Monitor speakers are definitely not the most exciting things to think about or buy when setting up a studio.
Microphones, quality preamps, stunning compressors, etc. are far more fun to buy because you can play with them. You can adjust them and get different sounds out of them. They are tactile and make you feel good.
Speakers on the other hand just sit there pointing at you all day. They hardly ever need any adjustments and are not exactly fun to play with.
But they are probably the most important part of any set-up, from the smallest home recording rig to the biggest studios on earth. Because they tell you what your mix sounds like. You have to know them and you have to trust them.
They, more than anything else in your studio, influence how the rest of the world hears your mixes, so picking the best studio monitor speakers on the market is of paramount importance.
Read on to find out what we think of some of the best that are currently available, and which one is our overall winner…
- Top 10 Best Studio Monitor Speakers On The Market 2020 Reviews
- 1 JBL LSR305 Professional Studio Monitor
- 2 Neumann KH 120A Active Studio Monitor
- 3 Adam Audio A7X Powered Studio Monitor
- 4 Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor, Black
- 5 KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor
- 6 M-Audio AV42 20-Watt Compact Studio Monitor Speakers with 4-inch Woofer
- 7 Pioneer DJ DM-40 Pair Desktop Monitors
- 8 Avantone Pro MixCube Active Studio Monitor
- 9 Genelec M040 Active 2-Way Monitor
- 10 Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor
- Best Studio Monitor Speakers Buying Guide
Top 10 Best Studio Monitor Speakers On The Market 2020 Reviews
1 JBL LSR305 Professional Studio Monitor
JBL has been a major force in the audio world for many generations.
Their legendary reputation for pushing the boundaries of studio monitor design has given us the LSR305.
It offers excellent design features whilst maintaining affordability, and boasts a modestly sized five-inch woofer, balanced by a one-inch dome tweeter, both of which are equally powered.
Its active design negates the need for an additional amplifier. This saves on space and makes these monitors a good choice for desktop producers.
A unique design feature in the LSR305’s is the inclusion of what JBL call their image control waveguide.
This helps the engineer listen to an accurate reproduction, of whatever they are working on, even if they aren’t in, the so-called, the sweet spot.
It should be noted, that this is the exact same technology as featured on JBL’s much more expensive M2 Master Reference Monitors. And it’s great to see it on a reasonably priced pair of monitors, that wouldn’t look out of place in a small bedroom.
The rear of the speakers features a volume control, hi and low cut shelf controls, along with both XLR and ¼”TRS connections.
Our Rating: (4.3 / 5)
2 Neumann KH 120A Active Studio Monitor
Best known as makers of many of the finest microphones in the world, Neumann entered the studio monitor market back in 2010, when they took over the now retired Klein+Hummel line.
Their first release was the respectfully titled Neumann KH line, which featured the now popular, Neumann KH 120.
Notable features of these monitors include the Mathematically Modeled Dispersion (MMD) waveguide, the titanium fabric dome drivers and the composite sandwich cone design.
All this technology makes these speakers sound incredible. Clear in the highs, yet tight in the low end. They are superb at getting your mixes to translate perfectly to real-world systems.
But all that obviously comes at a price. If you’re happy to spend the money, you will be delighted with this stunning speakers. However, if you’re on a tighter budget. read on, we have some great more affordable speakers coming up…
Our Rating: (4.8 / 5)
3 Adam Audio A7X Powered Studio Monitor
Adam Audio, are one of the youngest companies on this list. Being founded in Germany back in 1999.
They currently offer three lines of monitors, the high-end SX series, the budget F series, and the midrange AX series.
No surprise, the AX series is the most popular. And within it, the Adam Audio A7X is by far the most sought-after model.
Known especially for its unique X-ART Tweeter, which is probably the most hi-tech tweeter design on this entire list.
The specs are very impressive, the most notable being the ability to reproduce frequencies all the way up to 50kHz. Which is well beyond the limit of human hearing!
Just for reference, the human ear can distinguish sounds up to about 20kHz when young, but this goes down as you grow older.
But these speakers weren’t designed for dogs (who by the way have a far higher frequency range than humans, up to 60kHz) to mix on. They go up to 50kHz to provide an extremely flat frequency response throughout the whole range, that we humans can hear, which is about 20Hz to 20kHz.
Another nice feature of the A7X is its front bass ports, which allow for closer placement to walls in smaller rooms.
Very highly recommended on all counts.
Our Rating: (4.9 / 5)
4 Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor, Black
These are based on the legedary Yamaha NS-10 speakers.
The NS-10 was, and still is to this day to some degree, THE speaker to have in your studio. It’s actually difficult to find any picture of the control room of any of the most legendary studios in the world, without a pair of NS-10’s sitting on the mixing console.
