Studio monitors are one of the most important parts of your home studio setup. Selecting the right monitors to meet your needs is not an easy task.
Many manufacturers create excellent products. Some have been around for decades while others are new contenders.
In this guide, we look at the best studio monitors available in the market today. From entry-level options to high-end choices in a range of categories.
Our Winners In Each Category
There is a staggering number of options when it comes to choosing studio monitors. But, we’ve done all the hard work for you. Here are the top choices in each category.
Full Review Of The Top 10
Below you’ll find in-depth reviews for each monitor. There are several categories to explore. Plenty of high-quality choices are available so let’s dive into the details.
Yamaha HS7 Review
- Great Build Quality – Excellent materials and solid construction. A monitor that will last the distance.
- Clean Sound Profile – Flat frequency response for accurate mixing and mastering. Excellent dynamic range.
- Professional Design – Attractive and refined design that will suit both hobby and pro-level studio spaces.
- Excellent Tuning Options – Room control and high trim effectively adjust the output for your space.
- Narrow Sweetspot – The HS7 is a near-field monitor that doesn’t sound great outside of the narrow sweet spot.
Yamaha has an excellent reputation for powered studio monitors and for good reason. They consistently deliver outstanding products. So much so that three of their monitors have made this list.
The Yamaha HS7 is a high-quality studio monitor that delivers outstanding audio quality thanks to the bi-amp design. It has a precise response across all frequencies and offers a balanced sound. No frequency takes the limelight.
While a little expensive it is one of the best studio monitors currently available.
Read our full Yamaha HS7 review for more detailed information.
Pioneer DM-40 Review
4-Inch Studio Monitors With Punch
- Budget Priced Speakers – Affordable price point for beginners that need to spread their budget.
- Good Speaker Size – Comfortably sits within the mid-range size of speakers. Well suited to different home recording studio setups.
- Satisfying Bass – A more pronounced low-frequency response will satisfy DJs.
- Clear Sound Output – Even at higher volumes the sound output is clear and crisp.
- Lacks Flexibility – There are no tuning options. This leaves you with no way to control output to suit your studio space.
Pioneer holds a commanding dominance in the pro DJ gear market. While they are not as well known in the studio monitor space they still offer some great choices for producers. The DM-40 is a studio monitor that has been designed with DJing in mind.
The Pioneer DM-40 is an affordably priced entry-level studio monitor. Unfortunately, it isn’t as flat as other monitors so it isn’t the best for precise analytical listening. But, it does offer both TRS and RCA connection options for added flexibility.
Available in both black and white it’s an excellent starting point. Especially for DJs looking for a studio monitor to connect to their DJ controller.
Read our full Pioneer DM-40 review for more detailed information.
Presonus Eris E3.5 Review
- Affordable Price – Cheap yet still well constructed. Great for the budget-conscious home producer.
- Size – Excellent choice for production spaces where space is at a premium.
- Lightweight Speakers – At about 6.5 lbs (3kg) these are light enough to be placed on shelves if required.
- Balanced Output – They offer a flat frequency response. One of the best budget monitors for producing.
- Not Great For Larger Spaces – These 3.5-inch monitors will disappoint those that like their speakers loud and want to fill a room.
3.5-inch studio monitors tend to struggle to compete with larger studio monitors. The Eris E3.5 pair of studio monitors turn this perception on its head. It is a capable powered studio monitor that offers a very smooth and flat response.
At an aggressive price point, it’s among the best options for those starting out. The attractive design adds to the appeal. Matte finish coupled with distinct blue accents. At this price, it offers lots of value.
Read our full Presonus Eris E3.5 review for more detailed information.
Presonus Eris E3.5
Mackie CR3-X Review
Impressive Budget Priced Monitors
- Loud Output – For 3-inch woofers, these can get quite loud without too much distortion.
- Unique Design – Striking green design sets a statement.
- Aggressive Price – One of the best studio monitors available at this price point. A cheap pair of monitors for new producers.
- Headphone Jack – Convenient headphone jack located at the front. Great for those that want to juggle between headphones and speakers.
