If you are a sound engineer or a serious musician, chances are that sooner or later you’ll be looking for a pair of studio monitor speakers that allow you to listen correctly and mix your songs. This category of speakers, that is clearly different from home audio speakers, comes with flat frequency response that ensures clear and detailed listening. That can be especially useful for studios, where you need to be able to hear every tiny sound difference.
The quest to find the best monitor speakers can be a long one, especially if you are willing to invest some more money. Currently, there are literally dozens of monitor speakers as those who have been around for a long time are being constantly updated, while new models are still being produced.
Another factor that makes this search pretty difficult is the fact that many well-known brands, such as Yamaha, Neumann and JBL make top-of-the-line monitor speakers with stellar reviews, and it is usually hard to spot the differences between them.
To make things easier for you, I have gathered a list of the 8 best studio monitor speakers currently on the market that will satisfy even the most demanding home-studio owner!
Top 8 Studio Monitor Speakers 2020 Reviewed
1. Adam Audio A7X
The Adam Audio A7X is an awarded active monitor speaker that has been manufactured in Germany and it is part of the popular AX series. What makes it stand out from its competitors is the high-tech X-ART tweeter (eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology), that allows for sound reproduction without any kind of distortion. The two front bass ports enhance the low frequencies and allow you to place the speakers closer to the walls, something really useful if you want to place them in a small room. The Adam Audio A7X reproduces from 40 Hz to 50,000 Hz (which is way beyond the human hearing) and provides a really flat frequency response, which is the most important thing a monitor speaker should do. It features both XLR and RCA inputs. It is made out of carbon fiber that ensures sturdy build quality that will last for a long time. It is true that the Adam Audio A7X is quite a pricey speaker, but it is definitely one that comes with advanced technology and will not disappoint any audiophile.
2. KRK Rokit 5 G3
The KRK Rokit 5 G3 is one of the most popular monitor speakers: if you hang around a lot in small or home-studios, you have probably seen their characteristic yellow cones. Their affordability makes them pretty available to everyone (they come in a bundle of two), and they don’t sacrifice quality for the price. They deliver crystal clear sound performance that can satisfy every need, from detailed mixing to casual listening. They are bi-amped with class A/B amplifiers that allow you to raise the volume without any audible distortion. The KRK Rokit 5 G3 come with high-frequency adjustment which lets you adjust the volume, bass and treble. They feature XLR and TRS balanced inputs as well as RCA unbalanced input. Their sleek design is a nice surprise, as monitor speakers usually keep it total black and simple. Overall, the KRK Rokit 5 G3 have proved to be the obvious choice for low-budget buyers, as they perform better in small spaces.
3. Yamaha HS8
The Yamaha HS8 is a single-unit monitor speaker that is part of the popular Yamaha HS series and the one on this list that is definitely targeting the low end enthusiasts. It stands out thanks to its large 8″ cone woofer that maximizes the low end output, delivering thumping bass. The 120 Watts of power along with the large frequency range (38Hz – 30kHz) allows for clear and balanced audio performance. The large magnets create smooth response on the whole frequency range. Yamaha is well-known for premium-quality technology and this is proved with the bi-amplified drivers and ported enclosures of these speakers that enhance the listening experience. The unique mounting system minimizes both resonance and unwanted noisy vibration, delivering crystal clear audio to your ears. The HS8 comes with TRS and XLR inputs, and it features tone control at the back to let you tune it according to your room. It has simple and modern-looking design that will fit every room. The Yamaha HS8 is better fitted for potential buyers that want to place them in larger spaces, as the big woofer cone makes them quite bulky.
4. Dynaudio Acoustics BM5 mkIII
The Dynaudio Acoustics BM5 mkII is a premium quality monitor speaker that comes as an upgrade to a previous, very popular model of the same company. With a wide frequency range from 42 Hz to 24 kHz and an SPL of 118, the BM5 deliver loud and balanced sound across the frequency spectrum. They perform well in the low end, that is boosted by the back port, delivering thumping bass. The highs are a little bit too bright, but that is a matter of taste and can be adjusted with a mild EQ. Extra features include a high-pass filter (60/80 Hz) and an input sensitivity switch. Additionally, three analog room-filters (low, mid and high frequencies) allow for flexible placing of the speakers. In terms of inputs, they feature balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA. They come with a retro design that is identical to the previous model and has been popular for years. Overall, the Dynaudio Acoustics BM5 mkII is a mid-priced monitor speaker with a lot of extra features that won’t disappoint even the most demanding audiophile.
