Budget Studio Monitors 2022 under $250.
People often desire the best but are constrained by their budget. When searching for a top-notch studio monitor, the hunt for an affordable option begins. A good monitor should have adequate frequency response, transient response, spatial imaging, low resonance, and off-axis performance. The process of finding the perfect monitor can be daunting, but it's essential to test the speakers before making a decision.
Although it's impossible to try out every speaker, this article aims to consolidate information from various sources, such as YouTube videos and forum comments, to provide guidance. The following list is not exhaustive, but it offers a starting point based on price. Some multimedia speakers are included for reference but are not recommended for studio use. The list focuses on active speakers.
It's important to note that the room in which the speakers are used can influence the results. However, this article focuses on the speaker's capabilities and characteristics.
The list starts with monitors that have a woofer size of up to 5 inches. Smaller ones are not considered as they are deemed less effective.
M-Audio BX5 D3
The frequency response significantly deviates from a linear pattern, showcasing substantial fluctuations below 3kHz. A prominent peak at 100 Hz is observed. The speaker effectively represents bass down to around 80 Hz, after which the bass slowly diminishes. Horizontal axis deviation is less of an issue during listening, but vertically, it becomes problematic if the speaker isn't aimed directly at the listener. Unsuitable for studio use, but acceptable for multimedia applications.
ESI Aktiv 5
This speaker manages frequencies more linearly than the M-Audio BX5, but it also produces a hissing sound when idle. It is primarily recommended for individuals who do not require complex mixing, such as those editing video content or seeking better quality than typical multimedia speakers. The bass output in this speaker surpasses that of the BX5.
SWISSONIC A 305
Regrettably, this speaker is largely based on the Fluid Audio C5, an incredibly low-quality speaker. The subwoofer vibration is unnaturally high, generating distortions that render listening unpleasant. It is baffling how such a subpar device can be recommended.
KRK RP5 RoKit Classic
The speaker is not truly linear, exhibiting an excess of high frequencies and reduced midrange clarity. The low end falls off starting around 65 Hz. However, the rear panel provides options to increase or decrease low and high frequencies. Due to its sound characteristics, it is not advised for mixing. Despite claims to the contrary, this remains a multimedia speaker.
Alesis M1 MK3
The low end extends down to around 50 Hz, maintaining intelligibility rather than a dull hum. A slight mid-range prominence is present, but overall, this speaker delivers an enjoyable sound. The speaker clearly reproduces music details, potentially being the first speaker suitable for mixing. Nonetheless, it still lacks bass-to-high compensation, and the midrange is less linear.
Prodipe Pro 5
This speaker is relatively linear with acceptable intelligibility. Low frequencies drop off from 60 Hz. The Alesis performs better in bass, while the Prodipe is more linear. The difference in price is not significant.
Tannoy Reveal 502
The performance is comparable to the JBL LSR 305 series, but it falls short in quality. Bass begins to weaken around 49 Hz. The sound is superior to most competitors. Unfortunately, an online frequency curve for this speaker could not be found, making it difficult to determine the cohesiveness of the sound design.
Alesis Elevate 5
This speaker is relatively linear. However, the term "relatively" suggests some midrange loss. It still lacks low and high room compensation, so there is no improvement over the Alesis M1.
Similar to the Elevate, with the exception that bass drops off slightly below 80 Hz. This is undoubtedly a disadvantage, but at least room compensation is provided.
KRK Rokit RP5 G4
The speaker has tolerable linearity, better than the classic version. Here, the low frequency drops off from 60 Hz. The sound is adequate. Not exceptional as a speaker, but not as problematic as the first series.
Behringer Studio 50USB
These are not studio monitors but multimedia speakers, and they are inferior in capability to two of the previously listed speakers. As such, they are not recommended for any studio work.
Presonus Eris E5 XT:
Up to this point, only 1-2 speakers have reached a level of evaluation that I can recommend for studio work. The Eris E5 XT doesn't impress me either. Its frequency response resembles a smiley island, with a significant low presence at 80 Hz and an abundance of high frequencies above 7 kHz. The rear of the speaker features bass, mid, and treble compensation, but the speaker's bass response flattens out when adjusted. Even with proper adjustments, the dispersion on the vertical axis is quite uneven. Although the price is rising, it doesn't seem like you're getting a better product for the money.
EJBL LSR 305:
At last, we've reached a new level! If I may say so, this is probably the first 5" speaker that finally gets something right. It's the most linear speaker yet. There's some deviation around 1.5 kHz, but it's negligible. The low frequencies begin to drop below 50 Hz. The horizontal off-axis field provides a nice spread, while the vertical is less so but still tolerable. The sound itself retains intelligibility at lower frequencies, the transients are clear in the speaker, and the sense of space is good. Room compensation is available on the rear side. While it's not a flawless loudspeaker, it is the best choice in this price range so far.
Although this speaker doesn't have a 5" woofer, we'll continue with this one due to its reasonable price. It's a relatively linear device. The low frequencies begin to drop around 50 Hz, but the bass is still noticeable at lower frequencies, meaning the bass doesn't drop abruptly but gradually. The sound quality is decent for the price, but some users have reported build quality issues, such as blown woofers or leaking front glue around the edges. It has better sound than the JBL LSR 305, but is it worth the risk? These may be isolated incidents; I don't know how widespread the issues are.
Monkey Banana Gibbon5:
The frequency curve is smile-shaped, with too much low and high frequency. In principle, it also understandably reproduces lower frequencies that drop below 50 Hz, and it features a room compensation filter. The soundstage isn't detailed enough, falling short of expectations, but the stereo imaging is okay. I'm bothered by the lack of detail, which would discourage me from purchasing this as my primary monitor.
