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M-AUDIO STUDIOPHILE DSM1

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11 October 2008

DSM1-hero

The Studiophile ranks have two impressive new recruits.

Text: Brad Watts

M-Audio has been venturing into the more budget-conscious end of the studio monitor market for quite a while now with its Studiophile speakers, and now the company has added two new monitors to the range: the DSM1 and DSM2. And no, that’s not ‘double salami and mushroom’ – I’d imagine the acronym is more likely to be an abbreviation for Digital Studio Monitor.

There are two new flavours in the series, both of them bi-amp’ed two-way designs, with the DSM1 sporting a 6.5-inch bass driver and the DSM2 an eight-inch driver. Both designs use the same one-inch ‘Teteron’ soft fabric ferro-fluid-cooled high-frequency driver, which places them immediately into my personal ‘favourite speaker’ category – these tweeters are great for working on audio over extended listening sessions. The speakers I’ve had under review here are the smaller M-Audio DSM1s.

CLASS-D SPEAKERS

The self-powered DSM1 uses a lightweight Class-D amplifier design, the main advantage of which lies in its power efficiency. Consequently, this amplifier doesn’t require any large heat-sinks to remain cool – the flat metal rear panel of the DSM1 is more than up to the task of dissipating the relatively small amount of heat these amplifiers generate. Both the DSM models use a 100W amplifier to power the low-frequency driver and an 80W amplifier to drive the tweeter. Frequency reproduction extends down to 49Hz (for the DSM1) and 42Hz (for the DSM2) – impressive specs for such small cabinets. Top end is rated out to an impressive (and inaudible) 27kHz and the DSP-driven crossover is set at 2.7kHz.

The cabinets are a rear-ported bass reflex arrangement constructed from MDF, although there’s no mention anywhere of the thickness of this material. The cabinet edges are curved (as all monitor cabinets should be), while each front panel is equipped with a matte silver wave-guide with a multi-coloured LED that’s situated between the drivers to signify digital lock (blue) and clipping (red), power on and analogue input (blue), along with various error codes in flashing hues of yellow and orange.

BOTH KINDS

Connection to the DSM line is facilitated by either analogue XLRs or TRS jacks, or, as I’ve alluded to, digital connection via AES/EBU or coaxial S/PDIF. If connecting via AES/EBU, the second monitor is connected to the first via a coax S/PDIF ‘thru’ connection – a three-way switch on each monitor then selects either left, right or mono reproduction. Another three-position switch selects between analogue or digital input, with the third position acting as ‘digital standby’. This mode puts the monitor’s electronics to sleep when the digital input is lost. In other words, if you switch off the system driving these monitors, they will instantly slip into a low-power ‘sleep’ mode.

The DSM series will accept digital signals at all the standard rates up to and including 192k, within a 10 percent variance. 16- and 24-bit signals are suitable and only one digital input may be used at a time. There’s also a volume trim control that allows adjustment between –22dB through to +10dB. This is a continuous pot rather than a stepped potentiometer, so you’ll need a degree of fiddling if you’re to set these monitors up to any non-standard trim setting. I’m both for and against this (apologies for sitting on the fence here). A quality stepped pot allows defined, and more importantly, repeatable adjustments, whereas the continuous style is more finely and infinitely adjustable.

TO Q OR NOT TO Q

I have some reservations about M-Audio’s inclusion of equalisation in the DSM series. The rear panel of each speaker boasts 12 EQ switches for boosting or cutting various frequencies reproduced by the monitors. My personal opinion is that this type of frequency adjustment shouldn’t be changed at the monitors, but rather, be addressed by the correct placement and acoustic treatment within the room itself. For example, M-Audio suggest the ‘Desktop 200Hz’ setting be used to compensate for the effects of frequency build-up when the monitors are placed on a reflective surface. A better solution would be to either treat the surface the monitors are placed on with an acoustically non-reflective material, or simply avoid that particular surface. Be that as it may, the option is available; the monitors can be left flat or fiddled with until you decide to treat the environment they live in. Having said all this, some of the settings are extremely useful and far less contentious – such as high-pass filter options, should the DSM units be used in a surround setup or in conjunction with one or more sub cabinets.

ONTO THE PUDDING

We know this information is relatively superfluous when exposed to the hard light of a good listening test. I’ll cut to the chase and divulge that the DSM1 monitors I had for appraisal sounded very impressive indeed. In fact, what got me quite excited about the DSM1s were their similar voicing to my Quested 2108As – a monitor costing at least 10 times the price of the DSM1s. Unlike the Questeds, however, the DSM1s possessed a much smoother transition at the crossover point. Being a smaller design also allows them to perform more practically in the room I currently use – well dampened but a tad too small for the Questeds. These six-inch models would be ideal for the average-sized listening environment. They’re smooth, unobtrusive, and well worthy of closer inspection and auditioning.

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