5. M-Audio AV42
And now for something completely different: the M-Audio AV42 is a pair of monitor speakers that comes at a very low price, but still maintains high quality performance. Each speaker comes with a 4-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter that allow them to have a pretty compact size. They have balanced audio performance across the frequency spectrum, but they have quite limited frequency range (75 Hz to 20 kHz). Having 20 Watts per volume, they deliver clear and refined sound that can fill a small room. They feature RCA as well as mini-jack inputs, which allows almost every device (smartphone, tablet, computer) to be connected to them. Their design is simple and clean, and they come in plain black color. On the whole, the M-Audio AV42 are the most decent entry-level monitor speakers on the market and they are certainly recommended to low-budget audiophiles as well as people who want to place monitor speakers in smaller spaces.
6. Neumann KH 120
Here comes a surprise brand: Neumann is known for high quality microphones, but their recent dedication to speakers has produced Neumann KH 120, which is a premium quality monitor speaker. It features sophisticated design and electronics that allow it to produce really clear and detailed sound. The dual amplifiers with 50 Watts each and the wide frequency range (52Hz to 21kHz) make them competent to deliver precise audio performance. Thanks to the Mathematically Modeled Dispersion waveguide that has smoother off-axis response, you can place them in various positions. In addition to that, they feature acoustic controls that let them adapt to different acoustical environments: they have three knobs for bass, low-mids and treble as well as volume control. Their sole input is balanced XLR. The Neumann KH 120 are excellent monitor speakers that are more than appropriate for professional use, but unfortunately their high-tech design and components are also reflected on their price.
7. JBL LSR305
The JBL LSR305 is a premium quality monitor speaker, made by one of the most well-known and praised speaker brands. It is a powered speaker that has built-in class D amplifier which delivers 41 Watts of power, creating more than adequate volume output with a wide soundstage. These speakers have implemented Image Control Waveguide technology that gives the sound performance great depth and detail, things that make them perfect for mixing. The speaker is magnetically shielded to avoid interference and quite easy to set up and place it in your room. The sleek design comes as a surprise at this price point, as the JBL LSR305 are exceptionally good-looking, coming in plain black color that will fit any kind of interior space. Extra features include a volume control, controls for high and low cut shelf as well as both XLR and ¼ “TRS inputs. The reasonable price of the JBL LSR305 makes it a nice choice for mixing engineers that need a good-looking and affordable speaker that they can trust for professional and detailed mixing.
8. Focal Solo6 Be
There is no need to introduce Focal: the French brand is well-known among audiophiles for their pioneer technology and high-quality monitor speakers. That is the case with the Focal Solo6 Be, which are powered monitor speakers that deliver astonishing sound quality. Coming with a sandwich cone and an inverted dome-tweeter, they manage to put out detailed, precise and balanced sound across the frequency spectrum. They have extended frequency range of 40 Hz to 40 kHz and their bi-amped technology has a potential of delivering 106 dB of distortion-free audio. Their linear frequency response makes them suitable for mixing purposes and they are magnetically shielded to eliminate interference. They feature both an input sensitivity and a voltage selector, a high-quality potentiometer that adjusts the levels for the woofer and the tweeter, and analog XLR inputs.They come with a sleek design that makes them visually appealing, and their red/brown color on the sides makes them stand out from the common total-black monitor speakers. The Focal Solo6 Be won’t disappoint anyone with their sound performance, but it is also true that they are not the cheapest speakers on the market.
Best Studio Monitor Speakers – Buying Guide
The rise of home studios in the past few years has led to a rise in popularity of studio monitor speakers. Once reserved only for professional studios, new monitor speakers are now more affordable than ever, and come in all shapes and sizes for every different taste. That has led to a great variety of models in different price ranges. Choosing a pair of monitor speakers is no easy task, as you need to know certain things that you should pay attention to, before you purchase anything. In order to help you with this, I have created the following buying guide that covers everything you need to know before you buy your brand-new monitor speakers.
