The Best Cheap Studio Monitors for Home Recording
MIDI-based home studios developed in the 80s when home recording equipment became considerably more available. Today, studio monitors & field monitors are probably the most important piece of kit you need for home recordings, other than your skills, obviously!
Although it is great to have access to expensive gear for professional recordings, an increase in the home studio enthusiast has meant brands have made high-quality studio monitors available to those of you on a stricter budget.
With our top tips on cheap studio monitors, you’ll be set in no time!
Studio monitors are loudspeakers specifically used for professional audio production such as recording studios and home studios, where precise music production is vital.
A studio monitor plays a significant role when recording, mixing and mastering. Whether you are in a home studio or top facility, you are going to see monitors in one form or another. Ok, so how do they compare to the rest of your home audio kit?
Even though the studio monitor may look similar to hi-fi speakers, don’t be fooled! A studio monitor is built in a different way. Designed for critical listening so you can pick up on sonic imperfections in order to improve.
Basically, your hi-fi speakers make a record sound good whereas studio monitors enable you to pick up on what sounds bad.
There are two types of monitors ‘Active’ and ‘Passive’. Studio monitors work to generate a flat frequency response so when you replay the audio recording it will give an accurate sound as it was supposed to without any kind of colouration to the sound.
An active monitor has multiple power amplifiers built into the loudspeaker cabinet.
The main difference between active and passive speakers is in the amplifier. With a built-in amplifier, the Active monitor only requires a battery or power source. Alternatively, passive speakers have to have an external power amplifier to work.
Most studio monitors are ‘active’ or ‘powered’ speakers, therefore they need a power amplifier built into the speaker cabinet. You need to connect it to a line source with volume control, such as an audio interface or a dedicated monitor controller.
Check out the best cheap studio monitors on offer!
As a dedicated audio engineer or music producer, having a good studio monitor is a crucial part of your setup. Home studio monitors come in a range of models and price ranges, from basic to high-end retailing at thousands of pounds.
It is important to set out what you want from your studio monitor and budget for it. See our top cheap monitors for you to have a look at.
For over a decade, Alesis has established a reputation for accuracy and dependability. With advanced features the M1 Active MK3 this cheap studio monitor brings a new level to professional sound.
Design – Despite being a cheap studio monitor it is surprisingly robust with 5” aluminium woofer and 1” silk dome tweeter. The ‘Active’ units are powered, with the mains connecting at the rear of the unit.
The new enclosure design includes flared front-firing bass ports, which help eliminate the boom. It just would have been great to have a power switch on the front.
Sound – These cheap studio monitors may look appealingly, but that doesn’t matter if the sound quality isn’t up to scratch. At just $89 per speaker, the clarity these units can serve up is definitely impressive.
Connectivity – Here’s perhaps the only minor issue. Although many home studio interfaces and gear will have no issue interfacing with the M1 Active MK3’s, some of the more mobile-friendly producers and beat makers might appreciate easier laptop connectivity through traditional stereo audio cables.
An additional set of RCA stereo inputs would have been beneficial making the monitors even more versatile.
Amazing value, good sound, aesthetically appealing.
Front power switch and RCA inputs would make them better, but this is a minor issue.
Price – $89
This budget studio monitor is designed to enhance your audio files, allowing you to hear a cleared, more defined sound. They can give you the quality you deserve at a very affordable price.
Finding a brand, you can trust is important when picking studio monitors. Luckily M-Audio is a popular one, although not necessarily as mainstream they still offer consistent quality.
The compact design has the ability to produce impeccable sound quality. It uses 3-inch woofers coated with polypropylene material to improve the bass sound.
With Bluetooth features, you can hook it up with your mobile devices, built with great precision, it uses durable components for long-lasting usage.
This model is considered a downgrade from AV40s.
Price – $89 per pair
This 5″ powered cheap studio monitor is an excellent choice for a project home studio.
The overall sound is great across the frequency range, with very little in the way of detectable issues.
The speakers are very affordable and are suitable for musicians, producers, sound engineers as well as representatives of broadcast production and film.
The high-definition of the monitor allows you to get a more precise understanding of the sound you are producing. They are also suitable for those who are starting their career as a music producer.
As a personal preference, you may want to opt for black studio monitors rather than white.
Price – $109
Another of our best cheap monitors is the Mackie CR3 and is also an affordable option.
As the name indicates the monitors have 3″ woofers that go down to 80Hz. Good news is you won’t get much bass, which will keep the neighbours happy.
They also have .75 tweeters that go up to 20kHz which is adequate and a power output of 50W. One of the speakers houses the amplifier and the other is passive. Plug one power cord into your outlet.
The CR Series is an entry-level set. The monitors are great for a wide variety of people who work with sound. You can’t really go wrong with these as long as your expectation isn’t too high.
After all, they are just very good for the money for a beginner but also for people that already have a good set of larger studio monitors.
The active speaker houses all the sound inputs and the volume. The ability to adjust the volume independently for each speaker is missing.
Price – $89.99
Another leading manufacturer of pro audio is PreSonus, with a wide range of products available from home studios to official Hollywood studios. We take a look at their cheap studio monitor Eris E3.5.
PreSonus Eris E3.5 is a good cheap studio monitor when you are on a budget. The versatility of these monitors is great, it may also be used for gaming, watching a film, other multimedia functions as well as producing a new track.
As an entry-level studio monitor don’t expect the best frequency response.
Price – $99.95
The Rokit 5 G3 by KRK is definitely a pleasant surprise as one of the best budget studio monitors.
These cheap monitors gain a sound which is clear and powerful with useful controls on the back. There are also built-in isolation pads and the studio monitors achieve a close to flat frequency response.
Negatives are there is a slightly boosted bass and the audio standby can become a bit annoying.
Price – $150
Adam Audio’s offer an affordable line of professional active studio monitors, check out the T7V below.
The T7Vs has an incisive treble and generous, full-bodied bass. At the price point, the midrange accuracy and transparency is exceptional. The monitor offers a wide frequency range, which means you can hear the same frequencies when you move around your desk.
Like any other monitors, T7V depends on the room environment. There have been reports of loose volume dials.
Price – $249.99
If you have a little more budget then we recommend the Yamaha HS8 Powered Studio Monitor (or the slightly lower priced Yamaha HS5)
Yamaha HS8 monitors are easily a studio monitor favourite.
The monitor is clearly amplified, making it perfect for producers looking for a recording monitor. The 8-inch woofer means frequencies are powerful and well-defined.
The control systems (room control & high trim control) ensure adaptability to whatever room/studio it is in meaning you get reliable and quality monitoring.
Yamaha HS8 highs and mids sound great, but the lows aren’t so good
Price – $369.99
There is no denying that there are plenty of cheap studio monitors available in the market. If you’re on a budget there is no harm looking at second-hand monitors first, you never know you may grab yourself a bargain.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with the lower-priced monitors above. It can be surprising how great some of the cheaper monitors sound.
When looking for the best studio monitors under $200, I would say the best cheap studio monitors pair is the M-Audio AV32 Studio Monitor Pair.
If you are looking to buy a single monitor, I’d recommend you try the KRK Rokit Powered 5″ Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor.
Each cheap monitor has its pros and cons. Think about what you want to achieve and what budget you have available. If you are able to stretch to over $300 Yamaha HS8 Powered Studio Monitor is a great compromise, you won’t break the bank but you’ll have a more professional monitor.
Whichever you decide to get I’m sure you will be satisfied no matter which you choose. Check out our guide to the best cheap microphones to make sure your equipment is complete whilst not breaking the bank!