The Best Studio Monitors For Under $500

Jason Horton's picture
Recommended studio monitors for home recording

Even if you have the best audio interface, best microphones, best software, best instruments and so on, it really doesn't matter if you can't hear a clear and unbiased sound when you're trying to record, edit, mix or master your tracks.

If you're just starting out in music recording and production you may be thinking "Why do I need special monitors when I already have my fantastic Hi/Fi speakers hooked up to my computer and I've got great headphones as well?" Well the problem is that your hi/fi speakers are designed to make music sound great instead of giving you an honest portrayal of what you've recorded - and although it should go without saying, headphones have similar issues as well as giving you an 'artificial' stereo image.

All of these issues present problems if you want to produce your music to sound as good as possible, and this is where having a solid set of reference monitors in your studio is essential.

The systems I recommend for home recording studios are all bi-amplified powered pairs of speakers, regardless of the style of music you're working with. These systems give you an honest sound which will show up all the flaws in your recordings in a near field monitoring situation while providing a cost effective alternative to high-end passive systems which require separate amps and speakers.

In order to help you choose the best monitors for your recording setup, I've broken down what I consider to be the leading options in the following price brackets for a pair of speakers - the prices are based on what they usually sell for in the shops rather than the often inflated manufacturer suggested prices:

Under $500

When it comes to reference monitors between $400 and $500 there are two clear standouts in my opinion: PreSonus Eris E8 & M-Audio BX8 D2. Although I've put PreSonus in front of M-Audio it's an exceptionally close call. Both of these systems are so closely matched in terms of specifications and performance that I certainly wouldn't argue with anyone who put them in the opposite order. If it were based on how sexy they look then I would have given the nod to M-Audio, but I'm not very fashionable so I've simply gone with my personal preference and what my ears tell me. Read what I've written about both of them carefully before making your decision on which one to get - whatever you choose you won't be making a mistake buying either one of these sets of monitors.

BTW - if you're wondering why I haven't nominated any Yamaha monitors here it's because I'm a huge fan of their HS8 system, but it generally sells for around $700 so they didn't make the cut simply based on price, however I have included the HS5 system in the sub $400 section below.

PreSonus Eris E8

PreSonus Eris E8 Studio Monitors

What can I say other than PreSonus make top-notch gear for home recording. I know this business is saturated with buzz-words, but the kevlar that they use in their 8" woofers, and the strength-to-weight ratio kevlar has over more commonly used speaker materials, really does make a difference and I believe that's why their monitors sound better to me than the vast majorigy of the others in the sub $500 price range - although note that the M-Audio pair below use the same technology.

The Eris E8 are exceptionally well shielded for RF interference so no matter what you sit them next to they'll continue to perform without any problem - even if you have old CRT computer monitors on your desk you can place them directly beside and you won't have a problem - of course it's far more likely you'll have amps and outboard gear in the vicinity and they won't suffer from interference in these cases either.

The frequency response is fairly even from 35 Hz to 22 kHz in this two-way system which has its crossover at 2.2 kHz. The power rating of the main low frequency amp is 75W - the high end is 65W which may be considered overkill, but to my ears it's a realistic and representative nice sounding configuration.

I really love the approach that PreSonus take - many other brands will tell you how good their speakers sound but PreSonus proudly state that their monitors will "reveal all of the flaws in your tracks" - and that's exactly what you need.

PreSonus Eris E8 Specifications
Low Frequency Driver 8” Kevlar
High Frequency Driver 1.25” silk dome
Low Frequency Amplifier 75W
High Frequency Amplifier 65W
Frequency Response 35Hz - 22kHz
Crossover Frequency 2.2 kHz
Connections Balanced XLR, Balance 1/4” TRS, Unbalanced RCA
Power 100-120V ~50/60 Hz or 220-240V ~50/60 Hz
Controls MF:-6, 0, +6 dB | HF:-6, 0, +6 dB | Low Cut: Flat, 80 Hz, 100 Hz | Acoustic Space: Flat, -2 dB, -4 dB
Dimensions 9.84" x 11.77" x 15.12"
Weight 22.2 lbs
Cabinet Vinyl-laminated, MDF

This pair will usually cost you $499 - for more information go to Presonus or read customer reviews and buy a pair of PreSonus Eris E8s at

BTW - if you like the E8's but they're a bit out of your price range, then check out the E4.5 version in the Under $200 section below.

