Three New Monitors For Three Different Studios

Whether you have an entire basement devoted to your full-fledged project studio, are working out of a little one room suite, or are mixing your tracks in the corner of the bedroom while your better half sleeps, we have three brand spanking new monitors that might just work for you.

KRK Systems Exposé E8Bs


KRK has generated quite a buzz among home studio owners with their Rokit and VXT lines, the latter of which was given a thorough series of tests in the December ’07 issue of EQ. But we had to see what their newest pro product, the Exposé E8B, was all about … so we ordered two up.

With features such as a one-inch beryllium/aluminum tweeter (for extended high range frequency performance and enhanced transient response), a multilayered Kevlar/Rohacell woofer (for accurate low-end reproduction) and dual discrete class A/AB amps, it’s easy to see why the Exposé E8B costs the pretty pennies it does. The components are all high quality, and the design—what with the non-parallel, internal walls that ensure that no wave is left standing and all—is superb. Additionally, the monitors have radiused curved edges that reduce diffraction (this occurs when sound waves hit a square edge of the cabinet). They are supposed to perform pretty well to boot, or so the one sheet says.

I lugged these 40-pound monsters up to my console, stabilizing the speakers with a pair of Auralex MoPADs to isolate the monitors from the console surface (you gotta decouple), and then ran a mix through my Dangerous Music Monitor ST/SR into the input of the Exposé E8Bs. The good news: The monitors were pretty clear and accurate with a clean high-end that didn’t fatigue my ears like some other monitors do after a six-hour mixing session. And the stereo image was wide as a house. The bad news: It became quite apparent early on that I still had some work to do in cleaning up the bass and china crashes on my album.

They aren’t cheap, but if you are looking for a set of pro monitors that will inform you about all of those nasty frequencies you forgot to cut on your last mix, you might want to check these out.
—Jeff Anderson

Mackie MR5


I’ll admit it: A monitor at a price point of less than $200 makes me a bit wary. After all, I believe that in the recording world, you really do get what you pay for. Still, I’m a huge fan of Mackie monitors; give me a pair of HR626s, a boom box, and a stock Dodge system and I’m confident I can turn out a pretty nice mix no matter what studio I’m working out of.

So I thought I’d give these a try. Long story short: I’m glad I did, as they are now a permanent fixture in my suite.

Especially given the size (the main driver is only 5-1/4 inches), the low end frequency response on the MR5s is stunning. Seriously, if anything is worth mentioning about these monitors it’s that they can hang with some of the bigger dogs in terms of packing a clean punch in the gut—perfect for hip-hop producers with mobile rigs or small studios.

While at first some of the highs weren’t as articulated as I would have liked them to be, I didn’t see such as a cause to overreact; I knew my room was less than perfect from the get-go. Thankfully the MR5s come with HF and LF acoustic setting switches to help you compensate for low-rent boxy suites that aren’t yet properly treated. After dialing in the correct settings, the MR5s struck me as very neutral and unflattering—not quite as brutal as NS-10s, but they certainly don’t lie to you.

For those of you who need to mix at reasonable levels and want a pair of inexpensive monitors that don’t hype up your mix for you, I have to suggest you check these out. The MR5s’ response is pretty nuanced, the monitors are rife with cool features (XLR, 1/4" and RCA inputs are certainly welcomed), and the sweet spot is much wider than you would assume given their dainty size. Good stuff, for sure.
—Matt Harper

Blue Sky eXo Studio Monitor System


While some of us live in a world of less-than perfect acoustics (too many damn parallel surfaces), and neighbors (or worse, roommates) who more often than not do not share our enthusiasm for making music, it doesn’t mean we can’t have a decent monitoring system. Blue Sky claims they make one for people like me, so I asked them to send a unit along.

What we have in the eXo Monitor System is two monitors and a sub, as well as a control hub that accommodates XLR and 1/4" inputs on the back and a pair of 1/8" jacks on the face—an input for your iPod, and an output for your headphones. This multiple-input option makes it possible to broadcast audio from all input sources simultaneously, which is particularly handy for those of us who like to rehearse over MP3 recordings of previous practice sessions in an even mix.

The eXo’s control hub serves as the system’s main interface, and it also controls the volume through two knobs — dedicated controls for both the monitors and the woofer. Not only does this allow the fine tuning of the speaker/woofer balance, but it also allows for the cutting off of low-end sound when it’s not wanted. This is an invaluable feature.

The heart of the system is the woofer unit, a foam-surrounded, forward-firing paper-cone 8" woofer, which possesses a surprisingly robust thirst for mid-low and low end. Also housed within the 25 lb. sub box is the system’s amplifier, which dedicates 90 watts of power to the sub and another 35 watts to each satellite speaker. Our test studio is a 14-foot-deep, 10-foot-wide room alcove with 10-foot ceilings, and there was never any question as to the system’s ability to fill the space with sound. Long story short: Don’t let the small size fool you; this system is more than adequate for a home project studio.
—Max Sidman