Best Studio Monitors Under 100 – 7 Budget Picks For You

Introduction

To the uninitiated, studio monitors may seem to be ordinary speakers, but they’re much more than that. Unlike standard speakers found in homes, studio monitors have a very high level of accuracy in regard to their sound output, making them a must-have tool for professional audio applications from sound editing to music production.

If your budget is higher than $100, consider checking out one of our other buying guides on studio monitors under $200!

Product

Power

Woofer Size

Frequency Response

Price

Mackie CR Series CR3

50W

3"

80Hz-20kHz

Edifier R1280T

42W

4"

75Hz-18kHz

M-Audio AV32

20W

3"

80Hz-20kHz

Edifier R980T

21W

4"

70Hz-20kHz

BEHRINGER MS16

16W

4"

80Hz-20kHz

Alesis Elevate 5

40W

5"

55Hz-20kHz

Alesis M1

20W

3"

80Hz-20kHz

Tips On Choosing the Best Studio Monitor in the $100 Range

There are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you get the best studio monitor under 100 for your needs:

  • Studio monitors in the $100 price range are usually compact, so look for models with advanced waveguide systems. Waveguides are the 21st century take on the old folded horn speakers from a hundred years ago. While they don’t bear any visual resemblance to each other, they work on the same sound principle. By increasing the surface area, they provide richer mid-tones than you would normally get on compact speakers. When researching your new studio monitor you might read about concepts that are a headscratcher for the layperson, such as “image” or “the horizontal and vertical”, but all of those are just ways to describe the superior sound performance the waveguide offers.
  • The high-frequency driver and the low-frequency driver are for the treble and bass tones respectively as waveguides are two mid-tones. High-frequency drivers, also known as tweeters, control the treble notes and the higher end of the mid-tone range. Likewise, low-frequency drivers, commonly called woofers, are what power bass notes and the lower end of the mid-tone range. Quality sound drivers are key to getting the best out of the upper and lower registers of your studio monitor.
  • ​Volume and/or tone controls should be conveniently located on the front or sides and easy to adjust, ideally in the classic form of a knob. (This usually isn’t an issue that comes up, but occasionally you may come across oddly-configured monitors, which can be annoying.)
  • ​Wood cabinets greatly improve sound quality by minimizing acoustic distortion, so that’s something to consider when buying a new studio monitor.
  • ​If you are looking to create your own home studio, opt for a monitor that is primed to fulfill that function. Some studio monitors are really just glorified speakers. For a home studio, you want a studio monitor that will connect to all of your necessary equipment while at the same time providing rich, authentic and accurate sound playback.
  • ​Most modern studio monitors can connect to desktop and/or laptop PCs, due to PCs being a common component of modern sound editing. However, some newer studio monitors come with the ability to connect to your tablet or smartphone, which is great for professionals who work on the go and want to easily edit their work when they get back to their home studio. Additionally, some studio monitors give you the ability to connect to gaming systems, so that’s something to look out for as well.
  • ​One of the most popular, non-professional uses for studio monitors is to use them as high-quality speakers for record players. However, if you intend to use your studio monitor for your record player, ensure that you don’t need any extras for the setup. For instance, some monitors require that you get a re-amp if your record player doesn’t already have one built-in.
  • Go for a studio monitor that comes with the necessary cables and cords included. Most of them do come with these accessories included; with so many options, it just makes sense to go for one that doesn’t require to buy a bunch of additional accessories, and it’s easier on your wallet.

Reviews

Mackie CR Series CR3 - 3" Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors (Pair)

Features

Studio monitor waveguide system

The waveguide system on the Mackie CR Series CR3 features an advanced waveguide system on par with some of the top studio monitors out there. Waveguides are a modern take on the folded horn speaker, which uses its surface area advantage to produce rich mid-tones. The benefit of this is it allows smaller speakers to have the sound power and quality of much larger speakers, which is why many of the best speakers in this price range use this technology.

High output drivers

The high-frequency driver (tweeter) and the low-frequency driver (woofer) are high output to provide the strongest trebles and the most powerful bass notes, complimenting the rich middle notes that the waveguide system provides.

