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Affordable Studio Monitors Review

Posted by NZ Rockshop on 22 March 2016

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Affordable Studio Monitors Review 

Purchasing a pair of studio monitors can be a daunting task with a wide range of models to choose from, many with hefty price tags attached. Here, we look at offerings from Alesis, KRK and M-Audio which check out for well below the $1000 mark. In the scheme of things, this is a small amount to pay for your system’s main sound source, but will the low price tag option end up proving costly in other ways?

Being approached to review a selection of ‘affordable’ studio monitors presented a great opportunity to enlist the help of the Bachelor of Recording Arts degree cohort at SAE Creative Media Institute. As well as continually building their expertise and audio engineering chops in SAE’s state of the art recording facilities, many of these students also freelance in their own self funded home studios, making this exercise particularly pertinent to them as they continue to invest in their own setups. Each student’s respective notes and opinions have been considered to form this review.

All three sets of monitors under evaluation are near field, two way, active designs with six inch drivers and silk tweeters. A pair of the KRK Rokit G3 6’s will set you back around $699 retail, while a pair of Alesis Elevate 6s go for around $549, and the M-Audio BX6 Carbons go for around $799 a pair. We set the speakers up next to each other in a typical ‘home studio’ sized room with a uniform stereo spread, hooked up to enable switching between sets on the fly for instant comparison.

M-Audio BX6 Carbons

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The M-Audio BX6 Carbons have a pleasant, hifi speaker type appearance with a smooth, metallic plastic face and curved edges. Setup and operation is simple, with connection via balanced quarter inch jack or XLR connectors, builtin protective features, volume knob, and an ‘acoustic space’ switch for adjusting low end level to suit the position of the speakers within your room. The quoted frequency response of these monitors extends from 45Hz 22kHz, fine for most home studio monitoring purposes.

The BX6’s sound punchy and energetic. They have a particularly strong low end considering their size, clarity in the highs, although we thought the top end seemed a little hyped which can cause the midrange to sound slightly scooped at times. With the speakers set up well in a small, treated room, most people would be impressed by the sound; some may even wonder why M-Audio have priced them so low. They generate a wide stereo image and you’ll find that they add life to your favourite tracks. Once some time has been spent familiarising with their sound, you’d be able to reliably track and mix with the Carbons with positive results.

KRK Rokit G3 6

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The KRK Rokit series, with their instantly recognisable yellow cones, have been popular with home studio owners for some time now. The new KRK Rokit G3 6 model goes for $699 a pair. According to KRK, the G3 6’s frequency response spans an impressive 38Hz 35kHz. On the back of the unit is a volume control, adjustable high and low frequency knobs, balanced TRS and XLR output options as well as an unbalanced RCA output.

Switching to the KRK Rokit G3 6’s, we instantly noticed a more dominant mid range, particularly compared to the BX6’s. At the same time, the stereo spread seemed a little narrower. While these qualities might initially cause the sound to seem less ‘hifi’, most studio engineers will appreciate a set of speakers that don’t overhype the sound, and perhaps instead reveal the weaknesses in the mix, leading to better decisions in the production process. Bass is strong but controlled, mids are well represented and highs aren’t boosted.

Alesis Elevate 6

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While the Elevate 6s are still good bang for buck, we found them to be the least impressive of the three pairs of monitors being evaluated. With their flat frequency response only going down to 55Hz, the bottom end may be an issue at times, unless being used with a sub. Alesis do say that the speakers can reproduce sound down to 45Hz, but it’s significantly rolled off by that stage. Besides the lack of sub bass, they do have reasonably full lows and represent the midrange well. The highs are present but not over emphasised; some engineers may prefer the sound when the HF trim knob is set to +2dB.The Alesis Elevate 6 is the newest addition to the Elevate family, sporting a shiny silver cone and glossy black plastic face. Like the Rokit G3s, the Elevate 6s come with balanced XLR or TRS output options as well as an unbalanced RCA out, a volume knob and high and low end trim knobs. The Elevate 6s have a flat frequency response of 55Hz 30kHz.

A trustworthy set of speakers is a must for any size studio, so it’s good to know that sound engineers new to the game can indeed get their hands on a very useable pair for a reasonable price. While there are many more accurate sounding monitors available for those with deeper pockets, all three of these options do a solid job considering the price tag. For music production purposes any of these would be a worthwhile upgrade from a consumer audio system.

Dave Johnston is the Industry Liaison at SAE Auckland. He is also a musician, a freelance music producer & audio engineer. http://auckland.sae.edu

 

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