When you think of loudspeakers, Presonus isn't the first name that springs to mind. Whilst searching the internet for a set of LCR front loudspeakers that needed to fit a very specific specification, I came across these, and decided to get a set in to try out.
To find a 7.1 set of front ported loudspeakers that will work well in a 7.1 post environment. There's a big problem for multi-channel (5.1, 7.1, Atmos) monitor setups in medium to small rooms. The market for near-to-midfield monitors is fairly dominated by rear ported designs.
Whether you're using a projected image or a flat screen, they are generally against a wall, and generally as wide as the room (if a projected image). This means that the speakers need to be against the wall and in corners, which is a major problem with rear ported designs in small to medium sized rooms.
Ideally the client area is in front of the mix position, so even if you are only 5.1, you'll most likely need side fill or client surround speakers. When you're working to a projected image, it's important that the client's line of sight to the image is not impaired by lots of Pro Tools screens and flashing LEDs on your console.
"Boom! Shake Shake Shake The Room!" is the usual result of putting rear ported design monitors in to the locations a multi-channel post production setup requires.
To get as close to Dolby specifications as possible, the mixing desk should be about two thirds of the way back the room, with a 45 degree angle between the left and right speakers when sat in mix position.
The Solution (In My Opinion)
Originally I only wanted a set of front speakers and a subwoofer, but being mindful that it's always best to maintain the same manufacturer for your surrounds to keep consistency in sound around the room, I also took a look at some of Presonus' single woofer design speakers.
This is what I decided to get in to test -
- Four Presonus Eris E5 Active Monitors
- One Temblor T-10 Active Subwoofer
A Different Aspect
One thing that instantly attracted me to the E66's is that they can be arranged portrait or landscape, with no effect on performance or imaging. They can also be purchased singly, as their driver arrangement is location agnostic - they are not different arrangements of woofer and tweeter for left or right, as is common in many "landscape", and indeed "portrait" designs. Landscape designs work better if like in my installation you have to have your front speakers just beneath the screen.
Those blue lights are somehow re-assuring...
It's worth saying at this point that this is not going to be your usual speaker test, where I do a direct A/B comparison between pairs of speakers. This is more a test of how well a matched set of speakers can fit in to an existing less than ideal environment.
Skip To The Good Bit - How Do They Sound?
In a word, Incredible. Even without any level alignment and no EQ tweaking, they sounded great straight out of the box. Incredible bass response from the E66's, not a soggy boom, more of a solid kick to the chest. High end was also controlled and not overly flattering. Although actually a two way design, the dual woofer configuration means that the mid range remains stable, even when there's a lot of bass, as the two drivers generate a large surface area, so don't have to work as hard.
Image Is Everything
I've had clients ask me if I've been playing the 7.1 or the stereo mix - the imaging is that good. One client made me unplug the centre speaker and subwoofer to prove to him that sound wasn't coming from them. There is also a reasonably large sweet spot, so you still get the phantom centre effect from a larger area in the room. This also demonstrates the low end bass response of the E66's.
As you would probably expect from a set of speakers from the same manufacturer, the "quality" of the sound is consistent. What I didn't expect was just how consistent it would be. Considering the differences in design between the E66's and the E5's, and the differences in driver size, I was expecting a far bigger difference in bass response and dynamics. But no, panning music back and forth from the front speakers, through the sides, to the rear and back, revealed an almost identical sound from all the speakers, and the same rock solid image, which is especially impressive given the one pair is firing sideways, and the rear pair are firing behind me. The main difference between the E66's and the E5's is that it feels like the former have a considerable amount more power behind them. I hesitate to use the word "depth", as that is pretty consistent. The analogy I'd use is between having a small supercharged engine in your car, or a V8. The former can still deliver the results, but the latter feels more like an irresistible force.
The E5's and the E66's have the same range of adjustments available on the back panel -
There are several things to like about this. At this price point, the Presonus speakers offer an unprecedented amount of control. The gain, mid and HF levels are on continuous pots, and the Acoustic Space and Low Cutoff settings are well explained and effective. Having the same tweaks available on both models helps with the consistency of sound.
I also like that Presonus have stuck to basics - they haven't introduced any DSP or servo technology. I firmly believe this is a huge factor in why they sound so impressive.
The Temblor T10 subwoofer has less acoustic adjustments, but a lot of connection options. You can set it up as bass management for your main speakers (really not necessary with the E66's) or run it as a true LFE as part of a 5.1 or 7.1 setup. There is a phase adjustment to compensate for different placement as well. What I like is that Presonus have limited the frequency response to a maximum of 120Hz.
One of the biggest mistakes I hear with LFE installations is the lack of a low pass filter. Most subwoofers are capable of resolving frequencies well in to the midrange. The signal is meant to be ".1", ie with a low-pass filter applied, before it hits the speakers, but quite often in the mixing stage, the LFE is not derived correctly. Certainly if you were to use the LFE send on a standard Pro Tools Surround Panner, that send would not have a low pass filter applied to it, unless you set up one on a master fader across your LFE sub path. Presonus have been very helpful in ensuring that owners don't fall in to this trap.
These are the recommended retail prices in the UK -
- Presonus Eris E5 - £119 each (inc vat)
- Presonus Eris E66 - £329 each (inc vat)
- Presonus Temblor T10 - £329 each (inc vat)
Which means that a full 7.1 Surround package would only come to £1792. This is quite frankly an incredible price point for what you get. Smaller installations could also quite probably get away with the E44 model, given how incredible its older brother and cousins sound.
- Very spacious and consistent sound, with tons of depth and dynamic range
- Excellent imaging
- Good build quality
- Very adjustable - easy to integrate into an existing installation
- Very competitive price point
- Available as single units rather than pairs
- Simple rear plate design means you need right angle connectors if you are restricted for depth
- Unable to switch off Presonus Logo lights, which could be distracting
- No 90 degree phase setting on Subwoofer
As you can see, the con's are very few and almost irrelevant compared to the pro's.
I would recommend these speakers to anyone making their first steps in to multi channel work, or even someone with an existing installation they are having issues with.
It's been a long time since I was this blown away by a set of speakers, straight out of the box. Well done Presonus!