- Build Quality – A very cheap price does result in a drop in build quality. Not the longest lasting monitors available.
Mackie has a great range of entry-level active monitors. They offer producers an affordable and feature-packed option.
The Mackie CR3-X is a 3-inch monitor that has a unique and striking design. Extra functionality takes these beyond other options at this size. The front AUX port allows for easy connection of media devices. The ability to toggle which speaker is the primary is also another benefit.
If you are looking for 3-inch speakers on a budget these are one of the best studio monitors in this price range.
Read our full Mackie CR3-X review for more detailed information.
Yamaha HS5 Review
- Flat Response – Clean and clear with a defined balance. But the low-frequency range is a bit softer than the larger models.
- Good Size – Larger studio monitors can be overkill. These are perfect for moderately sized home recording studios.
- Install Options – Install versions give you the flexibility to adjust the speaker placement to achieve the best sound balance.
- Yamaha Quality – As with the whole HS Series these speakers offer excellent build quality.
- No Cables Included – Be prepared to purchase a set of quality cables to get the most out of your speakers.
The 5-inch Yamaha HS5 is another excellent powered studio monitor from Yamaha. It retains all the qualities of the HS7 and Yamaha HS8 but in a size better suited for some studio spaces. An excellent choice for home recording sessions.
Clarity is superb and the balance between frequencies is solid. The 5-Inch version does begin to show some softness in the bass frequencies. But, it’s still flat and precise for accurate mixing and mastering.
If the larger HS7 and HS8 are overbearing for your space the Yamaha HS5 is an excellent alternative.
Read our full Yamaha HS5 review for more detailed information.
JBL 305P MkII Review
Studio Monitors With A Generous Sweet Spot
- Broad Sound Stage – These sound great from a variety of angles. You won’t be limited to having to sit directly in front of the speaker.
- Solid Low Frequencies – The thump is there for DJs and producers that like a more pronounced rumble. Bi-amp Class D amp design helps focus energy where needed.
- Useful Tuning Options – Effective options to adjust frequency cut-off points for accurate control. Especially useful for the high-frequency output.
- Image Control Waveguide – Innovative technology from JBL that helps deliver an impressive stereo image within this price range.
- Balance Issues – Due to the increased emphasis on the lows the overall balance is a bit off. Not ideal for analytical listening.
The JBL 305p MkII is another excellent 5-inch 2-way design powered studio monitor. With the addition of Image Control Waveguide technology, it can also fill a room. The Class D amplifiers also do a good job of balancing output.
Balance is not as refined with a heftier bass response. For some, this will be a benefit but for analytical listening, they are not the best.
It has useful tuning options and impressive build quality. This makes them among the best studio monitors for DJs that want a heavier bass response.
Read our full JBL 305P MkII review for more detailed information.
JBL 305P MkII
KRK Rokit 8 G4 Review
- Excellent Build Quality – KRK has a reputation for quality studio speakers and these continue that tradition.
- LCD Screen – Extensive tuning options available. You can control all the features via the built-in LCD panel and onboard DSP.
- Extras Included – This speaker comes with an Isolation pad. An excellent bonus and a welcome offering compared to other brands.
- Pleasant Sound – Mid and High frequencies are clean and crisp. As you move into the Low Mid range there is a slight overemphasis.
- Requires Some Fiddling – To get the most out of these you’ll need to have a play with the extensive tuning options. Might be a bit overwhelming for beginners.
KRK is no stranger to the powered studio monitor market. Their iconic yellow and black speakers have been a mainstay of music studios for years and among the best studio monitors in the last decade.
The latest generation kicks it up a gear. The KRK Rokit 8 G4 is the bigger brother to the ever-popular KRK Rokit 5. Like the rest of the range these feature Class D amplifiers. It’s an excellent studio monitor with a front bass reflex port that delivers on all fronts.
The next-generation set of tuning options is a big improvement. Now with a convenient LCD screen, you can quickly cycle through presets to adjust to your studio space.
If you are after a solid 8-inch speaker these are among the best studio monitors out there.
Read our full KRK Rokit 8 G4 review for more detailed information.
