Near-Field Reference Monitors | Innovation and Accuracy

Feb 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By George Petersen



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New Monitors at AES 2010 Video

In 1937, when James B. Lansing unveiled the Lansing Iconic—the world’s first recording studio monitor—he probably had no idea that nearly three-quarters of a century later, that original notion would have developed into an industry of its own, with dozens of companies creating reproduction systems for the control room environment. Today, that quest for sonic perfection continues with higher-power, more accurate monitors designed for near- and midfield listening. In the past 18 months, we’ve seen an increase in new models—some three dozen in this report alone—intended for studio applications.

ADAM Audio
recently launched two new lines of powered monitors covering a wide price point. The AX Series touts new woofers, amps and the X-ART ribbon tweeter for 4dB greater efficiency and expanded bandwidth to 50 kHz. These range from the ultra-compact A3X (4.5-inch LF driver, 25Wx2; $299) to the high-performance A5X (5.5-inch mid/woofer, 50Wx2; $449), A7X (7-inch mid/woofer, 50W/100W; $599) and A8X systems (8.5-inch mid/woofer, 50W/150W; $899). All models have beveled upper corners to minimize reflections and front porting.

ADAM Audio SX3

ADAM Audio SX3

ADAM’s SX Series has six models ranging from small near-fields to larger midfield models, all with redesigned transducers, drivers and electronics, promising wideband, transparent reproduction with the new X-ART tweeter. Also new is an ultralow-distortion, broadband Class-A/B amplifier with 1MHz internal bandwidth and Hexacone™ woofers for more linear excursion. Prices (each) range from the $1,295 S1X (two-way, 6-inch woofer) to the $4,795 S4X-H (three-way, dual 9-inch).

Founded in 2000, AEX Labs has a new AX line of studio monitors that range from compact two-way near-fields to three-way 12/15/18-inch midfields and large mains with dual 15- or 18-inch woofers—out to the no-holds-barred, 555-pound model AX-28.5. Large or small, all models in the line are based on the company’s HF1 ribbon driver, which offers flat reproduction from 400 to 40k Hz. Options include a choice of passive (unpowered) or Computer Controlled Amplification System (CCAS) bi/triamplification. Besides the convenience and matched performance of the CCAS module, the option also adds access to system control parameters via a USB link to any computer.

Retailing at $2,000 each, the AX-1a near-field mates a 6-inch woofer with the HF1 in a 30-pound, 12x17x9-inch (HxWxD) package for a 70 to 40k Hz bandwidth. The 35-pound, 12x22x12-inch AX-1 steps up to an 8-inch LF driver paired with the HF1, which takes bass response down to 60 Hz. MSRP is $2,250 each. The largest near-field—the $2,500 AX-1.1—doubles the bass component with two 8-inch woofers that flank the HF1 ribbon element in a 27x12x12-inch, 40-pound enclosure that boasts a 45Hz bottom end. The CCAS powering option adds 15 pounds, two inches of additional depth and $1,500 to the price of any AX near-field.

The RPM8 from Akai Professional is a two-way, biamplified design with an 8-inch woven-Kevlar woofer driven by an 80W amp and a 40W amp pushing a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter on a custom waveguide. Rated response is 39 to 20k Hz, and inputs are combo XLR/TRS that accept balanced or unbalanced sources. Retail is $699/pair.



The three-way SCM25A ($8,500) monitors from ATC feature ATC’s 3-inch soft-dome midrange, a 1-inch soft-dome HF unit and a custom, 7-inch carbon-paper cone woofer with high-excursion capability. Onboard amplification is via ATC’s Class-A/B MOSFET output stage, delivering 150W to the woofer, 60W to the mid and 25W to the HF driver. All three stages are fed by fourth-order, critically damped, phase-compensation crossover filters. The unit’s ported enclosure measures 10.4x16.9x16 inches, and can be rackmounted for broadcast/remote applications.

The MicroMain35 from Barefoot Sound puts dual force-canceling, long-excursion 7-inch woofers, a 5-inch mid-bass driver and a 1-inch dome tweeter into a single, compact enclosure. Beneath the machined-aluminum front baffle is a tri-amped active electronics complement with 200, 100 and 50W amps. Response is spec’d at 35 to 30k Hz (±3 dB).

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