Ultimate Studio Monitor Guide
If you’ve ever bought an audio interface or are considering purchasing one, you’ve probably figured out that you’ll also need some sort of sound output for the device. In this case, the speakers on your laptop will not suffice and regular computer speakers probably won’t get the job done either. What you need are some studio monitors.
Although the name doesn’t tell you immediately, studio monitors are basically like speakers with a twist.
Studio monitors function in a way similar to what their name suggests; they allow you to hear sound in addition to monitoring sound input.
The easiest way to understand their function is if you understand the context in which studio monitors are used. Whenever you go on YouTube or any other musical site online and click on a video, sound begins to play. This is called regular audio playback and it takes place through speakers which are the ‘output’. The easiest way to remember this is by associating output with going out.
What’s an Example of Monitoring?
Let’s say you have a microphone which you’ve plugged into an audio interface box. Your audio interface is hooked up to your computer and you’ve also connected your studio monitors into your audio interface as well. Everything is turned on, connected and functioning.
On your audio interface, you’ll notice a switch called ‘monitor’ or something similarly oriented that indicates you can turn the ‘monitoring’ feature on or off. When you turn this feature on, everything that is said into the microphone will come out of the speakers.
The microphone is the audio input. The primary feature of monitors is that they allow your audio input to be broadcast as output. Pretty neat, right?
What’s the Benefit of a Studio Monitor?
Most, if not all studio monitors come with features that allow you to adjust the level of bass, treble, and other sound metrics of the music coming out of them (audio output). In addition, they usually have a booming sound that regular speakers do not come with and the sound is generally enhanced so that producers can hear all of the nuances of a recording while they are mastering.
I’m Ready to Buy a Studio Monitor, but What Should I Look For?
There are a couple things that you want to look for spec-wise in your ideal studio monitor:
- Frequency Response – Frequency Response in studio monitors is basically a measure of how well the monitor can replicate the actual sound of the mix. An easy way to think of this is to imagine someone tells you a story about a car accident they were in. You repeat that story to a friend. Your ‘frequency response’ would be how accurately you retold that story. In the same way, a studio monitors’ frequency response is a measure of how accurately they play your mix. This is vital for producers and engineers in the process of mastering. As a general rule of thumb, the wider the frequency range – the more accurate the sound will be.
- Max SPL – SPL stands for ‘sound pressure limit’ so Max SPL signifies the maximum sound pressure limit. When you look a studio monitor’s specs on an ad you’ll see some number like ’98 DB’ next to the Max SPL. To break this down – all of this is meant to tell you the highest volume that the studio monitors can handle before the sound begins to distort. The higher the Max SPL number, the higher the volume of music the speakers can handle without distortion.
In addition, you should pay attention to:
Pricing – You don’t need to break the bank to get a good set of studio monitors. For under 400 USD, you can find a phenomenal set of studio monitors that will accommodate all your needs perfectly.
Two Monitor package – Some vendors will sell you a studio monitor by the monitor instead of giving you both at once. Yes, it is weird but it happens so make sure you’ve checked for this distinction.
Power Requirements/Compatibility – As a rule of thumb, just double check to make sure that all your existing equipment is compatible with the studio monitors you wish to purchase. Usually it is but no one enjoys the hassle of returning an item once it’s been purchased because of a minor detail.
Sizing – Depending on your home studio setup, a larger or smaller monitor may be optimal. Bust out the measuring tape and do some quick sizing to see what you actually want in your room.
Criteria Used To Compile List
Aesthetics – How good do the monitors look?
Hardware Specs – What are these bad boys capable of?
Pricing – Is the price great, decent or a total rip off?
Each score will be given on a 100-point scale with 0 being the lowest and 100 the best score possible.
Without further ado, we now present our:
List of The Best Studio Monitors
#5 – PreSonus Eris E4.5 2-Way Powered Studio Monitors
- Frequency Response – 70 Hz-20 kHz
- Crossover Frequency – 2.8 kHz
- Peak SPL – 100 decibels
The PreSonus Eris E4.5 is a great studio monitor for anyone to have. Coming at #5 on our list of best studio monitors, this is absolutely a must have for any new musician looking to make a solid purchase for their studio.
Aesthetics – Aesthetically, the speakers are a thing of beauty. They have a very simple design about them that complements its all-black finish. The Woofer is located right in the center of the monitors and has a blue hue surrounding its outer rim which gives it a ‘powered’ look. The mini-Woofer speaker atop of the main one on each monitor is a nice addition as well. Overall, the speakers give a calming air of sophistication.
Hardware– The hardware on the device works fabulously. The specs indicate that these studio monitors would do a good job at making sure you’re hearing an accurate creation of your original work. They do miss a bit of the lower ends, but this is nothing to be too concerned about. The studio monitors appear to be fairly high powered and have a very respectable sound threshold that allows for the blasting of many mixes without distorting the sound.
Pricing – The pricing of the speakers is pretty standard when compared with other studio monitors of similar quality in the industry. This is by no stretch a rip-off but it does not quite qualify as a ‘steal’ at its current rate.
#4 – JBL LSR305 Professional Studio Monitor
- Frequency Response – 43 Hz-24kHz
- Crossover Frequency – N/A
- Peak SPL – 108 decibels
The JBL LSR305 Professional Studio Monitors come in at #4 on our list of best studio monitors with an overall amazing value.
