We look at ten of the best studio monitors across all price points, with compact units for home studios and more professional options featured.
Buying a set of decent studio monitors can be confusing business, with the days of picking up some industry standard Yamaha NS10s long gone – the market is now brimming with viable alternatives. With the advent of room correctional facilities being commonplace across the market range, and phrases like “bass reflex” and “ported” being thrown about, picking out a pair of monitors suited to your needs is not easy. This article guides you through the 10 best studio monitors under the £1000 mark in ascending order of value, picking out the key features and characteristics which may well make them well suited to everything from home DJ setups to use in small professional studio spaces.
Fostex update their hugely popular PM0.4n, a model that first hit the shelves in 2006, with the new highly efficient PM0.4d. More famous for their tape machines than monitors, these near-field units present a clear sound that has been impressing the home studio fraternity. Being the smallest speakers in our feature, they aren’t the most powerful, but their clarity and overall quality more than make up for what they lack in sheer muscle power. The frequency response bottoms out at 60Hz and stretches up to 30kHz with the two-way design being served by a 4” fibre glass woofer and 3/4” soft dome tweeter, with the 41 watts of power being distributed 25 watts to the lows and 16 watts to the highs.
The active circuitry also comes with a built-in energy saving standby mode that automatically kicks in after 13 minutes without any audio signal. Normal operation resumes when an audio signal is detected again. The back panel is where you will find the on/off switch and volume control knob with both RCA and 1/4”TRS connection options. If you are new to music production and you want to dip your toe into the possibilities afforded by your DAW or DJ software on a budget, then the best monitoring option could well be the PM0.4d from Fostex.
|Low Frequency Driver||4” fibre glass|
|High Frequency Driver||3/4” soft dome|
|Total Power (Watts)||41|
One of the most popular brands of studio monitors to enter the consciousness of both home studio acolytes and professional mix engineers in recent years is KRK. With their Rokit series of active bi -amped speakers, they have managed to combine quality and affordability and the RP5 is no exception. Like most near-field monitor designs, the RP5 has a two way configuration, meaning that there is a woofer and tweeter delivering the pristine audio that bottoms out at 45Hz and reaches up to a stratospheric 35kHz. The 50 watts of output is distributed with 30 watts for the low frequencies and 20 for the high range with controls for adjusting the level of both by +1db to -2db for the highs and +2db to -2db for the lows, adding extensive control for customising the speakers for your studio control room.
The flexibility of these compact yet powerful monitors is evident in the fact that you can integrate them into your studio via XLR, 1/4”TRS and unbalanced RCA connections. Being active monitors, they don’t require cumbersome amplification and to help you get a firm command over the level you are working at there is a volume control knob on the rear panel that gives you +6db/-30db at your behest. The Rokit RP5 G3 monitors from KRK offer an accurate stereo image with crystal highs and tight bass for home studios as well as professional small project studios at a competitive price.
|Low Frequency Driver||5” Glass Aramid Composite Woofer|
|High Frequency Driver||1” Soft Dome Tweeter|
|Connections||RCA, 1/4”TRS, XLR|
|Total Power (Watts)||50|
|Controls||Hi-frequency level, Lo-frequency level, Volume|
Yamaha’s best known contribution to the studio monitor field comes from their iconic NS10 speakers that became the industry standard near-field monitors for many years. They still hold up well today, although for near-field speakers the lie of the land has changed decidedly since the initial design hit the shops all the way back in 1978. However, the new HS7 active speakers from Yamaha have the look of a more streamlined NS10 for a new generation of engineers and producers. This new monitor from Yamaha delivers clean and transparent audio with fresh highs and full bodied bass down to 43Hz that leaves the well respected but uncomfortable NS10s firmly in the past.
The HS7 distributes power between the 6.5” woofer and 1” tweeter with 60 watts going to the lows and 35 watts going to the highs, and to help optimise these monitors to your studio there are high trim response controls that will boost or cut above 2kHz by +/-2db and a room control that cuts below 500Hz by -2db or -4db. Add to this a level control knob indented at the centre, +4db position, XLR and 1/4”TRS inputs and you have an excellent sounding and well built monitor system for small and medium sized rooms that won’t break the bank. If you are in need of further bass extension than is offered by these speakers then it is worth looking at the HS8S sub woofer that has been designed to compliment the HS7s.
|Low Frequency Driver||6.5” cone woofer|
|High Frequency Driver||1” dome tweeter|
|Connections||RCA, 1/4”TRS, XLR|
|Total Power (Watts)||95|
|Controls||Volume, Room, High Trim|
Adam have been delivering to the crème de la crème of recording studios across the world since their unique and dependable accelerating ribbon technology (ART) was employed in 1999. With the F series, the desirable clarity of Adam monitors has become available to those of us on a tighter budget. The F5 features all of the quality that you would expect to find in a top of the range monitoring system including a wide frequency response that goes from 52Hz to a skyrocketing 50kHz with room equalisation control above 5kHz and below 300Hz as well as a single volume control. Along with switchable power and an on/off switch the rear panel also features a combination port that will accommodate both XLR and 1/4”TRS type connections as well as standard RCA.
