3-way monitors are an excellent choice for a dedicated studio. But when you consider the delicate balancing act required between the three drivers, there can be a massive difference between various monitors. In this guide, we take the guesswork out and present you with the best 3-way monitors currently available.
A superb 3-way monitor with outstanding sound quality, accuracy, and innovative design within a compact footprint.
Neumann KH 310
A 3-way monitor with an ultra-tight frequency response. Loud and distortion-free output with clean bass.
Each Speaker Reviewed In-Detail
Every studio monitor on this list represents the pinnacle of what 3-way studio monitors have to offer. While there are a few standouts, they are all some of the best high end studio monitors currently available. Let’s dive in!
Genelec 8331 Review
- Superior Sound – The 8331 delivers exceptional sonic performance across its frequency range. Tight and focused sound with no distortion and unparalleled clarity. Pure and unfaltering making these an engineer’s dream.
- Innovative Design – Genelec continues to push the boundaries in monitor design. The Acoustically Concealed Woofers (ACW) are a revelation, and in combination with the Direcity Control Waveguide (DCW), you’ll have wide dispersion with accurate sound.
- Oustanding Dimensionality – The innovative use of the front baffle and coaxial design delivers wide delivery and supreme stereo dimensionality and imaging for an engaging and precise sound profile.
- Compact Choice – Another benefit of the unique design is how little space this monitor consumes. Other 3-way monitors tend to be large and bulky, but Genelec has managed to buck this trend and supply a convenient, space-saving alternative.
- Not Beginner Friendly – This premium studio-focused monitor will not hold your hand. Extensive tuning options and the ability to integrate with the broader Genelec ecosystem are superb but also a potentially daunting experience for beginners.
Genelec continues to set the standard for what an audio gear manufacturer can achieve. The 8331 is a triumph of technical innovation and design. This Smart Active Monitor (SAM) integrates perfectly with the Genelec Loudspeaker Manager (GLM) software for outstanding flexibility and control from your computer.
With unrivaled audio fidelity and an exceptionally modest footprint, these are a superlative choice for a modern studio where supreme accuracy and control is paramount.
Read our full Genelec 8331 review for more detailed information.
Neumann KH 310 Review
- Absolute Accuracy – The KH 310 is easily among the most accurate monitors you can buy today. Every detail is on full display, which instantly highlights poor editing within the source material. Ultra tight and unforgiving with a supremely flat frequency response.
- Flawless Delivery – Effortless performance with a wide sweet spot and excellent spatial positioning. Reverb and Delay effects are palpable and can give some surround sound systems a run for their money.
- Distortion Free – An ample amount of raw power. Bass response is tight, mid-range is luscious, and the top end is precise without overt sharpness. And best of all, this remains the case even at high volume levels without a hint of distortion issues.
- Tuning Simplicity – Effective and simple to use tuning controls to help adapt to your space or sculpt the sound to your preference. Approachable and functional without the need for a specialist degree.
- Hefty – As with many 3-way speakers, these are not exactly lightweight. These come in at 28.7 lbs. (13.02 kg), making positioning arduous. But once established, you’ll be unlikely ever to move them again.
Neumann is another trustworthy brand with an extensive history in the audio scene. Their range of high-end monitors offers outstanding performance. The KH 310 is among the most refined offerings they have ever delivered. Exceptional sonic performance and accuracy will put a smile on your face.
The sealed cabinet provides some of the most accurate bass delivery you’ll ever hear. And the finely tuned engineering behind it push this monitor into the stratosphere of excellence.
Neumann KH 310
ADAM Audio A8H Review
- Ruler Flat Response – Frequency response is exquisite, with a tight and controlled delivery that doesn’t exhibit deviations that would cause issues when working. Refined and accurate for maximum confidence in the studio.
- Crystal Clear – The rotatable X-ART tweeter works harmoniously with the mid-frequency and low-frequency drivers to deliver exceptional clarity. Distortion is also not an issue, even at higher monitoring levels.
- Next Level Tuning – A comprehensive set of tuning options on the rear panel is just the beginning. Remote control via the A Control Software allows you to make changes from your listening position. Plus, integration with Sonarworks elevates flexibility further.
- Approachable Price – Mid-field monitors that feature a 3-way design can be expensive. And while these are not cheap, they are substantially more affordable than some of the other comparable monitors in this category.
- Sharp Highs – While the X-Art tweeter delivers outstanding clarity, it is sharp in nature. If you are sensitive to high frequencies, this could prove to be an issue, as you’ll experience ear fatigue sooner rather than later.
