In addition to being a private violin teacher and having a degree in music from USC, Alecia started writing music-related articles and product reviews six years ago and has enjoyed this experience greatly. She likes to learn new instruments and write new compositions 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 promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners can enjoy really good music.
Last updated: September 23, 2023
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Professional audio reproduction should be a necessity when purchasing studio monitors. So why is it so hard to find?
We’ve come across reviews about studio professionals who have spent hefty amounts on their monitors and found out they don’t live up to their expectations.
Many elements make up a good monitor, so it can be hard to keep track. The reality is that not everyone is willing to spend all their savings to be disappointed in the end.
This is where we come in. We’ve taken into account different factors for you to bear in mind. Our goal was to find the most advanced audio technology for the best possible value, and we managed to get it done.
We’ve chosen these for more than just specs. After all, they’re the top choice of world-class sound engineers. These speakers offer clean sounds, high and low. They have mastered frequency mixing when producing professional sounds.
PreSonus has been delivering high-performance speakers since the dawn of time. It is no surprise that acoustic experts think of the brand as their holy grail of sound reproduction. The Eris E3 is not just a studio monitor – it’s designed to generate sounds for every multimedia task at hand. Games, films, and producing a single: You’ll need nothing else.
What are its best features?
We’re particularly fond of how these monitors redefine sound reproduction through hardware engineering. They have taken into account more than just blasting good quality audio, but have studied sound waves. The silk tweeters smooth out the sound, and the weave of the woofer maintains the sound stable while it expands. The brand has learned about the best materials for the waves to vibrate with. Your sound quality and dispersion around the room will be constant and clear.
What could be improved?
The Eris E3 are meant for smaller spaces, their 3.5 inches speakers are actually the smaller ones in the entire line. They don’t possess a balanced XLR cable. Although unbalanced connections are less complex, they don’t prevent signal loss or frequency interference. The frequency response of these loudspeakers is the minimum one required to speak about professional audio output. If you look at the other speakers from the same line, you’ll find that you can get a higher frequency response range.
The CR-X Series of the Mackie monitors are designed to provide all the creative people out there with cutting-edge sound technology. The number of handy connections makes this a premium pick for anyone looking to work with professional sound and staying connectivity-flexible.
These are worth the money you pay if you’re looking to produce music at home. Most users have a tough time comparing different versions or models from the same line, particularly in the case of ones so similar, like the Mackie CR3 and CR4. The main difference you’ll find is that the latter can offer a slightly lower range when it comes to low frequencies.
What makes it special?
These kinds of monitors are the most user-friendly you can get your hands on. Plug and play features are highly underestimated. We appreciate the fact that you don't have to go through intricate setup steps to start enjoying studio-quality acoustics, and you’ll appreciate it too. The all-wood cabinet works well with the brushed metal front panel. You’re not only enjoying the quality of your sound, but you also get to see it too.
What cons did we find?
The front volume knob appears to never disconnect from power. If you wish to keep them running 24/7 and switch them off by using only the volume knob, you can expect the side panels to get a little hot. The idle status of these could be improved by optimizing the power consumption when they’re not actively used. Most people try to avoid using the back panel switches every time they stop using their monitors. However, this will have a significant impact on the lifespan of your loudspeakers.
These loudspeakers are designed in the country of highest-ranked engineers in Europe. Behringer, in Germany, is behind the creation of the structure of these professional loudspeakers.
These models stand out from the crowd for being meant for fixed installations. It gives you the chance to do more than set a small studio. You can actually upgrade any room acoustics long-term. Think of restaurants, offices, event spaces, and so much more. The brackets for positioning these speakers have been specifically designed for them. Fix them and have them stay there for as long as you decide.
What makes it special?
We’ve been blown away by the sound handling of these monitors. They will work for you at full capacity with unnoticeable distortion of sound. The sound quality you’re getting is not only stable but the phase linearity that characterizes these speakers. In theory, phase linearity is impossible to achieve, but these monitors are as close as you can physically get to it. The delay times will be almost equal in each frequency of your speakers' output.
What cons did we find?
These speakers are passive, and although the sound quality is delivered to perfection, it’d be nicer to have active speakers for more flexible connections. With passive speakers, you will need a receiver or an external amplifier when connecting certain devices, such as computers, to reproduce the sound. On the other hand, active speakers have integrated amplifiers that allow sound reproduction without an external amplification source.
