- Written by Jim Milton
- Published on 11 October 2010
Using the "golden triangle" rule for set up, with the speakers toed in slightly, I was able to achieve the best performance from the Studios. I had just finished up with a lengthy audition of the PSB Synchrony Ones, so adjusting to these smaller monitors took a bit of getting used to. I will not compare the two sets of speakers as they are "apples and oranges". The towers have certain strengths and the monitors have certain strengths. I enjoy the overall sound reproduction of towers, but I also enjoy the more intimate, close field sound with monitors. If you add a sub with the monitors, you gain their particular strengths and add some of the low end that a tower can deliver. This, for many readers, can be a boon for full sound in smaller package. Also, you have the ability to control your bass with proper location of the sub, without making placement compromises with the monitors. Ultimately, you can gain that great sound stage and the added dimension of deeper bass. What's not to like?
Alright. Let's get on with the music, shall we? First up is Loreena McKennitt's The Visit. Besides the fact that she has the voice of an angel, her backing musicians play all sorts of exotic and semi-exotic acoustic instruments that sounded wonderfully on the Studios. Her voice can go from a whisper to loud, medium range to "way up there" and back again. The Studios presented her range well, retaining both her power and beauty. The fancy tweeter design did not call undue attention to itself by becoming shrill or beamy. Deep drums had impact and definition. Sound stage was good with depth being greater than width. My experience with small monitors is that can often image better than bulky towers. It may have to do with the close proximity of the (usually) two drivers and less reflective size of the front panel. In any case, the Studios were as good, if not better, than other monitors I have listened to. The Studios were just shy of my definitive sound stage reproducers, the "point source" Kef XQ10s. I would say the Kefs were broader in staging, but the Studios were deeper.
Next up were some orchestral delights from Bela Bartok. This particular disc is well recorded (and over 50 years old!) and allowed me to listen for details in the complex arraignments. The Chicago Symphony sounded expansive and all of the details I was used to hearing via my F12s were there. From the tinkle of the triangle to the whump of the kettle drum…all instruments were present and accounted for. Horns, in particular, had a nice resonance and natural sound quality. The drums lacked the real "gut punch" of a larger speaker, but that is not a design flaw. It is just the nature of a smaller box. When teamed with a sub, the really low end was restored and the overall sound was quite satisfying. I'd venture to say that for 85-90% of the music you'd listen too, the very low end would not be missed. These little guys would not be considered anemic in the bass department by any means. I might also add that they can be played loudly, too, without fear of them becoming strident or pinched at higher volumes. I never got them to stress out when pushed. In fact, they seemed to open up even more the louder they got.
For a final test, my favorite rock "concept album" by The Who, Quadrophenia. (When will this album be re-mixed in multichannel SACD?) Full of sound effects, plaintive ballads and out and out rock-n-roll, the Studios never faltered in their presentation. Even the "scream" from Roger Daltrey at the close of "Love Reign O'er Me" came across with clarity and passion. Instruments never melded into an incoherent jumble, but remained distinct and well spread across the front of the room. Never once did the Studios give themselves away as being just a small speaker. Their impact and finesse compared pretty favorably with many bigger speakers I have heard. I will mention here that the original recording of Quadrophenia is not exactly pristine, and some of the flaws and warts in the source came through loud and clear. Yet another hallmark of a good monitor.