Do you think it’s impossible to produce good quality music with affordable equipment?
Are you worried you won’t be able to furnish your small amateur music studio because of your tight budget?
Today, I’m breaking these myths. I’ll be guiding you through the process of purchasing one of the most crucial sound mixing and production tools, Studio Monitors.
They’re claimed to be one of the most important pillars for constructing your studio. They’re not that fun to use, though.
Nothing to test nor to play with makes them a bit, well, dull. However, having one, or even a pair of studio monitors is indispensable.
Highline studios literally spend thousands of dollars to get premium monitors. However, getting an affordable one isn’t impossible and I’ll show you how.
Best Studio Monitors Under $200 – The Shortlist
I’ve compiled a list of the best options available on the market. My choice criteria were the $200 price cap, quality of bass and low-end audio, frequency response, and volume.
Also, I’ve taken online reviews into consideration. You know, sound quality is quite subjective. So, I had to see whether people agree with me.
1. JBL Professional LSR305
JBL is a prominent key player in the Loudspeakers’ industry. It’s well-known for impressive sound quality and tone clarity. Alongside with affordable prices for some product lines.
This makes it one of the most convenient options for entry-level studios.
The LSR305 speakers have great stereo sensing and they’re able to pick up the most subtle sound details, no matter how dense the mix is. Thanks to their improved HF detail.
Image Control Waveguide is a top-notch technology that’s used by JBL to ensure that the highest notes in your music are as precise as possible. It breaks up frequencies so that you’ll be able to listen to your music clearly even if you’re not in the sweet spot.
This is an active monitor that doesn’t need external amplifiers. It’s bi-amplified and has a 5” woofer that allows for better frequency responses.
They easily connect to XLR and TRS inputs. Unfortunately, there are no RCA inputs, which I find to be disappointing.
Things I Like
- Good general purpose option
- Amazing clarity & bass sound
- Class D amplifiers
2. PreSonus Eris E5
While searching for products, you sometimes stumble upon some gems that aren’t that famous yet they offer impeccable quality. That’s the case with PreSonus Eris E5.
Unlike the regular 5” cones of most low & mid-range monitors, this monitor has a 5.2” cone. This results in a superior bass frequency. The 1” silk-dome high-frequency transducer contributes to producing this unmatched bass quality.
The cabinets look elegant with their sleek black color and blue speaker cones.
My favorite thing about this monitor is the ‘soft startup’ effect, as it boots and shuts down quietly without making a buzzing or hissing sound.
A resonance-suppressing internal bracing is featured in this unit to optimize sound quality.
Another feature that reviewers are raving about is the acoustic tuning that allows for an accurate mixing contour. Such acoustic spaces tailor the frequency response of the monitor to all frequency ranges; high, medium, and low.
It’s guaranteed that the produced mixes will sound good on nearly any sound system.
Things I Like
- Acoustic tuning
- Elegant minimalistic design
- Sturdy construction
3. Mackie MR mk3 Series MR5mk3
If you’re familiar with monitors in this category, you’ve probably come across the Mackie MR series once or twice.
They’re well known for providing good entry-level quality for good prices. In this product, they’re trying to redesign the MR series to be more practical and reveal a full range of fantastic features that music makers deserve.
For starters, they’ve worked on improving their waveguide system in this version to achieve better clarity and a wider sweet spot.
They added punch and controllable bass extension. They also made these monitors specifically responsive to high frequencies.
Bass sound has a nice rounded punch and the highs are extremely crisp. It turns out their efforts to revolutionize the product paid off!
The music-centric futuristic design adds up to the appeal of these monitors.
Versatile connectivity is this speaker’s strong suit, as it has balanced TRS and XLR. In addition to unbalanced RCA inputs.
There are many accessories that are compatible with these monitors. Amps, subwoofers, and drivers. You can get them separately.
Things I Like
- Improved waveguide
- Crisp bass
- Versatile connectivity
4. Pioneer Pro DJ Studio Monitor (DM40)
You’ve probably heard about Pioneer’s DJ kits. It seems like they’re stepping a bit out of their comfort zone and trying to tailor this monitor for beginners. Let’s see what they offer.
What puts Pioneer monitors a solid contender is their small size that makes them convenient for limited-space studios.
Moreover, the sound they produce feels like it’s from a premium high-end monitor. High & mid frequencies are well-defined, the punchy bass is superb, and the volume range is quite impressive.
A unique feature of this monitor is that its ports are located in the front of the unit, which isn’t practical nor elegant. But most importantly, this might exaggerate the bass frequencies.
I have to say though the curved edges of the cabinet minimize resonance and provide maximum rigidity.
This provides an astonishing 3D stereo sound. Through its ¾ inches soft-dome tweeters that are fitted with DECO convex diffusers to channel high-frequency sounds in all directions.
The high and mid ranges, in particular, have been receiving plenty of positive reviews.
If having monitors with a wide range of high-frequency acoustics is on the top of your priorities, then this is the one for you.
