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Decision on desktop studio monitors

amccausland

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Hello forum members, I'm looking for some advice on a buying decision between 3 sets of studio monitors:
- Adam T5V (well reviewed on this site, Adam T5V Review (Studio Monitor) | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum)
- Focal Alpha 50 (Focal Professional 35W+20W 2-Way Active 5-inch Monitor (long-mcquade.com) )
- Art Pro Audio RM5 (ART Pro Audio RM5 Active 300w Reference Monitors - Pair (long-mcquade.com) )

Anyone have any experience and could make recommendations on these? I'm looking for flat monitors that measure well and sound good for all-day listening as well, at my workstation. My set up is a Benchmark DAC1 USB connected to a laptop and via XLR to the speakers. Thanks!
 

dfuller

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T5Vs are fine if you fix that high shelf. Also dependent on if you like AMTs or not (I will catch flak for this here, but AMTs in my experience have a very distinct sound - you either really like it or really don't). I owned Alpha 65s and they were fine, nothing special, but I liked them more than the Adam S3As I upgraded to. Don't know anything about the ARTs but that ring radiator tweeter is I believe a Peerless XT25 of some sort which is quite decent. I'd be interested to see a review of that.
 
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amccausland

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Thanks for your reply. I was surprised to find a full set of engineering documentation from ART Pro Audio online: Service Manual (artproaudio.com). I thought some with an electrical engineering background may be interested in this. I haven't decided yet, but I see in the RM5 manual that the signal path goes through a 24 bit/44.1kHz ADC stage into a DSP so performance may be limited by that design. Thoughts?
 

AnalogSteph

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It does seem a bit silly to have a Benchmark DAC1 only for its signal to go through an ADAU1701, doesn't it? Bit of a weird choice to run it at 44.1k, though the ADC anti-alias filter is just about good enough for that. (Still better than the CS5341's as used in the JBL 305Ps, though I think those are running at 48k.) MC33078/79 opamps aren't exactly the electronics snob's choice either. That said, these RM5s seems to have gotten good reviews in terms of sound, save for "hiss possibly a bit high" (I wouldn't be surprised, and it's not at all uncommon with DSP speakers in this class - neither T5V nor 305P are innocent either, both approaching 30 dB SPL @ 10 cm).

What I can tell is that except for power amp output capability, circuitry and gains for both woofer and tweeter section seem to be identical. That would tie in with the hiss comment, since tweeters (more so in a waveguide) tend to be more sensitive than woofers, bringing out the DAC's noise floor more as tweeter level is probably just brought down in the DSP to match the woofer. (The ADAU1701 DAC has a dynamic range of 104 dB, so it's not like you've got massive amounts of leeway here.)
(You folks at Yorkville, I would be looking into this if I were you.)

XLR input clipping level appears to be about +16 dBu, which is a realistic one. (3.5 mm is something like 1 Vrms @ 1kOhm or so of input impedance.) ADAU1701 ADC dynamic range is 100 dB only, so it's probably a good thing you get a level control. The power amps are AB and entirely "homegrown"... the woofer gets a Class G job to keep dissipation down, good idea no doubt.

The Focal Shapes seem to have very hot inputs, I wouldn't be surprised if they literally hit full power at +4dBu balanced... here the wide range of output level adjustment on the DAC1 would definitely come in handy. I think those are a traditional all-analog construction.

The DAC1 may be inclined to turn up its nose at your present selection, but I get why you would be looking at these - Genelec 8030Cs would cost you literally as much a piece as the RM5s do per pair, and Neumann KH120As are even more expensive. If you value silence, you may want to be adding some KRK RP5 G4s or Mackie MR524s to the list.
 
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amccausland

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Thanks for the suggestions and the great analysis! One more thing I’m considering is I have an opportunity on a pair of used Quad 11L active monitors for around the same price. Any experience out there with those? Apparently they were a $3k set back in the day, I think they are about 10 years old? It’s hard to find much info on them online. Not sure how they would compare to more modern stuff though.
 

