This week we’re going to be running down some of the best budget monitors that you can buy. It’s cheaper than ever to set up a studio and so much of the grunt work can now be done inside a computer. In theory, then, this should leave cash for those still-important bits of choice hardware, like monitors.
We understand budgets are tight these days, so if you find yourself lacking in funds or in need of a second set of cheaper monitors, don’t worry: there is plenty of choice at the lower end of the market.
In this price bracket it’s inevitable that compromises will need to be made, however, so potential purchasers will need to prioritise. For instance, if you need the speakers only for recording and you tend to mix in a commercial studio, you might decide that you’re prepared to trade accuracy for volume and lots of bass – qualities that may vibe-up musicians and help them to perform at their best.
So without further ado, here’s our rundown of the best budget monitors you can pick up today..
ESI Aktiv 05
Price £218/pair Contact Time+Space 01837 55200
ESI claims to be the first manufacturer to offer Kevlar-coned drivers in this price range. There’s no equalisation adjustment and control is limited to a single volume pot. An XLR/TRS audio input socket is provided with power switching on the rear panel. 60 watts of onboard amplification is split evenly between the drivers.
Behringer B2030A Truth
Price £246/pair Contact Behringer +49 215 492 064 1667
The Behringer Truth has twin amps (75W and 35W) feeding a 6.75-inch polypropylene woofer and a domed 3/4-inch ferrofluid-cooled tweeter, active crossovers and a low-vibration MDF cabinet. Measuring 214 x 317 x 211mm and weighing in at 10kg apiece, these are solidly constructed and have balanced XLR/TSR ins, level control, treble/bass adjustment and room correction for lowering bass range.
They are sensitive to positioning, but once set up come over as forthright, energetic, flexible and non-fatiguing. With an airiness reminiscent of more expensive monitors we feel that Behringer has quite possibly pulled off a minor miracle.
M-Audio BX8 D2
Price £249/pair Contact M-Audio 01923 204010
These sport an 8-inch curved Kevlar woofer and a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter, plus specially tuned Linkwitz-Riley crossovers distributing 130 watts. The rear-ported cabinet has a natural frequency of 30Hz and rounded edges to reduce diffraction. Audio ins are made via XLR or jack.
The BX8 sounds big and generates righteous volume. HFs are bright and transparent, but thunderous bass steals the show. With no LF adjustment you’ll have to adjust your ears before mix transferability is guaranteed. There is some lack of midrange clarity and depth, so room ambience and reverb may be hard to detect or even inaudible, but we really enjoy the larger-than-life vibe.
Samson Rubicon R6a
Price £190/pair Contact Sound Technology 01462 480000
A 6.5-inch copolymer woofer is matched with a ribbon tweeter. The ported cabinet contains a pair of amplifiers – 75W and 25W for the lows and highs. Inputs are XLR/TRS/RCA and level is set by indented volume control. There is no LF adjustment but the HF response can be set at -2dB, 0dB, +2dB and +4dB.
A play-in period improves the low end but the effortless speed of the transient response is the R6A’s most startling characteristic. On some tracks this will reveal hidden details and emphasise room ambience. Its relatively bright sound will suit heavily damped rooms, and although they can sound a tad boomy, the imaging impresses.
Price £349/pair Contact Adam 020 7737 3777
The F5 is the entry-level model in the affordable F Series. The ported enclosure is 290 x 185 x 230mm and contains a 5-inch carbon/paper woofer and Adam’s signature ART (folded ribbon) tweeter. Inputs include XLR/TRS/RCA and the F5 features auto-standby mode. EQ adjustment comprises +6dB adjustment at 5kHz and 300Hz plus a 80Hz filtering for subwoofer use.
The F5s live up to expectations, with clarity, crisp imaging and impressive bass extension. They have a forward midrange so leaner mids may require an adjustment period before you can judge levels with precision. We also noticed that very low-frequency dubby bass lines tended to drag a little, but given its price point the F5 is a remarkable and accomplished monitor.
Prodipe Pro 8
Price £349/pair Contact Music Track 01767 313447
An 8-inch ‘glass aramid’ woofer is paired with a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter driven by 140 watts of power. Balanced inputs are XLR/TRS and although there’s no bass equalisation, treble can be set to -2dB and +1dB and the volume control provides -30dB to +6dB of adjustment.
Yielding a big sound with plenty of power, there’s no shortage of bass but there’s no sense of hype. Prodipe takes the bottom end to the limits of the cabinet/driver – but no further. This leaves room for the midrange to breathe, with natural-sounding vocals and realistic guitars. The treble is also unhyped and non-fatiguing and the Pro8s seem to enjoy being pushed hard, filling out nicely without losing cohesiveness. Decent all-rounders that deliver a hint of the high end at a bargain price.