If you had to describe the new BX5 D2 monitors in one word, it would be “clean.”
These bi-amped beauties are, hands down, some of the most accurate (uncolored) speakers I’ve listened to in a long time.
That’s fantastic if you happen to be mixing an album in a recording studio — which, admittedly, is precisely what these monitors are made for — or feeding them high-quality, lossless audio. It’s not so great if you’re using them to play a bunch of highly compressed MP3s.
I pumped a variety of music through these updated versions of the BX5As and was alternately awe struck and horrified. When paired with a standalone DAC they made great studio albums like Massive Attack’s Mezzanine and Beth Gibbons’ Out of Season sound almost transcendental, with tight, punchy bass and impeccable definition and clarity. On the other hand, if there are flaws in your music (due to the recording or compression), these speakers revealed it. Mercilessly.
Like the previous version, the the BX5s come sporting a Class A/B bi-amplified designed. This means that each speaker not only has its very own amplifier, but that each frequency (highs and lows) get their own power source too. In general, this yields more clarity and is a much more efficient way of handling power in a 2.0 system.
But the D2s have their quirks. While speaker placement is always important, these monitors happen to be particularly, um, directional. Getting optimal sound out of them means finding what turns out to be a very small sweet spot. This, in turn, requires a bit of trial and error experimentation. Ultimately, I found that having the D2s positioned with the top of the woofer at ear level worked best for me. I also placed the left and right speakers about 3 feet apart and angled them directly at my ears. Thankfully, M-Audio includes two pinhole LEDs on each speaker to help you find this elusive sweet spot, which you’ll definitely want to use. Audio quality degrades considerably if you head wanders even slightly out of it.
While the D2s performed admirably, they’re still hard speakers to recommend for the average person just looking to make the music and videos on his laptop sound better. The lack of standard inputs (only XLR balanced and 1/4-inch balance/unbalanced inputs), the relatively high price tag, the fact that each speaker requires its own power cord — it all adds up to a system that’s better suited for the recording studio, not the desktop.
If you’re a producer, or just a connoisseur with the right equipment, they’re worth it. Otherwise, check out the phenomenal (and much more accessible) pair of desktop speakers M-Audio already makes.
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