5 Best Studio Monitors for Home Studios
Recording and mixing music is becoming easier and simpler to do in a home studio. One of the most important parts of building a home studio is purchasing a quality pair of studio monitors. Read on and this article will you find the best studio monitors for you.
Given the fact that this article is for those building a home studio, we’ll assume that you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars. The good news for you is that there are plenty of excellent studio monitors available for less than $1,000 for a pair. But first, let’s address an important question.
What are Studio Monitors and Why Do You Need Them?
There is a good chance that you already know what a studio monitor is and does, but just in case you have any confusion and/or need a refresher, here is quick explanation.
In the pro audio world a monitor is actually a speaker, not some kind of visual display for a computer. It’s a special type of speaker, purposefully designed for the critical listening that is required during music production.
Essentially, the job of a studio monitor is to let you hear your source audio in its rawest, purest, most uncolored and transparent form. But what does that mean?
What does uncolored and transparent mean?
To grasp this concept, think about the two main groups of people buying speakers. Out of 100 people, 98 of them are not musicians (or at least don’t record music) – they simply listen to it. This group of people buys consumer speakers, that artificially boost certain frequencies and use other tricks to make music sound better (usually the bass and treble are boosted, which we typically perceive as making music sound better).
The remaining 2 people are the ones recording and producing the music that the other 98 are listening to. So, they need professional speakers that tell the truth – this means the frequency response has to be flat, i.e. no artificial boosting or cutting of any frequencies. The idea is that if a music producer can get a mix sounding great on some pro studio monitors, when it’s played out on any other sound system, it will sound good.
Why are good Studio Monitors are important?
It’s quite strange really…when you buy and plug in your first pair of studio monitors, the music coming through them initially sounds worse! That’s because your ears aren’t used to hearing things so honestly. All of your other speakers on your bookshelf or in your car, or your headphones or earbuds were sort of “lying” to you and making music sound artificially better. The cool thing about this is that once your ears acclimate and your studio monitors become the norm, you’ll hear music in a completely different (and better) way.
Buying good studio monitors is especially important for those who intend to mix at home. While you might be able to get away with tracking or laying down the foundation of your music using headphones, getting an accurate frequency response during the mixing process is key to achieving a good mix. So let us get into reviews and unpack the best studio monitors on the market for a reasonable price.
Best Studio Monitors reviewed
#1 Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor
- 8inch cone woofer and 1inch dome tweeter
- 38Hz – 30kHz frequency response
- 75W LF plus 45W HF bi-amp system 120W total
- ROOM CONTROL and HIGH TRIM response controls
- XLR and TRS phone jack inputs
Yamaha has long been hailed as an industry leader when it comes to monitoring, and the Yamaha HS8 demonstrate this perfectly. The HS8 is an update to the well-respected HS80 monitor, and many suggest that they are among the flattest and most accurate speakers in this price range. That’s particularly great for those who need monitors for mixing.
Unlike other, smaller monitors, because of the 8” woofer the HS8 is accurate when it comes to bass response; expect bass reproduction to be tight and focused. Investing in an 8” speaker means that you might not necessarily need a subwoofer – although you might still want one if you’re going to mix particularly bass-heavy music (Yamaha’s HS8S Subwoofer is a perfect complement).
In conlcusion the Yamaha HS8s are great value. You will find it hard to find a better 8″ speaker in, or above, their price range. They really do provide great clarity and detail with an true and flat response. You will have to spend double to notice a tangible improvement. With the HS8s you will be able hear details in your minxes that you didn’t even know existed. They have a tight and accurate low end, a clear mid range and great high detail. All in all this makes the HS8s a sound and wise investment and the best studio monitors in and around their price range.
#2 JBL LSR305
Bi-amplified Studio Monitor with Magnetically-Shielded 5” Low Frequency Transducer, 1” Soft-Dome High Frequency Transducer and Image Control Wave Guide
Class-D 41 Watt RMS Amplifier for LF, and 41 Watt RMS Amplifier for HF
Balanced XLR and ¼” TRS Inputs with Detented Level Control
HF and LF Trim Controls
The JBL LSR305 are one of the highest recommended studio monitor in “budget” territory. The word “budget” is often not synonymous with quality, but that not the case when it comes to the JBL LSR305s. These studio monitors are very highly praised for good reason – for around $300 for a pair, the quality/price ratio is unmatched. The JBL LSR305 deliver a flat frequency response, with very punchy and accurate bass despite a 5” woofer, and clear highs
If you’re a budding producer or mixing engineer, being able to get such a high quality, honest, and flat set of monitors for relatively little cash is key, and will take the quality of your productions to the next level. While the 5” speaker is on the smaller end, it’s an advantage if using them in a relatively small room. If the low end isn’t enough for you, you can get the excellent JBL subwoofer to go with it – the JBL LSR310S. Though even without a subwoofer the low end is very accurate, so you should be able to mix your bass-heavy productions without any problems.
