Best studio monitors 2023: 17 studio speakers for musicians and producers on any budget

Close up on a pair of studio monitors in the studio
(Image credit: Future)

Being able to hear your mixes in intricate detail is the most important aspect of music production. That means that choosing the best studio monitor is a key decision for you as a music producer. Hearing your mixes in detail means you can improve them and iron out inconsistencies, so getting the best monitor speaker for your studio is a sure-fire way to drastically improve your music making. 

It will also help avoid that common scenario: where you spend hours labouring over a mix that sounds amazing on your (not so great) monitoring system, and then you play it elsewhere and it sounds awful. If this is happening to you with your mixes, then it could be time to upgrade your studio monitoring set-up, and that's where this guide comes in!

Great studio monitor speakers are essentially designed to reveal an accurate picture of the audio you're producing. This honest reflection of your music might uncover some flaws in your mixing technique, but that is ‘a good thing’! Hearing your mistakes means you can fix them, making informed choices about what might need changing, confident that the music you're hearing in your studio will translate to other systems that you play it on and, importantly, still sound great. 

We've rounded up what we consider to be some of the best studio monitors currently on the market, from budget options to pro-quality monitoring set-up – along with the best prices online right now.

We've rounded up what we consider to be some of the best studio monitors currently on the market, from budget options to pro-quality monitoring setup - along with the best prices online right now. 

We've also included some in-depth buying advice (opens in new tab) at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to learn more about the best speakers for music production, we'd recommend you head straight there. On the other hand, if you'd rather get straight to the products, keep scrolling.

Looking for a great deal on new studio monitors? Keep it locked to our Black Friday music deals page for all the latest savings and offers.

Best studio monitors: Our top picks

We are hugely impressed with the on-board graphic EQ of the KRK Rokit G4 series. Often, bedroom producers, or those with small studio spaces, can suffer from poor acoustic treatment. By using the accompanying KRK app, and then making subtle alterations, you can give yourself a fighting chance of getting a balanced, accurate sound.

Focal and their Shape 65 monitors take the second-place spot for us. They're the best mid-priced nearfields you can get your hands on, offering a truthful image of your track, with loads of versatility and EQ tweakability. An all round great option.

The Genelec 8010A is a fantastic middle-ground studio monitor for those who are perhaps upgrading from a starter pair. We've always found them to be super solid and durable, and although they’re more expensive than others in the ‘intermediate’ category, we think they’re more than worth the extra investment.

If you’re after a solid, accurate option, then the Yamaha HS5 monitors are worth your time too. Taking cues from the legendary NS10s, the Yamaha HS5s are reference speakers that will deliver a brutally truthful image of your mix. 

Elsewhere, the IK Multimedia iLoud MTM speakers offer great all-rounder performance for home and bedroom studios, and for not an awful lot of cash.

We have also included a selection of brilliant affordable monitors in this guide. While their sound quality is not quite as accurate and true as most of the mid and high-end speakers here, some do deliver an awful lot of monitor for the cash. Of these, the IK Multimedia iLoud Micro and the M-Audio BX5 D3 both have features geared specifically towards making sure you get the clearest, most precise image of your mix. The JBL One Series 104s are great budget speakers too. They don’t take up loads of space on your studio desk and would happily pull double duty for gaming or watching films.

Best studio monitors: Product guide

Affordable nearfield monitors that are perfect for electronic music

Specifications

Frequency response: 42 Hz – 40 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 7”, 1”
Tweeter type: Kevlar
Inputs: Combo input XLR / 6.3mm balanced jack
Powered: Yes (145W)
Digital connectivity: No

Reasons to buy

+
Graphic EQ at this price-point is fantastic
+
Bass sounds are quite phenomenal

Reasons to avoid

-
There are monitors better suited to non-electronic music production

If you've ever stepped foot inside the studio domain of an electronic music producer, the chances are you're familiar with the famous yellow speaker cones of KRK. The Rokit series - now in its fourth generation - is the Gibson-owned brand's affordable nearfield range, and has a selection of neat features which make it worthy of note. 

For starters, the G4 range is among the first monitor series at this price bracket to include a graphic EQ function on the speaker itself. In-built digital signal processing (DSP) offers a suite of tools, including a room analyser, to ensure the speakers' output compensates the space you're mixing in for any dead zones or sonic blind spots you may be unwittingly harbouring. 

In our tests, the KRK Rokits came out on top as one of the best studio monitors for smaller studios, and for us, they are ideal for anything bass-heavy. 

