Best small studio monitors: Compact speakers from budget to professional

Not so long ago, the idea of finding a professional quality monitor speaker small enough to pack into a backpack and take on the road would have been unthinkable; if you wanted ‘pro’ sound, you needed to accept the size, weight and cost that came with it. Speaker technology has come on a long way in recent decades though, and it’s now perfectly possible to find the best small studio monitors at a range of price points that are more than up to the task of supporting your music production.

When we talk about small monitor speakers, we’re bundling several different types of design into a single category. On the one hand, there are truly compact and portable speakers which are designed to be used on the move, offering features that suit portability and use in a multitude of settings. Alongside this are the smaller end of standard nearfield studio monitor ranges – more conventional studio speakers, designed for more permanent installation in a home studio or small workspace.

Whatever style of speaker you’re looking for, there are plenty of stellar options available at price points from beginner-friendly to top-end professional. We've hand-picked the best ones for this guide.

Si Truss
Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime. 

Best small studio monitors: Quick list

Best small studio monitor overall

Best small studio monitors: IK Multimedia iLoud Micro

(Image credit: IK Multimedia)
Portable but powerful monitors that can adapt to multiple uses

Specifications

Frequency response: 55Hz - 20kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 3”
Tweeter type: ¾” silk dome
Inputs: Dual RCA Stereo, 1/8” TRS, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 300 x 200 x 180mm

Reasons to buy

+
Superb sound reproduction
+
Small
+
Portable

Reasons to avoid

-
No ¼” jack or XLR inputs

Not so long ago, the idea of finding a set of compact studio monitors with the clout required for serious music production was somewhat unthinkable, but IK’s iLoud Micros prove that small speakers don’t have to sacrifice on sound. Despite the small, 3” drivers, these monitors provide clear and accurate sound, and are capable of surprising volume levels given their size.

What’s more there’s a host of features here that make the iLoud Micros flexible for on-the-move use. Room correction EQ is handy, particularly if you plan on using the speakers in different locations and need the ability to adapt to varying spaces. 

Mini-jack and RCA input connections mean they can easily connect to a laptop, DJ gear, a home stereo, or make use of Bluetooth for home listening. The lack of larger ¼” jack or XLR inputs make them slightly more awkward to use with an audio interface, although this is easily overcome with cheap adapters.

Read our full IK Multimedia iLoud Micro review

Most portable studio monitor

Best small studio monitors: KRK GoAux 3 and 4

(Image credit: KRK)
Compact monitors that are perfect for portable production set-ups

Specifications

Frequency response: 55 to 60 Hz - 22 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 3” or 4”, 1”
Tweeter type: Soft dome
Inputs: TRS/RCA
Dimensions: 172 x 111 x 120mm (GoAux 3) 205 x 136 x 140mm (GoAux 4)

Reasons to buy

+
Sold as a complete kit with padded travel case
+
Simple and adjustable table top stands
+
Overall good sonics for size

Reasons to avoid

-
Sound lacks the fullness of larger nearfields

KRK’s Rokit monitors are some of the most popular speakers for home studios, particularly among electronic musicians. The newer GoAux range takes a lot of what makes those popular – including the distinctive yellow and black look – and puts it into a smaller speaker specifically designed for use on the move.

Sonically, these aren’t quite a match for their larger counterparts – notably in the low-mids, which lack a little presence – but for their size and price they still impress. The high frequencies are not unpleasant and the mid and upper mid-range is reasonably forward. The rear-ported configuration enhances the low end enough so you don’t feel they lack punch.

If your budget stretches to the approx £50/$50 more for the 4s, we’d recommend the upgrade. Not only do you get a larger driver – meaning more power – but that model also adds automatic room correction (ARC). This uses a test tone to apply an automatic corrective EQ curve, allowing the speakers to adapt to new spaces – undoubtedly handy if you plan to use them on the go.

Read our full KRK GoAux 3 and 4 review

Best for sound

Best small studio monitors: Genelec 8010A

(Image credit: Genelec)
A compact modern classic, ideal for small home set-ups

Specifications

Frequency response: 67 Hz - 25 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 3", 0.75"
Tweeter type: Metal dome
Inputs: XLR
Powered: Yes (woofer 25w, tweeter 25w)
Dimensions: 195 x 121 x 116mm

Reasons to buy

+
Accurate frequency response
+
A large sound for a tiny monitor
+
Rugged aluminium enclosure

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey, but a solid investment

Genelec’s 8000 series monitors have been on the market in various forms for almost 20 years, and it’s probably fair to describe them as modern classics. Easily recognisable thanks to their distinctive rounded design, which aims to eliminate diffraction for a flatter frequency response, the 8000s are also built to last thanks to their die-cast aluminium build and metal grilles.

