Studio monitors are undoubtably one of the most important links in any recording studio chain. Think about it, every time we use our ears to make mix decisions we use our monitors to guide our creative and technical though processes. I’ve always believed that studio monitors are by far the most used piece of equipment in any recording studio. Choosing the right studio monitors for you studio can be a bit of a minefield, after all there is a vast amount of choice these days. If you have difficulty deciding on your first set of of studio monitors, or a replacement set, then read our article Buying A New Set Of Studio Monitors? What Qualities Do You Look For? One piece of advice we provide in this article is to set a firm budget and stick to it. For those new to music production and mixing, an expensive set of $1,000+ near field active monitors could very well be out of budget, but that’s ok, there are plenty of great sounding studio monitors out there that you can buy today for far far less.
In this article we list 5 great sounding studio monitors that you can buy today for less than $500 a pair.
Ik Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors - $299
The IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors are, in my humble opinion, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, quite literally as these are now available in white as well as black. These are small, affordable and, as the name suggests, loud but “loud” isn’t it’s only party piece.
The iLoud Micro Monitors have been clearly designed to be portable for the “on the road” producer but they are also very good for producers who require a small form factor desktop monitor solution. I’ve owned a pair for nearly two years and they have served us well in our small home studio setup. They have plenty of bass and overall balance to the sound.
The iLoud Micro Monitors house 3” drivers, so you would be forgiven for thinking these monitors would not be very good at producing believable low-end, but they do, in spades!
My wife and I have used these to mix, master and even record bass guitar. A lot of thought hass gone into the design of these monitors as well. Fold out feet help to angle the monitors up towards your head, but if you want to place the iLoud Micro Monitors on stands you can do this on the cheap by using two microphone boom stands which screw in the bottom of the speakers. One cable connects the two monitors which supplies signal and power from the right monitor to the left. A nice little feature that we like a lot is BlueTooth which enables us to pair smartphones and tablets. For the money, these are a great set of portable studio monitors which also perform brilliantly as a “personal” desktop set of studio monitors.
For those on a budget, these must be a consideration.
Available in two driver sizes, the T Series were the first low cost monitor solution ever in the history of ADAM Audio. But does the low cost mean compromised quality of sound? No, not at all.
I reviewed both the T5 and T7 models earlier this year expecting a cut price sound from a cut price monitor but I pleasantly surprised. I was worried that the signature sound of ADAM Audio monitors would be gone, but I was wrong. I was so impressed with these monitors that I purchased two pairs of T5 monitors, one set for my wife’s home studio and another set for a friend’s home studio.
T Series Price:
T5 (5” driver): $199 per monitor
T7 (7” driver): $249 per monitor
The T Series are rear ported, which isn’t to everybody’s liking but both these models feature high and low boost/cut controls on the back to help the monitors perform better in whatever studio space you put them in. Personally, I prefer the T5’s. The smaller design and lower price will be more appealing to those on a tight budget and with limited space to setup monitors.
The low-end comfortably goes down to between 30Hz - 40Hz from the T5 model, the T7 reaches that little bit further but not enough for me to say that the difference is enough to justify the extra cost.
ADAM Audio have earned a great reputation for designing and building top draw studio monitors for over 2 decades, the T Series have been developed to add to that reputation. Sure, these have been built to a price but I don’t see or, more importantly, hear any compromises.
The only aspect of the T Series I don’t like is the LED that signifies that the monitors are powered ON. This is around the back of the monitor, which isn’t very helpful, but if that’s the only obvious cost cutting measure then that’s a sacrifice I can happy live with.
Read our review of ADAM Audio T Series studio monitors.
Visit ADAM Audio for more information.
Presonus Eris E5 & E8 - $299 to $499)
Presonus are best known for making a wide range of great studio gear that doesn’t break the bank to buy. Their control surfaces, audio interfaces and of course software which includes Studio One are Presonus’s better known products, but don’t overlook their studio monitor range.
We feel two models in the Presonus Eris studio monitor range fit nicely into our $500 budget:
Eris E5 (5.25” drivers) $299 for the pair
Eris E8 (8” drivers) $499 for the pair
Both these Eris models feature back panel EQ controls to help you tune the sound of the monitors to you studio.
