Although $500 might seem like a lot of money to some, this is truly the lower mid range for what professionals would consider a budget expense.
It can be hard at times to decipher between all the different options and specs, especially for beginners. To help ease the buying process, we’ve picked the best monitors available for under $500. There’s actually a lot of well designed and high performing products in this price range, and for the most part, you can’t go wrong with choosing one over the other.
1. Adam Audio T7V
The best monitors under $500
This might be the best studio monitor in its price range, period. The tonal balance is spectacular to our ears, and doesn’t distort or muddy at higher volumes. The bass response on these monitors in particular is quite impressive.
A superbly fine-tuned low end makes listening to music through these a wonderful experience, and mixing even easier. They could maybe be better with a more neutral frequency response, but for the price, it’s hard to complain at all. Adam Audio never ceases to amaze us with the quality of their products.
Check out our full Adam Audio T7V review
2. Kali Audio LP-8
This speaker has one notable issue to speak about, that issue being just the slightest amount of background noise that emanates when the speakers are turned on. Besides that, they’re damn near perfect.
They’re extremely accurate, which to some may read as sounding too clinical, but not to us. Accuracy in sound reproduction is balanced at the end of the day, and nothing sounds better than balanced audio.
For their price point, it’s hard to imagine why anybody would settle for less than what these monitors have to offer. It’s an excellent value, and we can’t recommend them any less.
3. JBL 305P Mk2
The smoothest sounding
What more can somebody really ask from their monitors other than a fairly neutral, smooth, and balanced sound? Maybe a low price tag? Well, the JBL 305P Mk2s only sit at around $300 and offer exactly that.
Not much to think about here, guys. These speakers may challenge what you should come to expect for anything below $500, and with good reason. Besides investing in a subwoofer, there’s not much fault to be found here.
Check out our full JBL 305P Mk2 review
4. JBL 306P Mk2
For those in need of body
The only reason why we opted to place the 306Ps under the 305Ps is the price tag. Nearly $100 more expensive, but for our taste, not such a huge upgrade in quality. Yes, you’ll get a slightly wider frequency response due to the larger woofers, but all in all, these speakers rest at just around the same performance levels as their smaller, more affordable siblings.
In fact, there’s very little difference between the bottom end of these two speakers. The biggest difference between them is their response to the midrange range. The 305Ps have a bit more clarity in the 1-3 kHz range that can help vocals shine a bit more, whereas the 306Ps have a bit more presence in the lower mids. This low-midrange boost can help with the body of a mix, but can muddy the waters depending on your preferences.
Is it worth the expense? Absolutely. It’s still a far better monitor than most of what’s out there.
5. KRK Rokit 7 G4
The best for bass
While the KRK Rokits are one of the most popular choices for beginning producers, they’re fairly flawed. They have an incredibly bass-heavy sound, that in turn inflicts a whole lot of coloration on their reproduction. Overall, these monitors are overhyped and their performance is fairly shotty, at least in our opinion.
But, people still buy them and they continue to hold their own as a mainstay in the current world of audio production. In a way, they’re continued use has set a certain standard for modern hip-hop and EDM production. If you yourself are enveloped in this world, the KRKs will offer you the same point of reference as many of your favorite producers have.
6. Yamaha HS5
The necessary evil
The Yamaha HS5 is a very special monitor, and we feel bad for putting it this low on the list. We wouldn’t recommend using them as your primary monitors, but as secondary references they can work wonders.
They’re not accurate, and most people who would recommend them don’t use them for that reason. The presence in the midrange and upper frequencies is incredibly heavy-handed. While they’re not as abrasive as the infamous NS-10s, the HS5s can occupy a very similar space in the mixing process.
They will highlight the problems in your mix and border on making your music sound cartoonish. Believe it or not, this is an amazing quality to find in a set of monitors, but we wouldn’t recommend them for everybody.
Check out our full Yamaha HS5 review
Now that we’ve worked our way through the main options to consider, we’ll cover two more popular options you may have already heard of.
7. Avantone Pro Active MixCubes
The best grot boxes
Grot boxes are small, low-quality studio monitors which are often used to verify the strength of a mix, and are one of the best possible tools to have in your arsenal as a serious mix engineer. The Avantone Pro Active MixCubes, in particular, are maybe the best option available on the current market for this need.
With a clean drop off around 150 Hz, and low distortion performance, the MixCubes are amazing references when trying to make critical judgments in your mix. These should not be your only monitors on hand, but as an added addition to your setup, they’re worth their weight in gold.
8. JBL 308P Mk2
The best for a bit out of budget
For those who can spend a bit more, the JBL 308Ps are a fantastic pair of monitors for $520. While we did place the 305P above the 306P due to some slight differences in performance, they’re truly equal for all intents and purposes. Likewise, the 308P is an exceptional option for anybody, particularly for those working in larger studio spaces.
They’re surprisingly affordable, and offer a wonderfully detailed, and transparent sound. Overall, there is a great consistency of sound amongst this family of JBL monitors, and all of them are worth the expense.
The most important thing to consider when buying any piece of audio equipment, is not what some reviewers have written about it online – it’s what you, the buyer, feels. Here at Higher Hz, we love the Adam Audio T7Vs, and that’s why we placed them at the top of our list. However, this is only our opinion, and it shouldn’t have so much bearing over your own personal decisions.
Go to a local dealer in your area and ask if you can test out the monitors they have available. You may find that the JBLs sound better to your ears than the Adams, which tend to be more forward in the high end. That’s okay, and it’s an important part of becoming an engineer. Trust your ears, and make your decisions based on what you hear, not just what we say.