Setting up a studio can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are eager to pick up some studio monitors but have reservations about some of the more costly choices, this guide is for you.
We compared and ranked the top contenders, and our Editor’s Choice is the affordable PreSonus Eris 3.5. This monitor offers accurate sound while still offering some consumer-focused features.
After over 15 years in the industry, we’ve tested all types of studio monitors, from expensive top-shelf options to budget-centric choices. In that time, we’ve encountered duds and many options that punch well above their price point.
Thorough research is at the core of our guides. We review all available choices before a single word hits the page. Once that list is ready, we dive head first into our far-reaching testing process to ensure only the best find a home in our guides.
PreSonus Eris 3.5
An attractive set of monitors that offers an accurate response, flexible features, and a compact footprint.
A great set of studio monitors that deliver solid clarity and big bass. Flexible Sound Modes add to the appeal.
Here is our selection of the best cheap studio speakers you should consider if you are on a tight budget. We have focused on active studio monitors. These are great for beginners as it’s as simple as plugging in the power source, and you are good to go. Let’s dive into the studio monitor reviews to see what these speakers have to offer.
Presonus Eris 3.5 Review
- Flat Frequency Response – Presonus have done an excellent job in providing beginners with a speaker that delivers flat response. Excellent for accurate mixing and mastering.
- Lightweight – At just 6.4 lbs, the Presonus Eris 3.5 is one of the lightest monitors on this list. Easy to adjust and move around. It also makes them a good candidate for placement on small bookshelves that can’t handle much weight.
- Tuning Options – High and Low acoustic adjustment options at the rear allow for room correction. This is especially handy if you have a small studio space that refracts frequencies.
- Affordable Studio Monitors – Excellent features at a very affordable price. While the components are not the best, the sound you get at this price is excellent. This makes them one of the best studio monitors available.
- Durability Issues – These are not the most robust set of monitors out there. Luckily after-sales support is solid in case you are unlucky enough to get a dud unit.
The understated and clean design philosophy is the first sign that the two-way Presonus Eris 3.5 is different. With a 3.5-inch woofer and a 1-inch silk dome for the high frequencies, it finds a nice middle ground. This mentality extends to the audio with a wider frequency range than competitors.
You can tell they paid special attention to offering a budget pair of studio monitors with audio you can rely on. This makes them one of the best cheap speakers for a mixing environment and a worthy addition to our list of the best budget studio monitors available today.
Read our full Presonus Eris 3.5 review for more detailed information.
PreSonus Eris 3.5
Pioneer DM-40D Review
- Rich Bass Output – The DM-40D offers plenty of bass response. The low-end is also crisp and tight without any muddy tonality. Great for DJs that want a pair of monitors to connect to their decks.
- Sound Modes – Switch between DJ mode, which features more bass emphasis, or Production mode, which offers a flatter response for music production.
- Tough Cabinet – Durable MDF cabinet with high-quality vinyl wrapping. Scratch-resistant and also fingerprint-resistant, thanks to the matte finish.
- Aggressive Price – The DM-40D is an affordable pair of studio monitors with some inviting features. Excellent value for money.
- Lacks Balanced Input – A stereo mini jack and an RCA connection limit the types of gear you can connect to the DM-40D.
The Pioneer DM-40D is an excellent choice for DJs who want to dabble in music production. The rich low-end will bring a smile to your face when you are on the decks, but you’ll still have access to a more neutral response when required.
With high-quality construction and a low price point, the DM-40D is among the best budget studio monitors for DJs/Producers.
Read our full Pioneer DM-40D review for more detailed information.
JBL One Series 104 Review
- Compact Design – These reference monitors take a different approach with an oval-based design compared to the standard rectangular box. Compact enough to still fit comfortably on your desk while offering an attractive design aesthetic.
- Excellent Volume Level – Backed by a 4.5-inch woofer, these can get loud without distortion. At 104 dB SPL, they are loud enough to fill your studio space with quality sound.
- Impressive Audio – Speaking of sound, these speakers sound fantastic, especially at louder volumes. No muddiness in the tones and no coloration make them a good choice for sound reproduction.
- Bluetooth Capable – These speakers offer Bluetooth on top of the existing choice of RCA or TRS connections. This offers you flexibility in placement and connection type.
