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Studio Monitors are all about the naked truth of your mix. They are designed to present you with the rawest and most unflattering version of your music so that you can hear every misstep, every boom and hiss that shouldn't be there.

Mixing well on good studio monitors will give your music the best chance of sounding great on any hi-fi, phone or in the car. If you’ve messed up your mix they’ll help you hear it.

The best studio monitors for 2021 are:

  • Adam Audio A7X
  • KRK ROKIT 7 G4
  • Yamaha HS8
  • Neumann KH120
  • IK Multimedia iLoud MTM
  • M-Audio BX4
  • Focal Solo6 Be
  • HEDD Audio Type-7 MK2

Investing money in your choice of monitors will reward you in the sound of your mixes and also reduce the fatigue in spending a lot of time working with them crafting your sound. However, you’ve got to start somewhere and even with the budget end monitors on this list you’ll find them refreshing good when compared to mixing on headphones. Also think about the space and environment you mix in. There’s no point getting 8″ woofers if you mix in a cupboard under the stairs or in an untreated room. Hopefully we’ll help you make the right choice.

In our selection of the best studio monitors of 2021 we try to cover a range of budgets. We’re looking for value for money, as well as pedigree, technology, design and sound quality.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Studio Monitors

What are the best studio monitors?

Robin Vincent

To really do the job then the Adam Audio A7X are unbeatable studio monitors. They’ve picked up numerous awards and find themselves in professional studios all over the world.

If you want to remove any doubt from your choices then a pair of these are your best bet. They are expensive but this is a worthwhile investment if you value the quality of your mixing.

For smaller rooms consider the A5X or A3X for a less powerful solution that won’t overwhelm the space.

What studio monitors do pros use?

Robin Vincent

Commonly you will find a pair of Adam Audio A7Xs as the main focus, a pair of Yamaha HS8s as an alternative reference, and perhaps something smaller that better matches home hi-fi and computer monitoring like the IK Multimedia iLoud speakers.

In a professional mixing environment, you are likely to find several studio monitors from different brands. You need a range of monitors to give you the best chance of making a mix that sounds good on every system.

What are the best affordable studio monitors?

Robin Vincent

Even if you’re on a budget, there are several great studio monitors to choose from. The KRK Rokit range, with their distinctive looks, are extremely popular and pack a great punch for their price.

However, the M-Audio BX4s are hard to beat for under $150 for a pair. They look great, sound good, and are a solid way to upgrade your mixing.

What size monitors should I get?

Robin Vincent

When choosing the size of studio monitor, you have to consider the room you are mixing in. The size is based around the diameter of the woofer speaker which commonly varies from 4 to 8 inches.

If you are mixing in your bedroom then 4 inches is plenty and even if you’ve converted your loft or garage into a studio then 5-6 inches is easily enough. Any more than that and you’re not going to benefit from the amount of air they can move. For larger rooms and well-insulated spaces, the 7-8 inch speakers will do the job nicely.

Adam Audio A7X

best-studio-monitors-Adam-Audio-A7X

After numerous awards and many stellar reviews, it’s hard to ignore the Adam Audio AX series of nearfield monitors. They have an aggressively powerful vibe about them that radiates energy. You can sense that these are going to be awesome just by being in the same room. The A7X is not quite the top of this range but it’s the one that’s most likely going to fit into the widest range of studio situations.

The A7X is balanced. It’s versatile. It copes with wide-raging frequencies without wearing you out. It’s modestly sized and yet has a solid and knowing bass response.

The precision-made German X-ART tweeter is run by a 50w A/B amplifier while the bass and mid-woofer are driven by a 100w PWM amplifier. It’s all about cleanliness and precision, reproducing the exact sonic details no matter how small. They have a depth of tone, a clarity of image that has resonated with Sound Engineers and Producers.

On the back, you get a single XLR balanced input and the return of the unbalanced RCA. Three recessed controls allow you to tweak the low, mid and tweeter independently. They are designed to be set and then forgotten about as these speakers will never leave the space once installed.

We are getting into serious money with the AX range but if you like the Adam Audio approach and have a smaller budget then they’ve recently released a “T Series” which aims to bring their expertise to the home studio end of the market.

Pros & Cons

  • Versatile
  • Sonically clean and precise
  • Expensive
  • Probably too powerful for smaller rooms

Street Price: $749
www.adam-audio.com

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KRK ROKIT 7 G4

KRK Rokit 7 G4

The fourth generation of KRK ROKIT monitors is the smoothest yet. They’re scientifically designed to offer exceptional low-end with punch and accuracy. The enclosure has evolved, become less striking in form while retaining the trademark yellow cone, but that’s not the only thing that’s changed.

