Whether you’re making music from your guitar for your garage band or mixing your next motion picture soundtrack hit, quality studio monitors step up your game in music production.
And if you’re looking around feeling lost and overwhelmed by so many choices in the studio monitor market, we’re here to help you out!
We’ve compiled a list of the best studio monitors under $500, along with some guidelines you’ll need while choosing the one for you within that price range.
Yamaha HS5 Powered Monitor
KRK ROKIT 7 G4
Our Top Picks for Best Studio Monitors Under $500
Best Overall: Yamaha HS5 Powered Monitor
The Yamaha HS5 studio monitors are famous for a reason- Yamaha has had a hundred years of sound expertise in its name, and the Yamaha HS5 delivers on the brand’s excellent sound quality reputation.
It’s also one of the best studio monitors in the market in its price point, even OUTPERFORMING other more expensive models with its crisp, clear sound in highs and mid-range giving you EXCELLENT audio quality.
Although, you might need a subwoofer for bass.
Having Trouble Where to Fit Your Monitor?
For a complete beginner in music production with an untreated project studio, or who has no choice but to place it near walls or corners, this Yamaha studio monitor has ROOM CONTROL and HIGH TRIM CONTROL to make up for your loss.
It also has improved technology for REDUCING NOISE up to 6dB. Giving you an accurate sound.
That’s not all.
Yamaha takes all the icing on the cake for the following reasons:
- Yamaha HS5 is known for brushing up on the features of its earlier versions, like the improved range of frequency.
- It’s convenient to use with its XLR and TRS ports for working with microphones and other additional equipment, also allowing you to handle signal balances.
- The Yamaha monitor is bi-amplified, providing you isolated performance and not having the woofer and tweeter compete for power.
Although Yamaha’s impressive monitor bags our top pick, we couldn’t help but also feel it deserves to be the best value too!
Its flat and excellent sound quality will surely give you a bang for your buck! Perfect for music producers, audiophiles, and professionals starting out in the industry.
Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitor Specs
- 5″ f
- 1″ soft dome tweeter
- 12 lbs.
- 45 watts amplifier for woofer
- 25 watts amplifier for tweeter
- Frequency response rate of 54Hz – 30kHz
- Continuous variable level control
- XLR and 1/4″ TRS phone jack input links
– Lightweight and small-perfect for mobility
– Perfect for anyone starting out in the music scene
– Room control and Hight trim control
– Crisp, clear sound outperforms other monitors
– Excellent build quality
– Might need an additional subwoofer, depending on the kind of music you work on
Best Value: KRK Rokit 7 G4 Studio Monitor Speaker (Pair)
KRK is well-known for making the best studio monitors in the industry. You’re likely to see their yellow woofers in different professional studios.
KRK is also known for always improving and building up on their already good features for their next product lines – always a work in progress for the next best studio monitor.
Just the Right Balance
If you’re already familiar with the KRK Rokit series of studio monitors, you might want to consider this pair of Rokit 7 under the $500 price point.
The Rokit 7 fits right in between the 5’s and the 10’s-if you want something just a little more than what the Rokit 5 has to offer but are not ready for the Rokit 10 yet.
A number of other studio monitors under 500 will also boast of a Kevlar woofer, but this one has Matching Kevlar Drivers for BOTH tweeters and woofers-ensuring the same sonic integrity is maintained across all frequencies for better sound quality.
It also features the famous on-board graphic EQ connected to the KRK App for a WIDE RANGE of adjustments-making even an untreated project studio capable of producing high audio quality.
KRK Rokit 7 G4 Specs
- 7″ Powered near field studio monitors
- Custom Class D power bi-amps
- Frequency Response is 42Hz – 40KHz
- Max SPL 110 dB
- 145 total watts
- Balanced TRS/XLR Combo Jack links
- 16.76 lbs.
– DSP-driven Graphic EQ with 25 settings-which means more levels of versatility
– Integrated isolation and mounting pad for stability
– New front-firing port for flexible positioning (you can place them by the wall without worrying about the sound bouncing off)
– Sleek and professional look
– Good build quality
– LCD menu is not easily accessible
Budget Option: Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers – Wireless Studio Monitor (Pair)
This pair of studio monitors prides itself on being an all-in-one product, you get WAAAY more than you pay for!
