If you’re shopping for a pair of studio monitors to fit your home studio, you’ve come to the right place. Flat, neutral monitoring is one of the keys to getting the best mix you can—and it all starts with the best studio monitors.
Before you make a purchase, though, there are a few things to consider.
Best Studio Monitors: Important Considerations
Apart from general stuff like budget, studio monitors require a bit more thought than say, a pair of headphones. Headphones you can slap on anywhere and get to work, but monitors need to be set appropriately in the right space to play back optimally. So beyond just the speaker you choose, you should take into consideration things like where you plant to use them.
Cost is always going to be a factor in just about every audio purchase we make. On average, an affordable pair of monitors is going to run right around $300. That’s obviously more than a decent pair of headphones which you can grab for $100 or less. Of course, the price goes up the higher quality you go, or the bigger speaker size you choose. Luckily, all of the options chosen here can be had pretty affordably.
The next thing to consider is if the monitors are going to be compatible with your current audio interface. 99% of audio interfaces are going to have 1/4″ monitor outputs, but not all speakers have 1/4″ inputs (a lot do, though). You may need something like 1/4″ to male XLR cables to run from the monitor outputs on your interface to the female XLR inputs on the speakers themselves.
Studio monitors perform their best in treated environments. To make the most of your monitors, you’ll want to make sure you’ve, at the very least, treated the first reflection points in your space. Doing so will minimize standing waves and early reflections that can blur an otherwise neutral response coming from your speakers.
In the same way that many headphones color the sound they reproduce, monitors in an untreated space aren’t an honest representation of your mix’s actual frequency response. Comb filtering and standing waves are absolute mix killers! Before investing in a serious pair of monitors for your studio, be certain you’ve also taken the time to treat your space — a little still goes a long way!
The most common sizes for studio monitors are 5″, 6.5-7″, and 8″. It’s important to pick the right size for your room and budget. For the majority of us, smaller monitors will do just fine in normal sized rooms. But, if you mix a lot of low-end heavy music and need that extra bass extension without a sub, you may want to go bigger.
Just be prepared for an 8-inch driver in a small room being problematic in the lows without any acoustic treatment and bass traps.
It’s best to be honest about what your room can handle. Fortunately, 5″ speakers work great for smaller spaces, and there are plenty of companies making fantastic options. If you really need a little more low end, many folks opt for 5s with a small subwoofer.
Of course, if your home studio is on the larger size, get the biggest speakers you like and can afford!
The general rule of thumb is that monitoring somewhere around 85 dB SPL is “ideal.” The science behind the way humans hear has determined that, at 85 dB SPL, our ears’ frequency response is pretty flat. At even higher volumes, the curve flattens out even more, but the potential for injury is much greater!
It isn’t terribly loud, but the “ideal” listening level isn’t quiet, either. Take this info as you wish, though, because there are some amazing mixers renowned for working really quietly compared to most people.
Best Monitors for Home Studios in 2023
Now, here are five great choices of monitor for home studios on a budget in 2023. The cool part, too, is that each series offers a variety of sizes so you can make the appropriate choice based on the size of your room or the work you plan to do.
Kali Audio is a California-based company designing incredible speakers very affordably. The LP series features both 6.5″ and 8″ models, starting at just $149 each.
The ‘Lone Pine’ Series studio monitors are designed to allow us to hear all the nuances happening in a mix with an exceptionally accurate frequency response. Feature-wise, there are an array of switches on the back of these speakers to calibrate them depending on where they’re placed in your room.
Check out the Kali LP-6s if you’re on a budget. $300 is one of the best values for this caliber of speaker. We reviewed a pair when they were new a couple years back and were very impressed with the quality of sound! Not just “good for the price,” but genuinely great!
The Yamaha HS series is very popular and based on the legendary NS-10s. While they don’t exactly sound like NS-10s, they do offer super accurate and uncolored monitoring. Most importantly, they’re affordable and come in 5″ (HS5), 6.5″ (HS7), and 8″ (HS8) versions.
The HS series also features controls to fine-tune them to your room. These are low-mid cut/boost and a high trim/boost switches if you’re having trouble in these areas. Overall, these are fantastic monitors if you have a moderate budget.
Focal is a well-known producer of high-end audio equipment. The Alpha series studio monitors are no exception, though they are meant as a more affordable alternative to Focal’s usual offerings.
The Alpha 50 is a 5″ monitor while the Alpha 65 is 6.5″. There is an 8″ version in the series, but at over $1000 a pair, they don’t make the cut for home studio affordability.
If you’re genuinely looking for the best quality at a relatively affordable price, you can’t go wrong with these. They aren’t very feature-rich save for a few limited room settings like the others for adjusting the highs and lows by a few dB. But, if you’ve treated your room a bit, they’re amazing.
A pair of Alpha 50s runs around $600 if you are in a position to stretch the budget a bit beyond the others.
The JBL 3 series in 5″, 6″, and 8″ is yet another amazing speaker for a great price.
These monitors’ defining feature is JBL’s patented ‘Image Control Waveguide’ which offers precise imaging and a super wide sweet spot. If you have an odd setup or can’t quite get speaker positioning right in your space, consider these studio monitors. They are also a great speaker for mixing metal!
Prices range from $129 to $199 each depending on size. Another very affordable option!
The Eris series is a great new speaker in the world of studio monitors. The E5, E5 XT, and E7 XT models are geared for professional performance in smaller recording and mixing environments.
The XT versions come with a new EBM (Elliptical Boundary Modeled) wave guide designed by Hugh Sarvis of WorxAudio. So what does all of that mean?
A superior high-frequency response and wider 100-degree horizontal dispersion to create a broader sweet spot. PreSonus says they’re great for group listening and collaboration from the ultra-wide sweet spot. Again, a very cool feature if you’re frequently work with other artists or need to compensate for quirky speaker placement in your room.
The E5 XTs start at just $300 a pair!