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Best Studio Monitors Reviewed
If you’re a serious digital recording artist working from a home studio you have probably already made the switch from hi-fi speakers to monitors. It’s not hard to see why.
Traditional hi-fi speakers can take you a long way on the learning curve, but at some point, you realize they are designed for a different purpose – for listening, not audio engineering.
Today’s best studio monitors are a step up from hi-fi speakers but there is a great deal of variation in them too.
Low quality monitor speakers can be just as ineffective at identifying the flaws in your music as hi-fi speakers. On the flip side a set of quality monitor speakers can be the difference between success and failure.
The last thing you want is for the music or audio that you’ve invested many hours creating to sound sub-par on different speakers and in other locations.
Unlike hi-fi speakers that only increase the bottom and top end of audio output in order to intensify the listening experience, a good set of monitor speakers amplify the woofer, tweeter, and mid-range across frequencies with accuracy, and with separate power amplifiers. This means sound quality is not compromised by other high-demand ranges – such as the woofer – like it is on hi-fis or lower quality monitor speakers.
We cover all the details to help you sort out what makes quality studio monitors a smart choice for recording and mixing, and well worth investing in. You can find quick answers and features in the comparison chart, and see our favorite models and studio speaker reviews below.
So lets check out the slamming sounds from the top studio monitors!
Here’s a look at our favorite Studio Monitor Speakers:
Top Studio Monitor Comparison Chart
Best Studio Monitors
Yamaha HS8 monitor speakers are industry leaders for many reasons. Their products demonstrate that they understand the needs of audio producers and have developed sound technologies tailored to those purposes for decades.
While other brands might flavor their sound output with more bass or higher frequencies, Yamaha HS8’s pare everything down to give audio engineers and producers the most honest and accurate audio reading.
The Yamaha HS8 monitors feature newly developed transducers, the component that converts audio signals into sound. They now cover a wider bandwidth and reproduce signals with a higher degree of accuracy, giving you extra confidence in your output audio.
The high-performance amp unit compliments the transducers with a bi-amp design. There is a dedicated amp for both the woofer and tweeter delivering a flat response for every range.
The monitors are enclosed in MDF cabinets designed to eliminate unwanted resonances and increase reference accuracy. Yamaha engineers have used their extensive knowledge and experience of designing top of the range pianos to create an enclosure that is architecturally optimized for best performance.
These monitors further benefit from a speaker port design that achieves a reduction of 6dB in unwanted noise. This is done by utilizing new technology that offers a visual representation of sound. Yamaha engineers can then identify unwanted noise in the enclosure and eliminate it with design enhancements.
You should also know that HS8’s are “the standard” for many, if not most, professional recording studio’s around the world. You cannot walk through any of the famous studios without spotting a set of HS8’s above the mixer.
We love these studio monitors for good reason: they are clear, accurate, and long-lived beyond any other studio monitor out there. If you need monitors, these are a must-hear.
- 8 inch cone woofer and 1 inch dome tweeter; Produce low distortion sound with a well-defined bottom end at any output level
- 38Hz to 30kHz frequency response; Power consumption: 60 watts
- 75W LF plus 45W HF bi amp system 120W total;Level control (+4dB/center click), EQ: High trim switch (+/ 2dB at HF) / Room control switch (0/2/4 dB under 500Hz)
- Room control and high trim response controls
- XLR and TRS phone jack inputs. Crossover: 2kHz
The KRK studio monitors offers style and innovation. They have been at the forefront of monitor design for the last three decades with a hand in creating many well-known hits in a range of genres.
The KRK Rokit 8 G4 Studio monitors are a professional choice of monitor that delivers both clarity and accuracy, while remaining affordable.
These monitor speakers are available with either black or yellow cones that give you a different style option, both of which will enhance the vibe of your room.
Rokit 8 G4’s feature a low resonance enclosure is made from resilient MDF boards for minimal distortion and to reduce unwanted noise. Additionally, a high-density iso-foam pad separates the speaker from the enclosure reducing vibrations and improving clarity.
These are 2-way active studio monitor speakers that use matching drivers made with Kevlar. This ensures continuity across all frequencies and delivers a flat and even sound quality for enhanced audio reference. Given the fantastic price, that should be of particular interest to budget-minded engineer.
The KRK monitors help optimize your recording environment with DSP-driven Room Tuning. Twenty-five visual Graphic EQ settings allow you to correct acoustic issues within your room for better monitoring and mixing. Since home studio’s are often less than acoustically optimal, this is a huge feature. Fine-tuning this feature is further enhanced with the KRK App.
