As an audio engineer, one of your first significant investments is a quality pair of studio monitors. However, with a plethora of options available in the market, each at different price points and with varying purposes, navigating this landscape can be downright terrifying.
To help alleviate this process, we’ve reviewed an extensive range of monitors and have come up with a list of the best budget studio monitors under $100, under $200, and under $400 you can buy in 2023.
Our focus will be on monitors that deliver exceptional sound quality at a low cost. So, whether you’re just starting out as an audio engineer or strapped for cash, we’ve got your back.
These are the best budget studio monitors (most pairs under $200-$300):
- Mackie CR3-X
- Pioneer DJ DM-50D
- PreSonus Eris E5
- M-Audio BX5 D3
- JBL 305P Mk2
- KRK Rokit 5 G4
- Yamaha HS5
- Adam Audio T5V
The best monitors under $100
Some time ago, we recommended the PreSonus Eris E3.5 as the best cheap monitor to consider for music production. However, upon further reflection and testing, we have revised our opinion.
While the Mackie CR3-X still doesn’t truly qualify as a great monitor, it performs far better than the Eris E3.5. The CR3-X delivers a marginally flatter response than the PreSonus speakers, despite lacking EQ controls.
It’s important to note that neither the Eris E3.5 nor the Mackie CR3-X are really suited for professional-grade audio production, at least not as your primary reference monitors. However, if you had to choose between the two, we recommend the Mackies.
Overall, when it comes to anybody starting off in music production, these monitors can provide a satisfactory listening experience while keeping your wallet happy.
Check out our full Mackie CR3-X review
Pioneer DJ DM-50D
Compact and cheap
The Pioneer DM-50D speakers are a compact and reasonably priced option. While they aren’t capable of producing a lot of crucial low-frequency information, their overall frequency response is reasonably detailed.
The dual audio modes offer you a bit of flexibility when it comes to mixing. The Production setting gives more focus in the mid-range, and the DJ mode showcases a fuller response.
Both modes have output limiters to prevent distortion at higher volumes. However, some of you might take issue with the lack of the ability to adjust the DSP.
Overall, despite their flaws, the DM-50D speakers produce clear and accurate audio throughout their frequency range. These speakers are a good choice for beginners or those on a budget.
Check out our full Pioneer DJ DM-50D review
PreSonus Eris E5
The best monitors under $200
The PreSonus Eris E5 studio monitors offer an affordable option for those in need of speakers. The monitors have a frequency response of 53 Hz – 22 kHz, and a max peak of 102 dB SPL. The design is sleek and sturdy with various input options, and an easy-to-use rear panel.
However, extended listening can lead to a fatiguing high end and crossover frequencies that don’t align very well. In comparison to the Rokit 5 G4 and JBL 305P, the Eris E5 are outperformed. The KRKs have less distortion, better sounding mid frequencies, and less fatigue, while the JBL offer cleaner bass and a more pleasant listening experience.
The Eris E5 are a reliable monitor, there are better options available, and those seeking a more neutral sound may want to look elsewhere. That being said, at $200 a pair, these affordable monitors are more than usable if you’re faced with any budgetary restrictions.
Check out our full PreSonus Eris E5 review
M-Audio BX5 D3
For what they are, the M-Audio BX5 D3 sound transparent, neutral, and warm. They don’t exaggerate anything too much and are best suited for mixing and critical listening.
It’s honestly crazy that these monitors don’t get that much attention because they’re not only cheaper than the Rokit 5 or HS5, but their frequency response curve is phenomenally flat.
The sound of the BX5 D3 is probably as trustworthy as you’ll be able to find in this price bracket. There’s not too much coloration that’s worth noting here, and even if there was we’d still probably recommend them (probably).
Check out out full M-Audio BX5 D3 review
JBL 305P Mk2
The best mixing monitors under $300
For a loose $300, the JBL 305P offer a slightly more affordable alternative to the Rokit 5. However, it might be worth saying that the JBLs are perhaps better suited to mixing applications than the KRKs.
The reason being is that the KRKs are incredibly colorful monitors, which on one hand, can allow music-making to feel more exciting and creative. On the other hand, this can skew the sound of your mix in an ultimately counterproductive way.
We listened to tracks we felt were well-mixed on the JBLs and, well, they sounded fine. If keeping your ears critical is your top priority, the JBLs can work wonders just by how unforgiving they sound. Of course, the caveat is an overexaggerated low end and tweeters that have a reputation for hissing.
Check out our full JBL 305P Mk2 review
KRK Rokit 5 G4
The staple monitors of bedroom production
The KRK Rokit 5 have been some of the most ubiquitous studio monitors available ever since they first hit the market in the late 2000s. These days actually, it seems as if at least seven out of 10 producers have a pair sitting on their desks, especially if they’re relatively new to the trade.
But while the black and yellow stylings of the Rokits may be nearly synonymous with bedroom producing at this point, their prevalence wasn’t solely founded upon their looks – they sound pretty darn good with all things considered.
There are much better monitors in the world than the KRKs, and while the consistency of their sound is rather commendable, their coloration can make it difficult to achieve a perfect mix, especially for non-EDM genres. They’re incredibly bass heavy, which can be incredibly deceptive, and something of a hindrance, when trying to balance music in another genre.
That being said, the consistency of their sound (however boomy and colorful) has helped the KRK Rokits earn their place as some of the most reliable studio monitors to date – it just takes some getting used to. For roughly $380 a pair, the Rokits are good enough for most situations.
Check out our full KRK Rokit 5 G4 review
The most unforgiving
The Yamaha HS5 are normally the next option people look at while grappling with their uncertainty of whether or not to buy the KRKs.
Now, despite the constant suggestion that these monitors are the successors to the NS-10, they’re no substitute in any way. They still share a lot of that aggressive midrange as the NS-10, so while they’re incredibly unforgiving, they can be used to your benefit during mixdown.
In many ways, they’re arguably better than the KRK Rokits. Why exactly? Well, they have a slightly flatter response curve and therefore are much more realistic-sounding. The downside is that they lack a lot of definition in the low end, so hip-hop and EDM producers may want to invest in a subwoofer to compensate.
The flipside to this, however, is that the filtered drop-off at around 80 Hz makes them far more neutral-sounding in the conditions of an untreated room. Take that as you will, because at the end of the day you’ll probably be just as happy with the Yamahas as with the Rokits.
Check out our full Yamaha HS5 review
Adam Audio T5V
The best by far
Sometimes when you’re reviewing a really great piece of equipment, it’s hard to say much about it other than, “It’s great”. A good problem to have, no doubt, but as a critic, it does make life a bit difficult. This is the problem with the Adam T5V.
These monitors are practically impervious to any critique. They produce a massive amount of bass, they get loud with little to no distortion, no hiss, and they go for about $400 new – talk about a bargain!
Check out our full Adam Audio T5V review
There you have it, our list of the best budget studio monitors you can buy under $100, under $200, under $300, and under $400.
While there are several hundreds of other monitors we could have mentioned, fitting them all onto one list would simply be an ungodly task. We hope that the information we’ve provided can prove useful as you make your decision.
As a final note, we’d like to say that ultimately, the goal is to buy the monitors that work best for you. Don’t just go and buy something because your friend told you so, or us for that matter.
Take your time, and make sure you’re comfortable with your decision before biting the bullet.