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Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear) all over again, so…
Today we’re going to take a look at some fantastic studio monitor options that won’t break the bank while at the same time allowing you to properly mix your music!
We’ll also cover Room size, treatment, what you’ll need, as well as how to set up your monitors for ideal listening.
By the end of this article,
you should be much more comfortable buying a set and you’ll also be better equipped to make the most out of your purchase.
Even if you’re like me and prefer mixing on headphones, it’s really advantageous to have both.
Studio Monitors should be a mandatory addition to your lab as they will last you a long time and provide excellent reference-level sound to boot.
With that, let’s take a look at which monitors made the cut.
I always aim to keep my recommendations lean and simple, but I may add to this list in the future as I try more products and perform additional research.
Presonus Eris e3.5
You may not believe that monitors costing roughly $100 would be any good for mixing, but you also may be surprised to find out that they actually are.
Well, because they’re fairly flat and neutral sounding which is something I was kind of shocked by.
In this price range,
I fully expect most speakers to have some coloration to them, but the e3.5 avoids those pitfalls and gives you a nice, blank stare with regard to its frequency response.
By that I mean nothing stands out unnecessarily and the sound itself is super clean and clear.
In addition to that, the imaging is very good after correct placement on your desk.
More on that later.
PreSonus provides you with balanced TRS inputs, a pair of RCA/Analog inputs on the back, and a 3.5mm auxiliary input on the front.
I’d rather the auxiliary be on the back, but it’s a minor nitpick.
I appreciate that they included both an RCA to 3.5mm cable and a 3.5 to 3.5.
On the right-hand side is your power on/off, and the left contains the volume potentiometer.
Overall, I like the inclusion of both balanced inputs and single-ended.
Because of this,
the Eris e3.5 works as a true monitor via balanced, but you can also kick back and just chillax with some tunes as well single-ended.
In addition to its dirt cheap price, this makes it a perfect solution for the budget-minded producer wanting to get their feet wet.
This would make a great step up from the Eris’ and in fact, the 305s sat in my studio from 2014 – 2019 before I had to sell them or some quick cash.
Sometimes life sucks and is full of despair and endless suffering.
We press on.
The JBL is a fantastic monitor with slightly more coloration; but not enough to make them a bad option for mixing.
These are fantastic monitors and have been getting rave reviews for what seems like a decade plus.
I can tell you without a doubt that all the hype they have received over the years is truly warranted.
In addition to their robust build, they slam harder than Rowdy Roddy Piper in his prime but the bass is in no way overdone like your mom’s meatloaf.
It’s tight, clear, controlled, and has plenty of impact.
In addition, the mid-range is super clear, and the treble sparkles without getting out of line.
If there were ever a near-perfect set of speakers at this price point, the LSR305 is it.
And, like the e3.5, you can kick back to some tunes if you want.
Is the 305 perfectly flat? Not by a long shot.
But it also doesn’t come close to delving into horrific bass mud KRK territory either.
And at its price?
You absolutely owe it to yourself to hear a pair.
I promise you won’t be sorry.
I used them for many years and my mixes came out really good.
Here’s an example of one:
In any event, like the e3.5, they are rear-ported, so try and situate them away from the wall.
We’ll discuss that more in a bit.
They don’t have single-ended connections, but rather your choice of balanced TRS or XLR inputs.
The choice is yours. I personally used TRS to XLR back when I owned a 2i2, but your mileage may vary.
- Recommended: What does an Audio Interface Do?
It was a bit difficult to rank the 305 and HS5, but I believe the HS5 wins out because it’s flatter across the board.
The only issue you may run into is a lack of low-end, but it’s not a dealbreaker by any means.
The bass, while lean-ish, is super tight like you and your BFF, and as with the other options on this list, you can expect good instrument separation with a clean and clear overall sound.
Like the Eris e3.5, you may stop and go, “That’s it?!”
In other words, as another Amazon reviewer put it, you may wonder why they sound so “normal.”
If you’re new to recording, I can assure you this is a good thing.
It means your monitors are doing their job and you’ll eventually start to notice all sorts of small, seemingly insignificant details that were previously lost in other inferior products.
Pair these with something like an HD600 or K702 and you’ve got a great 1-2 monitor/headphone punch.
