Product Review: M-Audio BX5 D2 Studio Monitors

Today I’m going to write a review of a set of speakers I purchased in the month of October.

*DISCLAIMER: I’m writing this review for these speakers from the standpoint of desktop speakers. I will write about their usefulness in production as well, but this review is mainly from a desktop speaker standpoint, because that’s what I mainly use them for – since I don’t have much time to produce music anymore. AND this review is purely subjective, so please look elsewhere to clarify my claims/read further before purchasing.*

Behold, the M-Audio BX5 D2!

Right. So these are the speakers. Let’s start off with the review.

Looks:

On the first sight, these speakers are HUGE as far as desktop speakers go. You will need adequate space on your desk to place them properly; and they will eat up a lot of space on your desk. As you can see in the first picture, they’ve taken up almost half of the width of my desk – so plan accordingly.

But the good thing is that they look amazing. I love the fact that they do not have a grille, but that can however be a drawback if you’re around children or very inquisitive old people. You’re not supposed to touch the cones and tweeters as they are quite sensitive. Getting back to the point, they give the impression of really premium speakers and the M-Audio logo stands proudly below the woofer cone.

Another good thing about these is the little blue light you see between the tweeter and woofer. It’s REALLY useful in finding the sweet spot (For the uninitiated, the sweet spot is the place where you get optimum stereo imaging and sound quality). The light shines the brightest when you’re absolutely in front of the speaker. So you’d want to angle them in such a way that you form an equilateral triangle between the two speakers and you. The light helps you with that. So it does two duties: lets you know that the speaker is switched on and informs you that it’s in the right position. Brilliant.

Accessibility/Ports:

 

One thing which may annoy some users would be the fact that each of the speakers requires a separate power plug. They are bi-amplified, that means that each speaker has its own amp. Hence the weird power requirement.

There are two ways to plug these into an audio source: Balanced/Unbalanced TRS/TS plugs, or an XLR input. Although I haven’t tried myself, I’ve heard that both the inputs work simultaneously – so you can plug in two devices at the same time! Quite useful when you have multiple sources which you want plugged in.

Unfortunately, the speakers don’t come with any cables other than the power cables. This is actually quite annoying because you want to be able to use them just as soon as you open the box. That’s what happened to me. The shop I bought these from had the speakers but they didn’t have the cables in stock. It was quite frustrating having these on my table and not being able to use them until 4 days later when I finally managed to get the cables.

Apart from that, the accessibility options for these speakers are satisfactory, considering these are studio monitors and that’s all you basically require.

Also what’s useful is that there is a voltage switch as well. Very useful when you’re moving abroad, for example and want to take these along. (Trust me, you’d want to J)

Sound:

Now getting to the main part of the review!

They sound INCREDIBLE. Absolutely freaking incredible. Considering their price, they sound freaking phenomenal. Wow. I highly doubt there’s a better offering which sound as good as or better than these at this price. Especially for people upgrading from normal desktop speakers or headphones. I first heard these at the local studio near my house and I was absolutely blown away. And that was the older M-Audio BX5a, so the newer version had to be better! The 5 inch woofers and 1 inch tweeters do their job incredibly well.

The soundstage is brilliant. Since these speakers are studio monitors, their frequency response is quite flat – the sound isn’t excessively EQ’d or altered. The trebles are just as clear as the basses and mids. Everything is balanced well. This, plus the amazing soundstage enables one to hear all the instruments in a track! I was literally able to hear things in tracks I wasn’t able to before. Really good.

The bass is slightly lacking though, but that’s acceptable for speakers this size. And I wouldn’t say seriously lacking, like what you’d find on a small iPod dock, but it isn’t table-shattering. But still very, very good for their size and price.

The first thing I noticed when I heard a track on these was how wide the soundstage was. You get an illusion that the vocalist is sitting in between the speakers and everything else is exactly where it would be on an actual stage. That was a very welcome change from my earlier set of speakers – a small JBL OnStage II. Watching live music videos on these is amazing. So is watching TV and movies!

However, since they aren’t exactly meant to be desktop speakers (they are studio monitors), they have some traits which may or may not be considered as drawbacks. Firstly, they are very directional. Unless you’re sitting in the sweet spot (equilateral triangle, do a google search), you’re not going to get optimum sound quality out of these. They aren’t meant to be party speakers – they are near-field monitors. I’m not saying they sound pathetic outside the sweet spot, but they sound considerably better in it. I use these while taking a shower all the time and they’re still so good!

Also, another drawback is that since they’re SO flat in their frequency response and so unforgiving to sound quality, lower quality sound files will NOT sound good on these. If you’re savvy enough to know about these speakers, you’re probably savvy enough not to use low quality files so most people aren’t going to have a major problem. The problem arises on YouTube videos and other sources whose qualities are out of your control. Tolerable, but quite noticeable.

Another thing: I haven’t been using a dedicated sound card with these. I’ve been plugging them straight into my laptop. They are supposed to sound a lot better on a sound card, but I don’t have the money at the moment to purchase one. Hence, I can’t say how they would sound, plugged into one! I’ve been looking at the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 though, but that’s for another post.

Music Production Use:

A lot of you may know I’m into music production. That’s how I got to know about these in the first place.

Okay, so I’ve mixed a few tracks with these and trust me they are very, very transparent and clear. Mixes on these translate well on other speakers – something which did not happen easily earlier for me as I wasn’t using studio monitors. For an amateur, these are the pair I’d suggest best. Not too expensive to be prohibitive, not too cheap to lack quality.

Other comments:

A little problem/annoyance with these is the fact that since they are so sensitive and high powered (70W each channel), you have to turn them off each time before connecting/disconnecting the speaker cable. And if you turn them on quickly after turning them off, the speaker makes a loud ‘thud’ which is somewhat scary. I don’t know whether this is a problem with only my set or a general problem with this model. You just have to be a little careful.

Also, each speaker has its own volume level, at the back of the speaker. This may seem annoying but it isn’t, really. You just set the volume once and make it equal on both speakers and use the volume control on your soundcard/device after that. Not a biggie.

Price:

The MRP of these is approx. INR 24k, but I bought them for INR 19k from Reynolds Brigade Road, Bangalore. VERY great set for this price. According to me, they sound a lot better and wider than other iPod docks which cost a lot more than these.

Overall:

Overall, they are freaking amazing. Best speakers I could purchase at this price. I was earlier thinking of buying the JBL OnStage Xtreme, but after hearing these at the studio and being notified that they were in stock at Reynolds (Brigade Road), I went ahead purchasing them. You will NOT be disappointed. Just be careful of the missing speaker grille and don’t touch the cones or tweeters!

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