In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: June 04, 2021
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Whether you want to set up a studio or fancy yourself as a bedroom music producer, a good set of studio monitors is crucial. Studio monitors allow you to accurately reproduce your tracks and mixes, so they need to be chosen with care.
Our team of researchers assessed 25 studio monitors to see how they perform. We’ve compiled a list of top picks and our editor’s choice, the Yamaha Hs8s offer superb features and excellent build quality. However, we’ve also ranked other monitors at different price points to provide a top pick for everyone.
Our researchers spend days searching to find the best studio monitors under $500. We’ve looked at the types and sizes of speakers, which impact the overall performance. However, we also looked at the maximum rated SPL, frequency response and power. We’ve presented our findings in a basic overview table with a list of detailed reviews. We’ve also included a buying guide to help you to make your final purchase decision.
The Yamaha Hs Series of studio monitors are a popular choice in every available size and price range. For this reason we have the Yamaha Hs8 as our editor’s choice and these may be the best 8” studio monitors under $500 found in many smaller studios. These monitors combine a high specification with a fantastically clean and minimalistic design. In fact, the Hs8 may be the best monitors in the entire Hs range when you consider what you get for your relatively modest investment.
The Yamaha Hs8 has an 8” woofer paired with a 1” dome twitter to deliver deep lows and crisp highs. At the rear we can find a TRS and XLR jack input with some useful trim options to tailor the sound. The performance is simply outstanding for a monitor in this price range and the music seems to come to life. The bass is accurate and the midrange frequencies are nice and tight. These would be a great pair of day to day monitors for a smaller to medium sized studio making them a perfect choice for a bedroom producer.
Why are we impressed?
The materials and build quality are excellent.
Many users believe that these monitors are the best available at under $500.
The sound is detailed and balanced over a very high frequency range.
What negatives must you be aware of?
One user stated that bass heavy music makers will need the sub-woofer monitor.
Some users have reported varying levels of interference from other electronic devices.
Anyone familiar with pro-audio will know that Adam Audio has a great reputation for producing high quality studio monitors. The A5X monitors are no exception, so it should come as no surprise that they are our best powered studio monitors under 500 premium pick. These are dependable monitors that will deliver consistent and accurate sound reproduction for even the longest tracking and mixing sessions. The Adam Audio A5X has a similar aesthetic to the older models with a matte black finish and the build quality is excellent.
The A5X pairs a 5.5” bass and midrange woofer with a 1.5” X-art tweeter voice coil and an internal 50w Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) amp. These are powerful monitors in relation to their modest size and they provide the precise feedback that you need to craft accurate mixes. The PWM amplifier is also referred to as a Class D amplification and it works by turning incoming signals into a series of uniform rectangular waveforms. This delivers high quality sounds that are essential when you need to track down those rogue frequencies.
Why did it make our list?
The A5X has a very compact size with a huge sound.
These are very accurate monitors for a relatively modest price.
One user described these monitors as a perfect choice for true audiophiles.
What is not ideal about it?
Certain concessions have been made with the rear ports to make these monitors work well and they need to be positioned well away from the wall.
These are more premium grade monitors with a price to match.
PreSonus are well known for their software, mixers and audio interfaces. But, they have recently entered the studio monitor market with the new Eris series. The PreSonus Eris E8 is probably the pick of the bunch and they could be the best studio monitors for home studios under 500. The monitor cabinets are made from MDF laminated with vinyl with an understated aesthetic appeal. These monitors are bi-amped, the 8” Kevlar transducer is powered with a 75w amp and the 1.25” silk dome is powered with a 65w amp. The bass sounds nice and tight and as we move up through the frequency range there is no lack of fine detail to explore.
The PreSonus Eris E8 could easily work in a smaller project studio and they will grow with the user over time. The audio clarity is impressive for a studio monitor in this price range and the Eris E8 is one of the cheaper monitors on our list. If you’re starting out on your audio adventure and you don’t want to spend too much on monitoring these are a good choice. The Eris E8 delivers plenty of accuracy for a relatively small investment and they will last for years until you feel like upgrading.