M-Audio BX8 D2

M-Audio BX8 D2 Studio Monitors

You will find M-Audio monitors in any reliable list of reviews or recommendations for studio monitors and there's a good reason for that - these are incredibly reliable work-horses and surprisingly high-performing monitors in the sub $500 range. I say "surprisingly" because to my ear they sound as good as many other speakers that cost twice as much.

M-Audio claims that the "BX studio monitor series is trusted by more musicians and recording professionals than any other", I've looked around for any information that would refute their claim, but I've been unable to do so - it's a wild claim but it's not inconceivable and they sure do sound good to me - although I suspect their higher market share comes from the aesthetics - I call it the "apple effect".

They also use kevlar for their 8" low-end speakers so perhaps that's why they sound just about as good to me as the PreSonus Eris E8 which I recommended above, and their RF shielding seems to be just as good.

The main reason I rank them below the PreSonus Eris E8 is that to my ears they seem to produce slightly more noise than the Eris E8, but if anyone is willing to dispute this then send me your data - there may be a bias in my system, it's that close I wouldn't bet my house on it.

The frequency response is similar to the PreSonus Eris E8 with the same response range starting just 5 Hz higher at 40 Hz, although M-Audio claims they go down to 38 Hz.

Some people, like the guy in this video, claim that monitors should always have EQ controls or should emphasize the bass more - I disagree, even if you're producing EDM you need an honest response at the bottom end in order to know how your mix is going to sound to your average listener. Sure, hardcore listeners are going to have additional gear such as sub-woofers, but always try to keep in mind that your production goal is to appeal to the average fan with average sound systems.

M-Audio BX8 D2 Specifications
Low Frequency Driver 8” Kevlar
High Frequency Driver 1.25” silk dome
Low Frequency Amplifier 70W
High Frequency Amplifier 60W
Frequency Response 38Hz - 22kHz
Crossover Frequency 2.2 kHz
Connections Balanced XLR, Balanced/unbalanced 1/4” TRS
Power Factory programmed for 115V ~50/60 Hz or 230V ~50/60 Hz
Controls Volume
Dimensions 12” x 10” x 15”
Weight 26.4 lbs
Cabinet Vinyl-laminated, MDF

A set of BX8 D2 usually sells for $499 - get the latest price and customer reviews at or get more information from M-Audio.

Studio Monitors Under $400

The main difference between these monitors and the ones above is that they have smaller woofers and consequently a slightly lower SPL which means they move a slightly smaller volume of air making them not quite as loud at the lower end. In smaller listening/control rooms this isn't really much of a disadvantage. If you're literally producing in a bedroom then these will generally perform as well as the ones above, but may not serve you as well when you move up to bigger facilities.

KRK RP6G3-NA Rokit 6

KRK RP6G3-NA Rokit 6 Studio Monitors

KRK are a studio monitor company - that's pretty much all they do and they produce high-end systems used in professional recording studios. KRK are used by a wide range of producers and musicians from the DJ & EDM end of the spectrum like DJ Sasha and Antillas through to the rock end with artists including Snow Patrol and Skunk Anansie - and pretty much every other genre as well.

KRK have targeted their Rokit range at the 'semi-pro' studio market, taking what they've learned from their pro gear and making great monitors for the home recording scene.

The 6" woofers are made from an aramid glass composite which is basically the same thing as kevlar with the same strength to weight ratio.

They actually have a wider frequency response than the systems above going from 38Hz to 35kHz, but unless you're a teenager you're not really going to be able to hear much above 22kHz and a lot of home sound systems your music gets played back on won't reproduce the extreme high end either - but some producers swear it makes a difference to them.

