Sonodyne SM 100Ak Monitors Review

Oct 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Bobby Frasier

GREAT-SOUNDING, AFFORDABLE POWERED SPEAKERS

Polls


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In the 1960s, engineering student Ashoke Mukherjee launched Sonodyne with the idea of bringing stereo sound to India; ever since then, he has been providing both consumer and professional audio solutions out of the company’s manufacturing facilities in Kolkata, India. I had heard rumors of Sonodyne for many years but never had the chance to hear their professional audio products. They now have distribution in the United States through the TransAudio Group out of Las Vegas, which gave me the opportunity to review their SM 100Ak Active Monitors. I found a range of pleasant surprises.

SOLID BUILD
Right out of the box, these little speakers appeared to be formidable contenders. There is a “heft,” weightiness and finish about their manufacturing that spells “well done.” The cabinets are constructed of die-cast aluminum, providing limited cabinet-induced resonance, which is a characteristic of a much more expensive line of speakers out of Finland. Also, the cabinet comprises a non-parallel design, both internally and externally, diminishing internal standing waves and providing a front-baffle time-alignment characteristic from this slightly trapezoidal cabinet. The cabinet is front-ported, with dual elongated ports placed vertically between the tweeter and edge of the speaker cabinet. The port does not output excessive air and sounds in-phase with the excursion of the woofer. All edges of the cabinet and ports are rounded to reduce edge diffraction and turbulence.

The low-frequency driver is a 6.5-inch Kevlar cone woofer in an aluminum die-cast frame, which makes for a fast, efficient, lightweight motor on the bottom end, resulting in a punchy low end that performs beyond its size. The top-end driver is a 1-inch silk dome tweeter, and even with a rather shallow waveguide, it provides a wide sweet spot when mixing. The tweeters have a smooth high-frequency reproduction characteristic. I am a big fan of the silk-domed design, having heard everything from aluminum horns to beryllium tweeters, and these sound very accurate and smooth. The frequency response of the entire system is rated at 60 Hz – 22 kHz +/- 2 dB, 50 Hz – 30 kHz @ -10dB. You will need to provide a subwoofer if you want to accurately reproduce information below 60 cycles, making these speakers perfect for a 2.1 or multichannel system.

The onboard amplifiers output 80 watts for the woofer and 40W for the tweeter. This is not a massive amount of power, but for this particular speaker size, the amps, along with the crossover, are matched to the transducers with a high degree of precision, making the system work very well within its design parameters. The crossover is a 4th-order Linkwitz Riley design splitting the signal at 1.8 kHz. The transition between subwoofer and tweeter is smooth, and for a two-way design, virtually seamless, even in a near-field monitoring position.

Operational controls include a front panel on/off switch, as well as a volume control. The back panel provides input access to the amplifiers via balanced XLR and TRS connectors. Additionally, there is a gain control, infinitely variable from -6 dB to +6 dB, and four DIP switches: a 6dB/octave roll-off at 80 Hz, a bass tilt at 80 Hz giving a -2dB or -4dB/octave roll off (very useful when mounting the speakers close to a boundary), and a high-frequency tilt, giving a shelf cut of 2 dB above 4 kHz. As you can see, there is more control over the usually offending bass frequencies, due to room anomalies, bridge placement and back-wall acoustic issues. I would like to see a midrange EQ control in a future design. Many speakers are used in “desktop configuration” and can benefit from an EQ dip/cut around 160 Hz. There is a built-in, non-user-defeatable, 40Hz, 12dB/octave subsonic filter in line to avoid over excursion of the subwoofer. That’s fine; you don’t want to blow up these great-sounding little speakers!

There are plenty of safeguards. Along with the subsonic filter, there is over-current and overheat protection, as well as RFI and on/off transient filtering. I believe Sonodyne has thought of just about everything for a product in this price range.






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