Sup mate! Vincent here.
A few months ago I was on a quest to find some new studio monitors for my room and because I took it very seriously, writing down the specs for each one of them to make a non biased comparison, I thought “HEY, LET’S MAKE A POST ABOUT IT CUZ HEH, YOU NEED CONTENT ON YOUR DAMN BLOG”. Alright let’s do it.
Here is my top 6 Studio Monitors for under 500 bucks, from the ‘ok’ range to ‘yes please’ range (imo). Thanks to my pal Abaz who helped me find my way. No easy task, I’m on a budget and not everything is bueno but everyone tells you their stuff is gold. KEEYAAA!!
Usually I wouldn’t put the KRK in this list because I already had the opportunity to mix and listen to a lot of music on them and never really felt I was in front of something reliable in terms of flat EQ.
But to me this is a good compromise if you are in the same situation I was, which is a small room filled with crazy unwanted reflections all over the place and no possibility to move your speakers where you want and/or fix your walls with acoustic isolation panels etc. The good point is that there’s no blowhole in the back of the monitors, thus you avoid a bit of annoying bass reflections behind your computer screen and inside your sweet spot (the triangle of your head and your speakers placement),
Aesthetically this is pretty decent (well I don’t like yellow, no bueno, but maybe you do) and fact is that those monitors benefit from a huge ad campaign, I literally see them everywhere on the web so I probably got used to them. I might be a bit rude but to me they’re like the BOSE side of professional audio equipment. #hype
- Frequency Response: 45Hz – 35kHz
- Max Peak SPL: 106 dB
- Power Output: 50W
This was nearly my first choice before I got educated to the field and knew my needs in terms of audio equipment. Though the HS8 can produce very loud SPLs (if you need so) you need to know that they do have a blowhole in the back so you better have a good placement and/or acoustic treatments in your room to make sure you’re not messing with bad reflection that could ruin your mixes.
The frequency response is not something I’d call flat due to some curious dips and down points in the low field but this is pretty decent considering the fact you’re dealing with 500 bucks monitors. This was meant to deliver a honest response when bypassing its filters (if placed at least 5 feet from the nearest wall) but this is something I just couldn’t do in my own room.
Visually speaking these guys are hot AF, I mean let’s buy them for this unique reason. I assume a lot of people actually did, haha… Could’ve been one of them. Huh. Some of them considering that if they look just like the good old NS10, they should sound as good as them. But nope. Caution.
- Power Output: 120 W biamp
- Bass reflex system
- Frequency range: 38 Hz – 30 KHz
As far as I’m concerned, all my experience with Mackie audio gear in general was satisfying, I’ve never been disappointed with their equipment whether talking about speakers, consoles or audio interfaces. The MR8 MK3 is the kind of gear I would easily recommend to anyone willing to start building a decent home studio on a budget and eager to produce without wondering the ‘how’. Indeed, their setup compatibility is really versatile as they offer TRS, XLR, and RCA inputs to choose from.
- Max Peak SPL: 113 db
- Frequency Response: 35Hz – 20 kHz
- Power Output: 85 W
As much as I crawled over the Internet I never really found a complete specs sheet including a precise frequency response graph and considering the fact the the cutoff isn’t that high I’d assume we’re not talking about anything flat of an EQ. Nevertheless the main reason I’m putting them as #4 position is that in my opinion we’re dealing with something that is much more reliable in comparison to some HS8 or Rokit (to which they are frequently compared – probably because of the price range) although it did not receive the attention it deserved.
Actually some may recommend you to skip them because of their low bassy field / muddy reputation but in my honest opinion it’s still better than some KRK. In fact, all the monitors I’m featuring here are frequently compared to each others and everyone’s defending his own gear (as fucking always), so you ultimately have to balance all this divergency and make a choice in the end (as fucking always^2).
FAT, LOUD, JUMBO. I MEAN D’YOU EVEN LIFT BRO?
That’s the question you should ask to your desk before putting these guys on it or else you’ll break your workstation and your floor and you will have to pay extra to your landlord or get evicted and ok I stop there. No seriously, this pair is HUGE.
What is interesting with the JBL LSR 308 is that sort of trumpet of trebles that will prevent you from dealing with the usually super directivity issue of standard tweeters every other studio monitor has. It genuinely makes your sweet spot larger, good to know if you’ve been used to listen to music on Hi-Fi.
Regardless of some intricate dips on the frequency response, I’d say we’re in front of quite a decent EQ. I wouldn’t call that flat thus you better know your room and/or use a DSP correction for these ones because, in my opinion, things can get pretty tricky in the low/middle low fields but yeah it’s still better than the KRKs (what? It’s not that I hate them, I just want to warn you about demonic popular compulsive mistakes commonly admitted by the masses, heh.)
- Max Peak SPL: 112 db
- Frequency Response: 37 Hz – 24 kHz
- Power Output: 56 W
Presonus is well known for their compressors and interfaces but man, they truly can do good with speakers too. Soft highs and quality early reflexions were made possible thanks to some wise kevlar and silk materials on the woofers and tweeters BUT this can also encourage mistakes in these areas at the same time. It’s still the same, a pleasant pair does not make a good mixing pair.
Other than this, good versatility in the wiring set up, XLR and Jack (balanced) as well as RCA (unbalanced), a blowhole on the front face of the monitor and some amazing features on the back face for acoustic optimization of your work chain (your room and its flaws, as fucking always).
I do know not any human can hear above 20khz but this is generally a symbol of reliability to guarantee some flat response in the spectrum. Neutrality is the key if you want a good mix. If you ears are always pleased of what they’re hearing you can’t really say “ok this is good but this is horribly bad”. You need to be able to make a difference and quickly make changes to your mix when needed.
- Max Peak SPL: 105 db
- Frequency Response: 35 Hz – 22 kHz
- Power Output: 130 W
Ok, this is a 100% non biased point of view – even though this is actually my current pair,
I’ve been using the Yamaha MSP5 monitors since 2012 and been always returning to them after a shitload of comparisons and practice inside different rooms and studios (especially when I was studying audio/music theory at school).
There’s one thing you should know about those monitors: they hate you and want you dead. Well, ok, probably not but DUDE they’re no fucking joke, you will hate what you hear until you spend hours fixing each and every poop on your mix (although we both know such a thing is impossible haha).
I mean look at this graph, this is the flattest shit I’ve ever seen. It is so flat I would literally make pizzas on this graph.
But wait, there’s more than that, this epic flat response were made possible due to a 40kHz cutoff providing quite an accurate high end perception.
However and because this is a non biased PoV, I must acknowledge there’s a lack of informations in the low fields and you will always have a bad time listening to music on the MSP5s in comparison to some other evoked speakers in this topic but this is also why I can only stick to them for trying to make my mixes better. It’s not made to please you, it’s made to help you do things correctly. Also, no blowhole in the back. Me fucking gusta.
I’m still wondering whether or not I should add a sub woofer but considering the fact I’m not mixing in a perfect room I think it’s still better for me to wait. In any event I leave you sole judge of your situation and what’s best for you.
- Max Peak SPL: 101 db
- Frequency Response: 50Hz-40kHz
- Power Output: 40 W (HF) & 27 W (LF)
#ALTERNATE SOLUTION – ADAM A5X (W/ SUB WOOFER)
In a next post I will talk about the Adam A5X solution which could be another option for mixing in good conditions at an affordable price. But this is simply not in today’s budget so I will make a special post for these ones.
Thanks for reading me.
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