Who are M-Audio?
M-Audio was founded in 1998 in Rhode Island. As such, they are a fairly recent arrival on the musical manufacturing scene. They design a range of keyboards, synthesizers, and MIDI controllers.
But they also manufacture speakers and studio monitors. The M-Audio BX5 D3 is one of their products. They are part of the InMusic Brands organization.
The first monitors were created way back in the 1920s. They were used in broadcasting. However, it was not long before the music industry recognized their potential.
Since then, there has been a constant flow of technological improvements. Today’s manifestations bear little resemblance to those initial first efforts. But today, they are irreplaceable and a vital part of the recorded music business.
There are plenty to choose from, and we are going to take a look at one such monitor.
So what is this particular studio monitor all about? Let’s go through our in-depth M-Audio BX5 D3 Review and find out…
To start with, let us make the point that a studio monitor is not an ordinary speaker. Typical consumer speakers are often tweaked with extra high or low frequencies to make them sound good to the ear. Specifically, the consumer’s ear.
A studio monitor is not built to be used at home as part of a sound system. That is where the extra bass or treble will play its part in creating a certain sound.
A studio monitor has no such additions. The frequency response must be flat with a very low level of distortion. It needs to sound accurate and precise. The person behind the controls can then hear the raw sounds and know immediately what is in there.
A significant improvement…
This is a follow-up to the BX-D2 monitors that in some recording circles have a big reputation. Having established their reputation, M-Audio takes it a step further. The aim is to provide monitors that give you absolute precision of sound. We shall look at what improvements they have made later.
Recording and Mixing engineers and producers need absolute precision so they can do their job properly. So, let’s see if the M-Audio BX5 D3 can do the job…
When you are creating a cabinet, then the design and the quality of the build is important. In fact, to get the best sound, it has to be meticulous in both areas. Measuring 7.80 by 6.90 by 10.00 inches, it is not a large enclosure. But then it doesn’t need to be. This is a ‘near-field’ monitor. It is likely to be sitting close to you. Possibly on top of a mixing desk or any kind of table unit.
The closer the monitor is to your ears, the better. Just not pressed right up against them.
Neither does it need to be too heavy. At 12.35 pounds, it is a comfortable weight that is not going to cause problems. It is made in China, and the build quality is good. It is constructed from MDF fiberboard with a vinyl covering. An attractive and workmanlike appearance is always a good start.
To achieve a great sound, you need a good design. For it to produce reference speaker levels of performance, it has to be better than the best.
Two schools of thought…
The choice in the design phase from a low-frequency point of view is an obvious one. Do you have a bass port? And then further, do you have a rear-firing bass port or a front-facing port?
Most agree that having a bass port will increase the efficiency of the monitor. But as with all things, there are exceptions to that rule.
If you decide to design with a bass port, the choice between a rear bass port or not is quite important. There will be a difference in sound, but there is perhaps a more important issue.
Both designs have their advocates. If you choose a rear-firing port, you must have space behind the cabinet to let it work. Too close to a wall will alter the sound you hear. Therefore, you will need at least 18 inches of space between the cabinet and the wall.
The M-Audio BX5 D3 is designed with a rear bass port. It is well-designed, and the result is a defined bass sound that is very deep. But it also has great resolution and extension.
The port is so designed to reduce air turbulence that is often audible. This can occur when lower frequencies are played at volume levels with a high SPL. The design then is going to all but eliminate any unwanted ambient sound, even at higher volume levels.
What is inside?
As we said earlier, these are a 2-way near field monitor. Near field means they are going to be close to you. A common rule of thumb is that they should be about one to one and a half’s arm’s length and aimed at your head.
For the lower frequencies, there is a 5-inch woofer made from Kevlar. The Kevlar design is a step up from the previous version. It has a curved cone and a high temp voice coil. It is fitted with a rubber surround to reduce any vibrations.
The tweeter is a one-inch, silk-dome design also with a rubber surround. For dispersion that is accurate, it is placed in a custom waveguide. This will also reduce any ‘scatter’ from the high frequencies. But will also make sure the soundstage stays stable and wide.
100 watts in total…
It has a bi-amplified design with power ratings of 60 watts for the low frequencies and 40 watts for the high. The bi-amplified design is also an improvement over its predecessor. We shall look at that a little later.
This produces a sound that is precise but also powerful. Magnetic shields are given to both drivers.
This is a process that uses a second magnet. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘bucking magnet’ placed at the rear of the main driver magnet.
This prevents the creation of an extra ‘rogue’ magnetic field. Any such unwanted field can affect any other electronic equipment placed in close proximity.
Some performance numbers…
The monitor has a frequency response of 52 Hz–35 kHz and an SPL of 110 dB. The crossover frequency is set at 2.5 kHz.
The low-frequency response, as we can see, goes down to 52 Hz. The bass port, which we will discuss next, assists in this by reducing any acoustic distortion.
The Rear Bass port…
Positioned at the top of the cabinet, the port is designed to reduce any air turbulence. This helps to create a low-end response that is balanced and defined. We read some criticism that the low-end on these monitors is, according to some, ‘non-existent.’
