Jun 21, 2010

M-Audio EX66 Review

M-Audio EX66 review

After satisfactory results from the BX8a's I'd had for a couple years I decided to try the newer EX66 monitors from M-Audio, which was supposed to be the "next step up" in the M-Audio lineup.  It is a step-up in cost, but not performance.

Although the EX66's are much more efficient and have various tone controls on the backplane for tuning to an environment they are also incredibly noisy. So much so, that when in a quiet environment such as our edit suite - and with no input at all going to the speakers - you can easily hear them "hiss" from 10 feet away.  That's totally unacceptable for what's supposed to be a professional near-field studio monitor.

At first I thought it to be a wiring/ground or other user-error in the install but quickly determined it is in fact the speaker electronics that is causing the above-average and nasty noise floor. When we returned them to the dealer they too were stunned to hear them "hiss" at us when hooked up to their "perfectly tuned" studio environment with line conditioners etc. We also thought that maybe only one of the monitors was hissing, but both of them were, ruling out the possibility that one of them had a manufacturing defect or bad driver.

It might still be a defect, but not manufacturing and instead just bad design or very cheap, low-end drivers. Hard to imagine that my "lowly" BX8a's were far quieter with almost no perceptible floor noise.  Just for kicks, we hooked up a pair of DynAudio BM6a's and two different JBL models, they all had some level of floor noise but nothing nearly as noisy as the EX66's. And they are all in the same price-point; roughly $600-700 per monitor.

Noise aside the EX66's were definitely an improvement over the smaller BX8a with better overall imaging, more natural mid-range and less boomy low-end especially in the sub-100Hhz ranges.  However when put up against the competition in the same room even their improved imaging doesn't compare to the overall accuracy of any JBL and especially DynAudio.


If you've got the budget for what the EX66's sell for, which is around $1300 street, you've got much better options, such as the Blue Sky Pro Desk 2.1 !   I can't abide the fact that monitors at this price have such low performing characteristics.  If you've got a pair of BX8a's then stick with those.  If you want a move up in audio quality and accuracy but don't have the budget for a set costing more than a grand, take a listen to the Blue Sky Media Desk 2.1, which sells for less than $600 street. (see review)

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