You won’t find it difficult to see them, they are the speakers with the white coned woofers.
But it’s very hard to find a pair of NS-10’s, they were discontinued in 2001, and those that you do find, are now ridiculously expensive for second-hand speakers that are between 20 and 50 years old.
Yamaha replaced the NS-10 with the HS8, which combine the sound of the classic, with some new technology.
Instantly recognizable with the same signature white coned woofers as the NS-10, these monitors long ago solidified their iconic status.
Some of their notable features include a unique mounting system, which minimizes vibration and improves their performance. They also feature extra large magnets giving them a smoother response, over a wider frequency range
And if you want a smaller or higher powered version they are also available. With Yamaha offering the HS5 with a 5″ cone, the HS7 with a 7″cone, and the HS8S which has a bigger 150W driver.
For monitors considered by most to be ‘professional’ quality, the Yamaha HS8’s are about as cheap as they come. And are an excellent choice if you don’t want to spend a fortune.
Our Rating: (4.7 / 5)
5 KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor
When you are browsing online, looking at pictures of other peoples home studios, have you noticed some small speakers with yellow coned woofers?
If so, you are looking at KRK’s, and most likely the KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5.
The reason you see them everywhere is that, at the “entry-level” price point, there is no other set of monitors, that are more popular and more highly recommended than these.
Whilst most monitors in this lower price range receive far more complaints than praise. The fact is, you can read review after review on these KRS’s, without finding a single bad word.
The other more expensive speakers in this rundown are obviously better in most ways than these KRK’s, but for the price, they are simply amazing.
That is why, for beginner studios, or those on a very tight budget, they’re the obvious choice, and are highly recommended.
Our Rating: (4.4 / 5)
6 M-Audio AV42 20-Watt Compact Studio Monitor Speakers with 4-inch Woofer
Another budget offering, but this time from M-Audio.
Good for anyone on a budget and an alternative worth checking out to compare with the KRK we have just covered.
They are obviously not one of the most feature-packed speakers in this review and the subs/tweeters aren’t exactly large or high-end, but if you’re on a budget they are worth considering
The frequency response is in the upper-average mark for the price at 85 Hz to 20 kHz.
Regardless of this, the 4″ woofers and 1″ tweeters do give them a nice feel in terms of low and high frequencies.
In summary, they are OK for the low price
Our Rating: (3.5 / 5)
7 Pioneer DJ DM-40 Pair Desktop Monitors
Pioneer, are not really known for their studio monitors. Better known for high quality doemestic audio products and of course their very impressive DJ product line.
Whilst on the subject, we assume from the name that Pioneer intend on marketing these to their regular DJ customers, but since music is music at the end of the day, how would these monitors work for non-DJ’s?
They look sleek and professional and come in either a black/very dark grey finish or in white.
They are quite small in size, which is great if you are limited on space, and are constructed from wood (we assume MDF).
The left speaker is the master powered speaker, with the inbuilt amp as well as the audio inputs, the power switch, and the volume control. The right speaker is the slave.
Onto the sound quality.
They are crisp, with nicely defined high’s, rich mid’s and punchy bass. The sound is full, with plenty of volume (for the stated 21 watts each), giving the illusion you are in fact listening to more expensive monitors.
Consideration the price, these are a cracking pair of speakers for the novice DJ or any music producer for that matter.
Our Rating: (4.2 / 5)
8 Avantone Pro MixCube Active Studio Monitor
I apologise for keeping on going back to old pictures of the control rooms of legedary studios, but they are important.
If you are aware of and consider, what speakers were used to make most of the greatest music ever recorded. It helps your understanding and decision making, in terms of what monitors will best suit you.
If you look halfway between the Yamaha NS-10’s with their white coned speakers, you will usually see a very small square shaped wooden box with a tiny speaker in the middle of it. This is Auratone 5C Super Sound Cube.
They were used in nearly every studio on earth. This was because there is a common problem when working on high-end main monitors. In that, a mix sounds spectacular in the studio, but not everywhere else.
Of course, the mix sounds amazing on massive high-quality speakers in an acoustically perfect room. But in the real world, through lo-fi consumer speakers, the same mix can sound terrible.
To solve this problem, the Auratone company invented a small monitor in 1958, known as the Auratone 5C Super Sound Cube. They actually sounded so bad that engineers called them Horrertones.
But they worked brilliantly and were invaluable, when used along with the Main and near-field monitors obviously. Because they simulated the less than ideal performance conditions of typical consumer speakers.
For decades and decades to come, the Auratones were the industry standard for additional low-fi reference monitors. But they were eventually discontinued.
And the Avantone Mix Cubes, has become the new standard.
