The Best Budget Studio Monitors: Reviews and Tips

Мusic production requires a lot more than just pure skill. Just like any other profession out there, having the right tools for the job is essential. However, things get complicated when you try to get those tools on a budget.

Thankfully, there are still some options on the table. Today we are going to show you the best budget monitor speakers under $100. These may not be the best monitors out there, but they will get the job done and allow you to pursue your passion for creating music.

The Difference Between Monitor Speakers and Regular Speakers

The main difference between monitor speakers and regular speakers is in the way they render tone. Your standard computer speakers will be bass heavy, with a tone profile aimed at giving you the most flavor out of your music. That is not the case with monitors. Their main purpose is to be as flat as possible, thus showing you the raw sound of your mix. Achieving that kind of transparency with $100 monitor speakers is hard. A set that is somewhere in the $500 range will do a far better job.

The problem with affordable monitors starts with the size of the transducers. In most cases out there, there will be a driver and a tweeter in each cabinet. Some brands like to label these drivers as woofers, but that is wishful thinking at best. You are looking at 3″ inch units which have their limits. Best case scenario, it is going to be a decent full-range driver that reaches low enough and has a linear frequency response across the range. Worst case scenario, you are going to deal with a dead low end and a reasonable middle department.

Choosing The Best Budget Studio Monitors For Your Needs

Despite budget monitors being fairly narrow when it comes to features, they still come in a variety of different shapes and forms. Figuring out which one to go with can save you a whole lot of trouble down the road. First of all, you shouldn’t really bother yourself too much with choosing your first monitors, especially if they are within the price range, we are discussing today.

Bluetooth Technology

Because of all that, don’t disregard hybrid monitors or those that feature Bluetooth technology. Too many newcomers go for the bare bones setup that is devoid of any kind of features. Those models are designed for people who are going to use monitor speakers for a very strict application. If these are supposed to be your only speakers for a while, a good hybrid might do you more good.

Power And LF Driver Size

Most of the best budget studio monitors are going to come with a 3″ or 4″ inch low-frequency drivers. Expecting anything more than that will leave you disappointed. For the most part, that extra inch of transducer real estate won’t necessarily make a difference in performance. The truth is that most of these transducers fall within the mid-range driver territory, or even full range sometimes.

Both 3″ or 4″ drivers will work, especially in smaller studios. As a matter of fact, smaller drivers are much more preferable when you are working in confined spaces. Getting the optimal performance from your speakers is going to depend much more on how you position them.

The question of power is a bit more interesting. Most of the budget speakers are going to be within the 20 to 50 Watt range. Anything in that spectrum is going to be plenty enough for creating music. However, aiming for a higher power rating can provide you with additional head space when you start mixing your projects.

The Frequency Range

Another important component to consider is the frequency range of these budget studio monitors. You’ll find that most expensive studio monitors have a large range of low and high frequencies. But, if you’re serious about developing music, you’ll need a healthy range so you can hear the difference between high pitches and heavy bass. Therefore, consider the variations of frequencies you like to work with. If you like to create lots of dynamics in your music creations, you’ll need to head towards the higher end of $100 to find the best budget studio monitors for you.

If you don’t combine your music production with a subwoofer, you might experience difficulties reaching 20Hz, and 50Hz-10kHz is a suitable option to give you enough control and creativity over the low-end spectrum. On average, 3dB is a well-balanced and excellent all-rounder for most music creations, though you should always check this with your particular style when you receive the studio monitors.

The Size of The Monitor in Comparison to Your Room

The best budget powered studio monitors have to work with your living arrangement and room size. You might be led to believe that a louder volume is best for music creation, but this isn’t always the right choice. If you are mixing music above 85dB, this can damage your ears. However, any frequency at this range or below is the optimal level for mixing music.

You should bear in mind that speakers have a recommended level they can reach and any lower or higher won’t break out the speaker’s best quality.

When looking for the best budget studio monitors, you should always consider if their size matches that of the room you want to use the monitors in. Specifically, use the measurement of 85dB (which is around the same volume as traffic in a city) and consider if this is too loud or quiet for the room you wish to locate them.

Where You’ll Position The Speakers

In this section, we’re not just talking about the room but the specific place you wish to position the speakers. Although this article is focusing on budget studio monitors, you still want to get the most out of your money and take a great amount of consideration into your final purchase. If you position your monitors too high or low, this can dramatically affect where the sound waves travel and how they reach your ears.

