Best Studio Monitors for Mixing and Mastering [2022 Reviewed]

Introduction

Mixing and mastering is the final and one of the most crucial steps before a release, you don’t want to take any shortcuts here. If you want your tracks to sound good, then a good pair of studio monitors is an absolute essential.

When choosing monitors for mixing and mastering, you want monitors that are uncolored, which basically means that the sound you hear out of your monitors is the same as what it was going in. You want a flat response, a true representation of the signal. You also want to pay attention to positioning. With some practice you should be able to dial a diffuse field within your room where you get the best output.

Most engineers use more than one medium for playback when mixing or mastering. You can technically get away without if you’re just mixing, but with mastering it is important that your tracks sound good on all potential systems. To start off, headphones are a great medium for referencing. Investing in a good pair will help you out here. Additionally, it’s a good idea to check out your tracks on some consumer grade speakers, in the car, and on your phone. If your tracks sound good on multiple systems, then you know your mix is good!

Room treatment is something you should never compromise on either. The more treated your studio is, the better your monitoring solution will be. You’ll get accurate distortion levels, frequency range and transient response. Your room defines your sound. If it is untreated then you’ll always be estimating things. With a treated room you can trust what you’re hearing.

You don’t always have to invest heavy for getting your room ready. You just want to make sure that you cover all the reverberant surfaces in the room and then get creative with your furniture. Hang things on all flat surfaces and learn the nuances of your studio so you can get an idea of what needs to be done.

Best Studio Monitors for Mixing and Mastering Reviews

Focal Alpha 80

8.4Average Score
Focal Alpha 80
Price to Performance
8
Frequency Response
8
Wattage
8
Sound Quality
10
Additional Features
8

The Focal Alpha 80 is a bi-amplified nearfield studio monitor composed of a 1-inch aluminum inverted dome tweeter and an 8-inch polyglass cone woofer. The monitor is acknowledged to be one of Focal’s best-performing studio monitors despite its relatively low cost.

As for the design, the Alpha 80’s drivers are crafted using Focal’s exclusive technology to provide a neutral sound with minimal distortion. Its architecture also allows the monitor to offer incredible linear frequency response curves, excellent midrange clarity, and quick impulse response. The Alpha 80 boasts a wattage of 140W and a frequency response of 35Hz-22kHz which are just enough for mixing and mastering your projects.

Furthermore, the Alpha 80 is 348mm deep, 287mm wide, 397mm tall, and 28.2lbs heavy. It also includes a front-ported MDF enclosure which gives you more positioning possibilities. As for the frequency control options, the monitor offers LF and HF shelving knobs which allow you to adjust sound levels under 300Hz and above 4.5kHz respectively. Additionally, the Alpha 80 includes an auto standby mode which reduces power consumption to less than 0.5W. The monitor also includes XLR and RCA inputs with an input sensitivity switch on its backside.

In terms of sound quality, we found the Alpha 80 to accurately portray our music with neutrality, allowing us to mix and master with minimal difficulties. After setting up the monitor in a decent-sounding space, the Alpha 80 demonstrated a great sweet spot with an incredible stereo image. As a result, it produced a rich and wide stereo field, creating a three-dimensional feel in the atmosphere. We also did not experience any fatigue while testing the monitor, which can be beneficial if you prefer working for longer periods.

Regarding the bottom end, the monitor demonstrated a punchy bass as it boasts a broad frequency response of 35Hz-22kHz. On the other hand, the high-end sounded neutral and pristine without feeling grit or loose. We also found it to be brutally honest as it brought out even the slightest mistakes in our mixes. This makes the Alpha 80 an incredibly well-rounded monitor, which is exactly what you need for mastering and mixing your projects.

Even though the Alpha 80 is Focal’s first attempt at an 8-inch woofer studio monitor, it still outperforms the Focal Shape 65 in several aspects. In terms of specs, the Alpha 80 features a lower low-end response of 35Hz, which is 5Hz lower than the Shape 65. However, the Shape 65 boasts more than double the high-end response of the Alpha 80 (45kHz and 22kHz respectively).

Additionally, the Alpha 80 includes 35W of power output more than the Shape 65, even though both monitors include Class AB amplification. We found the Alpha 80 to offer a more refined tweeter, which results in a more detailed sound. Compared to the Alpha 80, the Shape 65 feels underwhelming as it does not offer the depth and definition as the Alpha 80. Although the woofer size is different, we believe the Alpha 80 is an improved version of the Shape 65.