One neat feature is that they have their own anti-vibration pads built into the bottom of the cabinets, so you won't need to get these separately if you're sitting them on your desk instead of speaker stands.

I also like the way they put the bass port on the front of the cabinet - this gives you a better sense of the bottom end than you would otherwise get from 6" speakers and the bass will project well even if you have them sitting close to a wall as you often do in a home recording situation.

KRK RP6G3-NA Rokit 6 Specifications
Low Frequency Driver 6" Aramid Glass Composite
High Frequency Driver 1" soft dome tweeter
Low Frequency Amplifier 73W
High Frequency Amplifier 25W
Frequency Response 38Hz - 35kHz (+/- 1.5 dB)
Crossover Frequency 2.3 kHz
Connections Balanced XLR, Balanced 1/4” TRS, Unbalanced RCA
Power 110-120V and 220-240V
Controls HF Level Adjust: -2dB, -1dB, 0, +1dB | LF Level Adjust: -2dB, -1dB, 0, +2dB | Volume: -30dB to +6dB
Dimensions 10.87" x 8.82" x 13.0"
Weight 19.4 lbs
Cabinet Vinyl wrapped MDF

They usually sell for $399 at and you can get more information at KRK Systems.

Yamaha HS5

Yamaha HS5 White Studio Monitors

Many audio engineers regard Yamaha's HS series as having the flattest frequency response of any powered monitors in the home recording market - that's not surprising because their woofers were designed by the same Yamaha engineer, Akira Nakamura, who designed the legendary NS-10 passive monitors which are still in use in many high end studios around the world more than 3 decades after their initial launch.

While they only have 5" woofers for the same price as Rokit's 6" woofers above, the extra cost is essentially for the extremely well regarded 'honesty' these monitors have - what you hear is what most consumers will hear on their home systems.

Yamaha HS5 Black Studio Monitors

These are actually an upgraded version of the popular HS50 and the frequency range has been extended up to 30kHz.

Like all the monitors I've mentioned so far, they are fully shielded and can be placed right beside your computer screen or laptop with no interference issues.

The cabinets come in both black and white options - I prefer the white.

If you're looking for 5" reference speakers then these are the ones I most strongly recommend.

Yamaha HS5 Specifications
Low Frequency Driver 5" cone
High Frequency Driver 1" dome
Low Frequency Amplifier 45W
High Frequency Amplifier 25W
Frequency Response 54Hz - 30kHz
Crossover Frequency 2 kHz
Connections Balanced XLR, Balanced/unbalanced 1/4” TRS
Power 110-120V and 220-240V
Controls LEVEL control +4 dB, center click | EQ: HIGH TRIM switch +/- 2 dB at HF | ROOM CONTROL switch 0/-2/-4 dB under 500Hz
Dimensions 6.7" x 8.7" x 11.2"
Weight 11.7 lbs
Cabinet MDF

They usually sell for $199 each so a pair is just under $400 - see the latest customer reviews and price at - you can also get more information at Yamaha.

Studio Monitors Under $300

The systems I've presented in this section all represent good value for money and are well suited to producers, musicians, and engineers who are just starting out in music production. However, it's important to understand that as the price goes down you'll often find that you're trading off some features for others - you can't always get everything you want for less than $300.

Alesis M1 Active Mk2

Alesis M1 Active Mk2

Please note - unlike most of the other systems I've talked about, the Alesis M1 Active Mk2's are only available for 100v to 120v mains power so if you live outside the USA and Canada (and a few other countries in the Americas) then you'll have to pass on these.

If you're looking for reference monitors with large woofers, then these are the best value with their 6.5" non-woven carbon fiber speakers, and unlike the Reveal 402's I've mentioned below, these are shielded so you'll have no problem sitting them on your desk next to any of your other gear.

Although they've been on the market for over 12 years now, the fact that they're still available is an indication of how well they've stood the test of time.

One of the ways Alesis have kept the price down is not to provide any EQ controls - I don't really see this as a problem for most home studios and like I've said before, you don't really want reference monitors to be messing with the sound in any way (EQ controls are mainly for people who really know what they're doing to compensate for any excessive influence the room has over frequency response).

