Micro Studio Monitors: A Profusion of Pint-Size Powerhouses

Studio monitors come in all shapes and sizes. From quad 15″ behemoths to the tiniest 3″ pico-size, there are many factors that come into play when selecting monitors. Price is the obvious choice, but perhaps you have space constraints or fussy neighbors. Or maybe you are looking for a nice pair of “B” monitors to complement your mains. In this article, we’ll be looking at some pint-size powerhouse micro-monitors for a variety of applications. With so many compact monitors (5″ and above) on the market, I decided to showcase only the true “micro” monitor with a woofer of less than 5″. If you still need more choices, by all means, check out the compact and near-field monitors selection here.

PreSonus ERIS BT 3.5 Active Bluetooth Media Reference Monitors
PreSonus ERIS BT 3.5 Active Bluetooth Media Reference Monitors

There has been quite the buzz around IK Multimedia’s iLoud Micro Monitors and the iLoud MTM. The Micro Monitors (pair) are 2-way active, bi-amplified monitors featuring 3″ woofers and ¾” tweeters, which combine to deliver a respectable frequency response of 55 Hz to 20 kHz. One monitor houses the amplifier, audio inputs, and controls, while the second serves as a satellite with a speaker input that is powered by the first. The rear panel offers Bluetooth connectivity to stream audio from your portable device, such as a tablet or phone, but also includes a 3.5mm TRS input and a stereo pair of RCA for connecting analog input devices. There are settings for fine-tuning the high-/low-shelf EQ, as well as a desktop setting, which provides an EQ curve that corrects issues when placing the monitor on the reflective surface of your desk. The iLoud MTM (single) is a high-resolution studio monitor with dual 3.5″ woofers and a single 1″ tweeter and advanced signal processing. The monitor is capable of reproducing frequencies from 40 Hz to 24 kHz, which is unheard of in a monitor this size. The iLoud MTM also features built-in acoustic self-calibration via the included ARC reference microphone, which automatically adjusts the built-in DSP for true phase-coherency and precise, defined point-source sound. The rear panel also offers options to further customize user settings, including LF extension, LF boost/cut, and HF boost/cut. Don’t let their size fool you, these monitors sound great and, with the low-frequency extension, you may find a subwoofer unnecessary.

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors
IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors

JBL offers the 1 Series 104-BT Powered Desktop Reference Monitors with Bluetooth (pair), which are acoustically optimized for desktops and are great for casual listening and critical referencing. Available in black or white, these monitors employ a coaxial design to give you a smooth representation of the frequency spectrum, so that you have more accurate sonic imaging. One speaker provides the amplification to both speakers, as well as a stereo pair of unbalanced RCA and balanced ¼” inputs. On the front of the speaker is a volume control and a 3.5mm aux input and 3.5mm headphone output. It’s also worth checking out the JBL 305P MkII (single), which is a little bigger with a 5″ woofer, but is still small and has received high praise.

JBL 305P MkII - Powered 5" Two-Way Studio Monitor
JBL 305P MkII – Powered 5″ Two-Way Studio Monitor

If you are a fan of the ribbon tweeters (air motion transformers), which feature a folded elastic diaphragm capable of generating effortless, highly detailed audio in the high-frequency range, then check out the offerings from Adam and Eve. Adam Professional Audio’s A3X (single) features a 4.5″ carbon fiber woofer and the X-ART tweeter, which combine for a 60 Hz to 50 kHz frequency range. For a smaller footprint, the Eve Audio SC203 Master/Slave (pair) couple a 3″ woofer with this company’s µA.M.T folded ribbon tweeter for a frequency response of 62 Hz to 21 kHz. The right speaker houses the amplifiers and audio connectors, which includes a stereo pair of RCA, as well as digital USB and optical inputs. An RCA sub out allows you to integrate a separate subwoofer into your system. The volume knob on the front doubles as a sophisticated selector switch for setting filters, presets, inputs, and more. The SC203 also features a passive radiator on the rear of the unit, which helps mitigate turbulence and provides a clean low-frequency extension. HEDD is another manufacturer of high-quality monitors featuring air motion transformers. The Type 05 (single) from this company is little bigger than micro, but well worth checking out.

Adam Professional Audio A3X 4.5" 50W Active 2-Way Studio M
Adam Professional Audio A3X 4.5″ 50W Active 2-Way Studio Monitor

Some other high-end choices include offerings from Genelec, Neuman, and Focal. The Genelec 8010 (single) features a 3″ woofer and ¾” tweeter for a combined frequency response of 74 Hz to 20 kHz, while the 8020D (single) ups the woofer to 4″, which extends the low frequency to a lower 62 Hz. Each monitor employs a minimum diffraction enclosure with directivity control waveguides, active crossover circuits, and protection filters. The Genelec 8320A (single) adds the advanced Smart Active Monitor (SAM) digital signal processing (DSP), with the Genelec Loudspeaker Manager (GLM) software designed to provide accuracy and ease of use in difficult acoustic environments.

