Best Home/Project Studio Monitors (Under $500 A Pair) – 2020 Reviews
This article on the best home/project studio monitors under $500 a pair is the second in a series on the best studio monitors available today.
In a previous article, I focused on the best budget studio monitors under $300 a pair. Please check it out if you’re looking for monitors in that price range.
This article is going to review the best monitors between $300 and $500 a pair. The extra $200 make a big difference in a monitor’s size, construction and sound reproduction quality.
At the $300 to $500 price point, you can get some excellent professional level studio monitors that will be excellent for home studio recording, small project studio music production, video editing, or any other uses.
Also, note that all the monitors I’m including are powered near-field monitors which will provide the best value and features for the money.
This article was updated on August 19, 2019.
I added Pros and Cons to each review, added the ProSonus Eris E8, the JBL LSR308 was changed to the newer JBL 308P, and the M-Audio BX8 Carbon was changed to the newer M-Audio BX8 D3.
Best Home Studio Monitors Under $500 A Pair
|Yamaha HS5 Powered Studio Monitor (Single)||Prime||Amazon|
|KRK RP8G3-NA Rokit 8 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor (Pair)||Prime||Amazon|
|JBL Professional 308P MkII Next-Generation 8" 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor (Single)||Prime||Amazon|
|M-Audio BX8 D3 | Professional 2-Way 8" Active Studio Monitors (Single)||Prime||Amazon|
Studio Monitor Buying Tips
Studio Monitors 101: A How-To Guide
First off, if you are new to buying monitors, please check out my best budget monitors under $300 a pair article. You’ll learn the differences between monitors and speakers, types of studio monitors, monitor design, what to look for, and much more.
The Role Of Studio Monitors In Your Studio
The primary role of studio monitors is to give you an accurate, uncolored picture of the music you are creating.
At a price point from $300 to $500, manufacturers can incorporate high-quality components and engineering to create great sounding monitors. Monitors below $300 usually feature lesser-quality components and design; after all, manufacturers need to make a profit.
Generally, more expensive monitors 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
So, get the best monitors you can afford!
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 those priced at $300 a pair. And you’ll end up with monitors that won’t need to be replaced or upgraded for many years.
Best Home/Project Studio Monitors (Under $500 A Pair)
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 $500.
The Yahama HS5 is a successor of the famous NS-10M monitors that countless rock and pop records were produced and mixed on in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. NS-10s were the industry standard, and just about every studio back then had a pair. I still own a pair (now in the closet!) that I used for years with excellent results.
The NS-10M was not the best sounding monitor, but producers and engineers found that their NS10 mixes beat out mixes on most other near-field monitors, regardless of the cost.
The proof is still in the pudding – listen to a lot of classic rock tracks from the 70s that were mixed on NS10s – they still sound fantastic!
Yamaha has brought that heritage into the modern-day HS5 studio monitor, adding refinements that make it an outstanding monitor in its price class.
The Yahama HS5 was the winner of the Electronic Musician 2014 Editor’s Choice Award. It’s a popular monitor with hundreds of very positive reviews on Amazon and other stores.
The HS5s are well-built, with advanced construction using technology derived from Yamaha’s 100 years of piano design experience.
Yamaha HS Series Powered Studio Monitors
How Does It Sound?
The vast majority of users love the bright, detailed highs and mids without the muddiness found in lower-priced monitors. Despite having a small 5” woofer, they offer very clean and tight bass reproduction at average listening volumes.
Importantly, many studio owners find that their mixes are more consistent after upgrading to HS5s from lower-priced monitors. Quite a few buyers upgrade from the Rokit 5 or other monitors in the under $300 range and find an enormous difference in sound quality for just a couple hundred dollars more. With monitors, you do get what you pay for!
Each monitor has use-controllable Room Control parameters to correct for excessive bass buildup that may occur when monitors are placed near walls or corners of a room. There is also a High Trim control to allow for a customized high-frequency response.
One criticism is that the HS8s are a little lacking in low-frequency reproduction. The woofers are rated to 54Hz, which is a little higher than the other monitors reviewed here. For most music applications, this should not be a significant issue.
But for dance, hip hop or electronica producers who love an extended low end, the HS8s may prove to be unsatisfactory. However, adding the Yamaha HS8C subwoofer (around $450) would quickly fix this problem.
The HS5s are available in both black and white.
Note: The HS5s do not come with cables, so you will need to pick them up separately.
Yamaha HS5 Yamaha HS5 Specs:
- Woofer: 5” cone
- Tweeter: 1” Soft-Dome
- Design: 2-way non-ported
- Frequency response: 54Hz – 30kHz
- 70 watts: 45watt LF amp + 25W HF
- XLR, ¼” TRS inputs
- Weight: 12 lbs.