What are its best features?
One user was impressed with the price and the number of accessories provided.
These monitors offer a decent level of bass reproductions without a separate woofer.
What could be improved?
The PreSonus Eris E8 would not be powerful enough for a medium to large sized studio.
The Swan Speakers T200C monitors are comprised of a long throw 5.25” mid/bass woofer paired with a 0.8” dome tweeter. The woofer is made with hydronalium to make it softer and more pliable to deliver deep powerful bass frequencies. The tweet is made from lightweight harder materials to provide higher frequencies in the 2kHz to 20kHz range. The black lacquer cabinet and silver aluminium front plate deliver a stunning aesthetic that was a surprise at this price point. But, going beyond the great looks, these materials have been chosen to minimize sound coloration and standing waves.
The Swan Speakers T200C are active desktop speakers with active electronic filtering and Bluetooth transmission for wireless monitoring. These monitors use a master/slave configuration, the master speaker has a dual channel pre-amp and a monophonic power amp. The slave speaker has the monophonic power amp only, the Bluetooth signal or incoming audio is fed into the master speaker. After the signal processing a single channel of audio is sent to the slave speaker. These may be the best bookshelf studio monitors under $500 for users that want to go wireless in their home studios.
What stands out?
The design is both beautiful and practical for audio mixing at home.
These monitors are capable of producing impressive bass frequencies.
The frequency range is impressive in monitors at this price.
What cons did we manage to find?
One user reported that the included remote control has buttons that are hard to press.
The Edifier S2000 PRO monitors are a good combination of innovative design and performance at an affordable price. Edifier may be a less known brand name in the pro-audio market but they are becoming a popular alternative choice. Generally speaking, studio monitors don’t vary much in terms of design with an emphasis placed squarely on performance over aesthetic concerns. But, Edifier has managed to balance both of these needs without compromising on the performance. The top and sides of the monitor cabinets are clear in an attractive thick wood veneer and each monitor weighs in at 9kgs. These are substantial speakers and this helps to negate any vibrations that could affect the sound quality.
A 5.5” woofer handles the bass duties providing a deep punch in the low frequency ranges. The aluminum flat cones provide detail in the mid/high frequencies for accurate tracking and mixing duties. The rear panel houses RCA inputs for AUX and RCA connections and XLR inputs for your audio interface or mixer. There are four general EQ settings for quick listening duties and a remote control is supplied. The build quality is outstanding for the modest price point and these monitors are a decent alternative to better known brands.
What do we love it for?
Users enjoy the aesthetic appeal and design.
The substantial build quality reduces annoying vibrations.
The sound is well balanced across the entire frequency range.
The JBL 306P MkII builds on the reputation established in the last few years by the LSR305 and other impressive models. Despite being “budget” monitors, the 306P MkII has an impressively wide stereo image, great bass frequency reproductions and flat response for detailed mixing. In fact, considering their relatively small size the 306P MkII monitors deliver surprisingly deep bass frequencies. These are the third iteration of the 3-series lineup and each model in the range performs well beyond what you might expect at these prices.
The JBL 306P MkII continues the black aesthetics established on earlier models but the woofers and tweeters are now tucked inside a shimmery plastic surround. Each tweeter also has a tweaked version of the “Image Control Waveguide ” system that provides an even better stereo image of the LR305. The 6.5” woofer and 1” tweeter are driven with a pair of 56w class D amps that can deliver 112w when the volume is cranked up. The 6.5” woofer is the source of the aforementioned impressive bass response but an 8” woofer would be a better fit for larger rooms. As you would expect there are ¼” TRS and XLR inputs with a +4dBu/-10dBv sensitivity switch and volume controls. These monitors have been tested for 100 powered hours to ensure accuracy and this makes them an ideal solution for smaller rooms.
What are our favorite features?
One user was extremely impressed with the bass frequencies.
What could be better?
The 6.5” woofer will not suffice in a medium to larger studio setting.