Front panel aux input

The front aux input allows you to conveniently plug in your tablet or smartphone so you enjoy your music library or current project through the rich sound of the CR3 monitors.

Headphone output

The headphone output is also located on the front panel, so you can easily listen to your project quietly and not disturb those around you.

Accessories included

Mackie makes it a point to include the necessary accessories, such as the cables and isolation pads with their studio monitors, so customers can hit the ground running on their new project.

The Pros

What to like:

  • Must-have accessories are included
  • Headphone output
  • ​Front panel smartphone/tablet input
  • ​50-watt power
  • ​Left/right speaker placement switch
  • ​On/off/volume control in front
  • ​All-wood cabinet
  • ​High quality waveguide system
  • ​High output drivers
  • 80hz to 20khz frequency range

The Cons

What to consider:

  • While most love the sound quality, some have noticed issues with overheating when the speakers are used in hot places. This can be mitigated by using fans or other cooling measures.

Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers - 2.0 Active Near Field Monitors

Features

Built-in tone control

The built-in tone control is located on the side of the active speaker, and can be easily used to adjust the treble and bass to your liking.

RCA input

One of the cool features of the Edifier R1280T is that it has two sets of RCA inputs that can be used at the same time without the need to unplug and switch them around.

Digital volume control

Edifier’s digital volume control feature resets the sound to a standard, not-too-loud level each time you power the speakers on, so you aren’t blasted with really loud music at power-up.

Remote control

The included compact remote control can be used to remotely adjust the volume and more.

The Pros

What to like:

  • Two-year warranty
  • Optional expert setup
  • Retro aesthetic with wooden case and grey speaker grills
  • Easily connect to record players
  • Easily connects to digital tech like PC, tablet, smartphone
  • One active speaker
  • One passive speaker
  • Built-in tone control
  • Required cables are included
  • Remote control

The Cons

What to consider:

  • There is some slight distortion on the treble end of the spectrum, though most people are pleased with the mid-range and bass notes.

M-Audio AV32

Features

1-inch ferrofluid-cooled silk cone tweeters

The Optimage IV waveguide tweeters on the M-Audio AV32 are made of 1-inch ferrofluid-cooled silk cone construction. The tweeter cones are uncovered, just like the woofers, to deliver quality treble and high-mids without distortion.

3-inch polypropylene-coated woofers

The 3-inch polypropylene-coated woofers offer deep and rich low-mids and a powerful, thumping bass. Like the tweeters, they’re uncovered to deliver maximum sound quality.

Headphones

The headphone jack is conveniently located in front so you can work silently without disturbing roommates or family members.

RCA inputs

The back panel houses the RCA inputs, allowing users to connect their mobile devices and gaming systems for a major sound upgrade.

Home studio

The AV32s are designed to provide great monitor quality while balancing the needs of the home studio customer.

The Pros

What to like:

  • 80hz-20khz frequency response
  • Headphone output
  • RCA input
  • Aux input
  • Front panel volume control
  • Optimage IV tweeter waveguides
  • 3-inch woofers for powerful bass
  • 10 watts-per-channel amplifier
  • Black vinyl laminate finish
  • Cables included

The Cons

What to consider:

  • The on/off switch is on the back, which is a minor annoyance.
  • Some have noticed mild interference with certain desktop PCs, though this is extremely rare; if it happens to you, consult the company because it may signify a defect.

Edifier R980T 4" Active Bookshelf Speakers

Features

100% wooden enclosures

The 100% wooden enclosures with a classic wooden finish knock out acoustic resonance to give you a much truer sound playback.

Adjustable bass

Getting the bass sound you want is easy thanks to the adjustable bass level, located on the back, which lets you customize the 4-inch woofer sound experience.

4-inch woofers

Each speaker houses a 4-inch woofer that has the necessary architecture to provide you with a powerful, authentic bass experience.

Dual RCA inputs

Because the R980T has two RCA inputs, you can have two audio devices connected at the same time. For instance, you can have your smartphone and PC connected at the same time. Not having to plug and unplug cables constantly saves time and cuts down on frustration.

