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Published May. 11, 2022

While musicians frequently obsess about the best studio gear for their home recording studio, they don’t often think about the best computer monitors for music production. That’s understandable, as only a few monitors are made specifically for producers and musicians. If you’ve got the passion and work ethic to produce music, any old monitor or tiny laptop screen could suffice. However, expanding your music-making setup with the perfect monitor (or monitors) for your budget and workflow can make you even more efficient, and every little shortcut helps when you have so much to do to create your best work. Monitors present music producers with many choices these days, including resolution, aspect ratio, curved displays, touch sensitivity, portability, and more. It won’t take long to zero in on the best choice for your style and, when that choice starts to make a difference in your music production, it will be time well spent.

How we picked the best monitors for music production

I have approached music production as a serious hobby for about 20 years and, during that time, have also covered music production full- or part-time with outlets such as Electronic Musician, MusicTech, Gearspace, and DJTechTools. Unlike, say, studio monitors for playing back your mix with the flattest frequency response possible, the best monitors for music production aren’t tailored for the task. These are mainly general-use devices, not the exactingly calibrated ultra-expensive screens you’d use for color grading, for example. So, after consulting with the PopSci staff, I based these selections on general quality and value for money as they pertain to the different needs of music producers, such as size, setup flexibility, convenience, budget, and other features. I also took into account the consensus opinions of critics and general users.

Things to consider before buying a monitor for music production

It’s rare these days for computer monitors to be exclusive to an operating system like macOS or Windows. However, some of them have limited functionality on one or the other operating system. For example, Apple displays may not give Windows users access to changing certain settings or toggling Mac-only technology. And many touchscreen monitors only provide limited touch control to Mac users. But your available space, budget, and personal preferences for a monitor matter even more than your choice of operating system.

Available space vs. available budget

A large monitor can help speed up the music production workflow by giving you the space to arrange digital audio workstation (DAW) windows and the screen real estate to place your favorite plug-ins in their own zone. Sometimes, the bigger the screen, the better it is for making music. But how much space does your music studio have for a monitor or multiple monitors? And do you need the monitor to be height adjustable, wall-mountable, and/or pivotable between landscape and portrait orientation? Not all computer monitors come with all those setup options. If you’re very tight on space or want a mobile music-making setup, a portable monitor may be right for you. 

All these options may come with some amount of extra cost. Both larger and smaller (portable) monitors can cost more compared to middle-of-the-road 24- or 27-inch displays. Other high-tech options like the high resolutions of 4K or 5K, fast refresh rates and response times, and curved displays also affect the price. Because music studios in general have the potential to sap a budget fast (though our guide to an affordable home studio setup can help), the computer monitor may not be the highest-priority area in which to sink money. If that’s the case, there are plenty of low-cost monitors that are perfectly functional for music production, as well as premium products that offer lavish displays optimized for high-powered gaming and visual media production. You can easily spend less than $200 or more than $2,000 depending on what you want.

Ultrawide vs. dual-monitor music production 

Given the space available, would you rather have one large monitor or a pair of smaller ones? For gaming and movies, “ultrawide” monitors—those with a 21:9 aspect ratio as opposed to the widescreen 16:9 ratio—have become popular enough to start coming down in price. However, using a dual-monitor setup with two smaller displays may still give you more total screen space for the same or less money. With dual monitors, you have more setup flexibility to perhaps wall-mount one monitor but not the other, to orient one monitor horizontally and the other vertically, or to set one monitor at a different resolution than the other. Many music producers embrace dual monitors as a natural way to separate a DAW mixer window from the track timeline window.

However, dual-monitor setups give you a “bezel gap” between the displays that annoys some people, and you have to be sure your computer can handle the dual system. The best ultrawide monitors tend to cater to gamers, so you often get advanced display technology for an overall sharper picture, richer colors, and smoother motion handling. But those characteristics vary and also are available in certain 16:9 monitors. If you’re scoring music to picture, the ultrawide 21:9 ratio matches the cinematic aspect ratio, so you get a fullscreen view when playing movies, rather than the screen-wasting letterboxing during movie playback on a 16:9 monitor. 

Some monitors are also for touching

Computer musicians are always looking for more ways to gain hands-on control over software controls, not only for the faster, more natural workflow, but also for avoiding potential repetitive stress from constant mouse-clicking. A touchscreen monitor gives you another layer of hands-on operation in addition to any other hardware control surfaces and MIDI interfaces you have. Those touchscreens also help Windows users much more than Mac, because certain Windows DAW software has built-in multitouch support. The exceptions to that rule are the Slate Media Technology Raven multitouch displays, which use proprietary software to connect both Mac and Windows computers to hands-on control to certain popular DAWs.

