If you run a professional recording studio, or if you are looking to ramp up your basement recordings, then you need to get yourself a set of studio monitors. Studio monitors are specially designed speakers that help to drown out noise and disturbance on all of your recorded tracks, so you can create the best music possible. In addition to being professional recording speakers, you can also use these great pieces of equipment as home speakers and more. Here’s everything you need to know about what to look for in a great studio monitor, and the best monitors in several buying categories.
Let’s review our picks for the best studio monitors on the market. We’ll include our top choice for the best overall studio monitor, our pick for the runner-up, the best professional studio monitor, the best entry-level monitor, and the best economical choice for people on a budget.
Best Studio Monitors
Runner-up for Best Studio Monitors
Best Professional Studio Monitors
Best Entry Level Studio Monitors
Best Economical Studio Monitors
We love this set of studio monitors for a number of reasons, the first of which is the cool way these monitors look. These monitors offer high-class performance with custom-engineered sound. They have a built-in amplifier, so there’s no need to spend more money investing in extra equipment. When you hook these monitors up to your audio equipment, they are ready to roll. These monitors bring audio engineering into the 21st century with Bluetooth technology so you can place these beauties anywhere in your recording studio without having to worry about wires and connections getting in the way of your work. They are powered monitors and feature 1 pair of RCA phono level inputs, 1 USB digital audio port so you can hook them up to your PC or Mac, and 1 digital optical line. In addition, they feature a 3.5m mini-jack line and more. To add to the convenience of these studio monitors, they come with a remote that allows you to take control of your sound from anywhere in the room. The driver is made from aluminum and is a compression driver that features copper shielding - which really gives these studio monitors a wow factor. Another awesome thing about these studio monitors is that they are auto voltage: which means they are compatible with voltage systems all over the world, up to 240v. The one downfall of these monitors is that while they are Bluetooth enabled, the monitors themselves do have to be wired together, so you have to place them close to each other in order for them to work. While we could talk forever about how awesome these studio monitors are, let’s end here: when you invest in these monitors, you are investing in the future of your audio recordings because you can expand these to include subwoofers and more. With all of the gizmos and gadgets that come standard on these studio monitors, we’ve chosen it as our top pick for the best studio monitor on the market.
This pair of studio monitors from Presonus offers high definition sound with near-field listening enjoyment. This is our pick for the runner-up for best studio monitor because of the range of features it has, and the fact that it is accessible to both entry-level and professional level audio enthusiasts makes it a great option for everyone. The Kevlar ® low-frequency transducer reduces excess noise and keeps your music or recordings sounded crystal clear. The drivers are 5.25”, but this model is also available in an 8” option as well. It features AB bi-amplification, which means you don’t need a separate amplifier or other audio component to start using these studio monitors right away. The 5” driver model offers 70-watt power, and the 8” model offers 130-watt power. You can increase the bass frequency with the front-firing acoustic port. A great selection of specifications means accurate mixing sound and performance. This system prevents overheating and keeps your workspace safe from unexpected heating issues. It also has current output protection, so you don’t put too much pressure on your speakers and short circuit them. What’s more, the Eris by Presonus has a soft startup feature that doesn’t screech at you when you turn the monitors on. It’s nice if you are recording first thing in the morning and don’t want to experience that loud screaming from your audio equipment. While this set of studio monitors are awesome, every product has its downfall. This system doesn’t turn off automatically after a period of non-use, and they aren’t Bluetooth compatible. It’s really the only thing that would have made these monitors even better, but it’s not a deal breaker, and we can take the time to turn off our monitors ourselves in order to capitalize on the amazing sound quality and performance of these best studio monitors.
