With the explosion in audio production technology in recent years, it’s now easier than ever to get your hands on affordable and excellent gear for your home or professional recording studio. Studio monitors are no exception, and in this guide, we’ll walk you through some of the best 8 inch studio monitors available today.
Studio monitors have a few key difference you should know about in comparison to the consumer audio speakers you’ll find at Best Buy. We’ll cover these along with what to look out for when making a purchase, too. Let’s get started!
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Yamaha is one of the oldest brands in the music industry. The truth is, Yamaha is such a big company that they have their hands in many other markets ranging from power sports, to audio, to golf. As for music, they make instruments, mixers, and many different types of equipment, including their HS series of studio monitors.
At the very top of this list, we have the good old HS8, which is in our eyes (and ears) one of the very best 8 inch studio monitors of all time. The HS8’s have a 1-inch dome tweeter, 8 inch woofer, and biamp arrangement with an internal crossover at 2 kHz. The bigger woofer on the HS8 is capable of going down to 38 Hz, 26 Hz lower than the smaller HS5 (which is an excellent 5 inch monitor).
The HS8’s also have switches on the back to help adjust the monitor when dealing with different room acoustics. There is a bass roll-off switch which applies a -2 dB or -4 dB HPF at 500 Hz. There is also a +2 dB or -2 dB high-shelf filter at 2 kHz. Both of these add to the HS8’s versatility. The rear panel has balanced XLR female or TRS female audio inputs.
Features & Specs
♦ Frequency response: 38 Hz to 30 kHz
♦ LF driver amp: 75 W
♦ HF driver amp: 45 W
♦ Crossover frequency: 2 kHz
♦ ± 2 dB high trim control at 2 kHz
♦ -2 dB or -4 dB room control switches at 500 Hz
♦ Bass reflex MDF enclosure
♦ Dimensions: 9.8 x 15.4 x 13.1″ (250 x 390 x 334 mm)
♦ Weight: 22.5 lb (10.2 kg)
PreSonus makes some pretty good pro audio gear. Their Quantum line of Thunderbolt audio interfaces is a prime example of the type product they’re capable of bringing to consumers, and they did a phenomenal job with their new Eris series of entry-level studio monitors.
Next up we have the largest of the Eris series, the E8. This 8 inch studio monitor is quite possibly the best value monitor out there, along with little brother the E5. Many may give the E8 an early dismissal it due to it’s low price, but industry professionals have come out and said that these are no joke. If you’re in the market for a jaw-dropping budget option, definitely consider these.
The rear panel of the E8 has several controls the user can activate based on the setup of their studio. First, we have a mid-frequency control switch which toggles between -6 dB, 0 dB, or +6 dB of gain centered at 1 kHz. There is a high-frequency shelf EQ with ±6 dB of boost/cut above 10 kHz. A LF bass roll-off switch (flat, 80 Hz, 100 Hz) with -12 dB/octave slope helps to reduce boominess. Finally, there is the Acoustic Space switch (0, -2 dB, -4 dB) which is activated if monitors must be placed in close proximity to walls.
Up next is the A8X from ADAM Audio over in Germany. ADAM has been in the game since 1999 and has built a reputation as one of the best companies out there for pro audio gear. Each individual driver has years of R&D behind it, and since ADAM’s business is solely monitors, it allows them to focus all their efforts on bringing the best to market.
Just one look at the any of the monitors in ADAM’s AX lineup tells you they aren’t your average monitor. Their X-ART tweeter improves further on air motion transformer technology invented by Dr. Oskar Heil. The transformer allows for faster and more accurate movement than a traditional dynamic loudspeaker, and therefore a higher degree of fidelity. The A8X can also be used as both a nearfield and midfield monitor due to advanced power and dispersion characteristics.
As far as features go, the A8X is on par with the best 8 inch studio monitors on this list. While the front-ported woofer design allows for closer placement to walls, there are still tuning options that can be activated to achieve balanced monitoring in a variety of acoustic spaces. There is a ±6 dB low-shelf EQ at 300 Hz, a ±6 dB high-shelf EQ at 5 kHz, and ±4 dB independent tweeter gain control switch. Have a look at the full feature and spec list on the ADAM Audio website.
