Choosing the best studio monitors might look easy at first. However, even a quick Google search will show too many results to study and compare. Since a pair of studio monitors is invaluable to hobbyists and professional sound mixers and engineers alike, it’s vital to make the right choice the first time around.
To help you with your search, we’ve scoured online stores for the best studio monitors that will work well for home and project studios and even double as gaming or regular home speakers. Here are our top five choices.
- Studio Monitors: Reviews
- Buyer’s Guide
- Wrapping Up on Best Studio Monitors
M-Audio BX3 – 120-Watt Powered Desktop Computer Speakers / Studio Monitors for Gaming, Music Production, Live Streaming and Podcasting (Pair)
Studio Monitors: Reviews
PreSonus Eris E3.5 BT
While this might look like a middle-range near-field studio monitor set, it has a few perks that put it at the top of its class. First, Bluetooth compatibility is a huge boon, providing more versatility from an otherwise streamlined device.
The Eris E3.5 BT studio monitors have some of the best specifications in their price range and the build quality and durability to match. The monitors deliver crisp high-frequency sounds via the one-inch tweeter, built for both professional and hobbyist music mixing and good-old enjoyment.
The 3.5-inch woofer is at the lower end for sheer power, but they provide a clean and comparatively powerful bass response.
Each monitor offers 25W of power, which is on the higher end for the price range and will work great in most home settings. The pair’s frequency response isn’t stellar, at only 80Hz to 20kHz, but is enough for most audiophiles.
One of the advantages that Eris 3.5BT has over other best studio monitors is Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. This makes the pair easier to set up with a laptop or a smartphone device, allowing for vastly improved versatility if you’re using them as main speakers as well. In addition, due to their streamlined design and excellent sound quality, they far outpace any standard speaker setup.
Sound quality is the most important thing to look for in-studio monitors, and Eris 3.5BT speakers shine in this regard. They sound similar to much pricier products despite their small size. They won’t fill a large room with sound but will be perfectly serviceable in quiet home environments.
While these have excellent sound quality, they can’t really match larger woofers or a more robust studio monitor setup. The relatively low wattage means you’ll struggle in larger rooms without proper sound insulation, but that doesn’t make much of a difference in small home studio setups.
Additionally, the speakers have been known to hum when plugged in while not streaming any sound, which can interfere with some home recordings or just get annoying after a while.
- Excellent sound quality
- Reasonable price
- Bluetooth connectivity for more versatility
- Compact and easy to transport
- Not powerful enough for large spaces
- Smaller frequency range
- Hum when idle
Pioneer DJ DM-40
If you need compact studio monitors that can perform as regular speakers, the Pioneer DJ DM-40s are excellent. With a 4-inch woofer, they offer a sweet spot between hobbyist and professional devices, making them among the best studio monitors for any occasion.
The Pioneer DJ DM-40 is a 2-way paired studio monitor setup that uses four-inch woofers and ¾-inch tweeters. With a frequency range of 70 to 30,000 Hz, these can output all but the deepest of bass sounds, making them perfect for sound engineers in a home setting.
The overall power output isn’t exceptionally high at 21W per speaker, but the sound quality doesn’t suffer from it in smaller and soundproofed areas.
If you’re looking for a relatively cheap pair of studio monitors for a home studio, these are among the best you can get. The sound quality is crisp, clean, and any coloration due to loops or THD is negligible. In addition, these speakers provide the most power in the higher frequency ranges, with a tighter bass that loses only some of the lowest frequencies.
The speakers also have a built-in standby function where they turn off if they don’t detect sound input for a while. This prevents the annoying humming when the speakers are idling and some loop interference from other devices.
The major downfalls of the DM-40 are the build quality and bass limitations. Since the frequency range starts at 70Hz, deeper bass doesn’t come through as intended. However, this isn’t a significant pitfall for most music styles as people rarely hear those frequencies anyway.
The build quality deficiency typically surfaces on connectors, especially the headphone jack, which looks flimsier than it should at this price range.
- Great sound quality
- Standby feature to prevent humming and interference
- Solid frequency range and wattage
- Lack a punch for larger areas
- Lackluster build quality
- Not everyone likes standby studio monitors
Samson MediaOne BT3
For decent sound quality on a budget, the Samson MediaOne BT3 speakers are an excellent choice. Their performance is higher than you would expect from such an inexpensive 2-way studio monitor pair when they decide to work, that is.