However, the Alpha 80 is not without flaws and we did come across a few drawbacks. For one, we found Alpha 80’s design to be somewhat sloppy. The enclosure’s sharp edges act as supplementary radiation sources which mud the image and cause slight ripples in the mid-range. However, the ripples were barely noticeable so it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Furthermore, we found the HF shelving knob to be useless for adjusting the responses from 3kHz since the majority of the HF shelving’s effect occurs after the 9kHz. This makes the HF frequency control setting very limited, which is not as practical as other monitors in this price range. However, you can use the HF shelving setting to adjust the high-end’s frequency, which we found useful.

We also found the auto-standby feature to be annoying as we were not able to disable it or lower the signal threshold that activates it. We would’ve appreciated more control over the auto standby mode since it would have a nifty to have.

Overall, the Alpha 80 is an outstanding monitor to mix and master your projects on. With incredible neutrality, the monitor demonstrated pristine highs and punchy lows, making it a great all-around monitor. The monitor feels simple without being harsh, so we enjoyed mixing and mastering some of our favorite songs on the Alpha 80.

Focal Alpha 80 Benefits

The Alpha 80 demonstrated great separation, creating a three-dimensional atmosphere

It offered pristine highs and punchy lows

The monitor reproduced sound with no coloring, making it a great option for mixing and mastering

The unit offered a wide sweet spot.

Focal Alpha 80 Drawbacks

The HF shelving knob is not as practical as other EQ settings on other monitors within this price range

Auto standby can’t be disabled

The monitor has a sloppy design which creates a muddy image.

KRK RP8 Rokit 8 G4

8.3Average Score
KRK RP8 Rokit 8 G4
Price to Performance
8.5
Frequency Response
8.5
Wattage
9
Sound Quality
7
Additional Features
8.5

The KRK Rokit studio monitors have always been a popular budget choice among up-and-coming audio engineers, and the G4 line is no different. The RP8 G4 is an active studio monitor which features powerful Class D amplifiers that power the drivers (203W total) and an integrated brick-wall limiter that protects the monitor.

The RP8 G4 boasts a wide frequency response of 36Hz-40kHz which is plenty for mixing and mastering your projects. As for the inputs, the monitor offers an XLR and a ¼ -inch combo jack inputs, which allows you to easily integrate your monitor with other audio equipment. Furthermore, the RP8 G4 offers an efficient high-frequency waveguide that produces a comprehensive stereo image and a dynamic sweet spot.

For the frequency control settings, the volume knob on the backside also works as an EQ control knob which allows you to cycle between 25 EQ combination settings. The RP8 G4 also features additional tuning options, including a mobile app that shows real-time spectrum analysis to assist with level matching, subwoofer level adjustment, and monitor positioning.

As for its design, the monitor has a front-ported enclosure that allows for incredible low-end extension with flexible positioning possibilities. It also features an 8-inch Kevlar cone woofer, and a 1-inch Kevlar dome tweeter both of which aim to minimize distortion.

Straight out of the box, we could already tell that the monitor would perform admirably. After burning in the monitor, we began our tests and the results were awesome. We found the highs and the mids to be neutral and distinct as we did not experience any ear fatigue while evaluating the monitor. However, as typical with the KRK studio monitors, the low-end felt slightly more prominent than other frequency ranges, which makes it not as practical for flat listening. Nevertheless, it is still a great option if you cannot afford a subwoofer.

We also found the waveguide to be a true highlight as provided a pretty wide sweet spot with an outstanding stereo image, making it an excellent choice for producers that move around in the studio. The monitor also demonstrated clarity even at higher volume levels, which we found excellent for mixing and mastering. The RP8 G4 offered enough volume for any studio at 111dB SPL, thanks to its powerful Class D amplifiers.

At first glance, the RP8 G4 and the RP8 G3 look pretty similar, however, in terms of performance the RP8 G4 feels like a huge improvement. In terms of sound quality, the high-end on the RP8 G4 feels much more comprehensive and natural, while the low-end feels a bit more accurate than the RP8 G3. The G3 also boasts a max peak SPL of 109dB, which is 2dB less than the G4 (111dB).

