Best Audio Monitor Speakers: Mid-High Choices

When you’re investigating speakers in the £800–£1,000 price range there should be no necessity to compromise on sound quality or power. By and large, the enclosures will still be front- or rear-ported, although other options may now be available to you.

Also at this level, the law of diminishing returns applies. By this we mean that when you upgrade from hi-fi or computer speakers to your first set of active monitors you’ll find that it is a massive step and you can easily appreciate what the extra money spent has meant to your production process. But moving from a £600 set of monitors to a £1,000 set of monitors is unlikely to be a life-changing or dramatic experience – ie, the improvement-to-investment ratio deteriorates.

The criteria professionals use to select and assess studio monitors are generally quite different from those of semi-pros and hobbyists. You need to be able to hear everything clearly if you are to work efficiently and be confident that your mix decisions will be correct.




Focal CMS-50 
Price £892/pair Contact SCV London 020 8418 0778
This monitor is the award-winning middle-size model of the CMS range. You get a 5-inch woofer, beefy 80W/50W amplification and a rear power switch with a standby switch on the front. EQ controls include a switchable high-pass filter (45, 60 and 90Hz) for subwoofer use and a 160Hz desktop notch filter (-2/-4/-6dB).
They have a slightly open and transparent character. Bass  is deep and the extra range seems to decongest the midrange. The metal covers are great for mobile engineers but follow Focal’s advice and remove them for optimal sound quality.



EVE Audio SC207 
Price £960/pair Contact Nova Dist 020 3589 2530
These are from the same 2-way driver series as the SC205 but the woofer is 7-inch rather than 5-inch. The rear-ported bass enclosure has been made larger, and extension reaches down to 44Hz. Nonetheless, the SC207s fit comfortably onto a meter bridge or into a project studio and EVE’s ingenious and simple-to-use front-mounted multi-function controller handles volume, treble, bass and mids.
The SC207 handles bass frequencies superbly, providing rhythmic drive without boominess. Upper frequencies are airy yet not excessively bright. Imaging is crisp with deep and natural room ambience. The ‘desktop’ midrange cut is superb and the SC207s integrated into our monitoring system seamlessly.



Sonodyne SM 200AK 
Price Around £800/pair
Contact Synthax Audio 01727 829750
The flared, rear-ported enclosure is made from 15mm MDF with a rigid aluminum front baffle for the 8-inch Kevlar woofer and 1-inch metal-dome tweeter. The front panel is angled for driver time alignment. The front baffle has curved edges and an integral waveguide for the treble frequencies. Power is rated at 150W for the woofer and 100W for the tweeter. Four EQ DIP switches are provided at 70Hz, 100Hz and 4kHz.
The power and loudness will vibe-up any room and the energetic low end gets right inside your chest. The treble is wide-open and clear, with plenty of air and, although the soundstage could be deeper, they’re well suited to aggressive rock and electronica.



Genelec 8030
Price £858/pair Contact Source Distribution
020 8962 5080
Genelec has a real sci-fi look going on with its minimum diffraction die-cast aluminium casings and ‘Directivity Control Waveguide’. The 8030A features two 40W amplifiers powering a 5-inch bass/midrange driver and a 3/4-inch metal-dome tweeter. A range of DIP switches fine-tune the treble and bass settings and a volume control is located on the front.
We found best results were achieved when listening dead-centre, with the monitors toed-in to point directly at you. Openness is captivating, with a big, broad soundstage, a slightly upfront presentation and unusually precise stereo imaging. The 58Hz low-end limit may not be enough for music with heavy bass content, but the 8030As should prove just the ticket in smaller studios.


Acoustic Energy AE22 Active 
Price £880/pair Contact 01285 654432
Looking like it’s designed to sit sideways on a stand or meter bridge, the tweeter is at 45 degrees to the woofer so you can stand them upright, too. Controls include Sensitivity (Flat/+3dB) and three-way switches for H, M and LF adjustment. The latter is unusual as you can roll off 3dB at 70Hz or add 3dB at 40Hz.
Once they start pumping air, you can really feel the thump of the bass and the kick drums. They don’t go super-low, but the bottom end is solid and controlled. Attenuating the midrange dramatically opens up the sound, with the AE22s excelling for vocals. Recordings that tend to sound harsh or sibilant are easy on the ear. The treble is smooth and refined but this may gloss over rough edges and users should be aware.  Web


Yamaha MSP7 
Price £838/pair Contact Yamaha 01908 366700
Designed by the ‘father of the NS-10’ Mr Nakamura, the MSP7 features a resin-molded bass-reflex enclosure with radiused corners and waveguide. A 6.5-inch woofer combines with a 1-inch dome tweeter to be driven by 80W and 50W amps. In addition to high and low trim and low-cut switching the speaker has preset 30dB/octave low- and high-pass filters.
HFs are refined, even a touch soft, but the treble is ‘realistic’ rather than over-hyped. With acoustic material they create an impressively deep sound stage with a sense of air and instrument separation in the mix. Electronic bass lines track accurately with plenty of fast rhythmic detail. A full and forward midrange is the only shared feature with the NS-10. Web