The new KRK RP7 Rokit G4 monitors have a sleek and professional look with the iconic yellow Kevlar cones and a fresh embossed logo over the new bass port baffles. These monitors sit slightly higher than the previous models and the AB amplifications have been switched out for the latest class D studio standard. The woofers are an inch larger at 7” and they are still paired with a 1” tweeter with a balanced ¼” TRS/XLR combo input jack at the rear. The monitors sit on a thin iso-foam pad to isolate the sound and add stability by providing some much needed table friction. A backlit KRK logo helps the user to see when the monitors are turned on in a darker studio.
The KRK RP7 Rokit G4 has an EQ system driven by DSP with a menu system that’s accessed with an LCD and data encoder. This system is located at the rear of the monitor which is a questionable position if you need to make frequent adjustments. However, for the majority of users the settings will remain the same once room correction issues are taken care of and there are 25 EQ combinations to choose from. These may be the best studio monitors for electronic music under 500 during tracking sessions. These monitors sound nice and punchy for capturing a performance but they may be less useful for extended mixing sessions. The mid range is reserved and it lacks detail but some EQ boosts of +1dB can rectify this discrepancy in many cases depending on the material. An accompanying Android and iOS app is very useful if you want to tailor the settings.
Why are we impressed?
The mounting pad provides useful isolation.
Users like the EQing options and punchy sound.
What negatives must you be aware of?
The LCD menu is useful but the rear monitor location makes it hard to access.
Mackie are well known for their studio monitors at the cheaper end of the market. However, the company can produce some outstanding examples in the sub $500 range and this includes the Mackie XR824. These monitors are an improvement over the HR824 mk2 monitors and yet they cost around half less. These are some of the best monitors that you will find in this price range, the cabinets are MDF with a logarithmic waveguide baffle and a rear eliptica port to further refine the audio quality.
The 8” Kevlar woofers deliver incredible bass response and the “Bass Reflex System” keeps even tight at the bottom end of the mix. There are plenty of EQ options to surgically sculpt the frequencies to your taste. The bottom of each monitor has a foam isolation pad to reduce desk drift and curb those annoying vibrations. The Mackie XR824 monitors have the latest Class-D amplification standards with a 36Hz – 22kHz response. These monitors would work well in a smallish sized studio but the upper frequencies are less detailed in medium to large rooms.
What stands out?
The lower frequencies are very well detailed.
The foam isolation pads are included in the package.
Users like the EQ adjustment possibilities.
What cons did we manage to find?
Users find the mid-range frequencies less impressive.
The acoustic room controls have a steep learning curve.
Things to Consider
If you want to set up a full home studio, studio monitors are vital. Unfortunately, with the variety of options on the market, it can be a little tricky to choose the right ones. So, here we’ve created a buying guide with the features you should consider and answers to some common questions.
What to expect from studio monitors under $500?
Advances in technology have opened up a whole world of pro-audio to the masses. However, the best results are still achieved using the very best technology and that costs more. But, it’s important to understand that skills and innovation on the part of a producer can mitigate or even overcome many mixing challenges. If you’re looking for the best passive studio monitors under 500 you will not see any on our list. Every set of monitors shown here is a powered unit with a built-in amplifier that’s carefully matched to the speakers. The monitors at this price such as the Yamaha Hs8 system are ideal for smaller studios and larger variants will usually cost more.
Features to consider when buying studio monitors
With so many studio monitors on the market, it can be a challenge to find the best ones for your specific requirements. Needless to mention, that modern music distributors require high-quality content, so it is extremely important to make your mixing and mastering with a help of reliable studio monitors. So, here we’ll explore some of the important features you should consider before making your final purchase decision.
Near field monitors vs far field monitors
This is a simple concept to grasp once you understand the basic principles. The difference between near and far field monitors is the distance that you can accurately listen to playback from them. If you have near field studio monitors they are better suited to a “bedroom studio” setup where the listener is closer to the speakers and the reverse is true for far field monitors. Generally speaking at the sub $500 price you will be looking at near field monitors such as the Adam Audio A5X units that are ideal for smaller studios.
