The Ultimate Comparison of 44 Best Selling Studio Monitors

In this fairly long review, I’ll be looking at the best selling active reference monitors of 2018 according to Thomann.de! It’s probably going to be a longer review because you can always filter down your selections based on many parameters. The reason I’m working on this is not to only post some content here but also trying to figure out which one I should go for too. 🙂

I recently moved to Bratislava, Slovak Republic and as I mentioned in my “The ONLY Tip For Getting The Best Guitar Tone On Your Computer!“, it is not usual for me to sell my gear to make other gear or life changes possible.

It also means starting from the scratch for gear freaks like me 🙂 I have nothing left with me except my RME Babyface PRO interface and Keith McMillen QuNexus control pad to make some noise which is sad. I’m planning to get back to music by collecting the essential piece of equipment to make some noise and one of the most important among them is an active reference monitor.

While I’m working on my decision, I also want to give you guys detailed information on how to choose one that fits your goals and budget. Up to now, I have owned a couple of monitors by several brands such as Kurzweil, M-Audio and Alesis. I have also had the chance to listen to Yamaha, Adam, Presonus and Genelec ones.

Funny thing about writing a review of reference monitors is that one can only judge these products based on their personal experience just after having listened to them. So if anyone around tells you a particular brand and model is the best, they are probably trying to sell it to you. 🙂 Other than that, you can only have a look at some of the tech specs and price tags. Even if you listened to a couple of monitors in different rooms, you would hear different sound qualities.

We can actually filter our options down by price range, speaker size, RMS (Power), weight and brand. But it will be a never-ending article. In my case, since I am on a quite tight budget, have to live in an apartment where I won’t be able to make so much noise and have the possibility of moving soon again, I should be focusing on the price, power and weight.

Best Selling Active Studio Monitors by Price Range

First thing and maybe the most important thing we normally consider is the price range of monitors. Let’s separate the products by their price range and have a look at our options. Note that some manufacturers price their monitors by per unit. So if you want to compare the prices, always look for the description section. Here you will only find a total price of a pair as many of us need a pair of monitors. At the first sight, one can easily be fooled by unexpectedly low prices of some well-known brands, but if you dig into it you’ll find out that the price is only a single monitor, not a pair! To be honest, I have spent lots of time on the ultimate comparison charts of studio monitors below and checked everything one by one. 🙂

Up To €150 Active Studio Monitors

Products in this price range are often considered to be entry-level reference monitors. However, most people would tell you that it’s not really possible to get a neutral sound out of the monitors in this range. You will also notice that they are often categorised as multi-media speakers rather than reference monitors. But don’t be let down by the classifications as you might like these options below.

Here below you will see three tables that list 21 best selling active studio monitors in 2018 along with tech specs and price information. I have had to shrink these tables and make three of them. But you’re lucky! All sorted by ascending prices which can be seen at the bottom part of tables (in Euros).

Note that you can directly go to product pages by clicking the model names (Opens in new tab).

First chart lists monitors ranged between €50 to €95.

BrandSwissonicBehringerSamsonAlesisM-AudioBehringerMackie
ModelMM-3MS16MediaOne M30Elevate 3 MKIIAV32Media 40USBCR3
Speaker Size1x 3,5″1x 4″1x 3″1x 3″1x 3″1x 4″1x 3″
Power Per Unit (RMS)25 W8 W10 W20 W20 W40 W25 W
Frequency Range Top75 Hz80 Hz50 Hz80 Hz80 Hz75 Hz80 Hz
Frequency Range Bottom20000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz
Magnetic ShieldingN/AYESN/AYESYESYESYES
Dimensions (mm)140 x 200 x 165140 x 150 x 241127 x 147 x 190127 x 163 x 190130 x 165 x 190224 x 196 x 157208 x 140 x 158
Weight5,1 kg2,1 kg3,0 kg2,9 kg3,2 kg5,0 kgN/A
Analogue XLR InputN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Analogue Input (Jack)YESN/AN/AN/AN/AYESYES
Analogue Input (Mini Jack)N/AYESN/AN/AYESYESYES
Analogue Input (RCA)YESYESYESYESYESYESYES
Manual Frequency CorrectionN/AYESYESYESN/AN/AN/A
Speaker Housing – Woofer SystemBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflex
Shipping Weight5.59 kg4.46 kg3.96 kg3.80 kg3.13 kg6.35 kg4.80 kg
Sales Rank362624019515420841
Price (Pair)€68€69€77€79€86€89€91

Here are monitors ranged from €95 to €99.

