Everything gets smaller. Consoles upward of 80 inputs and stretching the width of the control room get replaced by 256-input models that fit on a desk in an edit suite. Recorders the size of mini-refrigerators get replaced by ADATs, then pocket-sized multichannel units with built-in mics, then hard drives. Echo chambers now come in software.
But speakers? They still have to push air, right? How small can you go and still have the power and clarity needed for pro-level production? There has been a move lately to go even more compact than near-field, down to the desktop. A number of factors drive this: the changing methods of production, now more mobile and based around a laptop or private production space. The need for new markets for the manufacturers themselves, and the opening up to a whole new generation of pros/high-end hobbyists. The merging of audio and video production onto a single CPU.
But there have always been smaller speakers found in pro studios. Producer Joe Chiccarelli fondly remembers AR Powered Partners from the early ‘80s, telling me that Bob Rock mixed Metallica and Bon Jovi on them. “They were computer speakers before there were computers,” he says. But typically, monitors with a less-than-6-inch woofer have been used for reference, with engineers checking on how tracks translate to the consumer, to make sure their mixes hold up. Auratones are legend in some circles.
The difference today is that the monitors under 6 inches are definitely being used in professional production, and there will be more on the way. Arguably the trend seems to be toward getting the amps outside the box, like the Pelonis Model 42 and the admittedly larger sE Egg. Mix took this opportunity to survey the market and present Desktop Monitors available over the last several years. The list is by no means comprehensive, as the line blurs here between pro and hi-fi. And prices have been omitted, as we all know that shopping around is half the fun.
ADAM A3X, A5X
ADAM’s A3X ($329 each) measures 9.9x5.9x7.2 inches (HxWxD) and includes an X-ART tweeter, a 4.5-inch mid/low frequency driver with a very light but stiff carbon fiber diaphragm for absolute transparency, and two 25-watt amplifiers to power each driver. The A5X ($499 each) includes the X-ART tweeter, a 5.5-inch mid/woofer that reproduces frequencies below 2.5 kHz, and twice the power of ADAM's A5 (25W tweeter and 50W). The speakers feature 110dB max peak SPL per pair.
The front-ported MA15D monitors from Roland, with 4-inch woofer and 2-inch tweeter, offer front panel controls for bass and treble enhancement and two independent volume controls. Other features include digital inputs, 1/8-inch, RCA and S/PDIF inputs, headphone output, 192kHz/24-bit converters and 15W per channel.
Tannoy Reveal 501a
Tannoy Reveal 501a
The Reveal 501a from Tannoy, with 5-inch driver and 1-inch soft-dome tweeter, offers a Wideband tweeter design that extends response to 30 kHz to improve audible phase response, power status LED, +1.5/0/-1.5dB HF trim switch for custom room adjustment, rear volume control, and XLR balanced or unbalanced inputs.
Focal CMS 50
Focal CMS 50
The Focal CMS 50s, with 5-inch Polyglass cone drive unit and inverted-dome tweeter, feature XLR or RCA inputs, adjustable HP filter plus LF and HF shelving control, sensitivity adjustment, standby switch and front facing volume control.
Pelonis Model 42
Pelonis Model 42
This active, 4-inch, two-way system from Pelonis Sound and Acoustics is powered externally by four 100-watt amplifiers and controlled via 96k DSP, with access to 5 bands of parametric EQ. It fits in a 1U chassis and is expandable to 5.1/7.1 with addition of the Model 42CS (Center/Sub). Frequency range of 63 Hz to 37 kHz; 106dB peak; 4-inch multi-fiber cone; .75-inch titanium dome tweeter; nominal impedance 4 ohms.
Just reviewed in Mix’s February 2012 issue, the D5s from Equator house a 5.25-inch woofer and 1-inch silk tweeter in a 9.75x7x8.5-inch frame. With a frequency response from 53 Hz to 20 kHz and front-baffled port, they also feature internal DSP, a rear-mounted sensitivity adjustment, XLR and TRS balanced inputs, and three boundary controls.
The Genelec 8020B’s die cast aluminum Minimum Diffraction Enclosure houses a 4-inch driver and .75-inch tweeter (20W/20W) and incorporates the Directivity Control Waveguide for smooth on- and off-axis response. Frequency response of 66 Hz to 20 kHz and a max SPL of 105 dB at 1m. A 7050B sub can be added for a bass-managed multichannel system.
Alesis M1 Active 520
Alesis M1 Active 520
The rear-ported Alesis M1 Active 520s feature bi-amp design (25W/50W; 5-inch woofer and ¾-inch soft-dome tweeter), XLR and ¼-inch balanced inputs, Hi, Mid and Lo frequency EQ switching, and a top-mounted, integrated power switch/clip light bar. The 520 is also available in a USB version for desktop/laptop applications straight out of the computer. A smaller-version M1 Active 320 USB includes a 3-inch magnetically shielded woofer.