In conclusion, the JBL LSR305 are excellent value for money. They are inexpensive at around $300 for a pair and a truly brilliant set of monitors. They are not geared up for casual listening or for entertainment purposes, but they will help you find flaws in your mixes. These are definitely the best studio monitors if you are after value for money.
#3 Equator Audio D5
- 5.25″w & 1″ tw Coaxial Design for time & phase accurate mid-range
- Internal DSP for transducer matching to eliminate image shift
- DSP aided pin-point accurate voicing aided by award winning pros
- New low distortion amplifier delivers 2×50 watts rms
- 3 position boundary selector provides alternate voicings
The Equator D5 speakers strike a delicate balance of being a fantastic studio monitor sold at a fantastic price, and has been making waves in professional audio settings. Their magic lies in an internal DSP, whose details we’ll leave you to read on Equator’s website. The mid-range is particularly detailed, as Equator themselves discuss:
“…delivers a detailed mid-range that allows for clarity in that complex 900Hz – 3 kHz range. Guitars, voices, strings, horns, & reverb trails are very clearly and accurately portrayed and any mid-range anomalies in the source material can be easily determined and addressed.”
They look great and have a very solid build quality. On the back panel you’ll find a level control, balanced XLR and ¼” jacks, and a boundary 3-way toggle which lets you set the bass response depending on how you position the monitors – corner, wall and free-standing. In terms of size it’s a fairly compact 7” x 8.5”.
In conclusion, a pair of D5s costs less than a pair of Yamaha HS8s and given their price it is unbelievable that they are as good as their reviews. However, that is certainly the case. They have a flat response, the soundstage and stereo image are spacious and clear, the bass is true and punchy, the mid range is clear and high end is detailed. As they do not have a 8″ subwoofer, like the Yamaha HS8s, it could be argued that they do not fill out the low end as well as they could. However, you can still mix bass with confidence on these speakers and as mentioned before, for the price, they are a good choice.
What is so good about coaxial speakers?
#4 KRK RP8G3-NA Rokit 8
- Bi-amped, class A/B amplifier offering large headroom and low distortion
- Proprietary waveguide optimized for superior imaging
- 1 Soft-dome tweeter provides pristine clarity and extended response up to 35kHz
- High-frequency adjustment tailors the system to personal taste
KRK Rokit 8s are sometimes criticised for not being ‘flat enough’, meaning that the bass and highs are boosted. This is not exactly ideal if your aim is to have the flattest, most honest monitors possible. A lot of people seem to not be able to look past this, however these monitors do sound good. If more bass response is what you want and you’re not interested in a separate subwoofer, these are the monitors for you. Also, they are easily the most used studio monitors by pro electronic music producers, so if you into producing electronic or dance music, they are the speakers for you. As with any studio monitor, you’ll need to get to know them and their quirks. Most owners of the KRK Rokit 8s are fully aware of their sound coloration, and are able to produce good mixes regardless.
The KRKs have an iconic look about them, with their all black finish and yellow cone. They are also nice, big, chunky speakers, which can be very appealing. The rear of the speaker has balanced XLR and ¼” inputs and they an unbalanced RCA input. They also come with a volume control, a high frequency level adjust with 4 settings (-2dB to +1dB), and a low frequency level adjust, also with 4 settings (-2dB to +2dB).
In conclusion the KRKs have been a very popular choice with produces over the years – for beginners and pros. They are great manufacturer they produce great speakers. As mentioned before if you are looking for a perfectly flat response, these are not the speakers for you. With the KRKs, it is really just a matter of getting used to them. The build quality is great and they also double up really well for casual listening. They are great set of all round speakers.
Stephen Marsh – Audio Mastering with KRK
#5 Mackie CR Series CR3
- Studio-quality design, sound and performance ideal for multimedia creation and entertainment
- Professional-grade components for optimized sonic performance
- Ultra-wide frequency range perfect for full-range multimedia (80 Hz – 20 kHz)
- Choose which side of your desk gets the volume knob with CR3’s convenient speaker placement switch
- Convenient front panel volume knob with lit power ring gives you on/off/volume control and power indication where you need it
I have included these speakers in the list as a bit of a wild card. Mackie market the CR3s as an affordable entry level speaker. That is is exactly what they are. They will not reach the heights and the quality of the other speakers in this article. However, they are supremely popular and sell very well. This is likely because of their price and the fact that they are not actually that bad.
They deliver a large and effective sound through their 3″ woofers. They have the ‘one active, one passive’ arrangement that is standard for monitors of this size and price, with the added bonus of being able to switch the powered side to either the left or right.
The CR3s offer a very detailed sound, however if there is one criticism it is that the high end can get swallowed up by the bass a little bit. There are also no attenuation controls to cope with EQing and room placement but at under $100 it’s not a big deal.
In conclusion, if you really are on budget and can’t get past $100 for a set of monitors, then the Mackie CR3s are your best bet. They sound good, they have a detailed sound, they have good, flat response and they are very well made.