Buyer's Guides

Best Budget Studio Monitors for Accurate Mixing

There are many rags-to-riches stories of musicians and producers at the very start of their careers making their first hits with next to no equipment, with whatever bits of gear they were able to assemble at the time. So how a pair of monitors fit into the low-budget home recording studio is a question that plagues many aspiring producers. There are, however, two vital answers to this question.

Firstly, it is now possible to get a pair of monitors from the leading brands for under $200/£200. Secondly, producing music with basic headphones or laptop speakers is about as far from ideal as you can possibly get. To create great music, it really is vital to be able to hear all the nuances of what you’re working on. In fact, many would agree that a pair of monitors is the signifier of a ‘proper’ studio set-up, whether it’s in a deluxe studio or in your bedroom or shed.

It’s also worth noting that the quality of budget monitors has risen markedly in the last few years — to the point where, unless you have a truly expert ear, you might struggle to hear much difference between some of the options listed below and some of those costing several hundred dollars more. So with studio monitors being more affordable than ever, let’s dive into the best options for you to explore so you can get recording, mixing and mastering to a professional level.

JBL One Series 104

  • Wide frequency range

  • Great bluetooth connectivity

One of the world’s best-known and trusted brands in home and professional audio, you’re not likely to find many audio guides that don’t mention JBL. These are easily one of the best options when it comes to the best budget studio monitors. The One Series 104 are an excellent choice if you have home recording, podcasting and/or portability in mind.

As usual from JBL, highly-impressive audio results, especially at one of the lowest price points you’ll find. It’s a very balanced sound across a wide frequency range. And being equipped with Bluetooth 5, once you’re done producing your track, you can have these monitors in your living room for a family singalong streaming from your phone.


Genelec 8010A

  • Huge sound from a tiny monitor

  • High-quality build

If your budget goes higher, you’d be mad to not have Genelec in your thoughts. Their smallest and most affordable offering is the 8010A, used extensively by both music enthusiasts and professionals working in the music industry. Despite their small size, these monitors are built durably and pack a big audio punch.

So no surprise that they are highly portable, and are able to produce a sound many speakers three or four times their size simply can’t. With smaller monitors, you might often expect the highs and mids to sound harsh, but thankfully this isn’t the case at all on these budget studio monitors.

While Genelec aren’t the most budget of the brands out there, this is because they are known for very deliberately not making cheaply-built or cheap-sounding speakers. If you have slightly more cash to spend, these could be the monitors for you. 


KRK Rokit RP5 G4

  • Excellent sound

  • Designed for small studio spaces

At one of the lowest price points you’ll be able to find, these KRK Rokits are very strong contenders indeed, especially when they firmly belong to the best ‘true’ budget studio monitor category, coming in at under $200.

They boast rich bass sounds, an LCD EQ screen and a wide frequency spectrum. Bear in mind the master volume is found at the rear of the speaker, in case a slightly minor inconvenience is make or break for you with your selection. But at such a reasonable price, we would recommend not quibbling over this when the sound is this good.


Mackie CR3-XBT

  • One of the best ‘true’ budget options to be found around the $140 mark

  • Aesthetically pleasing

Firstly, these are some of the best ‘true’ budget studio monitors you can get your hands on, as many retailers offer the Mackie CR3-XBT for well under $200. In fact, it’s something Mackie is well known and loved for. These monitors really hit the sweet spot between affordable pricing and worthy performance.

Their meaty sub-bass, clarity and frequency spectrum are all very impressive. The build quality makes these Mackies a great investment, as well as the option to use Bluetooth.



  • Cutting edge design

  • The MkII editions improve on an already incredible product

If your budget stretches a little higher than the JBL One Series 104, you could do a lot worse than to take a look at their speakers a few steps up price-wise. If you do spend a little more on these, you will get a very strong sense of why JBL have featured in pro studios around the world for decades, particularly when these monitors are so brilliant for mixing, mastering and all-round music production.

These budget studio monitors tick so many boxes: a panoramic soundstage, excellent integration of the mid/bass and high-frequency drive units, all working in fantastic conjunction with the mid/bass woofer unit to deliver deep bass at all volume levels.


Pioneer DJ DM-40D-BT

  • Onboard DSP

  • Ability to switch between DJ and production modes

No medals for anyone pointing out that Pioneer DJ are best known for being a DJ brand, but that would be an imprudent reason to potentially miss out on a great piece of kit. You don’t need dreams of being behind the decks in Ibiza, because the DM-40D-BT are a fantastic pair of budget studio monitors.

If you do fit into the bracket of someone interested in both music production and the art of DJing, these speakers have you very well covered, as they offer DJ and production modes at the flick of a switch. They also have a wide range of inputs, and Bluetooth connectivity. Naturally, if you make dance music, Pioneer DJ should be well in your sights. The company has made big moves into the world of general music production in recent years, and these speakers are a fantastic example of this.


Genelec 8020D

  • Typically stunning design from Genelec

  • Arguably the best budget studio monitors in the ‘below $1000’ bracket

You might expect speakers that are in the higher price range to be enormous, but the 8020D monitors from Genelec deliver jaw-dropping results for a relatively small product, with a beautiful build. They are also a great showcase for why many of those who go with Genelec become lifelong users of the brand.

Expect a perfectly flat response with very accurate bass, mids, and highs. EQing, mixing and mastering on the 8020D monitors is an absolute dream. If you want to hear details in music you didn’t even know were there, you are likely to discover them while working and/or listening to music with these. Again, Genelec doesn't do ‘cheap’, but if you were to invest in these, you will feel no resentment whatsoever.


M-Audio BX5-D3

  • Difficult to find any fault for these monitors that are below $200

  • Room correction

Back in the best ‘true’ budget studio monitors territory, M-Audio delivers almost faultless monitors with the BX5-D3. These are specifically reference monitors, so bear that in mind if you were hoping for something that doubles up as multimedia speakers or for streaming from your mobile device.

The frequency range offered at this price point is remarkable, as well as tremendous room correction. The LED light that helps you make sure you’ve set these up at the right angle is a lovely touch, also.


FAQ: Why Do You Need Studio Monitors Rather than Regular Speakers?

Speakers designed for relaxed listening that you connect to your laptop or computer, for example leading brands like Bose and Sonos, do a wonderful job of adding warmth and sweetening the audio they’re fed, whether that be music, a podcast, or a YouTube video. They will gently boost frequencies, such as the bass or treble, and apply predefined EQ settings to enhance your listening pleasure.

So with that said, you might be wondering why on Earth that doesn’t immediately qualify them for your music production needs.

This is because when you are producing, mixing and mastering music, adding sweetness and warmth is actually the very last thing you want to do. This is where the best budget studio monitors come in, and it’s also why we often call them ‘reference’ monitors. Monitors will help you hear the music you are creating exactly how it is, for better or worse. They will reproduce the music exactly as it is being fed into your DAW.

This saves you a nasty shock when you thought your track sounded lovely coming out of your laptop speakers, but then hear it on another device and realise it needs a lot of extra EQ and mixing. So, in layman’s terms, in order to successfully produce music, you need to hear exactly what it is you’re working on, and that is why it’s so important to invest in the best pair of budget studio monitors you can get, instead of falling back on the laptop speakers you already own.

So, as you can see, studio monitors are not reserved for multi-award winning veteran music producers, or rich people wanting a new studio plaything. It’s almost unbelievable how great some of these products are for their price. We wish you happy shopping, and then happy producing and mixing.

Further Reading: Best headphones for recording vocals