For any mix engineer, the best studio monitor speakers are nothing short of a necessity.
In fact, they should be one of the first pieces of studio kit that any producer invests in. That’s because studio monitors are way more than just fancy speakers. To a large extent, they influence how you interpret sound – an essential part of being a producer. So as you can imagine, by ‘making do’ with a set of sub-par studio speakers, you’re really only cheating yourself. Do so and perfecting your mix is likely to be a whole lot harder than it needs to be. In other words, workflow suicide.
And then of course, it’s not just you that needs your studio speakers to be on-point. Work with an artist on some vocals and when they’re finished up in the booth, they’ll likely want to hear some playback. Audio that needs to be true to the recording, otherwise it could mislead them on their delivery, or worse, discourage them from recording the song altogether. Neither of which does you any favours as their producer.
Mentality is everything in the booth, and if after listening to your shoddy playback they lose it, you my son – do not have a hit. Kiss those royalties farewell. So now the importance of studio monitors when producing music is clear, what are the best studio monitor speakers for sale today? Are there any you should gravitate towards? Read on and we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about choosing the right studio speakers.
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The best studio monitor speakers @ a glance…
6 of the best active studio monitor speakers for production
When buying studio monitors for music production, you’re not just searching for a speaker. You’re searching for a critical part of your studio setup. One that (let’s be honest), governs not only the quality and balance of your mix, but even potentially what sounds use or how artists seem themselves behind the mic. So to have the best studio monitor speakers you can, just makes sense. Better monitors make you better, so by neglecting to do your research you’re essentially just cheating yourself.
Not that doing so needs to be laborious. We’ve done all the legwork for you. So keep reading and we’ll reveal our best studio monitor speakers of 2023…
* This isn’t just a rundown of ‘good’ studio monitors. This is a rundown of the best studio monitors we’ve ever tested. So think of this blog as a sort of Greatest Hits article. We came to these conclusions by doing 3 in-depth reviews on monitors of each size, totalling over 10,000 words! If you want to read the rest of our reviews about studio monitors of a certain size, smash the links down below…
8 inch studio monitor speakers for mixing & mastering
1: Kali Audio IN-8 3-way studio monitor speakers
In terms of studio monitor speakers, Kali Audio are the new kids on the block. Not that it means that these 3-way speakers are amateur. Anything but! Considering their price tag, these are arguably the best studio monitor speakers you can get your hands on, especially if you’re a music producer. And that’s because you’ll really struggle to find a more well-rounded set of studio monitors.
Due to them being coaxial speakers, opposed to component speakers, the sound you get out of an IN-8 is super clear and crisp. The flatness of these speakers needs to be heard to be believed. With the mids and lows not sharing a driver, both are easily distinguishable. The lower mids especially, which manage not to become part of the lows. The bass also has a real punch to it & is nice and even. Perks of having an 8 inch woofer and 4 inch mid range driver, as well as a 1 inch tweeter!
And that’s why you buy these studio monitor speakers – their sound. In comparison to others in their price range, they really do outperform. We’re particular fans of the way these monitors respond to vocals. The IN-8s make a lot of pricy speakers look tame. In fact, if you were to rate all the 8 inch studio monitors on a ratio of ‘price: sound quality’, we’d say the Kali Audio IN-8 takes the trophy.
Yes, their plastic front baffle doesn’t make them the most attractive studio monitor speakers, but when you consider it widens your sweet-spot, you can’t really complain. Not to mention that it’s probably one of the reasons why Kali were able to focus SO intently on the audio of the IN-8. Part of the reason why we’ve fallen head over heals for these speakers. They’re not trying to be ‘in your face’ or an extravagant modern art piece. They’re just honest speakers. Ones that for 99% of audiophiles, tick all the boxes.
