Finding the right set of studio monitors is essential for any music producer, whether you are a professional or an enthusiast. Doing this on a budget is a bit tricky. Even though there are plenty of good choices in the $200 segment, many will argue that you have spent at least $300 in order to get something that is actually good.
Table Of Contents
|Image||Studio Monitors / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
|+ -|| JBL LSR305 |
Total of 4.63/5
Impressive set of monitors with a pretty stellar track record of performance.
|+ -|| KRK RP5G3-NA |
Total of 4.33/5
Newest iteration of a highly successful platform, now with even better performance .
|+ -|| Behringer Truth B2030A |
Total of 4.43/5
Tight low end with plenty of features and a really flexible performance.
|+ -|| Mackie MR6 Mk3 |
Total of 4.27/5
Simple, elegant and packed with enough power for serious every day use.
|+ -|| PreSonus Eris E5 |
Total of 4.37/5
Plenty of power combined with great hardware and advanced reflex port design.
|+ -|| Rockville Apm8w |
Total of 4.43/5
For when you just need that extra volume and massive low end.
When JBL LSR305 was first released, many expected the industry standard. In other words, mediocre performance spiced up with some room acoustic controls and larger drivers. What we got instead was a monitor so flat out of the box that it took many by surprise. JBL implemented an awesome waveguide design that allows the user to position the speaker off axis without losing any significant portion of that transparency. On top of that, you get 41Watts of pure RMS power, which is more than enough to fill a smaller studio with quality sound. Those who are on a budget but still want to get something that is proven should look no further.
The KRK Rokit monitor speakers series has been regarded as a fool-proof way to get solid performance at a very reasonable price. The latest iteration of this family, the KRK Rokit 5 Gen 3 have taken an already successful platform and added so muchfinesse to it. Performance is great out of the box, but you also get a variety of controls that allow you to trim the sound to fit your needs. What we like the most is the transparency. KRK RP5G3-NA are incredibly flat out of the box, which makes them extremely attractive, to begin with. KRK's decision to go with 5" low-frequency drivers was a great one as we absolutely appreciate the extended lower end.
Behringer Truth B2030A speakers are one of the more interesting monitors in this segment of the market. The design alone will attract anyone who is looking for something slightly different. However, the design is only the beginning. What we have here are bi-amped cabinets with complex acoustic controls and chunky low-frequency drivers. Both cabinets feature two slotted front firing ports that really tighten up that low-end response. Transparent beyond anything we could have expected, Behringer Truth B2030A come across as well balanced for use in home studios. On top of that, you get a lot of versatility in terms of connectivity. Whether or not you're a fan of Behringer, you should definitely check out these monitors.
Mackie is a brand that is best known for their budget solutions in the world of monitor speakers. However, they also have a great series of monitors which are on the very limit of being called affordable. Mackie MR6 Mk3 comes with a beefy set of hardware, including a 6.5" low-frequency driver, and plenty of power to support it all. Mackie has followed the industry standards in terms of acoustic controls, so expect to find both the LF and HF trims available. Overall, you could say that Mackie MR6 Mk3 represents the simpler side of monitoring compared to what is usually found in this price range. Just keep in mind that simple doesn't mean worse or underpowered.
Eris series of studio monitors from PreSonus has been one of the most successful and honestly most effective on the market. The second largest set of speakers from this family, Eris E5 has shown us just how convenient budget monitoring can really be. These pack whopping 70 Watts of power and feature great hardware to convert that power to great sound.One way to summarize what PreSonus has achieved with Eris E5 is that they have compensated for whatever flaws this design has by injecting extra power. On top of that, we have the more advanced room acoustic controls, giving us an extremely convenient and versatile set of monitor speakers.
Rockville may not be the first name that comes to mind when affordable studio monitors are discussed in the open. However, this brand has proven that it is capable of outmaneuvering their competition in some pretty significant ways. What we have here are monitors that pack 250 Watts of power RMS, as well as 8" low-frequency drivers in each cabinet. On top of that, raw performance is not that far behind either. If you are looking for the absolute best bang for the buck, and you have a larger studio, these speakers are something you should absolutely keep in mind. Chances are Rockville's solution may be exactly what you were looking for all along.
