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The Best Studio Monitors Under $300 (A Pair)

by | Studio Monitors | 0 comments

Welcome to this first in a series of articles on buying the best studio monitors for a home studio or project studio!  This article is going to cover the best studio monitors under $300 a pair.

The Best Studio Monitors Under $300 A Pair

KRK Rokit 5 Gen 3

user favorite, great sound
  • KRK Rokit 5 Generation 3 studio monitors
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Mackie CR3

best seller under $100
  • The Best Studio Monitors Under $300 - Mackie CR3
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Presonus Eris E5

great sound & imaging
  • Best Studio Monitors Under $300 - PreSonus Eris E5
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JBL LSR305

top value for price
  • Best Studio Monitors Under $300 - JBL LSR305 studio monitors
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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.

Monitor Basics

To start, studio monitors under $300 a pair are your basic “entry-level” home studio monitors for home studio or small project studio music production.  If this is the very top of your budget, then the good news is that you can get some very good monitors at this price.

The bad news is that you may outgrow them pretty quickly!

With studio monitors, like most things in life, you get what you pay for…

The main role of studio monitors is to give you an accurate, uncolored and transparent picture of the music you are creating.  That is hard to accomplish at the under $300 price point.  Manufacturers have to spend quite a lot on R&D, materials, engineering and components to create quality monitors, and they have to scrimp a bit on quality with their lower-end models to make a profit.

Generally, more expensive monitors give you the following features and benefits:

  • a larger woofer size for tighter and deeper bass response
  • better tweeter design and construction for tightly 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

While the monitors I profile below are the best available at the under $300 price point, they all do have limitations. The bass response won’t be as good as with higher-priced models. They will be designed and manufactured using lesser-quality components and materials.  And the sound won’t be as detailed and refined as more expensive models.

So, get the best monitors you can afford, even if you have to stretch a bit!

My advice is that spending just a little more is well worth the additional money.  A pair of monitors around $500 a pair vastly outperforms lower-priced ones. You’ll get monitors that won’t need to be replaced or upgraded for many years.

Review Criteria

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!

Pro Tip

The key to killer mixes is an accurate monitoring system that is placed in an acoustically treated room.  You’ll get the best results with your monitors by including proper studio acoustic treatment like acoustic panels, bass traps, diffusers, etc.

The Best Studio Monitors Under $300 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 $300.

All my picks below are well-designed monitors that sound surprisingly good for the money!

Also note that all monitors are powered near-field monitors with built-in amplifiers.  These are the best choices for monitors for a home or project studio.

KRK Rokit 5 G3 (Generation 3)

The KRK Rokit 5 Generation 3 studio monitors have a reputation for being the best home studio monitors in the under $300 price class.  They are certainly the most popular at this price point, and from reviews on Amazon and other retailers they get very high recommendations.

This is the third generation of this particular monitor, and KRK has made numerous improvements over the years while keeping the price the same.

If you only have around $300 to spend for a pair of studio monitors, this is probably your best choice.

KRK Rokit 5 G3 Specs:

  • Woofer: 5” aramid glass composite cone
  • Tweeter: 1” soft-dome
  • Design: 2-way ported
  • Frequency response: 45 Hz – 35 kHz
  • 50 watt total bi-amped Class A/B amplifier
  • XLR, ¼”, and RCA input jacks
  • Weight: 13 lbs.

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

For inexpensive monitors at this price point, they do offer very good detailed imaging, clear midrange, and tight bass.  And as mentioned, they are favorites among hundreds of user’s reviews.

The Rokit 5 colors the sound in the mid-range a bit but most users find this a benefit.

Buyers of the Rokit 5 are frequently home studio recording hobbyists or beginning product studio owners.  Rokit (and other manufacturers of lower-end monitors) helps address the needs of this market by including RCA input jacks, which are very handy for non-professional home studio setups. Many home studio owners end up connecting their monitors to non-pro level equipment which may only have RCA outputs.  Pro-level connections are usually through the XLR jacks.

The Rokit 5 includes high and low frequency adjust controls for optimizing the monitors to your listening room.  This is a very quick and easy way to help your mixes sound better when you don’t have any acoustic treatment in your listening room.

Their small size and weight can be a major benefit for studios in bedrooms or closets (you’d be surprised how many people set up studios in closets!)

On the downside, the small 5” woofer simply cannot generate a powerful low-end, especially at high volumes.  If you are producing hip hop, rap, or bass heavy types of electronic tracks and like to listen at high volumes, these may not be the best monitors.

However, KRK does offer a sub-woofer which would provide the low end you’re looking for.  But for the best bang for your buck, you would be better off spending more for monitors that give you better bass response right off the bat.

Tip:  There are other monitors in the KRK Audio lineup – they also offer Rokit 6, Rokit 8, and Rokit 10 monitor versions.  Check them out!

