There are several reasons one would buy small (and cheap) studio monitors. It’s all in the title “Small Budget Near Field Studio Monitors”.
One of the main reasons is of course “price”. When you are just starting out producing and/ or recording your music you don’t have necessarily a big budget.
Second reason is space. Not everyone has a dedicated studio space with enough room for big monitors. Fact is: big monitors with large woofers (8inch) often are counter-productive in small spaces. In small spaces that don’t have good acoustical properties the “big bass” from these speakers is totally annihilated by the reflection of the bass in the room creating dips and bumps all over the lower frequency range. I for instance have traded-in my bigger speakers (8inch Yamaha HS80) for smaller speakers (Mackie MR5 MKIII) and am hearing more bass now.
Keep in mind that due to their smaller size (especially the woofer) and lower price (and power) you will not get very deep bass out of this kind of speakers. For decent bass you need at least a woofer of 5″. If that’s what you need (decent bass), you will have to bump your budget by approximately 100 to 150$ a pair.
Another solution (that I recommend anyway) is to have a pair of “cans” (headphones) besides your monitors.
Smaller speakers are also a lot easier to position correctly when real estate is tight, like on a small writing desk for instance. This is where “near field” comes into the equation. A near field monitor is intended to be used “at close range”. This way the acoustic interference of the room is reduced to a minimum.
In many cases speakers in this category have the label of “multimedia desktop monitors”. And that’s what they are. They are not true top quality nearfield studio monitors. All of them are “powered” which means you don’t need a power amplifier, you can connect your computer’s audio output directly to the input of the speakers.
Speaking of connections (inputs): real professional studio monitors usually have full size balanced jack and XLR inputs. Multimedia speakers (the kind of speakers we are discussing here) often feature RCA inputs (stereo) and 3.5mm stereo mini unbalanced input (the kind you find on phones, tablets and computers, often called “mini jacks”). If you are using a dedicated audio interface that features (only) full size jack outputs, you may well be needing cables to convert jack to RCA.
In many cases connection cables are provided, be sure to check.
So without further ado, here are 5 small desktop near field monitor speakers priced under 150$.
If money is really an issue, you can get a pair of Foster PMo.3G (price is per pair). Price and footprint are really low, but you get what you pay for. Don’t expect really big or deep bass from these.
Most people are quite pleased with the price/ performance ratio, but if you are really serious about your music you should save a little longer. Also: if you are playing/ recording a bass guitar you will not be very pleased. This also goes for producing bass-heavy music like dance or rap…
These are speakers comparable to the Fostex PMo.3G’s. Don’t expect a ton of bass, but the Mackie CR series are highly rated by customers. All speakers in this price range will suffer from a lack of real deep bass. The Mackie CR series get very good reviews overall.
All Mackie speakers are highly rated by their users. It goes without saying that bigger woofers (and bigger speaker enclosures) will produce more bass. Overall the sound of these series is described by people who use them as “balanced”. A 4″ woofer is still not very big though, so don’t expect miracles in the lowest bass range.
I am including the Alesis Elevate speakers for completeness sake. Reading the reviews I am not really convinced. On paper they are similarly specced to other speakers in it’s class. Most people rate them higher than most desktop computer speakers, but as with most speakers in this price range you need a pear of cans to be able to really know what’s going on in the bass department.
Although thy are slightly higher priced than 150$, I had to include them. Why? Because you don’t find easily speakers with 5″ woofers in this price range. The larger woofers will give you more bass than 3 and 4″ woofers. At this price however you cannot expect them to perform as well as speakers that cost almost twice that much.
Tascam is a long standing brand in audio and recording equipment. They are known for putting out quality products. Reviews are very positive overall. Inputs: RCA terminals (stereo) and 3.5mm stereo mini unbalanced input. Still not “real” studio (mixing) monitors.
I will be brief. The M-Audio AV32’s supersede a product that was, according to some buyers, a lot better and really good value for the money. I would say that, reading the reviews, there are better alternatives. Pity…
I honestly don’t know the brand Rockville, so this is a shot in the dark. On paper, what you get for the money is incredible. Please someone buy these and give me feedback :-).
Browsing through all offerings, having read a lot of reviews and including my personal experience (I own and have owned several products from these brands) I would go for the Mackie Cr3, Cr4 or the Tascam VL-S3 speakers. Second to that, although being a little more expensive, You could give the Alesis 5‘s a chance, they will give you more bass than the other options.
If you are feeling adventurous you could even try the Rockville APM5B‘s. On paper no other brand gives you that much for the money.
Another option would consist of the Mackie’s + a decent pair of headphones. On second thought I would buy a pear of headphones anyway.