Audio accuracy on a budget
If you have a home recording studio, you shouldn’t use a subwoofer-based speaker system because it will present an inaccurate representation of what you’re creating. What you should use is a set of studio monitors, and if you’re on a tight budget, you could do a lot worse than M-Audio’s StudioPro 4.
Priced at $200, the StudioPro 4 speakers feature four-inch, coated-paper cone low-frequency drivers, one-inch Mylar cone tweeters, and vented ports in the back. The vinyl-laminated MDF cabinets have a satisfying heft, and they’re magnetically shielded. As is typical of studio monitors, there are no grills to color the speaker’s output.
The power supply is located in the left cabinet (which eliminates the need for a wall wart or external block), along with an 18-watt-per-channel amp, which connects to the source with a pair of RCA connectors. Audio is delivered to the right speaker via speaker cable. (M-Audio provides a too-short RCA-to-1/8-inch cable and medium-gauge speaker cable, the bare ends of which are dipped in solder.) Volume control and a headphone jack are also found on the left cabinet.
These are definitely near-field monitors; they sound best when placed so that the top of the woofers are in line with the tops of your ears. Move back more than 30 inches from the speakers, and bass response drops off a cliff and stereo imaging almost collapses. A “mid-boost” switch on the back of the left cabinet very subtly pumps up the midrange frequencies to give the speakers more “throw,” but if you’re looking for something to fill a room with sound, the Studio Pro 4 is not the right choice. Then again, that’s not what any near-field monitor is designed to do.
Listening to a bass solo during “Chumba Basement,” from the Frank Zappa DVD-Audio disc Quadiophiliac, we were impressed that we could detect the unused snare drum’s wires vibrating against its bottom head—not that it’s exciting to listen to snare-drum wires vibrate, but it is exciting to discern that level of detail in a recording. And that’s what studio monitors are all about. --Michael Brown
+ Zappa: Clean, accurate audio reproduction.
- Zapatista: Limited low-end response, inconveniently located power switch.