When working with any aspect of music production, studio monitors are an absolute essential. If you’ve been using headphones and you feel like you’re missing frequencies, or if you have a small or an entry level studio and you’re looking to make your music sound better, then this guide will show you exactly what you need to level up your audio game.
When choosing studio monitors early on, you want to start out by establishing a budget, a pair below $100 or $200 is probably not the best option. You want to be in the $300 to $400 range to get something entry level and at about $500 you’ll have something well suited for a home studio. Like anything else, the more money you put in the better the output will be.
Studio monitors can last for years! They do not wear out, especially if you take care of them. If you have the budget, look into the sub (close to) $1000 range of studio monitors. That is where you start getting more professional, and anything up until $2000 is going to give you added benefits. Going above that will in most cases have diminishing returns.
The next thing you want to focus on is any size constraints (monitors from 5 to 8 inches are ideal). In general, larger monitors in bigger spaces will give you a deeper bass response (excellent for DJ, Hip Hop, Electronic/EDM type genres). There are monitors that won’t do this, but those are exceptions to the rule. If you’re looking for something with a subwoofer, you want to make sure the monitors are actually capable of reproducing a solid, large frequency range. Similarly, if your genre doesn’t call for a lot of bass (Rock/metal or Guitar driven music), then you want to choose your monitors in that regard.
We highly recommend that you look into monitors that are at least 5 inches otherwise you will have trouble hearing the low end (low frequencies) properly. This is a decision you will have to make, you can get a 4 inch pair that is more budget friendly but as you get deeper into production you’re going to want to upgrade later. If your budget allows, it is always a good idea to invest in something worthy upfront.
The statement in the previous paragraph also holds true if you have a smaller space, you can simply turn the volume down on bigger monitors and have them match the sound level of smaller ones, and at the same time enjoy lower distortion levels. It is important to note that when you have monitors in the near field, you want to make sure your volume is not turned up all the way or you may damage your ears. Cranking up monitors is not a good idea, they are not designed to be loud, they are designed to be accurate.
You want something, not esoteric, but as flat as possible! This is going to contribute significantly to the quality of your mix. A good pair of monitors will deliver an output that is true. You want to listen to a true representation your tracks (without any color), so you can make the right choices while doing your mix.
While all of the points above are critical, none of it matters if your studio has acoustic issues. Monitoring has a lot to do with the actual room you are in than anything else. If your room isn’t treated then sound can bounce off parallel walls and other surfaces in the room and you will have unnecessary reverb, all of which is going to add to the inaccuracy of your sound output. You want to cut down the different kinds of reflections present throughout the frequency spectrum. Make sure to position your furniture and monitors well, with fewer surfaces directly in front of your monitors.
Best Studio Monitors for Beginners Reviews
Focal Alpha 65 Evo
The Focal Alpha 65 EVO 6.5-inch is Focal’s attempt at remodeling their studio monitors, hence the name “EVO” (evolution). It is a 2-way studio monitor featuring Class-D amps which deliver a total power of 85W to the drivers (55W low-frequency,30W high-frequency). It offers a decent frequency response of 40Hz-22kHZ with a maximum SPL of 104dB (1m).
Physically, the Alpha 65 EVO is 339mm tall, 261mm wide, 261mm deep, and weighs about 21 lbs. The rear side includes a power switch, a TRS input, an RCA input, an XLR input, an auto-standby switch, wall fastening inserts, and an LF/HF shelving knobs for frequency adjustments. As for the design, the Alpha 65 EVO features a front-ported matt black MDF enclosure. This provides greater flexibility as to where you can position it and less distortion at higher volume levels. When we got the monitors, the box also included protection grills to safeguard the drivers.
We really liked the Auto-standby switch feature. As simple as it is, having an auto-standby switch can be more useful than you think! We were able to enable/disable the feature through a flip of a switch, which gave us more control over the monitor. This is a great quality of life feature we seldom find on studio monitors at this price range, so we were delighted to see it on the Alpha 65.