Why these are the best 8 inch studio monitors for production…
2: Yamaha HS8 music mixing monitors
Any flat-frequency fanatic can’t afford not to consider a pair of Yamaha HS8s. That’s because while monitors like the Kali (above), do a good job of producing a flat sound, the Yamaha HS8 just does it that little bit better. Call it the undisputed king of production speakers. Search high and low, and you’ll struggle to find budget studio monitor speakers that give you more honest playback than a pair of HS8s.
Unlike the majority of studio monitors, we actually think the mids produced by these monitors are equally as prominent as the bass. All of which makes these monitors sound so well-rounded. No one part of the sound (highs, lows, mids) overpowers the other. You’ll also struggle to find a drop of colour in their sound too. That explains why these studio monitor speakers can often be spotted on the production desk of major music studios, just like the NS-10M monitors on which they’re based.
These speakers are also built well too. Get your hand son a pair and you’ll soon catch our drift. Then again, with Yamaha being the brains behind some of the world’s best Grand pianos, that’s sort of excepted. That acoustically dampened MDF cabinet also works really well to diffuse any vibrations within the speakers themselves. We also dig the retro vibes these speakers give off and think their design is a great homage to Yamaha monitors of the past.
Granted, these studio monitor speakers don’t boast anywhere near the level of electronic gismos that you’ll find on a KRK Rokit. Nor are they the ideal choice for anyone using monitors casually. If you’re looking for a monitor that’d functional well as part of your home cinema setup or gaming rig, hold onto your cash. However, if your after a critical listening device, pull out your card.
Here’s why these are the best 8 inch studio monitor speakers…
Like the look of the Kali Audio IN-8 or the Yahama HS8, but want to see how they compare to other 8 inch studio monitor speakers? Be sure to check out our rundown of the Best 8 Inch Studio Monitors!
5 inch studio monitor speakers for producing music
3: Genelec 8010C professional 5 inch monitors
When it comes to design, there’s little that can beat a Genelec. Why? Well, put it this way, have you heard of a 5 inch studio monitor that’s made of aluminium and curved on purpose? Exactly – which is why this stunningstudio monitor deserves your full attention. Let’s just say that this Genelec is far more than ‘just a monitor’. It’s a monitor, art-piece and a master of flat sound that can be found in professional music studios worldwide. Here’s why…
As outlandish as the Genelecs may first appear, their design is functional. You see, all those curves actually relate back to the 1950s, when a man by the name of Harry F Olsen realised that spherical cabinets react the least with a driver’s response. Therefore, while the Genelec’s design makes them look like modern art, it’s actual purpose is to reduce self noise within the speaker – a common issue with traditional box-shaped cabinets. So as you can imagine, these monitors are insanely flat. They take the idea of a ‘pure transparent sound’ to a whole new level.
Something that’s also partially to do with the wave guide around the tweeter. A features that differs on each model of the 8000 Series. Therefore, with these Genelecs you get a super wide sweet-spot. The result? No unwanted room reflections & an insanely flat neutral sound. They’ll run rings around virtually all 5 inch monitors! That’s also due to the fact that they’re not mass produced. Each Genelec is individually built, tested and calibrated in Finland before leaving the factory. Safe to say, they’re dependable.
The build makes these truly one of a kind. Even the grills that covers the sub and the tweeter has no flex to them. And it’s all touches like this, that make the Genelecs such great value for money. Yes, they may not be the most budget studio monitors. However for the level of engineering and thought that’s gone into them, we’d say they’re actually quite cheap. Consider that buying cheaper, only to upgrade later down the line, would cost you pretty much the same price (if not more) and dare we say it… these Genelecs are a bargain.
What makes these the best 5 inch studio monitors?
4: Adam Audio T5V production monitors
Mention the best studio monitor speakers and Adam Audio simply must be part of your discussion. Non debate! And that’s because as far as studio monitor manufacturers go, Adam Audio usually compete with the likes of Genelec, Hedd & Neumann. They’re a premium brand! One that’s grown its reputation even further through the production of these, the T Series – a slightly stripped back budget take on their A Series monitors. So as you can imagine, when we clapped eyes on the T5V, we were curious. Very curious.
