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 M-Audio SP-8B Studiophile At a Glance   arrowM-Audio News(114)   Streaming Video (35)
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Duke writes:
I own a pair of SP-8Bs and am familiar with monitors in the price range of $2500 and lower.

Almost a year ago, M-Audio released its first monitor, the SP-5B Studiophile, into an already overly saturated market of cheap, bookshelf-sized nearfield monitors, and it received rather mixed reviews among serious recorders. Then the company unveiled a full-sized budget nearfield monitor, the SP-8B, presumably to the audience which found the smaller counterpart inadequate. It is obvious that the SP-8B exceeds the quality of the SP-5B in almost every way, which may alleviate the concerns of some people who regard the latter as a rather two-dimensional, exaggerated monitor, but it still may be in question whether these monitors can compare with other, more expensive full-sized nearfields. Overall, I find the SP-8B to be acceptable monitors for serious semi-professional recording and mixing purposes, but they still do not measure up to the standards of most full-sized monitors.

I will begin with the best features. The stereo separation, like in the SP-5B, is absolutely superb. The stereo field it creates is quite clear and precise, with a definite sense of 3-D space, and thus placing parts of the mix in the field may be done with ease, albeit the "sweet spot" for the field should be much larger. Still, though, this aspect of the monitor is still excellent, comparable to the separation offered by the Event 20/20s. The detail in the upper frequency ranges is almost is good, meaning that few subtle, treble parts will be disappear on these monitors. The actual response of the upper ranges, which is one of the most commended aspects of the SP-5Bs, is also clear and non-fatiguing on these monitors, mostly due to the presence of a soft-dome tweeter. Though slightly more defined, the high frequencies are still not quite as sweet sounding (or inaccurate, for that matter) as on the SP-5B monitors, which will come as a displeasure for those accustomed to the SP-5B.

However, the mid and lower frequencies, both in response and detail, do not fare nearly as well. The middle frequencies are overly prominent, meaning that vocals sometimes sound harsh, though the dominance of the midrange does not create an extremely boxy effect as on most monitors with the same exaggerated response. The detail in this range, furthermore, is only fair, and, thus, it seems to take a great amount of time to tweak sound settings in the midrange effectively. The bass frequencies, however, are portrayed even worse, and, in fact, are the weakest point of this monitor. Though the manual suggests that frequencies as low as 33 Hz are present, I only find the useable, reasonably flat response extending to about 50-60 Hz. Beyond that, the bass degrades to undefined, attenuated thumps that are quite like those on cheap consumer subwoofers. The fact that the bass ports are on the rear panel, meaning that extremely low frequencies are diverted from the listener, certainly does not improve the quality of the bass. Yes, the SP-8Bs has a far superior bass end to them than to SP-5Bs, but it is still lackluster in comparison to most monitors of this size.

Another shortcoming of the SP-8B is a complete lack of EQ adjusting options. Due to the forward character of the speakers as well as inadequate bass, I surmise that many people would want to tweak the response in some mixing situations to give a more accurate sound, but, unfortunately, the monitors have no EQ adjustment knobs. Obviously M-Audio wanted to keep the price as low as possible, but the monitors suffer dearly as a result of the absence of this feature. A more successful way the company cuts cost without sacrificing quality: keeping the cabinet strictly functional and not ornate.

Overall, these monitors are worth testing. They certainly have compromises in them in order to trim the price tag, but they perform reasonably well given the price difference between these and most full-sized nearfield monitors (most cost more than $1,000, as compared to about $500 for the SP-8B). If anything, they should serve as a reasonably good set of monitors that can be used to A/B the treble and stereo field details in a mix originally articulated on a better set of monitors, presumably a set to which you will upgrade after you have outgrown these.

Good Points
-accurate, defined upper range -excellent stereo field -lack of boxiness, two-dimensional character -low price
Bad Points
-undetailed, yet overly emphasized midrange -lack of definition in bass -no EQ adjustment options

 M-Audio SP-8B Studiophile Specifications:

Digital IOs:

Analog IOs:
1 balanced/unbalance 1/4
Power Rating
45 W/tweeter, 55 W/woofer

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