Today, we will be reviewing a few different types of studio monitors. Whether you’re a professional producer, or just beginning to set up your own home studio monitors are easily one of the most important factors to consider. Studio monitors can mean the difference between a well mixed and mastered track, or a low freq. cheap sounding iPad produced song. When it comes to monitors, it’s really quality over quantity. A 5inch Yamaha may do the same thing as a triple stacked M-Audio set up, today we’ll tell you exactly what to look for with a few examples.
1. JLB LSR305
[su_expand height=”40″ link_color=”#852028″ more_icon=”icon: chevron-down” less_icon=”icon: chevron-up”]These are possibly the best speakers I have heard under $400! I am an audiophile, and good quality audio is the highest priority in any sound system for me. I spent a very long time looking for new speakers that I could use for general music listening, and also for (occasionally) mixing audio for my friends band. I looked at 50 or more speakers on amazon, and eventually narrowed it down to the Presonus Eris E5, KRK Rockit 5 G3 and the Audioengine A5+. Even though all these speakers had their positives and negatives, I was inclined to go with the Presonus Eris E5. I didn’t want to entirely judge the speakers that I would be spending a small fortune on by their reviews, and went to StoreDJ in Sydney to actually listen to all the speakers I was thinking about. The Presonus Eris E5 sounded great, but lacked bass and sounded a bit thin. The KRK Rockit’s had amazing bass and mids, but the treble was a little lacking. The Audioengine A5+ sounded great, but again lacked bass. I was slightly disappointed with the compromises of all three, until the salesman at StoreDJ showed me these – the JBL LSR305’s. At first, I was slightly intimidated by the not exactly elegant look of these, but as soon as I heard them, I was blown away. The bass was the first thing I noticed. Deep, detailed and tight but not overpowering at all. The mids were slightly ‘thin’ but still sounded brilliant (better than the Presonus and JBL’s). The highs were crisp and sparkling, without a hint of sibilance. I could not believe the amazing sound coming out of such cheap and small speakers. Needless to say, I bought them. Once I got home, I was still not disappointed. They sounded (almost) as good at home as they did in the store, due to the fact that the room I have them in is acoustically bad. Even in a fairly large (6m by 3m) room, they still retained the amazing highs, mids and lows that they did in the store. I did notice that the bass was a tiny bit lacking, and some low/mid frequencies ‘boomed’ due to the thin table that I placed them on. Overall, these are amazing speakers. They sound like huge floor standing speakers, with an accompanying (small) subwoofer. The bass on them does not compare to the outstanding bass of my logitech z623’s, but the mids and highs blow any other speakers that I own out of the water. The build quality of these is amazing too, with wood body, plastic front and back and some metal on the rear. The only thing that lets these beauties down is the slightly ugly design. They look like hifi speakers from 1990, but looks aren’t everything and the not-so-good design of these is entirely made up for by sound quality and value for money. These definitely don’t look bad, they just look a bit boring. They do look better in real life than they do in product photos. Don’t hesitate to buy these bad boys, as I highly doubt you will be able to find a better value active speaker system.[/su_expand]
2. KRK RP5G3-NA Rokit 5
[su_expand height=”40″ link_color=”#852028″ more_icon=”icon: chevron-down” less_icon=”icon: chevron-up”]My review is going to be geared more towards people who are interested in these from a music production standpoint. These are my first pair of studio monitors even though I’ve been producing electronic music for about a year now. While they don’t have a completely “flat” response, I found them to sound exceptionally good (assuming you know how to position them correctly and have applied appropriate acoustic treatment to your room). They aren’t going to be able to emulate frequencies below 55hz (or whatever the advertised frequency response was). This means that without a subwoofer, it will be difficult to hear most of your sub bass content (85-30hz) while producing. Which for dubstep and other types of electronic music, is a huge problem as your sub bass is one of the most important parts of the track. It is also important to play them on lower volumes for 8 hours or more so that way you can “break them in”. Just be aware of this so you don’t blow them by trying to play them full force right out of the box. I’m also using THIS cable to directly connect these monitors to my laptop: Without a proper audio interface, you’ll most likely hear very, very light high frequency cracks while nothing is playing. Just to emphasize, they are extremely quiet but they are still there. Be sure to invest in an audio interface if you plan on using studio monitors to achieve the best possible sound. So to recap, wherever you are on the spectrum of producing experience, whether you are just starting or a professional, these monitors are a great deal and they sound fantastic. You’d be hard pressed to find any professional recording studio without a set of Rokit KRKs sitting around somewhere. They have pretty much become the industry standard[/su_expand]