- Loses Sparkle At Lower Volumes – While excellent at louder volumes, the definition of the sound diminishes at lower volumes. If you mix and master at low volumes, these may not be the best.
The JBL Professional One Series 104 is one of the best budget studio monitors available. They do offer a large woofer while maintaining a compact form factor. An ideal choice for smaller desks and studio spaces where space is often at a premium.
The audio output is loud, clear, and flat. This makes them one of the best budget-powered monitors available. While some extra tuning options would be ideal, these still work great straight out of the box.
Read our full JBL One Series 104 review for more detailed information.
JBL One Series 104
Alesis Elevate 5 MKII Review
- Natural Audio Profile – If having an accurate and flat response is important to you, the Alesis Elevate 5 MKII delivers it. Excellent for accurate sound reproduction.
- Good Shielding – Excellent magnetic shielding. This allows you to place these speakers closer to other electronic devices without interference. Great for tight studio spaces where it’s not always possible to avoid close placement.
- Bass Boost Option – The Bass Boost option gives you the flexibility to give the low-frequency response an added oomph. A good option for electronic music.
- Budget 5-Inch Speakers – Stepping up in woofer size often results in a much higher price tag. The Elevate 5 bucks this trend making it a cheap option if you want a 5-inch active monitor.
- Clarity Issues At High Volumes – One of the only issues is that as you push the volume higher, the clarity does suffer. This can become an issue if you are consistently mixing at loud volumes.
Cheap powered studio monitors are often small. Budget 5-inch active monitors are hard to come by, especially ones that are as good as the two-way Elevate 5 MKII.
An excellent audio profile sets these apart. No harshness across the high-frequency range and a satisfying bass response makes these a good all-rounder. An excellent option for producers looking for cheap studio monitors for mixing.
Read our full Alesis Elevate 5 MKII review for more detailed information.
Alesis Elevate 5 MKII
Mackie CR4-X Review
- Well-Balanced – The CR4-X offers a rich and well-balanced soundscape. No frequency range takes center stage, making them ideal for accurate mixing.
- Satisfying Low Frequency – The smooth low frequencies are another benefit due to the rear-ported design. Meaty without the overbearing nature that hi-fi systems offer.
- Front AUX Port – Added flexibility with front-facing AUX and headphone input. You can plug your device right in without having to fiddle around the back of the speaker.
- Eye-Catching Design – While not to everyone’s taste, the CR4-X offers the trademark Mackie green. A unique and attractive addition to your studio space.
- Runs a Bit Hot – These monitors do run a little hot, which can lead to issues with durability. I’d suggest making sure they are set up in a well-ventilated area.
- Speaker Switch Prone To Fail – I’ve read some reports that, eventually, the speaker selection switch does fail to work.
Mackie offers a range of nearfield monitors for cheap, and the 2-way CR4-X is a capable budget choice. This monitor boasts a 4-inch woofer and 0.75″ silk dome tweeter. Clean design and satisfying audio quality are the highlights.
An impressive set of cheap monitor speakers with good clarity that is slightly overshadowed by some niggling issues. Despite those issues, they are still an excellent pair of studio monitors if you need speakers with a bit more punch.
Read our full Mackie CR4-X review for more detailed information.
Bose Companion 2 Series III Review
- Loud Output – You would not expect a lot of volume from speakers this small, but Bose knows how to get the most out of small packages. Very loud and clear.
- Satisfying Sound Signature – Features a v-shaped sound signature that emphasizes the lows and highs. Great for casual listening to your favorite music, movies, and TV shows.
- Slimline Profile – These super compact speakers can easily squeeze into tight spaces. Excellent space-saving alternative to bulky monitors.
- Reasonable Price – For a Bose product, these are reasonably priced. High quality and great sound from a well-regarded manufacturer.
- Unbalanced Sound – While these are great as multimedia speakers, the unbalanced sound profile makes these a poor choice if you need speakers for serious studio work.
Not everyone requires supreme neutrality from their speakers. If you want to enjoy listening to music, the Companion 2 Series III from Bose is a good choice. Offering a front headphone port and an AUX-In add to the appeal.
The small profile also makes these among the most compact monitors on the market. A slick and refined product from a well-respected brand.
Read our full Bose Companion 2 Series III review for more detailed information.