Sonically, we were happy with the Alpha 65 EVO 6.5’s performance. It provided incredible clarity as well as an immaculate bass response. The highs are pristine and comprehensive without feeling harsh and the lows are relatively clear. We really liked the sound quality as we were able to hear every detail in old music we had previously produced. They did provide some coloring; however, they are still pretty solid. We can attest to that as we’ve spent a lot of time mixing/listening to the Alpha 65 EVO. The specifically crafted Slatefiber cone also offers minimal distortion, which notably adds to the sound’s clarity.
Compared to the Alpha 65, we found the Alpha EVO 65 to be a complete remodel. Physically speaking, the Alpha EVO 65 is about 4 lbs heavier than the Alpha 65 (21 lbs. and 17 lbs. respectively). The Alpha 65 is smaller in size as it is 348mm tall, 252mm wide, and 309mm deep. Moreover, the Alpha 65 provides a total power of 70W supplied by the Class AB amps compared to the 80W supplied by the Class-D amps for the Alpha EVO 65The Alpha EVO 65 also features a TRS input connection allowing you to use your monitor in a variety of studio settings. Also, the max SPL on the Alpha EVO 65 has been reduced to 104dB from 106dB on the Alpha 65.
When it came to sound quality, however, we only noticed a slight difference. The EVO 65 provides a more enhanced sound across the frequency spectrum while also reducing sound distortion. For instance, the highs feel brighter and fuller, and the lows feel more detailed as it delivers a more comprehensive bass response. Most importantly, one of the Alpha 65’s flaws has been completely reworked. The Alpha 65 EVO now gives you the option to turn on/off the auto-standby feature, which was not available on the Alpha 65. We genuinely felt that the Alpha EVO 65 is a significant upgrade over the Alpha 65 in terms of sound quality and usability!
During our tests, we also stumbled upon some of the EVO 65’s drawbacks. Even though the low-end sounds detailed, it does feel, however, emphasized. For testing purposes, we tried mixing multiple sounds using the Alpha 65 EVO, then testing it on other monitors, and the difference was noticeable. This is because it provides coloring at the low-end of the frequency spectrum which makes it not as viable in the producing/mixing area. However, it feels very mesmerizing to listen to as it offers incredible separation between the mix’s instruments.
Furthermore, it was a bit exhausting to mix/produce on the Alpha 65 EVO after a while. We recommend taking breaks while producing/mixing on them as it can be very fatiguing after a certain period. We’ve been evaluating studio monitors for quite some time now, so we know how to avoid fatigue, but if you’re new to this industry, you might want to keep that in mind.
The Alpha 65 EVO is a great studio monitor for entry-level users as it provides fantastic sound quality, wide dispersion, and auditory treatment settings for room compensation. It’s also very enjoyable to listen to since the mix’s instruments feel very well separated. If you’re new to the profession and need a studio monitor, the Alpha 65 EVO can be a good fit for you.
Focal Alpha 65 Evo Benefits
The monitor offers an auto-standby feature that can be turned on/off
It provides great sound quality with a bit of coloring, making it sound catchy
Auditory settings that can be adjusted to fit your room acoustic perfectly.
Focal Alpha 65 Evo Drawbacks
Ear fatigue after working with them after a while
They have slight sound coloring which makes them not as viable for mixing/producing
The Yamaha HS8 is the largest of the HS series featuring the iconic 8-inch white cone woofer and a 1-inch dome tweeter. It is a mid-end active studio monitor which offers an incredible frequency response of 38Hz-30kHz, a ¼-inch TRS input, an XLR input, and an integrated Class-D bi-amplification that supplies 75W to the woofer and the remaining 45 to the tweeter for a total of 120W.
The HS8 also has two EQ settings for acoustic correction in your surroundings; The HIGH TRIM and the ROOM CONTROL switches. The HS8 measures 250mm wide, 390mm tall, 334mm deep, and weighs 22.5 lb. It is also available in two colors: white and black, both of which look absolutely stunning. Furthermore, the MDF enclosure has been empirically designed to produce outstanding sound and minimize unnecessary resonance.