Fluid Audio FX50:
I've been wondering what to write about these speakers, as I had nothing positive to say about the company's previous speaker. However, users have reported an unusually good experience with this model. If I were to judge by the raw data alone, I wouldn't be impressed, as the frequency spectrum resembles a dense trough. There's an 11 dB deviation across the entire range, and from the mid-range upwards, the measured line looks like the roads of Hungary – holes and prominences everywhere. I might want to try one out to see why so many people praise it, but the raw data suggests it's more of an average speaker. Could the coaxial design work wonders? Possibly. I couldn't find much more information about the speaker, as it's not widespread enough for me to locate a wealth of data. However, a detailed review of its big brother might help put this speaker in perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64-r9TOWDrQ&t=0s
RCF Ayra Pro5
This speaker is comparatively linear, with an expansive mid-low frequency response. The bass declines steeply at approximately 60Hz. The speaker's vertical-axis dispersion is somewhat constricted, but horizontally, it is more uniform. Its overall sound quality is exceptional, offering clarity and a spacious soundstage without causing listening fatigue. The RCF Ayra Pro5 is considered a strong alternative to the JBL LSR 305, as both are suitable for mixing purposes.
A relatively linear speaker with the bass dipping below 45Hz. It produces a clean sound with no noticeable issues, although it may sound slightly dull. Nonetheless, it is a reliable industry-standard choice with high build quality.
Prodipe Pro 8
This speaker is relatively linear, with low frequencies beginning to decline below 50Hz. It is comparable to the JBL LSR series in terms of detail, which means it is decent but not extraordinary. The ribbon tweeter version is highly regarded and is likely superior to the base model, making it a good choice at this price point.
Tannoy Reveal 802
A relatively linear 8" speaker with low frequencies dropping from 50Hz. This speaker offers rich detail, but due to limited use, there is not much information available.
This speaker is comparatively more linear, with slightly brighter highs. The low end falls off steeply from 60Hz. Although it is praised as a monitor, some argue that there are better options in this price range. The only compromise is the additional brightness in the upper range.
KRK RP8 RoKit G3 Classic
While earlier KRK speakers were criticized for their inaccurate frequency response, the third-generation model has received positive feedback. Unfortunately, there is no information available on its linearity. The low frequencies go down to 35Hz, and the high frequencies are not fatiguing to the ear, which suggests they are not excessively emphasized. The G4 version has significant improvements.
This speaker is somewhat noisy but relatively linear. The low frequency drops below 60Hz, which is unexpected for a 6.5" speaker. The V2 version is a significant improvement, featuring a ribbon tweeter and bass frequencies dropping below 45Hz. However, the treble is slightly brighter than it should be. The deviation from the V2's axis line results in fairly wide horizontal listening angles. Overall, it is a usable but not outstanding choice.
Presonus Eris 8
This speaker has acceptable linearity, with lows down to around 35Hz. The low frequencies are somewhat muddled, and the higher frequencies are moderately detailed. Other options in this price range may be superior, with the Mackie MR824 being a better choice.
Behringer Nekkst K8
This speaker has excessive, distracting high frequencies and unintelligible bass. These two factors alone may be enough to dissuade potential buyers, especially considering the price. It is not recommended.
A relatively linear speaker with no background noise and low frequencies dropping from 40Hz. The bass is imprecise, and the transients are average. It is pleasant to listen to without causing fatigue. At higher volumes, it loses precision and sound quality. In terms of value, it is on par with the M-Audio BX8 but cheaper. The build quality is acceptable. It is a better choice than the newer Nekkst K8.
JBL 306P MKII
A consistent speaker that meets expectations. One possible issue with the LSR series is that they can be somewhat quieter than preferred. The low frequency begins to diminish below 50Hz. Given the minimal differences between the 305 and 306, the 305 is a more cost-effective option.
Kali Audio LP-6 2nd Wave
This speaker is fairly linear, with an impressive low-end cutoff around 45Hz. The stereo imaging is noteworthy, and the detail remains rich even when moving off the axis line. In terms of price, it competes with the JBL 306P MKII but outperforms it. Be sure not to confuse the first-generation speakers with the 2nd Wave Kali models, as the latter are upgraded versions.
Yamaha HS 7
Some find this speaker somewhat unexciting, but it is still a relatively good linear loudspeaker. It doesn't excel in transients, but it isn't bad either. The low frequency drops around 45Hz. It's a high-quality speaker that provides a reliable listening experience without being overly stimulating.
A decent linear speaker with bass starting at 39Hz. The low-end is a bit murky but comprehensible. This speaker has mixed reviews – some love it, others dislike it. Keep in mind that many people aren't fans of ribbon tweeters, so it's worth comparing the sound differences between conventional and ribbon tweeters.
A fairly linear speaker with low frequencies dropping below 35Hz. The low-end is clear and free of muddiness. The audio remains lucid and understandable at higher volumes, although listening to high frequencies for extended periods can become tiring.
These speakers are all under $250. With so many options, it might be helpful to narrow down the best choices, which include:
M-Audio BX8: Best value for money JBL LSR 305: Top pick in the 5" size range Mackie MR624 Yamaha HS 7 Kali Audio LP-6 2nd Wave Mackie MR824
These are superior options in this price range. However, the Kali and Mackie 824 models have better sound quality, with the Kali likely being the best overall. The differences are subtle, with factors like linearity, audible transients, stereo imaging, and listening angle making the distinction.
As seen from the list, a few speakers remain. These are all lower-tier speakers, each with some imperfections. The key question is how much compromise one is willing to accept.