Best speakers to buy in 2021: 11 best mini studio monitors

Who says bigger is always better? These compact monitors will give you audio clarity in even the tightest of spaces.

The modern studio is more compact and affordable than ever before. And, although opting for larger, more expensive monitoring solutions will garner the most accurate results – especially in the low end – smaller speakers can offer a surprising amount of clarity for production.

Smaller studio monitors are nearfield by nature. You won’t be using these in wide-open studios, but in smaller spaces – bedroom studios, living rooms, audio-post studios, and so on. These will sit perfectly on your desk, then, taking up minimal space while providing you with an enjoyable listening experience.

Whether you’re looking for an extra pair of reference monitors, kitting out your home studio or just fancy some new speakers for your multimedia listening, these mini speakers are primed for the job.

Best mini studio reference monitors at a glance

  • Genelec 8010A
  • M-Audio BX4
  • Mackie CR3-X
  • IK Multimedia iLoud
  • IK Multimedia iLoud MTM
  • Audioengine A1
  • Adam Audio A3X
  • PreSonus Eris 4.5
  • Kanto Tuk
  • JBL One Series 104-BT
  • Neumann KH80

Genelec 8010A

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Genelec 8010A

Genelec is renowned for being one of the best monitor manufacturers in the industry. Its speakers are often found in high-end studios, and we’ve often come across artists’ studios that love the Genelecs they’ve invested in. The 8010A active monitors are the smallest that Genelec produce and, while they are more expensive than most others in this list, they are the epitome of small but mighty. With their high SPL, waveguide technology, and Iso-Pod stand, the extremely compact 8010A are an ideal choice for reliable monitoring in home and pro studios.

In our review, we said: “The sound belies the actual size. Only this time, it’s way bigger than you would ever expect. Admittedly, our listening room isn’t especially large, but the 8010A filled the space with crystal clear and wide-open sound. The Genelec 8010s are a remarkable set of monitors that provide a professional quality reference at medium levels in an effortlessly portable format.”

  • Price: $700 / £480 (pair)
  • Speakers: 3-inch woofer, 0.75-inch metal dome tweeter
  • Frequency response: 67Hz – 25kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Read our full review here.

M-Audio BX4

M-Audio BX4

M-Audio’s compact speakers are incredibly affordable, at just £100 for the pair. These may be a perfect choice for producers just starting out or for those recording podcasts and streaming. They feature a computer-optimised tweeter waveguide, along with optimised rear ports and acoustically-inert MDF cabinet for richer low-end frequency reproduction.

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The BX4s can connect to a wide range of devices with quarter-inch and eighth-inch jack, plus RCA inputs. A front AUX input allows you to plug a phone or laptop straight into them, as well. M-Audio has also bundled in Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition with 20 Avid effect plug-ins included, giving you the essential tools you need to start making music.

  • Price: $159 / £100 per pair
  • Speakers: 4.5-inch woofer, 1-inch silk dome tweeter
  • Frequency response: 80Hz – 22kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Mackie CR3-X

Mackie CR3-X

Mackie’s entry on this list is another mind-bogglingly affordable pair of speakers, with the CR3-X sitting at just £89 for a pair. You’ll find these easy on the ear in production environments, during multimedia playback and referencing for lower-end sound systems. The CR3-X’s custom-tuned ports and waveguide will give you a reasonably comprehensive idea of the stereo image, even when you’re not quite in the sweet spot.

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 per pair
  • Speakers: 3-inch mid-bass driver, 0.75-inch tweeter
  • Frequency response: 80Hz – 20kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Read our full review here. 

IK Multimedia iLoud

IK iLoud Micro Monitors

They might look like nothing more than computer speakers, but IK Multimedia’s iLoud monitors pack a serious punch for their size. These perform competitively against larger speakers, with EQ switches to shape the sound to suit your environment. These are a little more expensive than the M-Audio and Mackie monitors, but you’ll find these more suitable for production and mixing in a home or portable set-up.

In our review, we said: “Up against our more expensive monitors they surprisingly held their own in the bass – one area where we thought they might fall down, given their size. There must be some colouration added here, we would assume, but IK has done it very well, and the bass sounds round and twangy when needed and not as artificial as some monitors many times the price.”

  • Price: $300 / £245 per pair
  • Speakers: 3-inch woofer, 0.75-inch silk dome magnet tweeter
  • Frequency response:45Hz – 22kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Read our full review here. 

IK Multimedia iLoud MTM

IK Multimedia iLoud MTM

The follow-up of the iLoud’s comes IK Multimedia’s iLoud MTMs. These are a little bigger and employ a three-speaker design for a more powerful sound, but will still fit neatly on your desk space or bookshelf. Thanks to the two mid-drivers, you’ll get a defined, tight mid-range, as well as an uncoloured bass and smooth high-end.

The iLoud MTM also ships with a measurement mic for tailoring the speaker’s response to your room, a feature generally reserved for considerably more expensive systems.

In our review, we said: “Small studio monitors have definitely come of age with IK and JBL, and the MTMs will be a serious contender against speakers going right up in size and to over four figures in price. They are not as cheap as some – but still cheap for studio monitors – and I wouldn’t hesitate using them as secondary monitors and even my primary ones if I had space restrictions”.

  • Price: $700 / £498 (pair)
  • Speakers: 2 x 3.5-inch polypropylene mid-woofers, 1-inch silk dome tweeter
  • Frequency response: 50Hz to 24kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Read our full review here.

