Review: Presonus Sceptre

Presonus has added another classic configuration to its monitor range, this time the dual-concentric Sceptre.


16 November 2015

Review: Christopher Holder

I must admit to being surprised by the diversity of monitor designs bursting onto the market. Just when you’d think the standard two-way nearfield can’t be improved further, some smartypants comes up with yet another design angle offering further detail and an even better knack for transfering a mix effectively to external playback mediums. The recently reviewed EGG150 monitors is a good example of how a little ingenuity can shake up the audio world.

Which leads me, somewhat vaguely, to the monitors inhabiting my stands at the minute, the Presonus Sceptre series. Presonus has dabbled in a number of monitor design concepts itself, including the D’apolito Eris MTM range, and the ‘R’ series sporting ribbon top-end drivers, along with more conventional two-way designs for its entry-level Eris and Ceres models. The Sceptre series follows yet another specific design ethic, this time embracing a dual concentric design, incorporated with the assistance of DSP.


Dual concentric drivers certainly aren’t the newest concept in driver design. Tannoy made its name ubiquitous across the UK with dual concentric monitors, and many other British brands such as Goodmans of England utilised dual concentric drivers successfully. If truth be told, I’m quite a fan of dual concentric drivers, and own both the aforementioned monitors. Here’s why. Dual concentric drivers — where the high frequency driver is placed at the centre of the low frequency driver — don’t suffer from time alignment issues. Instead of two separate drivers pushing disparate frequencies toward you from two physical points, all frequencies are projected from a single point source. In other words, all frequencies are time-aligned, and therefore, phase-aligned.

There is a disadvantage inherent in using dual concentric drivers, and that’s distortion of the high frequency driver due to movement and waves created by the low-end driver. Presonus has tackled this anomaly with DSP and a horn dispersement guide for the top-end. The digital smarts are courtesy of Dave Gunness of Fulcrum Acoustic. Dave is responsible for speaker designs for Electro-Voice and EAW, (Gunness Focusing), and has penned many a considered white paper for the AES. The DSP technology has been dubbed Temporal Equalization, or TQ for short.

The approach is to implement finite impulse response (FIR) filters to eliminate horn reflections and to correct linear time and amplitude anomalies. This works in tandem with Presonus’ driver design to alleviate issues connected with the dual concentric concept. Factors including high-pass, low-pass, and parametric filters, and delay, are all used to pull the two driver segments into line, as it were. With these features combined, Presonus has craftily birthed its own slant on coaxial drivers, and entitled the system ‘CoActual’.


Presonus Sceptre
Studio Monitors

    Sceptre S6: $2116/pair
    Sceptre S8: $2470/pair


    Link Audio: (03) 8373 4817 or info@linkaudio.com.au

  • PROS

    Detailed with good depth
    Wide stereo image

  • CONS

    Slightly smeared bottom end


    Dual concentric designs have their immediate upsides, and Presonus has tapped Dave Gunness to filter out any residual anomalies with DSP. The result makes Sceptre an accurate monitor with a wide sweet spot, rounding out Presonus’ healthy range of monitor choices.


So there’s the background, but how do the Sceptre monitors stack up? To begin with, we’ll look at the overall build. Aside from the coaxial drivers, the cabinet design is fairly predictable: a black vinyl-covered MDF cabinet with a plastic front baffle incorporating an elliptical front-port. The front baffle surface also incorporates a recessed surround, presumably to alleviate the effects of diffraction. I much prefer front porting, firstly as I’d rather anything the monitor has to provide being directed toward me, and secondly because the monitors can be placed closer to the rear wall of the listening environment. Both the eight- and six-inch driver models were deposited in my studio for appraisal, which being a good 80-plus cubic metres, suited the eight-inch models more-so (but give me an eight-inch driver over a six any-day).

In listening, I couldn’t help but back off the high-end drivers of the six-inch models by 1.5dB. By comparison, the eight-inch models sounded far more balanced with all EQ options defeated. The crossover frequency is a typical 2.2kHz for the six-inch and 2.4kHz with the eight-inch models. Imaging is very good indeed, and exactly what I’d expect from a dual concentric design, offering a wide phantom image. If anything, I found the high-end detail to be slightly on the aggressive side. Not painful, just very capable of exposing anything nasty you may have lurking in a mix. Sharp transients didn’t attack me and I happily listened to a variety of material and mixes via these monitors without experiencing any degree of auditory fatigue.

The Sceptres provide an extremely detailed image, with the depth required to ascertain important mixing decisions. I did find the bottom end to be a little lacklustre. Not that there’s a lack of bass, just that I feel elliptical porting can smear low frequencies. For the price, the Sceptres present as extremely good value, and would compete admirably with more expensive designs. Worth auditioning if you’re on a budget, just be sure to evaluate alongside more pricey designs. You may find you’re quite surprised.


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