The Pros

What to like:

  • Two-year warranty
  • Total 21-watt sound
  • 4-inch woofers
  • 13mm tweeters
  • Aux ports
  • RCA ports
  • Headphone ports
  • Connect to PC, record player, smartphone, tablet, etc.
  • 100% wooden enclosures

The Cons

What to consider:

  • While connecting to record players is easy, if your record player doesn’t have a re-amp, you’ll have to purchase one separately to connect it to the R980T monitors.

BEHRINGER MS16

Features

Perfect for home studios

The Behringer MS16 studio monitors are compact, yet powerful, and are designed with the needs of home studios in mind by including studio-worthy features like a ¼” TRS microphone input that can be used for vocal monitoring. Microphone adjustment is separate from the speakers, and can be mixed with the speakers for monitoring. Keyboard monitoring also functions similarly, for professional studio results.

Dual RCA inputs

The dual RCA inputs can be utilized simultaneously; for instance, you can have your keyboard and record player connected—and be in use—at the same time.

Dedicated sound controls

The volume, bass, and treble controls can be adjusted independently, allowing for improved sound customization.

Magnetically shielded

The Behringer monitors are magnetically shielded so they’re perfectly safe to use around computers.

Robust sound drivers

The 4-inch woofers and the 1.5-inch tweeters provide an amazing bass and treble sound, respectively, and complement each other well.

The Pros

What to like:

  • 1/8” stereo inputs
  • 1/4" jack for microphones and electric guitars
  • Independent microphone volume control for vocal monitoring
  • Magnetically shielded
  • 4-inch woofers
  • 1.5-inch tweeters
  • Dedicated volume and sound controls
  • 16-watt power
  • 80hz to 20khz frequency response

The Cons

What to consider:

  • People are pretty pleased with the mid-range, but find the treble and bass lacking.

Alesis Elevate 5

Features

High-density wood cabinets

The wood cabinets on the Elevate 5 make for a deeper, fuller bass with less distortion.

5-inch woofers

The 5-inch low-frequency drivers (aka woofers) combine with the wood cabinets for a powerful bass experience.

1-inch silk dome tweeters

The 1-inch high-frequency drivers (aka tweeters) are made with silk, which is one of the top materials used for high-quality tweeter construction, to provide a bright, prevailing treble range.

Inputs and outputs

The Elevate 5 features an RCA input and a 1/4" microphone input for vocal monitoring. Additionally, there’s a 1/8” headphone output for silent working.

The Pros

What to like:

  • Cable accessories included
  • Wood cabinets
  • RCA input
  • Mic input
  • Headphone output
  • 1-inch silk dome tweeters
  • 5-inch woofers
  • 55hz to 20khz frequency response

The Cons

What to consider:

  • Sound quality is considered great for personal use, but professional users tend to find they need more sound accuracy.

Alesis M1 Active 320 USB

Features

USB interface

The USB interface on the Alesis M1 Active 320 is sure to be a welcome modernization for casual and professional users alike.

Plug-and-play

Alesis’s option is plug-and-play, which means you don’t have to worry about driver installation. All you need is your monitors connected via the USB cord to your PC. It’s that easy!

Built-in audio interface

The built-in audio interface allows for easier control when recording audio that originates from the computer.

Bass Boost

Alesis’s Bass Boost feature enables you to crank up and supercharge the bass for a deeper experience.

The Pros

What to like:

  • RCA inputs
  • TRS headphone output
  • TRS mini output
  • Two 1/4" jacks
  • Magnetically shielded for safety around computers and other electronics
  • USB interface
  • Can be used with an iPad via a USB adapter
  • 80hz to 20khz frequency response

The Cons

What to consider:

  • The USB 1.1 is a bit outdated by now (2017), especially since USB 2.0 is already being replaced by USB 3.0.

Conclusion

While each of the monitors had something great to offer, there can be only one winner of the roundup for best studio monitors under 100; ultimately, our winner was easily the Mackie CR Series CR3. The sound is rich, with thumping bass notes and powerful trebles, while the waveguide creates a stellar mid-range. Additionally, the Mackie CR Series CR3 studio monitors are easy to use and don’t really have a lot of problems, making them a very recommendable option.

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