VL-X5 + Reveal 5A + SLS PS8R + ATC SCM20

Jeff Anderson puts on a new set of ears and gets out his gun.
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To make a great recording, you need great monitors, bottom line. Studio monitors all have their own personalities. Some are ballsy, some are tinny and puny. Some are pristine and accurate, and some are just plain crap. The trick is to find the right combination for you to ensure your mixes are being portrayed the way that you want them to be to the end consumer most of the time, on a crappy boom box, or a 4” TV speaker. The job of a mixing engineer is to have control over the mix. To do this he has to know his ears, the room that he’s working in, and most importantly: know and trust his studio monitors.

Over the past month I’ve had an opportunity to use four new sets of powered studio monitors. Along side of my standard monitors, I’ve used them to mix an album and to track around 12 sessions. The three standard monitors that I have used for the past six years are: Mackie HR824s, Tannoy PBM 6.5s and the jankie speaker in my Otari MTR-10 reel-to-reel mix down deck. Each of these new monitors up for review vary in price from $300 to the $4,500 price range. There’s a place for each of these monitors, However, some clearly sounded better to me than others

TASCAM VL-X5

Retail Price: $399.99

Amplification: 90-watt active biamped near-field design, (30-watt HF and 60-watt LF)

Driver Sizes: 1" natural silk high-frequency dome driver , 5.25" low-frequency driver.

Frequency Response: 45Hz to 22kHz ±3dB.

Additional Switching: HF control 3kHz, 8kHz (+1.5dB) via dip switch LF control 150Hz, 800Hz (+1.5dB) via dip switch, power, volume.

What an incredible value. For the cost of these speakers, they sound amazing. I feel confident comparing them to my Mackie HR-824s or even a pair of Genelec 1029a’s. The low end is amazing for such a small speaker. The only weird thing that I noticed was that at a lower volume, such as 85dB, the high end seems to roll off (from around 15K) a lot more than it would at 95dB or higher. This could have been the placement in my control room, however, we moved all sets of speakers to the proper mix position as we evaluated them.

TANNOY REVEAL 5A

Retail Price: $798.00

Amplification: LF – 40W, HF – 20W

Driver Sizes: 130mm (5") multi-fibre paper pulp cone, 25mm (1") soft dome, neodymium magnet system

Frequency Response: 65Hz to 30kHz

Additional Switching: Front panel mounted on/mute/volume/led indicator

These have a very “industry standard” sound. However they’re not as full as the TASCAM. (Check out the frequency response!) I compare them to Yamaha NS10s (without the piercing notch around 18K) or Tannoy’s old school version, PBM 6.5s. Although the low end is not as round as the TASCAMs, there is definitely a practical use for these speakers. Because 98 percent of consumer speakers will not sound as good as these do, and as we all know, that’s the goal: make it sound good in the client’s ear. On a very positive note, I do feel that these new Tannoys do project an incredible stereo image. From the same mix position in our control room, the sweet spot was noticeably larger than most of the other monitors that we were using.

SLS PS8R

Retail Price: $1,570 each

Amplification: 125W RMS / 500W Peak

Driver Sizes: LF 8" woofer w/integral phase plug HF PRD500 5" ribbon driver

Frequency Response: 44Hz–20,000Hz +/-2dB

Additional Switching and features: 80Hz high pass filter, low-frequency limiter, db level, line voltage selector.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed with these speakers. With a price tag of over $3,000, and the cool lights and designs, I was very excited to get them out of the box and hook them up. Once I turned them on, I instantly felt like there was a “gloss” muffling my ears. For all practical studio applications, studio monitors should not be adding a “gloss” of any kind. The low end, as well as the high, seemed to each roll off, leaving just the mids to fill out the spectrum. In my personal opinion, these monitors have the power and the gloss to be best suited for a home theater system.

ATC SCM20

Retail Price: $4,500

Amplification: 250W for bass/mid and 50W for high frequencies

Driver Sizes: 150mm mid/bass drive unit employing a super linear magnet plus a 25mm tweeter

Frequency Response: 60Hz, 20kHz

Additional Switching: rear panel selector provides five different LF boost settings, as well as a flat reference setting.

A 145-lb. flight case arrived at my office door the other day. (You know it’s something cool if it’s over 100 pounds in a flight case!) After paying for the chiropractor from lifting the monitors up onto our speaker stands, I can say, these are incredible. They project a very pristine and accurate sound. I popped in a Green Day CD and felt a sense of power and prestige. Then I popped in a Waltz for Venus CD that I just mixed in, and, well, two words: “Damn it!” If only I had a pair of these when I was mixing that record! The stereo image is as wide as a house. Amazingly, these monitors make it very easy to focus on what ever you are working on, and yet still hear the mix as a whole. I also noticed after six hours of mixing on them I did not have as much ear fatigue as I normally would. The price tag of around $4,500 is well worth every cent.