Back in 1999 I received a copy of FL Studio (it was called Fruity Loops back then). After "fixing" the room accoustics by rearranging the bed and buying accoustic foam to plaster on the walls I was ready to mix my songs-almost. I still needed a good set of monitors because my stock pc speakers left much to be desired. That was the beginning of my studio monitor journey. Over the years I went through a few pairs of monitors, and of the 5 or I had, my favorite so far has been the Dynaudio BM5A. My favorite feature of this monitor is the way it handles the mid range. The mids poke through a mix in a non fatiguing way. The high end speaker is silk and iis very non fatiguing compared to a $1500 pair I had sold earlier due to the serious headaches I would get from mixing with them for any extended period of time. The stereo imaging is excellent and it's easy to find the sweat spot without too much work. The back panel features switches to adjust the low medium and high response of the speakers. My only complaint is that with a 6.9" woofer, I find mixing sub frequencies nearly impossible without hooking it up to my subwoofer. Overall, for less than $1000 I find the Dynaudio BM5A a good value in monitors. They have a relatively small footprint, and as long as you remember to compensate for the mids, your mixes should translate well.
My pair of Dynaudio BM5As. Pardon the cellotape streaks from moving operations.
Progress in the field of digital audio technology has enabled more musicians to set up recording studios in their own homes, with prices at all-time lows and product features always improving. Almost anyone can now record their musical thoughts in real-time in the comfort of their own homes without needing to spend thousands of dollars on a recording device to form the backbone of their Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). An increasing number of musicians are also using studios built within their own homes to put together demos or even self-produce entire albums, without having to go through the cost-prohibitive route of renting a studio for what could be a time-consuming process.
However, one hurdle that many musicians and recording enthusiasts encounter after they've put together their product is the stark difference between the music they record and heard on their own speakers when they play it back from another source. This is because their speakers added their own characteristics to the sound that the musician heard, whereas another set of speakers might have an entirely different set of characteristics (i.e. more/less lows, mids or highs). In particular, this can be a breaking point when trying to sell your music to a record label or even a fan.
This is where a pair of reference monitors can be an invaluable took to help your music "translate" better when listening on different sound sources.
I'm going to review the Dynaudio BM5A near-field reference monitors, a high-performance active near-field monitor that was designed for recording/mixing environments where space is a constraint. However, this does not preclude the possibility of the BM5A being used in a more professional recording/mixing environment. The company has a reputation of putting out professional products and these monitors fall in the high-end of products with similar characteristics. The BM5A has a 6.9-inch woofer and a 1.1" tweeter and each monitor has two 50 watt amp packages with a frequency response of 50 Hz – 21 kHz. New, these monitors cost approximately $600 apiece. This model has been phased out and replaced with a newer model, the BM5A MKII.
... A "pint-sized" package
While not really pint-sized, the dimensions of the BM5A -- height 12.5", width 7.3" and depth 12.5" -- make it suitable for recording environments where space is a precious commodity, such as the overflowing project studio I have in my house. Weighing in at 8.7 kg, the Dynaudio BM5A is not light weight, with the cabinet made of aesthetically pleasing wood painted black in a manner that the grain is still visible, except for the front panel, which is buffed flat and glossy. The monitor is almost a perfect cuboid, except for the front surface, which is slightly curved on either side in the front, which I believe is intended to improve frequency response of the cabinet.
The back of the BM5A features a reflex port, as well as a three-position high pass filter and input sensitivity switch for +4dB, 0dB and -10dB settings. In addition, there is a dedicated set of three 3-position switches for setting the low, mid and high frequency response of the monitor, which enables the reference sound to be tweaked to suit the characteristics of the room and their positioning within. In my home studio, where the speaker is positioned about a foot away from the wall, I found leaving the mid and high frequencies at mid-position, while raising the bass frequency response by +2dB worked best for me, I’ll explain why later.
The back of the device also sports a single XLR jack for input connection and a socket for the detachable power cable. There’s also a power on/off switch.