As another Mac option, music producers in the Apple ecosystem can often use an iPad as a multitouch remote control—if they use a DAW with an iPad control app, such as Apple Logic Pro X, Presonus Studio One, Avid Pro Tools, and Steinberg Cubase. 

Best monitors for music production: Reviews & Recommendations

Whether money is tight or is no object, our monitor picks all have something to offer a music producer’s work. When the computer is your studio’s centerpiece, every monitor is another window into your creative world. From a portable touchscreen to a super-wide curved behemoth suitable for a space station, all these monitors deserve a musician’s attention for different reasons. 

Best overall: Apple Studio Display

Why it made the cut: Audio artists using Apple desktops or laptops have here a classy and dazzling 5K Retina display to make music production look great, and hopefully sound equally good. 

Specs

  • Screen size: 27 inches
  • Resolution: 5120 x 2880 (5K)
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Connectivity: USB-C x3, Thunderbolt 3 x1
  • Other: 12MP ultra-wide camera, 3-mic recording array, 6-speaker sound system with Dolby Atmos/Spatial audio, A13 Bionic chip

Pros

  • Vibrant, rich, and bright 5K display
  • Interesting tech extras like Dolby Atmos speakers
  • Powers a connected computer over Thunderbolt 3

Cons 

  • Status-quo refresh rate of 60 Hz
  • Apple-level expensive

Many music producers tend to use Apple computers, and the Apple Studio Display was made to complement Apple desktop computers—such as the Mac Studio—with a stunning 5K Retina display and a gaggle of additional technology not usually found within a monitor. If conducting business or remote collaborations from the studio, the Studio Display can pitch in with its three microphones and 12MP ultrawide camera that uses Center Stage technology you centered in the picture as you move around during video chats. A built-in A13 Bionic chip powers that feature, as well as the Dolby Atmos/spatial audio abilities of the built-in six-speaker sound system. The audio system has four force-canceling woofers and two tweeters for mid-range and high frequencies. The speakers get loud enough for the confines of a small office and, while they are not meant to replace studio monitors for music production, they can be an excellent alternative reference system for testing your mixed audio productions. Plenty of people stream tracks off their laptops, after all.

You’ll find no HDMI ports here. Instead, the Studio display connects to a computer over a single Thunderbolt 3 cable, which can also power and charge the machine. Three USB-C ports also connect, power, and charge devices when needed. Three stand options include a tilt-adjustable stand, a tilt- and height-adjustable stand (for a whopping $400 more), and a VESA mountable version, which also supports portrait orientation (whereas the stands do not). 

The Apple Studio Display is compatible with Windows computers, but with the sizable drawbacks of not including the Center Stage and spatial audio technology, nor the option to change its settings. So it’s reasonable to guess that most Studio Display adopters will be on Mac computers. And music producers already in the Apple ecosystem should not forsake the iPad Sidecar feature, which turns recent iPads on iPadOS 13 or later into a portable second monitor for mirroring or extending the display of most Mac computers from the last six years on macOS Catalina or later. And if those producers also use Apple Logic Pro software for music, the iPad Logic Remote app is an absolutely indispensable, highly functional wireless touchscreen remote control for most core Logic Pro tasks.

Best PC monitor: Asus ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT

Why it made the cut: PC music producers can take advantage not just of the Asus ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT’s multitouch screen for multitouch music apps, but also enjoy its easy portability for taking their music on the road. 

Specs

  • Screen size: 15.6 inches
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD)
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz 
  • Connectivity: Micro HDMI x1, USB-C x1 (compatible with USB-A devices) 
  • Other: Automatic screen orientation, foldable case/stand, stereo speakers, 7800 mAh battery

Pros

  • Thin and lightweight for portability
  • Works with computers, tablets, smartphones, game consoles, and cameras
  • Built-in battery, speakers, and case/stand

Cons 

  • Somewhat low battery-operation time
  • Not the most vibrant colors

While Mac-using music producers may have the fancy whiz-bang tech of the Apple Studio Display, PC users have the ability to make music on multitouch monitors using full-featured 

Windows DAW programs with multitouch support, like FL Studio, Bitwig Studio, Cakewalk Sonar, and others. Taking advantage of PC multitouch support with the Asus ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT adds the extra perk of lightweight portability. It measures 9 mm in thickness and weighs just under 2 pounds, making it easy to take with you whether you’re at home, in the rehearsal studio, or at a live show. A built-in 7800 mAh battery powers the monitor at full brightness for about 4 hours—more than enough time for the average stage show—and its case folds into a four-position stand including portrait and landscape orientations. 