Audioengine A1

Audio Engine A1 Home Music System
Image: Audioengine

Following on from Audioengine’s award-winning A2+ speakers, the A1 Home Music System is tiny yet powerful. Capable of sitting comfortably on a bookshelf, the six-inch-cubed speakers sport a 2.75-inch composite driver and 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter, with a frequency response of 65Hz to 22kHz.

These can be connected with a 3.5mm jack or via Bluetooth, with SBC, AAC and AptX protocols. If you need a bit of extra low-end, you can hook up a sub with a variable LFE line output. Generally, though, you’ll get a decent amount of detail and low distortion at high volumes.

  • Price: $199 / £179 per pair
  • Speakers: 27.5-inch composite driver, 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter
  • Frequency response: 65Hz – 22kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Adam Audio A3X

Adam Audio A3X

Adam Audio’s mini-monitors boast an extended frequency range beyond the limits of human hearing. In theory, this means a flatter response in the audible range, and more accurate reproduction of transients. With its X-ART ribbon tweeter, the A3X offers affordable accuracy for mixing. And, with its front-firing bass reflex ports you can expect a for a pronounced low-end for the cabinet size.

You can also use the Stereolink feature to control the volume for both monitors using the control on just one loudspeaker. According to Adam Audio, these speakers will give you “a controlled, deep bass response and accurate sound reproduction, especially in the critical areas between 200 and 400 Hz”.

  • Price: $700 / £460 (pair)
  • Speakers: 4.5-inch glass fiber woofer, 1.5-inch X-ART tweeter
  • Frequency response: 60Hz – 50kHz
  • Amplification: Active

PreSonus Eris 4.5

PreSonus ERIS-E8XT

PreSonus’ flagship studio monitor range, Eris, features two dinky monitors: Eris 3.5 and 4.5. We’ll focus on the slightly bigger 4.5s here, named so because of their 4.5-inch woofer, because their price is still hard to turn down. Thanks to PreSonus’ Tremblor T8 active subwoofer, these monitors will bring accuracy down to the lows. You’ll also get a copy of Studio One Prime and over $1,000 worth of other plug-ins, tutorials and software.

In our review, we said: “We hadn’t expected that much from the Eris 4.5s because they closely resemble computer speakers and are priced accordingly. Given those caveats, the sound quality was absolutely remarkable. Although they have all the tone-shaping controls of their bigger brothers we felt less inclined to tweak them because the 4.5s sounded so good straight out of the box.”

  • Price: £189 / $200 per pair
  • Speakers: 4.5-inch woofer, 1-inch silk dome tweeter
  • Frequency response: 70Hz – 22kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Read the full review here.

Kanto Tuk

Kanto TUK Premium Powered Speakers

Granted, the Kanto Tuk isn’t the perfect choice for studio monitoring, but if you’re looking for an all-around solution, these are worth considering. The stylish and lightweight speakers feature connectivity for optical, USB, RCA, Phono, plus Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX HD and AAC. With AMT tweeters for pristine high-frequency reproduction and 5-inch aluminium drivers for deep lows, you’ll want these if you want high-quality audio in all of your home listening experiences.

In our review, we said: “At about £750, these aren’t low-cost speakers, nor are they strictly designed for the studio. But, at close to the quality of a decent mid-range studio monitor, they would be an enjoyable second set. Unlike most studio monitors, the TUK Premium Powered Speakers have the connectivity for music playback or even hooking up to your TV, making them a solid all-rounder for studio and home use.”

  • Price: $899 / £750 per pair
  • Speakers: 5-inch woofer, 1-inch AMT tweeter
  • Frequency response: 50Hz – 20kHz
  • Amplification: Active and Passive versions available

Read the full review here.

JBL One Series 104-BT

JBL One Series 104bt

Available in both Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth versions, the two-way JBL One Series 104 come with a mission to “provide the most accurate sonic presentation of any monitors in their class”. They don’t fall short of that mission at all, with a coaxial design that offers a wide sweet spot.

“Overall, the JBL One Series 104s stand up incredibly well, given price and size. They deliver best-in-class performance – certainly, you won’t find anything at this price point that gets close. These are about as good as it gets for the price and, size-wise, there’s simply nothing else out there that beats them.”

  • Price: £135 / $189 per pair
  • Speakers: 4.5-inch woofer, 0.75-inch coaxial tweeter
  • Frequency response: 60Hz – 20kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Read our full review here.

Neumann KH80 DSP

Neumann KH80

Though Neumann is best known for its studio mics, with the acquisition of Klein + Hummel in 2009, the studio stalwart extended that reputation to the monitor market. These four-inch speakers are among the most expensive on the list, but they deliver on the investment. The soundstage is solid and deep, and with their front-firing bass reflex ports, they off more tightly controlled bass than they have any right to at this size.

Apart from their stellar sound quality, which reveals unheard nuances in your favourite tracks, they also have switchable low-mid profiles depending on your setup (freestanding or small, medium, large desk). To tailor the sound further, the Neumann.Control app and optional measurement mic allow fine-tuning of their response to your room.

  • Price: $998 / £638 (pair)
  • Speakers: 4-inch woofer, 1-inch tweeter
  • Frequency response: 57Hz – 21kHz
  • Amplification: Active
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