Well, we are trying to choose speakers, so the sound performance is important, right? As you can probably guess, this is the most crucial feature for monitor speakers. The sound performance should be crisp, clear and accurate if you want to be able to mix in these speakers. All of the brands are competing in this, creating speaker’s exteriors and electronics with different materials and design. The quality of the built-in amp in active monitor speakers also plays an important role in the sound quality. Don’t forget to check whether the volume output of the speakers is adequate for you room.
The frequency response of the speakers is very important when talking about monitor speakers. First of all, you need to check whether the frequency range of the speakers covers your needs: some speakers can reproduce very low frequencies, while others require you to add a subwoofer to the system. Secondly, the frequency response of a good monitor speaker should be as flat as possible. Practically, that means that the speaker should not “colour” the sound in any way, in order for you to be able to trust your ears while mixing.
In terms of inputs, different models offer a variety of options. Some inexpensive models come only with unbalanced inputs, while other models come with only balanced or even a combination of balanced and unbalanced inputs. The most common balanced inputs are XLR (with some models also coming with a TRS option), while unbalanced inputs feature RCA as well as 3.5mm aux inputs. Depending on what type of device you are planning to connect to your speakers, different speakers can be compatible or not. I strongly recommend that you check what type of inputs the speakers you intend to buy offer, in order to avoid any surprises.
As I mentioned before, many monitor speakers target musicians and sound engineers that want to place them in their home studios. That’s why there is a number of models that come in a compact size to fit smaller interior spaces. There are also a lot of large monitor speakers on the market that are meant to be used in big professional studios. Remember that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better: get the appropriate speaker for the size of your room. Not paying attention to this can really alter the sound you perceive from your speakers.
If you take a brief look in any website selling monitor speakers, you will be surprised by the huge price range: there are really inexpensive speakers as well as speakers that cost a fortune. The money that you intend to spend will greatly determine the models that you should be looking at. Fortunately, there are great monitor speakers for those on a low budget. One thing you should pay attention to is whether the speaker you intend to buy is sold individually or in pairs: watch out, as that can double the price!
Some monitor speakers are as simple as it gets: they only come with a volume knob. On the other side, some more high-end models allow you to tune the speakers to your room, providing you with analog filters that adapt them to your environment. Some of these filters give you more flexibility in placing your speakers within your room or studio, as they let you adjust the low, middle and high frequencies to your liking.
Although design is always a matter of taste, I think most of you would agree that monitor speakers are not always the most beautiful speakers. It is true that they usually keep their design and colours as simple as possible, in order to be discreet and fit every environment. In addition to that, they are not usually seen by a lot of people, so the looks of these speakers are not something companies invest to. If getting a good-looking speaker is something important for you, there are a few models that feature beautiful and sometimes also sophisticated design, but be prepared that this is not the majority of monitor speakers.
There are a couple of other features that you might want to take a look at before getting your speakers. First of all, some speakers boast sturdy build quality that allows them to last for years to come. If you don’t plan to change your speakers soon, robust build quality is a must. Secondly, there are certain speakers that are magnetically shielded to block any unwanted interference (for example from your mobile phone). Finally, there are some speakers that have been specifically designed to minimize resonance and unwanted vibration noise. Those usually come at a higher price and I would mostly recommend them to professional sound engineers.
As you have probably realised by now, there is a bunch of features that you should pay attention to before buying studio monitor speakers. Try not to get lost between everything: the first step is to determine which of these characteristics are important to you. For instance, would you like a speaker that allows for flexible placement, or are you most interested in a speaker that comes with both balanced and unbalanced inputs? If you figure out which things are important for you, it will be much easier to pick your new monitor speakers!
Now that home recording is a thing, more and more people face the challenge of buying good-quality monitor speakers. Most of the speakers on this list have been around for a really long time and they have been tested by hundreds of audiophiles who have bought them in the past. While all of them qualify as the best of their kind, the best for you are the ones that fit your own needs. That’s why you need to pay attention at certain things before buying a monitor speaker
First and foremost, check the dimensions of the speaker: do you have enough space on your desk or are you planning to use speaker stands? The space of your room is also important, as some speakers perform well in smaller spaces, while others are fit for bigger rooms. Note that this might affect their frequency response, especially in the low end. Here are some tips on that!
Finally, while the advice to check the price might seem too obvious, it is important to check whether the monitor speaker you want to purchase is sold individually or if it comes in pairs, as this can double the price. I hope that this guide will be a helping hand in your effort to choose the appropriate monitor speaker for you and your studio!