The KRK monitors are a safe and really solid investment to make for your studio and offer a lot of innovative features not found anywhere else.
- The new powerful yet efficient custom Class D power amplifier drives the speakers evenly and more efficiently at reduced operating temperatures and improves audio integrity
Avantone Active MixCube Mini Reference Monitors are an updated version of the popular 5C Sound Cubes that have been used extensively in major recording studios for years.
These active monitors are full-range reference speakers with high resolution, designed for use at home or in the studio. Avantone points out that they are not designed to do everything on their own, and may be combined with other hardware for specialist mix analysis. Believe it or not, that’s exactly how these are designed to function.
Here is why audio engineers love these reference speakers.
The Avantone MixCube features excellent mid-range Referencing. Most studios use larger monitors to reference a wide range of viewpoints. But in the digital age, audio needs to be tested for strong mid-range quality as well. This is a vital safeguard for conventional listening in smaller devices.
So while audio should be referenced in all frequencies, the MixCube offers excellent insights at the mid-range, making it a popular, if not essential, production option.
The monitors support variable control for system gains allowing the sensitivity of the input signal to be adjusted across a range from -30 to +6 dB. This feature allows greater control over the signal sensitivity and can deliver a full, unimpeded signal to the amplifier for the most accurate referencing.
The MixCube mini offers tremendous referencing value for your finished mix, and offers compact space-saving functionality. For serious audio engineers, the Avantone Mixcube is another super popular tool in the studio.
- Balanced Input
- System Gain
- On/Off Switch
- AC Input
- Ground Lift Switch
Mackie MR824 Studio Monitor is a powerful studio monitor designed with the audio engineer in mind.
It delivers professional sound quality using logarithmic wavelengths, clarity, and superb mix translation with controls that allow you to adjust frequency responses to your studio environment. Whatever genre of music you’re into the Mackie Monitors will ensure it plays professionally wherever you are.
What could be more important than an accurate mix translation? You need your audio to be as clear and accurate as possible in the studio so that your production translates seamlessly to other devices and environments.
The MR series are designed to do this as a priority. Using a special logarithmic wave guide the MR Monitors can enhance stereo imaging, clarity, and consistency in the studio environment. This provides an excellent sound balance across the entire frequency spectrum.
Some monitors design enclosures with architectural precision, but MR Monitors believe this is pointless if the room, studio space, or environment is not sufficiently optimized. Mackie MR824 Monitors include Acoustic Space Controls and HF filters to do this with maximum efficiency and to achieve the most accurate flat response.
If you’re looking for a professional monitor that will respond to environment acoustics as well as deliver excellent value for referencing then the Mackie MR is a trusted choice.
- Designed for superior mix translations and accuracy for professional results in any studio
- Equipped with Mackie’s proven logarithmic waveguide design. Ultra-wide dispersion for Enhanced stereo imaging and listening sweet spot
- 1” silk dome tweeter provides fast transient response for detailed high end and vocal clarity
- 8” polypropylene woofer delivers responsive, dynamic low frequency response
- 65 Watts of bi-amplified Class A/B amplification
The M-audio BX5 D3 Studio Monitor is the ideal reference speaker for both amateurs and professionals. It is a powerful model that offers a smooth listening experience and excellent referencing value.
M-Audio BX5 D3 monitors feature custom class A/B analog amplifiers with 100W power delivered across the frequency spectrum to provide tonal accuracy and defined sound quality. The monitors further benefit from acoustic space controls to optimize your personal sonic environment to fit your mix.
The first thing your monitor has to do is deliver a flat accurate, unaffected, rendition of your sound signals. The M-Audio monitor achieves this in a number of ways.
It uses superb drivers to enhance the low-end and mid range signals, which, in combination with Kevlar woofers delivers professional-quality sound for excellent referencing.
The silk dome tweeters enhance performance by providing low mass and a reduction in unwanted resonances that are a feature of other systems. This attention to detail is what brings your audio the quality and accuracy it deserves and needs to present a professional mix.
Every detail matters in the M-Audio Monitors, and the enclosure is no exception. The monitors have a rear-mounted bass port that is precision engineered to an exact length for a deep defined bass resolution.
The tweeter is specially mounted in custom wave guide to eliminate unwanted frequencies, and the enclosure is seamlessly constructed without any screws that could interfere with audio resonance.
Everything in the M-Audio is designed to provide the user with confidence in their audio production. With the affordable price and great performance, these studio monitors are an excellent option for anyone in the market for mixing or reference monitors.