The 8010As are the smallest in the range, aimed at those working in tight spaces or putting together a portable production set-up. They come equipped with Genelec’s adjustable Iso-Pod rubber stands, which are designed to help maintain isolation between the monitors and whatever surface they’re placed on, as well as allowing for easy angle adjustment. They can also be easily mounted to a variety of stands and sockets though.

The 8010As are 2-way monitors and have rear-ported (bass reflex) enclosures. Just beneath the port is a recess housing five dip switches. Three contour the low-frequency response: -2dB and -4dB bass tilts which combine for -6dB, and Desktop Control which dips -4dB at 200Hz.

Read our full Genelec 8010A review

Best high-end option

Best small studio monitors: Focal ST6 Solo6

(Image credit: Focal)
Excellent, top-quality monitors for when space is restricted, but not budget

Specifications

Frequency response: 40 Hz - 40 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 6.5”, 1.5”
Tweeter type: Beryllium
Inputs: XLR
Dimensions: 334 x 246 x 295mm

Reasons to buy

+
Compact, compared with Focal’s 2.5-way and 3-way monitors
+
Stunning aesthetic and hand-crafted build quality
+
Honest, genuine sound that doesn’t induce fatigue

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive (but good value regardless)

Unlike some of the explicitly ‘compact’ speakers in this round-up, Focal’s Solo6 monitors aren’t necessarily pitched as being uniquely small. We’re into the realm of standard studio monitors here, although as the smallest speakers in Focal’s range, these are probably the best option you’ll find if you’re looking for a properly high-end, professional-grade monitor suitable for a small studio space.

The Solo6s sound absolutely excellent, and are incredibly honest and detailed. The frequency response extends way up to 40kHz with no distortion, which means it’s possible to listen to mixes with extreme precision while suffering little fatigue. Around the back of the Solo6 you’ll find extensive EQ controls that enable it to sound at its best whatever the room.

These are hand-made monitors and the thick wooden cabinets both look and feel classy. Of course, all of this comes at a fairly substantial price. A pair is likely to set you back well over £/$2k. While that’s money well spent if you want the best possible sound for a small studio, it’s also something of a significant investment.

Read our full Focal ST6 Solo6 review

Best for streamers

Best small studio monitors: JBL One Series 104-BT

(Image credit: JBL)

5. JBL One Series 104-BT

Flexible multi-use monitors that suit musicians and streamers alike

Specifications

Frequency response: 60Hz - 20kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 4.5”
Tweeter type: Soft dome
Inputs: 1/4” TRS, RCA, 1/8” jack, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 247 x 153 x 124mm

Reasons to buy

+
Well built
+
Good midrange
+
Compact design

Reasons to avoid

-
No onboard EQ

Like many compact monitors, JBL’s One Series are designed to function in a variety of different scenarios, with features to suit musicians, podcasters and home-listening set-ups alike. Core to this flexibility is the range of inputs – RCA and 1/4” jack inputs can both be used together to connect two sources and a 1/8” input on the front overrides rear connectors. These BT models include Bluetooth 5 too, for wireless use and home listening.

Given their very reasonable price point, these monitors sound impressive too, with plenty of power from the 4.5” driver and decent bass response. 

The main drawback here, compared to many comparable monitors, is the lack of any kind of onboard EQ. That means there’s no option to adapt the sound to different spaces when moving from studio to studio (or anywhere else).

Best mid-priced speaker

Best small studio monitors: PreSonus Eris E3.5 BT

(Image credit: PreSonus)

6. PreSonus Eris E3.5 BT

Well-made and reasonably-priced speakers ideal for small studios

Specifications

Frequency response: 80Hz - 20kHz
Speaker configuration: Two-way
Driver size: 3.5”
Tweeter type: 1” silk dome
Inputs: Stereo TRS, RCA, 1/8” jack, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 210 x 141 x 162mm

Reasons to buy

+
Good connectivity
+
Easy Bluetooth set-up
+
Powerful onboard EQ

Reasons to avoid

-
Low-mids are a bit reserved

While they lack the compact portability of something like the iLoud Micro or JBL One Series, PreSonus’ two-way Eris monitors are certainly small enough for use in small studio spaces. In fact, given their very attractive price point, modest size and broad level of connectivity, these are a perfect first step up for bedroom producers graduating from working purely on headphones to their first proper monitoring set-up.

The low-end reproduction isn’t amazing here – even compared to some more ‘portable’ speakers – but it’s respectable for the price. In our tests we found they suffer a little in terms of sound quality at higher volumes, but given their primary suitability for small spaces, it’s unlikely you’ll need to crank them up too high in any case. Rear panel EQ makes it easy to adjust the overall sound to your studio space too.

This BT model is a shade more than the standard Eris 3.5s. They add Bluetooth alongside the analogue connectivity, which is a handy option if you’re looking to balance production and home listening duties.