Genelec 8010 Bi-Amplified Active Monitor
Genelec 8010 Bi-Amplified Active Monitor

The Neumann KH 80 DSP (single) is a 2-way active studio monitor with a 4″ woofer and a 1″ tweeter, offering a 57 Hz to 21 kHz frequency response. Additional features include an onboard DSP engine, a Mathematically Modeled Dispersion waveguide (MMD), an XLR analog input, and an extensive range of optional mounting hardware. The DSP function is accessed via a standard IP network connection that allows the monitoring system to be controlled using the Neumann.Control iPad app. Multiple monitors can be connected via RJ45 cables for a range of surround sound setups.

Neumann KH 80 DSP 4" + 1" Active 2-Way Studio Monitor
Neumann KH 80 DSP 4″ + 1″ Active 2-Way Studio Monitor

The Focal Shape 40 (single) features a 4″ flax sandwich cone woofer and an aluminum/magnesium inverted dome tweeter for a 60 Hz to 35 kHz frequency range for controlled and articulated bass with a clear and wide high-frequency. A 4” passive radiator flanks each side of the MDF enclosure, ensuring extended bass with reduced distortion. With no air ports, the Shape 40 can be placed near a wall with no adverse effects.

Focal Shape 40 - 4.0" Active 2-Way Studio Monitor
Focal Shape 40 – 4.0″ Active 2-Way Studio Monitor

For low-cost micro monitors, check out offerings from PreSonus, Mackie, Fluid Audio, and Yamaha. The PreSonus Eris Series offers a remarkable value. The Eris E3.5 and Eris BT 3.5 feature 3.5″ Kevlar woofers and 1″ silk dome tweeters for a balanced sound across their 80 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range. One speaker houses the amplifier, which powers the other satellite, while controls for volume, treble, and bass allow you to refine your sound. The “BT” version adds Bluetooth 5.0 streaming. The Eris E4.5 and E4.5 BT are of the same design, but with a larger 4.5″ woofer that extends the frequency response down to 70 Hz. PreSonus has also just released the Eris Sub8, which is designed to complement the Eris Series speakers by extending low-frequency performance down to 30 Hz. The subwoofer includes a switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter on the output feeding your nearfields, as well as a variable low-pass filter for the subsonic signal, all to help you dial in the sonic sweet spot.

PreSonus Eris Sub8 Compact Powered Studio Subwoofer
PreSonus Eris Sub8 Compact Powered Studio Subwoofer

The Mackie CR3-X and CR3-XBT are both sold in pairs and provide solid performance from the onboard 3″ woofer and ¾” silk-dome tweeter for a frequency response of 80 Hz to 20 kHz. The CR3-XBT includes a Bluetooth receiver for streaming audio from your favorite Bluetooth device, such as a phone or tablet. As a bonus, the CR3-X and CR3-XBT include a Pro Tools | First and a massive plug-in collection to get you recording right away.

Mackie CR3-X Creative Reference Series 3" Multimedia Monitors
Mackie CR3-X Creative Reference Series 3″ Multimedia Monitors

The Fluid Audio F4 (pair) is a 2-way design featuring a 4″ low-frequency woofer and a 1″ tweeter that combine to deliver a full-range frequency response of 69 Hz to 22 kHz. The phase coherent signal has an accurate off-axis response with superb imaging and sonic clarity. Yamaha’s MSP3 (single) features a 4″ woofer and a 7/8″ tweeter for a combined frequency response of 65 Hz to 22 kHz. With it’s advanced waveguide, the MSP3 provides remarkable stereo imaging and respectable low-end for its size.

Yamaha MSP3 Amplified Two Way Compact Monitor with 4" Woofer - Shielded
Yamaha MSP3 Amplified Two Way Compact Monitor with 4″ Woofer – Shielded

For the engineer looking for a smaller monitor to complement a larger near-field, I highly recommend the Fostex 6301 Series (single), which have several option including electronically balanced, transformer balanced, unbalanced, and digital inputs. The 6301 uses a single, full-range 4″ driver typically used in broadcast environment. Their 70 Hz to 15 khz frequency range helps your mix to translate to most any playback system. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Auratone Super Sound Cubes. These passive speakers are available as a single, in pairs, or packaged with an amplifier. Based upon the original 5C Super Sound Cube, this latest incarnation features a re-manufactured version of its original driver. Mix engineers in the 1970s and ’80s loved this “real world” speaker, because it ensured your mix translated to typical consumer speakers.

Fostex 6301NX - 4" Active Monitor Speaker 20W D-Class
Fostex 6301NX – 4″ Active Monitor Speaker 20W D-Class

As you can see, there are a ton of choices for micro-monitors. If you are in the market, I’m confident B&H has an option that you can use in your production work. Feel free to come down to the B&H SuperStore and compare models in our demo room. I was pretty blown away by the IK Multimedia iLoud MTMs. Do you have a favorite set of micro monitors? Drop a comment below. Happy mixing!

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