3. Alesis Elevate 5 Active
[su_expand height=”40″ link_color=”#851c2b” more_icon=”icon: chevron-down” less_icon=”icon: chevron-up”]Being a professional musician/composer I listened to a lot of speakers and home studio sets. Many are way too big or powerful for the rooms where they are placed, some others are too weak for the music that’s being played… so, the real goal is to find a good balance for your needs. I produce music soundtracks for theater and need a pair of affordable monitors, enough flat and with enough power and precision to play/mix/master my compositions. I listen to many various music genres and watch movies too. I do not really need to spend thousands dollars on top notch equipments, since I will not produce for the next Hollywood blockbuster mmovie (how many of you will do that?), so, I really only need a small, typical, good enough home studio set, which can clearly surpass any pc speakers on the market and make me land in the world of studio monitors, that’s all. That said, Alesis Elevate 5 do the job perfectly. They sound clean at all volumes without altering the sound. They sound best when used at half volume power, or a little higher (I’ll never pretend to smash the walls with just 40+40 watts). Those reporting hiss are probably setting the in built volume knob at the very highest position, which is a wrong setting, any hiss disappear when volume knob is set between 50-75%, and this will give you also more headroom when tweaking your external sound card and/or external mixer volume (which are common devices used in all home recording studio). I use them like this and have excellent performances with no hiss at all. I mostly ignore the bass boost switch on the rear panel, though it is a good reference sometimes (but I use it to listen to classical music and when watching movies). I try not to place the speakers too close to the wall in front of me (to avoid too much bass reflections, which produce kind of false sub frequencies muddling the low end). I use a longer jack cable than the (cheap) factory one to get the wider stereo field possible (and Elevate 5 allow quite a wide range, which I find very useful). I try not to have these monitors too close to me (around 1,5/2 meters away they sound way much better). I learned to trust these speakers, and when I ear an unwanted distorsion I know it’s in the source sound and not because of the monitors, so I check the synth/efx plugs and never get wrong.[/su_expand]
4. Yamaha HS7 (white)
[su_expand height=”40″ link_color=”#851c2b” more_icon=”icon: chevron-down” less_icon=”icon: chevron-up”]My personal favorite, the Yamaha Hs7. I was using KRK Rockit 5s for several years. They seemed like a pretty good choice at the time as so many people were glowing in their recommendations, but after a little while they started frustrating me–the mids were muddy and I couldn’t hear much definition–I actually wound up reverting to my Sony MDR headphones to do most of my mixing. I soon came to realize that most people were comparing the KRKs to monitors that were essentially glorified computer speakers. They sounded OK for listening (but only OK) and they were not particularly useful for mixing. I decided I would probably get JBL LSR308s. I’d heard a pair of their high-end speakers and absolutely loved them, but they were out of my price range. Figured it would be a safe bet that I’d like their lower-priced option. For due diligence I compared the JBLs to several other speakers and to my surprise the Yamahas won hands-down. I went with the HS7s over the HS8s for several reasons: the 8s had a booming low-end that would not translate well in my bedroom studio, the 7s were significantly cheaper and they were also much less bulky, which is very useful for a smaller setup. Sound-wise they are tight and flat with clear highs and mids and just enough low end for my purposes. After my ears adjusted a little, they started sounding really fantastic, great for both listening and mixing. True, these are twice the price of the KRKs, but I still consider them generally in the same price range. It’s worth saving a little longer to get these, as from what I have heard they are pretty much the class of the more affordable monitor sets. Although it doesn’t illustrate the difference between the HS8 and the JBLs very well, this video is a great way to hear how much better these both sound than KRKs, which sound muffled, stifled and dead[/su_expand]
Buy these beauties straight from Amazon to your door. (they’re way cheaper if you have Prime)
5. M-Audio BX5
M-Audio isn’t always the best quality, but they always seem to get the job done. and done right. Best monitors in this price range hands down. Perfect for my home studio. Highs and mids are crips and the lows are punchy. They are not going to give you that deep pounding bass like you would expect from some 8’s or 10’s but they are exceptional for the price. I would highly recommend these monitors. Use the xlr to quarter inch cables for your audio interface.