Portable studio monitors are a great tool to have for producers and audio engineers working in tight spaces—especially where acoustic setup is less than stellar. Additionally, they’re great for sound monitoring on the road, due to their light, transportable weight and small size, most of which will fit in your standard backpack.
The Benefits of Buying Portable Studio Monitors
The main benefit you’re going to get in buying portable studio monitors is that they are—as the name suggests—portable. There are a lot of great studio monitors out there, but not all of them are portable. In fact, most aren’t, because generally, quality studio monitors are associated with a certain size and architecture that just isn’t generally seen in small monitors.
Good portable studio monitors are going to give you portability, of course, but they’re also going to go above standard speakers in trying their best to attain that professional quality level that studio monitors are known for. The woofers and tweeters on decent portable studio monitors are going to blow even the best standard desktop speakers out of the water—even though they’re both of comparable size with one another.
Because of this high-fidelity audio monitoring you get with portable studio monitors, you have accurate sound representation. What’s more is that many of the manufacturers know you’ll likely be using them in tight spaces with poor acoustics and accommodate for this in the way they design their portable studio monitors, further upping the sound quality you get in rooms where there would otherwise be very poor sound quality, which is, perhaps, the best benefit to getting portable studio monitors, aside from the whole portability factor.
Tips on How to Choose the Best Portable Studio Monitors for Your Needs
There are a few things to consider when searching for the best portable studio monitor for your needs. Keep in mind the following:
- Portable studio monitors vary in overall weight dramatically, commonly ranging from 4lbs to 18lbs. If you have back issues or other reasons why you need lightweight monitors, be aware of this.
- A lot of the woofers will be pretty substantial for such compact studio monitors; however, you should probably pay close attention to the tweeters; while most are pretty good, some, frankly, have been sacrificed in favor of the woofer, and therefore some monitors may end up lacking an ideal audio balance.
- If your needs are beyond basic monitoring or multimedia, go for portable studio monitors that have advanced controls like EQ correction, because you’ll be able to give the audio a quality boost if you have a deft ear.
- Look for portable studio monitors that are architecturally optimized for small spaces, minimizing sound distortion and taking into account the acoustical issues inherent in small rooms that have not been acoustically optimized.
Portable Studio Monitor Reviews
IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors Ultra-Compact Studio Reference Monitors
Compact and portable
IK Multimedia’s iLoud Micro Monitors are explicitly optimized for use in home studios and other small studio environments. By design, they render high-definition studio monitoring while being comparable in size to your standard desktop speakers. Because of their compact size, they can easily travel with you on the road.
Selectable EQ correction
The iLoud’s selectable EQ correction feature lets you further customize and optimize the iLoud’s performance inside small rooms where acoustics are less than ideal.
Flat frequency response
Thanks to the 56-bit DSP and time-aligned crossover, the iLoud Micro Monitors are able to deliver an ultra-flat frequency response from 55Hz to 20kHz. Transient response and stereo imaging are top-notch, enabling true high-definition audio monitoring.
Accurate bass response
The iLoud Micro Monitors from IK Multimedia feature custom composite woofer and bass reflex port, allowing for an accurate bass response for frequencies as low as 55Hz, allowing sound engineers to accurately hear the bass on a given track.
IK Multimedia’s iLoud Micro Monitors feature Bluetooth, RCA and 1/8” stereo inputs for versatility and accommodation for the modern audio professional.
What to like:
- Compact high-definition audio monitoring
- Portable for on the go usage, comparable size to standard desktop speakers
- Optimized for small studios
- Reduces acoustic issues inherent in small spaces
- Can be placed anywhere in a room thanks to EQ switches ensuring flat frequencies
- Perfect for music production
- Perfect for audio-for-video production
- 50W Class D amplifiers
- High quality woofer and tweeter
- Fast transient response
- Low distortion
- Inputs: RCA, 1/8” stereo and Bluetooth
- Ultralightweight and portable at 3.8lbs
What to consider:
- While the sound quality is extremely well-regarded, the one issue owners of the iLoud seem to have is with the connectors, which they find aren’t up to their quality standards and come loose easily when tugged.
Fender Passport Studio Portable Powered Studio Monitors
The Fender Passport Studio Portable Powered Studio Monitor set features three intuitive controls—level, bass, and treble room correction—which are easily used and give you ultimate control over your sound.
The two FOCAL 5-inch polyglass cone woofers provide accurate and powerful representation of your track’s low notes.
The two aluminum-magnesium FOCAL inverted dome tweeters allow the treble to come through cleanly with superior clarity.
For easy portability, each speaker has a handle at the top for carrying; additionally, they can be locked together to make transportation, as well as keeping up with them, easier, so you don’t have yet another thing to worry about while on the road.
The Fender Passport Studio Portable Powered Studio Monitor features multiple inputs for modern connectivity and accessibility: 1/8” stereo aux, 1/8” headphone jack, and two balanced 1/4" TRS inputs.
What to like:
- Class D Amplifier
- Total wattage: 150W
- Voltage: 120V
- Controls: level, bass and treble room correction
- Two FOCAL polyglass woofers
- Two FOCAL aluminum-magnesium inverted dome tweeters
- Cabinets are made out of injection-molded outer housing
- Handles and interlocking speakers aid portability
- Inputs: 1/8” stereo aux, 1/8” headphone jack, two balanced 1/4" TRS
What to consider:
- They’re nowhere near as lightweight as some of the other portable studio monitors out there; however, the 18.5lbs weight won’t be that difficult for most people to manage.
- Sound can be a little finicky, but a competent audio professional should be able to make the necessary tweaks to produce the intended sound quality.
