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Best for Studio: Yamaha HS5 at Amazon
"When it comes to flat, clear response, with a pristine representation of detail, these speakers have earned their spot as the industry standard."
Runner-up, Best for Studio: KRK Rokit RP6 G3 at Amazon
"They aren’t as tried-and-true as a brand like Yamaha, but for the price and the design, they’d be a great addition to any DJ studio."
Best Budget Option for the Studio: Monoprice 8-inch Studio Monitors at Amazon
"These eight-inch studio monitors are a great choice for those who want full, flat response on a budget."
Best for Live Shows: Electro-Voice ELX20012P at Amazon
"Employing a high-efficiency class D amplifier, these behemoths each put out 1200W of peak power."
Runner-Up, Best for Live Shows: Mackie Thump12A at Amazon
"These Mackies earn their runner-up spot and then some with solid construction and a high output peak handling."
Budget, Best for Live Show: Behringer Eurolive B212XL at Amazon
"The B212XLs aren’t quite as versatile as our top two choices, but at 800W peak and 200W continuous, they’ll do the job for small gigs and mid-sized parties."
Best for Vinyl: Kanto YU4 at Amazon
"These small-but-powerful little living room monitors feature a phono preamp built right in."
Walk into 10 studios worth their salt, and you’ll find that 7 or 8 of them use the Yamaha HS series as their near-field monitors. Why? Well, when it comes to flat, clear response, with a pristine representation of detail, these speakers have earned their spot as the industry standard time and time again.
Each speaker contains a five-inch cone woofer and a one-inch tweeter to give you coverage of most of the spectrum. In fact, covering from 54 Hz all the way to 30kHz, you’re really only missing about 30 Hz on the low end, which can be addressed by purchasing the accompanying HS subwoofer. The speakers offer a total of 70W power handling, split into 45W of LF and 25W of HF, giving you enough oomph, but not overloading any part of the frequency range. And that’s the key here: flat response. For studio monitors, you want to hear exactly what your mix is, without any speaker manipulation, so you know exactly what’s being shipped out when you eventually go to press with your track. You can grab the HS5s here in either black or white, and if you’re a DJ planning to put an emphasis on bass, make sure to add in the accompanying subs.
KRK is probably one of the more polarizing brands in DJ circles and the wider music industry as a whole. Some producers swear by the firm bass response and the beautiful punch these speakers provide, while others claim they don’t offer a flat enough response for studio use. Either way, this package that we found including a pair of six-inch monitors and a separate subwoofer for under $800 just can’t be ignored. In truth, the six-inch cones on these active speakers don’t provide much bass response on their own, but rather, the front-firing bass ports on each enclosure emphasize it (which is probably where the reputation for heavy bass response comes into play).
But add that in with a 225W, 10-inch, composite-enclosure subwoofer and you’ll have a studio setup that’s ready to shake the control room as much as a live show. The enclosures have been designed to stifle resonance, which eliminates some superfluous frequencies and distortion, and they’ve even thrown in a high-frequency adjustment control to tune your monitors and compensate for the heavy bass. They aren’t as tried-and-true as a brand like Yamaha, but for the price and the design, they’d be a great addition to any DJ studio.
We’ve covered Monoprice in a few roundups at Lifewire, and in almost every case they offer a serious bargain for the products they sell. Known originally as a wholesale A/V brand, Monoprice has recently expanded into full-on speakers, pro audio, musical instruments, and even outdoor camping gear. What they offer is a no-frills product line that doesn’t come with the bloated brand name price tag.
These eight-inch studio monitors are a great choice for those who want full, flat response on a budget. Each speaker has an eight-inch Kevlar cone woofer and a 1.25-inch silk dome tweeter with magnetic shielding. Each unit can handle up to 120W with a dedicated amp for each (80W allocated to the woofer with 40 allocated to the tweeter). Input options include balanced TRS quarter-inch speaker jacks or the slightly more standard XLR option, so it should fit nicely into whatever your setup is.