Read the KRK Rokit G4 review

Best mid-priced nearfields

Specifications

Frequency response: 40 Hz - 35 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 6.5", 1"
Tweeter type: aluminium/magnesium inverted dome
Inputs: XLR, RCA
Powered: Yes (80w mid and low freq, 25w high freq)
Digital connectivity: None

Reasons to buy

+
Passive radiators give you flexibility
+
Rear EQ controls
+
Easily tweaked to your room

Reasons to avoid

-
Automatic bypass function

Available in 40, 50 and 65 flavours, the latter of which we’re reviewing here, the Shapes, from Focal, now sit between their budget-friendly Alpha series and the Solo6 Be - another 6.5" two-way monitor - in terms of price. 

Aesthetically, the Shapes are an interesting departure from Focal’s other designs. The main speaker cabinet is black-painted MDF with a luxurious walnut veneer, appearing less ‘studio spaceship’ and more ‘hi- connoisseur’ – in fact, they’d look just as at home in a domestic cinema setup as in a production environment. 

Interestingly, the Shapes are non-ported, with dual 6.5" passive radiators (one on each side of the monitor).

Read the Focal Shape 65 review

Best compact mid-range 2-way design monitors

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)
Digital connectivity: None

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey, but a solid investment

At the smallest end of the Genelec 8000 bi-amplified monitor series is the 8010A. Though relatively light (1.5kg each), the 8010As are solid thanks to the die-cast aluminium enclosure, with metal driver grilles to prevent damage in transit. Portability is key, with power and input sockets neatly tucked in at the rear. 

They come with tiltable Iso-Pod rubber stands attached, simultaneously taking care of axis angle and transmission reduction. They feature standard 8000 series mounting sockets for a variety of options, from truss hanging to floor stands. These are rear-ported (bass reflex) enclosures, and 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 the Genelec 8010A review

The best home studio monitors if you're looking for an all-rounder

Specifications

Frequency response: 40 Hz to 24 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-Way/3-speakers bi-amped
Driver size: 3.5" x2, 1" tweeter
Tweeter type: low distortion, back chambered silk dome
Inputs: 1x combo XLR-1/4” TRS balanced input; 1/8” TS ARC microphone input
Powered: Yes (LF power: 70w RMS, HF power: 30w RMS)
Digital connectivity: 1 x USB type-B (service use only), input for omnidirectional, mems based precision measurement microphone
DSP: Yes (tuned bass reflex)
Calibration: Yes (fully automatic and built-in digital calibration, microphone included)

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable and compact
+
In-built calibration system
+
Perfect for home studios

Reasons to avoid

-
Possibly lost in a large control room

IK’s latest addition to its growing monitor range, the iLoud MTMs are crammed with tech that belies their relatively low price point. The ‘MTM’ bit refers to the D’Appolito configuration, which, in this case, places a 1” tweeter in between two 3.5” mid-range woofers, with a bass reflex port around the back. Everything is DSP-controlled and they can be calibrated to suit your room courtesy of IK’s proprietary ARC calibration system, which is built right into the speakers and the measurement mic comes bundled as part of the package.

The MTMs are clinical and brutally ‘honest’ and take imaging to a level that we’d expect to hear from monitors costing three times as much. Subtle mid/high details that previously went unnoticed become perfectly audible, making corrective targeting of individual elements within the mix almost supernaturally easy. Low-end solidity and control are remarkable for a speaker of this size, too, and they never really seem to get fatiguing.

For those with limited desk space, or seeking a surgical secondary pair to their main ‘fun’ monitors, the iLoud MTM really is a truly incredible solution.

Read the full IK Multimedia iLoud MTM review

5. Yamaha HS5

Familiar white cone delivers the harsh truth on your recordings

Specifications

Frequency response: 54 Hz – 30 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 5”, 1”
Tweeter type: Kevlar
Inputs: Combo input XLR / 6.3mm balanced jack
Powered: Yes (70W)
Digital connectivity: No

Reasons to buy

+
A budding mix engineer's dream
+
Iconic design
+
Amazing value

Reasons to avoid

-
Controls located at rear

The famous story about the old Yamaha NS10 studio monitors was that they were chosen not because they sounded great, but because they didn't. The theory being that if you could mix a track to sound good on them, you could be confident it would sound good anywhere. Of course, times have changed and even modern entry-level monitors will do a job, but the appeal of owning a piece of genuine studio history is strong. 

