The best monitor speakers to buy in 2021: 10 best monitors under $600

Arguably the most critical part of your signal chain, monitors give you a true impression of your tracks.

Monitor speakers are studio fundamentals – you rely on them to give you a true sense of what your tracks sound like. Because listeners will hear your track on various devices, from portable speakers and headphones to televisions and car stereos, it’s vital you own a pair you can get acclimated to and trust.

The focal points for most speakers are transparency and accuracy, and each brand will approach this differently, with some using proprietary tech. And to hit a $600 street price, we’re primarily looking at nearfields monitors – those designed to sit a short distance in front of you.

As with anything sound-related, there’s a degree of taste that goes into picking out the right pair of monitors. There’s no better example of this than the love-hate relationship many engineers have with the Yamaha NS-10s. While many have agreed they aren’t ideal for enjoying music, it’s common for engineers to champion the black and white speakers for their ability to highlight any shortcomings in a mix. As the production adage goes: “If it sounds good on a pair of NS-10s, it will sound good on anything.”

The best monitor speakers to buy in 2021:

  • Adam Audio T8V
  • PreSonus ERIS E8XT
  • Kali Audio LP-6
  • IK iLoud Micro Monitors
  • JBL 306P MKII
  • Yamaha HS-5
  • KRK Rokit 5 G4
  • Mackie XR824
  • Tannoy Reveal 402
  • Mackie CR3-X

Adam Audio T8V

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Adam Audio T8V

We’ll kick this list off strong with our Gear Of The Year winner for Best Monitors and Headphones of 2020: Adam Audio’s T8V monitors. These are affordable picks for those who’ve always wanted the low-end punch of eight-inch drivers but don’t necessarily want to bust the bank.

These offer impeccable sound, with an impressive bass performance and detailed mid-range. Adam equips these with their U-ART 1.9-inch Accelerated Ribbon Tweeter, a design that extends its high-frequency range beyond human hearing for greater transparency. Furthermore, the tweeter is paired with an HPS waveguide that provides even dispersal with a wide sweet spot.

In our review, we said: “A cavernous soundstage coupled with delectable detail and insight make the affordable T8Vs an ideal choice for those who desire a bass performance deeper than their pockets would normally allow.”

  • Price: £376/$598 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 8” woofer, 1.9” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 33Hz to 25kHz
  • Max SPL: 118dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x RCA
  • Power: 90W Class D

Read our full review here.

PreSonus Eris E8XT

PreSonus ERIS-E8XT

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Last year, PreSonus gave its entry-level Eris monitors a makeover, introducing some notable improvements to the popular range.

An elliptical waveguide widens the sound field to make these speakers better for collaborative sessions, while a front-firing bass port increases the low-frequency range down to 35Hz. These offer Acoustic Space contours – letting you add a 2 or 4dB dip below 800Hz – to accommodate positions close to a rear wall or corner.

In our review, we said: “The E8XT’s traditionally voiced monitor sound is, unsurprisingly, well suited to those who predominantly record traditional instruments and organic music, while producers of modern pop and electronica might prefer the more incisive and crisp sound of ribbon-equipped monitors.”

  • Price: £440/$580 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 8” woofer, 1.25” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 35Hz to 20kHz
  • Max SPL: 105dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x RCA, 1x 1/4”
  • Power: 140W Class AB

Read our full review here.

Kali Audio LP-6

Kali Audio LP-6

Kali Audio is fairly new to the studio monitor game, but the US brand equips its LP-6 monitors with noteworthy innovations that help it stand toe-to-toe against some of its more established peers.

A dual-layer 1.5-inch voice coil promises low levels of distortion while a 3D Imaging Waveguide for the tweeter helps deliver a “wider, taller and deeper image.” These monitors are ideal for small- to medium-sized studios and pack a tight bass response, thanks in part to a front-firing port.

Also available are eight EQ contours that let you kern output to match your environment. Aside from all that, the LP-6s are designed with flatness and accuracy in mind – and they certainly deliver on those fronts.

In our review, we said: “The overall frequency response feels very flat … and all of the detail is there. The image is wide … but there is space there, always great when you want to place instruments and tracks accurately.”

  • Price: £222/$298 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 6.5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 39Hz to 25kHz
  • Max SPL: 112dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x RCA, 1x 1/4”
  • Power: 80W Class D

Read our full review here.

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors

IK iLoud Micro Monitors

Could it be by witchcraft that these adorable monitors stack up in the low-end against others many times their size? Well, it’s more than likely due to clever colouration, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

IK Multimedia’s iLoud Micro Monitors do exactly what they say in their name – they’re a miniature monitoring solution for those who need portability or simply don’t have a lot of room. They measure just seven inches in height and are equipped with a three-inch woofer and 0.75-inch tweeter.

But judge them not by their size, as their performance is impressive, offering a frequency response of 45Hz to 22kHz and EQ options for further tuning. The only times you might want to pay extra attention is when you have a lot of low-end frequency content in a mix – that’s where things start getting muddled.

We shot the iLouds against some larger and more expensive monitors in our review and were quite surprised: “Often we would compare track-by-track across both and question which was playing what, they are that good for their size and money.”

  • Price: £179/$299 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 3” woofer, 0.75” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 45Hz to 22kHz
  • Max SPL: 104dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x RCA, 1x 1/4”, Bluetooth
  • Power: 50W Class D

Read our full review here.