The BT3 has a 3-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter. While this is among the smallest driver combinations to be found, the sound quality from these speakers is exceptional when you factor in their price and purpose. The bass and treble are unforgivingly clear, making them great for budding DJs that need uncolored music to tune and mix.
Power-wise, they are the weakest on our list with only 15W per speaker, but that doesn’t stop this tiny speaker pair from filling a smaller room with sound.
The BT3 is also Bluetooth-enabled, allowing them more versatility than a standard studio monitor setup. As a result, these are the best studio speakers if you don’t need high-end studio equipment and want an all-around solid music and audio performance from your computer or smartphone.
Perhaps the best thing about these speakers is the value you get for your buck. The sound quality is comparable to more expensive devices, losing only a bit of the bass with negligible muddling. In addition, the speakers are equipped with a separate woofer output jack which is rarely found in budget studio monitors.
Bluetooth versatility is another strong point for these small speakers, allowing them to function as a home speaker system and pair with your phone for quality music time.
Often, you get what you pay for, and these studio monitors are sadly not a significant exception. As a result, the build quality and some of the lower bass sounds suffer, ostensibly due to budget constraints.
One frequent drawback we’ve seen is that the speakers have a shorter lifespan than expected, especially the left (secondary) speaker, which sometimes breaks for no apparent reason within the space of a few months.
The speakers don’t show their full frequency spectrum and power when paired via Bluetooth, slightly lowering their usability.
- The most budget-friendly option
- Small but powerful
- Low overall power
- Lowest build quality of the bunch
- Bluetooth sound isn’t quite perfect
KRK ROKIT 10-3 G4
If you need a beast of a studio monitor to deliver flawless sound quality from further away, the Rokit 10-3 G4 might just be for you. The powerful 10-inch woofer driver delivers earth-trembling bass. While this quality and power come at a cost (literally), the Rokit 10 makes our list of best studio monitors for a simple reason – it’s that good.
This is the only three-way studio monitor on our list. Using a 4.5-inch Kevlar aramid driver, the third speaker delivers mid-range frequencies better than two-way speakers can ever hope to achieve. With so much focus on sound quality, the speaker’s frequency range is an astonishing 26Hz to 40kHz, allowing almost complete coverage of what people can hear – and then some.
Of course, the accurate bass is to be expected from such a large and powerful woofer driver, but the Rokit really kicks quality up a notch with excellent build materials and 300W of power output.
The Rokit 10-3 G4 is sold as a single studio monitor, so you’ll need a pair to achieve a standard studio setup that significantly drives up the overall cost.
There’s very little to say about the sound quality of the Rokit 10, except it’s among the best in its class. This studio monitor is designed for professional audio engineering, with a streamlined acoustic and aerodynamic design to reduce port turbulence and low-frequency response.
The speaker also comes with a smartphone app to provide accurate room-based tuning and help place and orient your studio setup properly for maximum effect.
One of the most problematic aspects of getting a Rokit 10 studio setup is the prohibitive price. You’re paying a premium for high-performance drivers and seamless build quality, and you also need to purchase two of these monitors to get an excellent 3D effect.
The budget constraints make the Rokit suitable only for professional sound engineers and mixers.
- Extraordinary sound quality
- Flawless frequency range (26-40,000Hz)
- App to help with proper setup and tuning
- Not budget-friendly at all
- Comes only as a single monitor
- Heavy and bulky
M-Audio BX3 speakers are advertised as a blend between regular computer speakers and studio monitors. Don’t be fooled, as they have the standard uncolored sound output of a studio monitor setup. However, the BX3 pair’s build quality, sheer power, and versatility are what gave them a spot on our list of best studio monitors.
With a whopping 120W power output, these speakers are ready to make the room tremble at full volume. The 3.5-inch subwoofer driver delivers a clear bass, and the 1-inch silk dome tweeter takes care of the higher frequencies without a hitch.
Sadly, the total frequency range is slightly lower than products with a similar price range, ranging from 80 to 22,000 Hz. However, this is still perfectly serviceable for a mid-range near-field studio monitor setup, and the lack of the lowest basses isn’t a huge loss.
