Studio monitors are the bread and butter of any professional producer. In recent times, they have become household items for many amateur musicians and producers too.
Of course, not everyone can afford to invest a fortune in their studio setup. But you can still find some great studio monitors under $200.
These alternatives to high-end production gear can still help you achieve impactful mixes from your samples and catch any and all imperfections along the way. Let’s dive right in with my favorite picks.
7 Best Studio Monitors Under $200
Table of Contents
- 7 Best Studio Monitors Under $200
- How to Approach Pricing
- Don’t Underestimate the Power
- Focus on Accuracy over Embellishment
- The Age Old Debate over Active or Passive Monitors
It seems only fair to start the list with one of my all-time favorites in the PreSonus Eris E4.5. This pair of studio monitors come with 50W of class AB amplification built-in. They are configured for a very clean and natural sound signature but also come with adjustable tuning controls.
Using the tuning controls, you can adjust the midrange, high, high pass, and acoustic space settings. This should allow you to significantly improve the accuracy of samples from all genres, therefore getting even more control on your mixer.
The Eris E4.5 is rated at 100dB. The monitors have a good frequency response range of 70Hz to 20KHz, and as you can see, they are not bass heavy nor do they feature any enhanced bass.
The weight of each monitor is around 6lbs, which means that they can be placed on just about any studio stand or speaker stand. Another positive thing worth mentioning is the level of protection the monitors have against RF interference, current limiting, infrasonics, and overheating.
The Mackie CR5BT monitors are big, fine-tuned, expertly finished, and can produce quite a bit of sound in a small studio. The active monitors are rated at 25W per channel. The frequency response range begins at 60Hz and goes up to 20KHz, which is quite a dynamic range for most budget studio monitors.
If you’re looking for an accurate and articulate stereo sound signature, these may be the best studio monitors under $200 for you. Although cutting it close to the upper price limit for this article, the CR5BT monitors have an extra perk that might appeal to you. They have Bluetooth connectivity, which means that they might be very convenient to use in a crammed studio.
Also worth mentioning is that the monitors come in all-wood cabinets. This gives them a superior resonance over many monitors in this category which feature cheap plastic builds. And, I personally like the inclusion of high-quality acoustic pads which provide tilt control and a more natural sonic character.
Although the Edifier R1700BT monitors are often used as bookshelf speakers, the wooden cabinets, their 66W of combined power, and the clean stereo sound make them a solid choice for many budget home studios too.
Edifier is a specialty brand so it should come as no surprise that its lineup is full of Bluetooth studio monitors that have very limited distortion at maximum volume and don’t have many issues with signal loss or interference.
The monitors are equipped with treble and bass controls. They also feature a simple and intuitive control panel as well as all the cables necessary to have them set up within minutes after unboxing. A remote control is also included. This will allow you to make volume adjustments and select the input source.
For those that really want to build on a budget, you should know that these are active speakers with a dynamic frequency response range between 60Hz and 20KHz. Practically on par with most other wired or wireless monitors in this price range.
What can you do if you need to get creative with maximizing your studio space? – One thing you could do is go lighter with your gear and settle for less powerful monitors. The M-Audio AV42 monitors are compact, light, and powered (40W total). They won’t be too loud but they still provide enough articulation and accuracy for you to listen to clean samples.
The class AB amplification is always a good sign in studio monitors. But one thing that makes the AV42 stands out is its OptImage IV wave guide tweeter. This feature is responsible for tuning the monitors to reproduce an artist’s sample accurately rather than embellishing it across various registers.
One thing worth noting is that the frequency response range is not as wide as in other models. The AV42 monitors cover between 75Hz and 20KHz. They may be slightly less efficient when mixing samples that put low bass center stage.
That being said, there are a lot more pros and cons about the AV42 monitors that will make them a serious alternative to some higher-end models.
The Pioneer Pro DJ DM-40 active monitors have a combined power of 42W (21W into 4ohm per channel). They pack plenty of punch for the money but they will likely only excel in a very small studio setup. Regardless, the DM-40 monitors can give you that clean sample audio that you’re looking for, if you’re not too hung up on power.
The monitors also cover a wide frequency response range of 70Hz to 30KHz, which is surprising for most compact speakers. While the frequency response range may seem unfavorable for bass heads, you should note the front-loaded bass reflex system.
This reduces air friction in order to deliver a punchier and more realistic sound coming from low register instruments. Still, a proper subwoofer will be required to get more articulation on low frequency audio.