As per our expectations, the Yamaha HS8 produced the powerful, rich sound character that Yamaha studio monitors are known for. The HS8 presented a detailed stereo image with an incredibly well-balanced frequency range. Everything sounded neutral without feeling harsh, while still demonstrating flat monitoring without any modifications to the mixes produced. For us the ROOM CONTROL and the HIGH TRIM switches were the true highlight. We were able to adjust the sound to our liking by removing excess low-end (Using the ROOM CONTROL) and controlling the high-frequency response (Using the HIGH TRIM), both of which add to the sound quality. there was absolutely no coloring, which is why we think the HS8 is a great choice for mixing/producing! We really liked the the low-end, which was brilliant with the bass and produced immaculate punchiness.
At first glance, the Yamaha HS8 looks very similar to the Yamaha HS80m. They have the same size, with the Yamaha HS80m being a little heavier. However, don’t let that fool you! The Yamaha HS8 is an entirely different breed when it comes to other aspects. The HS80m’s frequency control settings (MID EQ LOW CUT) were completely reworked. The Yamaha HS8 now offers a ROOM CONTROL and a HIGH TRIM switch for a better flat response and better adaptation to your room’s acoustic.
The HS8 also provides better magnetic efficiency by eliminating internal shielding that was previously featured on the HS80m. Most importantly, the frequency response on the Yamaha HS8 has been significantly enhanced. As mentioned, the HS8 now ranges from 38Hz to 30kHz, compared to the 42Hz to 20kHz on the Yamaha HS80m. This allows the Yamaha HS8 to accurately portray lower and higher frequencies, making it more versatile.
The volume level of the HS8 has also been notably amplified to give a louder sound while still maintaining the same great quality offered by the HS80m. We found the high-frequencies to be smoother and the bass to be punchier, both of which are great improvements.
With regards to drawbacks, the Yamaha HS8 has a faint buzzing sound emanating from the tweeter. While it is pretty common for studio monitors to have a buzz, the HS8 is a little more prominent. However, it is still not that loud. We had to be at a 5-inch range to slightly hear it, so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Moreover, you will not get the most out of the HS8 if your studio is not properly treated. We recommend that you resist playing music at maximum volume level while using 8-inch monitors in a small untreated studio. However, if you have a treated studio then you’re good to go. We strongly advise you to you treat your room if you’re considering mixing/producing music professionally since it will help you go a long way!
All things considered, the Yamaha HS8 is a remarkable studio monitor if you’re new to the field of music production. It is incredibly versatile as it provides amazing adaptation to your room using frequency control options. Its sound quality was fantastic and feels very fascinating to listen to. The highs are pristine and the lows are very powerful. It is truly an amazing studio monitor to start your music production journey!
Yamaha HS8 Benefits
The monitor offers great EQ settings to tailor the sound to your room’s acoustic
The sound quality is truly remarkable. It produced a powerful bass and clear highs
It offers an MDF enclosure to reduce unnecessary resonance
Great wattage which provides a very loud sound, while still preserving the same high-quality sound
Yamaha HS8 Drawbacks
The Yamaha HS8 might be a little bit overbearing if your studio is untreated/not large enough.
It has a relatively higher buzzing sound than other monitors which can be barely heard at a 5-inch range
JBL Professional 305P MkII
The JBL 305P MKII is one of the most popular and well-liked monitors that we’ve seen a lot in studios. It is a bi-amplified active studio monitor which features 82W Class D amplification (41W Low-Frequency, 41W High-Frequency). It also offers a TRS input, an XLR input, an input sensitivity switch, an HF TRIM switch, a Boundary EQ switch, and a volume dial knob.
the 305P MKII has a high frequency transducer for increased transient response and an improved low frequency motor design for greater linearity and low-frequency performance. Furthermore, its frequency response ranges from 49Hz to 20kHz (+/- 3dB), and 43Hz to 24kHz (-10dB) with a max peak SPL of 108dB. Design wise, the 305P MKII is 298mm tall, 185mm wide, 231mm deep, weighs around 12 lbs. It is also available in two color options: black and white, both of which have a glossy touch on the front and a matt finish on the sides.