Active vs passive monitors
An active monitor has its own amplifier and a passive monitor needs a separate amplifier system.
As we mentioned in the introduction each monitor chosen for our list is an active monitor. A passive monitor may be a good choice if you have more space and you have a very specific amplifier in mind. But, most new producers will choose an active monitoring system because the woofers and tweeters are designed to work with the installed amplifier. The only real drawback is that monitors with a built-in amplifier tend to be heavier, but this makes them more substantial and the footprint is larger.
The monitor size or power in watts is directly linked to the type of listening that you need in your studio. If you’re working in a larger room or a dedicated recording studio you may need a higher wattage because you’re likely to be further away from the monitors. But, if you’re working in a bedroom studio or a smaller dedicated recording room anywhere between 10-60 watts should suffice. Remember that extending periods of mixing can cause fatigue and pros monitor at lower levels with an occasional boost to check a specific frequency.
Every studio monitor has a specific frequency response, this is the frequency range that those monitors can safely handle. The frequency response is determined by the size of the LF and HF drivers that are installed in the monitors. If you have a wide frequency range you can monitor a much broader selection of music types and genres. However, having more available frequencies to monitor does create new problems. The differing frequencies will compete with each other and this can lead to a loss of certain details that you may want to include. So, it’s important to understand the frequency response before you make a financial investment in new monitors. A prime example would be electronic music with a great deal of bass in the mix where monitors such as the PreSonus Eris E8 would shine. If you have a lot of bass in your music you’re going to need monitors with a very good frequency response at the bottom end of the mix. But, if the material is acoustic in nature or there are a lot of vocals you will need a flat frequency response.
We touched on power briefly but it’s important to understand that the frequency response and the power rating of the amplifier in your chosen monitors will dictate how loud they will be. These audio characteristics are also influenced by the size of your room and how loud you want the music to be when tracking or mixing. Loudness creates excitement for short periods but it can become very fatiguing over extended periods and it may even damage your hearing. For this reason, many musicians crank the sound up when tracking to capture an exciting performance and then mixdown at more conservative levels. If you have a smaller room even a lower power monitor will provide enough loudness to satisfy your needs. A larger studio will need higher powered monitors to get a louder sound if required.
The tweeters are the smaller audio drivers in your monitors that are used to produce the upper range frequencies that you can hear. The higher a sound frequency the smaller the sound wave that it produces and this is why these speakers need to be smaller in size. Think of a tweeter as an electromechanical speaker that produces sound in the upper or higher frequency range to complement other speakers that cannot reproduce high pitched frequencies. If you look at a tweeter it has a smaller cone and it has to be pointing directly at the listener to work correctly. Many tweeters are limited to a very narrow 3kHz-20kHz range. To put this into some perspective a typical person has hearing in the 20hZ-20kHz range. So, you can see that tweeters are designed to reproduce those upper frequency details that humans ears can register comfortably. This is very pleasant for casual music listening, but it’s critical for audio production if you want to capture details in your work.
Woofers are the counterpoint to tweeters, they are larger drivers that are used to faithfully reproduce mid/low and bass frequencies. Modern music tends to have a very bass heavy sound which can distort on many types of studio monitors. A set of studio monitors such as the Mackie XR824 are designed for electronic music styles that need plenty of bass. However, for some producers even this level of bass frequency response may not meet their needs and they want even more bass without the accompanying distortion.
For this reason, some producers invest in a dedicated subwoofer to handle the deeper bass duties in their studios. Adding a subwoofer can work well but the size and layout of the room needs to be carefully considered or the bass frequencies will overwhelm the space. As an example, if the subwoofer was positioned next to a wall the bass would sound louder than it actually is and the producer may attempt to compensate by lowering the bass in their mix. This can lead to poor quality mixes that will need to be repeated but unless the underlying causes are addressed the mixing cannot improve.
Most studio monitors have a ¼” TRS, XLR or RCA input jack and some have a combination ¼” TRS/XLR input. These audio connections are where the producer will connect the audio cables from their audio interface or mixer. An XLR connection is the best choice because it’s robust and less prone to failure. Many audio interfaces have XLR outputs but some don’t and the type of audio connections you need must be carefully considered.
