Best Budget Studio Monitors (Under $300 A Pair) – 2021 Reviews
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 budget studio monitors under $300 a pair.
I’ve divided the reviews into under $100, $100 to $200, and $200 to $300 a pair, since price is a prime consideration when choosing under $300 monitors.
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.
Best Budget Studio Monitors Under $300 A Pair
|Top||PreSonus Eris E3.5 - 3.5" Professional Multimedia Reference Monitors with Acoustic Tuning (Pair)||Prime||Amazon|
|Top||Mackie CR4 4-Inch Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors with Foam Isolation Pads and 2X 10ft TRS Cables||Prime||Amazon|
|Top||KRK RP5G3 ROKIT 5 G3 5" 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor (Single)||Prime||Amazon|
|Top||PreSonus Eris E5 2-Way Active Studio Monitor (Single)||Prime||Amazon|
|Top||JBL 305P MkII 5" Studio Monitoring Speakers (Pair) w/ 5 Essential AxcessAbles Studio Cables for Recording Studio||Prime||Amazon|
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.
Best Studio Monitors Under $300: What To Look For
To start, inexpensive 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 excellent 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…
Studio Monitor Price vs. Performance
The central 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 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
While the monitors I review below are the best budget studio monitors 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. Their design will use lesser-quality (but still good 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.
Important Note: Many prices you see in online stores are for only one monitor, which is misleading! This article only includes a pair of monitors that are under $300.
Best Studio Monitors Under $100 A Pair
PreSonus Eris E3.5
It’s hard to find a good sounding powered studio monitor under $100 for a pair. I previously reviewed two monitors here, but I removed the Mackie CR3 (replaced with the over $100 CR4) as many buyers ended up not very happy with them.
However, the PreSonus Eris E3.5 2-way active powered studio monitors stand far out from the crowd and are by far the best cheap studio monitors under $100.
PreSonus, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a very well-known manufacturer of monitors, software, preamps and more. The E3.5 uses the same technology as its top-rated big brother Eris E5 studio monitors to deliver high-quality sound, just with smaller size drivers.
The E3.5 monitors are very popular for use in home studios, for video production, or gaming. Their small size lets you place them on either side of your computer or computer monitor.
These monitors have very good low-end punch for its size, and overall the sound is accurate and flat. If you’re coming from using stereo speakers, you’ll have to adjust your ears to the flatter sound – remember, studio monitors are designed to reproduce your audio without any frequency hype.
They can also crank up pretty loud if desired without distorting, which most inexpensive monitors can’t do.
PreSonus Eris E3.5 Construction
The E3.5 uses a 1-inch silk dome tweeter and a 3.5 inch composite Kevlar woofer. Their design creates a smooth and well-defined sound throughout the frequency range.
The main controls – the Power switch and Volume – are found on the front panel for easy access. There’s also a convenient Aux In and Headphones output on the front.
Rear panel controls include High and Low Acoustic Tuning pots for use when optimizing your monitors’ placement in your studio.
There are RCA jacks for unbalanced audio inputs and ¼” TRS connectors for balanced inputs.
PreSonus Eris E3.5 Monitors
Hands down, the E3.5 is the best inexpensive near-field studio monitor under $100 available today.
PreSonus Eris E3.5 Specs:
- Size: 5.6” W x 6.4” D x 8.3” H
- Woofer: 3.5” Kevlar composite
- Tweeter: 1” silk-dome
- Design: 2-way rear ported
- Frequency response: 80Hz – 20kHz
- 2 x 25 watts AB class
- 1/8”, 1/4” and RCA inputs
- Weight: 6.4 lbs.
