We so dug M-Audio’s Studiophile LX4 speaker system that we named it “Gear of the Year” in our December 2005 issue, and we looked forward to seeing what the company could do for those of us with smaller budgets. The answer? Not enough.
M-Audio’s StudioPro 3 isn’t a terrible self-amplified speaker set, but neither is it great—even when you consider its $100 price tag. At first glance, the speakers look very much like M-Audio’s higher-end studio monitors. The hefty cabinets are constructed from medium-density fiberboard (the pair weigh in at 8.8 pounds), and the 3.25-inch low-frequency drivers and 1.0-inch silk dome tweeters are magnetically shielded.
The absence of a subwoofer didn’t alarm us, because we’ve heard other 2.0-channel speakers that manage to deliver enough low-end oomph to please our eardrums. And our hopes rose higher when we plugged in the StudioPro 3s and cued up John Hiatt’s Riding with the King: Hiatt’s edgy opening guitar riff crackled, and it sounded as though Scott Matthews’ Hammond organ was in the room with us. But when Nick Lowe came in to anchor the jangly tune with his walking bass line, our optimism evaporated—the StudioPro 3 system just doesn’t have much going on down below.
Tripping the speakers’ bass-boost switch (on the back of the cabinet housing the 10-watt-per-channel amp) helped some, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy our craving for thumpin’ bass. The absence of any meaningful bottom end was especially problematic for gaming. The StudioPro 3 set delivered voices and small-arms fire with aplomb, but large explosions and larger weapons sounded anemic at best.
We know it’s possible to deliver a rockin’ 2.1-channel speaker system for a $100 budget, because we absolutely adored Tascam’s unconventional VL-S21 flat-panel-plus-subwoofer monitoring system when we checked it out in June 2005. M-Audio’s solution is better than many budget audio systems we’ve reviewed in the past year, but it doesn’t come close to competing with Tascam’s.