For a portable monitor, the ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT exhibits good brightness and contrast and employs Asus Ultra-Low Blue Light and Flicker-free technology to alleviate eye fatigue. Besides its 10-point maximum touch sensitivity, it also works with the included stylus and a small joystick control for navigation.

The ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT is not only a PC monitor; it connects to computers, tablets, smartphones, game consoles, and cameras through its micro-HDMI and USB-C ports. However, turnabout is fair play, so while Mac users can connect to the ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT, that comes with very limited touch functionality, and connecting to an iPad doesn’t support ZenScreen touch functionality at all. 

Best curved monitor: Samsung Odyssey Neo G9

SAMSUNG

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Why it made the cut: The most luxurious, high-performance curved monitor for being completely immersed in music production, the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 performs at a level as high as its price. 

Specs

  • Screen size: 49 inches
  • Resolution: 5,120 x 1440
  • Refresh rate: 240 Hz 
  • Connectivity: HDMI x2, DisplayPort x1, USB 3.0 Type A x2, USB Type B x1
  • Other: HDR10, Mini-LED (with QLED display technology)

Pros

  • Giant, dramatically curved display
  • Top of the line motion response
  • Brilliant colors, brightness, and contrast levels

Cons 

  • Very expensive
  • Needs a powerful computer to drive it

Samsung’s mammoth Odyssey Neo G9 49-inch Mini-LED monitor is aimed at gamers. But a lot of music producers want their studio to be a visually stunning and welcoming place in which to spend long hours of creative work, so this monitor can go a long way toward making a project studio feel like a serious command center. Mini-LED is an advanced display technology that uses much smaller backlights than QLED, giving it deeper black levels, contrast, as well as brighter HDR performance. For that, the Odyssey Neo G9 carries a premium list price of about $2,300. However, there is also an Odyssey G9 model for a $1,500 list price that is basically the same except for using QLED display technology. 

Both monitors wield a world-class 240 Hz refresh rate (which requires HDMI 2.1) and 1 ms response time, for wonderfully smooth motion handling. The 32:9 aspect ratio display offers the screen space of two 27-inch 1440p monitors, and a curvature of 1000R, which supposedly matches that of the human eye’s field of vision. The 1000R measurement means that the curvature would form a circle with a radius of 1 meter (1,000 mm) if it were extended. Fans of curved monitors like the greater feeling of immersion they enjoy from the more natural way that they utilize your peripheral vision. 

Musicians may want to also do some gaming and/or video work to justify buying the Odyssey Neo G9 but, either way, they’ll enjoy massive screen real estate and a brilliant picture with very high brightness and contrast levels. 

Best ultrawide monitor: LG 34WP65C-B

Why it made the cut: For making music with more screen space than a 16:9 monitor, the LG 34WP65C-B ultrawide display delivers a beautiful picture and higher-end specs for a reasonable price. 

Specs

  • Screen size: 34 inches
  • Resolution: 3440×1440
  • Refresh rate: 160 Hz 
  • Connectivity: HDMI x 2, DisplayPort x 1, analog 3.5mm audio output
  • Other: 1900R curve radius, HDR10, stereo 7W speakers

Pros

  • 33% more screen space than a Full HD monitor
  • Excellent image quality and fast response/refresh times for comfortable music production
  • Doubles as a worthy gaming and multi-media monitor

Cons 

  • No USB connectivity

At around $500, the LG 34WP65C-B is considered a budget-minded ultrawide monitor for the specs it boasts, which include a fast 160 Hz refresh rate, 4 ms response time, and compatibility with NVIDIA G-Sync variable refresh rate and HDR10. Those features are more nods to gaming and multimedia creation than music production. However, if you’re scoring music to picture, those advanced specs come in handy for dealing with video. And the 21:9 aspect ratio is the normal cinematic ratio for viewing full-screen movies without letterboxing. The 3440 x 1440 resolution supplies 33% more screen space than a Full HD 1920×1080 display, which makes a huge difference when working on large DAW projects or having other applications open while you’re producing music. 