When it comes to investing in a professional studio monitor, audio engineers are pretty specific about what they are looking for in a quality device. That’s why we’ve chosen the Mackie Xr824 as our choice for the best professional studio monitor. There are a number of reasons for this. First, this is an 8 inch Kevlar ® driver, that provides superior sound quality and bass response. It has an internal amplifier, so there’s no need to purchase a separate amplifier. Although, most professional studios will have an extra amp or two lying around. It offers zero turbulence, so you don’t get noise in your playback, making it easier to ensure a quality end product. While many studio monitors are similar in size, design, and function, the Mackie XR824 provides superior optimization because it is designed to function well in any space. It has adjustable acoustic space fillers so that you can make it sound great anywhere you need it delivers amazing sound. It has an excellent frequency range from 36 Hz to 22 kHz, which is professional studio range. Because of the large driver, this studio monitor is a little on the heavy side, weighing in at over 22 pounds; however, when professional studios are set up, they are generally not moved around too much, so the heavy weight only becomes an issue if you are a traveling recording professional. Even though the Mackie XR824 is a professional grade studio monitor, it is easy to set up, and anyone wanting to take their audio recording and playback to a new level will find this studio monitor to be worth the investment. It has an automatic off feature so when the monitor hasn’t been used in a while, it will conserve power. The only drawback of the monitor is that you need to purchase them separately - it’s not a pair. Watch for that if you decide to buy this awesome professional studio monitor. Otherwise, you will find everything you need in this great professional monitor.
cIn every product line, there is an entry-level product to get consumers hooked on a lifestyle, service, or product. Studio monitors are no different. In fact, studio monitors have multiple options for entry-level users, and that makes choosing the best entry-level studio monitor really hard. However, we think we hit the nail on the head with this one. The M-Audio BX5 D3 has got everything you need to get your recording studio up and running. What makes this a great entry-level studio monitor is that it doesn’t require a separate amplifier, and it has a smaller driver for space-saving options. Most novice users aren’t setting up high-performance studios, so space might be at a premium. The 5 inch Kevlar ® driver keeps this monitor small and light. It has heat-temperature control to prevent damage to the monitor during high frequency of use. It offers acoustic space controls to accommodate any room you set it up in that means great sound anywhere in your home, office or studio. While you can get this studio monitor in an 8” model, the 5” model is great for those who are just starting out. The only downfall of this studio monitor is that you need to buy 2 monitors separately, which could be a bit more money than people like to pay, but the quality and consistency of this product make it worth the investment for an entry-level user. What’s more, just because it is an entry-level winner doesn’t mean it doesn’t deliver top quality sound and results; it’s great for anyone but most accessible for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with playback and wants to keep it simple. This studio monitor offers XLR and TRS balanced and unbalanced ¼” inputs so you can connect the monitor to your mixer or interface. It is powered by a cable that is included in the package, but it doesn’t feature Bluetooth, which is not really an entry-level feature anyway. We like this for all its features and simple design, ease of use and size.
When budget is your biggest concern, you’ll want to be able to get the best quality and performance for your dollar. Enter the Edifier R1280DB. This powered studio monitor has tons of options for a small price tag. It offers Bluetooth technology so you can connect your mobile devices to it and use your monitors as speakers for your favorite music, or you can hook it up to your PC or Mac for mixing sounds. It offers high-quality sound in a 4” driver and has a remote control to adjust sound from a distance. There are optical inputs, as well as coaxial inputs for hooking your monitors up to televisions or computers to amplify the sound. This set of studio monitors comes with the cables needed to hook up to your interface and start recording and playing back your music, songs, and more right away. It features easy-to-access controls on the side of the monitor, which beats having to reach around to the back of the monitor to adjust elements of the sound. Finally, while this is our economical choice for the best studio monitor, we like it for the way it looks and sounds. You get style and sound with this studio monitor, so it’s worth checking out.
What Will You Use the Monitors For?
As with most things in life, when you make a purchase to invest in yourself, your hobby, or your business, what you are going to use the product for will greatly impact the type of product you buy. If you are recording and playing music in your basement on the weekends, you likely won’t need a very robust set of studio monitors, but if you are, on the other hand, a professional audio engineer, you will likely want to invest a great deal of time and money into finding the right studio monitors for you. If you want to play and record by yourself, you can get away with an entry-level studio monitor, but if you want to play and record by yourself to try to get a record deal, then you’ll want a more professional set of studio monitors. Take the time to ask yourself why you want studio monitors and what you plan to do with them to help you guide your decisions related to the specifications and performance levels of each of the studio monitors on this list.