Things I Like
- Wide high-frequency range
- High volume
- Clear base
- Curved edges
5. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
I’d personally recommend these old-school looking studio monitors just for their vintage looks!
Seriously though, Edifier monitor is a bit of an underdog. You won’t find them on many lists online, yet they’re among the most valuable options in the market
A deep crisp bass sound is achieved through the well-calibrated bass driver, alongside with the bass reflex port.
Besides, it lets you connect two devices via its 2 RCA ports. The pair consists of an active monitor and a passive one. They’re connected together via a regular speaker wire and each of them has its own role.
Another feature I like is the remote control that allows you to adjust the volume easily. The bass and treble controls are on the device itself, though.
The only disadvantage I can point out here is that it performs better regarding low ends when the volume is lower. Yet, it’s not a significant decrease.
Things I Like
- Big frequency range
- Wireless remote control
- High-quality MDF wood finish
- 2-year warranty
- Dirt cheap
6. KRK RP6G3 ROKIT 6 G3 6″
The iconic small KRK black monitors with yellow woofers are well-known among amateur musicians. They’re among the most popular and recommended monitors for entry-level studios.
They provide good value for money; precise music reproduction, crisp bass, and extremely high volume that doesn’t compromise clarity as it goes up.
KRK ROKIT G3 is bi-amped with class A/B amplifiers that allow for a large headroom with minimal distortion. Detailed sound imaging is granted by the waveguide feature.
I love the fact that this unit is lightweight (around 13 pounds). The woofer is made of glass-aramid composite and the tweeter is a 1” soft-dome that provides extended response up to 35 kHz. Furthermore, it’s heat resistant.
It also features a front-firing port that extends low frequency while reducing boundary coupling at the same time.
Regarding connection, it supports balanced XLR, balanced TRS, and unbalanced RCA. So, all your options are available.
These monitors are successful to the extent that they’re producing the G4 series now.
Things I Like
- Durable woofer
- Top of the line sound quality
- Crisp bass
7. Behringer MS40 24-Bit/192 kHz
Despite the ‘outdated’ cabinet look. Behringer MS40 is here to impress.
Thanks to its powerful woofers and tweeters, this monitor provides an ultra-linear frequency response. It’s suitable for multimedia workstations and keyboard monitoring too.
You’ll find the power and volume ports alongside with the treble EQ at the front of the unit, unlike most designs. It has a headphones jack as well.
Another unique design decision Behringer took was shifting tweeters to the side, to leave room for the front panel controls.
For inputs, it has stereo and RCA jacks that you can connect simultaneously or mixed with another digital source.
Some reviewers reported that the bass quality significantly decreases if you install a subwoofer.
This stellar monitor has optical and coaxial ports to connect digital audio sources with the S/PDIF interface directly. That’s rare to find in such a price range!
These self-powered monitors are all you need for solid sound quality at a reasonable price.
Things I Like
- Side tweeters
- Powerful woofers
- Versatile connectivity options
8. Mackie Studio Monitor, 6-inch (MR624)
Mackie monitors are a crowd favorite and it comes as no surprise.
These monitors are made of high-quality components with the aim of providing you with pristine sound quality. Their top priorities? Mix translation and sound accuracy.
The improved logarithmic waveguide technology provides you with an ultra-wide listening spot. However, it’s considered to be a near-field monitor.
This ultra-wide dispersion is a noticeable feature, as it enhances the stereo imagining. In addition to guaranteeing that the sound is clear and consistent all across the room.
Concerning woofers, they’re 6.5” which is pretty larger than regular. They’re made of polypropylene to provide a dynamic low-frequency response.
My favorite feature about this monitor is the built-in variable crossover to extend low-end frequency responses.
This product isn’t heat resistant, meaning the amps might get warmer as you use them, so make sure that you use your AC or any proper ventilation method.
So, this is a nice unit that’s not so great when it comes to bass sounds. On the contrary, it’s paying extra attention to the low end of your music. If this looks like something you care about, it’d be a great option.
Things I Like
- Produces professional quality
- Ultra-wide dispersion
- Variable crossover
9. Rockville APM8W 8″
A bigger woofer means a wider frequency range. Rockville APM8W’s quad amp design ensures unmatched performance, as each monitor in this pair has its own bi-amp.
Meaning that there’s an amp for high frequencies and another separate one for low frequencies.
One of the things I like about these monitors is their construction. They’re made of top quality MDF wood rather than a regular board.
It comes in 3 finish options: black painted wood finish, white painted wood finish, and vinyl front board with a wood enclosure.
On the rear, you’ll find volume, bass and treble controls. In addition to the usual TRS, XLR, and RCA inputs, these monitors have USB ports too.
It’s compatible with SMPS technology and has a noise cancellation cable. However, it’s a bit bulky. Don’t go for this option unless you have plenty of space.
One pitfall is that while they’re not working, you’ll probably be hearing a mild hissing sound. The cause of it is unknown, but I had to warn you.
Things I like
- Doesn’t need a subwoofer
- Class D amplifier
- 2 amps per monitor
Studio Monitors Under $200 – Buying Guide
Recording in a home studio is no longer a dream. A wide range of available equipment that comes with a variety of prices that suits nearly everyone is at the tip of your fingers.
