A critical decision when designing your home studio is the type of monitors to purchase. Apart from your recording environment’s acoustics, the best budget studio monitors can take your music recording experience to the next level. Even with budget studio monitors, you will notice that the bass sounds deeper, treble sounds clearer, and every note and sound is reproduced in all its glory. And as this best budget studio monitors guide will show you that there are quality studio speakers with an affordable price tag on the market.
If you record your music, you are used to spending countless hours fine-tuning a track. After all your hard work, you feel like you have done all you can. But when you listen to the track, the music sounds terrible. But having a set of monitors is not a luxury reserved only for professional studios.
The fact is that you can have excellent quality studio monitors on a budget. If you follow my advice, after reading this post, you will improve your music-producing expertise, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
What’s in a studio monitor?
Knowing what’s inside will help you choose the best studio monitor.
- Tweeter – The high-frequency drivers of studio monitors are designed for producing frequencies between 1 and 3 kHz. The following materials are used for tweeters:
- Titanium or other metal alloys
- Woofer – The low and mid-range drivers of studio monitors are the woofers. The woofer cone is usually made of paper or cloth. But many woofer cones are made with:
- Aramid fibers
- Cabinet – All of the components of the studio monitor are encased within the cabinet. Studio cabinets are generally made out of plastic, metal or wood.
What is the function of a studio monitor?
Before you choose your studio monitors, you should know why they are so important in music recording. Studio monitors are technically loudspeakers. The purpose of studio monitor speakers is to provide the most accurate likeness of your music as possible. If you want to produce professional-quality audio recordings, you need studio monitors.
Studio monitors will ensure your music will translate well to audio systems from cars to AirPods to TVs. Having studio monitors will improve all aspects of music production, from editing, mixing, or mastering audio.
From the audio engineers’ perspective, the word “monitor” means that the speaker is engineered to produce flat responses – also referred to as linear responses. As a result, studio monitors are designed to produce unaltered sounds despite the shifting of frequencies.
Even though they look similar on the outside, studio monitors are more complex than standard home speakers. Regular home loudspeakers simply reproduce the recorded sounds. But studio monitors are engineered to handle high volumes and sudden bursts.
What makes a good budget studio monitor?
Good quality studio monitors have many benefits. One of the most important qualities of a studio monitor is a wide frequency range. Look for a set that can reproduce both low-end and high-end sounds without distortion. Active monitors – also called active monitors – eliminate the need for an external amplifier. A quality set of studio monitors should produce an accurate reproduction of your original audio recordings. It should also highlight any weaknesses or noises in the recording, helping you clean it up before publishing your work.
Do I really need studio monitors?
Unfortunately, you can’t get the same results from regular loudspeakers. Standard speakers are engineered to emphasize aspects of the audio. While that feature can provide excellent sound for completed audio, it is a disadvantage for audio that still needs engineering. Only a studio monitor will produce the type of flat sound you want for accurate reproduction of the recorded audio.
Active Studio Monitors
If you want all-in-one speakers, you would need to buy active studio monitors. Budget active studio monitors are similar to the combo amplifiers of bass players or guitarists. There is a built-in amplifier inside the monitor cabinet. All you need to do is to connect the studio monitor to a power source. Optionally, active studio monitors can run on batteries. Once powered on, it feeds a line-level signal into the studio monitors.
There are many different affordable active studio monitors on the market. They come in different designs with various features such as EQ settings, built-in mixers, and microphone pre-amps. With these added features, you can easily mix sound. Active studio monitors are excellent for bands, DJs, public speakers, and bar owners who want to play both pre-recorded music and live ones without too much trouble.
Pros of Active Studio Monitors
- Set up is quick and easy.
- Because of the ease of use, there is no need for a sound engineer.
- Simple, all-in-one studio monitors – all you need to do is to plug in the line-level sound, and you are ready to go.
- Usually, the amplifier is tuned to the monitors – as a result; you will get the best sound from your studio monitors.
- Active studio monitors are portable, especially those that are battery operated.
Cons of Active Studio Monitors
- Due to the built-in amplifier, active studio monitors can be quite heavy.
- It might require more frequent repairs because it is an all-in-one system.
Passive Studio Monitors
Passive studio monitors require separate mixers or amplifiers. You will need a cable to transfer sound from the amplifier to the speaker.
This type of studio monitor is more hands-on than an active monitor. Because it is not an all-in-one speaker system, you will have to make sure that the amplifier and monitors are compatible. Verify the power ratings and impedance. If you fail to do so, it may result in blowing up the monitors.
If you use passive studio monitors, you can also connect a subwoofer. All you need is a separate crossover component.
Pros of Passive Studio Monitors
- Passive studio monitors give you more control. Because the speakers and the amplifier are separate, it allows you to partially update your system.