These are great value if you're just starting out (certainly a lot better than headphones), but if you're an experienced engineer or producer you might find that while the mid-range is reasonably truthful, the low end seems to be boosted a bit and the 15kHz+ range is a bit understated - but you can't expect everything at this price and if you use them for a while you'll learn how to compensate in your mixes.

SOS put it very well in their listening review when they said, "The Alesis M1 Active MkII delivers everything that's needed from a small monitor, and while there may be more accurate monitors around, it competes very strongly with anything in the same price range."

Alesis M1 Active Mk2 Specifications
Low Frequency Driver 6.5" non-woven carbon fiber
High Frequency Driver 1" silk dome with wave guide baffle
Low Frequency Amplifier 75W
High Frequency Amplifier 25W
Frequency Response 56 Hz - 48 kHz
Crossover Frequency 2 kHz
Connections Combination XLR and 1/4” TRS - balanced or unbalanced
Power 100 to 120 V
Controls Volume
Dimensions 8.5" x 15" x 9.25"
Weight 21lbs
Cabinet MDF

A pair of these cost $299 at and further information is available at Alesis.

Tannoy Reveal 402

Tannoy Reveal 402 Studio Monitors

As a bit of a history buff I was well aware of Tannoy being a Scottish company that produced high-end PA speakers during WWII, but I was surprised back in the early 2000's when a woman representing the company called me on the phone to tell me about their studio monitors. At first I wasn't sure what to make of them but after a few conversations, and getting to listen to them in person, I became convinced that they had made the transition from PA to studio quite effectively.

A handy little feature which allows you to use these with an iPad or tablet is that in addition to the regular connections, each cabinet also has a 1/8" Mini Jack AUX IN and AUX OUT port - these are unbalanced but if you're producing music on a tablet you'll get better results with proper reference monitors like these than regular speakers designed for music listening.

One drawback with the Tannoy Reveal range is that they're not magnetically shielded - this means you can't place them close to anything which creates much of a magnetic field such as your computer or external hard drive or you will degrade their clarity - something which must be avoided if you want a good sounding recording.

Tannoy Reveal 402 Specifications
Low Frequency Driver 4" cone
High Frequency Driver ¾˝ Soft Dome
Low Frequency Amplifier 25W
High Frequency Amplifier 25W
Frequency Response 56 Hz - 48 kHz
Crossover Frequency 2.8 kHz
Connections Balanced XLR, Unbalanced 1/4”
Power 100 to 120 V and 200 to 240 V (switchable), 50 to 60 Hz
Controls Volume control | EQ: -1.5 dB HF Cut & +1.5 dB HF Boost
Dimensions 9.5" x 5.8" x 8.4"
Weight 11.5 lbs
Cabinet MDF with injection molded front baffle

You can find them at Amazon for just under $120 each ($240 a pair) - for further information visit Tannoy.

Studio Monitors Under $200

If you're looking for reference monitors in the sub $200 price range you can still get some respectable speakers that will out-perform some studio headphones which cost about the same.

It's important to note that many of the systems in this price range are not bi-amplified, and they are intended primarily for hobbyists who record demos, make YouTube videos, or produce podcasts - systems below $200 aren't generally suited to high-end music production but they're great if you don't need all the bells and whistles and have no need to spend the extra money.

Here are a few of the systems that are pretty good in this price range:

If you'd like a more detailed review of recording monitors that you can buy for less than $200 then I recommend Hitsquad's cheap studio monitor roundup.

If your budget extends above $500 then you should take a look at The Best Studio Monitors Under $1000 on

So there you have it - my recommendations for home studio reference monitors. If you have any questions or suggestions about speakers for music production you can reach me via the contact form or hit me up on Twitter.

Here are some additional guides to home recording equipment:

My Best DI Box Recommendations for Recording & Live
The Best Cheap Audio Interfaces For Home Recording
What kind of Audio Interface is best for Recording Drums?