- Professional class A/B bi-amplified design with 100 watts of distributed power for studio-grade cohesive, accurate sound and ultra-wide range 52-35kHz frequency response covers full musical spectrum
- Superior transparent sound quality: 5” low-frequency drivers with Kevlar cones for rich, defined lows and 1” high-frequency drivers with natural silk domes and computer optimised waveguides for smooth, clear highs
- Versatile, conveniently located XLR balanced and 1/4” balanced/unbalanced inputs for connecting mixers, amplifiers, instruments, DJ gear and more
- Acoustic Space Control customises the sound output to the listening environment for sonically-true, reassuringly-accurate sound reproduction
- Extended low-frequency response down to 52Hz courtesy of optimized rear ports that minimize air turbulence and acoustic distortion
Top Studio Monitor Features To Consider
What is the difference between studio monitor speakers and powered speakers? Can’t you simply use the powered speakers you already have for your audio projects?
The answer is that you can, but the sound quality and accuracy, when recorded, and played back elsewhere will never be reliable. What sounded like the perfect mix in your home studio might sound like a garage band in the car, or club.
Studio Monitor Speakers solve this issue by giving you an accurate rendition of your sound signals, completely unaffected by any enhancements a powered speaker might provide for a listening experience. Instead, the sound quality on studio monitors is paired down and evenly distributed across all range frequencies.
Not all studio monitor speakers are the same, so are better than others in terms of architecture or quality of component, while some brands differ in their philosophy – opting for an environmental focus rather than its enclosure for internal components.
Here we take a look at some of the features and differences between Studio Monitor technologies and components.
Almost all home stereo speakers are passive. This means they require an external power amplifier, located within the stereo, and speaker outputs. This is fine for home entertainment requirements, but when it comes to monitoring professional audio, you will need an upgrade.
Active speakers contain one or more amplifiers within the speaker enclosure. Speakers need to be connected to a line source with a volume control, an audio interface, or monitor controller. As the amplifier is an active electronic device speakers will require a power source.
The pay off is reliable amplification for every frequency range, low, middle, and high. This gives you a flat accurate reading of your audio, which can then be artfully produced.
The cabinet in which the amplifier and cone are contained is an influential component in the effectiveness and requirements of particular models. Different theories suggest that the cabinet design is more or less important, but a few designs are reasonably standard.
The Infinite-baffle Design is the simplest kind of cabinet construction. A large baffle (front face of speaker) refracts the sound coming off the front and offsets it on the rear. The idea is that sound waves coming from the rear will be smoothed and canceled. It does this by enclosing the speaker in a box. Built well this design can be very effective.
Reflex cabinets are another fairly standard design that uses a different philosophy from the Infinite Baffle. Here, the sound waves inside the cabinet are allowed to breath with front of side facing holes or vents in the cabinets surface. The idea is to allow the sound waves bouncing around inside the cabinet to mix with the external environment and add to the sound quality.
The designers of monitor speakers, especially brands such as Yamaha who have a great deal of experience building other instruments, are constantly experimenting with the internal environment of the cabinet to find the best ways of manipulating sound waves for better quality.
If you open up a Yamaha Monitor, you are likely to find an internal environment that looks more like a piano or acoustic guitar. Other Monitor cabinets use foam to separate the speaker from the cabinet shell to reduce vibrations and eliminate unwanted noise.
In studio monitors, amplifiers are contained within the cabinet, and amplification is evenly distributed across all frequency ranges. But that isn’t the only difference to stereo speakers.
Studio monitors also have distinctive drivers to effectively and accurately translate audio signals. These drivers are typically a woofer, to translate low frequency sounds, a tweeter for high frequency sounds, and a mid-range driver. Optional subwoofers are also available.
Drivers are often technically superior to their stereo counterparts and can be mounted in such a way as to reduce unwanted noise. Some drivers are also specially shaped and coated to enhance sound quality in the external environment.
Acoustic Space Controls
Many studio monitors on the market put a lot of emphasis on the cabinet design and working components of the device. Others see the advantages of the external environment as the key to excellent sound quality.
Ideally your monitors should be set up in a room away from corners and walls. These squash the frequency of sound waves and affect the tracks playback accuracy. This, however, is not always possible, especially in home studios that double as bedrooms or living rooms.
If Monitor is placed close to the wall or corner low frequencies tend to be emphasized, this is known as boundary bass boost. To mitigate this problem, some producers incorporate a set of on-board controls known as acoustic space controls. They will allow you to cut all frequencies below a particular frequency that you find problematic. A far more effective solution to finding a new room to work in.