Mackie CR Series CR3

The Mackie CR Series CR3 is a remarkable deal for only about $99/pair.  It is the #1 Best Seller on Amazon for studio monitors at this price, with hundreds of positive reviews.  Plus it comes with the necessary cables you will need to connect these monitors to your studio setup.

Mackie CR 3 Specs:

  • Woofer: 3” woofer
  • Tweeter: 0.75” ferrofluid-cooled silk-dome
  • Design: 2-way ported
  • Frequency response: 80 Hz – 20 kHz
  • 50 watt amplifier
  • ¼” and RCA inputs
  • Weight: 6 lbs.

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

If all you have is $100, then this is your first choice!

Mackie CR Series – Overview

The CR3 offers really great performance for the price.  It’s an ideal choice for those on a very small budget and where space is at a premium.

The CR3s would also make a great higher-end desktop computer monitor, or even small living room sound system.

A set of two monitors comes with some nice goodies: 2 acoustic pads for sonic isolation, a 1/8”-to-stereo RCA connector for PC/Mac connections, and a 1/8”-to-1/8” cable for connecting smartphones.  This easily adds $25 of value to this package.

Like with the KRK Rokit 5, the inclusion of an RCA input jack is very handy for non-professional home studio connections.  But note that these monitors do not include an XLR jack for connections from mixing boards or other pro-level gear.

Note: The very highly-rated CR4 monitor is the CR3’s big brother.  It sells for around $150/ pair.  Check it out also!

PreSonus Eris E5

PreSonus is a very well-known manufacturer of monitors, software, preamps and more based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  With 70 watts of power, the Eris E5 is an ideal inexpensive monitor for both home studios and small project studios.

Many studio monitors in the under $300 category that I’ve looked at have big shortcomings – poor sound quality, poor construction materials or too much coloration in their sound.

The Eris E5 is not one of these poor-quality monitors.   It gives you tons of value at this price point, with good clear sound reproduction, solid imaging and a relatively flat frequency response.  And it has received numerous praise in reviews for its accuracy and stereo separation.

Overall it offers great performance at a very affordable price!

Presonus Eris E5 Specs:

  • Woofer: 5.25” Kevlar low-frequency transducer
  • Tweeter: 1” ultra-low-mass,silk-dome
  • Design: 2-way ported
  • Frequency response: 53 Hz – 22 kHz
  • 70 watt Class AB bi-amplification
  • XLR, ¼” TRS and RCA inputs
  • Weight: 10.2 lbs.

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

It is also quite powerful with 70 watts of power, more than the Rokit 5.  That translates into more volume without distortion.

Each monitor has controls to customize its performance in your studio.   The Acoustic Space switch helps compensate for the bass boost that occurs when a monitor is placed close to a wall or in a corner.  High and Mid controls help compensate for room acoustics issues.

PreSonus—Eris Studio Monitors

JBL LSR305

JBL has been in the business of making loudspeakers and monitors for many decades, and brings that experience to making great sounding monitors at a very affordable price.

The LSR305 monitors are known for their well refined and balanced sound, with great imaging, a wide sweet spot and clear focused mids and highs.

JBL LSR305 Specs:

  • Woofer: 5” Low-Frequency Transducer
  • Tweeter: 1” Soft-Dome High-Frequency Transducer
  • Design: 2-way ported
  • Frequency response: 43 Hz – 24 kHz
  • 41 watt Class D amps each for LF and HF
  • XLR, ¼” TRS inputs
  • Weight: 10.2 lbs.

Check price:
Amazon | zZoundsGuitar Center

One of the great things about the LSR305 is that they incorporate various technologies from JBL’s high-end pro monitors. The following is from JBL’s website:

“The Image Control Waveguide technology… precisely controls the sound emanating from the speaker in the vertical and horizontal planes ensuring the presentation at the listening position is neutral and accurate.

JBL’s Patented Slip Stream™ low frequency port design works in concert with the woofer to produce deep bass response at all playback levels. The double-flared shape of the port is precisely engineered for greater low-frequency extension.”

JBL 3 Series Studio Monitors

The LSR305 offers excellent stereo imaging, and extended frequency range as opposed to other monitors in its price class.

Each monitor has Audio Trim controls to customize its performance in your studio to compensate for room acoustics.

It is also the most powerful – with 70 watts – of all the monitors featured here.

Highly recommended for under $300 a pair monitors!

Other Noteworthy Monitors:

Here is a runner-up that didn’t quite make my list.  But check it out, as you may find a great deal!

M-Audio AV42

Conclusion

Choosing the right studio monitors involves three things: your budget, the size of the room you are working in, and or course the sound quality of the monitors.

What you’ll find is that there are no “perfect” monitors – they will all sound different in each person’s studio.

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 are the holy grail of sound isn’t realistic.

Instead, look for quality monitors in your price range that have provided great results for many studio owners.

Then, try to stretch your budget a bit to get the best you can possibly afford!

And finally, don’t forget your room acoustics!  High-quality monitors only reach their full potential in a properly treated room.

 

 

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