And rightfully so, as this 5 inch monitor really does sing. Thanks to theU-Art accelerated ribbon tweeter, which you’ll also find on Adam’s (more pricey) A Series monitors, the highs on the T5V are silky smooth. These studio monitors have a real quick transient response and we detected no distortion even at high volumes. Perhaps something to do with the wave guide around the tweeter, which is also taken from Adam’s S Series – their monitors that cost £1000s!
And that’s all despite the T5V being very much a budget studio monitor. Crazy to think, especially for a 5 inch! Buttery highs aside though, the rest of the audio on the T5V is equally as impressive. Thankfully, those highs don’t overpower the mids and low end. All 3 parts work together to create a really balanced sound. One that doesn’t lack definition, nor clarity.As you can tell on first listen, Adam have also put a lot of work into this monitor’s woofer.
Being made ofpolypropylene, opposed to something like Kevlar, gives it a real agile response, even when it’s being pushed hard. The only thing we noticed was that at really high volumes, the bass on this 5 inch does become slightly less prominent. Although, as far as 2-way 5 inch monitors go, the sound you get from the Adam T5Vs is superb. Then again, it has to be as the T5V was specifically designed to compete with the likes of the KRK Rokit 5 & the Yamaha HS5. And you know what, take into account those pricy ‘hand-me-downs’, plus the overall sound quality of the T5V, and we’d be tempted to say they’ve succeeded.
What makes these the best 5 inch studio monitors?
Like the look of the Adam Audio T5V or the Genelec 8010, but want to see how they compare to other 5 inch studio monitor speakers? Be sure to check out our rundown of the Best 5 Inch Studio Monitors!
3 inch studio monitor speakers for portable music production
5: Presonus Eris 3.5 studio monitor speakers
Let’s face it, 3 inch monitors are more than often bought by beginners. Those who’re after something that’s slightly less studio-focused, and perhaps more budget friendly. Now you see, that’s where the Presonus Eris 3.5 comes into its own. Out of all the 3 inch studio monitor speakers, this is one of the most well-balanced we’ve found. Call it the ‘Jack of all trades’.
So aside from doing the job of a multimedia monitor, it also puts in a solid performance when in a studio environment. The overall tone you get with the Eris 3.5 is nice and flat. Granted, being a 3 inch there’s a decent gap between the flatness you get with these, and a Yamaha HS8. However, we did (quite surprisingly) find the audio to be comparable to that of the 4 inch KRK Rokit. So much so that we actually struggled to tell the difference!
What’s more, the highs on this monitor are nice and sharp. For any beginner who’s mixing vocals, the 3.5s are ideal. As for the low end goes, it’s reasonably tight – not muddy like you get in some other budget monitors. However when we cranked up the volume, we did notice a slightly lack in low end umph. Then again, these are near-field monitors, so really that’s not how they’re intended to be used. All of which is actually quite good, especially if you’re living somewhere where noise levels are capped – flats or student halls, for instance.
And if the sound of these monitors isn’t enough to tempt you, their design should do the trick. The Eris 3.5 is incredibly user friendly. Aside from a front mounted power switch and headphone jack, they also feature various EQ controls and even Bluetooth. All of which makes adjusting the sound of these monitors a total breeze. Factor in the price and yep, you can see why the Eris is s popular. For beginners, it’s pretty much the perfect place to start.
Why are these the best 3 inch studio monitor speakers?
6: IK Multimedia iLoud MTM Compact Studio Monitors
If portability is the reason you’ve got 3 inch monitors on your radar, then look no further than the iLoud MTM. A studio monitor that looks very much like it’s been hit with a shrink ray. Its dims really do speak for themselves (26.4 x 16 x 13 cm). And yet, this is arguably the best studio monitor speaker you can buy. Bold claim we know, but listen to the way this monitor sounds, and you’ll see why.