BrandAlesisAlesisPresonusTascamBehringerM-AudioBehringer
ModelElevate 4M1 Active 330 USBEris E3.5VL-S3Studio 50USBAV42MS20
Speaker Size1x 4″, 1x 1″1x 3″1x 3,5″, 1x 1″1x 0.5″, 1x 3″1x 5″1x 4″1x 3,5″
Power Per Unit (RMS)25 W10 W25 W14 W150 W20 W20 W
Frequency Range Top68 Hz80 Hz80 Hz80 Hz55 Hz75 Hz50 Hz
Frequency Range Bottom20000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz22000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz25000 Hz
Magnetic ShieldingYESYESYESN/AN/AYESYES
Dimensions (mm)183 x 157 x 235127 x 188 x 147141 x 210 x 162110 x 170 x 138254 x 204 x 178148 x 195 x 213239 x 154 x 187
Weight3,2 kg2,8 kg2,9 kg2,1 kg6,5 kg4,3 kg3,7 kg
Analogue XLR InputN/AN/AN/AN/AYESN/AN/A
Analogue Input (Jack)YESYESYESN/AYESN/AN/A
Analogue Input (Mini Jack)N/AYESYESYESN/AYESYES
Analogue Input (RCA)YESYESYESYESN/AYESYES
Manual Frequency CorrectionYESYESYESN/AYESN/AYES
Speaker Housing – Woofer SystemBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflex
Shipping Weight6.34 kg3.67 kg3.72 kg3.05 kg7.70 kg4.68 kg7.69 kg
Sales Rank19616034226111102134
Price (Pair)€98€98€98€98€99€99€99

And the last bit of my chart ranges monitors from €100 to €150.

BrandMackieTascamBehringerAlesisMackieFostexTannoy
ModelCR4VL-S3BTMS40Elevate 5 MKIICR4 BTPM0.3dHReveal 402
Speaker Size1x 4″1x 3″, 1x 0,5″1x 4,5″1x 5″, 1x 1″1x 4″1x 3″, 1x 0,75″1x 4″
Power Per Unit (RMS)25 W14 W20 W40 W25 W15 W50 W
Frequency Range Top70 Hz80 Hz50 Hz56 Hz70 Hz110 Hz56 Hz
Frequency Range Bottom20000 Hz22000 Hz25000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz40000 Hz48000 Hz
Magnetic ShieldingYESN/AYESYESYESN/AN/A
Dimensions (mm)224 x 156 x 185110 x 170 x 138279 x 183 x 245184 x 221 x 269224 x 155 x 185100 x 185 x 130240 x 147 x 212
WeightN/A2,1 kg4,9 kg5,7 kg5,4 kg2,9 kg5,2 kg
Analogue XLR InputN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AYES
Analogue Input (Jack)YESN/AN/AYESYESN/AYES
Analogue Input (Mini Jack)YESYESYESN/AYESYESN/A
Analogue Input (RCA)YESYESYESYESYESYESN/A
Manual Frequency CorrectionN/AN/AYESN/AN/AN/AN/A
Speaker Housing – Woofer SystemBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflex
Shipping Weight6.37 kg3.05 kg10.24 kg7.88 kg6.35 kg3.87 kg5.61 kg
Sales Rank1425211262519078
Price (Pair)€109€117€119€122€132€138€144

So How Am I Going To Pick One?

Let’s talk about the options we have here. Note that “Sales Rank” parameter is based on the number of sales within this category only. So we are not comparing a particular monitor against a completely different product in a different category. All belongs to active studio monitors!

€50 to €150 price range is quite reasonable for many users. So if you’re on a tight budget like I am, you should be sticking to this table above.

There are some important factors that you should know about before you buy your monitors.

Power – How Many Watts To Go For?

Actually, how much power your monitors going to handle is a crucial effect on the overall sound. Don’t just think it only relates how high your volume will be. It also determines a very important parameter called “dynamic range“. This is the amount of headroom you will have before signal peaks are occurring during your listening sessions.

The higher the wattage you have, the better you’ll hear the transients in detail. And also it will have a positive effect on being able to make more precise adjustments to your essential effects such as compressor, gates and limiters.