Features & Specs
♦ Frequency response: 38 Hz to 50 kHz
♦ LF amp: 150 W / 225 W
♦ HF amp: 50 W / 75 W
♦ Crossover frequency: 2.3 kHz
♦ Low-shelf EQ: ±6 dB @ 300 Hz
♦ High-shelf EQ: ±6 dB @ 5 kHz
♦ Input sensitivity: -∞ to +14 dB
♦ Balanced XLR or 1/4″ TRS, unbalanced RCA inputs
♦ Dimensions: 15.5″ (400 mm) x 10″ (255 mm) x 12.5″ (320 mm)
♦ Weight: 28.7 lb (13 kg)
JBL is an American company owned by Harman International Industries, a subsidiary of the South Korean tech giant, Samsung. They’ve been cranking out professional and consumer audio products since the 1940’s, and they have a well established track record in modern times for bluetooth speakers, headphones, and their LS308 8 inch studio monitors.
These monitors have gone through several generations. It all began with their 1st generation of LSR series monitors. Then came the 2nd Gen (MKII) and 2nd Gen Limited Edition. JBL made several upgrades between the 1st gen model and 2nd gen model. They made the cabinet out of MDF as opposed to the original plastic design to cut back on resonance. The also ugraded the driver design for additional linearity and tighter bass response.
The LSR308 is a rear ported monitor, so it’s better situated away from walls. If this isn’t possible, you have a low-shelf filter (Boundary EQ) that you can activate to cut back on bass buildup. Additional tuning can be achieved by switching on the HF trim and adjusting the input sensitivity. The rear panel lets you choose between XLR or 1/4″ balanced TRS for mains. Overall the LSR308 has all of the features and specs you’ll need to produce great audio.
Features & Specs
♦ Frequency response: 37 Hz to 24 kHz
♦ LF driver amp: 56 W
♦ HF driver amp: 56 W
♦ Crossover frequency: 1.8 kHz
♦ Boundary EQ control: -3 dB, -1.5 dB, 0 dB (low-shelf @ 50 Hz)
♦ HF control: -2 dB, 0 dB, +2 dB (high-shelf @ 10 kHz)
♦ Input sensitivity: -10 dBV, +4 dBu
♦ XLR or 1/4″ TRS balanced input
♦ Dimensions: 419 mm (16.5″) × 254 mm (10″) × 308 mm (12.1″)
♦ Weight: 8.1 kg (17.87 lbs)
Last up is the BX8 D3 from M-Audio. M-Audio has been around for a while, and for some time they were one of the only producers of entry-level studio monitors around. They saw a bit of a fall out in quality over the past 10 years. But with the recent release their BX series of studio monitors, it’s safe to say they’re back in the game. They’ve received excellent reviews from pros and beginners alike as a solid budget option.
Like the JBL LSR series, the BX series has seen several iterations with the D3 being the third generation. Improvements include 150 Watts (80W LF, 70W HF) of power amplification compared to 130 Watts in the D2 iteration, and a bass response down to 37 Hz versus 56 Hz previously. The D3 also has new acoustic tuning controls, and an optimized tweeter waveguide for enhanced stereo imaging.
The BX8 is a rear ported monitor, meaning they’re less suited for placement near walls. However, the acoustic tuning switches can be activated to help counteract this if you’re tight on space. One nice feature these monitors have over competitors is their bright, alignment LED. The LED is embedded in the cabinet and shines brightest when the monitors are properly aligned with the monitoring position.
Features & Specs
♦ Frequency response: 37 Hz to 22 kHz
♦ LF amp: 80 W
♦ HF amp: 70 W
♦ Crossover frequency: 2.0 kHz
♦ Acoustic tuning:
♦ Balanced XLR or 1/4″ TRS inputs
♦ Dimensions: 9.8” x 11.9” x 15.1” / 250 x 302 x 384 mm
♦ Weight: 23.1 lb / 10.5 kg
♦ Alignment LEDs
Of course, a list of the best 8 inch studio monitors would not be completer without an explanation of what to look for when choosing one. These monitors are designed to reproduce audio with as much detail as possible, and there are many things to consider.
Frequency range & response
Although some manufacturers use them interchangeably, it’s still important to differentiate between these two critical specifications. The frequency range is exactly what it sounds like – the range of frequencies that the monitors are able to reproduce. The range of human hearing is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, so any specification with a higher or lower limit may be unnecessary.