Best budget Rokit

Best small studio monitors: KRK Rokit RP5 G4

(Image credit: KRK)
The smallest and cheapest entry point into the widely-loved Rokit range

Specifications

Frequency response: 43Hz - 40kHz
Speaker configuration: Two-way
Driver size: 5.25”
Tweeter type: 1” Kevlar
Inputs: TRS, XLR
Dimensions: 285 x 190 x 241mm

Reasons to buy

+
Active room tuning
+
Impressive sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Neither the smallest nor the cheapest monitors in this list

KRK’s Rokit 5s are by no means the smallest monitors on the market – even within KRK’s own range, the GoAux speakers listed above are considerably more compact. They’re not the cheapest either, being a small but significant step up from the most affordable monitors on this page.

However, KRK’s Rokit line is beloved by electronic musicians working in small home studios, and with good reason. Sound reproduction is a notable step up from most budget or compact speakers, and the DSP-driven onboard EQ with visual display is very handy for setting the monitors up to suit any small room.

These are the smallest – and cheapest – entry point into the Rokit range. They represent a good balance between small size and professional sound for those looking for a compact and affordable monitor but one still capable of serious studio duties.

Read our full KRK Rokit RP5 G4 review

Best on a budget

Best small studio monitors: M-Audio BX-3

(Image credit: M-Audio)

8. M-Audio BX-3

Great value studio monitors perfectly suited to home/bedroom production set-ups

Specifications

Frequency response: 80Hz - 22kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 3.5”, 1”
Tweeter type: Kevlar
Inputs: 1x RCA stereo input pair, 2x 1/4" (6.35mm) TRS inputs, 1x 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo auxiliary input
Dimensions: 140 x 145 x 208mm

Reasons to buy

+
Reasonably compact
+
Great low-frequency response
+
Well built 

Reasons to avoid

-
No onboard EQ

M-Audio has long been one of the most notable brands in the realm of entry-level and budget-friendly music tech gear. The company’s BX monitors are well regarded for offering decent quality at a very reasonable price.

These aren’t as small or portable as many of the truly ‘compact’ monitors listed above, but they are some of the best value, studio-quality nearfields on the market. If both space and budget is an issue, you could do a lot worse.

There’s no EQ or customisation options here, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the price, but the BX3s do have both RCA and TRS inputs on the rear, plus front panel aux and headphone connections.

Best small studio monitors: Buying Advice

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro speaker on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

Why does size matter?

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It’s a common misconception that, when it comes to studio monitors, bigger always equals better, and smaller speakers inevitably mean compromising on quality. In reality though, the best size of speakers to purchase will depend on the size of the space you plan to use them in. 

All of the speakers discussed in this round-up fall into the category we call ‘nearfield monitors’. These are speakers designed to be placed in close proximity to the user, typically on a desk or stands close behind. A speaker of this kind with a small driver – around 3” to 5”, like many in this round-up – is perfect for a compact studio set-up, but will lack the power to properly translate your mixes in a bigger space. Conversely, overpowered and over-sized speakers used in compact spaces won’t allow for proper positioning and use at appropriate volume levels. 

What to consider when buying small monitors

Beyond the size and sound quality, monitor speakers have a variety of feature options to consider. One major factor is connectivity. You need to consider how you’ll connect them to your laptop, recorder or other device. For many, an audio interface will be required. This connects to the laptop or PC via USB and provides connectivity for audio going in (instruments) and audio going out (monitor speakers). Studio monitors are mostly active, which means they employ their own amplification, and require a power source to do this.

Connection-wise, most of the best studio monitors are generally hooked up to your device via USB, XLR, or by shielded ¼” jack cables – the shielding helps reduce the hum from nearby electrical equipment or lights. Many smaller and portable speakers also include Bluetooth connectivity. We don’t tend to recommend using Bluetooth for production purposes, as it can introduce latency – a delay in the audio signal – but the inclusion of wireless tech is handy if you plan to use your speakers for home listening too.

The final feature to consider is EQ or room correction tools, which are included with some monitors. These allow the user to artificially shape the sound to compensate for the acoustics of the space they’re being used in – for example, cutting some bass frequencies to reduce build. These tools are particularly handy if you plan to use the speakers in a variety of different spaces.

How we choose products for this guide

Here at MusicRadar, we are experts in our field, with many years of playing, creating and product testing between us. We live and breathe everything music gear related, and we draw on this knowledge and experience of using products in live, recording and rehearsal scenarios when selecting the products for our guides. 

When choosing what we believe to be the best small studio monitors available right now, we combine our hands-on experience, user reviews and testimonies and engage in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus about the top products in any given category.

First and foremost, we are musicians, and we want other players to find the right product for them. So we take into careful consideration everything from budget to feature set, ease of use and durability to come up with a list of what we can safely say are the best small studio monitors on the market right now.

Find out more about how we test music gear and services at MusicRadar.

Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.


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