3125b

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In my opinion you are starting at the wrong end of the decision making process.
The first question to aks is where the speakers are gonna be used and placed within the room and relative to the listener. They search for possible candidates that you can buy in your country. Then you can look for measurements of said candidates - difficult to find for many.

Apparently they were a $3k
More like 500€/600$ per pair in 2005. Also, a high price doesn't necessarily mean good performance, in fact, those factors often times are completely unrelated.
 
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amccausland

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In my opinion you are starting at the wrong end of the decision making process.
The first question to aks is where the speakers are gonna be used and placed within the room and relative to the listener. They search for possible candidates that you can buy in your country. Then you can look for measurements of said candidates - difficult to find for many.


More like 500€/600$ per pair in 2005. Also, a high price doesn't necessarily mean good performance, in fact, those factors often times are completely unrelated.

Fair enough :D. I should have mentioned that in the beginning so thanks for that! I’m using them mainly for music listening at my desk, at a distance of 1-1.5 m from the listener.

That said, I’m looking to get into some recording and mixing, and want something that will work as well as possible for both purposes. I currently have a pair of Audioengine P4’s connected to an Arcam Solo Mini, and the computer source is connected to the Arcam via a Scarlett 2i4 interface and the unbalanced outputs. I like the sound of that setup for background music, but it doesn’t compare to the clarity of my AKG K240 and Thinksound On2 headphones, and I can’t get much more than 70dB out of it before I can hear distortion. So I’m looking to improve the clarity and accuracy of my setup with active speakers and by replacing the DAC and headphone amp of the 2i4 with a recently acquired Benchmark DAC1 connected via the balanced outputs.
 
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amccausland

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Today I went and tried out the Alpha 50’s, but they did not have the T5Vs or Mackie MR524 in stock so I tried the KRK RP5 G4, JBL 305 MKII, and the Genelec 8030C just for S&G’s (it’s more than double the price of the other options, so not in my target price range).

It looks like the KRK have the same issue as the ART Pro Audio, that is a ADC and DSP in the signal path after the speakers analog input. Rightly or wrongly I feel like I’d prefer a fully analog signal path within the speaker. I’d rather do any DSP in software prior to the DAC. And the JBLs seemed to distort on the low end. So that leaves the Focal, which I think has an analog signal path although I can’t find any documentation with those details on it. I’m sure the Quad 11Ls are analog as well (thanks 3125b for the heads up on the actual cost of them).
 

3125b

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Do you really want to hang your hat on that?
Be that as it may, I'm pretty sure that the Focals don't have any sort of DSP, they even have (just like the MR524) class AB amps. From experience I can say that my MR524 do run warm due to the low efficiency amplification, but not disconcertingly hot.

Circling back to what I was trying to say before; make sure the speakers actually fit where you want to place them. They may look smaller in the store than on your desk. The Focal Alphas are chunky, the T5V very deep.
I'm gonna make an overview real quick ...

EDIT:
Here: https://www.matheretter.de/geoservant/de?draw=quader(0|-1.4|0 2.31|1.85|2.98)+text(1|-0.3|0.1 "JBL 305P MKII"`0.85`)[90|0|0]+quader (0|0.7|0 2.98|1.79|2.97)+text(1|1.75|0.1 "Adam T5V"`1.1`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|3|0 1.65|1.4|2.34)+text(0|3.85|3 "Audioengine P4"`1.1`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|-3.6|0 2.21|1.8|2.82)+text(1|-2.5|0.1 "Mackie MR524"`0.8`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|-6.2|0 2.58|2.2|3.13)+text(1|-4.9|0.1 "F. Alpha 50"`1.2`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|-8.5|0 2.41|1.9|2.85)+text(1|-7.35|0.1 "KRK RP5 G4"`1`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|4.8|0 1.98|1.78|2.6)+text(0|5.85|3 "Presonus Eris E5"`1`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|7|0 2.38|1.84|3)+text(0|8.05|3.5 "Tannoy Revel 502"`1`)[90|0|0]&axesoff&cp=10
There are significant differences, and all these active monitors are considerably larger than your P4's.

