The list of studio monitors is quite extensive. Not at first, no, but once every fringe option is factored in, it can get quite overwhelming. Combine that with many pairs being egregiously expensive, and monitor shopping can be chocked up to a pretty hefty chore.
We’ve tested some of the best studio monitors under $1000 so you can circumvent the headache. While we couldn’t cover every speaker under the sun, we still looked at as many as we possibly could to bring you a cohesive list.
As to not exhaust out on every possible configuration, though, we put some criteria in place. Every monitor on this list is an active, studio monitor, meant to produce as flat of a frequency response as possible without the need on an external amp. They’re not speakers that just sound good, but speakers that sound honest.
Additionally, the $1000 limit was adhered to in both directions. While there is one exception, we tried to keep the price above $500 dollars. This is simply because there is a significant jump in quality in this price range. While a $400 set of monitors may be good for $400, a $600 set may perform far above its price point. If you have a budget of $1000, the more expensive one, in almost every case, is the better option.
With that out of the way, lets run down the picks!
|Adam Audio A5X
|Focal Alpha 65
|Dynaudio BM5 MKIII
|50 Hz – 50 kHz
|43 Hz-24 kHz
#1 Yamaha HS8
Yamaha firmly submitted itself as a studio mainstay with the iconic NS10. This junky, old monitor didn’t sound great, no, but it became a go-to for nearly every engineer since its inception. It was inexpensive and didn’t sound great, but it had one thing going for it: great midrange clarity.
While finding a pair of NS10s (especially for a decent price) can be next to impossible, Yamaha has thankfully continued the tradition into the HS series of studio monitors. The same white cone and exceptional midrange is carried over from the classic, bringing the sound to modern ears.
Maybe the same is a bit of an overstatement, though. No, these monitors are not on the same level as NS10s, but come quite close. These are active monitors whereas the NS10s are passive and, while the old favorite is cheaper, adding a decent amp on top is far more expensive.
However, the Yamaha HS8s will get you most of the way there. This 8-inch speaker packs quite the punch, with great clarity in the midrange and a solid low-end to boot. It’s one of the best ways to get a professional reference monitor for under $1000.
While the sound falls slightly short of the NS10s, Yamaha has added quite a few modern features. You get dedicated room control and hi-trim response controls on the back of the speaker so you can tune it to whatever room you’re in. Not to mention, the new cones mean you’ll get some more life out of the speakers!
While the order of this list has no bearing on the value of each speaker, we would recommend this one first. It’s a solid middle-ground speaker, performing well in a variety of situations. If you’re unsure of which speaker to go with, the HS8s should be your first consideration.
#2 Adam Audio A5X
At the same price, but smaller size, are the Adam Audio A5Xs. This line of speakers is the midrange of the low-end of Adam’s line, providing exceptional performance without the high price tag. While you’re losing out on some bass due to the small woofer size, you’re still getting a lot with this speaker.
Adam monitors are known in particular for one thing: the ribbon tweeter. Simply what this means is that Adam takes a ribbon and folds it in on itself and uses that send out the high frequencies. More surface area means that the top-end is more dynamic.
The tweeter has more surface area to send out that signal, meaning you get a more accurate representation of the high-end. That’s the hallmark of this speaker, a perfectly sculpted treble region. There is an incredible amount of detail, allowing you to pick apart harsh frequencies and create the perfect clarity.
It has impacts outside of that frequency band, though. The speakers open up in the midrange, presenting the same clarity seen in the top-end. It’s a combination of two different things. One is the midrange woofer which uses the same technology as the tweeter.
It reduces the pressure introduced to the speaker, dispersing it over the extended surface area. Imagine the vibrations being forced out of a hole and that’s a normal speaker design. However, with Adam’s design, the area is larger meaning less strain is put on the driver and, thus, the sound is more clear.
Also is the speaker size. You lose out on low-end at the gain of a better midrange. It’s a trade, sure, but one that’s well worth it. A sub is always an option and should be used for ultra low frequencies anyway. You could opt for a larger speaker, but it’s hard to find quite a balance like the A5X.
#3 JBL LSR305
This speaker is the black sheep on this list in terms of price. It is, by and large, the cheapest option, coming in $500 cheaper than are next most inexpensive option. While it isn’t quite as good as those speakers, the LSR305s come quite close, which is a feat considering how inexpensive it is.