Even if you’re not gaming or working with video between music sessions, anyone can enjoy the 34WP65C-B’s strong contrast, brightness, and image sharpness. And the curved display can lend a deeper sense of immersion when working with the monitor, although its 1900R curvature doesn’t bend nearly as much as the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 above. For flexibility in your studio, the 34WP65C-B has height and tilt adjustment, as well as wall-mountability. Its two 7W internal speakers are more powerful than most monitors’ sound systems—loud enough to play some podcasts while you’re making beats out of your main speakers or to use as a mixing reference when testing your productions on low-grade speakers.

Best monitor for dual setup: HP VH240a

Why it made the cut: As a dual-setup monitor, the HP VH240a gives musicians more screen space for less money than many ultrawide monitors, as well as the ability to use them in landscape or portrait modes. 

Specs

  • Screen size: 23.8 inches
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD)
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Connectivity: HDMI x1, VGA x1, 
  • Other: stereo speakers, pivot, height, and tilt adjustment

Pros

  • Quickly pivots from horizontal to portrait orientation
  • Great picture quality for the price
  • Plug-and-play compatibility for Windows and macOS (HDMI adapter may be needed for certain Apple computers)

Cons 

  • Component shortages have been affecting its budget-oriented price 

If you’re choosing a dual-monitor setup for music production, chances are you like to have the versatility to set up each monitor to contain certain software apps or windows. The HP VH240a 23.8-inch IPS LED display pivots easily from landscape to portrait orientation, so producers can have one horizontal monitor and one vertical. The vertical display can be good for breaking out the mixer window from DAW software and setting up plug-in instruments and effects, while the horizontal display has the DAW timeline with all of the recorded tracks. Or a vertical monitor can also suit software that works particularly well in an oblong shape, like Propellerhead Reason 12.

When placing both monitors in landscape position, the VH240a has a very thin bezel to minimize the “bezel gap” space between screens that many people loathe when using dual monitors. These displays also have height and tilt adjustment, a 178-degree viewing angle, and VESA compatibility for mounting to walls and stands. The internal 2W speakers are rather weak, but can still be used for checking musical productions on a low-level consumer setup.

With a response time of 5 ms and a refresh rate of 60 Hz, the VH240a is not intended for high-intensity graphical applications like video editing or gaming, but it does have great color reproduction and contrast for its price. For musicians looking for a straightforward dual-monitor setup with aspect-ratio flexibility, a pair of VH240a displays will set them up with more screen space for a lower total price than many ultrawide monitors. 

Best touchscreen monitor: Slate Media Technology Raven MTi2

Slate Media

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Why it made the cut: One of the only displays made specifically for music production, the Slate Media Technology Raven MTi2 brings multitouch commands and task-batching shortcuts designed by producers, for producers. 

Specs

  • Screen size: 27 inches
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD)
  • Refresh rate: Unknown
  • Connectivity: HDMI x1, VGA x1, USB Type B x1, 3.5mm audio input x1, 3.5mm audio output x1
  • Other: stereo speakers, pivot, height, and tilt adjustment

Pros

  • Multitouch control over most DAW functions
  • Batch Command System repeats up to 1,000 key commands and mouse clicks in a single action
  • Works with seven major DAWs on both Mac and PC machines
  • Reasonable price for the music production features

Cons 

  • Steep learning curve to set up and learn the gestures and Batch Commands
  • Have to buy a separate software license for each DAW you want to control 

Slate Media Technology calls its Raven MTi2 multitouch screen a “production console,” because it’s made to replicate a similar workflow to mixing music on a large-format mixer. It is still a computer monitor that you can use for your other computer work, but it is purpose-built for hands-on music production. 

The Raven MTi2’s accompanying software allows specific multitouch gestures, long chains of macro commands, and other control over seven major DAW programs on Mac and PC: Avid Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, Steinberg Nuendo, Presonus Studio One, Apple Logic Pro X (Mac only), and MOTU Digital Performer (Mac only). Some of the operations are simply intuitive, while others take some time to learn certain gestures or set up its Batch Command System for initiating chains of repetitious tasks—up to 1,000 key commands and mouse clicks in a single action.  

Producers using the Raven MTi2—or the 43-inch Raven MTZ (which costs three times the price at almost $3,000)—tend to either love it more than any other computer music workflow or have a difficult time getting used to it. A Raven display has to be your computer’s main monitor, but you can also use it with other standard monitors or another Raven unit. Besides just the freedom to have instant access to any amount of mixing channel faders and controls,  track zooming, automation curves, waveform editing, plug-in windows, and much more, the Raven MTi2 also gives you a customizable Raven Toolbar with for transport controls and other common controls, and an iOS Slate Remote app for accessing Batch Commands and other tools.