The M-Audio BX3 speakers value versatility and power. The sound quality is crisp, and these small speakers can pack quite a punch at full volume. In addition, the various controls on the back allow the user to adjust which speaker controls the volume and plug across multiple sound inputs for maximum enjoyment.
So whether you plan to use these as traditional computer speakers, blast music from your smartphone, or create great sound mixes, the BX3 can adjust quickly.
While the overall build quality of the speakers themselves is excellent, the cables and connectors are the system’s weakest link. The provided cable can be too short for more ambitious setups, and the jacks sometimes stop working if moved.
As a result, you might be better off using sturdier and longer cables than relying on what comes out of the box.
- Good sound quality and a lot of noise
- Solid design considerations
- Decent frequency coverage
- Provided cables are usually a hassle
- Jack-of-all-trades but not perfect for sound studios
Type of Monitors
There are a few categories for different studio monitor types, based on their use and the equipment needed to make the most out of their build.
The first way studio monitors are categorized is by their power output and range. The categories are near-field, mid-field, and far-field or soffit-mounted monitors.
Near-field monitors are the industry standard for most studios, whether hobbyist or professional. These monitors are designed to be placed four to five feet away from the listener, using a pair of speakers to provide the 3D effect.
The shorter distance helps to compensate for the room’s acoustic properties since most home systems don’t have the necessary soundproofing found in professional studios.
Far-field (soffit-mounted) monitors are reserved for high-end studios. These monitors work over longer distances and are mainly used to check how the lower frequencies sound and impress clients and record companies.
Mid-field monitors are a third category, which lies somewhere in the middle. These are not ideal for home studios since they are typically too big, bulky, and loud.
The second categorization of studio monitors is based on their driver number. These are the commonly named 2-way, 3-way, or even 4-way monitors. The number dictates how many sound drivers are in the speaker.
The baseline two drivers are used for low and high frequencies, the woofer and tweeter, respectively. For 3- and 4-way speakers, the additional drivers deliver mid-range frequencies. This makes the sound quality better across the board since each component can focus on a smaller range of frequencies.
However, some 3-way monitors use lower-quality drivers, so the final effect might be even worse than that of a higher-quality 2-way monitor.
The third categorization is based on whether the speakers have built-in amplifiers.
Passive monitors require a separate amplifier to provide power. These speakers used to be the norm but have been rendered obsolete by the industry’s evolution.
Active monitors have a built-in power amplifier to deliver enough power. Higher-end speakers can even come with two amplifiers, one for lower and the other for higher frequencies. They are typically more cost-effective and easier to find since you don’t have to research which amplifier will work for the brand and model.
Human ears can detect sounds between 20Hz and 20kHz, but most speakers can output sounds well above the upper limit. However, one of the breaking points between lower-end and high-quality studio monitors is their ability to reproduce low frequencies clearly.
As a rule of thumb, the costlier the speaker is, the more their frequency range approaches the lower 20Hz limit. Smaller sound drivers (below five inches) rarely produce sounds below 50Hz, if that.
Another essential factor to consider is the flatness of the frequency response. Ideally, the studio monitor should reproduce all frequencies with nearly the same amplitude.
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
Total harmonic distortion is another measure of a studio monitor’s overall sound quality. THD effectively measures interference added to the sound output from the speaker’s and system’s physical parts, most notably the audio circuit itself. Professional grade speakers have a THD well below 0.1%, but most commercial devices range between 0.3% and 1%.
THD is not a particularly helpful pointer of sound quality since the differences in models are often tiny, and the measure itself is hard to gauge without professional equipment.
Music heights like drum kicks often need much more power for accurate reproduction than the source material, which is the main reason to go for high-power monitors. Typically, a 40-50W system distorts these higher notes and clips them, creating an unsatisfying piece of music. Generally, the more powerful a speaker is, the sound is clearer and better, but the price rises.
Subwoofers are separate speakers that cleanly produce the lowest frequencies humans can hear, typically between 20 and 50Hz. They are primarily used to compensate for the studio monitors’ inability to handle low frequencies. Even the best studio monitors struggle to reach the lower 20Hz limit, staying around 40Hz or so on average.