The frequency response more specifically refers to how the monitor changes the audio signal. Usually it’s expressed as a curve, with the X-axis representing a range of frequencies and the Y-axis as the gain in dB. The curve shows us boosts and cuts in the spectrum that gives us an idea of how the monitor will interpret the audio signal.
Studio monitors are designed to have the flattest response curves possible. “Flat” simply means that the monitors maintain consistency in the reproduction of frequencies across the spectrum. This ensures the most accurate representation of the signal being fed to the monitor.
Cabinet build & design
The cabinet is the portion of the monitor that holds the drivers, amps, and circuitry. There are several design choices that make the best 8 inch studio monitors stand apart from the rest of the crowd.
Ported vs Unported
Ported studio monitors generally have an extended frequency range into the bass region of the spectrum, but it comes at the expense of accuracy and reduces the placement flexibility of the monitor. This is because the port is designed to have a resonance frequency that is just below the natural bass roll-off of the monitor.
Unported monitors usually have tighter bass and a less-steep bass roll-off. They’re also better at reproducing low frequency transients, sometimes described as “tight” bass. This is because they lack the resonance peak created by the port, which blurs transients at that specific frequency.
The position of the port is important for the physical placement of the monitor. Rear-ported monitors must be placed at least a few feet from walls to avoid bass buildup. Front-ported monitors can be placed closer to walls since air entering and leaving the port is directed away from walls.
The cabinet material is very important. MDF is the best choice here because MDF is homogeneous, with the same density throughout and no voids in the material. It has a higher density than many types of solid wood, and this helps cut back on resonances that may be caused by lighter, less sturdy materials. MDF colors the sound the least, which is what we’re after for the most accurate monitoring.
MDF is a common building material for subwoofer enclosures too.
Driver build & design
The studio monitors we chose have two types of drivers: a woofer and a tweeter. The woofer is the larger, low-frequency driver. The tweeter is the smaller, high-frequency driver. Midfield and farfield monitors commonly include a dedicated mid-range driver as well.
When we talk about the size of the monitor, for instance 5 inch or 8 inch, we’re referring to the nominal diameter of the woofer cone. In general, the larger the woofer, the lower and better the bass response will be.
All physical objects have many natural resonance frequencies dictated by their shape and material properties. An ideal woofer diaphragm would be infinitely rigid, well damped, and have a breakup mode frequency of infinity. Of course, this is not possible, but engineers choose specific materials over others. Kevlar is a good choice because it’s extremely stiff and lightweight, resisting deformation. Some manufacturers such as ADAM Audio have developer advanced materials for their woofers.
HexaCone honeycomb structure used in the ADAM AX Series studio monitor.
Protection features refer to design choices within the circuitry of the monitor that prevent catastrophic damage due to high temperatures or surges in electricity. Below is a summary of circuit protection feature to look for when searching for the best 8 inch studio monitors.
RF interference – prevents stray electromagnetic radiation from adding noise to the audio
Output-current limiting – stops current excursions from damaging drivers
Over-temperature – kills power after a certain temperature is reached
Mains fuse – further protection from high current
Amplifiers types & biamplification
We can’t forget about the built-in amps on monitor speakers. All of the products we’ve included on the list are active monitors. This means that they are powered speakers with individual power amplifiers inside them. Of course, it’s only evident that they’re going to require power sources in order to work. Passive monitors or any other passive speakers require other components in your setup, like external power amplifiers.
Anyway, the types and quality of the on board amps are crucial in our search for the best 8 inch studio monitors. A lot of them are bi-amplified, which means that each of the drivers has its own amp. This increases the performance and provides for better operation of each individual driver.
Whatever your plans may be – whether you’re making music as an amateur or you’re striving to be a professional – you should always strive for the best possible studio monitors. This means that you’ll need to look into features like sturdy cabinets, quality-built tweeters and woofers, connection possibilities, and the overall frequency ranges and responses over the audible spectrum.
The prices over the years have generally dropped and, fortunately enough for us, it’s possible to get great 8 inch monitors for a reasonable price these days. Just make sure to look at what fits your own needs and your own equipment.
Thank you for reading, and we hope this provided some value and insight on your search for the best 8 inch studio monitors!