Best budget monitor: Philips 272E1CA

Philips Computer Monitors

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Why it made the cut: When a music producer just needs a good-quality monitor to expand on a laptop screen for a decent price, the Philips 272E1CA steps up with excellent performance and some extra features. 

Specs

  • Screen size: 27 inches
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD)
  • Refresh rate: 75 Hz 
  • Connectivity: HDMI x1, DisplayPort x1, VGA x1, 3.5mm audio input x1, 3.5mm audio output x1
  • Other: Stereo speakers, built-in cable management 

Pros

  • Great image quality for the price
  • Eye comfort and game-optimization technology built-in
  • Speakers and audio input/output

Cons 

  • Not super-bright
  • No height adjustment

Music producers on a budget have good news: It’s easier than ever to make high-quality tunes affordably with just a laptop, some software, and a minimal amount of other hardware, such as a microphone, headphones, and a MIDI keyboard. Yet there’s still some bad news with that setup: laptop screens can feel very cramped when trying to pack them with DAW windows for track timelines, a mixer, and plug-ins. People often overlook a secondary monitor for a laptop as part of a music studio, but it can make your studio sessions much more productive when you have that important extra screen real estate. 

The Philips 272E1CA 27-inch Full HD doesn’t stand out in any one particular area, but it is a solid, well-rounded monitor for producing music on a budget. It curves at a rate of 1500R, which is in the middle of the range for curved monitors and should lend a comfortable feeling of immersion in your music work from your peripheral vision. It also has a moderately boosted 75 Hz refresh rate for fluid motion handling, which along with a sharp, legible picture should help spare your eyes of strain after long hours of perfecting your sound. Along those same lines, Philips includes its Flicker-free and LowBlue mode technology for optical ergonomics. And if your eyes feel good, but your brain needs a little break, the 272E1CA includes gaming enhancements like AMD Freesync for locking the monitor refresh rate to the graphics card for less choppy playback, plus a SmartImage game mode for optimizing the picture for different types of games.

If you’re making music using only headphones, there is a 3.5mm jack for both audio input and output, and the 272E1CA has a modest pair of 3W built-in speakers that should only be used to test how your music sounds on cheap speakers. All told, it’s an excellent way to expand upon a laptop screen for a budget-minded music studio.

FAQs

Q: Why do music producers use two monitors?

Some music producers use two monitors (or more) because it can be very helpful to separate the workspaces of a DAW program into separate windows and then place those windows on their own monitor. A common scenario detaches the DAW mixer into a separate window that goes onto its own display, while the DAW track timeline has its own monitor. Particularly for complex productions, that gives producers more dedicated space to work on track automation or zoom in on tracks to edit them in the timeline, and to have a large view of the mixer and/or instrument and effect plug-ins. More monitor space can save time from clicking around to collapse and expand DAW windows while working. If they’re scoring/sound designing/mixing to picture, the artist will also often have a third display dedicated to video playback.

Q: Is a 32-inch monitor too big for music production?

A 32-inch monitor is not too big for music production. If you are accustomed to making music on a laptop screen or a small monitor, you may be surprised how quickly you get used to having more screen space once you add an extra monitor, start using a dual monitor setup, or upgrade to a very large or ultrawide monitor. It can feel very liberating for example to have a favorite synthesizer or sampler open and visible in a large format at all times, rather than it being buried underneath other windows or disappearing as you select other tracks in a DAW session.

Q: What is the best size monitor for music production?

The best size monitor for music production may be the largest sized monitor you have space for and can afford. That’s not necessarily the answer for all music producers. For instance, some producers believe that they eventually become too dependent on the screen and prefer to find ways to make music while looking at the screen less. And many producers create, mix, or master great music with just a laptop. However, there’s always a time when the display is necessary, and it’s often the case that more screen space is better. You always have the option to turn off displays when it’s time for your ears to do the work. 

Final thoughts on the best monitors for music production

Some music producers may prefer a monitor with the highest resolution, like the 5K Apple Studio Display, for maximizing monitor space with the crispest picture, while others may prioritize the dedicated DAW multitouch control of the Slate Media Technology MTi2. Perhaps a portable monitor for expanding upon a laptop’s screen on the road will make the most positive difference to a producer’s life. Regardless of the preferences, computer monitors are an often overlooked aspect of the music production setup. Whether it ends up being a very modest investment or a big-ticket purchase, a strategically chosen monitor can give any studio a visual refresh.

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