Edifier markets them as bookshelf speakers that also function as studio monitors. They also prove you can get your hands on the best studio monitors WITHOUT breaking the bank.
This pair is an upgrade from its older siblings. Allow us to tell you why.
- It now boasts of a wider frequency response-giving you DEFINED and CLEARER sound quality, especially when compared to other bookshelf speakers in its price range.
- Boasts a sub output and a Soundfield Spatializer capability for your enhanced listening experience.
- Did you notice its unique design and aesthetic? Say goodbye to boring-looking monitors!
R1280DB Studio Speakers Specs
- 4.57″ woofer size
- 0.51″ silk tweeters
- Frequency response is 55Hz to 20kHz
- 2 RCA, Optical, and Digital Coaxial Inputs (HASSLE-FREE TV and computer connections!)
– Bluetooth (no more messy wires! alternative to phone jack inputs!)
– Cables and wireless remotes included
– 4″ subwoofer unit included
– 2-year warranty in USA and Canada
– Good build quality
– some users report buzzing sounds
Best Price to Performance Ratio: M-Audio BX5 D2 5″ Active 2-Way Studio Monitor Speakers (Pair)
M-Audio leveraged the technology and features from their high-end monitors to this AFFORDABLE pair of studio monitors, positioning it among the best studio monitors.
Now, now. Affordability doesn’t mean poor. Here’s why we love the M-Audio BX5:
- It boasts of extending its frequency response- making your listening experience sound more natural.
- The BX5 D2 from Adam audio has a Class A/B analog bi-amplifier with precision crossover and a total of 70 watts of distributed power-giving you tonal accuracy and cohesive sound.
- This M-audio monitor also features 5-Inch low-frequency transducer of woven Kevlar cones, with high-temperature voice coils to reduce power compression-PERFECT for long hours working with your monitors.
If you thought THAT was impressive, GET THIS:
M-Audio’s high-frequency drivers also have a waveguide-loaded natural silk dome tweeter for ELIMINATING THE RINGING commonly found in metallic materials from other studio monitor brands.
Also, there’s no need to sweat about the measurement and physics involved in finding your sweet listening spot!
Why? Because the BX D2 from Adam audio has a pinhole power LED that lights the brightest when you’ve landed on the right position. HASSLE-FREE and FAST!
M-Audio BX5 D2 5″ Active Specs
- Bi-amp system
- 40 watts for woofer
- 30 watts for tweeter
- 5″ woofer transducer Kevlar cones
- 1″ tweeter with natural silk domes
- XLR and 1/4 balanced and unbalanced inputs
- Volume control
- Frequency response rate is56Hz-22kHz
- Crossover Frequency of 3 kHz
- 11 lbs.
- Maximum Signal-To-Noise (Dynamic Range): > 100 dB (typical A-weighted)
- Polarity: Positive signal at + input produce outward LF cone displacement
- Input Impedance: 20 k ohms balanced, 10 k ohms unbalanced
- Input Sensitivity: 85 mV pink noise input produces 90 dBA output SPL at one meter with volume control at maximum
– Rear porting-for extended low-frequency response while reducing air turbulence
– Magnetic shielding eliminates interference with other electronic equipment
– Includes two isolation pads
– Listening experience sounds more natural
– Limited bass
– Can easily get ear fatigue
Best for Small Studios: PreSonus Eris E8 XT 8″ Nearfield Monitors with EBM Waveguide
The first 8″ monitor on our list is one monitor NOT to be trifled with.
The Eris E8 brags of woven composite, low-frequency drivers, and silk dome tweeters in its entire studio monitor line.
Here’s another benefit: fewer delayed reflections for you. It also gives you a more constant dispersion pattern, for clean overall sound quality.
How’s that for 8 inches!
The Eris series monitors also include high and mid controls and a three-position Acoustic Space switch for when you work in a corner or near a wall, GREAT for small spaces!
