And so we hit fantasy land with monitors that will set you back £2,000 or more. Again, it’s the law of diminishing returns in this territory. You can spend more than £5,000 on a set of monitors but they might offer only a tiny percentage increase in quality (both in terms of sound and build).
To many engineers, however, that extra percentage is crucial to their work, so this is a surprisingly thriving part of the market.
Many people are spending less on hardware instruments and effects – unsurprisingly, given the fact that there are so many good and relatively cheap plug-ins now available – so have more budget for the super-important components of the studio. And monitors are important… But whether you want to spend £1,000s on them is a purely personal decision. If you think not then feast your eyes on these anyway.
You’ll be tempted…
Price £2,360/pair Contact HHB 020 8962 5000
The aluminium chassis has two front ports running along the curved edges – a design called variable impedance porting that eliminates chuffing while extending bass to 35Hz. The woofer cone excursion is 36mm and a secondary coil is wired in parallel/out-of-phase to enhance force and response speed. The ULD1 aluminium magnesium alloy tweeter and waveguide were designed as a unit and the waveguide can be rotated for sideways use.
With two onboard amps rated at 387W and 112W, comprehensive EQ controls work with a Space control that adjusts for speaker placement. Bad mixes will be ruthlessly exposed because the Opals are brutally honest. Every frequency seems to occupy its own space in a faultless frequency balance, yet it all sounds joined-up. The effortless bass is deep and extremely well controlled, while imaging is as crisp as we’ve ever experienced. We can’t fault them.
Price £4,290/pair Contact SCV London 020 8418 0778
Two monitor systems in a single enclosure. One side has a 6.5-inch bass/midrange driver and a 1-inch tweeter. The other has an 8-inch bass woofer with an 11-inch passive radiator. You can switch between 2-way and 4-way systems. There’s extensive frequency adjustment and an EQ bypass switch. Weighing in at no less than 35kg each they measure 320 x 490 x 390mm.
These are superb nearfield monitors but without the usual missing frequencies. While LFs are non-directional, hearing ultra LFs at ear level rather than feeling them in your chest takes getting used to. Imaging is surgical, and transparency world-class.
Price £5,160/pair Contact Unity Audio 01440 785843
At 549 x 256 x 368 (HWD) and weighing 23kg, these are big monitors. There are two 180mm Elac woofers with an extremely tight and clean bass that extends down to 39Hz. Mid and high frequencies are handled by an interesting dual-coaxial ribbon design.
The Boulders sound like no other boxed speaker we’ve heard – more like electrostatic panel speakers renowned in hi-fi circles for purity and accuracy. There’s no boom or bass overhang, no midrange glare and no fizzy treble, just natural and faithful reproduction. They produce astonishingly accurate audio and once you get used to them they will make you a better engineer.
Barefoot Micro Main 35
Price £4,935/pair Contact KMR Audio 020 8445 2446
Four drive units share 350W and two side-mounted 7-inch aluminium cone subwoofers fire in opposite directions to minimise resonance. The mid/bass driver has a 5-inch cone and the 1-inch tweeter is of the soft-dome variety. EQ adjustment is minimal, but a Sub Level control allows some bass adjustment. The Standard switch recesses mids, brightens treble and provides steeper bass roll-off.
Immediate impressions include loudness, intensity, neutrality and ultra-solid bass. The term ‘revealing’ hardly does them justice. Deficiencies and imbalances in mixes become glaringly obvious, allowing you to work quickly without struggling to hear details.