The Best Studio Monitors Under $1,000 (A Pair) – 2018 Update
This article on the best studio monitors under $1,000 a pair is the third in a series on the best studio monitors available today.
Previous articles covered lower-priced monitors – below are the links to those articles:
Today I’m going to focus on the best monitors between $500 and $1,000 a pair.
At this price point you can buy excellent professional level studio monitors that will be ideal for home studio recording, project studio music production, video editing, or any other uses.
Studio Monitor Buying Guide
If you are new to buying monitors, please check out my Studio Monitors 101: A How-To Guide To Buying The Best Studio Monitors For Your Home Studio article. You’ll learn the differences between monitors and speakers, types of studio monitors, monitor design, and much more.
Now, the main role of studio monitors is to give you an accurate, uncolored and transparent picture of the music you are creating.
At around $1,000 that starts to become a reality as manufacturers are able to incorporate high-quality components and engineering to create great sounding monitors without a lot of scrimping on quality. You’ll end up with pro-level monitors that won’t need to be replaced or upgraded for many years.
Monitors from $500 to $1,000 give you the following features and benefits:
- a larger woofer size (8” and up) for tighter and deeper bass response
- better tweeter design and construction for tight focused highs
- better cabinet construction/port design for improved sound reproduction, imaging, clarity and bass response
- more power for increased volume without distortion
- flatter frequency response overall
All monitors were chosen based on their widespread use and reputation in the professional music community.
I also add my insights gained from my 25+ years of experience running a very successful music production company, running Audio Addiction Music Library, a production music library with global distribution, and recording in major studios.
OK, let’s move on to the monitor reviews!
The Best Studio Monitors Under $1,000 A Pair
Important Note: Many prices you see in online stores are for only 1 monitor, which is really misleading! This article only includes a pair of monitors that are under $1,000.
All the monitors I review are powered near-field monitors which provide the best value and features for the money.
Focal is a well-established French manufacturer of high-end loudspeakers, headphones and professional studio monitors.
The Alpha 65 is their entry-level monitor, and combines many of the features from their flagship SM series into a much more affordable package (like half the price!)
Focal monitors have always been coveted by mixers, producers, and studio owners, and the Alpha 65 is a terrific choice in the under $1,000 range. It offers excellent stereo imaging, clear defined mids and a punchy low end.
Many users swear these are the best-sounding monitors they have ever owned!
Focal Alpha 65 Studio Monitor Overview
Sound On Sound Magazine had this to say about the Alpha 65 in a 2014 review:
“The Focal Alpha 65 delivers a wonderfully detailed, dynamic and tonally balanced sound within a sizeable sweet spot.
Every element of the soundscape has a real sense of clarity and position. Across the mid-range, reproduction was extremely detailed, and this gave vocals, acoustic instruments and percussion a feeling of real presence.”
Note: These monitors incorporate a power-saving Automatic Standby Mode where they switch off after some minutes of non-use. When activated again, the audio fades in. Some users find this annoying, and it is not a feature that can be turned off.
It is a successor of the famous NS-10M monitors that countless classic pop and rock records were mixed on in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.
Yamaha has brought that heritage into the modern day HS8 studio monitor, and added refinements that make it an outstanding monitor in its price class.
The HS8 is notable for its flat frequency response, smooth highs and mids, and punchy low end. Users love its excellent stereo imaging, and the ability to mix for hours without getting ear fatigue that is all too common on cheaper monitors.
Yamaha HS Series Powered Studio Monitors
Many users who long to buy a pair of classic NS-10s but can’t find them are very happy with the HS8s. More than one buyer has commented that it’s like having NS-10s but without their sound flaws.
Overall, this is fantastic sounding monitor that delivers excellent results.
Mackie is a venerable manufacturer of pro music gear for many decades. Almost everyone who has been in the music business for any length of time has owned Mackie gear at some point. I had two of their 24.8 mixing boards in my studio before I finally moved to “mixing in the box” and sold them.
The HR624 Mark 2 is the second generation of their widely-used originals.