But, they are not as ‘horrortone’ as the originals, they are far better sounding speakers. But, that said, you couldn’t use them as your main reference monitors, their frequency range isn’t wide enough. But for fulfilling the role of the original Auratone they are fantastic.
You also don’t actually need a pair of them. Most studios only had one Aurotone, which they used to not only check the sound in low-fi conditions but also in mono. The Auratone was actually designed to mimic the sound from a mono television speaker.
Making sure your mix works in mono is vital, to ensure that it translates on all real-world mono sources, from smartphones to background music in supermarkets.
Auratones are sold singly for this very reason.
They are available as powered or unpowered. The choice is yours, personally, we prefer unpowered because it gives you a choice of which amplifier to use. But the powered versions do sound great and work well.
We would therefore highly recommend you grabbing yourself a Mix Cube. It will wonderfully supplement any of the other monitors on this list.
Our Rating: (4.4 / 5)
9 Genelec M040 Active 2-Way Monitor
The Genelec name is synonymous with high-end studio monitors. If you go back to the pictures of mixing desks with Yamaha Ns-10’s on them earlier, next to them you will often find a pair of Genelecs.
The two brands were traditionally the only two choices for near-field monitors for professional studios, and most of the legendary studios in the world had at least one pair if not both.
But as well as being near-field monitors, Genelec was often the choice for the main studio speakers as well. And they still are to this day.
But most of the models from their famous 8000 series of main studio monitors are priced for, and to be honest only suitable for, large control rooms in top-end studios.
However, with their recent M series, Genelec has found a way to make themselves at least somewhat affordable to owners of smaller studios and home set-ups.
The Genelec M040 is the most popular model in the series.
It features a downward facing bass port which makes it excellent for use in smaller rooms.
They also feature energy-friendly Class D amplifiers and Intelligent Signal Sensing auto power-off, basically putting them in standby whenever signal is not being passed through them. Both these factors should mean you won’t end up with the same size electricity bill as Abbey Road.
Our Rating: (4.5 / 5)
10 Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor
The HS5 is the baby brother of the HS8 that we’ve already covered and you’ll be glad to know that I’m not going to start reminising about old pictures of mixing desks with NS-10 speakers on them once again.
I think you’ve had far too much of that already for one article.
As mentioned it’s the baby brother of the HS8 and is basically the same except with a smaller 5″ driver and less power.
The 1-inch tweeter comes with some interesting performance specs in that its frequency range goes up to 30kHz. Much like the Adam, we discussed earlier but obviously, nowhere near as high.
This has the same benefit as the Adam design in producing a flatter frequency response to the human ear.
This is very impressive, considering the HS5 is a fraction of the price of the Adam.
It’s a good speaker for the price, but if you can stretch to buying the HS8’s I would recommend them over these because of the higher power and wider dynamic range.
Our Rating: (4.4 / 5)
Best Studio Monitor Speakers Buying Guide
Active or Passive Monitors
Monitors basically fall into two groups. Active or Passive.
Passive monitors are not powered. In that, you need a separate amplifier to power them.
Active monitors, on the other hand, have built-in amplifiers and crossovers.
As to which is best is subjective. Active monitors are obviously a lot more convenient because everything you need to get a sound out of them is already inside. They also require very little set up.
Passive systems involve additionally buying an amp. And making sure the ratings of power and ohms, match up. Making them obviously far more complicated.
But there two advantages to using passive speakers.
Firstly, you have the choice of what amplifier to use with them. Monitors don’t sound the same when powered by different amplifiers. With passive monitors, you can mix and match amplifiers until you get the best sound coming out of your monitors.
And secondly, if either your monitor or amplifier breaks down halfway through an important session, you only need to replace one of the component parts, not both which is usually a lot easier.
The majority of the speakers in this rundown are only available in active versions, so for most, the choice has already made for you. For the ones that aren’t the choice of which to go for is yours.
The most common cabinet designs are Ported or Closed.
A Port on a monitor is an exposed hole or pipe that vents air out of the monitor. It is also tuned to resonate in the low end to help extend the monitor’s low-frequency response.
Bass reflex ports can be either forward-facing, downward-facing, side-facing or rear-facing.
In the case of rear-facing, monitor proximity to a wall behind the monitor can be a problem. So it’s best to avoid a rear-facing port design if you can’t position the monitors at least a few feet away from a wall.
Closed Designs do not feature any ports. Giving them a less exaggerated, tighter bass end. As well as, a better, more-natural, low-frequency transient response.
In the mid-price range, we went for the Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitor, Black, because of its sound, its superb value for money and its heritage.
In the lower price range, the winner is the KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor, because you simply won’t get a better sounding speaker for the price.