Welcome back to the next part of our Monitor buyers guide – this time we’re taking a look at those High-End Choices.
Monitor manufacturers often claim that their products sound ‘neutral’, which means that they don’t colour the sound. It is risky to make equalisation and balance decisions on coloured-sounding monitors unless you know them extremely well. Cheaper monitors are voiced for a quick sale – generally with over-hyped treble or upper-bass.
Mixes need width and depth, so through the use of panning, reverb and delay we can place individual elements in a mix at specific points between the left/right and front/back of the stereo image. When we praise the ‘imaging’ it means the monitors are able to reproduce mix placements with precision and solidity within the stereo image. Unfortunately, imaging ability cannot be measured.
Monitors with ‘fast transient response’ sound more lifelike and realistic and will reproduce the feel of a groove better. Always check how well monitors deal with percussion sounds, picked acoustic guitar, fast piano parts and rhythmic bass lines with lots of low-frequency content.
Mix sessions usually take several hours, and our ears inevitably become tired. Some monitors will induce ‘listening fatigue’ earlier than others, which makes critical decisions that much harder. Always audition monitors over a prolonged period and beware of speakers that sound bright and aggressive.
Needless to say, all the monitors in this price category should sound neutral, image superbly, respond quickly and be easy to listen to. Very occasionally you’ll also encounter monitors systems that almost vanish – sonically speaking. This tends to be the preserve of the high end, although, as we’ll see, you can spend even more if you dare…
Contact Nova Distribution
020 3589 2530
Three PWM 50W amplifiers drive two 5-inch woofers operating on different frequency bands (50Hz–350Hz and 350Hz–3kHz) and an AMT RS3 tweeter that’s central for 5.1 compatibility as well as stereo. DIP switches ‘fix’ the volume and filter settings. Burr-Brown A/D converters and high-resolution DSP electronics control frequency response parameters.
We were struck by the even depth and solidity of the bass. Left/right stereo imaging is very crisp and there’s plenty of air in the front/back image. With an ear-friendly, effortless quality that opens up your mix, the size of their sound belies the size of the cabinet.
Contact Unity Audio
Measuring 325 x 220 x 290mm and weighing in at 11.2kg, The Rock were Unity Audio’s debut monitors when they were released back in late 2011. But what monitors they still are! Their real strength is timing, being extremely fast-sounding speakers that allow rhythms to flow with a grace unheard of in other setups. This is helped by the sealed construction, which keeps the bottom end tight and super-clean. The monitors also reveal exceptional dynamics, trip-hammer speed and precision. They are definitely, as Unity Audio claims, exceptionally accurate – if your mix isn’t happening, they will let you know. In terms of honesty, then, these are among the best monitors you can buy.
SE Munro Egg
Contact Sonic Distribution
0845 500 2500
For its first studio monitor sE collaborated with designer Andy Munro. An ovoid enclosure helps eliminate diffraction and resonance. Amps and controls are separate and the Egg has an adjustable stand plus LEDs to aid setup. A three-position MF switch provides flat, ‘hi-fi’ and NS-10-like frequency responses. A 6.5-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter get 50W each.
Listening tests felt like sitting in on a live recording, with each instrument clearly positioned left and right and in the soundstage depth. Outstanding bass reproduction and fast transient response reveal details that may be inaudible on other monitors. While exhibiting no harshness, the brutal honesty won’t flatter. Once your mixes sound good on these, you can be confident they’ll translate.
PMC is targeting project studios with possibly the smallest active transmission-line monitor available. Featuring 200-watt Class-D amps, the switch and sensitivity control are top-mounted. Transmission lines provide bass extension way beyond that of similarly sized enclosures.
The deep, chesty and boom-free bottom end is nothing short of remarkable. Bass response is fast and defined, so even dubby bass lines retain their rhythmic drive. The sound is effortlessly clear and transparent. We’ve never felt sorrier about returning a set of review speakers.
08701 657 456
There’s a Morel tweeter and 5-inch Ciare woofer, with 65W and 45W for bass and treble. Input levels can be attenuated and frequency adjustment allows +/-2dB at 10kHz and -2/-4dB at 42Hz.
Detail resolution is phenomenal. The S6Rs don’t convey a mix so much as dissect it. Acute awareness of acoustic ambience lends such hyper-realism it’s almost unnerving. Technical details are laid bare and you don’t even have to struggle to hear them. Left/right imaging is razor-sharp and front/back imaging depth is uncommonly good. The S6Rs almost ‘vanish’, opening a window into the music.
Mackie HR824 MK2
A studio staple since the 90s, Mackie’s MKII version has an aluminum baffle and a 6-inch passive radiator for bass extension (35Hz). Drivers include an 8.75-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter powered by 150W and 100W amps. Bass roll-off can be set at 37Hz, 47Hz and 80Hz with +2dB HF adjustment.
Some report improvements on the originals but similarities are more apparent than differences. They require air space around them for the radiator, so might not be ideal for small rooms. Big-sounding, powerful and vibey monitors with good transferability – once you get to know them.