There are some slight quirks, including the somewhat disconcerting presence of a hollow pop when you turn them on or off, but if you can look past some of the shortcomings (this and the somewhat plain design), you’ll make out really well with a perfectly serviceable and satisfyingly affordable studio monitor setup.
Outside the studio, the other realm in which a working DJ needs to employ a speaker setup is a live show. And whether you’re amping up for a bass drop at a small indie EDM fest or you’re lugging your own gear to a local wedding, these powered Electro-Voice ELX20012Ps will do the job.
First, it is worth noting that you can save a few bucks if you go with the standard, unpowered ELX20012s, but it’ll introduce the added headache of having to buy (and transport) an outboard amplifier, so we recommend shelling out for the standalone powered options here.
Employing a high-efficiency class D amplifier, these behemoths each put out 1200W of peak power, which, for reference, is enough to handle even large wedding halls. With such power, you’d think there’d be a risk of distortion or artifacts, but thanks to EV’s patented Signal Synchronized Transducers, that power is bolstered while eliminating strange resonances and distorting frequencies. Pack that into a seriously tank-like construction with substantial three-handle carrying system, and you’ve got a speaker set that’ll take you the distance as a DJ.
You could go back and forth all day on which brand is better for live PAs: Mackie or Electro-Voice? And honestly, if you pick the right models, you can’t really go wrong with either. These Mackies earn their runner-up spot and then some with solid construction and a high output peak handling. How loud? 1300W, to be precise, with 12-inch cones and a dynamic bass response that gives these speakers their “Thump” moniker.
But what really sets these speakers over the top isn’t just their sound projection, but rather it’s the features on the back. For starters, there are built-in preset options (from “Live” to “Speech”) that attempt to account for whatever situation for which you’re using them and tune the speakers to that scenario. On top of that, they offer a limited, onboard, two-way mixer so, if you don’t have a separate dedicated mixer to plug a bunch of microphones into, you can get by plugging a couple of microphones and a line input right into the speakers. There’s even a graphic meter on the back to check levels and ensure you aren’t clipping. It’s a nice added feature you don’t normally see in powered loudspeakers.
Rounding out the live section of our roundup here, we’ll turn to Behringer. As a brand, Behringer is known for somehow offering perfectly serviceable pro-audio and music gear without breaking the bank (take a look at their obscenely affordable guitar pedals if you don’t believe us). The B212XLs aren’t quite as powerful, rugged, or versatile as our top two choices, but at 800W peak and 200W continuous, they’ll do the job for small gigs and mid-sized parties.
The 12-inch “long-excursion” driver in each cabinet is designed to last with a good amount of punch, while the 1.75-inch, titanium-diaphragm tweeter will give you cutting, sparkling highs. They’ve placed that tweeter into a well-designed, super-wide-throwing external horn to ensure important parts of your mix (like vocals or lead synths) will reach distances comparable to the bass.
On top of that, the speakers are designed to either be mounted on 35mm PA poles or laid on their sides like wedge monitors, so the versatility is pretty great, too. All in all, these speakers will give you great bang for your buck, and you won’t be disappointed in their sound output.
If you’re making tracks in the studio, you really need clear, crisp, flat-response monitors. If you’re blasting your tunes at a party or concert, even if you’re spinning live vinyl, you’ll need one of the aforementioned live show PAs. But there is a middle ground for the DJ looking to spin vinyl who wants to listen back to those records in a comfortable, more informal setting. And for that, you’ll need a speaker set that sits somewhere between “studio monitor” and “bookshelf speaker."
Enter: the Kanto YU4 Powered Speakers. These small-but-powerful little living room monitors feature a phono preamp built right in — no need to shell out additional dough for an external pre. Each enclosure houses a four-inch Kevlar cone with a one-inch silk dome tweeter, so the bass response isn’t huge, but they cover most of the rest of the spectrum really well. These four-inch versions here give you 140W peak (while the six-inch option gives you 200W), and sit in the perfect sweet spot between power and size. After all, if they’re going to be in your living room, they can’t be massive. You can even pick them up in eight different colors to ensure they match your room decor.