These near-field studio monitors are ready to power your recording studio. You’re not only getting audio quality for professional use but a set of active speakers that play well with any devices without you having to get your hands on external amps.
It’s nice to have a particularly wider range of frequencies in such compact devices. Most loudspeakers with ranges above the average tend to get bigger in size, making them virtually impossible to have as bookshelf monitors. With a slightly higher frequency range, these speakers are compact and ready to be placed where you see fit.
What are its best features?
We are thankful for brands that consider the diversity of environments that surround us every day. This one is one of them. They have gone out of their way to provide acoustics that is well balanced and without any sort of distortions. At the same time, they’ve managed to provide their users with multiple connectivity options with active speakers with enough ports to simplify the way you experience sounds.
What could be improved?
We have something to say about the bass of these monitors, mainly because they are professional studio ones. The lower end of the frequency response rate is the average one for basic professional audio speakers. Nevertheless, the depth of the delivered bass could be improved. Another feature that could use some tweaking is the advertised professional wireless connection. Even though the sound quality of these monitors is impeccable and well balanced, the connection via Bluetooth can be unstable.
Things to Consider
You can access professional audio quality without spending over $100. We’ve walked you through our favorite studio monitors. To choose each of the monitors you’ve just read about, we took more than audio features into account. Worth according to value, design, and user experience are all part of this review.
What to Expect from Studio Monitors Under 100$?
The last thing we want is for you to be stuck with a couple of monitors that don’t deliver the sound you want. Secondary specs aside, whichever speaker you choose will deliver professional audio meant for those who work with sound.
Exceptional quality sound is the main characteristic we’ve considered when putting together this list. You will not regret getting any of these monitors, but there are limitations to speakers within a more limited price range.
Features to Consider Before Buying Studio Headphones.
There are plenty of features and specs to consider before making your next purchase. We’ll talk you through some relevant aspects you should know about when reading about your next audio monitors.
Lightweight vs. Heavy Duty
Audio monitors are a lot like jewelry. Each speaker has a driver inside it. How heavy a driver is, tends to be associated with its quality. In other words, the heavier the driver, the higher the quality of your speaker.
When you purchase monitors on the more expensive side, this gives the manufacturers more budget to invest into the elements that constitute the hardware of the speakers. The heavier (and usually more expensive) speakers have more weight due to how robust the hardware’s walls are.
The walls that enclose the drivers are not the only element that makes up the weight of a speaker. The coils of the drivers are key components in how the sound is reproduced. These are cylinder-like pieces that possess a coil wrapper around them. The sturdier the coil, the heavier the piece.
By adding up the weight of these elements, you’ll end up with speakers that get heavier and more intricate as the price range goes up.
Weight is not only a result of the components of a speaker, but it also has a purpose related to the sound that is being reproduced. The weight of a speaker is correlated to the vibration of the system. The vibration of a speaker will have an impact on the outputted sound.
The heavier your speakers are, the less they vibrate. This means the vibrations caused by certain frequencies will not be as intense because of how hefty the structure of the monitor is. In other words, a heavier speaker can help reduce distortion
Trusted SourceIntermodulation distortion (audio) - Glossary - Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines InitiativeIMD results when two or more signals of different frequencies are mixed together and additional signals are formed at frequencies that are not, in general, at harmonic frequencies (integer multiples) of either source signal.
and sound saturation.
Lastly, the weight of your speakers can also determine the lifespan of the product. The more lightweight your monitors are, the more likely the elements will move out of place in years to come due to sound vibration.
The massiveness of the system is not the only element that a price range has an impact on. Although the scientific concept of sound reproduction is the same, a larger budget usually means more funds are redirected towards the engineering and design process of the speakers.
A clear example would be brands with proprietary technologies and designs. They will engineer completely new components, and they can make new pieces or adaptations of older designs based on the specifications of the desired sound.
When you’re buying studio monitors under 100, you might not encounter these kinds of exclusive elements inside your speakers.
The way a product can be engineered can change, but the concept behind the behavior of sound waves will always remain constant. How physical elements convert signals into what we perceive as sound won’t change according to the price range of your monitors. However, the materials that constitute it most likely will.
