IK Multimedia creates products we need and want before we know that we need and want them. Their now ubiquitous iOS hardware and software broke new ground. The subject of this review is IK Multimedia’s new iLoud Micro Monitor system. They’re a fresh take on near field monitors, designed for use on the go as well as in the studio.
What Are They?
These two-way bi-amped stereo monitors feature ¾” silk dome tweeters, along with 3” woofers and a high-performance bass reflex port. That may not sound like much, but they sound impressive. Packed with four class D amplifiers, the total output power of both speakers is 70w peak (50w RMS). Input connections are either via the included mini jack to RCA cable, or 1/8” stereo TRS input. Connections are made on one speaker. A 4-pin connector cable is supplied to connect to the other. And it also does Bluetooth. I tapped the Bluetooth pairing button and my iPhone recognized it immediately.
Measuring in at roughly five and a half by three and a half inches, these speakers are perfect on a desktop or traveling in a laptop bag. They can be positioned at two angles via the built-in swivel style isolation base, and are also fitted with integrated threading on the bottom for free field positioning on microphone stands.
So, How Do They Sound?
In my opinion, weaknesses in studio monitors generally fall into three categories:
- The low end is either under or over represented and therefore doesn’t translate accurately on other systems.
- The high end is either over-hyped or under hyped, causing mixes to be either too harsh or too dull in the high end.
- There is not enough clarity in the mids to properly work with all the competing sonic material in that range with the proper level of detail.
The iLoud Micro Monitors win on all counts. They include two positional EQ switches for an optional 3db dip in the lows and highs that utilize built-in DSP. There is also a calibration switch for a flat response when they are sitting on a desk with a wall close behind. This type of placement, unfortunately, is typical in small desktop-based studio scenarios. So it is a welcome detail that many will benefit from.
I’ve got mine positioned on my desk, spaced safely away from nearby corners and walls. I prefer the low-end response with the isolation base down and the bass switch in the flat position. The woofers go down to 55 Hz (-3db). Combined with their built-in bass reflex ports, the low end is impressive given their footprint. The bass is tight and solid sounding. This is a huge step up from the flabby muddy lows on most desktop designed monitoring systems, even when they come with a sub woofer. Mixes done on my larger Mackie HR824 translated perfectly. And vice versa.
High End & Midrange
Without being strident, the high-end is crisp and clean sounding. In my setup, the flat position works best for the high-frequency switch. What impresses me the most though is the clarity and detail in the midrange; which is rare to find in monitors of this size and in this price range. This is usually the weakest point in the frequency spectrum; due to badly designed enclosures and poorly calibrated passive crossover points. It can feel like there is a “hole” in the middle of the sound.
The high-performance wide range woofers in the iLoud Micro Monitors allow their crossover to be set at a surprising 3.5 kHz. Plus, the two drivers are time aligned by the on-board DSP. This means the phase between the tweeter and woofer is perfectly cohesive. This relatively high crossover point, combined with properly engineered active crossover electronics, allows for a smooth and even sounding midrange.
The iLoud Micro Monitors are ruggedly designed, and I think they will stand up well to being tossed in and out of laptop bags. The metal grilles on the tweeter and woofer are a thoughtful touch. I pressed hard with my thumb, and couldn’t get them to bend or give at all. The switches, knobs, and connections all feel solid and secure. I wish the power switch were located somewhere other than the bottom rear. In my setup, I need to use both hands to turn it on/off without moving it. I like that there’s a power light on the front. Given that they are designed to be portable, it’s important to make sure they are powered off to avoid loud pops when disconnecting them.
And speaking of safety features, there is a detent notch on the volume knob about half way through its throw. I pushed it beyond, to see how they handled. When the signal starts breaking up, there is a built-in protection function that mutes the output. A much better alternative to a blown speaker! When the volume knob is dialed completely down, there is still a low-level signal that passes through. At least you won’t forget they are on if you dial the volume knob down and are looking way from the power light!
Given that these are designed for small portable setups, it’s likely that one’s workflow might include using headphones at some point when tracking. A headphone jack that mutes the speakers would have made for a really useful elegant and unique feature. Studio reference monitors generally never include this, so I can’t fault the design choice. These speakers don’t replace higher end full- size near-field studio monitors. But in my opinion, for fully decked- out studios, they are a welcome second set of accurate reference monitors that can be trusted. That’s how I will be using them. I think these are also an excellent choice for smaller studio setups, and portable rigs. Their design is robust and sturdy, they are trustworthy mixing references, and they are incredible value at $299. They more than hold their own against monitors twice their size and price. They are so useful in so many different contexts; it is impossible to go wrong with these.
Pricing and Availability
You may pre-order the iLoud Micro Monitors from IK Multimedia’s online store for $/€299.99 per pair, or from any of your favorite music or electronics retailers. iLoud Micro Monitors will be available and shipping worldwide in October, 2016. If you pre-order from IK Multimedia, you will get a free T-RackS Plug-in.
For more information, visit the iLoud Micro Monitors product page at IK Multimedia.