For your line-level sources, the Eris8 has balanced XLR, balanced ¼” TRS, and unbalanced RCA line-level inputs, making it easy to feed your monitors from different audio links.
PreSonus Eris E8 Specs
- 8-inch woven composite low-frequency transducer
- 22.2 lbs.
- 75 watts for woofers
- 65 watts for tweeters
- Class AB bi-amplification
- Balanced XLR/¼-inch and Unbalanced RCA inputs (E5/E8)
- Frequency response of 35 Hz – 22 kHz
- Crossover frequency of 2.2 kHz
- 105 dB maximum continuous SPL
– Front-firing acoustic port for superior bass-frequency reproduction
– Amplifier “soft start” feature-to eliminate popping on power-up
– Tweeter has a slight hiss or hum when not playing anything
– Not the best for mid to large-sized studios
Best Technology: JBL 306P MKII (Pair)
Like the Yamahas, JBL has been making the best studio monitors for decades and has been trusted by many.
This 306P has features derived from its famous predecessors from JBL 7 Series and M2 Master Reference Monitor, like the patented JBL Image Control Waveguide -for DETAILED IMAGING and Refined Transducers for a BROAD SWEET SPOT
These studio monitors also compensate for low frequencies and its variants (for untreated rooms!) with its New Boundary EQ and its adjustment possibilities.
And finally, the one thing we love about JBL is its SUPERIOR bass performance, thanks to another JBL patent-the Slip Stream low-frequency port.
306P MKII Specs
- 6.5″ woofer size
- 1″ tweeter size
- 56 watts Class D amplification for tweeter
- 56 watts Class D amplification for woofer
- 1425Hz 4th order acoustic Linkwitz-Riley Crossover
- Frequency response is 47Hz – 20kHz (±3dB)
- Frequency range is 39Hz – 24kHz (-10dB)
- 110dB maximum peak SPL
– Good bass performance
– Sleek and modern design
– Precise Imaging
Best for Larger Rooms: JBL Professional LSR305 First-Generation 5″ 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor
JBL earns another spot on our list, this time with an original first-generation JBL Professional 3 Series, one of the best studio monitors of JBL.
And quite frankly, one of our more affordable favorite monitors.
It’s room-friendly and has a broad listening spot, meaning you don’t have to be right in front of it while working on your music. It’s also PERFECT for larger rooms and studios.
Similar to the first JBL studio monitor above, it also features an Image Control Waveguide so you get DETAILED IMAGING in a compact reference monitor.
Need a deep bass response for all playback levels? The JBL Patented Slip Stream port design’s got you!
It’s engineered for greater low-frequency extension and reduces turbulence, delivering your desired bass response.
Between the two JBLs, you’ll hear more midrange on the JBL 306. It’s also obviously bulkier than the 305. Overall, the 306 leans more towards an energetic vibe, while the 305 leans more towards a spacious, laid-back vibe.
There’s a reason why the 305 is built for larger rooms. If you want a better comparison, check out this video! [R]
- Balanced XLR and 1/4″ TRS inputs
- Class D bi-amps
- 5″ woofer size
- 1″ tweeter size
- Watt RMS Amplifier for LF
- 41 Watt RMS Amplifier for HF
- XLR and ¼” TRS Inputs
– Good bass performance
– Sleek and modern design
– – Increased HF detail so you get greater depth and ambiance, and also subtle details
– +4dBu / -10dBV input-sensitivity switch and adjustable volume control
– Detented Level Control
– Ideal for larger rooms or studios
– Needs its own stand
Best Value for Mid-Range: FOCAL Alpha 80 Studio Monitor (Single)
The Alpha 80 is a 2-way active near-field monitor ideal for someone who makes music rich in low frequencies, while also being able to reach high sound levels without it being distorted.
Its monitor speakers produce a very flat sound, with smooth mids and clear highs.
This studio monitor employs 8″ Kevlar woofers and its own bass reflex system so you get a great bass response.
It’s also easy to adjust frequencies and has a wide range of EQ options, and even has foam isolation pads at the bottom for reducing vibrations.
Then again, it’s only fair to have these pads installed since high bass responses usually contribute to more vibrations in a room.