ADAM Audio continues to impress with its A series of studio monitors. The large A8H is an excellent choice if you have a more limited budget but still want superior performance over a regular 2-way system. The three-way design provides an audio signal that is accurate and clear.
Additional tuning flexibility makes it easy to adapt to your studio space and deal with room reflections. While they are a little sharp for my ears, they are still among the best options in this price range.
Read our full ADAM Audio A8H review for more detailed information.
ADAM Audio A8H
HEDD Type 20 MK2 Review
- Engaging Experience – The Type 20 MK2 exceeds expectations and resolves some of the minor issues that the MK1 versions had. The result is an engaging and delightful listening experience that is fatigue free.
- Revealing – The highly detailed sonic profile offers excellent neutrality and precision to pick out details accurately. Expect to hear elements in your mixes that were previously hidden. Perfect for analytical studio work.
- Port Functionality – The Type 10 MK2 gives you the freedom to operate the unit sealed or ported. The simple mechanism is a joy to use and gives you complete control over output, which few monitor speakers offer.
- Premium Quality – High-quality materials are a hallmark of these studio monitors. Everything from the tough enclosure, the honeycomb woofers, and the premium AMT tweeter display exceptional attention to detail.
- AMT Tweeter – Speaking of the AMT tweeter, if you’ve never experienced them, they deliver a high-frequency response that is noticeably different from regular tweeters. Some find the highly detailed output as potentially too bright.
HEDD refreshed the Type 20 with a new MK2 model, and the result is superb. Improvements across the board see an increase in accuracy, transient reproduction, and stereo imaging. You’ll also have access to detailed tuning controls and analog and AES digital inputs for maximum versatility.
The added flexibility of closed or ported mode further extends the potential to adapt this monitor to your specific needs. As long as you like the high-frequency delivery of AMT tweeters, the Type 20 MK2 is an easy recommendation.
HEDD Type 20 MK2
Dynaudio LYD 48 Review
- Excellent Handover – The LYD 48 features a generous crossover frequency for the mid-range, which results in a smooth and consistent response in this vital range. Handover from the lows and into the highs is also seamless.
- Spacious Audio Delivery – The lack of a directed waveguide generates a broad, encompassing sweet spot with ample room to move within your listening position. Despite the less focused directivity, audio quality is good across the range.
- Bargain Price – This studio monitor is aggressively priced and offers exceptional value for money compared to other 3-way options. These should be on your list of options if you are a bargain hunter.
- Attractive Appearance – Available in white and black, depending on your preference. The styling features a sleek appearance that will blend comfortably into a modern flavored studio setting.
- Could Be More Detailed – While the audio quality is exceptional, more advanced options are available. But those alternatives cost substantially more, so there are some diminished returns.
Kitting out a studio is an expensive endeavor. However, Dynaudio has stepped up to the challenge of creating a highly capable yet still affordable option. The LYD 48 offers exquisite acoustic delivery with a beautiful mid-range that excites while maintaining high accuracy.
Three-way designs can sometimes have a clunky transition between drivers, but the LYD 48 doesn’t suffer from this issue. When you consider the price, they present superb value and deserve consideration.
Dynaudio LYD 48
Ex Machina Soundworks Ganymede Review
- Wow Factor – The Ganymede offers a broad frequency range and sensational performance across the frequency spectrum with ear-tingling precision and enough oomph to impress clients.
- Clean Bass Profile – The sealed cabinet eliminates common potential problems inherent in ported options. There is no chuffing or sloppiness in the low frequencies. Pure, clean, satisfying bass.
- Sleeker Footprint – The Ganymede injects the quality of Ex Machina Soundworks speakers into a compact near-field option that is ideal for a home studio or for a small space where space-saving monitor speakers are in demand.
- Inherits Expensive Tech – Ex Machina Soundworks invested heavily in R&D for its studio speakers. Much of that technology has found its way into the near field Ganymede. With further R&D for refinement, the result is a highly impressive speaker.
- Not The Best Value – The audio range and delivery are impressive, but at this price point, the Ganymede faces some stiff competition from a range of equally exceptional monitors. Depending on your needs, other options might be more suitable.
Dedication to perfection is apparent with the Ex Machina Soundworks Ganymede. Years of industry experience and an established reputation for its Pulsar and Qasar line set the tone for this new offering. These smaller monitors have the power and accuracy to be a stunning addition to a professional home studio.