- Lightweight and portable because there is no built-in amplifier.
- You don’t have to replace your entire system. You can swap out the speakers or the amplifier.
Cons of Passive Studio Monitors
- It can be complicated to match the correct amplifier for the speaker.
Active vs. Passive Studio Monitors
The main difference between active and passive budget studio monitors lies with the amplifier. An active monitor is an all-in-one solution. They have built-in amplifiers. Active monitors are ready to go once they have a power source. If you want a passive studio monitor, it will need an external power amplifier to work. Basically, active studio monitors do not require amplifiers, while passive monitors do.
It’s important to understand that an active studio monitor isn’t necessarily better than a passive studio monitor. Both active and passive monitors have advantages and disadvantages. Before you decide to buy a studio monitor, consider the features of both types of studio monitors.
The biggest advantage of an active monitor is its ease of use. Because everything it needs is included in the system, you don’t need to worry about pairing an amp to your monitor. If you are not very technical, an active monitor is a better option for you.
But if portability is important for you, an active monitor might not be the best option. Repair and maintenance will be more complicated.
If you are looking for a more versatile option, passive monitors might be the ideal system for your studio. A passive system allows you to vary the number of amps and speakers. Maintenance is also easier. You can replace an amp or a speaker individually, and you don’t have to replace everything simultaneously. But, matching the right amp to the monitor requires some know-how.
Budget Near Field vs. Far Field Studio Monitors
Most budget studio monitors are engineered to be used either far-field or near-field monitors. There are some benefits to have both near-field and far-field monitors in your recording studio.
Near Field Studio Monitors
Usually, near field monitors have smaller drivers. Near field studio monitors are designed to be placed closer to the listener, no more than 3 feet away. Due to the proximity of the monitors, more direct sound will hit the listener’s ears. In other words, sounds will reach your ears before they could bounce from other surfaces in your recording environment. The result is an increase in the ratio of direct to reflected sound.
With a near-field monitor setup, there will be a smaller impact of room acoustics on the sound. The result is that you will hear more details. It will help you more easily identify small problems in the mix. Near fields also have a narrower frequency response. As a consequence, near field monitors will sound similar to regular speakers. Far-field monitors, on the other hand, will provide a greater frequency range and greater details. Using near field monitors will give you an idea of what your mix will sound like in a regular listening environment.
Near-field monitors are normally positioned on the top of a desk or on speaker stands. If you place the monitor on a desk, it might resonate, causing a less accurate listening experience.
If you want to reduce the effect of resonating, you can place isolation pads under your studio monitors. Even with isolation pads, sound waves can still bounce off your desk, resulting in additional resonances. To avoid resonances, stands are recommended for near field studio monitors.
Far-Field Studio Monitors
Far-field studio monitors have larger drivers and can be placed farther from the listener, about 10 feet away. They are frequently wall-mounted. With far-field monitors, you can take advantage of the acoustics of the recording environment. The larger space allows monitors to produce lower frequencies, providing a more holistic listening experience. Your studio might require diffusers to eliminate or reduce resonances.
What size studio monitor do I need?
The size of the studio monitors you buy will have a big impact on your studio. Where you record has a lot to do with the size of the monitor you should get. If you record in a small room, a pair of near-field studio monitors might be the best option. In a home studio, a pair of 5-inch budget studio monitors should be sufficient. If your studio is in a larger room, you should consider purchasing a pair of 6-8″ affordable studio monitors.
Tips for finding the best budget studio monitors
- Speakers are not studio monitors. It would be best if you had monitors because, unlike regular speakers, monitors provide flat frequency response. Speakers color the sound and will fool you the way studio monitors won’t.
- If you are on a budget, active monitors are the ideal choice. Active studio monitors are easier to use. They are usually less expensive than passive studio monitors.
- Near-field studio monitors are generally more affordable than far-fields. They are also easier to set up in a home studio.
- For most small home studios, a pair of 5″ monitors would be sufficient. You will only need larger monitors if you have a large recording studio.
- 5″ studio monitors cannot produce low frequencies. Therefore, you will need a subwoofer with 5″ studio monitors if you need to work on low frequencies.
- 8″ studio monitors are more expensive, but they don’t require a subwoofer. If you have the budget for a set of 8″ studio monitors, you will have a better setup.
- Look for studio monitors with the flattest frequency response—the flatter the response, the higher the sound reproduction quality.
- Don’t worry about the brand. Instead, look for features and components, and of course, an affordable price before you buy.
- Read buyer reviews before you buy. Don’t trust what the manufacturer says about their studio monitors. Do your own research. Find customer reviews and read what they say about the monitors you are evaluating.
Besides the above factors, remember that even a pair of budget studio monitors can make a big difference in your home studio. As long as you know the features and components you need, you can have the monitor you want.