For recording and mixing, regular loudspeakers won’t do the job well. That’s why you need a pair of studio monitors that are capable of producing raw natural sound without ‘boosting’ it.
Picking up the most convenient studio monitor is paramount as its the single piece of equipment that decides how others will hear your music. This is serious.
I’ll be walking you through the main things to consider before buying.
Studio Monitor Types
You can classify them according to 2 criteria.
Active vs. Passive
To produce sound, you need an amplifier. As sounds coming out of a mixer or an audio interface are lower than usual.
These are the 2 types of monitors regarding the amplifier installation.
They have built-in amplifiers and crossovers. So, it’s like 2 devices in one. No need for further equipment.
No amplifier. Thus they’re not powered. You have to buy separate ones.
Near Field vs. Far Field
Here, we look at a suitable monitor according to your room size.
Near Field Monitors
If you need something to listen to from a close distance, that’s what near field monitors are made for. Usually to be heard from 5 feet away from your position.
These are perfect for home studios for example. For it’s a small place, in which you want to reduce sound reflection. So by using a near field monitor, the sound will travel for a short distance. Subsequently, reflections are set to a minimum.
Most of the monitors in the market segment I’m targeting here (below $200) are of this type.
For advanced studios with roomy space, you’ll need more advanced expensive monitors.
These far-field monitors cover longer distances, and they’re usually mounted on a stand or placed inside the wall.
While most of the mix will be created on near field monitors, far-field monitors come in handy to check the low end of the mix.
They are 2 main types of cabinets.
The port is that hole you see on a monitor. Its functions are to vent air and extend the low-frequency response of the monitor by resonating in the low end.
You can find these bass reflex ports on the sides, front, or back of the cabinet. That’s why you should pay attention to where you place it to get optimum sound.
These ones have no ports. It means that they have tighter bass and more natural low-frequency response.
It might be obvious that the monitor’s size matters. The bigger the size, the more capable it is to produce high volumes whilst maintaining calrity.
What’s even more important is the size of its woofers. Bigger woofers produce better bass sounds.
This is among the important specs to check before buying. A monitor’s ‘watts’ is a measure of how powerful it is.
Obviously, the higher the watts rating, the higher the volume the monitor can achieve.
The speaker that handles higher-end frequencies. Usually ranging between 2 kHz to 20 kHz.
Lower frequencies from 40 Hz to 5 kHz are handled by the woofer. The bigger its size, the better. To handle frequencies lower than the normal range, below 40 Hz, you need a subwoofer.
A monitor that has one woofer and one tweeter is called a 2-way monitor.
How you position your studio monitors is as equally important as how you use them. The rule of thumb is that you should look for a symmetric composition.
Namely, an equidistant triangle whose vertices are a pair of speakers and you.
You might be asking why is that even a thing. Your position with respect to the monitor’s determines how clear you’ll hear the music reproduction. Being in this symmetric setting ensures that high frequencies will be directed to you right away.
Besides, it ensures that you’re on the same level of the monitors themselves.
Accessories might include, external amps, room correction functions, or subwoofers.
What’s the difference between monitors and speakers?
Stereo speakers are designed to make your hearing experience entertaining, meaning that sound is ‘filtered’ and manipulated to please you. Pushed bass or hyped midrange, these effects are used to ‘cover’ the real music.
While this can be beneficial for listeners, this isn’t the case with music producers.
As a musician, you’ll need to hear the raw sound as it is, in order to do the mixing and edits.
Here comes the role of monitors that give you what we call a flat frequency response, so you can hear how exactly your mixing sounds.
Which are better, active or passive monitors?
This depends on your preference. The matter is highly subjective.
For instance, active monitors will save you a lot of money and effort. They’re also relatively easier to set up.
Setting up a passive monitor system and matching it with proper amps or woofers is a bit of a hassle and surely is more expensive. However, you have the freedom here to pick your own amp and not settle with the one that comes with the monitor.
Can I actually produce quality music with limited-budgeted monitors?
For me, yes. I think you can.
However, this is highly debated in the music industry. Just like anything else, some claim that you won’t get great quality unless you use high-end products, which I find to be a superficial claim, to be honest.
There’s a noticeable percentage that lies on the producer’s skills rather than the equipment he’s using. Surely, high-end equipment means better quality. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t produce something good while being on a tight budget.
As you’ve seen, getting a decent studio monitor to proceed with your music production journey is a must. I’ve tried to make this list as versatile as possible to put options that suit everybody.
To me, my absolute favorite would be the KRK RP6G3 ROKIT 6 G3 6″, KRK is a well-known name in the market and simply you can’t go wrong with them.
A couple of other nice options are the Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers and JBL Professional LSR305. They both provide studio-like quality at low prices. Besides, they care about the details.
Make a shortlist of your own, dig up reviews and look for youtube videos if possible. Make sure that you’re okay with what you’re going to get in order to use it well.
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