M-Audio BX5a and BX10s

Ah, the scourge of reviewing monitors. There are so many on the market, and at such a disparity of price (and yet price doesn’t always correlate into value), that you might not know where to begin. Many swear by Yamaha NS-10s, for example, for their unflattering sound and ability to help you make a mix that translates well on just about any system. ADAM monitors are praised by many and reviled by a few for having a certain quality that is, far as I can tell, the same for both camps. They say that, like a Cadillac, everyone loves a Genelec, but I know those that would much rather use Mackies, Tannoys, Dynaudios, etc. any day of the week.

Point is: Monitor shopping is hard. This is why most people settle on one, or two, or three sets of monitors, and then stick with them. Monitors are not like mics or preamps, they’re more like consoles — you don’t want, or need, a hundred of them to choose from.

So this makes monitor reviewing a maddening process. It’s difficult to pass a value judgment provided a pair of monitors doesn’t just flat out suck. Such is the cross I bear, being a gear reviewer. So I happily brandish the burden here. Now. For you. Amused? Good . . . continue being that, and read on.


Alright, so what we’re dealing with here is actually two products that sell separately, but complement each other perfectly. The BX5a speakers are two 70-watt bi-amplified studio monitors, while the BX10s is, as Gary Busey once described, the BX5a’s dark-sided lower companion monkey [Translation: Complementary active subwoofer].

The two-way magnetically shielded BX5as sport 5" Kevlar low-frequency drivers (far superior to propylene and other cheaper speaker materials), 1" natural silk high-frequency drivers, and have XLR balanced and 1/4" balanced/unbalanced inputs around back.

The BX10s is comprised of a 10" composite driver, a 240-watt internal amp, and a variable 50–200Hz crossover. There is a handy “sleep” function, phase switch, and balanced XLR and 1/4" TRS ins and outs. Additionally, a sustain pedal-controlled subwoofer bypass function helps even out your mixing judgments.

“But how do they sound,” you ask?


The first thing that strikes me about the pair is that they are perfect additions to a small studio — they’re compact, and the magnetically-shielded design makes them safe and sound right next to your computer monitor.

Although the two items are priced separately, they work best as a set. The only time I could see foregoing one or the other is if you already have one or the other. The BX10s is a great companion to the BX5a, as there is nothing worse than putting a mix that sounded supremely bassy and powerful in the studio into your car stereo and having it fall flat. Referencing your mix by bringing the subwoofer in and out of the fold definitely allows a better view as to where your mix really sits.

The BX5a’s bi-amplified design is welcome, as it takes the virtues of using powered amps one step further by dedicating an amp to each respective driver. This is what allows the BX5as to sound as good they do — the 5" drivers handle only the lower frequencies, while the 1" drivers deal solely with the highs.

The result is a pretty focused, detailed, and neutral monitoring system that responds accurately. My only gripe is that they just aren’t very loud, though this does change a bit when the sub is engaged. Still, given the obvious utility of these monitors, I suppose it’s a good thing they err on the side of being a tad quiet as opposed to overbearingly loud — you wouldn’t want the latter if you were mixing a track in your apartment at 1:00 a.m.


If your monitoring space is very intimate, you’re golden with the BX5a and BX10s. The triple package outputs very high quality sound, especially considering the price. However, I can’t see these being the best possible solution outside of the home/project environment, as they just don’t push enough volume to contend in a large studio situation. Then again, most large studio owners aren’t likely to be even reading this far — I’m sure they’re happy with their $10,000 monitoring systems. But for those mixing in a cramped apartment in the middle of the night, the BX5a and BX10s combo delivers.