So, you have decided to try your hand at mixing and mastering in the studio. Well, it is certainly a long and arduous journey. However, the right equipment can make your life much easier. You can have all the vintage equipment and skill in the world, but a bad studio monitor will make things very difficult. When you are in the studio, you want to be able to hear every single detail.
Studio monitors have a flat, neutral, and reference style sound signature. A lot of manufactures are trying to add some excitement to these studio speakers. Some of them even add a lot of bass to the speakers. Try to stay away from these, as they defeat the entire purpose of studio monitors.
With all that said, there are a lot of great studio monitors out there. It is difficult for many people to narrow it down to one of three. We’re here to make your lives a bit easier. Let’s cut the small talk and get straight to it. Here are some of the best studio speakers in 2020.
Adam Audio is a legendary brand when it comes to studio monitors. Their AX series is quite successful if you can fork over the cash for them. However, these just might be the last studio monitors you ever end up buying. Yes, they are good. But let’s have a look at what makes them this good.
The AX7 we’re looking at is the 7-inch version of the AX range. There is an A3X and A5X variation as well. Design-wise, these look phenomenal. The cabinet is heavy and rugged and weighs in at 20 pounds. This handles distortion and resonance quite well. The low-frequency of42Hz is handled by bass ports and woofer. Similarly, the max 50kHz frequency is handled by tweeter.
The crossover is at 2500Hz. The tweeter is quite impressive here and has a distinct design. Instead of a silk dome tweeter, this uses a folded ribbon twitter. It is much wider and moves air faster when it leaves the tweeter. This gives the monitors and immense dynamic range and transient response. The nice angled design takes us down to the woofer.
This woofer is made out of a carbon composite and works well. The front-firing bass ports are in a good location and throw out a lot of low-end. Sound quality is natural, and reference-grade. You’ll be able to pick up details you never noticed before while mixing. The inputs include an unbalanced RCA and a balanced XLR input. We even have tone controls to change the frequency balance.
Overall, these are hands down the best studio monitors for most people. Of course, they are a bit expensive and require a bit of setup. However, you get a lot of value in exchange for your money and patience.
Like many others on this list, PreSonus is a well-known brand. This is especially true among budding audiophiles. PreSonus offers excellent value and performance in all of their products. The ERIS E8 XT studio monitors are no different. These are excellent studio monitors, and they earn a strong recommendation from us.
The Eris XT is an enhanced version of popular reference monitors. They made various improvements over their predecessors. They have a better transient response and a wider stereo image. This comes together to give you a bigger sweet spot. The low-end is also much better and focused on these monitors.
The E8XT features an 8-inch custom-woven Kevlar woofer. As for the tweeter, it’s your standard 1-inch silk dome tweeter. These drivers deliver 140W of power, which is more than enough for both studio and general use. They have a low frequency of 35Hz. These monitors are versatile and provide great control over audio. You get three separate inputs: Balanced XLR, Balanced TRS, and an RCA unbalanced port.
Apart from all of that, you also get level control and dedicated eq controls. Of course, room tuning is also available here. Position matters a lot for studio speakers so the acoustic space control feature helps out here. The only downside is that these monitors come with mediocre cables. Apart from that, these are excellent studio monitors for the money. Enthusiasts might demand more, but these are great for more than 90% of people.
The JBL 306 MKII studio monitors are well known as the king of budget studio monitors. Not all studio monitors need to cost an arm and a leg. However, entry-level monitors don’t always sound the best. Surprisingly, the existence of the 306 MKII makes this statement false. These are the best value on this list, and we don’t see that changing any time soon.
To the surprise of many, these studio monitors are actually larger than first initially thought. They are quite big and have some weight to them for a 6-inch subwoofer. Both speakers have a plate amp and options for balanced XLR or quarter-inch TRS input. These are active powered speakers. You get switches to adjust high and low frequencies according to your liking.
The build quality isn’t exactly the best. The cabinet can feel a bit cheap at times. Aesthetics aren’t all that impressive either, as they look plasticky and don’t have that premium feel to them. The waveguide on the front tweeter doesn’t help much either.
However, these speakers redeem themselves with sound quality. They have an incredible low-end, and the mid-range is well detailed. The trebles are bright and pleasant to listen to. As we said, these are excellent value. Well, if you can look past the design and build quality.
The Yamaha HS8 studio monitors are most likely the easiest to recognize for most people. These are based on the NS10 studio monitors, which are the most famous studio monitors of all that. The HS8 lives up to that legacy. This remains true both in design and performance.
The HS8 studio monitors have already earned a cult-like following. They are awesome for mixing and mastering. Successful studios require great monitors, and these live up to that criteria. They even have the iconic cone sub-woofer. Of course, this is painted white to keep that classic retro look alive. Yamaha has also added a blue LED at the front.
We are big fans of the minimalistic, clean, and simple design. The crossover is rated 2000 Hz. As for the frequency response, it comes in at 38Hz-30kHz. These are active studio monitors with built-in amplifiers. The sound quality is flat and natural. They deliver transparent and full-range performance. The volume knob is located at the back.
Overall, we are still big fans of the Yamaha HS8. They could benefit from a wider soundstage, especially if you are mixing audio for films or something similar. Adding a subwoofer might be necessary if you really want to bring these to life.
5. Mackie CR-X Series 8-inch Multimedia Monitors
- Very versatile
- Affordable price
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Headphone jack on front
- Not quite reference-grade
- Quality control issues
- Bluetooth can cut out at times
Power Handling: 160W | Configuration: 8-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter | Input: TRS, RCA
The Mackie CR-X Series 8 are excellent entry-level studio monitors. Mackie is often the go-to brand for people who are just learning to work in the studio. However, Mackie terms these studio monitors, as “Multimedia monitors”. That’s an interesting take, for sure. Regardless, these 8-inch studio monitors are a great budget option.
These have an 8-inch subwoofer paired with a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. They have that sleek look we’ve come to expect from Mackie monitors. The brushed metal faceplate, textured cabinet, and classic green accents provide a unique look. With the volume/power knob on the front panel, you can easily tune the audio to your liking.
These CR-X monitors have a headphone output built-in and it’s right there on the front panel. These Multi-media monitors even have built-in Bluetooth. This is important if you want to use them for general listening sessions. All things considered, these monitors are great for content creation, gaming, and home studio use.
However, they sound more enjoyable rather than flat or neutral. Don’t get us wrong, they are good for mixing and mastering. Still, if you need that exact precision and accuracy, then these aren’t for you. There have also been some quality control issues among a few users.