Single-amp, bi-amp, or tri-amp
The audio input signal is used to power the drivers installed in the studio monitors. There are three main methods used, they are: single-amp. bi-amp and tri-amp. Most home studio monitors are configured with two speakers and a producer may add a subwoofer for bass heavy music styles. Inside each monitor you will find a tweeter to handle the higher frequencies and a woofer for the midrange and bass frequencies. Some producers have very elaborate setups where the incoming signal is split to three speakers for the high, mid and bass frequencies. But, for newer producers or those working in smaller rooms it’s likely that they will be using studio monitors like those on our list. Let’s take a look at the three different types of amplifier configurations.
The single-amp setup uses a crossover system to divide the output of one amplifier. This signal is then shared with the 2nd monitor and the signal is split to the appropriate speaker. The lower frequencies are sent to the woofer and the higher frequencies are sent to the tweeter.
The bi-amp setup uses the crossover network before the signal is sent to two distinct amplifiers. Each of these separate amplifiers is designed to power the low and high frequency drivers in each monitor.
A tri-amp configuration will divide the signal into three separate signals to drive three amplifiers. A low, mid and high frequency speaker is driven by its own dedicated amplifier.
The type of amplification used can have a dramatic effect on the accuracy of the frequency response. A bi-amp or a tri-amp setup will generally have a flatter and more accurate frequency response. When each speaker is powered individually rather than using a single amplifier the reproduction of the entire frequency range is better.
However, a single-amp speaker will sound clear when compared to bi-amp and tri-amp speakers of a similar size.
This is why most HiFi systems use a single-amp to power the speakers because they are pleasant to listen to for extended periods of time. But, when we are looking for studio monitors we are seeking accuracy rather than listening pleasure. The entire purpose of the studio monitor is to faithfull reproduce the music. The producer needs to track down those phase cancellations, rogue frequencies and other issues that will affect the quality of the final mix.
The studio monitor cabinet may seem like a purely aesthetic consideration but this is not strictly true. Many smaller format monitors and certain larger variants may have ports in the cabinet. These are used to improve the frequency response for bass heavy music producers. This is useful, but the accuracy may suffer as a result. Generally speaking, a ported monitor cabinet will not have the level of accurate sound reproduction found in a similarly sized closed cabinet configuration.
Some studio monitors have open ports on the rear of the unit to boost the bass frequency response. This is ideal for electronic music with lots of bass but these ports can create problems. If a studio monitor with rear ports is too close to the wall the bass frequencies will bounce back into the room and make the bass sound louder. If you want more bass and you have a smaller studio consider a front port as a workable alternative.
Finally, there are extra features to consider, such as sound isolation pads, EQ settings to tailor the monitors to your room layout and remote controls for Bluetooth systems. These types of features are nice to have, but they are added extras and they are no substitute for a poor-quality monitoring system.
You should aim to create a symmetrical placement, positioning your monitos along the shortest wall at ear level. You should also try to avoid reflections from any hard surfaces. You will then need to adjust your monitors to allow them to sound correct.
Most studio monitors have a slot or hole in the cabinet called a port. This is carefully tuned to work with the air that resonates inside the cabinet, increasing the bass output. Some audio experts argue that no port creates a more accurate sound, but others agree that a port can make the speaker louder. However, if you have a rear port, it is crucial that you don’t place the speaker next to a wall, which would restrict the air circulation.
As you can see, there are some fantastic monitors on the market. From the PreSonus Eris E8, which offers excellent sound reproduction even for smaller project studios to the Adam Audio A5X, which has a compact size yet delivers superb accuracy.
However, the stand out as the best studio monitors under $500 has to be our editor’s choice, the Yamaha Hs8. These monitors not only have an excellent build quality with high quality materials, but offer great value. The Hs8s have nice, tight mid-range frequencies and accurate bass, making them a great option for day to day use in a small to medium studio or for bedroom producers just starting out.