The general sentiment is that $500 studio monitors are still within the realm of affordable. From a purely performance based point of view, that is true. Spending $500 for a set of studio monitors is usually considered cheap if you are a professional. With that said, some of the best monitor speakers intended for smaller studios can be found in this segment of the market.
Table Of Contents
|Image||Studio Monitors / Rating||Summary||Check Price|
|+ -|| ADAM Audio F5 |
Total of 4.80/5
A truly impressive monitor with advanced tweeter design and a wide range.
|+ -|| JBL LSR308 |
Total of 4.57/5
Bigger version of the already proven design that packs even more power.
|+ -|| KRK RP8G3-NA |
Total of 4.63/5
Great hardware combined with smart waveguide design and powerful set of amps.
|+ -|| PreSonus Eris E8 |
Total of 4.73/5
The largest member of the Eris family, bringing great performance and transparency.
|+ -|| Yamaha HS5 |
Total of 4.53/5
Compact set that delivers plenty of headroom and a pretty flat response.
ADAM Audio F5 represent a combination of advanced technologies, high-end engineering, and stylish design. In a market where compact monitors are riddled with compromises, F5 raises the bar to a whole new level. This monitor features the now legendary X-Art tweeter design, which trumps anything your average silk dome unit is capable of delivering. On top of that, we have an extremely tight cabinet, as well as a number of other solutions. The main purpose of ADAM Audio's F5 monitors is to offer near perfect transparency in smaller studios. That is exactly what you can expect from a pair of these. Their response can only be described as clinically accurate.
JBL LSR308 studio monitors bring a combination of larger drivers and flat response across the range. Not only did JBL use that same waveguide design which has been proven many times by now, but the increase in size didn't really affect it too much. LSR308 are bi-amped, with each cabinet delivering some 112 Watts of power. That means you get more than enough headroom. With that said, the main defining feature is that set of 8" cones that move air with ease. This monitor is a perfect choice for those who need a more extended lower end. Lastly, we have the flexible acoustic controls which are easy to use and rather effective. Overall, there are many reasons why LSR308 is worth looking into.
KRK's Rokit series of studio monitors have been the dominating the affordable segment of the market for quite some time. The latest generation of this lineup promises to do the same. Rokit 8 Gen 3 has proven to be a worthy successor. It is the second largest monitor in the series, packing a mighty 8" Aramid-glass low-frequency driver and a very efficient 1" tweeter. A set of these delivers 100 Watts of juice, allowing them to hit 109 dB of peak max SPL at 1 meter. That means you will have more than plenty of headroom in near field configuration. Flat and responsive, these speakers are a great choice for budget studio builds.
PreSonus Eris E8 represents a very successful attempt on their part to enter the studio monitor market. This speaker packs all the right features in all the right places. On top of that, its massive 8" low-frequency drivers are capable of moving some serious air. However, it is important to note that the low end is impressively tight and articulated. The response across the range inspires confidence. There is an abundance of transparency with no bias even in the upper end of the range. Lastly, PreSonus has included very detailed acoustic controls, which allow the user to really tailor the performance of these speakers to their studio's layout. Overall, this speaker simply delivers.
Yamaha HS5 belongs to the ever so popular HS series of studio monitors. Even though it is more compact than what many other brands offer in this price range, Yamaha HS5 brings that solid performance which makes it a great tool to have in smaller studios. As a matter of fact, it was built to accommodate for the lack of space. Hardware is bulletproof, while its build quality is hard to beat. What seals the deal is the level of transparency you can count on. The response is flat, linear and more than good enough for serious applications. Overall, it is fair to say that Yamaha HS5 still remains very much relevant in this segment of the market.
Investing in studio monitors is always a good move. These speakers are your only real point of contact with the music you are mixing or recording. With that in mind, where do we draw the line when it comes to price? Are $300 monitors good enough? What about $100 models, or do we have to invest more in order to get something that works? Here’s what it all comes down to. Having any kind of monitors is preferable to having none at all. At the same time, more expensive models will get you better performance.
To answer the question from the title of this section, there are four main areas where a $500 set of studio monitors offers an advantage over their cheaper counterparts. The first one is hardware.
You are looking at more real-estate in terms of low-frequency drivers, and much more power. Since almost all monitors are near field in nature, many will wonder if all that extra power is even necessary. Having more power means that you have a lot more headroom where you can push the mix louder without the speakers starting to distort. On a similar note, having larger low-frequency drivers means your lower end will be much tighter and more massive. Those benefits alone make the investment worth it.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that this price range is home to some of the more unusual designs. Check out that ADAM Audio model we have mentioned on our list. There is almost nothing standard about that speaker. Having things such as a hybrid ribbon tweeter used to be unheard of unless you spent thousands of dollars.
The other main difference is the level of overall performance. We are talking increased transparency across a much wider frequency range, better handling of the lower end and less distortion when pushed out of the comfort zone. Practical implications of having more refined monitors are simple. You will have much more control over your mix in a sense that even the most subtle imperfections will stand out clearly enough for you to pick them up.
Proper handling of bass frequencies is what attracts most attention here. The confusion comes from the misconception that transparent tone means lack of bass. That is simply not true. What proper low-end handling means is that the speaker is capable of reproducing those frequencies, but without them sounding muddy. Believe it or not, that’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Just about any of the speakers mentioned above, except those with a smaller driver complement, will get you that type of massive but controlled bass response.
One of the more overlooked aspects of any audio gear, studio monitors included, is versatility. A proper recording studio, even a smaller one, will include mixers, instruments and other pieces of equipment. That’s why having a set of monitors with a versatile I/O cluster is maybe even a necessity. Models in the price range we are talking about today will offer that. You can count on seeing a 1/4″ TRS jacks and XLR ports at the very least. Some will feature RCA inputs, others won’t.
Another measure of versatility is the acoustic controls department that allows you to dial in the speaker to match the size and shape of your studio. These features are present on cheaper monitors as well but in a less refined package.
Speaker cabinets are not only used to provide support to transducers mounted on them. They actually have a lot of impact on how the speaker performs and sounds. When you enter the $500 segment of the market, you will start seeing some pretty advanced speaker cabinet designs. Manufacturers are doing their best to enable their hardware to reach their fullest potential. That means that cabinets need to be properly designed around said hardware.
A direct byproduct of good cabinet design is good build-quality. You just can’t go too wrong with a cab features advanced joints, bracing and quality MDF. In a way, getting a more expensive speaker allows you to ignore these two otherwise important issues.
The main things you should pay attention to is the type of music you are working on and the size of your studio. For example, if you don’t often work with super low frequencies in your music and you have a small studio, chances are a compact monitor will work better than a larger one. On the other hand, if you are into electronic music or hip hop where 808s and deep bass lines are the norm, having that larger cone is a must.
At the end of the day, $500 price range allows for a lot of maneuvering space when choosing monitor speakers. This is why many enthusiast producers around the world opt to go with speakers from this segment of the market. As you can see from our list, there are many conservative models in there, but also some fairly advanced monitors that get things done differently. Either way, no matter which of our picks you decide to go with, you will get great performance for your money. Not to mention the reliability that is simply necessary for a proper working studio environment.