As for the wattage, both monitors include Class D amplifiers, however, the RP8 G4 boasts more than double the power output of the RP8 G3 (203W vs 100W). Consequently, we found the RP8 G4 to provide higher volume levels with incredible clarity when compared to the G3. The RP8 G3 offers a frequency response of 35Hz-35kHz, which is 5kHz narrower in terms of high-end and 1Hz wider in terms of the low-end than the G4. Physically, however, the G4 is 8mm wider, 7mm taller, 3mm deeper, and 2lbs lighter.

With regards to drawbacks, we found the RP8 G4’s tweeter to emit a slight hissing sound at the listening position (about 1m), which has been quite common with the KRK monitors. While it is much better than its predecessor’s (RP8 G3) hiss, it is still audible even without any inputs connected to it. However, it does not get louder as you increase the volume so we recommend you place them farther away while mixing and mastering.

Furthermore, we found that the RP8 G4 slightly colors the low-end to give the bass a bit more punch. While this might be perfect for casual listening, it is not as viable for music production since you want your monitors to be as flat as possible. It is still a decent choice if you cannot afford a subwoofer, but the results will not be as accurate.

All in all, the RP8 G4 is a decent monitor which demonstrated great highs and decent mids. Its waveguide performed admirably which offered an incredible sweet spot with a dynamic stereo image, making it a great choice to mix and master your projects.

KRK RP8 Rokit 8 G4 Benefits

The monitor features an efficient waveguide which provides great imaging and a wide sweet spot.

The RP8 G4 offers a specially crafted front-ported enclosure which allows provides great low-end extension and flexible room positioning.

The unit includes Kevlar drivers which improved the overall sound quality

The monitor features 25 EQ combinations with LCD visuals and a mobile app, which provide great flexibility

KRK RP8 Rokit 8 G4 Drawbacks

The low-end is slightly colored which is not ideal for music production

 The tweeter emits a hissing sound at listening position (1m)

JBL 308P MkII

7.7Average Score
JBL 308P MKII
Price to Performance
8.5
Frequency Response
7
Wattage
7.5
Sound Quality
7.5
Additional Features
8

The JBL 308P MkII is said to deliver remarkable performance in any modern studio at a relatively cheap price. It is a midfield bi-amplified studio monitor which boasts Class D amplifiers to power the drivers evenly for a total wattage of 112W (52W LF, 52W HF). The 308P MKII also features a crossover frequency of 1.8kHz, a frequency response of 37Hz-24kHz (-10dB) 45Hz-20kHz (-3dB), and an SPL of 112dB (max peak).

In terms of inputs and controls, the monitor offers a ¼ -inch TRS input, an XLR input, a Boundary EQ switch, an input sensitivity switch, and an HF Trim switch that is used to tailor the monitor’s response to your room’s acoustics. As for the design, the monitor features a 15mm MDF rear-ported enclosure, with a modern-looking glossy appearance. While this new look has garnered a lot of criticism, we found it to be unique, especially on our all-black desk. The 308P MKII also measures 419mm tall, 254mm wide, and 308mm deep with a weight of 20.73lbs.

In terms of quality, we found the 308p MKII to perform wonderfully as it demonstrated a clear and neutral sound, especially considering its inexpensive price. It provided a superb sound with a tight bass and rich highs. We also did not experience any fatigue while testing the monitor, even at high volumes, which is pretty impressive at this price range.

Furthermore, its waveguide stood out as it mainly served three purposes: It maintained the sound’s neutrality despite the environment, provided a wide sweet spot, and produced incredible imagery. For testing purposes, we evaluated the monitor in several environments and the results were incredible! The monitor maintained a flat and neutral response, reproducing almost the same sound in every environment we tested it in. The only difference in sound was caused by the reverb effect in untreated rooms; otherwise, the sound uniformity was excellent!

With this new glossy design, the JBL 308P MKII also provides a bunch of improvements compared to its predecessor, the LSR308. For one, the transducers have been improved to provide better sound quality. This was done by using a ferrofluid to enhance the damping of the high-frequency transducer, which provides a better transient response. Additionally, the low-frequency transducer was also tweaked by adjusting the motor architecture, resulting in reduced distortion when compared to the LSR308.

The JBL 308P MKII also now offers the new Boundary EQ setting, which we found pretty convenient. While testing the monitor in different environments, we used the boundary EQ to compensate for any flaws in untreated rooms. For instance, when studio monitors are distanced near a wall, the output sounds become distorted and muddy. However, using the boundary EQ setting on the 308P MKII, we were able to minimize any unwanted resonance, even when placed near a wall. This makes the 308P MKII much more versatile than its predecessor.

