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Best 3 Inch Studio Monitors 2024: 9 TINY Budget Studio Monitors!

Which is the best 3 inch studio monitor? Here's why small studio monitors are SO worth it...

The best 3 inch studio monitors punch above their weight.

They’re a monitor that isn’t just honest about your vocals, but unlike their larger 5 & 8 inch relatives, is beginner-friendly in terms of budget (£££) and doesn’t eat into acres of your desk space. All of which is major kudos, especially when you consider their sound – it’s no slouch.

Now, while obviously your Yamaha HS8s and Genelec 8000s are pretty much the pinnacle of flat frequency monitors, that’s not to say they’re always the best option. Produce in a tight space and in many cases a smaller 3 inch monitor would do a better job. Less power = less loudness = less reverb. Then factor in that a good chunk of 3 inch monitors are actually built to perform in small spaces, and you can soon see why 3 inches is quite a popular measurement.

So as you can imagine, the selection of 3 inch monitors for sale is not exactly small. If anything, it’s quite bamboozling. Therefore, to help you fathom which are the best 3 inch monitors for you and your setup, we’ve put 6 of the front-runners through their paces. Read on & we’ll reveal which is the best + why.

After something specific about the best 3 inch studio monitors? Or just curious whether small monitors are worth it? Use the menu below to get all the answers you need in 1 click…

small studio monitors used as part of a home studio

NOTE: Interested in studio monitors of all sizes? Be sure to also check out our guides on the best 8 Inch Studio Monitors + the Best 5 Inch Studio Monitors.

Deciding on the best studio monitors is never easy. Especially because when it comes to those which are 3 inches, there’s quite the variety to choose from. Not to mention a few to avoid! Let’s just say that, not all studio monitors are made to the same standard, so you really need to do your research before investing in a pair.

Thankfully though, we’ve done that for you. Whittled out the bad picks & brought you 10 of the best 3 inch studio monitors for sale today…

1: PreSonus Eris E3.5 monitors

2: M-Audio BX3 120W studio monitors

engineer using 3 inch studio monitors to add depth to their music

3: Mackie CR3-X monitors

Sizing up from 3 to 5 inches is quite the jump.

So much so that such a jump may be too big. After all, every production space is different & therefore comes with its own set of acoustic challenges. So while 3 inch monitors work super well in a compact home studio, if you’ve got a slightly larger space that’s not quite a fully-blown recording studio, then a set of 4s may actually be a better bet.

Exactly why if we were looking to upsize from 3 inch studio monitors, we’d opt for a pair of these…

4: Pioneer DJ DM-40BT Studio Monitors

3 inch studio monitor reviews by music critics

Okay, so while the above are what we feel are the most impressive 3-inch studio monitors on the market today, you may be after something slightly different. After all, no 2 producers are the same.

& if that’s the case – GOOD NEWS!

Because there’s still a few other variants of small compact studio monitors out there, by the likes of Alesis, Samson & some other lesser-known brands. So whether you’re after a set of speakers that’s more budget-friendly, less technical or have a certain feature that our picks above don’t have, keep reading…

5: Alesis M1Active 330 monitors

6: Samson MediaOne M30 3″ studio monitors

lineup of small studio monitors on a table

7: Edifier MR4 4 Inch Studio Monitor Speakers

8: Hercules DJ 32 Studio Monitors

9: Sanyun SW208 3″ Active Bluetooth Monitors

rays of sound coming off a subwoofer

Whittling down the best 3 inch studio monitors was quite a task. In fact, it was something we had to sleep on, as two pairs of monitors really stood out to us. For us, it was a toss up between the Presonus Eris 3.5 and the M-Audio BX3. Both of which surprised us in terms of overall performance + their level of build quality.

However we couldn’t get around the fact that one of these speakers has such a HUGE 5 star reputation in comparison to the other. A sign perhaps? Well, we’ve taken it as one, because what we (& a lot of others) say are the best 3 inch studio monitors you can buy are the…

Presonus Eris 3.5 = best 3-inch studio monitor speakers

A set of monitors that really do deliver when it comes to, well – pretty much everything. With 3 inch studio monitors mostly appealing to beginners, these are hands-down a great place to start. That’s because for the size, they boast a lot of features that you usually only find on more expensive speakers.