There are very few differences between the design of the F series and the more expensive AX series. The same handmade tweeter that is installed on the A7X for example is the same found in the F5. The only difference between the two is the material that the woofer is made from, in this case a specially created carbon and paper design. Adam speakers have always been impressive, and with this new more affordable model they have gained a lot of new admirers, and in particular this model won “Best Studio Monitor” award in the DJ Mag 2013 Tech Awards. The F5 model is an ideal near-field solution for any kind of music production or recording enterprise that exists in a small space, including DJ practice and preparation rooms.
|Low Frequency Driver||5” Glass Fibre/Paper|
|High Frequency Driver||3” X-ART|
|Connections||RCA, XLR, 1/4”TRS|
|Total Power (Watts)||70|
|Controls||Volume, Hi and Lo Shelving|
Although Pioneer are one of the biggest names in the world of DJ mixers, they are relatively inexperienced in the world of monitor speakers. Their first foray into this realm was 2011, SDJ05, which came more expensive than the specs would justify, which means it’s pleasantly surprising that their new SDJX line comes with high specs at an affordable price point. The two-way design of the high end SDJ80X model features an 8” woofer with an aramid fibre cone – a strong synthetic material used in military body armour – which is both lightweight, rigid and designed to reproduce mids and lows all the way down to an ankle-cooling 40Hz. Evidence of the much improved SDJ80X comes in the fact that it doesn’t come with extended EQing features and only requires a single volume control and a switch for attenuating the high frequency by -2db, -1db, 0db and +1db.
The only other switch on the rear of the speakers is to turn on the standby mode which kicks into operation when there hasn’t been any direct audio feed to the monitors for a certain amount of time, saving energy by dropping the total wattage from 160 to less than 0.5. These flexible monitors from Pioneer will appeal to those DJs looking for accurate monitoring whilst preparing sets, and in addition to this they could double as studio monitors for those that are new to production and need something that is good enough to keep them inspired without breaking the bank.
|Speaker Type||Active Bi-Amped|
|Low Frequency Driver||8” Aramid Fibre Cone|
|High Frequency Driver||1” Soft Dome|
|Connections||XLR, 1/4”TRS, RCA|
|Total Power (Watts)||160 (LF 125 W, HF 35 W)|
|Controls||Volume, Standby on/off, Power on/off, High Frequency Attenuation -2db, -1db, 0db, +2db|
The D5 from Equator is a studio monitor that defies conventions. Its coaxial transducer configuration and specially designed digital amplifier signal a breakthrough in performance that has seen audiophiles and sound engineering specialists getting positively giddy. A coaxial monitor – in this case – sees the tweeter is housed inside the woofer, meaning they share the same space, and one of the benefits of this system is that there is more efficiency around crossover points. With 100 watts of power and a frequency range of 53Hz to 20kHz, the D5 monitors deliver excellent mid-range detail and accurate stereo imaging at a low price that belies their quality.
Equator make a point of bringing our attention to details such as room placement and distance from the listener that can affect the amount of distortion caused by reflections from walls, desks, windows and furniture, and to help, they have added a boundary control that allows you to switch between three configurations depending on where in your space the monitors are placed. Ideal for direct or near-field monitoring the D5’s front ported design presents some fairly decent bass extension. On the rear, along with the boundary control, there is a volume control that has been labelled ‘sensitivity,’ and with built-in limiter and driver protection, there is little in the way of human error that can compromise the listening experience.
|Low Frequency Driver||5.25” Coaxial polypropylene|
|High Frequency Driver||1” Coaxial silk tweeter|
|Total Power (Watts)||100|
|Controls||Sensitivity (volume), Boundary|
These mid-priced, versatile active monitors from relatively fresh-faced company Eve Audio are ideally suited to home studios, post production suites or small recording studios. The speakers’ main characteristic is solid punchy low end with low distortion thanks to its rear-facing rectangular bass port, featuring rounded edges to aid reduction in bottom end breakup. The top end is taken care of by Eve’s own proprietary Air Motion Transducer that delivers a sound that is both muscular and full of silky detail whilst retaining transparency.