An affordable segment of studio monitor market is a very broad one. On one end, we have the $100 monitors which are full of compromises, but essentially a good solution for users on a tight budget. The other end of the spectrum is something completely different. This is where some of the best monitors on the market can be found. That is not an exaggeration.
Comparing the cheapest actual studio monitors to a $300 pair isn’t even fair. There are several key aspects where you will find the most differences between the two. let’s take a look at each one and explain them in depth.
The very first and probably most important metric is transparency. When you enter the $300 price range, you will find that manufacturers are doing their best to make their monitors as flat as possible. After all, more transparency means better awareness of what goes on in the mix. Everything about these speakers is made to enhance transparency as much as possible. Cheap monitors, especially those at the very bottom of the segment, don’t aim for this on purpose.
The idea here is that most of the users who are interested in a cheap set of monitors, want to use them for general purpose music listening as well. A good portion of models found in the $100 range will have a significant bias, often in the lower end. Another reason for low-end bias is the size of low-frequency drivers. Most cheaper monitors will feature 3″ drivers at best. Such small cones are simply not capable of digging deep into the lower end of the frequency range. All of this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for a cheap set of monitors if that is all you can afford. However, those extra $200 make a world of difference.
This is the most obvious aspect where $300 monitors really stand out. Let’s start with transducers. Where cheaper models come with low-frequency drivers that are up to 5″ in diameter, the ones we are talking about today will get you anywhere from 5″ to 8″ of the low-frequency real estate. With that said, tweeters are almost always a 1″ unit, which isn’t all that surprising. One tweeter related improvement are waveguides. There are models you can get for $300 that feature some pretty complex waveguides. These are not only going to improve the performance of the tweeter, but a well-designed waveguide can also broaden the sweet spot of the cabs.
Next thing worth noting is the amps segment. Not only will you run into some pretty beefy amplifiers, but you will also see bi-amped monitors. Crossovers are more or less the norm as well. Another area where there are tangible differences is connectivity. Most cheaper speakers will feature RCA ports and maybe some 1/4″ TRS ports. An average $300 set of studio monitors expand that selection to include XLR as well, while some come with USB ports.
One of the most important secondary features that make $300 speakers so different from their cheaper counterparts are advanced acoustic room controls. You will see some of these features in certain cheaper models, but those will often be simplified. The average suite most of the speakers from our list offer include high frequency and low-frequency trim controls. Proper acoustic room controls can make a huge difference when you are trying to position the speakers. As you probably know, the performance of a speaker is often defined by the room the speaker is occupying. When you actually have control over this variable, tuning the speakers to match your studio becomes a much easier task.
Monitor speakers found in the $100 range don’t have acoustic room controls. With these, you are limited to whatever configuration the manufacturer has chosen for that specific speaker. Once you move into $200 range, you will run into some models that offer limited acoustics adjustment features. While these are definitely better than having nothing, they are often times crude in a sense that their range isn’t that great.
So far, we have talked about the difference between a $300 set of monitor speakers like the ones on our list, and their cheaper counterparts. Now let’s talk about the difference between these and a set of more expensive studio monitors. On a first glance, there isn’t much difference in transducers when it comes to their size. Anything from 5″ to 8″ is still the norm. However, the quality of transducers changes significantly. What this means is that you won’t run into distortion when you begin pushing the speakers to their limits.
The main difference is always going to be the performance. Even though $300 are generally flat, there are still oscillations in the response as you go from lows to highs. We are talking a couple of decibels up or down from the median value. With more expensive monitors, this oscillation is either nonexistent or much more subtle.
Lastly, we have the build quality and design of the cabinets. It is no secret that speaker cabinets are extremely important when it comes to overall performance. The quality of MDF used, the way it was put together and design of the ports all have an impact on the sound you get. More expensive studio monitors usually have all of these factors perfected. The practical importance of having tight cabinets comes into play once you start messing with bass in your mix. A tight cab will get you tight low end.
A $300 set makes a lot of sense if you are on a budget. Aside from offering more serious hardware, the boost in performance compared to cheaper models is too big to ignore. Speakers we have shown you above are definitely among the best you can get at the moment. Our selection includes a variety of different models that all bring something unique to the table, but ultimately offer a good level of transparency. If you are looking for an affordable set of monitors and your budget is around $300, know that you’re in the sweet spot.