Some other points:
- with most of these, you have to take some measures to adress the otherwiese inevetable ground loop issue. The easiest and most questionable way is to tape off the ground of either the plug or the socket for them. Costs nothing, takes no time but you might zap yourself in case of an electrical failure. The right way would be to connect them either balanced or to a DAC/preamp that is not electrically connected to earth.
- see how much hiss the speakers emit. In a quiet room at short listening distances, that can be infuriating.
- I wouldn't recommend buying the 15 or so years old Quad if they aren't really, really cheap. They are active speakers, they will not last forever and if something fails you might be hard pressed to find parts.

In the end, only you can decide what is right for you. But take some time to look at it from different angles and consider multiple options.
 
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amccausland

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Do you really want to hang your hat on that?
Be that as it may, I'm pretty sure that the Focals don't have any sort of DSP, they even have (just like the MR524) class AB amps. From experience I can say that my MR524 do run warm due to the low efficiency amplification, but not disconcertingly hot.

Circling back to what I was trying to say before; make sure the speakers actually fit where you want to place them. They may look smaller in the store than on your desk. The Focal Alphas are chunky, the T5V very deep.
I'm gonna make an overview real quick ...

EDIT:
Here: https://www.matheretter.de/geoservant/de?draw=quader(0|-1.4|0 2.31|1.85|2.98)+text(1|-0.3|0.1 "JBL 305P MKII"`0.85`)[90|0|0]+quader (0|0.7|0 2.98|1.79|2.97)+text(1|1.75|0.1 "Adam T5V"`1.1`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|3|0 1.65|1.4|2.34)+text(0|3.85|3 "Audioengine P4"`1.1`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|-3.6|0 2.21|1.8|2.82)+text(1|-2.5|0.1 "Mackie MR524"`0.8`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|-6.2|0 2.58|2.2|3.13)+text(1|-4.9|0.1 "F. Alpha 50"`1.2`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|-8.5|0 2.41|1.9|2.85)+text(1|-7.35|0.1 "KRK RP5 G4"`1`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|4.8|0 1.98|1.78|2.6)+text(0|5.85|3 "Presonus Eris E5"`1`)[90|0|0]+quader(0|7|0 2.38|1.84|3)+text(0|8.05|3.5 "Tannoy Revel 502"`1`)[90|0|0]&axesoff&cp=10
There are significant differences, and all these active monitors are considerably larger than your P4's.

Some other points:
- with most of these, you have to take some measures to adress the otherwiese inevetable ground loop issue. The easiest and most questionable way is to tape off the ground of either the plug or the socket for them. Costs nothing, takes no time but you might zap yourself in case of an electrical failure. The right way would be to connect them either balanced or to a DAC/preamp that is not electrically connected to earth.
- see how much hiss the speakers emit. In a quiet room at short listening distances, that can be infuriating.
- I wouldn't recommend buying the 15 or so years old Quad if they aren't really, really cheap. They are active speakers, they will not last forever and if something fails you might be hard pressed to find parts.

In the end, only you can decide what is right for you. But take some time to look at it from different angles and consider multiple options.

That link is pretty cool, to see the speaker sizes side by side. Now I understand. I thought you were talking about performance measurements but you were actually meaning the physical size measurements. I didn't realize the T5Vs are so deep and the Focal Alpha 50s are definitely on the big side of things, although all would fit in my space even if it might be tight for the larger ones. Smaller is better for sure. In that regard and for the sound, I really liked the Genelec 8030s. Maybe I'll just have to increase my budget some :p. I agree with your thoughts on the Quad 11L's. Probably better to stick with new.

I'm not sure what you mean by the ground loop issue. Does that test something with the speaker's ability to filter out noise from the AC power?

Appreciate the input, thanks for taking the time!
 
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amccausland

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I just wanted to close the loop on this. Your advice and thoughts really helped with the decision. Since my space is too small for many of the 5-1/4" speaker options, and the Genelec 8030 is compact but just a bit on the large side, I decided to go with the Genelec 8020D. I ordered some on sale and they should arrive next week. I expect these won't have quite the bass extension of the 8030's but will be better than the 8010's and vastly better than the P4's I have now. Thanks again!
 
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