PreSonus Eris E3.5 Studio Monitors (Pair)
|PreSonus Eris E3.5 - 3.5" Professional Multimedia Reference Monitors with Acoustic Tuning (Pair)||Prime||Amazon|
Special bundle with headphones, monitor isolation pads, and a breakout cable:
|Presonus Eris-E3.5 Studio Monitors (Pair) with Full-Sized Headphones, Knox Gear Isolation Pads and Breakout Cable||Prime||Amazon|
Best Studio Monitors Under $200 ($100 to $200 A Pair)
Mackie CR Series CR4
The Mackie CR Series CR4 is an Amazon’s Choice for powered studio monitors at this price, with over 1,000 positive reviews. It’s an ideal choice for producers or composers on a small budget or where space is at a premium.
Plus, it comes with the necessary cables you’ll need to connect these monitors to your studio setup.
The CR4 offers excellent performance for the price. It’s a 2-way monitor designed to deliver clear, smooth and accurate audio, and has found a home in many home studios, video edit suites, and gaming setups.
It has an all-wood cabinet that provides better sound quality than plastic cabinets usually found in monitors at this price. A custom-tuned rear port helps deliver lots of low end.
The front panel includes convenient front-panel headphone and Aux jacks for easy accessibility.
The inclusion of RCA, 1.4”, and 1/8” input jacks give lots of options for non-professional home studio connections, including connecting a smartphone or other mobile device. But note that the CR4s do not include an XLR jack for connections from mixing boards or other pro-level gear.
Mackie CR Series CR4 – Unpacking Demo
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 $50 of value to this package.
Highly recommended as a best small studio monitor priced well under $200.
Mackie CR Series CR4 Specs:
- Dimensions: 12.5” x 16.3” x 9.5”
- Woofer: 4” woofer
- Tweeter: 0.75” ferrofluid-cooled silk-dome
- Design: 2-way ported
- Frequency response: 70Hz – 20kHz
- 50 watts
- ¼” and RCA inputs
- Weight: 12 lbs. (pair)
Mackie CR Series CR4 Studio Monitors (Pair)
|Mackie CR4 4-Inch Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors with Foam Isolation Pads and 2X 10ft TRS Cables||Prime||Amazon|
Best Studio Monitors Under $300 ($200 to $300 A Pair)
KRK ROKIT 5 G3
Note: As of August 2019, this monitor is being discontinued and will be replaced with the ROKIT 5 G4. However, it’s still available but probably not for much longer. The ROKIT 5 G4 is over $300 a pair which no longer makes it budget-priced.
The KRK ROKIT 5 G3 powered studio monitors have a reputation for being one of the best home studio reference monitors in the under $300 price class. They are certainly one of the most popular; they get very high recommendations from reviews on Amazon and other sites.
The G3 is the third generation of the ROKIT 5 monitor, and KRK has made numerous improvements over the years without raising the price.
For inexpensive monitors at this price point, the Rokit 5 G3 does offer excellent detailed imaging, clear midrange, and tight bass. And as mentioned, they are favorites among hundreds of user’s reviews.
The Rokit 5 G3 does add a little coloration to the sound in the mid-range, so they don’t have a flat response, but most users find this a benefit when mixing.
Rokit 5 G3 Connections
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 XLR jacks.
The Rokit 5 includes high and low frequency adjust controls for optimizing the monitor’s performance to your listening room. Adjusting the controls give you a very quick and easy way to help your mixes sound better, even when you don’t have any acoustic treatment in your listening room.
Their small size and weight can be a significant 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 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 for you.
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 a better bass response right off the bat.
Pro Tip: Some inexpensive monitor isolation pads will make these monitors sound even better!
KRK ROKIT 5 G3 Reference Monitors:
KRK ROKIT 5 G3 Specs:
- Dimensions: 11.2″ x 7.4″ x 9.7″
- Woofer: 5” aramid glass composite cone
- Tweeter: 1” soft-dome
- Design: 2-way ported
- Max Peak SPL: 102 dB
- Frequency response: 45Hz – 35kHz
- 50 watt total bi-amped Class A/B amplifier
- XLR, ¼”, and RCA input jacks
- Weight: 17 lbs.