The tweeters for instance equate to a full inch, opposed to the 0.75 that you get with most 3 inch monitors. And as for the woofers, their cones are kevlar. A perk that we really like, as it evens the overall sound. And that’s why we like the Eris 3.5s – they’re a good balanced speaker, which makes them an ideal production speaker.

So while the likes of the BX3s by M-Audio did sound quite bassy, if clarity is what you’re after, the Eris really does take the crown. The mids and highs are nice and crisp. Therefore, amongst heavy bass they don’t get lost like you find with some budget 3 inch studio monitors. Perhaps something to do with those larger tweeters.

In terms of frequency what you get is something that’s reasonably flat and thanks to these being proximity monitors, you don’t need to drive them hard to feel your sound. Another advatage of the Presonus Eris that makes it ideal for reducing reverb. Now of course, while the sound you get is good, the Eris 3.5s will be no match for your 8 inch Yamahas or KRK Rokits. But, if you don’t have a huge production space or a soundproofed room, the Eris is more than enough.

Then turn your focus to usability and it’s pretty much the same story. All the controls on the Eris 3.5 are easy to access, and the fact the power switch sits on the front is a major plus. Combine this with how you can use the Eris with old and new gear (thanks to RCA & balanced TRS) and as far as all-rounders go, they’re pretty darn hard to beat.

And yes, unlike a lot of studio monitors, the Eris 3.5s are passive, opposed to active. They also feel slightly light compared to your average monitors. However, when you take into consideration the price, you can really see why everywhere you go the Eris 3.5s are no stranger to 5 star reviews. Why? Because as far as 3 inch monitors go, they’re all the speaker you need.

And yep – this is another 5 star review to add to that tally.

Enjoy this review of the best 3 inch studio monitors & eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Audio Reviews, as well as our Reviews Of Music Production Tech. Recently, we also did write ups on the Most Popular Studio Monitors + the Best Studio Monitor Controllers, which may also be a good read.

a music studio production setup

Or if you’ve still trying to decide what studio monitors are best for you, keep reading & we’ll answer more of your burning questions…

Indeed they are.

3 inch studio monitors are a great choice if you’re…

  • A beginner
  • After something small for ‘on the go’
  • Have a small budget
  • Produce in somehwere where excessive bass isn’t welcome

That’s because while they’re substantially smaller than their 5/8 inch counterparts, 3 inch studio monitors do for the most part, give you honest and almost comparable playback. Granted, the bass will be far less BOOMing and the overall volume range of the monitors will be less. However if you’re producing in a small space or somewhere where you’ve got multiple neighbours (a block of flats or student halls for instance), that’s actually a plus point.

Not only that but out of all the monitors you can buy, even the best 3 inch studio monitors are cheaper than the majority of 5 or 8 inch equivalents. You can get yourself a decent pair of 3s for less than £100 for a pair!

All of which makes them ideal for beginners too, who perhaps aren’t sure whether music production is for them in the long run. In which case, if sometime down the line you realise it’s not the direction you want to go, these will still make for great computer speakers. So really, even if you choose not to use them to produce music further down the line, you haven’t really lost out.

For some serious producers, the best 3 inch monitors may even work as a second pair. Let’s face it, 8 inch monitors aren’t ideal for travel. So having a handy pair of 3 inches for the road can never go a miss.

Yep, studio monitors work great for DJs when mixing their sets.

However, that may not be the same story for a live show. In which case, we’d recommend a set of DJ speakers over studio monitors. Here’s why…

Studio monitors and speakers differ quite substantially. That’s because in terms of sound, they’re designed with a whole other purpose in mind. Monitors are designed to give you a sound that’s authentic & true to the original recording. A characteristic that makes them superb for mixing and making music, but not the best for playback at a performance. For that, speakers typically take the crown.

Reason being that instead of aiming to sound authentic, DJ speakers aim to enhance audio with an aim of making it more pleasing to the ear. So for instance, your typical set of speakers may have a noticeable bass boost and even change things up in the mids and highs. In other words, the frequency response is anything but flat. The exact opposite ofd what you find with studio monitors, which focus on providing that flat honest sound that you need in production to perfect a mix.

Yes, studio monitor size really does matter.