High-end materials or even innovative designs with eccentric compositions are usually found in more expensive audio monitors.
We’ve mentioned the Mackie CR3 Studio Monitor, which has a cabinet built from wood and metal. Essentially, it proves you have access to good audio quality without having to overspend.
Even if you can find wood as a material for these speakers, it’s still considered a high-quality material. The type of wood will also vary according to the price range of the product. Luxury speakers, just like some instruments, will be built from more expensive woods, like walnut.
Some audio monitors, like the Moukey MA20, are active speakers. This means you won’t need amplifiers or receivers to connect them to devices such as computers. Although many audio monitors within different price ranges include wireless connections, bear in mind that these are not designed to be Bluetooth speakers.
When it comes to wired connections, professional audio monitors don’t typically include various cables, even if they have the corresponding ports. You most likely will have to purchase the wires separately, depending on the additional connections you want to make.
When investing in studio monitors under 100, one of the sound features you’ll be compromising is your output sound frequency range. This doesn’t mean, in any way, that the sound quality will be lower.
This simply translates into your speakers outputting less variety of frequencies. The wider the range you decide to get, the more details you’ll experience when listening to your speakers’ sounds.
The minimum frequency range
Trusted SourceAudio frequency - WikipediaAn audio frequency or audible frequency is a periodiс vibration whose frequency is in the bank audible to the average human, the human hearing range.
a professional speaker should offer stands between 80 Hz – 20 kHz. The more space between the two extremes of the range, the bigger the monitors’ acoustic palette.
Professional monitors that fall under a certain price tag tend to offer less variety when it comes to the frequency ranges. However, the Behringer 1C-BK Ultra-Compact monitors we’ve mentioned can provide an astonishing 60 Hz – 23 kHz sound frame.
Amplifiers & Receivers
We’ve mentioned passive and active audio monitors. An easy way to spot the difference between them is that the first one will need an amplifier or an AR to connect to reproduce the sounds, while the latter will be just a matter of plugging and playing.
If your audio monitors are passive, you’ll have a wide range of receivers to choose from, some of them integrated with amplifiers. Think of receivers as the control headquarters that transfers audio signals from the source to the audio monitors.
You can virtually use your studio monitors to reproduce all the sounds you want. However, you should consider that these kinds of speakers are meant for professional use. Standard speakers or sound systems intended to enhance the home-theater or entertainment experience will probably focus the reproduction of sound on sound effects, immersive recreation, etc. Professional studio monitors will do the job more than fine, but if this is the only intended use, you might want to consider getting regular speakers.
Studio monitors are worth it, depending on the context of the circumstances. If you’re creating tracks, recording music, or involved with sound in a professional way, then studio monitors are not only worth it, they’re a must. If you’re just looking for a more generalized enhanced music experience, surround sound systems, and even soundbars can be enough. After all, each type of speaker is designed to reproduce different and specific sounds.
Mount brackets and monitor stands exist for a reason. Studio monitors perform better when they’re positioned in certain places, for they are tested for optimal performance in this way. If the size of your studio monitors allows it, you can place them on shelves, desks, or any other rigid surface. The sturdier the surface you place them on, the most you make of the sound quality. Placing them on a desk can cause unwanted vibrations that end up altering the outputted acoustics.
We’ve scouted the best products we could find, but the last verdict will be in your hands.
High-quality audio is the foundation of all the monitors we’ve mentioned, but each of them stands out for being unique. Remember the Presonus Eris E3 is the first choice of world-class engineers. There’s no one better to tell you what good acoustics are than the people who’re responsible for creating them. Although affordable, the Behringer 1C-BK Ultra-Compact monitors have a surprising frequency range, usually spotted in more expensive speaker systems. Nothing less could be expected of acoustics designed in Germany.
Don’t forget that even studio monitors under 100 are built with high-end materials. The Mackie CR3 Studio Monitor is living proof that you don’t need to invest heavily to get premium elements embedded in your system.
These are our top choices when it comes to studio monitors within a budget. We’ll be waiting to find out which one worked best for you.
IMD results when two or more signals of different frequencies are mixed together and additional signals are formed at frequencies that are not, in general, at harmonic frequencies (integer multiples) of either source signal.