When it comes to buying studio monitors there are a plethora of choices. Even more confusing there is a wide price range when it comes to studio monitors. In this guide, we focus on the range of budget studio monitors. Giving you the ability to get quality monitors without breaking the bank.
An attractive set of monitors that offers tuning options, Bluetooth connectivity, good sound quality, and a remote.
JBL One Series 104
A compact set of studio monitors that deliver solid clarity at louder volumes. Plus added Bluetooth connectivity.
Affordable Studio Monitor Reviews
Here is our selection of the ten 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 details of what these speakers have to offer.
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-emphasis on 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 located on the side of the speaker. 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 once you start to push them into the higher regions you will encounter some slight distortion.
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. That what 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.
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 making 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 in 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. Large woofer while maintaining a compact form factor makes them great for smaller desks.
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
Mackie CR3-X Review
- Affordable Price Point – If you need to stretch your budget these are an excellent choice. Excellent value for money and great for beginners.
- Packs A Punch – Despite the 3-inch woofer these little guys get loud with good bass response thanks to the rear-ported design. Distortion is also minimal at louder volumes. A good choice if you like to listen to electronic music.
- Added Cable – The Mackie CR3-X comes with a bonus. Unlike some studio monitors out there these come with RCA cables included so you can connect up to your system straight away.
- Speaker Select – These speakers offer a switch to set which one acts as the primary stereo channel. This gives you the flexibility to swap them around depending on where you prefer volume controls.
- Not The Most Durable – While excellent value for money the build quality does suffer. Great to start with but you may need to plan for an upgrade sooner rather than later.
There is a lot to like about the Mackie CR3-X. These popular cheap studio monitor speakers offer good sound quality and volume at a super affordable price. This two-way monitor offers a 3-inch woofer and 0.75″ silk-dome tweeter, these little speakers deliver.
The green trim around the woofer and tweeter also adds a lot of personality to these cheap studio monitors. While not the most rugged speakers they are an excellent entry point and well worth considering if you are on a tight budget.
Read our full Mackie CR3-X review for more detailed information.
Presonus Eris E3.5 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 E3.5 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 a lot of 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 – There are reports of some failing early. Luckily after-sales support is solid in case you are unlucky enough to get one that doesn’t work as intended.
The understated and clean design philosophy is the first sign that the two way Presonus Eris E3.5 is different. With a 3.5 inch woofer and 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 E3.5 review for more detailed information.
Presonus Eris E3.5
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. If you are consistently mixing at loud volumes this can become an issue.
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 make 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.
- Run 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 they make the list again with the 2 way CR4-X. This bigger monitor boasts a 4-inch woofer and 0.75″ silk dome tweeter. Clean design and good audio 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.
Edifier R1700BT Review
- Statement Design – In true Edifier fashion, these speakers are great to look at. Whether you have them in your studio or as part of your multimedia setup. Attractive and classy.
- No Distortion – Clean sound without a hint of distortion, even at high volumes. Further tweaking is available with Trebel and Bass adjustment options on the side.
- Impressive Volume – Speaking of volume these get up there. Excellent for listening to music or for when you are watching TV.
- Remote Control Included – You don’t have to confine these to your studio. If you enjoy a clear and flat soundscape you can incorporate these into your multimedia center.
- Persistent Bluetooth – While Bluetooth connectivity is fantastic for pairing with your various devices there is no way to turn it off. A minor quibble but worth noting.
The 2 way R1700BT is another set of good budget studio monitors from the team at Edifier. The angled design makes for an attractive addition to your studio space.
Excellent sound with no coloring of the sound. The low frequencies are a little disappointing but you need to keep in mind these are nearfield monitors and not hi-fi speakers. A good option for your studio or home entertainment needs.
Read our full Edifier R1700BT review for more detailed information.
Behringer STUDIO 50USB Review
- Bi-Amp Design – The Studio 50USB offers individual amps for both the woofer and tweeter. This results in a smoother sound with each amp tasked with a specific job.
- Large Sweetspot – Often near field monitors 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 for accurate mixing, it can be an issue.
- Trim Control At Rear – Volume control at the back of the speaker makes it a bit awkward if you are relying 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 that’s the case for all speakers on this list.
Read our full Behringer Studio 50USB review for more detailed information.
Behringer STUDIO 50USB
M-Audio AV42 Review
- Clean Mids and Highs – The M-Audio AV42 speakers offer a pleasing range of frequencies in the mid and high-frequency range. The balance here is good. Unfortunately, the low end isn’t as clean.
- Rich Full Sound – While the low end is disappointing it’s for a different reason than you may think. The wide frequency range delivers a full-bodied and rich audio scape, but almost too much. It starts to creep into hi-fi speaker colored sound territory.
- Front Connection Options – Access to both headphones and AUX input on the front adds a lot of convenience to these monitors.
- Loud – While not earth-shatteringly loud these speakers can fill a small or medium-sized studio. Excellent for DJs and producers that like their music loud.
- Not Ideal For Production – As mentioned the low end does have a bit of color to it. While pleasing to listen to it isn’t as accurate as I’d like for music production.
The 2 way M-Audio AV42’s are another decent pair of monitors. While I wouldn’t want to be mixing and mastering my latest music creation on them they still perform well. The mid and high-end response is exceptionally nice.
A few tuning options onboard would have scored these a few extra points. It would have also helped balance out the low end. Despite this, if you don’t mind your low end a bit more colored these are an excellent choice.
Behringer MS16 Review
- Compact Sized Monitors – If space is a concern these speakers should be on your list of options. Compact and portable they make for an excellent set of monitors for keyboards and other audio gear.
- Flat Sound – Good balance between all the frequencies with a wide frequency range. Low-frequency response is on the softer side but that adds to the appeal. No colored sound here.
- Microphone Input – An added microphone jack on the front is an unusual inclusion in the monitor space. A good option for a compact performance-based setup and vocal monitoring.
- Excellent Price – Considering the features included the MS16 are affordably priced. Impressive value for money.
- Slightly Fragile – While these are great for portability the component quality is not great. You need to be careful with these.
The Behringer MS16 offers a unique set of features in the budget studio monitor space. The microphone input is appealing for vocalists. Sound is also good for a budget monitor. No frequency hogs the limelight which allows for accurate monitoring.
For a 4-inch monitor, Behringer has also done an excellent job of keeping the footprint low. Build quality is not amazing but at this price, I don’t expect to see premium materials.
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 low’s 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 come across.
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.
RCA audio cables are the most common connection type for budget studio monitors.
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. 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 pro’s 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.
Quality speakers are important but leave room in your budget for other essentials.
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. For example, you may want to set aside money for a quality pair of headphones for monitoring. 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.
The one thing I would like to point out is 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. Plus 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 you can. And pay extra attention to getting the most bang for your buck.
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 Edifier R1280DB. Excellent sound, attractiveness, and versatility to use them for a variety of purposes. From music production, 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 to add to your smaller computer desk the JBL One Series 104 is also an excellent alternative.
No matter which speaker you end up buying it will be an upgrade over generic hi-fi computer speakers when it comes to delivering you clean, flat sound.