- Award-winning user favorite
- Excellent sounding monitors for the price
- Bright detailed highs/ mids + tight bass
- Light bass response from 5” woofer may require a subwoofer for bass-heavy styles
Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitors (Pair)
|Pair of Yamaha HS5 70W Powered 2-way Studio Monitors w/MoPads and Cables||Prime||Amazon|
PreSonus Eris E8
The PreSonus Eris E8 is a very popular studio monitor for all types of music production and mixing. I reviewed its less-expensive little brothers the Eris E3.5 and E5 here, and the E8 is a bigger and better version of those excellent monitors.
Eris E8 Construction
The Eris E8 uses a 1.25-inch silk dome tweeter and an 8 inch composite Kevlar woofer in conjunction with a front port. This design creates a smooth and well-defined sound throughout the entire frequency range.
Unlike its smaller siblings, there are no controls on the front of the monitors – they are all in the back.
The Eris E8 offers lots of options on getting the best results in your studio.
You’ll find Low Cutoff, Acoustic Space, and Mid and Low Acoustic Tuning controls.
Acoustic Space is an unusual option as it can be set to optimize for the three most common monitor placements: close to the back wall, away from the back wall, and angled away from the wall.
The Acoustic Tuning controls are used to compensate for reflective surfaces in your studio environment. And Low Cutoff can be used when using them with a subwoofer.
There are RCA jacks for unbalanced audio inputs and ¼” TRS and XLR connectors for balanced inputs.
John Basterianelli, EVP of Product Management at PreSonus, talks about choosing PreSonus monitors in the following video:
John Bastianelli on the PreSonus Studio Monitor Line
How Does It Sound?
The overwhelming consensus is that these are outstanding monitors that sound comparable to much more expensive monitors.
They deliver smooth highs, clear mids, and deep bass, with the result being detailed and transparent audio. And with 140 watts of power, you can crank them up loud without distortion.
Highly recommended as excellent overall monitors under $500!
PreSonus Eris E8 Specs:
- Size: 9.84” W x 11.77” D x 15.12” H
- Woofer: 8” Kevlar
- Tweeter: 1.25” silk-dome
- Design: 2-way front ported
- Frequency response: 35Hz – 22kHz
- Power: 140W total (75W LF, 65W HF)
- 1/8”, 1/4” and RCA inputs
- Weight: 22.2 lbs. (each)
- Great quality monitors for all types of music
- Smooth highs, clear mids, and deep bass
- Lots of control over how the monitors interact in your studio
PreSonus Eris E8 (Single)
|PreSonus Eris E8 2-Way Active Studio Monitors (Single)||Prime||Amazon|
KRK Rokit 8 Generation 3
The KRK Rokit 8 is the bigger brother of the previously reviewed Rokit 5, which is a user favorite.
The main differences are an 8” woofer vs. a 5” woofer, and 100 watts of power vs. 50 watts. As a result, the Rokit 8 weighs almost double the Rokit 5!
With the Rokit 8, the frequency response is extended on the low side to 35Hz from 45Hz, giving it better bass response, and with 100 watts you can playback tracks at higher sound levels without distortion.
KRK ROKIT Generation 3 Features and Benefits
The Rokit 8 delivers professional-level results at a very affordable price. Buyers frequently comment on the crisp sound and tight bass. Lots of 4- and 5-star reviews on multiple online stores point to satisfied users around the world.
The inclusion of an RCA input jack on the Rokit 8 is convenient for non-professional home studio setups. Many home studio owners end up connecting their monitors to non-pro level mixing boards or other gear which may only have RCA outputs.
However, some users have pointed to noise problems when connecting through the unbalanced RCA jacks.
It’s important to know that RCA connectors are unbalanced and thus are not designed to reduce noise and hum. The noise issue goes away when connecting through the XLR or balanced ¼” jacks.
Note that these are not small monitors – they are 12.4” deep x 10.8” wide x 15.6” high. You will likely need to place them on speaker stands. And each monitor weighs almost 25 lbs., so make sure your studio setup can comfortably fit them.
KRK Rokit 8 Generation 3 Specs:
- Woofer: 8” aramid glass composite cone
- Tweeter: 1” soft-dome
- Design: 2-way ported
- Frequency response: 35 Hz – 35 kHz
- 100 watt total bi-amped Class A/B amplifier
- XLR, ¼”, and RCA input jacks
- Weight: 24.6 lbs.
- User favorite monitors
- Excellent crisp sound and tight bass with 8” woofer
- Unbalanced RCA jacks included for connecting non-pro gear
- These larger size, heavy monitors may not fit on a desktop; you’ll likely need stands
KRK Rokit 8 Generation 3 Studio Monitors (Pair)
|KRK RP8G3-NA Rokit 8 Generation 3 Powered Studio Monitor - Pair||Prime||Amazon|
JBL 308P MkII Studio Monitors
JBL has been making high-end speakers and monitors for many decades and has continually honed and utilized their leading technology into crafting quality monitors at lower price points.