Our post production expert Alan Sallabank tested a range of Presonus Eris monitors in a 7.1 setup. Below is a segment from his findings:
Skip To The Good Bit - How Do They Sound?
In a word, Incredible. Even without any level alignment and no EQ tweaking, they sounded great straight out of the box. Incredible bass response from the E66's, not a soggy boom, more of a solid kick to the chest. High end was also controlled and not overly flattering. Although actually a two way design, the dual woofer configuration means that the mid range remains stable, even when there's a lot of bass, as the two drivers generate a large surface area, so don't have to work as hard.
Read the full article: Review - The 7.1 Super Test - Presonus Eris E66, Eris E5 And Temblor T10
Visit Presonus for more information.
Yamaha HS5 - $398
The black boxes, white cones and Yamaha’s logo combined is a nostalgic nod towards the popular set of passive monitors we all know and love from a time gone by… but in my opinion the differences between the legendary NS10s and the current HS series of studio monitors by Yamaha couldn’t be further apart.
First up, the HS5 monitors, if purchased new from a dealer as a pair come in under $500. Secondly, these are active monitors, not passive like the NS10s. The HS5 monitors include high and low EQ controls on the back panels for tuning the speaker performance. I’ve mixed on a set of these in the past, I was quiet impressed with the overall sound quality and detail. These are nothing special, but not bad either. Don’t think for one second that you are getting an NS10 style monitor in the HS range, after-all the NS10’s didn’t sound great in the first place (that’s what made the NS10s so special), the HS5's are a great modern allrounder that produce great detail, especially at low levels.
Main features include:
2-way bass-reflex bi-amplified nearfield studio monitor with 5" cone woofer and 1" dome tweeter
54Hz - 30kHz frequency response
45W LF plus 25W HF bi-amp system for high-performance 70W power amplification
ROOM CONTROL and HIGH TRIM response controls
XLR and TRS phone jack inputs accept balanced or unbalanced signals
Visit Yamaha for more information.
KRK ROKIT 5 G3 - $298
Available in black or white finish, both with that signature yellow driver, KRK’s ROKIT 5 G3 two way active studio monitors are a popular choice in the Pro Audio Industry. You only need to browse through the top pro audio dealers to see “Top Seller” or “Most Popular” badges on KRK ROKIT product listings.
ROKIT 5 G3 Features
5" Lightweight, Glass-Aramid Composite Woofer Delivers Clear Midrange and Tight Bass Response Down to 45Hz
1" Soft-dome Tweeter Provides Pristine Clarity and Extended Response Up to 35kHz
Radiused Front Baffle Reduces Distortion From Diffraction
Proprietary Waveguide Optimized for Superior Imaging
Front-firing Bass Port Reduces Boundary Coupling
Custom-designed Bi-amped, Class A/B Amplifier
High and Low Frequency Controls Help Tailor the Monitors to Their Location and User Preference
Multiple Audio Input Connectors (XLR, ¼" TRS, RCA) for Universal Connectivity in Any Environment
Peak SPL : 106dB
Frequency Response 45Hz - 35kHz (-10dB)
Visit KRK for more information.
Recommended Extra - Monitor Stands
If you can stretch your budget slightly further we recommend you get yourself a pair of monitor stands to go with your new set of studio monitors.
What Is The Point Of Using Studio Monitor Stands?
Monitor stands are very simple devices which provide a wide range of studio monitoring benefits. By and large, the biggest benefit of placing monitors on stands is that this coupling will improve the performance of your monitors - being the overall sound quality that your monitors can achieve in your studio.
Monitor stands reduce speaker cabinet vibrations transmitting (by way of decoupling) into other masses and structures such as floors, workstations, desks and mixing consoles. Monitors placed on something like a desk can sound a bit “coloured” and skewed, this is caused by vibrations from the cabinets rumbling into the mass of the desk that the monitors are sitting on making your monitoring experiences less than ideal.
To learn more about studio monitor stands read our article Studio Monitor Stands - Beginners Buyers Guide.
Need Some Help To Get Your Studio Monitors Setup To Sound Great?
When setting up studio monitors, you should never assume the first place you position your monitors is the best place for them to perform. If you want to get the most out of your studio monitor investment we suggest you read our article How To Position Your Studio Monitors For Optimal Sounding Results. This article provides you with several ways you can adjust your monitor placement to get the best sounding results from your monitors in your studio.