Yamaha HS50M, MSP3
The Yamaha HS50M two-way, bass-reflex monitor features a 5-inch cone with .75-inch tweeter and 70 watts bi-amped power. It has XLR and TRS inputs, with Mid EQ, Room Control and High Trim switches.
The MSP3, meanwhile, is a two-way powered monitor with built-in 20W amplification that drives the 4-inch woofer, and 7/8-inch tweeter. A bass reflex enclosure enhances the low end while the company’s Waveguide technology works with the highs. Inputs include balanced XLR, ¼-inch and unbalanced RCA; two inputs can be active simultaneously, with separate volume and tone controls.
M-Audio BX5-D2, BX5a Deluxe, CX5
The BX5-D2 from M-Audio features a bi-amplified design with 70W of distributed power, a 5-inch driver with Kevlar cones and a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter with integrated waveguides, optimized rear ports, and XLR balanced and ¼-inch balanced/unbalanced inputs/outputs.
Also, the Studiophile BX5a Deluxe update the BX5a system with improved waveguide and a new low-frequency transducer.
The CX5, released in 2009, utilizes Acoustic Space controls to optimize frequency response to the room and employs an Optimage IV waveguide to expand the sweet spot. It has a 5-inch Kevlar low-frequency driver and 1.25-inch silk-dome tweeter, and it utilizes 90 watts of distributed power.
Mackie’s MR5MK2 powered reference monitor features a 5.25-inch woofer, 1-inch silk-dome tweeter and Class A/B amplification (55W for LF, 30W for HF) with an optimized waveguide and adjustable high and low frequency controls. Inputs include XLR, TRS and RCA, and the enclosure boasts minimum diffraction through molded baffles.
KRK Rokit 5
KRK VXT-4, Rokit 5
Weighing in at a mere 14 pounds, KRK’s bi-amped VXT-4 features a 4-inch woven Kevlar woofer (30W), 1-inch silk tweeter (15W) and a radiused enclosure to eliminate diffraction. Frequency response is stated down to 56 Hz and peak SPL is rated at 107dB. Inputs are XLR and TRS. The active, two-way, front-firing Rokit 5 has a 5-inch glass-aramid composite woofer with 1-inch neodymium soft-dome tweeter (30 W and 15W, respectively) and a frequency response down to 52 Hz. Inputs are unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR and ¼-inch TRS.
The JBL LSR2325P features a 5-inch long-excursion woofer and a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter (bi-amped, 55W/35W), with a frequency range from 43 Hz to 20 kHz. A detented level control and Low and High Trim controls let you tailor output and room response. Inputs are XLR, TRS, RCA; mounting points are included.
The self-powered 6.5x6.5x6.5-inch cube enclosure from Avantone houses a 5.25-inch, 8-ohm full-range driver (60W RMS, Mosfet, Class A/B amp) that has a range of 90 Hz-17 kHz and a max SPL of 104dB @ 1 meter. Inputs are XLR/TRS combo jack, +4/-10. Each speaker weighs a mere 7 pounds and comes with standard threading for mic stands.
The KH120s from Neumann, the first speaker in the new line, feature a 5.25-inch, composite sandwich LF driver (50W) and a 1-inch HF titanium driver (50W). Other features include Elliptical Mathematically Modelled Dispersion (MMD) waveguide providing smooth off-axis response, bass, mid and high EQ adjustments, low and high limiter protection circuitry, input gain and output level control and XLR inputs.
Behringer TRUTH B1030A
Behringer TRUTH B1030A
Using a 5.25-inch Kevlar woofer and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter powered by a 50W and 25W amps respectively, the TRUTH B1030As feature Servo-balanced inputs with XLR, ¼-inch and unbalanced RCA connectors. The cabinet’s waveguide technology promises a large sweet spot while the magnetically shielded cabinets allow placement near computer monitors.
BlueSky is all about the full-range system and the eXo2 fills the bill with twin 3-inch satellites with 1-inch soft-dome tweeters and a separate 8-inch sub. Total system power weighs in at 160 W (35W x 2, 90W) and there is also a desktop remote and connection hub for easy plug and play. IO is on XLR or TRS plus RCA and 1/8-inch inputs for -10dB operation. The headphone jack mutes the monitoring system and switches the double-duty gain knob for headworn volume control.
These rugged desktop monitors from Fostex feature a single full range driver and come in either analog (B or BX) or digital models. The 6301 range features features phone jack (B), balanced analog (BX) or AES/EBU inputs with an additional ¼-inch analog unbalanced in. Power is via a 10W amp and all models can be vertically or horizontally mounted off the desk via the optional 9610 bracket.
The A5 is an active, two-way, front-ported monitor with a 5-inch woven carbon fiber woofer and a 1.25-inch silk dome tweeter. Power is via a 50W amp for the woofer and a 20W for the HF driver. Other features include a four-position high frequency lift control, ¼-inch balanced or unbalanced RCA inputs and MDF construction.