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Near-Field Reference Monitors | Innovation and Accuracy


In 1937, when James B. Lansing unveiled the Lansing Iconic—the world’s first recording studio monitor—he probably had no idea that nearly three-quarters of a century later, that original notion would have developed into an industry of its own, with dozens of companies creating reproduction systems for the control room environment. Today, that quest for sonic perfection continues with higher-power, more accurate monitors designed for near- and midfield listening. In the past 18 months, we’ve seen an increase in new models—some three dozen in this report alone—intended for studio applications.

ADAM Audio
recently launched two new lines of powered monitors covering a wide price point. The AX Series touts new woofers, amps and the X-ART ribbon tweeter for 4dB greater efficiency and expanded bandwidth to 50 kHz. These range from the ultra-compact A3X (4.5-inch LF driver, 25Wx2; $299) to the high-performance A5X (5.5-inch mid/woofer, 50Wx2; $449), A7X (7-inch mid/woofer, 50W/100W; $599) and A8X systems (8.5-inch mid/woofer, 50W/150W; $899). All models have beveled upper corners to minimize reflections and front porting.

ADAM Audio SX3

ADAM’s SX Series has six models ranging from small near-fields to larger midfield models, all with redesigned transducers, drivers and electronics, promising wideband, transparent reproduction with the new X-ART tweeter. Also new is an ultralow-distortion, broadband Class-A/B amplifier with 1MHz internal bandwidth and Hexacone™ woofers for more linear excursion. Prices (each) range from the $1,295 S1X (two-way, 6-inch woofer) to the $4,795 S4X-H (three-way, dual 9-inch).

Founded in 2000, AEX Labs has a new AX line of studio monitors that range from compact two-way near-fields to three-way 12/15/18-inch midfields and large mains with dual 15- or 18-inch woofers—out to the no-holds-barred, 555-pound model AX-28.5. Large or small, all models in the line are based on the company’s HF1 ribbon driver, which offers flat reproduction from 400 to 40k Hz. Options include a choice of passive (unpowered) or Computer Controlled Amplification System (CCAS) bi/triamplification. Besides the convenience and matched performance of the CCAS module, the option also adds access to system control parameters via a USB link to any computer.

Retailing at $2,000 each, the AX-1a near-field mates a 6-inch woofer with the HF1 in a 30-pound, 12x17x9-inch (HxWxD) package for a 70 to 40k Hz bandwidth. The 35-pound, 12x22x12-inch AX-1 steps up to an 8-inch LF driver paired with the HF1, which takes bass response down to 60 Hz. MSRP is $2,250 each. The largest near-field—the $2,500 AX-1.1—doubles the bass component with two 8-inch woofers that flank the HF1 ribbon element in a 27x12x12-inch, 40-pound enclosure that boasts a 45Hz bottom end. The CCAS powering option adds 15 pounds, two inches of additional depth and $1,500 to the price of any AX near-field.

The RPM8 from Akai Professional is a two-way, biamplified design with an 8-inch woven-Kevlar woofer driven by an 80W amp and a 40W amp pushing a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter on a custom waveguide. Rated response is 39 to 20k Hz, and inputs are combo XLR/TRS that accept balanced or unbalanced sources. Retail is $699/pair.


The three-way SCM25A ($8,500) monitors from ATC feature ATC’s 3-inch soft-dome midrange, a 1-inch soft-dome HF unit and a custom, 7-inch carbon-paper cone woofer with high-excursion capability. Onboard amplification is via ATC’s Class-A/B MOSFET output stage, delivering 150W to the woofer, 60W to the mid and 25W to the HF driver. All three stages are fed by fourth-order, critically damped, phase-compensation crossover filters. The unit’s ported enclosure measures 10.4×16.9×16 inches, and can be rackmounted for broadcast/remote applications.

The MicroMain35 from Barefoot Sound puts dual force-canceling, long-excursion 7-inch woofers, a 5-inch mid-bass driver and a 1-inch dome tweeter into a single, compact enclosure. Beneath the machined-aluminum front baffle is a tri-amped active electronics complement with 200, 100 and 50W amps. Response is spec’d at 35 to 30k Hz (±3 dB).