Most people are not aware of the music peaks which are often called transients of snare hits or kick drums (They might demand 10 times more than what wattage you have!). These transients require way more headroom than you could imagine. For example, for a given volume level these might require an average of 15 watts.

So if you have an amp that can deliver a clean headroom of 50 watts, you would still need 100 watts of power in order for your monitors to produce these transients without any clipping. This does not mean you have to go for the highest wattage possible. But you will definitely have more definition, clarity and dynamic range.

Ports Front or Back?

You will probably bump into many monitors that have ports placed on the backsides of monitors. These ports (let’s say holes!) might help to extend lower frequencies. Think this as compensation of high energy lower frequencies. But if you only have to place them just very close to walls or corners, you might have problems with lower frequencies and maybe it’s much better for you to go for front-ported or closed design in order to hear more accurately.

Manual EQ Compensation

Most monitors you will see have built-in EQs which help you to shape or modify the sound based on where you place your monitors. You might also have ones with DSP built-in which also helps you to shape your sound in more details. Even though these might help a lot, you should always consider your natural room acoustics in advance in order to have the best results. No built-in EQ or DSP chip can correct a bad sounding room.

Speaker Size

You shouldn’t take this as the bigger speaker you have the better sound you’ll have. Rather I suggest you should go for the one that fits in your room size. So if you live in a studio apartment and just want to upgrade to active monitors, it makes much more sense to get small to mid-sized speakers.

Frequency Response

As you can see from the tables above and below, there are only ranges of those speakers. It really does not mean a big thing for us since it is just the range! If you ever see a tech spec such as “20Hz to 20kHz ± 5dB @ 100 dBSPL“, this would make a bit more sense since this means at this level (100 dB SPL) given test signal was not louder or softer than 5dB (amplitude tolerance). Take this as your error margin. But one should have to look for this information as they don’t always release it out there. You should be looking at manuals all day long!

If you do, as a general rule lower amplitude tolerance in dB is better as your error margin would be smaller. I have made some texts bold in order to show you some minimum and maximum tech specs of different parameters. According to those tables and frequency responses, you might think that some very high-end monitors cannot handle bass frequencies as good as an entry-level monitor. But it can not be the truth, sorry 🙂

Speaker Size

As a general rule, bigger your speakers are, the better they handle bass frequencies. But beware that big speakers can overload a small space easily. So again, you should choose your monitors depending on what kind and what size of the room you are going to put them.

Up To €1500 Active Studio Monitors

Here in the following tables, you will see monitors ranging from €150 to €1500. If you look at Thomann website, you might fall for this cute trap 🙂 When I first saw that KRK RP5 RoKit G3 is the number one seller just for €122, I thought I should consider this brand as I have heard many positive comments about it. But when you have a look at product specs, it says the price per unit. So prices would double very quickly.

First chart lists monitors ranged between €150 to €350.

BrandSwissonicSwissonicKRKIK MultimediaJBLKRKAdam AudioYamaha
ModelASM5ASM7RP5 RoKit G3iLoud Micro Monitor305P MKIIRP6 RoKit G3T5VHS 5
Speaker Size1x 5,25″1x 6,5″1x 5″1x 3″, 1x 0,75″1x 5″1x 6″1x 5″, 1x 2″1x 5″
RMS Per Unit60 W60 W50 W25 W82 W73 W70 W70 W
Frequency Range Bottom55 Hz45 Hz45 Hz55 Hz49 Hz38 Hz45 Hz54 Hz
Frequency Range Top20000 Hz20000 Hz35000 Hz20000 Hz20000 Hz35000 Hz25000 Hz30000 Hz
Magnetic ShieldingN/AN/AYESN/AYESYESN/AYES
Dimensions185 x 278 x 200 mm213 x 321 x 230 mm284 x 188 x 246 mm180 x 135 x 90 mm298 x 185 x 231 mm332 x 226 x 290 mm179 x 298 x 297 mm170 x 285 x 222 mm
Weight4,6 kg6,9 kg5,9 kg1,7 kg4,7 kg8,4 kg5,7 kg5,3 kg
Analogue XLR InputYESYESYESN/AYESYESYESYES
Analogue Input (Jack)YESYESYESN/AYESYESN/AYES
Analogue Input (Mini Jack)N/AN/AN/AYESN/AN/AN/AN/A
Analogue Input (RCA)YESYESYESYESN/AYESYESN/A
Manual Frequency CorrectionYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES
Speaker Housing – Woofer SystemBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflex
Shipping Weight11.44 kg16.80 kg7.21 kg2.91 kg5.95 kg10.15 kg6.85 kg7.32 kg
Sales Rank13401396210106
Price€158€218€244€277€298€316€332€334

Here are monitors ranged from €350 to €700.