As for the sound quality, it was really good considering the unit only had a 5-inch speaker. We liked the transparency and the full-spectrum response, which was as flat as we could have hoped for. By default, the high-end was a little bright to our ears but still very precise. Therefore, using the HF TRIM switch, we were able to adjust the 305P MKII’s high-frequency response to our liking.
The patent image control waveguide was also a standout as it offered great neutrality, a broad sweet spot, and an incredibly detailed stereo image. We were able to hear the right channel information clearly from the leftmost side of the room, which was very impressive. We also tested the monitor’s boundary EQ feature by placing it near a wall, and it adjusts really well.
While it’s difficult to improve on something in such close proximity, the JBL 305P MKII delivers a variety of new features over the JBL LSR305. After listening to both monitors for ourselves, we could attest that the monitors sound similar, although with a few enhancements for the 305P MKII. For one, the 305P MKII now features better transducers. The low frequency transducer has been modified to produce a less distorted sound by improving the low frequency motor design. On the other end of the spectrum, the high-frequency transducer now provides a more enhanced transient response by optimizing the damping using a ferrofluid. In terms of size, both monitors have similar dimensions and weigh the same. However, the 305P’s design surrounding the tweeter has been modified to make it more appealing as it now has a gleaming aspect, which not everyone likes.
While testing the JBL 305P MKII, we came across a few drawbacks. First, the overall sound falls short in the low-end as it lacks the power that we would have anticipated from it. We expected it to have more punchiness, but they are still a solid choice if you’re just starting music production. Furthermore, the 305P MKII produces a more prominent hissing sound at lower volumes than other monitors at its price range. While it does gradually get lower as you increase the volume level, it can be annoying for some. We’ve been testing monitors for a while now, so we’ve developed sensitive hearing. Therefore, you might not hear the hissing sound as loud as we did. Still, we’ve heard far worse hissing sounds, so it is still tolerable.
It is also worth noting that some might find the glossy appearance to be unprofessional. This is a personal preference which does not affect the sound quality. However, we really liked the design and found the glossy look to be unique and modern. Moreover, we highly recommend you find a suitable placement for the 305P MKII, especially since its bass port is on the backside of the monitor. You can use the boundary EQ feature to remove excess escalation, but positioning them properly is much more effective.
Overall, the JBL 305P MKII is one of the most cost-effective approach to acquire a professional studio monitor. It has a relatively flat response and superb stereo imaging, making it an excellent choice for novices in music production. It is also used as a reference monitor in many high-end studios, which attests to its viability. You also don’t have to worry about upgrading anytime soon, as you will definitely be pleased with its sound quality and its durability has a waveguide that provides a comprehensive audio image, a broad sweet spot, and great neutrality.
JBL Professional 305P MkII Benefits
The 305P MKII offers improved low-frequency and high-frequency transducers which increases the transient response and provides greater linearity respectively.
It features Boundary EQ and HIGH TRIM switches which allow for room compensation and high-frequency adjustments.
It is very honest, which makes a great choice for music production.
JBL Professional 305P MkII Drawbacks
The bass port is on the backside of the monitor so positioning them properly is very crucial
The low-end lacks a little bit of power.