In the film/TV composer world, many great-sounding tracks have been created and mixed on a set of HR624s. For pro media composers who routinely work in many different styles of music, the HR624s are known for making mixing faster and easier.
The HR624 is different than the other monitors featured in this article in that it uses a sealed monitor design, which means that the cabinet is completely sealed and does not incorporate a port.
Rather, the HR624 incorporates a passive radiator at the rear – basically a passive speaker – that generates sound when the normal speaker is activated during sound playback.
Audiophiles disagree on which is better, but the general consensus is that a sealed monitor is better able to handle low frequencies more accurately than a port or duct.
The HR624 incorporates Mackie’s Zero-Edge Baffle technology that they claim helps create a crystal clear image of your mix.
These monitors are highly recommended by composers, producers, and mixers who are in the studio for many hours and need monitors that can handle the workload.
Mackie HR624 mk II Studio Monitors
Mackie HR624 mk II Specs:
- Woofer: 6.7” low-distortion driver
- Tweeter: 1” titanium dome ferrofluid-cooled
- Design: 2-way
- Frequency response: 49 Hz – 20 kHz
- 140 watt total twin FR Series amplifiers
- XLR, RCA and ¼” input jacks
- Weight: 23.4 lbs.
Adam Audio is a pro audio company based in Berlin, Germany. Their only products are loudspeakers and monitors, and they have built a reputation of making top-quality monitors for discerning professional users. Their high-end monitors are found in many studios all over the world.
Adam Audio Factory Visit
The A3X is the baby of the AX-Series line of pro monitors. It is designed for professional use in studios with limited space such as home project studios or mobile recording setups.
The A5X is one step up from the A3X, and has found an audience in home project studios as well as in television studios, post production suites and remote broadcast vans.
The first things you notice about these monitors is that they have a cool industrial vibe. But take a look at the tweeters in the pictures. Both monitors employ Adam’s proprietary Accelerating Ribbon Technology (ART) folded-ribbon tweeters. This technology was designed to mimic the way human vocal chords work.
If you look at the specs, you’ll notice this: the high frequency response is up to 50 kHz. 20 kHz – 30 kHz is the top for most monitors, but 50 kHz is insane! The result is extremely detailed and smooth highs.
Both the A3X and the A5X have somewhat small woofers for a monitor in this price range. Despite that, the ports help deliver smooth yet punchy lows, especially from the A5X.
One nice feature not usually found on monitors at any price is that the volume knob and power switch are located on the front panel. It’s a small thing, but shows that Adam has listened to its users and delivered what they want.
Both monitors are on the compact side, which works great for small rooms.
Overall, this is a smart choice for studio owners who are looking for a small size monitor that produces stellar sound.
Adam A3X Studio Monitors
Adam A3X Specs:
- Woofer: 4.5” carbon fiber
- Tweeter: 4” X-Art folded-ribbon
- Design: 2-way front ported
- Frequency response: 50 Hz – 50 kHz
- 50 watt total (25 watt LF and 25 watt HF) Class A/B amplifiers
- XLR and RCA input jacks
- Weight: 10.1 lbs.
Adam A5X Studio Monitors
Adam A5X Specs:
- Woofer: 5.5” carbon/Rohacell/Glass Fiber
- Tweeter: 4” X-Art folded-ribbon
- Design: 2-way front ported
- Frequency response: 60 Hz – 50 kHz
- 100 watt total (50 watt LF and 50 watt HF) Class A/B amplifiers
- XLR and RCA input jacks
- Weight: 14.6 lbs.
Choosing the right studio monitors is not easy and should be done only after careful consideration. Your budget, the size of the room you are working in, and or course the sound quality of the monitors are all very important.
What you’ll find is that there are no “perfect” monitors – they will all sound different in different studios.
Your recording hardware or software, your computer soundcard, your AD/DA converter, and especially your room – these all end up coloring the sound in different ways.
So trying to find the perfect monitors that everyone agrees on isn’t realistic.
Instead, look for quality monitors in your price range that have provided great results for many studio owners over the years.
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