Inside is a new design of Class D amplifier giving an even power through the speakers with more efficient distribution, less heat, and better audio integrity. This is combined with matching Kevlar drivers which minimize listening fatigue and give great transparency. The high-end has a pleasing amount of detail while that front-facing port pushes the low-end nicely.

On the back is a DSP-driven graphic EQ with 25 presets to help you model it to your room and acoustic environment. It’s incredibly versatile if you know what you’re doing and if this is your first serious monitor then the presets will take the effort and worry out of it.

For connections, you’ve got balanced TRS and XLR combo jacks and a simple volume control. The power output of 145 Watts is impressive and gives the ROKIT 7 an edge over the more petite ROKIT 5.

The surprisingly affordable G4 range goes all the way from the 5″ ROKIT 5 to the mid-field 10″ ROKIT 10-3 so if you need something bigger or smaller then there are options. But for me, the ROKIT 7 is the sweet spot, being able to fill a room without compromising while not dominating a smaller space.

Pros & Cons

  • DSP driven room tuning
  • Thumpingly good bass
  • Iso-foam pad for great isolation
  • Great value
  • Not as distinctive looking as they were

Street Price: $239 each
www.krksys.com

Yamaha HS8

best-studio-monitors-Yamaha-HS-8

Anyone shopping for speakers needs this range of Yamahas on their list. They do follow on from the heritage of the legendary NS10s but with the sort of improvements and updated technology that makes the HS8 genuinely classic. Just look at them — calm, understated, smooth, professional. None of the razzmatazz of the ROKITs, these are civilized speakers for the discerning ear. You can also get them in white, but….. No, always get them in black.

The HS8 is the larger of the range and slightly imposing but for the larger room these are going to rock, or dance, or jazz or whatever genre you’re playing with. It’s pumping out 120w of power through a generous 8″ woofer, the sort of energy you’ll feel in your chest. No need for unbalanced inputs, this is for TRS and XLR only. A little bit of tone control on the back helps you tune them into your space.

The newly designed bi-amplified drivers and scientifically ported enclosures help deliver amazing accuracy and transparency. They won’t make your mixes sound good automatically, they’ll point out all the problems that you didn’t realize were there and give you a chance to fix them.

If the HS8 are going to make you feel small then do consider the 5″ or 6.5″ alternatives.

Pros & Cons

  • Classic but updated sound
  • Accurate and transparent
  • Look fabulous
  • Well priced
  • Not ideal for small rooms

Street Price: $349 each
usa.yamaha.com

Neumann KH120

best-studio-monitors-Neumann-KH120

Neumann has an unparalleled reputation for the beginning of the studio signal chain. Their microphones are legendary. Their speakers have been a more recent development, but they have already acquired a lot of admirers for their compact size and punchy, transparent and detailed sound.

They are not the most stylish of speakers you’ll come across. In fact, they’ll give Genelec a run for their money as the oddest-looking studio monitors. It’s all curves and mathematically correct lines that give them a somewhat dated look. But they more than make up for it in the stunning representation of frequencies. The build quality is also excellent, and these things are never going to break or fall apart.

The Neumann KH120s are all about maximum signal fidelity and distinctly contoured transients across the entire, neutrally designed frequency response. In other words, they sound amazing. The curves and the design ensure a flexible listening position with its Mathematically Modeled Dispersion waveguide. Bass response is always kept under control and the optimized driver design keeps it clean all the way down to 50Hz.

The acoustic controls offer a 4-position bass, low-mid and treble switch allowing it to sit comfortably in a diverse range of acoustical environments. The list of features is very long. It’s a masterclass in design even down to the dimmer switch on the glowing Neumann logo, just in case you find it annoying.

Perhaps the biggest feature is the price. You’d be expecting over $1,000 for something from Neumann with this level of technology when in fact they are only $699 each.

Pros & Cons

  • Designed by mathematical modeling
  • Comprehensive acoustic controls
  • Reasonably priced
  • Odd looking

Street Price: $699 each
en-de.neumann.com

IK Multimedia iLoud MTM

IK Multimedia iLoud MTM

Usually thought of as multi-media speakers, the iLoud from IK Multimedia has gotten an upgrade with the surprisingly awesome iLoud MTM studio monitors.

They use a symmetrical mid-tweeter-mid design with a pair of 3.5″ high-performance woofers and one 1″ high definition back-chamber loaded tweeter. It’s quite an unusual configuration but it aims to provide an ultra-precise, defined, point source sound. This means that it has a narrower field of dispersal, but this is corrected by having them on tiltable stands which minimizes reflections and gives it a transparent sound to rival much larger and more expensive speakers.

The key to these speakers is in setting them up correctly for your room and for that they include their ARC reference microphone and acoustic calibration technology. Put the mic where you would normally sit and at the push of a button, the speakers create a customized listening sweet spot. That is genius.

