amplifier.
For home studios, using active monitoring speakers will therefore be much more practical and more than sufficient. It is better to invest in good active speakers rather than dividing your budget between passive speakers and an external power amplifier.
Connections And Settings
Of course, all the speakers have at least one input connector, located at the rear and generally of the XLR and/or TRS jack type.
But except for low-end models, you will also find several settings. These will be very useful for you to adjust the sound to the response of your room, especially in the bass and treble. This type of adjustment will have to be coupled with a suitable acoustic treatment.
Top Studio Monitor Speakers Under $500, Conclusion
To start, we have to say objective reviews don't work with sound equipment – it doesn't matter how much you try. Everyone hears differently, and everyone has different criteria for a good sound. So, what we may see as a disadvantage is a killer criterion for others to buy.
Although it's always advisable to test them beforehand if you're like us and you trust our sense of audio judgment, these are going to be the beginning of your love story with studio monitor speakers. And the great thing is, you don't have to spend excessively to get one for your home studio!