The SC204 has extended room control features using the high resolution digital signal processing electronics (DSP) that allows you to control the contour of the filter settings, LED brightness and volume all from a single push encoder. If the idea of a digitally controlled signal path fills you with dread then fear not as the conversion process is handled by top of the line Burr-Brown converters. Any sound below 3kHz is handled by the 4” and above 3kHz is handled by the AMT tweeter with an ample 100 watts to deliver the pristine sound that is ideal for users of all levels of experience working in smaller spaces.
|Low Frequency Driver||4” Silver cone|
|High Frequency Driver||1”|
|Total Power (Watts)||100|
|Controls||Volume, Filter, Fixed Variable, Eve DSP control|
This bi-amped monitor from the reinvigorated Event brand is a powerful beast, delivering 120 watts to its 8” woofer with 80 watts going to its 25mm tweeter. It’s a design born from a desire to improve upon the original 20/20 BAS that was released before Event was bought out by the Australian company Freedman Electronics. The new version has improved dynamics and lower distortion but somehow manages to retain the general characteristics of the original whilst employing technology first developed for their more expensive Opal monitors. The frequency response stretches between an ankle-cooling 35Hz, topping out at 20kHz with the distribution of frequencies switching at 2.3kHz.
Event’s main agenda is to attain a high level of output with the lowest levels of distortion, coupled with great dynamics, and for all intents and purposes they have achieved that with the 20/20 BAS monitors. The heavy cabinets are solidly built and along with the woofer, tweeter and forward-facing bass port there are controls to tailor the speakers to the control room with simple gain control as well as high and low frequency shelving, with the signal being delivered to the speaker using a single XLR connection. The original 20/20 BAS model were used by award winning sound engineers so it comes as a pleasant surprise that these professional grade monitors come at a competitive price.
|Low Frequency Driver||7.1” woofer|
|High Frequency Driver||1” silk dome tweeter|
|Total Power (Watts)||200|
|Controls||Gain, Hi-Shelf, Lo-Shelf|
The older brother to the award-winning F-series is the most famous of all Adam products, namely the AX series, and the most popular model would be the ubiquitous A7X; it’s an impressive unit, featuring Adam’s own handmade X-ART tweeter design and newly improved 7” mid woofer that features a more powerful amplifier and bigger voice coil that delivers as close to distortion free reproduction as is humanly possible. The bi-amped monitor distributes 35 watts to the tweeter and 100 watts to the woofer with a 2.5kHz crossover frequency and a total response that stretches from 42Hz to 50kHz.
The A7X speakers feature simple room controls that include shelving above 5kHz and below 300Hz, with an on/off switch and volume control can be found on the front face, making it ideal for small recording spaces or control rooms that double as live rooms. Overall the sound of this popular design encompasses broad and deep bass with plenty of low extension as well as soft and airy highs that make vocals sound particularly natural. The two-way design manages to coax a lot of depth out of mixes and it’s possible to get a lot of separation between the composite parts of your mix without them muddying, giving you a more three-dimensional perspective. The Adam A7Xs build on the original A7 monitor and will find favour amongst engineers and producers who are willing to spend a little more on quality speakers that won’t let them down. Adam are also the only brand featured to make it into our list twice.
|Low Frequency Driver||7” Carbon, Rohacell, Glass woofer|
|High Frequency Driver||4” X-ART tweeter|
|Total Power (Watts)||135|
|Controls||Volume, Hi-gain, hi and lo shelf filters|
Genelec is a name that has been synonymous with high-end studio monitoring for a generation, and although their products are specifically aimed at professionals, there is no reason why the 8030BPM can’t be used in any home setup, workstation or small project studio. These near-field speakers have a propriety intelligent signal sensing feature (ISS) that reduces the power draw to less than 0.5 watts automatically when no audio signal is detected, firing up to full power again once it gets fed a new signal. The sensual curves of this model are not only easy on the eye but serve the beneficial purpose of improving the frequency response, stereo imaging and efficiency of the unit by minimizing diffraction from any hard edges.
The 5” woofer and 3/4” tweeter deliver 40 watts of power each, with a frequency response that renders solid and accurate bass tones down to 58Hz and bears sparkling highs to 20kHz. Audio is fed to the unit via a single XLR connection and there is extensive room control with the ability to roll of 2db of top end above 3kHz and between -2db to -6db below. The power switch and volume control are found on the front face of each monitor, which is useful if you are working in very small spaces or if your room also doubles as a live room, giving you the option of switching between headphone monitoring or speaker monitoring quickly without having to fumble around the back for the off switch. The 8030BPMs from Genelec are in the professional use category and are priced accordingly, however, they are also the type of monitors that offer an investment that will deliver high grade audio throughout your career.
|Low Frequency Driver||5″|
|High Frequency Driver||3/4” metal dome|
|Total Power (Watts)||80|
|Controls||Volume, Treble/Bass Tilt|