The monitors have a slight hissing sound when the volume is low
Based on the scoring model, the highest variance is in the Wattage, Additional features, and the Frequency Response categories. As you can see, the Yamaha HS8 and the Focal Alpha 65 EVO rival each other in terms of price to performance, which is impressive considering they are the most expensive among the three contenders. The JBL 305P MKII, on the other hand, manages to catch up to the Alpha 65 EVO in terms of frequency response, wattage, and sound quality. It also comes really close to the other two in the Price to Performance category. This is a win for the 305P MKII since it costs way less than the HS8 and the Aplha 65 EVO
All 3 monitors scored an 8 in the sound quality category, which is something we do not see often! However, this does not mean they all sound the same, they’re different and have their own positives and negatives. The Yamaha HS8 provided incredible performance throughout our tests. And what’s really distinctive is that it performed consistently in every category. It was also the best scoring out of this lineup when it came to wattage and frequency response (Score of 9). This allows the HS8 to have incredibly loud sounds across a wide frequency range.
However, both the 305P MKII and the 65 EVO also remain a solid choice depending on what you’re looking for. The 65 EVO offers a variety of useful features for room compensation which is why it scored the highest in the additional features category. However, the 305P MKII achieves the same score as the 65 EVO in almost every category but lags behind by a very slight margin in added features and price to performance. We must note that, however, if your room is well-treated, the 65 EVO may not provide the same worth as the HS8. Therefore, if you’re on a limited budget, the JBL 305P MKII is a good option; otherwise, the HS8 offers higher performance and value while costing less than the Alpha 65 EVO.
With that being said, the Yamaha HS8 well surpassed our expectations, making it the best studio monitor for novices. It is a very versatile monitor, meaning that it can easily deliver great results if your room is sufficiently treated. It offers incredible EQ settings such as the HIGH TRIM and ROOM control, allowing you to adjust the high and low frequencies to your liking. Its high wattage and its carefully crafted MDF enclosure played a great role in delivering a loud and clear sound with powerful bass and pristine highs. The HS8 also improves on several of its predecessor’s features. It now offers a wider frequency response, better acoustic settings, improved magnetic efficiency, and louder sounds. It is honestly no surprise that it is seen in a lot of high-end studios. Therefore, we strongly recommend the HS8 studio monitor for beginners as it is among the best options on the market.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the considerations when purchasing a Beginner level Studio Monitor?
Studio monitors aren’t really classified differently for beginners or experienced users. What you want to do is buy something that is at least 5 inches, and then go for something that fits your genre. If you’re more into Hip Hop or EDM then a bass heavy monitor is a better choice, otherwise a more even bass response is what you should look for in a monitor.
Since you’re just starting out, you may not want to spend a lot of money, and that makes sense. Get a pair in the $500 – 800 range and as you develop your production skills, you’ll know what you want in your next monitors. Ultimately, you want something that has a flat response so you get to hear your music as it sounds rather than having a pair that adds more color and doesn’t give you an accurate depiction of your sound. This is important so you can mix your songs properly.
Is it hard to set up Studio Monitors for a Beginner?
Setting up studio monitors isn’t hard. You can follow the instructions from the user manual and go from there. You may have to install some audio drivers, and then read more about the specifics of the monitor that you have purchased. If this seems overwhelming, just go on YouTube and look up a video for your particular monitors. You’ll get a better idea that way.
Do I need an Audio Interface for Studio Monitors?
You can hook up your studio monitors to your computer without an Audio Interface, but you’re not going to get the full benefits of your monitors if you go without one. An interface will eliminate extra noise, humming and any other issues with your monitors. You’ll also forego any latency issues with a good interface. You don’t have to get anything fancy, a simple $100 – $200 interface will get the job done. If you want to record instruments then you’ll need to spend a bit more so your inputs are also high quality.
Other than Studio Monitors, what else will I need to for a Beginner level Studio?
It really depends on how far you want to take this. Other than an Audio Interface, a basic setup would include a Laptop or a Desktop and some monitors. This will work if you make beats, but then if you want to add your own sounds you’ll need more cables and instruments, possibly a midi keyboard, a microphone and anything else that facilitates your production. You can also look into mixers if you want to level up your game. It is a good idea to start out basic and then keep adding more equipment as time goes on. A lot of stuff at once is probably not the best approach, you’ll overwhelm yourself trying to learn how to make multiple things work at the same time.