KRK Rokit 8 G4
Yamaha HS8 Review
Perfect Monitors For Accurate Producing
- Fantastic Balance – As with all the HS series monitors the balance is amazing. No emphasis on any specific frequency for accurate mastering.
- Powerful Bass – Low-frequency range is satisfying. Great for mixing and mastering bass-heavy music.
- Capable of Hanging – For a little more you can pick up the install versions for mounting. A convenient option to free up space.
- Rugged – Yamaha doesn’t skimp on quality. Excellent materials and overall build quality.
- On The Pricier Side – Not a very affordable powered studio monitor for your home studio. If you need to stretch your budget you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The HS8 two-way bass-reflex monitor completes the range of excellent speakers from Yamaha. The ultra-flat response is a producer’s dream. Clean definition in the highs, smooth mids, and warm bass frequencies that are not boomy.
Low ear fatigue is perfect for producers that spend hours in the studio. When you factor in the excellent build quality you have a monitor that will stand the test of time.
An excellent high-end choice for the serious producer.
Read our full Yamaha HS8 review for more detailed information.
Edifier R1280DB Review
- Hybrid Design – With a range of connection options this pair of speakers is well suited to pull double duty. Use for your home entertainment system or for the studio.
- Good Sound Quality – At standard volumes, these perform well and deliver a good listening experience.
- Bluetooth – Added flexibility to directly stream music to your speakers is a bonus.
- Remote Control – Speaking to its dual-use mentality the added remote is a convenient way to control output.
- Distortion Issues – At higher volumes these do struggle. Distortion starts to creep in especially in the high-frequency spectrum. Not ideal if you like you play your music loud.
- Poor Balance – Balance is not ideal due to its more mainstream design philosophy.
The Edifier R1280DB steps away from the traditional expectation of monitors. It’s an attractive set of speakers that are well suited to both the studio and for your general music needs. The sound is flat but not as precise as other monitors available.
Bluetooth connectivity and conveniently placed tuning options make it a flexible choice. Where it does suffer is at louder volumes. Distortion is a problem if you push these to their limit.
But they are one of the best studio monitors that can handle your entertainment needs and studio work.
Read our full Edifier R1280DB review for more detailed information.
JBL One Series 104 Review
Fantastic Monitors For Tight Spaces
- Design – For those with not much desk space, these are ideal. Petite form factor and unique design.
- Plenty of Volume – These little speakers can really put out some noise. A pleasant surprise from studio monitors this size.
- Solid Connection Options – Both balanced and unbalanced connection options are available. Added flexibility with Bluetooth connectivity adds to the value.
- Good Sound – Frequency response is good with impressive clarity.
- Lower Volume Issues – Clarity and balance are a bit lost when at lower volumes. Some tuning options would have been ideal here to rectify the issue.
The JBL One Series 104 squeezes in a 4.5-inch woofer into a great design. Ideally suited for workspaces where space is at a premium.
Backing up the streamlined design is impressive sound quality. Clean and well-defined these also perform very well at loud volumes. At lower volumes, the balance isn’t as tight.
If you like working at louder volumes and need to conserve space in your home studio these should be high on your list of options.
Read our full JBL One Series 104 review for more detailed information.
JBL One Series 104
Things To Consider Before Purchasing
Selecting monitors for your studio is difficult. There are many things you need to consider. Spending some time assessing your needs goes a long way to ensure you get the right monitors for your needs. Below you’ll find some of the most critical things to factor in when selecting monitors.
What Size Is The Best?
Active studio monitors come in a variety of sizes. They typically range from 3-inches up to 8-inches.
Studio monitors with 4-inch woofers and lower will deliver less volume. It also results in a less pronounced low-end. These monitors will also generally be quieter than bigger monitors. Larger monitors give you greater depth in lower frequencies.
Understanding your needs plays a big role here. It can influence what size is best for you. Items like studio size and table size will narrow your options.
Bigger isn’t always better. Just because a studio monitor is large doesn’t mean it is well balanced.
How Does Studio Size Impact Your Choices?
This is where studio size also comes into the equation. Large monitors will not only take up a lot of space but may also be too overbearing for your studio. It is important to pick a size that is appropriate for your studio space.