The Yamaha HS5 series are reference speakers which are built solely with mixing and monitoring in mind. There's no Bluetooth or graphic EQ, and room correction is basic at best. For sheer accuracy, however, they're hard to beat at this price range. Get your mix right on these and it'll sound fantastic anywhere.

Read the full Yamaha HS5 review

The compact and affordable option

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" (6.35 mm) TRS inputs, 1x 1/8" (3.5 mm) stereo auxiliary input
Powered: Yes (85W)
Digital connectivity: No

Reasons to buy

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

From their famous Oxygen MIDI controllers, M-Track digital interfaces, and robust studio monitors, M-Audio is the go-to company for many budding producers looking for high-quality, affordable home studio products. 

The BX3 and BX4 are the latest offerings from M-Audio and we feel they are a fantastic option if space is an issue. The compact 3.5” (BX3) and 4.5” (BX4) Kevlar LF drivers and 1” silk dome tweeter offer a surprisingly good bass response and precise high-end frequencies - especially considering the price.

For us, these are perfect for the beginner producer. They are simple to set up, look great, and, most importantly, sound phenomenal. 

Read our full M-Audio BX3 and BX4 review 

A big, powerful monitor that doesn’t overstep the mark. Simple to set up and excellent value for money

Specifications

Frequency response: 35Hz to 20kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 1.5, 8"
Tweeter type: Silk dome
Inputs: XLR, 1/4" TRS, RCA
Powered: Yes (woofer 75w, tweeter 65w)
Digital connectivity: None

Reasons to buy

+
Broad sweet spot
+
Plenty of tweaking options
+
Great value 

Reasons to avoid

-
Midrange is a bit laid-back

Eris is Presonus's most traditional speaker range and its latest update adds a distinctive EBM tweeter waveguide and elliptical boundary-modelled design that delivers both a wide horizontal and narrow vertical dispersion. The horizontal width is very obvious and we didn’t struggle to find a sweet spot – good news with larger monitors as you’re likely to be further away, and handy for group listening or tracking situations.

Extra controls around the back include input gain, mid-peak and high-shelf EQs, low-cut filter, and a room correction option which curtails frequencies below 800Hz and helps when the monitors are in corners or up close to walls.

The tonal balance of the E8XTs is pretty good and we didn’t initially feel the need to hit the EQ. However, having AB’d with some other monitors, the mids sounded a bit restrained, and a small boost from the mid-EQ (1kHz) sorted this.

The E8XT delivers the sort of scale one expects from slightly larger monitors and, coupled with the broad sweet spot and extended bass, they’re great for both tracking and mixing. Build quality is also excellent and they also offer incredible value.

Read the full Presonus Eris E8XT review

A stylish, compact monitor that delivers decent sonics, flexible connectivity and solid build

Specifications

Frequency response: 60Hz to 20kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 0.75”, 4.5”
Tweeter type: Soft dome
Inputs: 1/4” TRS, RCA, 1/8” jack
Powered: Yes (tweeter 30w, woofer 30w)
Digital connectivity: None

Reasons to buy

+
Well built
+
Good mid range
+
Compact design

Reasons to avoid

-
Price has risen since launch

The JBL One Series 104 is a compact monitor designed for portability and convenience. It features a rear-ported design to improve low frequency extension. Audio inputs, volume control and amp are all in one unit, and a cable then connects to the second speaker. 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.

We found these monitors to be very well made and durable. They come with a rubberised base, ideal for desktop positioning, although you might want to put them on a shelf or monitor stand for ear height. We did find the sweet spot pretty broad, both vertically and horizontally.

The 104 produces a surprising amount of welly, delivering lots of punch. There's no onboard compensation EQ but they worked well about 12 inches forward of the rear wall. The speaker tuning also delivers plenty of midrange, ideal for balancing critical lead instruments in a mix. Highs can be overpowering, but the frequency balance is good at both low and medium volume levels.  

Despite a price increase since our original review, they are still competitive, and overall we found the One Series 104 to be a surprisingly good little monitor.

Read the full JBL One Series 104 review

A very stylish set of monitors

Specifications

Frequency response: 45Hz to 25kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 6.5″ woofer, 1″ tweeter
Tweeter type: Coaxial aluminum alloy
Inputs: 1x RCA, 1x XLR/ Jack
Powered: Yes (100W)
Digital connectivity: No

Reasons to buy

+
Built in conjunction with Barefoot Audio 
+
Stylish modern look 
+
Fantastic mid-range detail

Output is well known for its much-loved audio plugins, virtual instruments, and beautiful studio furniture. The release of the Frontier nearfield loudspeaker sees Output enter the studio monitors arena, with a little help from their friends over at Barefoot Sound. 