If you are not familiar with how frequency works with studio monitors, you should know that the lowest frequency ranges are listed on product specification lists as Hz (Hertz), and the higher ranges of frequency are listed on product specification lists as kHz (kilohertz). The frequency refers to the studio monitor’s ability to produce a sound that has a wide range of levels and without distortion. This is only an important consideration for people who are professional audio recording experts. If you are buying studio monitors for at home use, a good range of frequency is between 50Hz and 20kHz, according to most professionals.
Total Harmonic Distribution
The THD, or Total Harmonic Distribution, refers to the studio monitor’s ability to reproduce great quality sound. While most studio monitors can reproduce sound that is acceptable, you might want a great THD if you are any kind of professional audio engineer or expert. To make the most of your recording and playback experience, try to get a studio monitor that has a noise factor and THD of close to zero. The lower the number associated with the THD, the better quality sound you will get. Because almost all recordings have some level of distortion - it’s just the way this stuff works - the closer you can get to a THD of zero, the better off your recordings will be.
There are three types of field designs that you need to consider when deciding to invest in a studio monitor. This decision will be directly impacted by the original question of how you plan to use your studio monitor. The three fields are near-field, mid-field, and far-field. The terms relate to the distance that you should be from the studio monitor in order to get the best sound. For example, if you are using your studio monitors in a small room in your house, you will want to invest in a near-field studio monitor that is designed to be enjoyed at close range. If you are using a larger professional recording studio, you might have enough space to use mid-field or far-field studio monitors, but it is important to consider the acoustics of the space you are using if you buy a far-field studio monitor. While they are designed to be used at greater distances, the rooms they are used in should be able to handle the sound and reduce distortion as it travels through the space. Most recording studios are built for acoustics anyway, so this is usually not an issue if you are getting a far-field studio monitor for professional use.
Drivers are usually only important to professional audio engineers. Most at-home or beginner recording artists don’t worry about the driver of the studio monitor. But if you are interested in understanding how they work and contribute to the overall sound and quality of the studio monitors, just know that the lighter the driver is, the better sound it will produce. They usually come in three types: horn, woofer, or dome tweeter.
Some studio monitors offer wireless and Bluetooth connectivity so you can place your monitors anywhere in the room without worrying about connecting to your audio interface.
If you are new to the world of audio engineering and haven’t gotten your feet too wet yet, you should know that when you see size references on product information, it is talking about the size of the driver, or “speaker” itself. Most studio monitors range in size from 4” to 8”, but you can get larger ones as well. In addition, most models from in a variety of sizes, so that’s an important feature to pay attention to if you are looking for a specific size. Obviously, the larger the driver interface, the more sound quality can be produced. And of course, the larger the driver, or speaker, the larger the entire monitor will be. That is something to consider if you are tight on space.
Powered or Unpowered Studio Monitors
The last thing you want to consider when buying a studio monitor is whether or not you want to invest in powered or unpowered studio monitors. Powered monitors have their own amplifiers built in and don’t require the use of additional external amplifiers to create the high-quality sound you are looking for in your recording studio. Unpowered monitors don’t have amplifiers, but this isn’t a disadvantage because it allows users to choose their own external components to customize their listening experience. Many professional audio engineers prefer unpowered monitors to build their own recording systems from scratch. Something to consider for amateurs is that if you already have an external amp, you can save money by purchasing unpowered monitors, instead of investing in the powered monitors that cost more and duplicate equipment you would already have.
The world of audio recording is a fun space to play in. Whether you want to record a few songs in your basement or you want to wow the world with your talent, having the right studio monitors can make all the difference in how you hear and engage with your music. Studio monitors don’t just stop being functional in the recording studio though, many of them double as at-home speakers and can hook up to your television so that even if your career as an audio engineer flops, you can see enjoy your investment for the long run. Choose the right studio monitors for your needs, and you won’t be disappointed; and now that you have all of the information you need to make an informed choice, your job just got a whole lot easier. You’re welcome.