The iLoud MTM monitors are going to work best in smaller rooms and their compact dimensions and stands are perfect for that. The naming convention that IK Multimedia use in “iLoud” makes you think of iPhones and iPads and multi-media devices, which is a shame because these are far more serious and useful in a small studio context. So don’t let the name put you off.

Pros & Cons

  • Great for small rooms
  • Versatile
  • Self-tuning
  • Good value
  • Not enough power for larger rooms
  • Could be lacking in bass

Street Price: $349 each
www.ikmultimedia.com

M-Audio BX4

M-Audio BX4

Falling somewhere between the level of multimedia speakers and reference monitors the BX4 is an unassumingly good little speaker. Great for a small room. Easy to set-up, look good and sound crystal-clear.

The BX4s provide 120 Watts of power through a 4.5″ cone and feature a two-way Acoustically-inert MDF cabinet with bass smoothing reflex and punch through the black Kevlar low end drivers. The natural silk-dome tweeters manage the high frequencies nicely and provide good stereo imaging. These are tailored to work with computer based setups and are perfect for a DAW based home studio.

The connections are 1/4 inch and RCA on the back and a handy auxiliary input on the front for plugging your phone straight in. Next to that is a very convenient headphone socket. One of the speakers contains the amp and connections and the other is passive and attaches to the powered one. This makes for very easy cabling and you can set which side you want each speaker on. There’s also a little bit of high and low EQ on the back for getting the balance of sound just right for where you are.

The BX3 is starting point. It even comes with Pro Tools First, some entry level recording software, to get your musical ambitions underway. There’s a slightly bigger version BX4 with 4.5″ woofer if you have a larger room or want a slightly fuller sound.

Pros & Cons

  • Affordable
  • A great first step into proper speakers
  • Look great
  • Useful minijack input on front
  • Single amp driving both speakers

Street Price: $149 pair
M-Audio.com

Focal Solo6 Be

focal solo 6 be

Focal has a wide range of high-end monitoring solutions. The Solo6 Be is at the lower end of what they offer but it’s still more expensive than most of the monitors on this list. They seem to operate in another sphere. But if you’d like to step up to another level then the Solo6 Be 2-way monitor is the place to start.

It has a Beryllium inverted dome tweeter that can cover five octaves all by itself. The 6.5″ woofer fills in the full low and mid-range frequencies, making for an exceptionally transparent listening experience. The “W” process in the woofer creates a composite sandwich of glass, foam and glass that provides a true optimization of the frequency response by fine-tuning of mass, rigidity and damping parameters.

The bass and mid-range rely on “BASH” technology for the amplification which offers Class AB sound quality with the efficiency of Class D. The tweeter uses a Class AB power stage which is powerful enough for driving the high frequencies.

For connections you have a single XLR input with a sensitivity switch. Two small potentiometers give some tuning control over the high and low-frequency balance. Otherwise it’s the sort of speaker that will sound amazing in any room.

Pros & Cons

  • Sounds fantastic
  • Stylish
  • Expensive
  • Relatively small

Street Price: $1,499 each
www.focal.com

HEDD Audio Type 07 MK2

HEDD Audio Type 07 Mk2

The MK2 of these handcrafted professional active monitors builds on an established level of excellence and comes with some important innovations.

The powerful inbuilt DSP board enables three unique features. First a phase Lineariser which brings perfect impulse response and audibly improved spatial reproduction. Secondly CoP technology which lets you choose between a closed cabinet approach or open bass-port design to manage the energy and bass-capacities. And thirdly a Phase Linear Sub-Satellite System which manages the phase alignment of using multiple speakers.

The Type 07 has a 7″ woofer dual-amped to 2x100W with a frequency response up to 40,000Hz. You have both analog XLR and digital AES inputs with a through for the AES. Control on the back include a shelving filter, sensitivity and a desk filter to adjust for your placement.

There’s a smaller version, the Type 07 as well as larger Type 20 and Type 30 plus two sizes of sub-woofer. These speakers are not messing about, they are engineering to be the most precise reproduction of audio you’ve ever encountered.

Pros & Cons

  • Stunning realism and precision
  • Advanced technology
  • Analog and digital inputs
  • None really

Street Price: $1,599 pair
www.hedd.audio

Which Should You Choose?

Budget is always your first constraint and if you are starting out then those M-audio speakers are a great purchase. If you have a bit more cash then finding a way to decide between the Yamaha and Rokit speakers could keep you awake at night. They have comparable versions, similar features, good reputations.

In many ways, I’d suggest going with personality. Are you an extrovert? In which case, it’s the ROKITs all the way. Or are you more reserved and chilled? Then it has to be the HS8’s. Choosing between the Neumann and Adam Audio is a similar conundrum. Your best bet is to get yourself to a music shop or dealer and demand the opportunity to try them out with some of your own material. But you won’t lose out either way.

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