The JBL 308P is the flagship model in their 3 series monitor line first introduced in 2014. This monitor replaces the acclaimed LSR308 series monitors (the new models removed the LSR and added a P for Plus.
These monitors employ Image Control Waveguide technology developed for their flagship M2 Master Reference Monitor which cost $20,000 a pair!
They also include JBL’s patented Slip Stream Port on the rear maximizes bass response beyond what similar size monitors can do.
These technologies have led to the 308P’s best attributes: deep mix depth and detail, a wide sweet spot, excellent imaging and a wide stereo landscape.
JBL 3 Series MkII Active Studio Monitors
Now, these are pretty large monitors that will most likely require speaker stands. Because of this, the 308P is known for its deep bass response which is unusual for monitors under $500.
One of the 308P’s key strengths is that they are loud! They can output up to 108 dB for those of you who like to test the limits of your hearing!
One review site put the previous LSR308 model to the test against a pair of Dynaudio BM6As. The LSR308 held its own with maybe a bit of mid and low end “fuzziness” compared to the BM6As. But the kicker is that the BM6As are about $1,800 a pair, so that’s a great testament to these monitor’s sound quality!
JBL 308P Specs:
- Woofer: 8” long-throw
- Tweeter: 1” soft-dome woven composite Neodymium
- Design: 2-way rear ported
- Frequency response: 37 Hz – 24 kHz
- 112 watt total bi-amped Class D amplifier
- XLR and ¼” input jacks
- Weight: 18.9 lbs.
- Great monitors for all music styles
- Wide sweet spot and precise imaging
- Excellent bass response from 8” woofer
- Can be cranked up very loud (max 108 dB)
- These larger sized, heavy monitors may not fit on a desktop; you’ll likely need stands
JBL LSR308P MkII Studio Monitors
|JBL Professional 308P MkII Next-Generation 8" 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor (308PMKII)||Prime||Amazon|
M-Audio BX8 D3
M-Audio is a U.S. based company well-known for its monitors, USB audio interfaces, keyboard controllers, microphones, and more.
The BX8 D3 is the flagship reference monitor in their BX series line, the other model being the BX5 D3. It’s also the successor to the industry favorite BX D2 monitor.
It’s a perfect choice for both beginning and professional composers, producers, and mixers.
The BX8 D3 is known for its accuracy, with deep bass, detailed mids, and transparent highs.
A custom waveguide (which helps sound dispersion) focuses the highs for tight, detailed precision. The rear port was custom-designed to get the best-defined bass response.
M-Audio || BXD3 Series – the Return of a Studio Icon
These monitors are also very well constructed and quite heavy: each monitor weighs 23 lbs., so monitor stands will be needed if desktop space is at a premium.
The BX8 D3 is rear ported, so you will need to leave some room behind each monitor to let the sound breathe and avoid issues with bass response.
The BX8 D3 is the first monitor I’ve seen with special monitor placement LEDs to help situate you in the best mixing sweet spot. According to M-Audio:
“Pinhole-mounted LED placement cues help locate and light up the sweet spot to ensure a speaker placement that reliably translates stereo information and frequencies. When the LEDs turn bright, you know you’re dead center and ready to start mixing your sessions or laying down tracks.”
The BX8 comes with their Acoustic Space Control calibration tools that help provide optimal acoustic conditions for tracking, mixing, and monitoring.
If you’re thinking of using the BX8 D3 in a small room, its huge bottom end may be overpowering, especially if you have no acoustic treatment, and if so, the smaller BX5 model might be a better choice.
Overall, the BX8 D3 is an impressive monitor that has found a home in many studios around the world!
M-Audio BX8 D3 Specs:
- Dimensions: 9.5” x 11.9” x 15.1”
- Woofer: 8” Kevlar low-frequency driver
- Tweeter: 1.25” natural silk-dome
- Design: 2-way rear ported
- Frequency response: 37Hz – 22kHz
- 150 watts total (80 watts LF, 70 watts HF) bi-amped Class AB amplifiers
- XLR and ¼” input jacks
- Weight: 23.1 lbs (Each)
- Excellent overall monitor
- Deep bass, detailed mids, and transparent highs.
- Includes controls to optimize monitor placement
- Strong bass response may be overpowering in small rooms
M-Audio BX8 D3 Studio Monitors
|M-Audio BX8 D3 | Professional 2-Way 8" Active Studio Monitor Speakers for Music Production and Mixing, With Onboard Acoustic Space Control||Prime||Amazon|
Other Noteworthy Monitors
Here’s a runner-up that didn’t quite make my list. But check it out, as you may find a great deal!
|Mackie MR mk3 Series MR5mk3 5-Inch 2-Way Powered Studio Monitor||X||Amazon|
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 the sound quality of the monitors are all critical.
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.