The Best Studio Monitors under＄500 are aimed for serious project studios, music producers and sound enthusiasts alike. These users have few releases under their belt and have gained some professional confidence.
A career choice at this point seems to be proven and these users will typically invest a considerable amount of money for production gear as well as soundproofing.
Affordable Studio Monitors
Top Studio Monitors Under $500
1. ADAM AUDIO A5X
ADAM Audio are a prime example of German engineering and their studio monitors have won a wealth of outstanding reviews and awards gaining ADAM Audio a reputation as the pre-eminent tool for sound engineers and alike.
AX-series is ADAM Audio’s solution for professional studio applications and upscale home recordings, A5X being smallest in the series with 5.5” woofer.
The AX-series accommodates their X-ART (eXtended Accelerating Ribbon Technology) tweeter, which gives the A5X an extended and smooth, yet accurate top frequency range.
The 5.5” woofer provides a deep and honest mid and low frequency range, that is unexaggerated and significantly detailed.
Overall, this studio monitor balance is spot on, transparent and clean.
The 5.5” woofer could be described as small and while it’s said to reach 50Hz, the front-firing bass ports extend that to sound very convincing at this size.
These speakers are also easy to accommodate near the walls and will live happily on shelfs or as extremely detailed surround speakers, unlike many of the competition.
Due to the ribbon tweeter this studio monitor offers a stunning frequency response of 50Hz-50kHz, but will require a separate subwoofer to function as single wide-range mixing solution.
2. MACKIE XR824
Mackie brand has been known and respected in professional circles for over 20 years, and the original HR824 active studio monitor and the later mkII have been hugely successful.
The latest iteration, XR824, that is aimed at small project studio market, has been completely redesigned and offers a better low frequency response and adds a bit more vibe to the sound compared to its predecessor.
The overall sound of Mackie XR824 is deep, wide and detailed.
The low end is able to represent distinct tonal qualities of the material.
Mid- and high frequency range can be described as clean and well articulated and as a whole, the Mackie XR824 shines with consistent performance and clarity at all levels.
8” woofer element can go all the way down to 36Hz and the 1” anodised aluminium tweeter allows frequencies up to 22kHz.
XR-series features an ELP bass reflex system at the back of the speaker, that helps the woofer element to reproduce low-frequency information quite impressively.
The adjustments at the back provide controls to fine tune the studio monitor for acoustic space as well as switch for low frequency rolloff and +2 or -2dB switch for high frequency shelving.
3. PRESONUS SCEPTRE S6
Presonus has brought an impressive range of studio monitors to the market, that are just oozing innovation and technical excellence.
Presonus Sceptre range is an extraordinary attempt to create a speaker that focuses on accuracy, using a coaxial topography combined with DSP adjustability.
The benefit of coaxial approach is razor sharp stereo imaging and a wider sweet spot than what can be expected in regular designs.
In short, Sceptre S6 sounds neutral and detailed and it’s strongest point is definitely with extremely wide sweet spot, that even matches the performance of much more expensive speakers on the market.
The high frequency range can be perceived as little crisp due to the design of the 1” diaphragm compression driver but the depth and detail in the midrange is great.
A slightly uneven bass response is said to be the weakest point of this design but the front-firing bass-port (or “horn” in this case) located at the center of the element helps the 6.5” woofer element to produce a surprisingly flat bass-response. The S6 is designed to be used only in vertical orientation.
The built-in Acoustic Space Filter provides 0, -1.5, -3 or -6dB shelving filter below 250Hz, making it easy to place this studio monitor close to a wall or corner. The high frequency driver filter provides 0, +1, -1.5 or -4dB shelf above 2kHz.
Presonus Sceptre S6 frequency response ranges between 42Hz-23kHz. Finally, there is a high-pass filter to adapt the speaker to be used with subwoofer, like Temblor T10, which would be recommended for a complete wide-range solution.
4. FOCAL ALPHA 80
The French speaker manufacturer Focal has found home as one of the most respected monitor companies in the world, and their Alpha series has done extremely well in the project studio market.
Alpha 80 is a 8” active studio monitor aimed at small to medium sized project studios and post-production surround suites.
Overall sound is full and rich, with clear, focused and punchy bass, detailed mids, and clear and bright high frequencies, without fatiguing effect in longer periods of use.
The 8” woofer provides a very convincing and consistent mid range and deep low with no obvious tip at around 50Hz-100Hz mark. Dynamic contrasts are definitely something where this speaker shines.
Alpha 80 can be adjusted to mixing location using speaker’s built-in high and low frequency shelving switches providing 3dB cut or boost at 300Hz and 4.5kHz respectively.
Focal Alpha 80 also features an additional sensitivity adjustment switch, which makes the speaker operate at 0dB nominal level or give a +6dB boost for occasions when sheer volume is necessary.
Large bass ports at the front of the speaker help placing this monitor close to the wall.
At 8” the Focal Alpha 80 has a frequency response of 35Hz-22kHz and is suitable to be used as a single wide-range solution, although an extra subwoofer would be beneficial to get that last push in low frequency area.
Our few recommendations in Best Studio Monitors under＄500 category all perform extremely consistently and really shine with selected components and design.
Various design features, such as DSP adaptability and thoughtful use of materials help these speakers to provide a deep, detailed and very well balanced output while adapting to any production environment effortlessly.
The award for the Best Studio Monitor under $500 goes to Mackie XR824.
The XR824 offers consistency and clarity at all levels, and is a natural evolution of an industry standard studio monitor being offered at a reasonable price point.
Small and medium sized project studios will appreciate the deep and accurate low frequency performance as well as a natural, clear and wide sound that can be only achieved through careful design.
Years of experience in the industry has clearly paid off for Mackie and their XR series is a clear classic in all areas of performance for this budget category.