TASCAM VL-S3 Two-Way 3" Powered Studio Monitors
The 3-inch woofer on the compact-yet-powerful TASCAM VL-S3 provides thumbing, rich bass tones in true fidelity to the original recording.
The 0.5-inch tweeter allows for a crystal-clear quality on the highest of high notes.
The TASCAM VL-S3 Two-Way 3” Powered Studio Monitors feature the following inputs: two RCA inputs and a 1/8” stereo mini jack, the latter of which allows you to interface with your smartphone.
For user convenience, the TASCAM VL-S3 comes with the following included accessories: a stereo 1/4" to RCA cable and its own dedicated AC adaptor.
What to like:
- Two-way powered monitors
- 14W power per side stereo power amplifier
- 80Hz to 22kHz frequency response
- 8kHz crossover unit
- 3-inch woofer
- 0.5-inch tweeter
- Bass reflex port
- Integrated volume control
- LED-lit power switch
- Inputs: Two RCA inputs and 1/8” stereo mini jack
- Stereo 1/4” to RCA cable included
- Dedicated AC adaptor included
What to consider:
- Some feel the sound isn’t on par with high-quality music or audio-for-video production; that said, it’s more than adequate for standard multimedia usage
- There are less controls for the TASCAM offering than others, which mean less frequency control on the user’s part, aside from volume. However, if your acoustic setup is above average, this shouldn’t pose a big problem, or if your sound needs are more of a multimedia variety.
M-Audio AV42 | 20-Watt Compact Studio Monitor Speakers with 4-inch Woofer
The 1-inch ferrofluid-cooled silk cone tweeters are uncovered, meaning there is no grill, so that they can make full use of the built-in OptImage IV waveguide which provides for better audio imaging and clearer high notes—perfect for small studios. Additionally, though uncovered, the cones are still child and pet proof.
The 4-inch polypropylene-coated woofers with high-temperature voice coil provide a uniquely rich bass sound for true studio-quality bass notes in a compact monitor.
The cabinet design on the M-Audio AV42 has gotten a major overhaul. The biggest part of this upgrade has to be the cabinet construction now being composed of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), which improves sound quality all while lowering the monitors’ weight by half. An inner reinforcement feature absorbs excess vibration, quashing audio distortion as a result. The cabinet interior also features a new acoustic material that amplifies sound to even greater heights—especially those low bass notes, providing greater clarity and richer depth.
Inputs and outputs
The front panel contains of a 1/8” headphone output and an 1/8” stereo aux input; meanwhile, the back panel hosts the RCA inputs that you can use to hook up your DJ equipment or connect to your gaming rig, among other things. These connections also enable compatibility with iPads, smartphones and—of course—your laptop.
Aside from the power cable, the AV42 portable studio monitors come with both a stereo 1/8” cable and an 1/8” to stereo RCA cable for your convenience.
What to like:
- 20W studio monitors with Class A/B architecture
- 75Hz to 20kHz frequency response
- 2.7kHz crossover frequency
- Integrated volume control on front panel
- Blue-lit LED for aligning waveguide
- MDF construction with advanced reinforcement to zero out distortion
- Cabinet construction includes amplifying acoustic material for better audio
- 1-inch ferrofluid-cooled silk cone tweeters
- 4-inch polypropylene-coated woofers
- No grill, which improves utilization of OptImage IV waveguide
- RCA inputs
- 1/8” stereo aux input
- 1/8” headphone input
- Lightweight and portable at 7.6lbs
- 1-year warranty
What to consider:
- The power switch is located on the back panel instead of the front panel; even though it’s not really a big deal to reach around to the back, it can be a minor annoyance.
- There have been incidences of one speaker playing at a much lower volume than the other; this is a product defect issue and should be reported to the manufacturer—especially if the product is under warranty.
Edifier R980T 4" Active Bookshelf Speakers - 2.0 Computer Speaker - Powered Studio Monitor
Tweeters and woofers
The Edifier R990T studio monitors feature a 13mm tweeter for the high notes. The big deal with these monitors are the 4-inch woofers, which provide a rich and robust sound; indeed, these speakers are geared towards those who enjoy bass notes and want accurate bass representation.
The cabinets are 100% wood, which prevents audio distortion. Meanwhile, the flared bass reflex port—which further enriches the bass sound of these speakers—rests inside a case made of pure medium-density-fiberboard, which absorbs vibrations and further reduces distortion.
There is a master volume control and a bass volume control. The master control handles overall volume, while the bass volume control allows you to pump the bass up on the tracks that call for it. Both of these controls are discreetly located on the back of the active speaker.
There are two auxiliary inputs, which allow you to be connected to two separate devices at any given time. That means you can be connected to your laptop and your iPad without having to switch between the two—perfect for the modern audio professional.
3.5mm and RCA cables are both included for your convenience.
What to like:
- Total wattage: 24W
- Magnetically shielded
- 100% wooden enclosures
- 100% MDF flared bass reflex port
- Master volume control
- Bass volume control
- Ability to connect to two devices at once with no cable switching required
- Lightweight at 7.8lbs
- 2-year warranty
What to consider:
- The master volume has a lower max limit than some people would like, but this isn’t going to be a big deal for you if you never listen to music loudly—and not everyone feels this way, either. It’s more a preference thing, but worth noting nonetheless.
- Because of the super-small tweeters, the high notes aren’t as powerful as one might like, but fans of a thumping bass won’t be at all disappointed thanks to quality woofers.
While each of the portable studio monitors in this roundup had some great things to offer, there can be only one best of the best, which is ultimately the IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors Ultra-Compact Studio Reference Monitors. The iLoud Micro Monitors from IK Multimedia take the cake quite handily for having both the best sound quality and the highest level of portability, being both small in footprint and light in weight, which are all qualities any pro would want in their portable studio monitors.