Best speakers to buy in 2021: 7 best budget studio monitors under $200

Looking to upgrade your monitoring but don’t exactly have the cash to splash? We’ve got you covered.

Best monitors under $200

There’s nothing quite like hearing your own music and favourite records on a proper set of monitor speakers – and so, if you’re upgrading from built-in computer speakers to your very first pair, good on you for making the decision to upgrade.

Monitor speakers deliver much more detail than you would get out of a pair of cheap earbuds or phone speakers; what you’ll find also is that your mixes will quickly start sounding better, now that you get to actually hear them push air in a natural environment.

In this list, we’ll explore some of the best monitor speakers you can get for under $200 – let’s get thrifty.

The best monitor speakers under $200 at a glance:

  • PreSonus Eris E3.5
  • Mackie CR3-X
  • Audioengine A1
  • Tannoy Reveal 402
  • JBL 1 Series 104-BT
  • M-Audio BX3
  • Monoprice DT-3

PreSonus Eris E3.5

PreSonus Eris E3.5

PreSonus’ Eris series is a wallet-friendly entry point for those seeking out accurate monitoring. The E3.5 is the smallest design in the line, and coming in at just $130 a pair, are hard to pass up.

Each side has a 3.5 inch kevlar composite woofer and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter, along with high and low EQ controls to set the optimal sound for your room. There’s also both RCA and balanced 1/4” inputs to accommodate your setup. If you eventually decide to move up to larger monitors, the various connections let you easily repurpose these for your computer, turntable or television.

  • Price: $130
  • Speakers: 3.5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 80Hz to 20kHz
  • Inputs: 2 x 1/4”, 1 x Dual RCA Stereo, 1 x 1/8” (aux in)
  • Other features: Over temperature protection, RF interference protection, high/low, frequency boost/cut

Mackie CR3-X

Mackie CR3-X

These mini green-lined monitors offer great bang for buck, so it’s really no surprise we’ve included them on a few of our other monitor guides already. Mackie’s CR3-X speakers have a smooth output that’s easy on the ears and great fun to make or listen to music on. Meanwhile, the custom-tuned ports and waveguide offer decent off-axis response so you get a wider 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 (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

Read our full review here.

Audioengine A1

Audioengine A1

Audioengine’s A1 Home Music System may surprise you with just how much punch they pack. These follow from the brand’s award-winning A2+ speakers and feature a 2.75-inch composite driver and 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter with a frequency response of 65Hz to 22kHz.

If you’re feeling the need for more bottom end, simply hook up a sub to the variable LFE line output. As for connectivity, there’s a 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth, with SBC, AAC and AptX protocols.

  • Price: $199 / £179 (pair)
  • Speakers: 2.75-inch composite driver, 0.75-inch silk dome tweeter
  • Frequency response: 65Hz – 22kHz
  • Amplification: Active

Tannoy Reveal 402

Tannoy Reveal 402

While they aren’t the newest monitors on the block, Tannoy’s Reveal 402 monitors still hold up as reliable mix speakers — the low-cost is a bonus. With a five-inch woofer, you can expect these to deliver on low-end performance, and interestingly enough, we also found them to be more accurate than the larger 802s 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 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
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x 1/4”, 2x 1/8”
  • Power: 50W

Read our full review here.

JBL 1 Series 104-BT

JBL 1 Series 104-BT

These compact speakers are acoustically optimised to sit on your desktop and deliver accurate, detailed sound. The JBL 1 Series 104-BT monitors boast a coaxial design, which we’ve seen more often in pricier monitors, but rarely at this price point. This design positions the tweeter at the center of the woofer, allowing for a truer response with a wide sweet spot.

In our review, we said: “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: £149 / $189 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: Coaxial
  • Speakers: 4.5” woofer, 0.75” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 60Hz to 20Hz
  • Inputs: 2 x 1/4”, 1 x 1/8″, 1 x Dual RCA Stereo, Bluetooth
  • Power: 60W

Read our full review here.

M-Audio BX3

M-Audio BX3

Here’s another pair of monitors suitable for smaller studio set ups. M-Audio’s BX3 monitors tout a rear port for a fuller low-end performance and feature adjustable high and low EQ controls to tune them to your studio environment.

M-Audio also says they’re great for media playback, and feature a front-facing 1/8” input for hooking up your phone or other listening devices. Also, if you’re looking at going one size up, it’s worth checking out their bigger sibling, the BX4.

  • Price: $119 / £85 (pair)
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 3.5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency Response: 80Hz to 22kHz
  • Inputs: 1x XLR, 1x 1/4”, 2x 1/8”
  • Power: 120W

Monoprice DT-3

Monoprice DT-3

Regarded as somewhat of an underdog by its fans, the Monoprice DT-3 is like the budget speakers your cool uncle gifts you for your birthday that just happen to sound really good. They’re decent entry-level speakers that will start music production beginners off on the right foot. Oh, and did we mention they go for $80 a pair?

  • Price: $80
  • Speaker Layout: 2-way
  • Speakers: 3.5” woofer, 1” tweeter
  • Frequency response: 75Hz to 20kHz
  • Inputs: 1x 3.5mm AUX, 1x Stereo RCA, 1x stereo balanced 1/4″ TRS
  • Power: 50w

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