BrandYamahaAdam AudioKRKGenelecAdam AudioYamahaGenelecFocal
ModelHS 7T7VRP8 RoKit G38010 APA3XHS 88020 DPMShape 40
Speaker Size1x 6,5″1x 7″, 1x 2″1x 8″1x 3″1x 3,5″1x 8″1x 4″1x 4″, 1x 1″
RMS Per Unit95 W70 W100 W50 W50 W120 W100 W50 W
Frequency Range Bottom43 Hz39 Hz35 Hz74 Hz60 Hz38 Hz62 Hz60 Hz
Frequency Range Top30000 Hz25000 Hz35000 Hz20000 Hz50000 Hz30000 Hz20000 Hz35000 Hz
Magnetic ShieldingN/AN/AYESN/AN/AN/AYESN/A
Dimensions210 x 332 x 284 mm210 x 347 x 293 mm396 x 275 x 315 mm195 x 121 x 116 mm150 x 252 x 185 mm250 x 390 x 334 mm230 x 151 x 142 mm161 x 200 x 257 mm
Weight8,2 kg7,1 kg11,2 kg1,5 kg4,6 kg10,2 kg3,2 kg5,0 kg
Analogue XLR InputYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES
Analogue Input (Jack)YESN/AYESN/AN/AYESN/AN/A
Analogue Input (Mini Jack)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Analogue Input (RCA)N/AYESYESN/AYESN/AN/AYES
Manual Frequency CorrectionYESYESYESN/AYESYESYESYES
Speaker Housing – Woofer SystemBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexPassive Men
Shipping Weight10.35 kg8.35 kg13.28 kg1.95 kg5.76 kg12.83 kg4 kg6.38 kg
Sales Rank25591748848107
Price€388€390€430€466€510€558€622€696

And finally, the monitors ranged from €750 to €1500.

BrandDynaudio ProEve AudioGenelecAdam AudioNeumannFocalGenelec
ModelBM5 MKIIISC2078030 CPA7XKH 120 AShape 658040 BPM
Speaker Size1x 1.1″, 1×7″1x 6,5″1x 5″1x 7″1x 5,25″1x 6,5″, 1x 1″1x 6,5″
RMS Per Unit100 W150 W100 W150 W100 W105 W90 W
Frequency Range Bottom49 Hz44 Hz54 Hz42 Hz52 Hz40 Hz45 Hz
Frequency Range Top24000 Hz21000 Hz20000 Hz50000 Hz21000 Hz35000 Hz21000 Hz
Magnetic ShieldingYESN/AN/AYESN/AN/AN/A
Dimensions170 x 260 x 211 mm215 x 330 x 280 mm285 x 189 x 178 mm201 x 337 x 280 mm277 x 182 x 220 mm218 x 285 x 355 mm350 x 237 x 223 mm
Weight5,4 kg8,0 kg5,0 kg9,3 kg6,2 kg8,5 kg8,6 kg
Analogue XLR InputYESYESYESYESYESYESYES
Analogue Input (Jack)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Analogue Input (Mini Jack)N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Analogue Input (RCA)YESYESYESN/AYESN/A
Manual Frequency CorrectionYESYESYESYESYESYESYES
Speaker Housing – Woofer SystemBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexBassreflexPassive MenBassreflex
Shipping Weight8.63 kg9.94 kg6.04 kg10.87 kg8.06 kg10.53 kg10.48 kg
Sales Rank2194241248919
Price€796€876€1044€1070€1290€1396€1478

Still Confused?

I think we all should be 🙂 Having told that it would not make sense to recommend a particular reference monitor to anyone as it’s all about how you hear it. Some people can do magic with quite shitty speakers. But as far as my G.A.S. is concerned, I would like to an IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitor.

Why?

Because it’s very very small (I have seen and heard it live!), it sounds ridiculously big and the price tag is just about OK for me. Hopefully, I’ll be reviewing this monitor soon in here.

Don’t think that I am affiliated with any musical instruments manufacturer, it’s just my pre-G.A.S. diaries and I also like to help you guys out there by having gathered all the information you need in order to buy your active studio monitors finally! 😉

Osman

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