This absolutely stunning monitor is accented with a solid walnut base that not only looks good but is there to isolate the speaker. The 6.5”/1.25” coaxial aluminium alloy drivers offer a superbly flat response which is usually reserved for a much higher-end speaker - it makes sense when you consider it was designed with Thomas Barefoot himself! 

So if you are looking for an honest-sounding set of monitors that will be sure to add a touch of class to any home studio, definitely check these out. 

Read our full Output Frontier review

The best value mid-range 2-way monitors

Specifications

Frequency response: 45 Hz - 22 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 6.5", 1"
Tweeter type: Black anodised aluminium
Inputs: XLR, 1/4" TRS
Powered: Yes (woofer 100W, tweeter 60W)
Digital connectivity: None

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent build quality
+
Effective onboard EQ 
+
Bespoke foam isolation pads

Reasons to avoid

-
Bass extension not as good as XR824

Mackie’s HR Series professional monitors have over 20 years on the clock and many fans, but at over a grand a pair for the six-inch HR624 Mk2, they’re not cheap. The new XR series shaves roughly a third off that price tag and delivers a new rear-ported design with class D amplification (bear in mind the HRs use a passive radiator panel and class AB amps). 

Despite its less impressive bass extension, the XR624 is particularly revealing for guitar-heavy tracks, and this can be a tough test for even the best monitor speakers.

Read the Mackie XR Series review

Best studio monitors with a portable 2-way design

Specifications

Frequency response: 55 Hz - 20 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 3", 0.75"
Tweeter type: Silk dome
Inputs: RCA, 1/8" TRS
Powered: Yes (50W)
Digital connectivity: Bluetooth

Reasons to buy

+
On-board 56-bit DSP
+
Bluetooth
+
Portable

Reasons to avoid

-
No battery-powering option
-
Too small for some users 

A sister product to the original single-box iLoud, this two-speaker setup is billed as "the smallest active studio reference monitoring system in the world," and is designed to be used in small "makeshift" working spaces. iLoud Micro Monitor certainly has the look and feel of a downsized 'proper' monitoring system rather than a posh pair of consumer-level computer speakers. 

Appearance-wise, the speakers have an appealing 'roundness' to them, and are reassuringly weighty, though they're certainly small and light enough to be carried around. There's a cable connection between the two of them, with the left-hand speaker housing all the controls and connectivity options.

Read the IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitor review

Affordable nearfield monitors that are great for small rooms

Specifications

Frequency response: 45 Hz - 20 kHz
Speaker configuration: 2-way
Driver size: 5", 4"
Tweeter type: Ribbon
Inputs: RCA, XLR
Powered: Yes (50W)
Digital connectivity: None

Reasons to buy

+
Clear precise top end with EQ adjustment if required
+
Sensible choice of inputs for either balanced or unbalanced connection
+
Compact footprint for 5” monitor

Reasons to avoid

-
Rear mounted power LED a bit pointless

One of the most affordable Adam monitors to date, the T5V is built around a 5-inch woofer and Adam’s U-ART (Unique Accelerated Ribbon Tweeter) tweeter. This Class-D powered two-way design with rear-ring bass reflex is the smaller of the new T Series designs. 

Sonically, the top-end is very well tuned, while the HPS waveguide delivers a broad horizontal sweet spot. This contributes greatly to the overall imaging and separation, which is excellent. Although the cabinet is quite deep, front to back, the units feel compact. 

The low mid range frequencies could be more prominent, but this certainly isn't a deal-breaker, and by setting the LF EQ to -2dB we achieved a much better result. Adam’s desire is to make the T5V your first Adam monitor, and judging by what we’ve heard here, it could easily make you a fan for life.

Read the Adam Audio T5V review

A solid performer and a good monitoring choice for difficult spaces

Specifications

Frequency response: 40Hz - 22kHz
Speaker configuration: Two-way
Driver size: 8”
Tweeter type: 6.8” Air Motion Transformer
Inputs: Stereo RCA, TRS, XLR

Reasons to buy

+
AMT driver adds a spacious dimension to the top end
+
Extensive EQ controls for poor rooms
+
Exhibits clarity and coherence

Reasons to avoid

-
Some ears may prefer more traditional tweeters

The original R80 had an unusual, rather eye-catching, ribbon-based tweeter technology. With the Mk2, we still have the same ribbon, so this new version looks very similar to the original. Around the back though, significant changes have been made. Where the R80 had basic preset EQ controls, the V2 now has high-frequency and mid-frequency rotaries, plus a low cut-off multi-switch. 