While the value offering is not ideal, there is no denying that the quality is up there with the best. If you are already in love with the Ex Machina Soundworks range of products, this new compact option is a no-brainer.
Ex Machina Soundworks Ganymede
Our Expert Buying Guide
Stepping into the realm of midfield monitors presents some questions and issues you’ll need to be aware of. Below we take a quick look at some of the most important things you need to consider when buying three-way monitors for your studio.
How Many Studio Monitors Do I Need?
Multiple factors go into deciding how many studio monitors you’ll need for your studio. Below we cover the two most prevalent components that will inform your decision.
The most crucial factor to consider is the size of your studio space. You’ll be better off committing to a pair of studio monitors that are not overly large for a small studio space.
Small spaces can prove problematic when it comes to reflections, so sticking to a pair of high-quality monitors with a 4-6 inch woofer is ideal. If required, you can add a subwoofer, but be aware that small spaces can have substantial sonic issues with loud output.
Your studio space and needs can determine how many monitors you need.
For a medium-sized room, you have the luxury of opting for larger monitors or a combination of near and midfield monitors. You can also explore surround sound setups if you require this for your work.
A larger studio space grants you maximum flexibility. You can have several monitors that span both near, mid, and far field. You’ll also have more flexibility in adding a subwoofer to your setup.
Setting up a studio can be expensive, so often, you might not have the luxury to buy more monitors. In this case, I recommend sticking to the core basics of buying two monitors. This ensures you have a stereo image to make accurate mixing decisions.
Where possible, aim to buy the best monitors you can afford. While there are diminishing returns as you creep up in price, there is also a big difference between low-quality budget monitors and reasonably priced entry-level options from respected brands.
Remember that for most studio applications, a pair of monitors will be ample regardless of your budget.
Near Vs Mid Vs Far Field Monitors
There are three primary types of studio monitors available. Selecting the right one for your needs is critical, so below, we take a quick look at these three types and where they shine.
Near-field monitors are the most popular studio monitor type due to their inherent flexibility and relatively low cost. These monitors are ideal for home studios due to their smaller size and directed sound projection. The ideal listening distance is about three ft. (1 meter). While you won’t get room-filling sound, you’ll also have fewer reflections to deal with.
Mid-field monitors provide greater projection and can be further away.
Mid-field monitors offer greater bass extension and often feature a 3-way design. They are ideal for placement farther from the listening position and provide greater sound projection and dispersion. They are suitable for medium to large studio spaces and well-treated rooms.
The last type is far-field monitors. These are huge monitors that offer high volume levels and deep bass extension. They provide a wow factor and can be great at impressing clients or for detailed low-frequency work. Due to their large size and powerful output, they are best suited for larger studio spaces with comprehensive room treatment to deal with sonic issues.
Room Treatment For Your Studio
One of the most overlooked yet significant impacts on sound quality is room treatment. You can have the best monitors in the world, but in a poorly treated room, they can sound abysmal.
This becomes even more important when looking at midfield or far-field monitors but is still relevant for smaller near-field monitors in tight studio spaces.
Acoustic foam is a great choice for breaking up or absorbing reflections.
A combination of elements can help you get the most out of your monitors. Proper positioning is a starting point, but room treatment can help iron out any additional sound issues.
You’ll want to look into bass traps to capture and absorb low-frequency reflections. Absorption or diffusion panels can also help minimize reflections from mid-range and high frequencies.
While there are specific products you can buy for these tasks, some DIY options are also available. You can sometimes get to a reasonable point with just some added furniture like couches, bookshelves, and carpeting.
How Far Away Should Midfield Monitors Be?
The ideal distance for midfield monitors is between 5 and 10 feet (1.5 to 3 meters). Midfield monitors provide a broader sweet spot and greater dispersion, allowing them to perform well at these distances.
Which One Should You Buy?
Picking a favorite from this list is like choosing your favorite child. Each of the three-way monitors on this list offers exceptional sonic clarity and precision to make accurate and confident mixing decisions. But if you have to twist my arm for a favorite, the Genelec 8331 is my top choice.
Genelec never disappoints, and the compact 8331 is a masterstroke in ingenious design and engineering brilliance. A mind-blowing sound profile that is accurate, detailed, engaging, and full of life. And you get all this in a modest footprint. It might appear unassuming on the surface, but don’t let its restrained design fool you. This comprehensive monitor will be right at home in any studio setting.