Subwoofers are essential when mixing sound for TV or large screen audiences since those rooms allow for good bass sounds to develop. Unfortunately, people chiming in to your beats via iPads, headphones, or car radios typically will never experience the full range of sound, so a subwoofer is just a waste of money.
Additionally, smaller recording studios suffer from similar acoustic problems, not allowing the bass frequencies to be reproduced fully. Therefore, you might need proper room refurbishment before considering a subwoofer as a part of your studio monitor setup.
What Is the Purpose of Studio Monitors?
Studio monitors deliver a clear, ‘uncolored’ noise. This means that the speakers provide a relatively flat phase and frequency response, allowing for better accuracy between the input and output signals. In addition, the monitors allow sound engineers and mixers to ensure the source is reasonably free from any sound distortions or other technical defects like background noise.
Using studio monitors allows the resulting sound mix to translate well into other speaker designs, regardless of how much they shift specific frequency ranges.
If you were to mix a ‘colored’ track, i.e., one that has specific frequencies distorted from the speaker, your additions might make the result worse on certain devices. That’s why monitors provide better accuracy and faithfulness to the original source.
What Is the Difference Between Active and Passive Monitors?
The only difference between these is that passive monitors don’t have a power amplifier, a necessary part of a speaker. Typically, passive speakers might be considered a bargain compared to active ones, but they’re a double-edged sword in reality. When using a passive monitor, you need to find a correct amplifier for the system that doesn’t come with its own sound coloration.
Active monitors are more abundant on the market because they’re easier to use and tinker with to provide accurate sound responses. They are the industry standard for high-quality music production. If you’re a home DJ, there’s very little need to deviate from the norm.
What Do 2-Way, 3-Way, Bi-Amped, and Tri-Amped Mean?
2-way and 3-way studio monitors refer to how many sound drivers are in the speaker. Each driver is responsible for a certain frequency range. In most designs, the woofer delivers lower frequencies, from the lower limit to around 2kHz, while the tweeter delivers frequencies between 2kHz and the device’s upper range.
3-way monitors have an additional driver to handle sounds in the lower frequency range. This allows the manufacturer to create higher-fidelity woofers and reach lower frequencies without compromising accuracy.
Single-amped, bi-amped, and tri-amped are similar but detail how these frequencies are processed. In a single-amp speaker, all sound drivers are connected to a single power amplifier to deliver the sound. Bi-amped setups are the most common, where one amplifier is connected to the higher frequency driver and the other to the lower frequency ones.
Unfortunately, tri-amped systems are hard to come by since they require a more robust interface infrastructure typically reserved for high-quality (and high-cost) studio monitors. In effect, the differences between various amp systems are minor since the tweeter can’t pull all the power from an amplifier regardless.
Additionally, each amplifier can add color to a sound.
Do Studio Monitors Sound Better Than Speakers?
As a general rule of thumb, a studio monitor delivers a more accurate representation of the source. That means that all frequencies have a similar amplitude, and no ranges are favored over the other. Instead, speakers are designed to provide richness to a particular frequency range, and manufacturers create speakers to fit the audience’s needs.
While studio monitors should ideally deliver better sound quality, regular listeners often benefit more from traditional speakers. In addition, the built-in frequency modulation allows for a more standardized and error-free sound. Overall, a studio monitor is designed for back-end music production, which is vital, while speakers are created for enjoyment.
Do You Need an Amp for Studio Monitors?
In most cases, you’ll use an active studio monitor with an integrated amplifier to provide enough power. However, our best studio monitors are all active, so you won’t need an amplifier under normal circumstances if you decide to go for one of them.
Wrapping Up on Best Studio Monitors
With so many great options to consider, the best studio monitors will typically depend on how much money you’re willing to spend.
Of the five on our list, the most reasonable choice is the PreSonus Eris E3.5 pair. They deliver excellent sound quality for the price, and their frequency range is far from terrible. In addition, it has sufficient power to fill up a room with sound, and the crisp bass allows for more accurate sound mixing.
If you’re not on a limited budget, go for a pair of KRK Rokit 10-3 4G. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more powerful, higher-fidelity studio monitor. Moreover, its frequency range is near-perfect to boot.