Best Compact Studio Monitors: Top 5 List
Recording music from the comfort of your home is every music creator’s dream. Although you’ll need to spend countless hours setting things up and researching online, all these activities bring joy as you know you’re working on your special custom setup. However, finding enough work space is an issue for many. Since this is something a lot of independent music creators are dealing with today, we figured we’d do some research and bring you a list of the best compact studio monitors.
Full Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Buying through any of the links below will earn me a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Top Pick: IK Multimedia iLoud Micro
For this list, we’re putting these very compact yet extremely powerful speakers by IK Multimedia first. Well-known for their other compact products such as mobile audio interfaces, the company outdid itself with the iLoud Micro Monitors. Bearing 3-inch woofer and a 3/4-inch tweeter, the size of the individual monitor is so compact that you’ll be able to place them anywhere. But don’t let this fool you, as their peak RMS power is a surprising 70 Watts.
Runner-Up: Genelec 8010
You may be wondering why Genelec isn’t number one here. And the truth is, they are probably the best in terms of audio quality. But there’s one problem – they’re expensive for a 3-inch monitor. If you’re looking for a budget or entry-level pair, we suggest the Mackies or PreSonus models further down. All prices aside, when paired with a laptop and a mobile audio interface, these will prove to be some of the best out there for on-the-go production.
Also Great: PreSonus Eris E3.5
While not topping this list, the PreSonus Eris E3.5 are studio monitors still do feature amazing quality, an affordable price, and compact size. These are the smaller sibling to the Eris E5. As the name suggests, each of these bears one 3.5-inch woofer. A clear audio picture is painted with their silk-dome tweeters. It also provides you with acoustic tuning features, as well as aux input and a headphone output on the front panel. The frequency response is from 80 Hz to 20 kHz.
5 of the Best Compact Studio Monitors
IK Multimedia iLoud Micro
If you’re a guitar player, there’s a high chance you’ve already heard of IK Multimedia. They’re the ones behind the famous Guitar Rig software and some other compact devices for instruments, like the iRig and its different iterations. They also produce all kinds of studio equipment, including some of the best compact studio monitors.
Here, we have the iLoud Micro speakers, the reference monitors that come in handy for smaller studios. With this in mind, they’re designed to bring the best possible audio image at very close range. There’s also a “flat/desk” switch that allows you to get the full potential out of them in different positions and arrangements. There are also controls for cutting out excessive low or high end, which definitely adds to their versatility. To round things up, iLoud Micro features Bluetooth connectivity, an interesting feature that may help cut back on wire clutter.
Features & Specs
♦ 45 Hz to 20,000 Hz frequency response
♦ Class D power amp with a max output power of 70 Watts
♦ Near-field design
♦ Bluetooth connectivity
♦ Flat/desk switch for different speaker placements
♦ High and low -3 dB cut switches
♦ 3-inch woofer and ¾-inch tweeter
Mackie is well-known for their entry-level audio products. They sell anything and everything from headphones to amps to audio interfaces and other studio equipment. Present in the market since the late-1980s, they’re one of the leading entry-level brands today.
Here, we have the Mackie CR3 compact studio monitors with a 3-inch woofer and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. The CR3s are loved for their audio quality and great stereo imaging. These provide good value for their cost, and would be great for someone just starting out in audio. On the negative side, a few users report some QA/QC problems. If you can afford better, it may be more reasonable to do so.
Features & Specs
♦ 3-inch woofer and a ¾-inch tweeter
♦ Frequency range: 70 Hz – 20 kHz
♦ Included acoustic isolators
♦ Switchable volume controls (L or R monitor)
♦ TRS, RCA, and 1/8-inch stereo inputs
♦ 50 Watts output power
♦ Headphone output on the front panel
PreSonus Eris E3.5
PreSonus Audio Electronics is a company that was established back in 1994. Their first products included different digital processors, but as time went by, they began making other equipment and are now known for their user-friendly and compact audio interfaces. Of course, they’re no strangers to studio monitors as well.
Up next on this list, we have the PreSonus Eris E3.5. As you would assume from the product’s designated name, they have smaller 3.5-inch woofers. To round things out a bit, they’re also packed with 1-inch silk dome tweeters. What’s really exciting about them is that they have their own acoustic tuning – two knobs on the back which allow you to tweak high-ends and low-ends in your sound. This helps you create an accurate audio representation in any kind of room. These monitors can be pretty useful if you have a mobile studio.
Features & Specs
♦ 3.5-inch woofers and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter
♦ Detailed acoustic tuning
♦ Class AB amplification
♦ 50 Watts total power
♦ 80 Hz – 20 kHz frequency range
♦ TRS and RCA inputs
♦ Great build quality
Over the decades, since their inception in 1978, Genelec kept perfecting their craft in making some of the best loudspeaker systems of all time. They’re also well-known for their studio monitors speakers with mind-blowing sound quality. We can easily say that Genelec 8010 is no exception to this rule.
Although rather small in size, they can still deliver quite a punch with the 3-inch woofer and the ¾-inch tweeter. The output power of one speaker is 25 Watts, summing it up in 50 watts of total output power. However, you should bear in mind that this is a high-end product, making it the most expensive one on the list. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, so you can expect the best audio quality on this entire list from these.