The best way to approach this is to create a triangle with the two speakers and a chair. The chair should be the point, but avoid sitting any objects directly against a wall as this can affect the vibrations.

The Best Budget Studio Monitors Under $100

1. Sterling Audio MX3



Ar rating 79/100


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Features

You are looking at a 20-Watt setup comprised of a 3/4″ silk dome tweeter paired with a 3″ low-frequency transducer. What makes MX3 real interesting is the fact that both speakers are bi-amped and run off of a Class A/B unit. In terms of performance and transparency, Sterling Audio MX3 offers a decent experience, especially for beginner producers.

These are the best budget speakers to provide a clear and crisp sound no matter what you’re listening to. As they’re built for a wide range of frequencies, Sterling Audio speakers clearly articulate the sound and reduce any unnatural frequencies.

The level of wattage is enough power to generate a clear quality, even when the speaker is programmed at a high volume. We love that these speakers take into consideration how the sound flows through the room, and therefore the hi and lo filters ensure that the speakers fill an entire room. The lower and mid-range frequency is the best element on the Sterling Audio studio monitors, making these an especially great purchase for light acoustic music genres.

Design

Sterling Audio MX3 speakers are the very definition of bang for your buck. Compact, well made and rather powerful, MX3 delivers a very impressive performance at an affordable price. With a rear-port design, these budget speakers improve the listening experience for a low-end delivery and the silk tweeter creates a smooth experience for all listeners. The internal components on these speakers are equipped with a protective design to ensure that all listeners are safe when using these.

2. Edifier R1010BT



Ar rating 69/100


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Features

Each speaker comes with a 3/4″ tweeter paired with a 4″ low-frequency driver. Combined, you are looking at some 24 Watts RMS, which makes them more powerful than many of their competition. What really sets R1010BT apart from the rest is the fact that these come with built-in Bluetooth support. That pushes the convenience factor pretty high.

Overall, this is one of the best budget studio monitors for producing a crisp and clear sound. You can listen to mid-range and sharp edges for hours without experiencing any sharpness to your ears. This system is also great for connecting to your laptop or smartphone as this set-up is simple. Instruments such as guitars and saxophones have an incredible range and the studio monitors will convey ultimate clarity of each note.

Design

Budget monitor speakers are a category where we get to see some pretty convenient designs. Edifier R1010BT is one such set of speakers. Not only do they look like something that should be at least twice as expensive, but they also bring some interesting features. Despite their stylish and somewhat retro appearance, Edifier R1010BT are proper studio monitors. Best of all, they are super compact.

These are the best studio monitors to focus on appearance. Although this isn’t essential to how well they perform, it provides a luxurious touch to any room you position them in. Available in black or brown wood, both look exceptional and provide you with two choices to perfect your speakers. Also, the cabinets are weighty and sturdy as they are made from 15mm MDF to eliminate any unnecessary vibrations. The bottom of the speakers are also protected with foam padding to prevent the speakers from moving when it’s cranked up to a high volume.

4. M-Audio AV32



Ar rating 66/100


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Features

It is no secret that M-Audio’s AV32 has been the go-to choice for many beginner producers around the world. M-Audio has found a great combination of price and performance with AV32. Each speaker packs a 1″ ferrofluid-cooled silk dome tweeter and a 3″ woofer. In terms of power, you’re looking at 10 Watts per channel, making this a 20-Watt package. These are the best budget studio monitors to offer rear-firing ports to provide a generous amount of space between the back of the speaker and the wall. Consequently, the sound won’t just direct to the wall and not reach your ears, but will travel around and fill the room.

The speaker’s waveguide creates a thick and powerful sound, which is incredible considering that these units are so compact. Each monitor is only 10 Watts, but when combined together, these speakers work in harmony with one another.

Design

M-Audio spiced the deal up even further with their smart cabinet design as well as the advanced waveguide design for the tweeter. When it comes to compact desktop monitors, these are near the top. This speaker is built to last. Although it might be thicker and heavier than some of the other budget studio monitors on this last, these are ideal for small rooms.

The headphone output on the front is a handy feature to use them for work circumstances so you can zone out of a busy, loud environment and focus on yourself. Finally, the waveguide feature ensures that the sound can travel at high frequencies to everyone’s ears, while the flexible silk cones reduce any restrictions and distortions.