KRK ROKIT 5 G3 Reference Studio Monitors
Price is for 1 monitor
|KRK RP5G3 ROKIT 5 G3 5" 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor, Black||X||Amazon|
PreSonus Eris E5
Many studio monitors in the under $300 category that I’ve looked at have significant shortcomings – poor sound quality, inferior construction materials, or too much sound coloration.
However, the PreSonus Eris E5 is not one of these poor-quality monitors. It gives you tons of value at this price point, with excellent precise sound reproduction, solid imaging, and a relatively flat frequency response. And it has received numerous praise in reviews for its accuracy and stereo separation.
The Eris E5 is the big brother of the previously reviewed Eris E3.5. With 70 watts of power, it’s one of the more powerful inexpensive reference studio monitors for both home studios and small project studios available.
The E5 is a 2-way powered studio monitor that delivers crisp, clear sound throughout the frequency range. Its design gives it a wider sweet spot that helps users create better mixes.
PreSonus Eris E5 Studio Monitors
PreSonus Eris E5 Controls
The Power switch and Volume controls are located on the front panel for easy access. There’s also a convenient Aux In and Headphones output.
For connecting devices, there are three options: unbalanced RCA jacks, balanced ¼” TRS connectors, and a balanced XLR jack. It’s also one of the few monitors in this price range with a pro XLR connector.
The rear features several controls to get the best performance in your studio.
High and Low Acoustic Tuning pots help compensate for room acoustics issues in your studio.
The Acoustic Space switch helps reduce the bass boost that occurs when a monitor is placed close to a wall or in a corner.
Overall, the PreSonus Eris E5 offers excellent performance at a very affordable price!
PreSonus Eris E5 Specs:
- Dimensions: 7” x 7.68” x 10.24”
- Woofer: 5.25” Kevlar low-frequency transducer
- Tweeter: 1” ultra-low-mass,silk-dome
- Design: 2-way front-ported
- Maximum SPL: 102 dB
- Frequency response: 53Hz – 22kHz
- 70 watt Class AB bi-amplification
- XLR, ¼” TRS and RCA inputs
- Weight: 10.2 lbs.
PreSonus Eris E5
|PreSonus Eris E5 2-Way Active Studio Monitor (Single)||X||Amazon|
JBL Professional 305P MkII
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.
Their LSR305P MkII powered reference monitors features JBL’s next-generation transducers, a powerful new EQ control, and modern design.
These monitors are highly prized for their well refined and balanced sound, excellent imaging, a wide sweet spot, and clear focused mids and highs.
It’s also the most powerful – with 82 watts – of all the monitors featured here.
The LSR305P MkII incorporates 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 305P MkII Controls
Each monitor has two controls to customize its performance in your studio to compensate for room acoustics.
HF Trim lets you adjust the highs from -2 dB to +2 dB.
A new feature is their Boundary EQ, which helps balance low-frequency response when the monitors are placed near walls.
JBL 3 Series MkII Studio Monitors
The LSR305P MkII is highly recommended for under $300 a pair monitors!
JBL Professional 305P MkII Specs:
- Dimensions: 11.7” x 7.3” x 9.1”
- Woofer: 5” low-frequency transducer
- Tweeter: 1” soft-dome high-frequency transducer
- Design: 2-way rear ported
- Max SPL: 108 dB
- Frequency response: 43 Hz – 24 kHz
- 82-watt total power Class D amps
- Balanced XLR and 1/4” TRS inputs
- Weight: 10.2 lbs.
JBL Professional 305P MkII
|JBL 305P MkII 5" Studio Monitoring Speakers (Pair) w/ 5 Essential AxcessAbles Studio Cables for Recording Studio||Prime||Amazon|
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 | 20-Watt Compact Studio Monitor Speakers with 4-inch Woofer (Pair)||Prime||Amazon|
I hope you got a lot out of my reviews of the best studio monitors under $300.
Choosing the right studio monitors involves three things: your budget, the size of the room you are working in, and of 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!