Bose Companion 2 Series III
Edifier R1280DB Review
- Attractive Design – In a world of plain black plastic speakers, these are a welcome change. The stylish woodgrain design is great for the modern studio or entertainment space.
- Excellent Sound Quality – The audio is well-balanced without over-emphasizing any particular frequency range. While not as precise as more expensive monitors, they still offer a great near-field experience.
- Tuning Options – Convenient tuning options are located on the speaker’s side. Unlike other speakers, you don’t need to get to the back to make changes.
- Remote Control – Basic remote that gives you access to core features. Adjust volume, select source, or skip tracks.
- Bluetooth Option – Bluetooth connectivity gives you extra flexibility. This opens up using them beyond a studio environment.
- Not Great At Loud Volumes – While these speakers are loud, you will encounter slight distortion once you start to push them into the higher regions.
The Edifier R1280DB powered speakers are an excellent choice for budget studio monitors. They offer great sound quality in an attractive package. While not the purest monitors available, they are versatile. You can use them with your entertainment gear which gives them an edge.
With a 4-inch woofer, it packs a decent punch and comes with a two-year warranty for extra security which makes them one of the best budget studio monitors. If you are on a tight budget, these should be high on your list of options.
Read our full Edifier R1280DB review for more detailed information.
M-Audio BX4 Review
- Satisfying Sound – The BX4 from M-Audio features a robust and satisfying sound profile. The large woofer delivers decent bass response and the clarity is also impressive.
- Aggressive Price Point – The super low price point makes these an appealing pair of monitors for budget-conscious buyers. Keep an eye out for deals as they are often well below retail.
- Good Connection Flexibility – The BX4 offers a range of connection options. You’ll have access to Dual Stereo RCA points and Dual 1/4-inch TRS. Adding to the flexibility is a front-facing AUX connection.
- Tuning Options – Unlike some budget monitors, the BX4 gives you some control over the output. While a little fiddly, the Low and High knobs at the rear allow you to sculpt the output to your needs.
- Below Average Build – The component quality is disappointing, even for speakers in this price range. I would not expect these to last you a long time.
The M-Audio BX4 is a reasonable choice as a replacement for computer speakers. However, the bombastic sound is not very neutral, making these not the best choice for serious studio work. But for sketching out ideas or for light multimedia editing they are a viable option.
Flexible connectivity, along with some forward-facing volume control, headphone port, and AUX add to the value offering. Build quality could be better but at this price, you can’t expect everything. A solid option for budget-orientated buyers.
Samson MediaOne BT3 Review
- Good Clarity – The MediaOne BT3 delivers clear and crisp sound for a small studio monitor. Excellent for spotting details in your mix.
- Long Bluetooth Range – Robust Bluetooth that extends beyond the usual 30ft range. Excellent for streaming your favorite music.
- Cheap – Super affordable price point makes these an attractive option for people on a budget. Despite the low price, the build quality is good.
- Not Very Balanced – While very clear, the frequency balance is underwhelming. Not great for using as your primary monitor for mastering.
- Soft Low End – As is often the case with 3-inch monitors, the low end is lacking. If you like a meatier low-end, I suggest other options.
The Samson MediaOne BT3 is a well-constructed and clear-sounding studio monitor. The emphasis here seems to be more on multimedia and general listening purposes. Excellent Bluetooth makes these a great candidate for replacing generic computer speakers.
A great choice if you want tiny studio monitors. But, for professional mixing and mastering, you’ll need to explore other options.
Read our full Samson MediaOne BT3 review for more detailed information.
Samson MediaOne BT3
Behringer STUDIO 50USB Review
- Bi-Amp Design – The Studio 50USB offers individual amps for both the woofer and the tweeter. This results in a smoother sound with each amp tasked with a specific job.
- Large Sweetspot – Near field monitors often offer a small sweet spot. As you start to move about, you’ll notice the difference. With these, you’ll have a little more freedom to move around without it impacting the sound.
- USB Connectivity – The Studio 50USB speakers offer a USB connection point. Simple and easy to connect without taking up any of your existing sound connection points.
- Great Value – Behringer offers an extensive range of speakers with years of knowledge and experience. This entry-level option harnesses that knowledge without the huge price tag.