The first Blue Sky monitor designed to be used with or without a subwoofer, the SAT 6.5 EXR is two-way, bi-amplified near-field with dual 100W amps and two independent XLR balanced inputs—one for full-range operation, the other with an 80Hz highpass filter for use with Blue Sky’s SUB 12, SUB 212 and SUB 15 Universal. The monitor’s 6.5-inch, cast-aluminum-frame woofer has a hemispherically shaped, mica-filled polypropylene cone with rubber surround, paired with a 1-inch dual-ring radiator tweeter with integral waveguide. Retail is $949 each.

The next evolution of Blue Sky’s EXO stereo monitoring system, the $499 EXO2 package combines a 110W subwoofer, two 35W satellites and a controller. Like the original, the EXO2 combines true full-range monitoring with the convenience of a desktop remote-control hub. Each 3-pound (7.2×4.8×5-inch) satellite has a 3-inch cast-frame neodymium woofer and a 1-inch fabric-dome neodymium tweeter.

The redesigned BM5A MkII ($715) from Dynaudio Acoustics features a new 7-inch driver, high-resolution soft-dome tweeter and a dual 50W amplifier delivering 117dB SPL. Three integrated analog room filters allow for adjustment and compensation at low, midrange and high frequencies, and there is a (60/80Hz) HPF and a +4/-10 sensitivity switch.

Equator Audio Direct 5

At NAMM, we got a sneak preview of the Direct 5, the next release from Equator Audio, a 5.25-inch coaxial, direct-field design with matched transducers, silk-dome tweeter, onboard factory-preset DSP and 100W of onboard amplification, all within a front-ported enclosure just more than nine inches tall. Street pricing is approximately $299/pair.

The latest addition to Focal’s Compact Monitoring System line, the CMS 40 ($465 each) is targeted for broadcast and post-production environments, and allows near-field listening from as little as 16 inches without compromising sound balance. An aluminum/magnesium inverted-dome tweeter provides high frequencies to 28 kHz, while its 4-inch polyglass woofer extends LF to 60 Hz. Dual 25W Class-A/B bi-amplification has analog XLR and RCA inputs. The optional CMS Sub is $1,095.

Focal SM9

The Focal SM9 puts two independent speaker systems within the same cabinet. The SM9 features a 1-inch inverted beryllium dome tweeter (100W), a 6.5-inch midrange driver (100W), 8-inch woofer (400W) and an upfiring passive radiator. The system boasts a 30 to 40k Hz (±3dB) response and can be switched into two-way mode, which shuts down the woofer and radiator but reconfigures the crossover for two-way use.

Fostex PM0.4n

Fostex has updated its PM0.4 studio monitors. The new PM0.4n ($199 pair) models feature a high-efficiency, bi-amped design, with twin internal 18W amplifiers driving the 4-inch woofer and 0.75-inch dome tweeter. The dual-ported enclosures (available in five high-gloss colors) feature smooth, radiused edges to minimize diffraction effects, and threaded inserts on the speaker base accommodate optional wall-mount brackets.

Genelec ( expands its 8200 Series of DSP-driven monitors with the 8260A, a three-way design incorporating a proprietary Minimum Diffraction Coaxial (MDC™) mid-high driver on a Directivity Control Waveguide for smooth, flat on/off-axis response. With the MDC, the midrange driver cone forms a continuous surface for the tweeter output, coupling both drivers into a single coincident point source. Genelec Loudspeaker Manager software manages crossover filters, driver EQ, driver alignment, room-response correction, calibration filters and distance-compensating delay so the 8260A can be used with other 8200 Series DSP monitors and 7200 Series subs in the same setup. Genelec’s AutoCal automated room-calibration/system alignment provides accurate response for multichannel audio systems in varying room environments.

The redesigned M-v2 Series active studio monitors from iKey feature a front-firing bass port, soft-dome tweeter and glass-aramid composite woofer. There are four different models: M-505v2 (5-inch woofer, 50W/25W bi-amped; $209), M-606v2 (6-inch, 65W/25W; $239), M-808v2 (8-inch, 100W/25W; $319) and the 175W M-10Sv2 10-inch subwoofer ($399). All have HF or crossover adjustment and a rear panel volume control.

Designed for its LSR2300 Series monitors (but operable with virtually all other monitors, as well) is the MSC1 Monitor System Controller from JBL, a desktop “monitor section” that’s ideal for use with DAW-based studios. The MSC1 was originally offered with Control Center Software for XP and Vista PCs, but JBL has recently released a new version of the app for the Mac.