Alpha 80 Studio Monitor Specs
- 8″ Poly glass cone woofer
- 1″ aluminum inverted dome tweeter
- 40 watts for tweeter
- 100 watts for woofer
- Class D amplifier
- Frequency response of 35 Hz to 22 kHz (+/- 3 dB)
- Max peak SPL: 109 dB Amplifier
- XLR, RCA input links
– Wide EQ adjustment range
– Foam isolation pads for reducing vibrations
– Sturdy and built to last
– No volume control
– Fairly large and bulky
Best EQ Adjustment: Mackie XR824 Powered Studio Monitor, 8″
Mackie promises value in this XR series, with this model equipped with their signature logarithmic waveguide design.
What does that mean?
It provides you a BALANCED ULTRA-WIDE DISPERSION so you get ENHANCED STEREO IMAGE.
It also adjusts to your environment, with its adjustable ACOUSTIC SPACE FILTERS to maintain a flat response even if your room isn’t treated.
But wait! Because here comes the best part:
Its HF filters also help BOOST your room if it’s too dull or CUT when it’s too bright.
Mackie XR824 Specs
- 1″silk tweeter
- 8″ Kevlar woofer
- 160W Class-D amplification
- Frequency response is 36Hz – 22 kHz
- XLR, 1/4″ TRS Inputs
– All-wood cabinet design goes well with most studio interiors
– Acoustically optimized with sound-tightening absorption material
– Acoustic space-frequency response controls
– Excellent build quality
– Limited connectivity options
– Not that good bass response
Best Desktop Studio Monitor Speakers: IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors Ultra-Compact 3″ Studio Monitors
This pair of studio monitors from IK Multimedia is the SMALLEST active studio reference monitoring system there is. Believe us, it’s GREAT for tight spaces!
Its SUPER NEAR FIELD design makes it the perfect desktop speakers and can fit right at your working desk. You NEVER have to worry about stands!
These monitor speakers also feature a desktop/shelf switch to ADAPT its response to wherever you choose to place it! (PERFECT for your less than ideal music production workstation)
And it delivers GREAT BASS RESPONSE thanks to its advanced digital crossover and careful time alignment for your precise stereo image.
It also has a WIDE FREQUENCY RANGE-from 7W RMS (single speaker) to 70W RMS (peak) total output power.
And not to mention, BLUETOOTH 4.0 support!
iLoud Micro Monitors Specs
- Frequency response is 45 Hz – 20 kHz
- 4 Class D power amps
- 70 watts (peak) RMS to 18 watts (single speaker) RMS
- 3″ woofer size
- 3/4″ tweeter size
- TRS 1/8″ stereo input
- RCA input links
– Highly portable
– Isolation base can be inclined
– Small size also means more space on your desk
– White noise when there’s no music playing, may be annoying for some
What to Expect From Studio Monitors Under $500?
When it comes to technology, of course, the best of the best is reserved for high-end product lines.
But for someone like us looking for affordable home studio monitors, we’re confined by our budget to the low-end and mid-range ones available.
For instance, our compilation of the best studio monitors is all active monitors, since passive ones would be over our budget.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t get quality under a budget. Our list just proved that.
Thanks to innovation and technological advances, we now have access to professional sound quality at modest prices.
If you’re looking for products that fit a lower budget, check out our list on the Best Studio Monitors Under $200.
What Should You Consider When Buying Studio Monitors?
Your monitor size should be directly proportional to your room size, for example: small monitors for a small room.
A home studio less than 4x4x2.5 m will work best with 5″ monitors. If it’s bigger than that, you could go for 8″ monitors.
Active vs Passive Monitors
The obvious difference? Well…
- ACTIVE MONITORS have a built-in amplifier, while
- PASSIVE MONITORS need a separate amplifier system
Allow us to break it down further for you.
Some active studio monitors come with extra features like built-in mixers, EQ setting adjustments, and microphone pre-amps.
Its amplifier also comes tuned to the speakers, with no need for adjustment. Other notable qualities include:
- It’s battery-powered and typically, portable.