Some home studios don’t require large monitors to fill the space with sound.
Most monitors operate best in the near field. This is generally about 1 meter (3-4ft) from where you are sitting. This is also why they are commonly referred to as reference monitors. Because of this, you don’t need to have a massive monitor. But if you want to fill your studio space with sound a larger monitor has a greater chance of achieving this.
It’s also worth keeping in mind the amount of space you’ll need for your desktop computer or laptop. Where possible try to prevent vibrations that will impact your other hardware as this can lead to causing issues with your computer or laptop.
Do You Want To Add A Subwoofer?
Adding a subwoofer to your studio is an excellent addition. The low-end response is smoother and it places less strain on your primary monitors. In the end, everything ends up sounding more balanced and even.
This is where a combination of 4-inch or lower-sized monitors and a subwoofer may be a better choice than large monitors. For lovers of bass or if you produce bass-heavy music it’s a worthwhile investment. It’s important to check that your speakers can support a subwoofer.
Ideally, you’ll want some tuning options too. You may also still want to invest in acoustic treatment to balance out your acoustic space.
Do You Need Tuning Options?
Having access to tuning options opens up the flexibility to adjust the output. A studio monitor can sound great in one location but horrible in another. Factors like sound refraction, dampening materials, and monitor placement all impact the sound quality.
No studio monitors can handle all studio types. This is where tuning options shine. You can adjust output to handle the nuances of your personal space. You can lower the high end if they sound harsh in your studio. Likewise, you can tweak the low-frequency levels. This becomes especially important if you incorporate a subwoofer into your setup.
A monitor with a good selection of tuning options is more likely to be able to adapt to your needs. Even as your studio space changes.
What Connection Options Are Available?
Connectivity is quite the buzzword in today’s modern world. But when it comes to studio monitors it’s very important. How you plan to connect your speakers can play a big role in output.
XLR is a popular balanced connection type since it offers clips to secure the cable.
Unbalanced RCA connections can suffer from external electronic interference. Balanced options like TRS or XLR are good to have. Extras like Bluetooth are a bonus but not a necessity.
Details like cable quality and length also play a role here. Some speakers don’t come with the best cables so you may need to invest in upgrading them.
How Much Do You Have To Spend?
Above all else budget will be a big factor. Price points vary greatly. Entry-level options are an affordable way to experience a flatter response. But from there the price can quickly skyrocket as you push into the realm of professional gear.
While it can be tempting to skimp on monitors it’s among the few areas I suggest you invest in. A good set of monitors can last you a long time. Having to upgrade within a few years can add up quickly. As with a lot in life you get what you pay for.
This is also why I like to recommend powered monitors over passive monitors. You don’t need to invest in Amps. This reduces compatibility issues and the risk of blowing your speakers.
What Are Studio Monitors?
Studio monitors are speakers that aim to deliver an accurate representation of the recorded material. Unlike Hi-Fi systems, they do not adjust the output. As a result, they are perfectly suited to music artists and sound engineers.
Are Monitor Speakers Good For Listening To Music?
Studio monitors are great for listening to music. They are ideal if enjoy hearing recordings without alterations or like to listen for hidden details. Perfect for Audiophiles.
Which One Should You Buy?
Sound is as subjective as art. What sounds good to one person may sound rubbish to another. This is where it is difficult to declare an outright best studio monitor. There are so many variables at play.
But when everything is considered the Yamaha HS series stands above the rest as the best studio monitors for the money. The HS7 is the ideal studio monitor for most home studios. Excellent clarity, balance, and build quality.
Having said that every monitor on this list is one I can recommend. Budget options for those buying their first set to more substantial choices for seasoned professionals.
There are plenty of audiophiles out there that will be quick to point out the flaws in certain monitors. And while they often make valid points for most people the differences are minor. And in some cases indistinguishable.
No matter what monitor you end up buying you’ll be in for an exciting time. Experiencing music that is as close to how it sounded in the studio is an eye (or should I say ear) opening experience. An experience I recommend to anyone with a passion for music.