Our retort to that assessment is this monitor is not for the consumer market. You certainly do not want a bass sound artificially elevated in the natural balance of frequencies.
The performance of the bass port in the overall scheme of the sound design works well. However, as we have already mentioned, the monitor needs to be at least eighteen inches from the wall. If not, the sound may be impaired.
Placing a monitor is also important. If it is not set in the right spot, then you will hear things slightly differently.
On the front of the cabinet, there is an LED light. This is positioned between the tweeter and woofer. It will shine when the monitor is positioned in the optimum place and at the best angle.
Plenty of thought and design expertise has gone into manufacturing this monitor, and it ticks a lot of the boxes. Some may prefer a front-facing bass port. But providing you can place it correctly, this monitor will produce a sound you can easily work with.
Talking about the sound, that’s up next in our M-Audio BX5 D3 Review…
At the heart of any monitor’s performance are the drivers. Of course, there are other important elements in the design of the cabinet. But the drivers produce and distribute the sound.
The drivers that are used in this monitor are lightweight and yet quite rigid. They don’t break up, and they give you an excellent transient response. The tweeter does not create some of the resonances that can be heard from other tweeters.
Together the drivers give you a sound that is good for critical observation and monitoring dynamic accuracy. Thus allowing you to achieve the transparency you will need.
It has two Class A/B amps built-in. This ‘bi-amplified’ design will power the tweeter and the woofer separately and independently of each other. One advantage of this system is that each amplifier can be set up to work with the driver that it is designed for. That means the design of the amp is biased towards those frequencies.
Having a well-tuned crossover ensures that each driver will only work with the frequencies it is designed to handle. That ensures an efficient creation of sound with accuracy and definition.
This is a better way for an amp to power a speaker, as opposed to having one full-range amplifier that has to drive all the frequencies.
Your listening space…
There are no two listening spaces that are exactly the same. That in itself can create a problem. Even in rooms that physically measure the same size, there will be sound peculiarities that exist.
Some rooms will have no acoustic preparation at all; others will have some. Recording studios may have been prepared to an optimum level. It is not possible to build a monitor that will automatically suit the acoustics of every particular space.
Any kind of sound degradation will interfere with the results you are able to produce. And this applies especially to bass frequencies and standing waves.
Acoustic Space Control…
A relatively new phenomenon has arisen in recent years. With the technological advances made in home recording, musicians are converting any spare space into a ‘mini home-studio.’ And those spaces can be bedrooms or even garages. We even know someone that converted his garden shed.
It doesn’t take Einstein to appreciate that these spaces are potentially an acoustic nightmare. They were not built nor designed to be acoustically accurate. Certainly not planned to be able to handle sound recording and later critical listening for the mix.
Built-in to this monitor is a system called Acoustic Space Control.
What does it do?
It will adjust the sound output from the monitor to better suit the environment you are working in. In customizing the sound using simple controls, you can try to create a precise reproduction of sound that is sonically accurate.
However, it is a basic system and is not what might be called foolproof. There are just three settings, so total acoustic accuracy will more than likely not be possible.
Having just discussed briefly the Acoustic Space Control let’s start there. Situated on the back of the monitor, it is centrally located and has a three-way toggle switch. You can set the performance of the monitor sound reproduction as flat, -2dB, or -4dB.
Also on the back are sockets for a ¼ inch TRS or XLR connections. There is also a volume control to let you set the perfect playback volume for what you are doing.
These can be set and will rarely need to be adjusted, as the speakers will be connected to an audio interface or a mixer. Volume levels can be adjusted there if necessary.
Very basic, but you really don’t need too much more.
M-Audio BX5 D3 Review Pros and Cons
- Kevlar five-inch woofer.
- One inch silk dome tweeter placed in a custom waveguide.
- Both drivers are magnetically shielded.
- Bi-amplified design.
- LED light indicates the optimum positioning of the monitor.
- Acoustic Space control.
- Some may not like the rear bass port.
- You will need two monitors. This is sold as a single unit, so double the price.
- There are no leads or cables provided, just a power cord.
Looking for Something Else?
Finding home recording solutions has never been easier. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Studio Monitor Speakers, the Best Budget Studio Monitor under 200 Dollars, the Best Studio Headphones For Home Recording, and the Best Studio Monitor Stands you can buy in 2021.
Also, take a look at the Best USB Audio Interfaces, the Best Audio Interface, the Best Audio Mixers, our Best Portable Audio Recorder Reviews, and the Best Multitrack Recorder currently on the market in 2021.
M-Audio BX5 D3 Review Final Thoughts
Finding the best studio monitors is not that easy. As we have said on a couple of occasions in this review, they are not just speakers.
What you eventually buy may well be decided by your personal budget. If so, then you may be looking for a decent cost-effective system.
We would say that the M-Audio BX5 D3 just about falls into that budget category. Albeit at the top end. They aren’t cheap when you buy two, as you will need to. In fact, there are much cheaper options. However, the quality is good. They are well-made and have some good features. The sound is what you need, flat and accurate, and something you can work with. So there are plenty of plus points.
A good monitor and certainly an option that is worth looking at.
Until next time, happy listening.