Features & Specs
♦ Professional-grade audio quality
♦ 67 Hz – 25 kHz frequency range
♦ Class D power amplifier
♦ 3-inch woofer, ¾-inch tweeter
♦ XLR input
♦ Several mounting accessories
♦ Great build quality
Many swear by JBL and their quality products. That comes as a no surprise at all since the company has over a 7-decade-long tradition of building great speakers, including some of the best compact studio monitors.
Last, but not least, we’ve decided to include their JBL 104 reference monitors. With drivers of 4.5 inches in diameter, they’re right on the edge between compact and standard-sized speakers. The tweeters are the standard size of ¾-inches and can deliver some great clarity in the high-end. They’re pretty affordable and feature surprising quality for the price.
Features & Specs
♦ 4.5-inch woofer, ¾-inch tweeter
♦ Class D amp, 30 watts of power per speaker
♦ TRS, RCA, and stereo 1/8-inch inputs
♦ High trim control for cutting high-end
♦ Wide frequency range
♦ Aux input and headphone output on the front panel
♦ Optimized for desk placement
How to Pick the Best Compact Studio Monitors
When buying the best compact studio monitors for your personal studio, there are quite a few things you must think of before making the purchase. While going through all the countless products that you can find today, certain features can tell you whether the product is worth it or not. It’s up to us to save you time and explain what you should pay attention to, in order to spend your money well.
Here, we’ll be diving deeper into some essential features. First, we have the frequency range and frequency response. The range is the span of all the frequencies they’re capable of delivering. The response refers to how well they reproduce the audio.
Then we have the drivers, which are actual the speakers in the monitor. They’re commonly referred to as woofers for the larger driver and tweeters for the smaller driver. For this list, we featured monitors with drivers less than 5 inches in diameter. You should also think of amplifiers, circuitry, and their cabinet build.
Frequency range and sound quality
As we already mentioned above, the frequency range refers to any monitor’s frequency span. Generally speaking, the wider the range, the better it is. Smaller studio monitors usually have narrower range compare to bigger ones, although they still manage to cover all or most of the audible spectrum.
However, the sound quality must not suffer and they must have a “flat” frequency response, meaning that they cover each frequency area without boosting or cutting anything too much. When you’re looking for quality monitors, they should be able to reproduce all instruments and different vocal ranges with equal power and quality. The smaller drivers on these compact speakers might not be the best professional option, but technology these days makes them suitable for many home recording enthusiasts.
Keep in mind what materials the drivers are made of. Some manufacturers like PreSonus like to use durable Kevlar in their woofers. If you think about it, the drivers can really take a beating. They’re constantly subjected to electromotive forces that produce sound, so it only makes sense to literally make them bulletproof!
While some larger studio monitors have three drivers, the ones we’re covering here have only two drivers – one woofer and one tweeter each.
Woofers are responsible for reproducing low-end and lower mid-range, while tweeters cover all the higher mids and high-end tones. Like we said, this list focuses on the best compact studio monitors with woofers smaller than 5 inches in diameter.
Of course, these compact monitors will not bring the sound quality you can hear in professional studios as the speaker sizes are really limited. High-end will get solid coverage, but the lower-end will definitely suffer a bit. Smaller woofers are simply less capable of accurately producing bass and sub-bass. However, this does not mean that these compact monitors are not good for home recording and mixing purposes.
The monitors listed here are all active, meaning that they have their own power amplifiers and require a power source. If they were passive, you would need a separate power amplifier in your setup.
Some studio monitors have separate power amplifiers for each of the drivers. This is why you’ll stumble upon term like “bi-amp setup” which refers to monitors with two on-board power amplifiers. Bi-amplification and tri-amplification setups significantly improves the monitor’s operation and tone quality. Overall, power amplifiers in monitors are important components and you should always look into their quality.
Circuitry & I/O
Circuitry refers to the inputs, outputs, and possible parameter controls that you can find on your monitors. The inputs are usually XLR, TRS, or combination jacks, although you can also find other types like RCA or S/PDIF.
Some compact studio monitors also have aux inputs. This is not a crucial feature for professional monitors, but may be nice to have of you want to plug in a smartphone or other listening device.
Additional parameter knobs that can further cut or boost lower-ends or higher-ends of the spectrum are something to look out for. They can help fine tune your monitors for the acoustic space you’re working with.
Cabinet build quality
A great deal of attention should be dedicated to the overall cabinet build quality. Your studio monitor is like a box that should resonate as little as possible. The perfect situation would be to have a complete absence of resonance, but this is theoretically impossible.
Each cabinet is basically a box designed around the drivers, which are the main components. They’re usually built from sturdy materials that don’t resonate much, and with joints and internal bracing that will keep things in order.
Before buying a compact monitor, you should try to play different frequencies of audio through them, especially those that cover all the different parts of the audible spectrum. Listen to whether there’s any unwanted resonance at any given frequency.
Best Compact Studio Monitors: Concluding Remarks
If you’re looking for the best compact studio monitors, you’re most likely thinking of recording and mixing music in smaller rooms and home studio settings. Going with smaller speakers is the best way to go in this situation. Not only will you be able to save space and reduce overall costs, but you’ll get the best possible audio image with this kind of setup.
Thank you for reading, and we hope this provided some value and insight on your search for the best compact studio monitors!