That’s because apart from weight and size (obviously), different sized studio monitors do differ in terms of sound quality. Smaller studio monitors like the 3s, typically have less volume to them, as well as less bass. Ideal if you’re somewhere where making excessive noise isn’t permitted, or perhaps your production space isn’t the largest. Put 8 inch monitors in a broom-cupboard for instance, and the reverb will likely make them more of a hindrance than a help.

However, if you’re kitting out a studio or soundproofed room with a decent footprint, then sizing up may not be a bad idea. The woofers in 5 and 8 inch monitors do give you a far more loud and punchy bass in comparison to what you get with a 3 inch. They’ll also give you a lot more in the way of tech and functionality, so the overall flatness and range of the sound is likely to be better. The only trade off is of course that they are far less portable (i.e. heavy) and do cost a fair bit more.

So much so that for most beginners, we’d say 3 inch studio monitors are a great place to start.

If you want to achieve a balanced sound, then yes – two (a pair) of studio monitors is essential.

That’s because without two monitors, you don’t get what’s called the sweet-spot. This is the ideal listening position directly in-between the two monitors, which allows you to determine the overall balance of the song. Important when finalising your mix.

Confused as to what we mean by the balance? Try playing a song through your headphones. Then while the song’s playing, take out one earbud. You won’t hear all the song. That’s because the audio is mixed in such a way that it remains balanced over two channels. So if you’re mixing with just one monitor, getting this balance right can be incredibly tricky.

Precisely why we’d always suggest you invest in a pair of monitors. So much so that we’d say a pair of 3 inch monitors should allow you to achieve a better more balanced mix, than one 5 or 8 inch monitor. If your budget doesn’t stretch to price of a pair of 5s or 8s, take it from us, stick with the 3s.

Read more about choosing studio monitors here.

You can mix without studio monitors, although we wouldn’t advise it.

Mix on speakers or headphones for instance, and you’ll find it very hard to hear the true recording. By that we mean the true quality of the original recording. This is because speakers and headphones are designed to enhance sound, to make it sound better. Remember: that’s because they’re designed for consumer use, not critical listening.

So listen to your average speaker or pair of headphones and you’ll usually incur some sort of bass boost, or even some tweaks to the mids and highs. All of which makes creating a balanced mix incredibly difficult. Get the bass just right on a set of headphones for instance, and when you listen to the track another device, all that bass you perfected may suddenly disappear.

And this is at no fault of the speakers, merely the fact the headphones you mixed with had a bass boost, which tricked you into thinking the bass was right. Whereas if you mix on a pair of studio monitors and get the song sounding clear and crisp, then you can almost guarantee that through speakers and headphones, the playback will sound sensational.

So take if from us, don’t try and ‘cheap out’ on your monitors, as they’re one of the most important pieces of studio kit you’ll ever buy.

That’s debatable.

Reason being that while Mackie studio monitors do look appealing in terms of price, when it comes to quality we’re less convinced. While the larger 8 inch Mackie speakers are actually pretty good, we found smaller versions of these monitors do produce a lot of acoustic noise even when static.

Yes, they do a good job of delivering a punchy bass sound. On some smaller monitors (particularly budget studio monitors), the bass can sound a bit muddy. But for us, that static noise just too overpowering. Call it the elephant in the room.

So while we’d say Mackie monitors are a good budget option for 5/8 inch monitors, if you’re after something under 4 inches, we’d advise you to stay away. Hence why we don’t even give the Mackie studio monitors a mention. As far as budget studio monitors go, the Presonus Eris 3.5 would be a far more solid choice.

Yes, despite Donner being a lesser well-known brand, we think Donner studio monitors are pretty darn good. Hence why we have a whopping 3 picks from Donner on this list.

In our experience, Donner manage to get the balance of quality & price just right. So if you’re after a set of 3 inch studio monitors that’re well built & ‘do the job’, then you can’t go far wrong with a set from Donner. In terms of sound, we also found Donner studio monitors to be particularly detailed & flat (especially considering the price).

And yes, if you’re after the pinnacle, then something more pricy like the M-Audio monitors are going to be your best bet. But as far as functionality goes, you have to give it to Donner. They excel!

NOTE: Aside from their own brand of studio monitors, Donner also manufacture those made by Moukey too. Kit that we also rate highly in regards to build & sound quality.