There’s also a revised implementation of PreSonus’ Acoustic Space Control, which cuts frequencies below 800Hz by either -4dB or -2dB to compensate for the bass boost that occurs when a speaker is placed near a wall or in a corner. Handy if the room you’re working in is not acoustically perfect.

That curious-looking tweeter is an Air Motion Transformer (AMT), a form of driver renowned for being able to accurately reproduce higher frequencies, as well as decrease distortion and increase the speaker’s sweet spot. 

Onto the sound, and the bass delivery is excellent, tight and not at all flabby – the 8” drivers should negate the need for a sub. Mids are balanced, articulate and punchy, yet not aggressively so. But what about that promised clarity and airiness in the top end? There’s a palpable sense of spaciousness and also purity, precision and, most importantly, detail. The listening experience is subtle. Anything more wouldn’t have been a true representation, which isn’t a good trait for a studio monitor.

The R80 is a solid performer that, with its unusual AMT tweeter, excels at revealing nuances. It's also a good monitoring choice for difficult spaces.

Read the full Presonus R80 V2 review

Affordable nearfield monitors that are an ideal upgrade from laptop speakers

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

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
EQ tuning

Reasons to avoid

-
Bass reproduction comes up short at volume

If your recording journey has started with you using headphones or the speakers in your laptop, the PreSonus Eris E3.5 will provide an instant upgrade. These affordable studio monitors offer a variety of connections, and the onboard EQ correction is superb to find at this price point.

The Eris E3.5 monitors pull a fairly reasonable amount of low-end out of the small 3.5" speakers, even with the LF range only extending as far as 80Hz. There is a lack of low-end clarity in certain areas, but as an upgrade from headphones or laptop speakers, the Eris 3.5s fit the bill happily.

During our review process, we found that the Eris are not quite so capable at higher volumes. For a shade under $/£100 though, the quality is still exceptionally impressive - meaning that these monitors are well worth taking a chance on.

Read the full PreSonus Eris E3.5 review

Updated budget nearfield monitors deliver serious volume

Specifications

Frequency response: 56Hz - 20kHz
Speaker configuration: Two-way
Driver size: 5”
Tweeter type: 1” silk dome
Inputs: RCA, Stereo TRS

Reasons to buy

+
Well made
+
Bass boost is useful

Reasons to avoid

-
Unboosted bass is a bit thin

At the budget end of the spectrum, there are certain concessions that have to be made versus more advanced models. Often, this comes in a reduction of the available frequency range and, more often than not, it’s bass that suffers. The Alesis Elevate 5 MKII proves this point, but that doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker; the Japanese firm has included a dedicated bass boost switch for those moments when you are listening for pleasure, rather than for reference.

When we tested these with reference listening in mind, we found that the 40 watts that the 5" driver and 1" high-frequency tweeter kicked out were more than adequate when mixing in a smaller room – but not so much when we expanded into a larger space. This will be no problem for the typical bedroom producer though, with the power on offer being more than enough for most.

Overall, the Elevate 5 set performs well across a range of listening situations, and would make a superb addition to any studio or gaming set-up.

Read the full Alesis Elevate 5 MkII review

Serious budget speakers for serious work

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Active room tuning
+
Incredible sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Not enough for bigger rooms

Sitting at the top end of what we’d call the budget section are the KRK Rokit RP5 G4 studio monitors. Rest assured though, that the advancements in performance and sound reproduction from other budget speakers makes these definitely worth your attention.

From the wider frequency spectrum (meaning richer bass reproduction) through to the onboard EQ presented via an LCD screen at the rear of the cabinet, these are serious speakers.

If we were being ultra-picky we’d gripe a bit at the master volume pot being located at the rear of the speaker, but that’s not uncommon. Overall, however, the KRK Rokit RP5 G4s make for a comprehensive package for any home studio enthusiast.

Read the full KRK Rokit RP5 G4 review

Affordable offering from the studio specialists

Specifications

Frequency response: 70Hz – 20kHz
Speaker configuration: Two-way
Driver size: 3”
Tweeter type: ¾” silk dome
Inputs: Stereo RCA, Stereo TRS, 1/8” jack, Bluetooth

Reasons to buy

+
Wide range of connections
+
Look great

Reasons to avoid

-
No attenuation controls

Mackie is a brand which is well known and well respected in studio circles. It’s built a solid reputation over the years for delivering quality gear at affordable prices, and that remit extends to its range of monitor speakers.