Yup. I wouldn’t go crazy trying to find a perfect monitor in a sea of never-ending products. When just starting out, stick with these and you should be golden.
From there you can get into the Adam monitors, but it may not even be necessary.
Here’s what the upgrade path would look like:
- Eris e3.5: $100
- JBL LSR305: Roughly $300 (pair)
- Yamaha HS5: Roughly $400 (pair)
- Yamaha HS7: Roughly $500 (pair)
- Yamaha HS8: Roughly $800 (pair)
Setup & Placement
Now that we’ve gone over some excellent options, let’s talk a bit about setup and placement.
First off, with the exception of the e3.5, all of these monitors (and most in general) are active – meaning they have their own internal amplifier and do not need a separate one to function.
- Recommended: Passive vs. Active Speakers: Which Are Best For YOU?
They do however need 2 separate power sources.
So plan on having 2 outlets available in your studio before purchase.
Secondly, all of these monitors (and most in general) are rear-ported which is just another way of saying that the low-end exits from the back.
This means you’ll want to situate them away from the wall as much as possible while strategically adding some acoustic panels where you can.
No studio is perfect, but these precautions will go a long way.
Because it will help ensure the sound isn’t bouncing all over the place; a problem that results in uncertainty while mixing but can also lead to a potentially poor mixdown.
Going further, they should be at about ear level and in an equilateral triangle formation towards your head.
If you don’t want to jerry-rig it, try some of these monitor stands that easily attach right to your desk.
This will ensure you’re hearing the best imaging possible when placing sounds, instruments, and voices.
You’ll know they’re placed correctly when the sounds give off the illusion that they’re coming from various positions behind the speakers.
To test it out, just listen to some music from your favorite app.
If the artist did a good job mixing, you’ll be able to place instruments and voices a lot better while clearly visualizing them on stage.
In your own mixes, this will help immensely in panning sounds appropriately for the track in question.
Also, any movement of your head outside of “the zone” can affect the sound a great deal.
Once you have them situated, try moving your head in different directions while the music is playing.
Sounds different, yeah?
So as you can see, Studio Monitors and their ramifications are a pretty big deal – but what about room size?
General Room Sizes
I get asked this question quite a bit so I’ll go ahead and outline it here for you.
- Small Room – 10×10 or smaller
- Medium-Sized Room – 12×12
- Large-Sized Room – 14×14, 14×16 or larger
For reference, my room is probably considered medium-large at around 12×14, but I still may not try and stuff a 308 or HS8 in that space. I’m better off with at max, an HS7.
If you have a small room (10×10 or smaller) stick to the Eris E3.5, LSR305, and Yamaha HS5.
If you have a medium-sized room, (12×12) or thereabouts, stick to the LSR305 and HS7.
If you have a large-sized room, (14×14 or larger), you can comfortably put in an HS8, LSR308, etc.
Generally speaking, any monitors with 8″ woofers are best in larger rooms.
What you’ll need
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the components you’ll need to get these fired up.
If you’re new to recording, plan on purchasing the following items:
An Audio Interface
An interface acts as the central hub for everything you do in a recording environment.
- Related: What does an Audio Interface Do?
It connects to microphones, acts as the intermediary between you and the music (i.e it’s a DAC), and even provides a headphone jack in case you want to switch back and forth between monitors and headphones.
- Related: Beginners Guide: What is a USB DAC?
A couple of great interface options would be the Universal Audio Volt 2 or Focusrite Scarlett 2i2; both of which I have used and touched on briefly earlier.
As mentioned earlier, plan on getting 2 pairs of TRS to TRS or TRS to XLR.
These run from the back of the interface to the back of your monitors.
And that’s it!
The interface plugs into your PC/Laptop via USB and from there, you’re ready to mix down some tracks.
As for my top recommendation for those starting out, HS5 if you’re in a small room, and HS7 for medium to larger rooms.
Since this article is more budget focused, I’ll link the HS5.
Do keep in mind you can buy the HS7 or 8 from the same link if you’re feeling spicy.
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on The Best Budget Home Studio Monitors For Mixing and came away with some valuable insight.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
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Which of these monitors are you most likely to go with? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,