- Boomy Low End – Despite the bi-amp design, the low end comes across as a little boomy. Some might view this as a benefit, but accurate mixing can be an issue with these.
- Trim Control At Rear – Volume control at the back of the speaker makes it a bit awkward if you rely on adjusting the volume directly.
The 2 way Behringer Studio 50USB monitors are an interesting option in the budget speaker space. USB connectivity gives you a flexible connection option. Whether that is worth the extra money compared to other monitors on this list is debatable. But they are a solid studio monitor with good-quality sound.
Not as nice as Behringer’s more expensive speakers, but still a viable choice if you don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Read our full Behringer Studio 50USB review for more detailed information.
Behringer STUDIO 50USB
How To Choose Good Inexpensive Speakers
When looking to buy cheap studio speakers, there are some key things you need to consider. Below are some of the most important.
It is very difficult to find budget studio monitors that don’t have some issues when it comes to sound balance. Even the best budget studio monitors can fall flat in one area or another.
Sometimes the lows are too colored or pronounced. Other times the high frequencies are too harsh.
This is where having some form of basic tuning options is important. The best low-cost studio monitors will offer some control. Every studio space is different.
Having access to adjust the output to the environment can help eliminate or reduce some of the sound issues you can encounter.
Another thing to be mindful of is the connection options available to you. Some monitors may only offer an unbalanced RCA connection. The best cheap monitor speakers will offer both RCA and a balanced output like TRS.
Connectivity extends to extra options like a headphone jack or AUX input. These inputs add flexibility to the monitor. It also opens up using them for other purposes beyond just studio production.
RCA audio cables are the most common connection type for budget studio monitors.
Something to keep in mind, especially if you plan on upgrading to different monitors down the line. You could then convert your budget speakers to become part of a sound setup in your bedroom or living area.
Connection flexibility also extends to the power source. Active speakers are easy to connect without the need for an external amp. This will save you money and make getting set up a lot easier.
Understanding your studio size is another important factor. If you have a large home studio space or have your space as part of a larger general area, you’ll want bigger and louder monitors.
Likewise, if your space is small, you may not need 5-inch monitors to fill the space with sound. In a smaller space, it may also be difficult to fit these larger monitors in comfortably.
Take some time to assess your current space and also factor in if you may change your studio location in the future. When in doubt, I’d always suggest going for larger monitors.
You are better off running bigger monitors at 50% volume rather than pushing smaller monitors to their limits.
Working With A Low Cost Budget
Not everyone can go out and buy monitors that pros use. In most cases, especially as a beginner, I’d advise against it. A solid set of good cheap studio monitors is usually enough to get started.
When first setting up a home studio space, there are a lot of potential costs to factor in. Selecting the best budget studio monitors gives you more money for other gear.
Quality speakers are important but leave room in your budget for other essentials.
A high-quality DAC will also allow you to get the most out of your studio gear. As you progress, you can look to invest in more premium equipment, including better monitors.
I would like to point out that just because you have high-end monitors doesn’t mean you’ll instantly be able to mix and master like a pro.
Experience and knowledge are more important. With experience, you’ll come to understand the shortcomings of your gear and make adjustments accordingly.
Plus, price doesn’t always equal quality. I’ve heard many a high-end monitor that didn’t live up to expectations.
If you are on a tight budget, try to stretch it as far as possible. And pay extra attention to getting the most bang for your buck.
Are Budget Studio Monitors Worth It?
Studio monitors offer a balanced and flat response ideal for music production or audio editing. Even budget studio monitors are an improvement over regular speakers that will color the sound.
Which Powered Studio Monitor Is The Best Value?
Selecting the best budget monitor speakers is a difficult task. At this price point, there will always be some shortcomings in sound and component quality. Despite this common issue, there are a few gems in the rough.
This is why I recommend the PreSonus Eris 3.5. It offers excellent sound, is attractive, and offers excellent versatility with consumer-focused features. From music production and video editing to general listening, they perform well. One of the best budget studio monitors on the market today.
But if you’re looking for a set of monitors with a bit of extra grunt and a DJ focus the Pioneer DM-40D is an excellent alternative.
No matter which speaker you buy, it will be an upgrade over generic hi-fi computer speakers. You’ll get to enjoy clean, clear, and more importantly balanced sound.
PreSonus Eris 3.5