Aesthetics – Aesthetically, the JBLs have a nice glossy finish on the outside. Built with the typical square frame of most studio monitors, it has a separate panel built on the front where the Woofers are located, giving it a clean ‘industrial’ look. The screws around the outside of each Woofer help to make it look more professional, with the JBL logo hanging at the bottom with a beautiful silver engraving.
Hardware – In terms of hardware, this device is an excellent one to have. Its frequency response indicates that it will accurately reflect the recordings that are being played from it. It also has a really high sound threshold, so you’ll no problem jamming sounds out of here. The monitors are of a professional quality as well, with plenty options for adjusting the bass, treble, and EQ of the mix to ensure that you get the perfect balance you want to hear.
Price – The price on these monitors are excellent. At the time of writing, they stand at just below 300 USD, which is a steal for studio monitors of this quality.
#3 – Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor
- Frequency Response – 54 Hz-30 kHz
- Crossover Frequency – 2 kHz
- Peak SPL – N/A
The Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitors are an excellent addition to any home studio. Coming in at #3 on our list of best studio monitors, Yamaha continues its tradition of excellence in the field of musical hardware with these professionally tailored monitors.
Aesthetics – The monitors have a beautiful matte-esque appearance to them in cover. The two Woofers on the monitors look as if they have been drawn on by an individual, giving it a cool sort of ‘cartoonish’ look to the devices. As with the prior model on our list, the Woofers are fixed into the device via screws which give it more of a tough, industrialized feel which we like.
Hardware – The specs on this device are of professional quality, so that should not be a concern at all. The frequency response indicates that this device should be able to able to accurately replicate everything but some of the lowest frequencies, but that shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for an experienced engineer.
The maximum sound limit of this device is unknown, but it appears to be high based on some of the reviews on Amazon that we’ve found.
Price – The pricing of this equipment is pretty good given its positioning in the market. There are comparable speakers on the market that costs hundreds more than this model does, so at its current listed price it’s a must-have.
#2 – Resolv SE8 2-Way Active Studio Reference Monitor
- Frequency Range – 40Hz-27kHz
- Crossover Frequency – 3.19 kHz
- Max SPL – 110 Db
The Resolv SE8 2-Way Active Studio Reference Monitors come in at #2 on our best studio monitors list as one of the best investments anyone serious about their studio can make. While often overlooked, Resolv has consistently delivered excellence to consumers worldwide without fail.
Aesthetics – Aesthetically, the device is a thing of beauty and its remarkable fluidity in design is greatly admired. The simple silver, black and grey color scheme gives it a simple feel with a professional aura to it.
The dominant Woofer is made out of carbon fiber, which gives it a very modern, classy look to it. It sets nicely in the speaker’s overall backdrop, providing beautiful imagery that will never get old.
Hardware – This item does pretty well on hardware. It is able to replicate recordings more accurately than any of the other monitors on our best studio monitors list, which is admirable. Only a small snippet of the recordable range would be outside of this speaker’s limit.
The max sound threshold of the speakers is extremely high as well at a whopping 110 DB – which, in laymen’s terms, means you can blast your mixes just about as loud as you want without any really adverse consequences.
Pricing – The pricing on this device is absurd. Normally devices of this quality should run well over 2,000 USD and this is going for a fraction of that. It might not be a bad idea to get this bad boy while it’s still available.
#1 – KRK RP5G3W-NA Rokit 5 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor
- Frequency Range – 45Hz-35kHz
- Crossover Frequency – N/A
- Max SPL – 106 DB
Coming in at #1 on our list of best studio monitors are the famous Rokit brand studio monitors. The KRK RP5G3W-NA may be a mouthful, but this latest addition to Rokit’s line of studio monitors takes high quality to a new level. We are confident that you won’t find a better value for studio monitors anywhere else.
Aesthetics – Visually, the Rokit looks awesome. From first look, it appears to be the type of thing you’d find on board a spaceship or in an advanced scientific laboratory. It boasts a powerful appearance with a solid all-black hardened plastic casing in two alternate colorways – black and gold or white and white, black and gold.
We specifically listed the white, black and gold colorway because it yields the most impressive appearance out of the two colorways. The largest Woofer in the middle of the two monitors takes up a lot of real estate in comparison to the other monitors we have covered.
The smaller woofer has an appearance similar to a surveillance camera you see in the ceiling of your favorite store – pretty cool right?
Hardware – As expected, the actual hardware of this device is stellar. The specs listed do not fully capture the amazing sound projection of these monitors.
Its frequency range indicates that it can accurately capture nearly every aspect of a recording and it has a maximum sound pressure that will allow you to crank tunes at any volume out of this thing. In essence, this is a top of the line monitor that you’ll love.
Pricing – This may be the best aspect of these amazing monitors. The current listed price at the time of writing is almost a giveaway for these monitors.
We’d recommend seizing the opportunity to grab them if you have the chance. These monitors serve the beginner equally as well as they serve the expert.
For more information on this production and an immediate link to purchase, click here. To read what other customers are saying (spoiler alert: the reviews are amazing!) about the JBL LSR305 Professional Studio Monitors, click here.