Despite its admirable performance, the JBL 308P MKII is not without flaws. Throughout our tests, we found the monitor to produce a slight hissing sound. While it is typical for monitors to produce a hiss, the 308P MKII’s is a bit more noticeable. However, if you move the monitor further away (approximately 6 feet), the hiss is no longer audible. Nevertheless, the 308p MKII is a midfield studio monitor anyways, so you’ll have to position it away from you at a midfield range of 5-10 feet. 

Additionally, as common with back-ported enclosures, we found the JBL 308P MKII to have muddy sounds and prominent low-end escalation when positioned near a corner or a wall. While you can use the boundary EQ setting to minimize any excess escalation, we advise you that you position your monitor away from a wall. As useful as the boundary EQ setting is, we would’ve preferred if the 308P MKII had a front-ported bass reflex port as it provides more positioning flexibility.

All in all, the JBL 308P MKII is a superb studio monitor for mixing and mastering. With incredible sound quality, the monitor offered practical EQ settings, which was impressive for monitors at its price. So, if you’re searching for a long-lasting addition to your studio setup, the JBL 308P MKII is the way to go.

JBL 308P MkII Benefits

The JBL 308P MKII has excellent EQ settings that restore low-frequency sound balance and adjust the high-frequency response.

It also has a JBL patented waveguide with a large sweet spot and comprehensive imaging capabilities.

The monitor has a great bass response

The JBL 308P MKII has efficient transducers for great linearity and improved transient response.

JBL 308P MkII Drawbacks

The monitor produces a slight hissing sound.

The 308P MKII has a rear-ported bass port which limits its positioning options

Verdict

mixing and mastering monitors score comparison

Based on the scoring model, you’ll find that the highest variance is in the Frequency response, wattage, and sound quality categories. As you can see, the JBL 308P MKII demonstrated sub par results in most categories. It provided incredible value for its price and offered decent features, but fell short in every other aspect. It really didn’t put up much competition. The constant lows make the 308P MKII somewhat inconsistent (comparatively), which is why the main competition here is between the Alpha 80 and RP8 G4.

Throughout our evaluation, the RP8 G4 proved to be an incredibly well-rounded monitor, which is exactly what you should look for if you’re considering mixing or mastering monitors. The monitor performed admirably, as it was the top scorer in every category, except sound quality, where it gets completely overshadowed by the Focal Alpha 80. However, this does not mean it sounded bad, the Alpha 80 set a very high standard for sound quality, which is why the RP8 G4 and the JBL 308P MKII scored relatively lower.

While the RP8 G4 may not be the best sounding monitor out of this lineup, we cannot ignore that it offers a variety of practical features, decent wattage, a good frequency response and gives you a bang for your buck.

However, as far as the competition goes, the Focal Alpha 80 goes head to head with the RP8 in every single category, coming out on top as the best studio monitor for mixing and mastering. Throughout our tests, the Alpa provided incredible performance as it offered a wide frequency response, great wattage, excellent value, and a handful of useful features. This is the monitor that will let you mix your songs with absolute neutrality. Focal put in some effort into developing this beast, with great improvements on the Shape line. If you’re serious about music production, get the Alpha 80. It is highly recommended!

Frequently Answered Questions

What is the most Important aspect of choosing Monitors for Mixing and Mastering?

Nothing really changes here, you want something that is transparent and color free, of high quality so that you are able to hear the delicate details. Something that will fit well into your setup, and most importantly a pair that outputs sound that you like. All monitors are somewhat different, over time you will know what you like the best.

How important is it to Mix and Master on Monitors vs. Headphones?

Headphones aren’t really meant for mixing and mastering. You may be able to get away with it just for mixing purposes (even this isn’t recommended), but in all honesty, you need good quality monitors to deliver the final product. Headphones are great to be used as alternates so that you may hear what your tracks in a different medium.

Do I need high end Studio Monitors for Mixing and Mastering?

The higher the quality the better. At some point you’ll start having diminishing returns though. As far as sound quality goes, you want the best there is, since monitoring has such a huge impact on your tracks.

Is it worth Mixing and Mastering on Monitors if my room is not treated?

It really depends on the actual room, but the rule of thumb dictates that untreated rooms almost always have issues. An untreated room will add elements to your sound that may sound good or bad but in reality that is not what your track sounds like. It is a sort of a filter applied to your track that hinders with the actual sound. This is why you need to take care of room acoustics.