- It’s perfect for budget home studios since you won’t have to buy separate equipment, and for the price range of studio monitors under $500, every monitor available will be an active one.
- Active studio monitors are also hassle-free in setting up. You just need to connect it to a power source and connect the line-level sound and you’re all set!
However, active monitors can be heavier since it houses a lot of extra features. And the downside is since it’s an entire system on its own, you can’t just upgrade a certain component as you wish.
If one part breaks down, you’ll have to take the whole unit to your repair shop and have to make do without it for a while.
PASSIVE MONITORS on the other hand need an external power amplifier, a separate mixer, and a crossover filter network that splits the signal into high, mid, or bass frequencies.
You also need to make sure the amplifier and speaker are compatible, and check their respective power ratings.
But since the equipment is bought separately, it can also be upgraded and repaired separately.
You don’t have to wave your entire studio monitor system goodbye when you suddenly decide you need a better amplifier or mixer.
Passive monitors may look like the cheaper alternative to its active counterpart when bought alone, but as a whole, passive monitors will cost you more and take more effort in setting it up.
They are also geared more towards big professional studios, so unless you’re dead set on buying passive studio monitors, choose the active studio monitors over them.
Near Field vs Far Field Monitors
Which is better for you? Let’s dissect a few pointers to help you decide:
- NEAR FIELD monitors are designed to be placed close to your ears (3-5 feet and without obstacles) and AFFORDABLE- great for small to medium studio rooms of bedroom producers.
- FAR FIELD (and MID FIELD) are for bigger rooms. They’re meant to be placed far from your ears (across the room) and are more expensive.
You will also absolutely need to acoustically treat your room before purchasing far field or mid field studio monitors, or else… expect A LOT of sound interference before it reaches your ears.
Different studio monitors have different electricity consumption-and it’s not just your electricity bill or volume you have to consider when checking this.
A higher power rating is means more dynamic range and definition because more dynamic range means you get to hear more elements and more of the details.
A higher power rating will also mean less distortion and clipping during musical peaks.
Rule of thumb: Larger studio rooms call for higher power ratings for louder sound.
Different studio monitors will have different frequencies, which can be determined by the size of your woofers and tweeters.
The flatter the frequency response is, the better (especially for acoustic music).
Flatter frequency responses allow your monitors to reproduce sounds better and give you a clearer idea of the tracks you produce.
Test out different studio monitors and go for the one with the flattest frequency response.
Single-Amp, Bi-Amp, or Tri-Amp
Single-amp, Bi-amp, or Tri-amp refer to your speaker driver configuration and the way the power is divided among the frequencies.
A Single-amp means the power is shared between the tweeters and the woofers, a Bi-amp means the tweeter and woofer each have their own amplifiers, and a tri-amp means there is a separate amplifier for midrange speakers.
The more amps your monitors have, the cleaner your frequency response is.
Tweeters and Woofers
The Tweeter is the high-frequency driver in a multi-drive speaker, and the Woofer is the driver for the low frequencies. Some monitors also have a subwoofer for very low frequencies.
MUST-READ: Check the cone size of the woofer and tweeter when choosing which studio monitors to buy.
The usual cone size choices you’ll have are 5 inches and 8 inches. Like we said about the monitor size earlier, choosing between these two will depend on the size of your room.
But those aren’t the only difference.
- You won’t be able to hear low frequencies on 5″ monitors (they don’t produce as much low-ends). You’ll need to buy a separate subwoofer for that.
- 8″ monitors are more powerful and can work alone with low frequencies, but are also pricier.
For beginners, we recommend you purchase the 5″ monitors for now, especially since you probably work in small studio spaces.
You could just get a subwoofer later if you find that it’s absolutely necessary, or upgrade to 8″ as needed.
Why Should I Buy Studio Monitors?
Studio monitors work like a magnifying glass for your sounds.
You need them if you produce or mix music because you want to make sure the tracks you produce translate well into regular consumer speakers.
Studio monitors let you accurately hear your sounds before it is released into the world and before the environment of the listener interferes, making it perfect for producing, recording, mixing, critical listening, and more.
