Whether you’re producing, mixing, or mastering, there’s arguably no single more important aspect of your studio setup than your monitors, as they form the basis for every decision you make from EQ to sound design.
While there is certainly no shortage of superb monitors on the market at mid ($500-$1500 per pair) and high ($1500 and up) price points, there is a true dearth of quality options for producers and engineers on a more limited budget.
That's the problem Kali Audio, a new California-based startup founded by several former JBL employees, is looking to solve with their new highly affordable Lone Pine 6 studio monitors, which start at just $300 per pair. According to Kali Audio, the LP-6's are capable of outperforming substantially pricier monitors, a claim we were eager to put to the test in our NYC studios.
In this review, we'll take an in-depth look at the LP-6 to find out if there's a new champ in the sub-$500 price range and see where Kali's debut model ranks on our list of quality, affordable monitors.
Setup and First Impressions
Despite their extremely low price point, the LP-6s feel sturdy and well-built, featuring an understated all-black design in a medium-size nearfield profile. I noticed almost immediately that the LP-6's are surprisingly light for such a powerful unit, which was a welcome change from several other models of monitors we've had come through our studio.
Several of Kali's top advertised features for the LP-6 are apparent upon a quick first glance: there's the large waveguide surrounding the tweeter, which supposedly offers a deeper, wider, and more accurate 3D soundstage, and a uniquely designed port tube, which claims to offer more accurate bass response and higher dynamic range by ensuring that all air leaving the speaker does so at a uniform velocity, eliminating the 'chuffing' sound you've likely heard on many lower-quality speaker systems at high output levels.
Describing the sound of monitors (and headphones) is always a somewhat subjective exercise, but a few things became readily apparent after spending a few days in the studio with the Kali LP-6s.
For starters, the LP-6s definitely lend themselves well to those producing and mixing Hip-Hop, EDM, and any bass-heavy material. While the overall tonality of the speakers is flat, they pack a serious low-end punch, exhibiting more powerful and clear bass response than I've found in other monitors at this price point or form factor. While the bass on the LP-6's is powerful, it's not overpowering or boomy, which is a problem many budget-friendly monitors suffer from, and Kali Audio's claim of clean and even bass response with no chuffing thanks to the port tube definitely rang true in our testing.
The second feature of the LP-6s that quickly became useful was the customizable Boundary EQ, which can change the sound of the monitors substantially to compensate for room issues or placement close to walls. Using a series of switches on the back of the speakers, the LP-6 Boundary EQ allows the frequency output of the speakers to be customized based on where the monitors are placed in your studio, and it's particularly effective for producers working in imperfect rooms or engineers who lack the space to place the monitors several feet away from the closest wall, which can have a deleterious effect on sound quality and clarity. Using the Boundary EQ, I was able to compensate for what initially seemed like a slightly boomy low end when the LP-6s were placed on our Output Platform desk—with the flick of a switch the low end and overall frequency response tightened up considerably, along with a noticeable opening of the top end.
So how do the LP-6s compare to other monitors in this price range? Compared to models I've tried, it's really not close—Kali's speakers are substantially better in just about every aspect, whether it's clarity at high output volumes, even frequency balance, or powerful low-end response. One of the most consistent characteristics of budget monitors, in my experience, is a rapid deterioration of tonal balance and clarity as you crank the output level, making it extremely difficult to make accurate mixing decisions while mixing at high volumes. The LP-6s get quite loud for a monitor of this size, and they exhibit none of the typical distortion at higher output volumes you'd find in a speaker at this price point. Put simply, the LP-6s are the finest monitors I've found at this price by a substantial margin, and in many cases, they outperform products that cost two or three times as much.
In Conclusion/Recommended For
In conclusion, I'd unreservedly recommend Kali Audio's superb LP-6 monitors for any producer or engineer looking for a budget-friendly speaker, especially if you're mixing hip-hop, EDM, or any bass heavy material. Outperforming numerous competitors at significantly higher price points, Kali's debut LP-6s are the best studio monitors under $500—period.
- The most impressive monitors we've found at a sub-$500 price point
- Superb bass response
- Flat, even frequency balance across the spectrum
- Boundary EQ is highly useful for correcting room placement issues