4. Samson MediaOne BT3



Ar rating 66/100


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Features

When it comes to hardware and performance, we have a 1″ silk dome tweeter paired with a 3″ low-frequency woofer. Each speaker is capable of pushing 15 Watts RMS, making this one of the most powerful monitors you can get in this particular price range. When combined, the speakers produce a low-frequency response but can also give high frequencies a comfortable and natural sound.

These studio monitors aren’t just designed for Spotify sessions but are a great asset when watching movies or playing games, too. As a result, the sound quality will make you feel as though you’re right in the middle of the scene.

Design

Compact desktop monitors are nothing new, but finding a pair that is versatile as well as affordable isn’t easy. Samson MediaOne BT3 solve this issue quite nicely. The design itself is a breath of fresh air in a sea of black plastic. There is also Bluetooth support, front-facing controls, and a great I/O cluster for optimum usability and connectivity options.

These studio monitors don’t need to be connected to the audio source, but they do need connecting to one another when in operation. This is something to consider if you wanted to separate the speakers across the room. Both monitors are finished in a black satin vinyl coating to match the metal grills, so not only do they sound high-quality, they look stylish, too.

The Bluetooth feature is a great asset to pair these studio monitors to your laptop, tablet or phone without any cords holding you back. This pairing function is on the speaker’s control panel. At the front of the active speaker is an LED indicator, headphone output, and level control, all within easy access.

5. Alesis M1 Active 320 USB



Ar rating 62/100


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Features

What Alesis M1 Active 320 USB particularly interesting is the fact that they feature a USB port in addition to the regular I/O. On top of that, you get a bass boost feature that effectively gives these speakers a bit of depth in the low range. Just by pressing that bass boost button, you can go from pure monitors to general purpose speakers.

Admittedly, these budget studio monitors aren’t designed for bass, but they will great a crisp, clear sound on higher frequencies. The clarity is high-quality and you can generally pick up sounds that you can’t usually hear in your headphones or through your car’s audio system. As a result, these studio monitors are ideal for mixing sounds and expanding your creativity. These are also the best budget studio monitors for reaching a respectable volume and most owners have the volume knob positioned between 25 and 50 percent. Any more and you could be having discussions with your neighbors.

Design

Alesis M1 Active 320 USB speakers are compact in nature, feature a rather subtle design, and hide a few interesting features. Needless to say, Alesis M1 is a great choice for desktop use.

Despite the small design, these studio monitors are heavy and sturdy to remain in the same position with the volume cranked up high. The input jacks are high-quality and sturdy so won’t loosen up after much use, and the speakers themselves remain in great shape and feature an exterior filter to prevent any unwanted dust.

6. Mackie CR3



Ar rating 60/100


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Features

If there is one set of affordable speakers everyone knows about, it is this powered studio unit. Each speaker packs a 1″ tweeter paired with a 3″ low-frequency driver. Supported frequency range spans from 80Hz to 20kHz, which puts this among the more realistic budget monitors.

The sound quality is more than decent for a build like this, while there is also a surprising amount of transparency. Most importantly, Mackie pushes 50 watts of power divided between two channels. You’ll be surprised at how much bass these speakers produce and the clarity on low frequencies, too. These are a great purchase if you’re looking for a smooth, balanced tone without having to have the volume all the way up.

Design

They feature well-balanced components combined with stylish design and a rather reasonable price. In terms of size, these fall under the compact category. We love that the volume knob combines as the power button for these studio monitors to prevent overwhelming the design with buttons.

The all-wood features ensure that high frequencies are smooth and never too piercing – a feature that some of the other best budget studio monitors don’t offer. We’re also a huge fan of the foam isolation that are lightweight and small to enhance your listening experience.

What Are Your Thoughts on These Budget Studio Monitors?

Monitor speakers listed in this guide are by far some of the best you can get for $100 or less. We’ve searched for high-performance above anything else, trying to find decent speakers that could be viable in a home studio setting. Those who are experienced in mastering and mixing music will probably need a more sensitive set of monitors. On the other hand, beginners who are not sure whether or not they will be working in music a few years down the line will be covered by an affordable set. Some will say that getting a cheap set of monitors is a mistake. We respectfully disagree. Any kind of monitor speaker is better than a general purpose set if you are thinking about doing music production.

Have you discovered the best budget studio monitors from our list above? Or do you have some excellent alternatives you’d love to share? Leave your feedback in the comments to keep this conversation going.