What’s the Difference Between Studio Monitors and Speakers?
We get this question a lot too, so allow us to clarify it for you:
- Speakers are marketed towards consumers that just want to listen to their music. They also boost and enhance audio levels, reproducing inaccurate sounds that make them terrible for mixing and producing.
- Studio monitors are marketed towards professionals that have to make sure that they have the most neutral (flat) sounding equipment (no enhancement or boosting), producing purer and clearer sounds.
If a track is unbalanced, it ruins the experience of the consumer because speakers’ sound signatures vary from the type of gadget they listen to to the different makes of the brand of their chosen gadget.
You want to ensure that the frequencies won’t sound too bass-heavy or treble heavy when played across different kinds of consumer speakers.
How Should I Set Up My Studio Monitors in a Home Studio?
Treat Your Room
The first step to this is ABSORPTION. It’s where reflections are removed and a room is deadened.
In untreated rooms, sound reflections are recorded or in other words, AMPLIFIED.
Having absorption foam panels will absorb these reflections and leave the direct sound from your voice or instruments to be recorded-which means better, more accurate sound.
However, when all reflections are absorbed others find it best to also equip their room with DIFFUSERS.
This is because untreated reflections tend to get trapped in one spot, where some frequencies get amplified and others get canceled.
Diffusion leaves some reflection sounds and lets them scatter around to keep the natural tone of the room.
Working together, they create the perfect balance of sound. However, if you’re on a tight budget, prioritize absorption.
There are also two kinds of absorption equipment: Bass Traps and Absorption Panels. Bass traps are for low (bass) frequencies and the absorption panels are for mid to high frequencies.
Absorption is waaayy more important the diffusion. So…complete the absorption process first for your home studio and save diffusion for later.
Position Your Work Station: Do’s and Dont’s
DO have the wall behind you as far away as possible. The goal is to minimize the sound from your monitors bouncing off the back wall to your mixing position.
DO position your desk at least 8-12 inches from the front wall, or if you have a bigger room to 1/3 of the room from your front wall. This prevents the sound waves from hitting the front wall and bouncing it again to you.
In a rectangular room, DO have longer walls along your sides.
DO center your desk (make sure your monitors are equidistant to your side walls). This ensures that the sound bouncing off from both monitors to the walls and back to you are balanced.
DON’T set up your mixing station in a corner. Doing so will prevent the bass buildups.
DON’T make a corner either by putting the same distance between your desk, front wall, or back wall as your side walls.
If your side walls are 4 feet away from your workstation, then your front wall should be 3 feet away and your back wall about 5 feet away.
Position Your Monitors
Form an equilateral triangle with your monitors.This means the distance of your two monitors should be equal to their respective distances from your ears to create the SWEET SPOT:
Now that you’ve positioned your monitors in the sweet spot, sit down and make sure your ears are at level with the tweeters:
Why is this necessary? Two reasons:
- Because high-frequency sounds are more directional.
- Making sure your ears are level with the center of your tweeters will make the high-frequency sounds you produce sound more accurate.
You could make use of monitor stands to adjust the height.
Best Overall: Yamaha HS5 Powered Monitor
Among all the best studio monitors on the list, Yamaha takes the crown.
It’s safe to assume that almost no other brand can beat Yamaha’s hundred-year expertise yet. Although, this is not to say Yamaha’s products are for everyone.
What we mean is…it’s hard to be oh-so totally disappointed with one. So why does it bag our top pick?
Because it’s everything you want a studio monitor to be – everything from sound to build.
The Yamaha HS5 Powered Monitor stands out because it delivers professional quality, but at a great value price, and markets it to everyone from budding musicians at home to starters in the industry.
If you think HS5 isn’t the perfect fit for you, our recommendations are:
Best Value: KRK ROKIT 7 G4
Best performance, great technology, and just all the right specs for your budget.
Budget Option: Edifier R1280DB
Amazing performance, good build, unique design, and space-saving too!
In conclusion, investing in the best studio monitor that ticks all your boxes will take your music producing and mixing work to the next level. Go and head off to your music store!
We hope we were able to help you!