Another notable feature is the use of a class AB amplifier for reduced distortion at higher volumes. The soft dome tweeter features an interesting diffuser which can mimic a 3D stereo sound. This is helpful if you want to repurpose the Pioneer DM-40s as something other than studio monitors.
If you’re sure that 2-way monitors are enough for you to handle your business and you have a tendency to go with brand names, then the Behringer MS40 monitors are worth your attention.
These monitors are made for small rooms or small studios. Together, the built-in amp peaks at 40W which is not a lot, but enough in many cases, because of the clear audio quality.
High-res tweeters are used in combination with reliable and powerful woofers. All hardware combined will be able to give you a linear frequency response and good articulation across the whole spectrum.
One of the more unique features is the built-in mixer. This will come in handy when you’re trying to monitor audio from various input sources (4 maximum allowed). Also worth pointing out is the frequency response range of 50Hz to 25KHz. The range is quite surprising to see in such compact monitors with a relatively low-powered amp.
Just barely above the price range I had in mind, the Rockville APM8W studio monitors are definitely worth considering and a spot on this list. These are very powerful active 2-way monitors, with a reliable construction and enough control on the low end.
The speakers are rated at 250W each and have independent amplifiers for specific frequencies embedded within the drivers. You are allowed to adjust volume, as well as the bass and treble for ±4dB.
If you’re looking for a very wide frequency response range, then the 30Hz to 20KHz covered by the Rockville APM8W might fit the bill. You might also appreciate the curved bezel design which eliminates some wave distortion and the 0.10% THD (total harmonic distortion) signal-to-noise rating.
All in all, these monitors are beasts for most amateur to professional studios. And, while they may be overkill for smaller home installations, they get the job done in larger rooms, especially if you don’t want to invest in dedicated amplification too.
How to Approach Pricing
Studio monitors are very sensitive devices. Even when you’re trying to save a couple of bucks, you can’t simply purchase the cheapest units on the market and hope to get the best budget studio monitors. Not if you’re striving for performance, quality, and a shred of professionalism.
Instead of trying to get a bit of everything, try instead to focus on the features and specs that matter most to you, and then decide what’s worth paying for and what’s not.
For example, compact lightweight monitors may not matter to you if you are aiming for a fixed installation in a studio. This means that you might want to consider not paying a premium for lightweight monitors, instead opting to pay extra for, say a higher-powered built-in amp, a wider frequency range, and so on.
The same thing applies in reverse. If you don’t need all the high-tech bells and whistles because your area of expertise and preferred genres or samples don’t need them, there’s no need to go overboard with features. Simpler, sturdier, and efficient monitors will do just fine and might save you some money too.
Don’t Underestimate the Power
The power may not mean much with passive speakers (rated in power handling or how much power they can handle), but this changes when you’re talking about active speakers with built-in amplification.
45W to 50W is considered enough for studio monitors, if you plan on using them in a small home studio. However, low power is not always ideal, even if you’re trying to save money. Consider this – the bigger the recording or mixing room is, the more power you need from your monitors.
Another thing you might want to keep in mind is sound quality. The rated power may not indicate sound quality. This depends on the design and build of the amplifier. In this price range, the built-in amplifiers are all going to be based on integrated circuit. When it’s time to upgrade, you can consider more specialized amplifier designs with multiple individuals output transistors per channel.
Focus on Accuracy over Embellishment
You would be surprised at how many manufacturers are trying to sell “superior” studio monitors with various audio enhancement features. While that may be great for gaming, movies, and listening to your favorite Spotify playlists, studio monitors need to fulfill other criteria.
The most important distinction of good studio monitors is that they can give the listener a clean rendition of any sample, flaws and all. This is what you ideally would want when recording and mixing in a studio.
You need the clean sample so you know where to work your magic, what effects to add, what filters to add, and so on. In conclusion, the cleaner the sound, the more studio-friendly the monitors will be.
The Age Old Debate over Active or Passive Monitors
While I’ve covered this section in various other articles too, it’s worth summing it up yet again. Although my personal preferences lean towards passive monitors due to their better design and easy audio components integration, active monitors make for a very simple plug and play setup.
However, if you don’t care about dedicated amplifiers, you don’t want to invest in one, or spend time mixing and matching, then active monitors can do a pretty good job too, performance-wise.
Get the Studio Monitors You Deserve
After going through the reviews and guide, you should find it easier by now to decide which studio monitors can help you produce better mixes. After all is said and done, you at least know now that there’s no need to invest thousands of dollars if you find the right combination of features in your monitors to fit your genre or general approach.