One of my favourite features of the Dynaudio BM5A is the protection provided to the drivers for the woofer and the tweeter, which was a huge selling point for me as I need to ensure there is no chance of my gear going up in smoke. The speaker is designed to cut off in case the volume approaches a dangerous level capable of damaging it. I’ve had this happen a couple of times: while attempting to control something in my DAW with my audio interface mixer open, I’ve accidentally set the volume to crazy levels and the LED on the front of the Dynaudio starts to flash warning of imminent doom and the sound seems to cut off at excessive peaks! Great!
... The sound of music
One of the ways to tell how good a monitor is when you play back something you’re so familiar with, but hear things you’ve never heard before in there. To me, the Dynaudio seems to put everything in the mix right out in front for you to see: if you visualise music as a series of concentric circles of different depths that represent different frequencies, the Dynaudio seems to bring all the elements of the sound on to a flat plane, while retaining the inherent characteristics of the frequency. “In your face”, I hope that makes sense. I have a great collection of CDs that I’ve acquired over the years and listening to Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd on these monitors brings a smile to my face, the beauty of these recordings shines through in a way that isn’t possible on an MP3 player or a consumer hi-fi system. Hearing the sounds going in the background of the build-up to Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine” for the first time is an experience I’ll never quite forget, it was twice as much fun because there were people over.
What I said about frequencies being of different depths, but being projected on a flat plain by the Dynaudio BM5A holds true for recorded material as well and in this case, this is often material that you may be familiar with, but to hear it in all its beauty or all its grotesqueness is the key to making suitable adjustments to make suitable adjustments to tonal or other characteristics.
The BM5A sounds luscious in the mid and high regions and while the bass seems to lack a degree of “sharpness”, this by no means implies that you will be unable to translate the bass parts of your song accurately to another pair of speakers. Indeed, I found I could compensate for the lack of “focus” in the bass sounds by raising the low frequency EQ at the back of my monitors and positioned the way they are about a foot from the wall, I am able to predict what is lacking of excess in my bass regions and compensate accordingly.
In terms of projection, the BM5A excels for a near-field monitor. Sitting one or two or three feet away from your speakers, you will be able to hear every detailed nuance of your music clearly in a way that I can best describe as “punchy”. In fact, I have played material over the Dynaudio and been able to hear it fairly well over 15-20 metres away on my balcony, even though the volumes are not at obnoxious levels that will make my neighbours ask the cops to raid my precious studio.
... Equally at home in a professional studio
I found my mixes translate extremely well, having played them back over my iPod, hi-fi systems, car stereos and headphones connected to my computer. These monitors have also been invaluable to me in tweaking my guitar tone for use with full frequency-flat response amplification systems so that my recording tone mirrors my live tone.
I believe that recording on the Dynaudio BM5A has helped to improve the sound of the tracks I record and I feel I could really put together a very competent and listenable demo using it. However, one of the primary grievances I have about the BM5A is that after listening to it for about one or two hours – being a solo artist, I have to operate my DAW and play music, how hard is that! -- I start to lose sense of what sounds good or what sounds bad and sometimes even have to shut down for the day for fear that I will be unable to pick out errors or inconsistencies in the sound. This could possibly be on account of the mids and highs, which I believe stresses the ears on account of the same unrelenting “in your face” character of the sound.
In such a situation, I believe it would be ideal for anyone with a pair of these monitors to have another pair in case they need to sit in their professional recording offices for extended hours listening to mixes. For casual recording hobbyists though, the BM5A will more than serve your purpose on its own, especially if your bandmates are with you, since the more ears, the more likely it is that any discrepancies or issues will be highlighted! For me, I work with what I have and my personal views aside, everyone who has heard my monitors falls in love with their accuracy and beautiful translation of musical content. As I mentioned, since I bought this product, Dynaudio has put out a Mark II product rectifying the bass transient issue, which I feel is a testament to its popularity and excellent performance.
I won't make you wait to find out if I'm happy with the Dynaudio BM5A MKII's. The answer is yes. In my career as an audio professional, I've owned my fair share of monitors. More specifically "affordable" models. I've had M-audio, KRK, Roland, hand-me-down Tannoy's and other combinations too numerous to mention. Let me tell you, what I've found with the latest iteration of the BM5a, I think they've really nailed an affordable NF monitor. The price I paid? $424 a piece. That's the best deal I've ever sniffed out on these monitors. It just-so-happened that I got to Guitar Center during a "green tag event". Total after tax I came in right around $900.