A company founded by speaker designer Keith Klawitter, KK Labs announces the DS-8, a powered studio monitor that includes DSP/Ethernet control with either analog or 24-bit/48kHz AES/EBU digital audio input connections. The two-way design features an 8-inch LF driver and a 1-inch inverted-dome titanium tweeter. The DS-8’s Acoustic Cabinet Control™ (ACC) design aligns and tunes the low frequencies for a linear sound with quick transient response. Its new DS-6 is a two-way powered speaker system with a 6-inch woofer and titanium-composite tweeter housed in an ACC enclosure. All DS Series monitors feature onboard 350W and 200W bi-amplification and four tuned DSP presets that allow the units to function in almost any listening environment.

Unveiled at NAMM and shipping next month are Mackie’s MRmk2 Reference Series studio monitors. Both the 5.25-inch woofer MR5mk2 ($199 pair) and 8-inch MR8mk2 ($329 pair) are powered two-way designs with a 1-inch soft-dome neodymium tweeter on a custom, wide-dispersion waveguide. Inside the rear-ported cabinets is a Class-A/B amplifier section with XLR, TRS and RCA analog inputs, and user-adjustable controls for acoustical correction.

Neumann KH 120

Neumann has rebranded the Klein & Hummel speaker line and offers its first studio monitor. The Neumann KH 120 features a Mathematically Modeled Dispersion waveguide, flexible acoustical controls (three four-position switches for bass, low-midrange and treble bands) and analog/digital inputs. Two 50W Class-A/B amps power the 5.25-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter, providing a 52 to 21k Hz (±3dB) response. It’s offered in either a standard model (with analog and digital inputs) and as the KH 120D, a version with digital inputs only. A KH-810 subwoofer is optional and takes LF down to 18 Hz.

Pelonis Sound and Acoustics Model 42

The Model 42 from Pelonis Sound and Acoustics is the newest release in the Pelonis Signature Series. The system puts 4-inch, two-way dual-concentric coaxial drivers into compact, rhomboid-shaped enclosures fed from a companion rackmount DSP controller/crossover/200W bi-amplification unit. The angled front baffles point the speakers slightly upward in a desktop setup, downward when used on a high meter bridge or inward toward the user when at ear level.
PMC’s AML2 powered monitors supersede the AML1 model with an upgraded power supply and an enhanced cabinet structure. The AML2 combines a flat-piston, 6-inch, carbon-fiber/Nomex woofer capable of extreme 33mm excursion and a 1.5-inch soft-dome tweeter, both driven by Bryston-designed Class-A/B (100W/80W) amps. Response is stated as 33 to 25k Hz.

The V2108 reference monitoring system from Quested Limited is intended for near-field applications. It applies an 8-inch woofer and 1-inch dome tweeter to designer Roger Quested’s well-known driver layout, along with the company’s new current-driven, floating drive stage Class-A/B amplification with two channels of 200W to each of the drivers. The compact cabinet delivers LF response down to 40 Hz.

New from RCF USA are the Mytho 6 and Mytho 8 active two-way, near-field reference monitors. These combine an aluminium/magnesium alloy (with high-excursion soft-polymer surround) dome tweeter and either a 6- or 8-inch neodymium woofer in a front-ported, all-aluminum enclosure. Power is via 200- and 100W Class-A/B bi-amplification to the LF and HF drivers with onboard DSP crossover and equalization.

Tannoy Reveal 601a

New from Tannoy are the Reveal 501a ($249) and 601a ($349) active and 601p ($179) passive studio monitors. All feature a front-ported design with a wideband tweeter that extends response to 30 kHz. The 501a has an integrated 60W amplifier driving its 5-inch LF/MF driver and 1-inch soft-dome tweeter, and a stated 64 to 30k Hz response. The 601a has a 6.5-inch LF/MF driver and 1-inch soft-dome tweeter for a 60 to 30k Hz bandwidth. The 601 is also offered in a passive, nonpowered version, the 601p.

Trident Audio Developments HG3

Legendary speaker designer Harvey Gerst worked with noted amp designer Russ Allee to create the new HG3 powered close-field monitors for Trident Audio Developments. The HG3 speakers combine a midrange and HF driver in a separate swiveling enclosure set into a ported subwoofer cabinet, with the swiveling action greatly reducing diffraction distortion while letting users adjust directionality for improved imaging. Three sets of inputs allow for balanced (XLR and TRS) and unbalanced (TS and RCA) connections.


executive editor George Petersen also runs a small record label .