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Review: IK Multimedia iLoud MTM Reference Monitors

Excellent Bass Response, Stereo Imaging, Calibration in a Desktop Unit

Based in Modena in Northern Italy since 1996, IK Multimedia has released the iLoud MTM reference monitors, which builds on the company’s smaller monitor system called the iLoud Micro Monitors introduced in 2016. Designed for project/home studios, the iLoud MTM reference monitors offer accuracy in a smaller footprint.

The self-contained, powered iLoud MTM monitors are DSP-controlled and precision time-aligned; the advanced onboard processing is the product of more than 20 years of IK’s experience in digital signal processing systems.

The iLoud MTMs use a tuned bass reflex port and are powered by two Class-D power amplifiers. There is a 70-watt (RMS) amp for the two custom-made polypropylene 3.5-inch mid-woofers, while a 30-watt (RMS) amp powers the back-chambered, silk-dome tweeter. The tweeter is mounted in the exact center of the front panel with the mid-woofers mounted on either side. Crossover frequency is 3.1 kHz using a linear phase variable order filter.

Frequency response is rated at 50 Hz to 24 kHz ±2 dB running under calibration (more later); they are capable of 103 dB SPL maximum sound pressure at 1 meter from 200 Hz up.

The MTM’s rear-facing bass reflex ports are at the top of rear panel; it also doubles as a way to pick them up for portability. The cabinets are made from a blend of high-impact ABS and PC plastic and measure 264 mm (10.39 inches) tall, 160 mm deep (6.3 inches) by 130 mm (5.12 inches) wide. Each weighs 2.5 kg, or about 5.5 pounds.

IK touts that these monitors have flat or linear phase response. They remain phase coherent within ±15 degrees measured from 200 Hz to 20 kHz. Phase integrity and precision is vital for reproducing the exact stereo imaging—panning, delays, and the placement of the instruments and vocals within the sound stage that the mixer/producer has intended.

The crowded rear panel of MTM tells a lot about these monitors and contains all of its configuration controls. Starting at the top under the reflex port is a row of five push buttons with blue LED indicators. The last state of these buttons/settings is held even with AC power off.

The LF Extension button is a highpass filter for shaping the low frequencies below 60 Hz, 50 Hz (default) or 40 Hz. The 100 Hz LF button toggles on/off a shelving EQ through three choices: Flat, +2 dB or -3 dB positions. The HF button is for selecting Flat, +2 dB or -3 dB from an 8 kHz shelving filter. All filters are second-order.

The back of the IK Multimedia iLoud MTM Reference Monitors includes all connections and configuration controls.

A fourth button is called CAL/Preset and it’s dual-purpose. You may cycle through Flat (response), a Desk curve designed to ameliorate the acoustic boundary effects of desktop monitor placement, and CAL for setting up and activating an internally stored calibration curve. This is the same technology and microphone used in IK’s ARC 2.5 Advanced Room Control software. However, unlike the software system that stores any number of correction curves for any number of monitors, this version stores a single curve inside of each monitor.

These monitors are for desktop use—up-close, nearfield placement. The Desk curve is shown in the manual; it has a -4 dB bell-shaped notch at 100 Hz and also a 1 dB boost at 1.8 kHz. If you hold down the CAL/Preset button for two seconds, the monitor enters the calibration mode using the included phantom-powered ARC MEMS measurement microphone. A special cable with an XLR on one end and a mini TS on the other connects the microphone to the speaker using a rear panel jack.

Finally, the rear panel includes a Sensitivity button to toggle between +4 dBu and –10 dBv operating range, a volume control, XLR Combo audio input jack, on/off switch, an IEC AC power connector and a USB connector for future firmware revision downloads.

The IK Multimedia iLoud MTM Reference Monitors are sold in two ways: one monitor at a time or in pairs. Either way they include one ARC reference measurement MEMS microphone, clip and cable. There are also two different bases included for setting the MTMs up vertically (as I preferred) or horizontally, if you want to place them on monitor stands or shelves. They also have a threaded adapter recessed in the bottom of the cabinet for mounting them directly atop a standard microphone stand.

The vertical setup of the MTM worked well on my minimal desktop space. I set them up on either side of my 29-inch DAW computer’s video monitor. The manual endorses the imaginary “Magic Equilateral Triangle” speaker positioning method to properly set them up.

I had the two MTMs 32 inches apart on either side of my DAW screen. The listening position was in front of my desk, right where I always sit to mix music. I angled them up at 20 degrees (max) and locked them in to aim them right at my ears. I had the top woofer aimed a little over my head, as I found that was better when an artist or the producer was standing behind me and listening.

I used output 2 of my Cranesong Avocet II monitor controller and switched the MTMs to +4 dBU and turned down the rear panel volume control to (more or less) match the volume level of my other studio monitors when switching between them using the Avocet.

I learned that IK auditioned several A/D/D/A clocking chip combinations and decided on an AKM AK4621 chip set running at 48 kHz/24-bit to convert incoming analog audio into digital for processing for the crossovers, filtering, time alignment, equalization, dynamics control and calibration. The processed digital audio is then converted back into analog for driving the two amplifiers. I experienced no problem with latency.

After I set up the MEMS microphone as directed in the manual, I held the CAL/Preset button down for two seconds. The MTM begins the calibration procedure by sweeping a 20 Hz to 20 kHz tone. It takes about 20 seconds to run the calibration routine on each speaker separately, and I appreciated the “feedback” of blinking colored LEDs—confirmation that the sweeps were successful. Also thoughtful is that any rear-panel EQ/filter settings you (inadvertently) had set are not in play during calibration.

After this process I started playing all kinds of different music sources and I was immediately impressed. They had solid bass and excellent stereo imaging that seems to “point” out phase anomalies instantly—such as phase issues that happen when using multiple microphones on the same source. I heard tom-tom fill in a drum kit that came from behind me!

A quick comparison to my mains revealed that the MTMs are slightly boxy-sounding—an upper bass presence that is common in my experience with small box speakers like Yamaha NS10Ms. I tried the +2 dB setting on the HF section to try and help that, but Flat sounded better. I’d like to try the calibration setting and the Desk mode at the same time, but that is not possible. The MTMs did present a more forward midrange sound, and that is what I wanted—a little more focus on those frequencies.

I liked the MTMs with calibration running as it had better bass—I felt my desktop vibrate and the air pumping out of the rear port! Using the Desk curve, I switched in the 40 Hz extension and the –3 dB LF setting. But I am still experimenting with this configuration; it is an ongoing and continuing process for me, and I’m sure I’ll settle in with more listening time.

My main reason for monitors this close is that, with the mix audio only about 32 inches from each of my ears, the sound is very present and in my face. It is somewhat like wearing headphones except for the interaural mixing of the left and right monitors, which you don’t get with phones. So the MTMs are a sonic microscope for both phase integrity and midrange that I look for in a second pair of small monitors to reference to my mains.

I was also impressed by the amount of bass these speakers deliver despite their diminutive size. The bass is solid and not floppy, loose or indistinct. My control room is an acoustically treated space and well bass-trapped, and I am comfortable mixing in here.

I’ve been looking for full-range, smaller monitors that I can put on my desktop and not block the sound coming from my mains behind them. The compact iLoud MTM reference monitors are working for me with their super clear and powerful sound. Highly recommended!


COMPANY: IK Multimedia
PRODUCT: iLoud MTM reference monitors
PRICE: $349.99 each, $699.99 MSRP pair; includes ARC MEM microphone
PROS: Amazing sound in a compact form with loads of bass, if you want it
CONS: You cannot use Desk mode and the calibration simultaneously