We find that the Mackie CR3-XBT monitors hit that sweet balance between price and performance, and offer a great selection of input options, including Bluetooth. With features such as a wide frequency range and solid build quality, they have a multitude of uses for the modern producer and music listener.

During testing, the 3” main driver doesn't particularly trouble the sub-bass end of the spectrum, but we are still impressed by the clarity and accuracy of a number of reference tracks we test.

Read the full Mackie CR3-XBT review

Best studio monitors: Buying advice

KRK Rokit speakers in a studio

(Image credit: Future)

What do I need to know about studio monitors? 

Why you can trust MusicRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Studio monitor speakers come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and types, so it’s worth exploring some of the options available to you when searching for the best studio monitors. 

Do I need an amplifier for my studio monitors?

First up, you need to think about amplification. The electrical signals coming out of a home studio mixer or audio interface are fairly weak, which means monitors need the help of an amplifier. That amplifier can either be incorporated within the speaker itself - something you’ll find in active monitors - or used separately and externally, alongside passive speakers. 

Does monitor speaker layout matter?

The layout of speakers themselves is crucial too. A classic two-way speaker employs one woofer, dedicated to producing low frequencies, and a tweeter that kicks out high-mid and high frequencies. The signals are separated by a crossover filter which splits the input into low and high bands. In monitor designs at the cheaper end of the spectrum, this crossover point sits at a crucial midrange area, so many higher-end monitors feature three-way (or even four-way) designs that employ more speaker drivers, aiming to keep those key midrange frequencies free of crossovers and so are clearer.

Best studio monitor: 3 individual speakers line up in front of a sunset

(Image credit: Genelec)

What size studio monitors do you need?

Size matters; as a general rule, the bigger the monitor, the more power it can output, and the more bass frequencies you can expect it to kick out. Your room’s size and how well acoustically treated it is will also determine the size of monitor it can handle: big, loud monitors can easily overload a small space.

Where should you place studio monitors in your room?

Listening distance is an important factor to consider too. Nearfield monitors are designed to be placed fairly close to the listener’s ears in a typical home studio. Midfield monitors, on the other hand, should be placed further away, at a further distance apart, in a bigger room.

Lastly, if you find yourself in a professional studio, you’ll usually find giant, full-range monitors, referred to as mains. Monitor sizes are based on the woofer diameter. For a nearfield monitor, this can range from three inches to eight inches. For most small to medium rooms, nearfields are more than adequate.

Best studio monitors: Focal Listen 65 monitors set up on a studio desk

(Image credit: Future)

How do I connect my studio monitors to my computer or interface?

If you opt for active monitors, they usually feature jack, XLR, phono, digital and/or USB connections, which are designed to be hooked straight into your audio interface or computer. If your interface has balanced outputs, opt for your monitors’ balanced XLR or jack input to reduce unwanted noise.

When working with passive monitors, you’ll need to send your interface or computer output to a separate external amplifier and then connect that to your monitors. At the very least, active monitors also include a level control, while room-compensating EQ controls are also common.

How we test studio monitors

Studio monitors should reveal everything about your music in as truthful a way as possible. They should therefore have a completely flat frequency response, that is not coloured or enhanced in any area, so what you hear being played is the actual mix in all its glory. You can then make correct mix decisions based on this true response (reduce volume levels, or EQ certain parts, for example). If your studio monitors don't have a flat frequency response and are, say, enhanced at the bass end, you will hear too much bass so reduce it while mixing and your mixed track will sound bass light on any other playback system.

The wider the quoted frequency response the better, as the speakers will deliver all the highs and lows you will expect from your music. While this can be tested electronically, another option is to test studio monitors with reference music – our own trusted mixes of music that we know very well – where we can tell if any areas of the frequency spectrum have been enhanced or reduced. Hearing every detail in a well known mix is the target for a great set of studio monitors.  

During our playback tests we also test speaker design elements like bass ports which reduce low end distortion, and the rigidity of the cabinets which can help deliver tight transients or, if less well constructed, more flabby playback responses.

At this stage we also test for the stereo width of the monitors – how well spread the stereo signal is between left and right speaker – and also the 'sweet spot'. This is the ideal listening position to enjoy the best sound from the speakers and the better studio monitors feature design elements to increase the size of this sweet spot. This means you aren't so limited in your listening position or can have more than one person monitoring a mix at the same time.

Read more about how we test music making gear and services at MusicRadar.