JBL 306P MKII

The middle-child of JBL’s 3 series are no-frills monitors that offer accurate sound at a very sensible price. These monitors feature updated drivers that are refined from the previous generation. They produce a smooth unforced sound that’s detailed in the mids and muscular in the bass.

Put through JBL’s 100-hour, full-volume stress test, these are hardy monitors you should feel confident mixing your Merzbow tribute EP on without the worry of wrecking them.

On top of all that, you’ll find some proprietary tech from JBL aboard. An Image Control Waveguide produces a panoramic sound-field, while the Slip Stream low-frequency port helps deliver even bass performance across different volumes. There’s also a Boundary Control for curbing excessive bass frequencies when positioned near a wall.

  • Price: £236/$398 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 6.5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 47Hz to 20kHz
  • Max SPL: 110dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x 1/4”
  • Power: 112W Class D

Read our full review here.

Yamaha HS-5

Yamaha HS-5

Yamaha’s HS series may have inherited the familiar white cone from the ubiquitous-yet-divisive NS10 monitor – but the similarities end there.

The HS-5s are the smallest entry in the series and are ideal for small-sized studios. They pack a 5-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter, plus room controls and high trim response controls. The HS series monitors offer crisp highs, a controlled low-end and a detailed mid-range, making them versatile companions to produce or mix music on.

They do look as good as they sound, with black and white versions to choose from. A little style tip from us: black and white matches well with anything – even the tackiest of wallpaper.

And if you’re curious about going a size bigger, check out our review of the HS-7, here.

  • Price: £229 / $500 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 54Hz-30kHz
  • Max SPL: 110dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x 1/4”
  • Power: 70W Class AB

KRK Rokit 5 G4

KRK Rokit 5 G4

The fourth generation of KRK’s Rokit series impresses at this price point with a built-in graphic EQ display for tuning. With the KRK smartphone app, you can fine-tune EQ, adjust subwoofer levels, crossover settings, and more to get the exact sound you need for producing or mixing.

The Rokit 5, as its name suggests, is the model equipped with a 5-inch driver along with a 1-inch kevlar dome tweeter. There’s a front-firing port to enhance the low-end, along with an optimised high-frequency waveguide for even sound dispersal. Other sophisticated features include a brick wall limiter that automatically engages at maximum levels to balance sound and protect the system.

  • Price: £233/$358 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 43Hz to 40kHz
  • Max SPL: 104dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x 1/4”
  • Power: 55W Class AB

Tannoy Reveal 402

Tannoy Reveal 402

It’s been over five years since we reviewed the Tannoy Reveal and, what can we say? They’re still a great budget offering for those who need a solid pair of monitors for less money.

Surprisingly accurate – and even more so than the larger 802s, we found in our review – these monitors distribute 50 watts of power to a 4-inch woofer and .75-inch tweeter, offering a frequency response of 56Hz to 48kHz.

In our review, we said: “You know things are getting a bit silly when you can get speakers as good as the 402s for so little money. Sure, you can pick them up on some deficiencies here and there if you want to be hypercritical, but the frequency balance, imaging and clarity of them create a very good overall impression.”

  • Price: £124/$198 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 56Hz to 48kHz
  • Max SPL: 101dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x 1/4”, 2x 1/8”
  • Power: 50W

Read our full review here.

Mackie CR3-X

Mackie CR3-X

Speaking of affordable monitors, these from Mackie are another great option, coming under the brand’s CR-X series. We picked the 3-inch driver variant for our list, as they were offered great value for decent sound quality.

These monitors are targeted at a wide range of content creators working with music, video and more. While these aren’t going to be replacements for larger and more accurate monitors, they will be a considerable step up from your computer’s built-in speakers, making them much more reliable for creating music, or editing videos.

In our review, we said: “Although the CR3-X monitoring system isn’t feature-packed with EQ controls and room placement filters like many modern monitors, the inclusion of Pro Tools First software more than compensates, making them an extremely attractive proposition for budding bedroom producers starting from scratch.”

  • Price: $100 / £89 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 3” woofer, 0.75” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 80Hz to 20kHz
  • Max SPL: 97dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x RCA, 1x 1/4”, 2x 1/8”, Bluetooth
  • Power: 50W Class D

Focal Alpha 65

Focal Alpha 65

We cheated just a little bit to include these on our list. While these carry a manufacturer’s price tag of $399 a piece, you’ll often find listings for $299 online – so keep your eyes peeled.

Focal is better known for its upscale monitors, but the Alpha series puts the brand’s coveted performance within reach of most. Some of Focal’s innovations include the aluminium inverted dome tweeter and Polyglass cone woofer that contribute to “a very precise and wide soundstage,” according to the brand.

The most defining feature of these speakers is their clear, concise and measured sound, simply rare at a price point such as this. Other features include high- and low-frequency contour options and automatic standby.

Also, if you can afford to be patient, you might want to keep an eye out for the Alpha Evo, Focal’s forthcoming successor to the series that it revealed in March 2021.

  • Price: £189/$299 (each)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 6.5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz to 22kHz
  • Max SPL: 103dB SPL
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x RCA
  • Power: 105W Class D

Read our full review here.

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