With the BM5a mkII, you have only a few features and one possible input. A lot of other speakers in the $300-$1k range usually have TRS, XLR and sometimes RCA input connections. Here you'll only find XLR, which in most cases should be more than fine. If you have the means to buy $1000 speakers, you've probably got a TRS to XLR cable somewhere. Next thing you'll find on the back panel is a series of filters. You'll find a variable 60Hz or 80Hz high-pass, a low frequency shelf with 3 possible settings (+2, 0, -2), a mid frequency notch (0, -1, -4) and lastly a high frequency shelf (+1, 0, -1). Another important switch on the back besides the AC main is the input level. I'm actually a huge fan of it's simple 3 setting switch. You get +4, 0 and -10. This to me is favorable over a sweeping pot. I never like assuming where 0 or +4 is on each speaker. I always had to put a sound level meter on a stand, run a 1K tone in Pro Tools and calibrate the output of my 2 speakers to ensure my balance was 100% correct. I never trusted some printed lines and a plastic knob to give me the exact same settings on each of my speakers. With these I have 3 preset choices and no need to calibrate. Thank you!
Before I move on to how they sound, I feel I should mention the nifty protection systems inside these speakers. Basically they have a series of overload and thermal sensors that force the monitors into a standby mode to allow cooling and a mute mode to avoid blowing.
Now on to the sound of the speakers. I plugged them in and nestled them into their Auralex Mo-pads, setup my listening position and tweaked the filters. In my studio I employed the low shelf at -2 and the high at -1. I really want an even representation of my mid-range. While my monitoring output is at +4, I opted for the 0 setting on my input. They were all setup and ready to break in!
The first album up was Steely Dan's "Royal Scam". This is always the first thing I listen to after I setup a new set of monitors in any room. I listen to the entire album from front to back, all songs in order. (I recommend this to everyone. Take a well recorded and mixed album that you can stand to listen all the way through and play it through every one of your monitoring setups. Keep it with you on a thumb drive and repeat. I've done this for years and believe it helps me wrap my head around the speakers or room I'm going to work in). My initial perception was that perhaps the speakers were a little bright and maybe a little big in the bottom (at least in my mix room where I normally sit). So I tweaked the filters as written above. I started to feel a lot more comfortable after getting the filters right. The speakers sounds really smooth and pristine. Easy on the ears at any level I tried them. Once the Dan listening test was done (which it passed with flying colors), I moved on in my music collection.
I cued up all of my favorite albums from over the years. Great mixes...not so great mixes. Rock, indie, punk rock, hip-hop, death metal and anything between. I think I put in about 6 hours of listening. Which I also recommend when setting up new speakers or mix positions. I felt 100% confident by the end of my day that I could make informed decisions on these monitors when mixing.
Two days later it came time for me to put my investment to the test. I had planned about 5 or 6 hours to mix and eclectic indie track loaded with trumpets, guitars, drums, organet, melodica, triangle, upright bass and a slew of vocals. Much to my surprise, 3 hours into my mix I found my self running out of things to do. I could really see into my mix, making quick and confident decisions with panning, eq's, reverbs and a bit of compression here and there. Two days later a bit of the same, mixing another track with the same results.
In summary, if you're like me and are looking for a better set of monitors than mid-level deals or hand-me-downs, check out these monitors. They really are a step up and for the price you can have professional speakers that will definitely help you mix and allow you to mix for longer periods of time. I would have easily purchased these at the normal $499 a speaker.
*I chose these based on the fact that I worked at a studio with the original Bm5a's in the past. I also use Bm6a mkII's in another studio I currently work for. I've worked on an assortment of dynaudio speakers over the years and have always been pleased with my results.
Construction : they have a classic dynaudio design. Two way speakers with 6.9" woofer and 1.1" tweeter,together give you 110w... they have lf,mf,hf switches in the back of this monitors and a bass reflex..
Freq response 50hz to 21 khz
Sound : Very good dynamics with a little bit punchy on mid and high freq but well made , with a good stero image but they don`t have so much definition on low freq..So in my opinion they have a good to very good sound..
Conclusion : not many things to reproach on the sound and design , very good for a bit tiny space for mixing , ideal for many stiles and production genres.I won`t recomend them for electronic music without a subwoofer...