Studio-monitor manufacturers are increasingly crossing over into the consumer speaker market, giving consumer-oriented brands like Altec Lansing, Bose, Creative Labs, and Logitech a run for their money. Blue Sky International is one of the latest to jump into this segment with its EXO 2.1 system.
Unlike most pro gear in this price range, the EXO 2.1 system includes a wired module with separate gain controls for the satellites and subwoofer (a big improvement over putting the volume control on one of the speaker cabinets). The box has RCA inputs in back for connecting to a PC soundcard, but we were delighted to find a set of combo XLR/TRS (1/4-inch) inputs there, too. A 1/8-inch input up front allows you to connect an MP3 player, and there’s a 1/8-inch output for headphones as well. All three inputs can be used simultaneously, eliminating the need to unplug one source to monitor another.
The amp, built into the hefty subwoofer cabinet, delivers 90 watts to the 8-inch sub and 35 watts to each of the magnetically shielded two-way satellites, each of which is outfitted with a large 3-inch midrange driver and a generous 1-inch dome tweeter. When you think of studio monitors, you think of flat frequency response that doesn’t color (emphasize any frequencies in) the source material. But the fact that studio monitors are designed as tools doesn’t necessarily mean they sound boring. We thought the EXO would displace the subless Audioengine 5 to become our new favorite midrange audio system—and it would if we were scoring strictly on features; unfortunately, Blue Sky’s chuffy subwoofer causes the package to fall just short of the mark.