This is one of the few affordable speakers JBL makes in the reference monitor range. The 3-series speakers come in three different size and, honestly, each is interchangeable for this list. The 8-inch is a bit too large, but, if you have a large enough room, it might work out for the low-end.
However, that’s not the primary draw of this speaker. What’s most attractive is the unique waveguide that JBL implements. This design is only seen on the far more expensive JBL reference speakers, and for good reason. It is an absolute godsend.
Basically, it increases the sweet spot by sending out the frequencies more evenly around the room. That means you don’t need to worry as much about the placement of your speakers in order to get a more accurate response.
Additionally, it works particularly well in poorly treated rooms. While acoustic treatment goes a long way in helping a speaker, the 3-series way guide can help circumvent some of the more common acoustical problems.
The LSR305s are a lovely entry level speaker that sound far better than its price point would suggest. While it’s still below every other option on this list, it’s still nipping at the heels, which is exceptional considering the price. If you’re a beginner or don’t have an exceptionally treated room, you may want to start here.
#4 Focal Alpha 65
Focal is particularly known for its more expensive reference speakers. The line is fairly large and consistently costly. The Alpha 65s are an exception to that, providing an excellent studio monitor for not too much money. If you want to go with a high-end name, Focal is for you.
There isn’t much to say about the speaker other than it sounds great. It’s a balanced design, sporting a 1-inch tweeter and 6.5-inch woofer. It’s a balanced configuration, giving you plenty of bass without sacrificing clarity in the midrange and top-end.
Really, the most important part of this speaker is the build. Focal’s attention to detail in this area means there’s little to no resonances within the cabinet, leading to a clear and open sound no matter what the volume.
Additionally, you should notice little to no distortion. The Alphas incredible power handling means that, even at high volumes, the sound is clear. However, that’s not really how you should reference monitors. The low volumes are where this speaker shines, presenting the same sound without overdoing the volume.
Focal makes an incredible range of speakers and this entry-level one is no exception. It’s not flashy with new features or special new technologies. Rather, this speaker wins simply because it’s designed well. You get a full experience with excellent power handling and frequency response and, for this price, that’s difficult to argue with.
#5 Dynaudio BM5 MKIII
Rounding out the list is the most expensive, but perhaps most impressive, speaker of the bunch. The Dynaudio BM5 has more or less molded into the LYD range of speakers, but, as those speakers are about $500 over budget, the BM5 will have to do.
While the LYD is the latest and great from Dynaudio, you can still find a pair of BM5s cracking around most retailers for around $1000. Minus the beautiful new white finish, you’re more or less getting the same speaker. It’s a wonderful design too, with an innovative woofer design and stellar internal construction.
Dynaudio begins this process with a dense voice coil behind the woofer. It is responsible for pushing a lot of the low-end out of the speaker. Considering the 6.5-inch woofer size, the bass is surprisingly good. You can hear pretty well into the sub frequencies without losing too much clarity in the other areas of the speaker.
Speaking of midrange, though, that’s perhaps the best range of the frequency spectrum. It’s incredibly defined, without losing too much impact. In fact, at first, listening to the speakers is a bit disappointing.
The midrange is so honest and, because of that, you’ll hear things you normally wouldn’t of heard otherwise. It can be a bit disheartening to point out flaws in music, but it’s a testament to how great the speakers are. While that’s disappointing, it’s quite exciting once you hear a good piece of music and how much work the engineers put in to making it sound great.
Sure, the BM5s are expensive, but they’re probably the best speaker on this list. It’s a pair that can easily show up in professional studios, often sat next to a pair of NS10s. If you’re serious about audio, take a serious look at these speakers.
Monitors can be pretty confusing, especially with testing rooms becoming less and less common. Unfortunately, much of the choice comes down to personal preference and how your room is constructed. There are many different variables, so trying to find a concrete solution is next to impossible.
Even so, these options are a pretty sure bet. Any of these speakers will perform exceptionally well in most scenarios, leaving much of the taste up to you. If you’re fortunate enough to listen to these speakers, then the right pair for you should become fairly apparent.
Which pair do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.