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The Best Cheap Studio Monitors for Home Recording

Photograph of the blog post author, Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson

24.4.2020

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Studio Monitors Home Studio

The Best Cheap Studio Monitors for Home Recording

It’s fair to say we’ve all been spending a bit more time at home recently. As a music producer I’m sure you are itching to get back in the studio but why not bring the studio to you?

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!

What Is A Studio Monitor?

Studio Monitor on speaker stand

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.

What Is An Active Monitor?

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.

Active vs Passive Monitors

Music Production Studio Monitors

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!

Guide To The Best Cheap Studio Monitors

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.

Alesis M1 Active MK3 5″ Powered Studio Monitor

Alesis M1 Active MK3 5" Powered Studio Monitor

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.

Features

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.

Pros

Amazing value, good sound, aesthetically appealing.

Cons

Front power switch and RCA inputs would make them better, but this is a minor issue.

Price – $89

M-Audio AV32 Studio Monitor Pair

M-Audio AV32 Studio Monitor Pair

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.

Features

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.

  • A compact desktop monitor designed for small home studio
  • Sophisticated black vinyl laminate finish
  • Amazing sound quality delivered through uncovered speaker cones
  • Amplifier uses 10-watt per channel
  • 3-inch woofers with polypropylene coating for improved bass sound
  • RCA inputs for maximum connection with gaming systems, mixer and other DJ gears
  • Greater compatibility with any mobile electronic devices

Pros

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.

Cons

This model is considered a downgrade from AV40s.

Price – $89 per pair

JBL 305P MKII Super White 5″ Powered Studio Monitor

JBL 305P MKII Super White 5" Powered Studio Monitor

This 5″ powered cheap studio monitor is an excellent choice for a project home studio.

Features

  • Produces neutral sound across a large working space
  • High-frequency and low-frequency trim controls
  • Patented low-frequency port, generating deep bass response at every playback level
  • High-output Class D power amplifiers deliver high Sound Pressure Level (SPL) for demanding production applications
  • Magnetically-shielded, high-frequency transducers minimise distortion as well as ease ear fatigue

Sound

The overall sound is great across the frequency range, with very little in the way of detectable issues. 

Pros

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.

Cons

As a personal preference, you may want to opt for black studio monitors rather than white.

Price – $109

Mackie CR3 3″ Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors – Pair

Mackie CR3 3" Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors - Pair

Another of our best cheap monitors is the Mackie CR3 and is also an affordable option.

Features

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

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

PreSonus Eris E3.5 Studio Monitors

PreSonus Eris E3.5 Studio Monitors

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.

Features

  • 3.5″ woofers produce solid low-end sound for minimum bass distortion
  • 1″ ultra-low-mass silk-dome tweeters eliminate harshness and provide a balanced high-frequency sound
  • 50-watt Class AB amplification delivers plenty of volume
  • RCA and balanced 1/4″ inputs deliver all the connections you may require
  • Aux input for connecting your media player/smartphone
  • Private listening headphone output
  • Acoustic tuning controls allow your sound to best meet the mixing environment

Pros

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.

Cons

As an entry-level studio monitor don’t expect the best frequency response.

Price – $99.95

KRK Rokit Powered 5″ Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor

KRK Rokit Powered 5" Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor

The Rokit 5 G3 by KRK is definitely a pleasant surprise as one of the best budget studio monitors.

Features

  • 5″ Powered Studio Monitor
  • Frequency Response: 45Hz – 35kHz (+/- 2 dB)
  • Multiple audio input connectors (XLR, ¼”, RCA)
  • Bi-amped, class A/B amplifier offering large headroom and low distortion
  • 1” Soft-dome tweeter provides pristine clarity and extended response up to 35kHz
  • High-frequency adjustment tailors the system to personal taste
  • Low-frequency adjustment tailors the monitors to taste and adjusts for room acoustics
  • Front Firing Port — Low-frequency extension while reducing boundary coupling

Pros

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. 

Cons

Negatives are there is a slightly boosted bass and the audio standby can become a bit annoying.

Price – $150

Adam Audio T7V 7″ Active Studio Monitor

Adam Audio T7V 7" Active Studio Monitor

Adam Audio’s offer an affordable line of professional active studio monitors, check out the T7V below.

Features

  • U-ART 1.9” ribbon tweeter
  • 7” Polypropylene woofer
  • HPS wave-guard
  • Rear firing bass reflex port
  • Power RMS 70 watts
  • Frequency response 39Hz-25kHz

Pros

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.

Cons

Like any other monitors, T7V depends on the room environment. There have been reports of loose volume dials.

Price – $249.99

Have you got a higher budget?

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 Powered Studio Monitor

Yamaha HS8 Powered Studio Monitor

Yamaha HS8 monitors are easily a studio monitor favourite.

Features

  • 8” Cone Woofer gives you minimal-distortion
  • The efficient 1” Dome Tweeter gives you clarity with high-end output
  • Combined 120-Watt Amplification
  • 38Hz – 30kHz Frequency Range
  • 2-Way Bass Reflex System
  • Room control counteracts issues that come from speakers being placed too close to walls
  • High Trim Control
  • MDF Enclosure

Pros

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.

Cons

Yamaha HS8 highs and mids sound great, but the lows aren’t so good

Price – $369.99

Our Conclusion

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!



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