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Music production has, for the most part, gone small. Large-format consoles, massive 2-inch tape machines, and stacks of outboard gear are no longer the only way to produce quality tracks. Realistically speaking, many (if not most) home studios consist of a laptop, which get consistently smaller every few months, a small interface, a MIDI controller, and a pair of monitors. This is true especially of electronic music, where, even as the pendulum swings back to using external synths and drum machines, the focus is on keeping them small.
Monitors, however, have persisted in being the exception to this rule. Even smaller, 5-inch monitors geared toward home studio use tend to take up a chunk of real estate, which if your home studio is anything like mine, is at premium. There’s got to be a better way!
As it turns out, the folks at IK Multimedia agree with me about that better way thing, having recently released the Micro Monitor to their iLoud family of products. My interest was sparked, and I was graciously provided a pair to check out.
Though on board with the premise of these monitors from the get-go, I went into this with a fair amount of skepticism. I know IK Multimedia as a purveyor of clever iOS accessories for audio and video, as well as some top-notch audio processing plug-ins. The company ventured into the portable Bluetooth speaker market with the iLoud Personal Monitor last year, which came heavily recommended by two of my colleagues, but outside of that I wouldn’t say this is a company known for monitors.
Unboxing them, the Micro Monitors come bundled with a power supply, a cable to connect the powered speaker to the slave (which unfortunately employs a proprietary connector, so don’t misplace it), and thoughtfully enough, a 1/8"-to-stereo RCA cable, giving you pretty much everything you need to get started out of the box. The speakers themselves are downright delightfully small (180mm tall by 90mm wide by 135mm long, according to IK Multimedia). In other words, if you put them by your laptop, your screen is likely taller.
They manage to fit a 3" woofer in that frame, along with a 3/4" tweeter. The controls that are on the back of the powered speaker are very straightforward: power switch, a high-frequency 2 dB cut switch, a low-frequency 2 dB cut switch, a “desk” switch that EQs the output for a more ideal frequency response for that placing, volume control, and a Bluetooth pairing button.
A built-in kick stand gives you two angles of inclination, as well, while IK takes advantage of the lightweight design and includes a standard 3/8"-16 mic stand thread on the bottom, allowing you to use mic stands instead of dedicated speaker stands (a nice touch that could save you some cash).
Alright, so they’re fairly feature-packed for such a small footprint, which is all well and good, but how do they sound? First impression, they are—as the name clearly implies—quite loud, especially for the diminutive size. Volume, as many an engineer will tell you, does make an excellent first impression, but if that’s all something offers, you’re basically dealing with all style and no substance. While having a chunk of clean headroom is necessary for good monitoring, when you’re talking nearfields, you’re realistically not going to be using them too loudly if you want to protect your hearing.
While IK Multimedia brags about how loud these diminutive monitors are capable of getting, their real strength is how balanced they are across the spectrum. Since I’m comfortable and familiar with the sound of my room, I found I didn’t need to engage either the high- or low-frequency cuts to improve performance, but found them quite effective at their advertised job (as of the time of writing, I could not confirm the frequency of either the high or low cut). If your space is consistently bassy, this could be a reasonable stopgap to getting some room treatment.
Most surprising about the Micro Monitors is the bass response, which is quite ample considering the size of the woofers. Certainly, providing enough low end for those making rock and pop, they even give enough kick to keep most EDM producers happy.
As a bonus, the Micro Monitors are Bluetooth capable, so you can just connect your phone wirelessly to compare a reference track. The downside here is the Bluetooth, well, sounds like Bluetooth, in a way even the least discriminating listener will notice. Even when I just wanted to play back some albums from Spotify as I was relaxing, I found that using the wired connection was worth having to go up to my computer to change a track. Embarrassing reviewer fact: I almost gave myself a heart attack after forgetting to disconnect my phone and getting a text message notification blaring through the Micro Monitors.
All in all, the value component of these speakers is tremendously hard to ignore, and they complete in a quality bracket of monitors worth quite more. If space is at a premium in your bedroom studio, or you need monitors that are easily portable, the Micro Monitors are worth investigating.