The iLoud is far from your average studio monitor. While it’s (like most studio monitors) a 2-way configuration, the iLoud actually incorporates not one, but two 3.5 inch high performance woofers. Therefore, unlike the majority of 3 inch monitors, the iLoud doesn’t lack bass, despite being a near field monitor. Although, you’d imagine that with it being ported to the back it’d be fussy around walls. However, we personally didn’t find that. Even with the volume up, these monitors are light breathers.
In terms of volume, the iLoud MTM has a superb range. Although when you do crank it up, the bass is (surprisingly) not overpowering. All things considered, these monitors have a really honest sound. For a 3 inch monitor, the playback is incredibly flat. Not to mention clear. The mids are especially detailed. Something that’s helped by this speaker’s listening mic. A device that comes included with the monitor, and actually helps to calibrate them to your listening position. Very clever!
But that’s not the only tech. These monitors also come with a bunch of EQ adjustments and presets + a USB port! Team this with the fact that these monitors are insanely portable (you can pick them up with one hand). Not to mention the fact they’re really well built – they feel solid – and you struggle to see why anyone after a 3 inch monitor would buy anything else. A lack of research, perhaps?
Why are these the best 3 inch studio monitor speakers?
Like the look of the Presonus Eris 3.5 or the IK Multimedia iLoud MTM, but want to see how they compare to other 3 inch studio monitor speakers? Be sure to check out our rundown of the Best 3 Inch Studio Monitors!
Which studio monitor speakers are the best? Our editor’s choice..
Out of every studio monitor on the market today, it really depends on your space, budget and a bunch of other factors as to which one is right for you. But with that being said, even for beginners we’d say that the way to go (if you can afford it) is with the full 8 inches.
That’s because as great as smaller 5 and 3 inch monitors are, 8 inch tends to be where the best sounds lye. Especially if you manage to snag yourself a 3-way monitor, opposed to a two. Do so and the gap between the mids and the lows should really start to open up. All of which brings us to quite abruptly onto our No1 pick.
A monitor that we feel is the best all-round studio monitor speaker. Safe to say, if we could only pick one monitor off this list to use for both mixing and casual listening, we’d opt for the…
Kali Audio IN-8
A monitor that for us ticks all the boxes. In terms of sound it’s flat and honest. And while it’s not a Yamaha HS8, we could certainly see ourselves mixing up a storm with it in the studio. Being 3-way, there’s a real clarity to this speaker that don’t seem to get on 2-way models. The mids don’t bet lost in the low end and the overall sound remains balanced and detailed.
And equally for casual use, this speaker performs well too. So if you fancy taking a break from mixing or just want a monitor for a home cinema setup, the Kali Audio IN-8 is a great choice. Flip the monitor around and you’ll find various dip-switches, all of which allow you to change the EQ and add some extra colour to the sound.
Yet to buy, the IN-8 doesn’t actually set you back a whole lot. For what it is, it’s actually quite cheap. You’ll really struggle to find better more defined audio at such a low price. And while this doesn’t make their price tag any more beginner friendly, it does make them a worthwhile investment.
Take it from us, these won’t be the monitors you buy and a year later end up exchanging for something else. No! If anything, these’ll be the monitors you buy, and laugh. Why? Because the more time you spend with them, the more you’ll realise just what a solid piece of professional gear these are.
Ask us and we’d suggest you grab a pair sharpish. Otherwise Kali may realise their mistake and slap another 0 on the price tag.
Enjoy this review of the best studio monitor speakers & eager for more? Be sure to also tune into the rest of our Audio Kit Reviews, as well as all of our Music Production Advice. Recently, we also did a write up on the Best Theatre Power Managers + a few Good AV Receivers For Music, which may also be a nice read.
Or if you’ve still trying to decide what studio monitor speakers are best for you, keep reading & we’ll answer more of your burning questions…