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Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Review


Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Feb 13, 2016
Seattle Area
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Ocean Way HR5 Powered Monitor (speaker). It was purchased and kindly sent to me directly by a member. The HR5 costs US $1,400 each or $2,800 for a pair.

The HR5 looks unusual with dual horns in a small, "bookshelf" package:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Audio Review.jpg

Nice to see both digital and analog inputs:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Back Panel Controls Audio Review.jpg

I was impressed with these statements:


Allen Sides -- the man behind the brand of speakers and recording studios -- makes the above point in a number of videos I watched. He says that you can slide from one side of a large console to the other with sound not changing. And that someone can stand up or sit down and it makes no difference in tonality of speaker. I thought all of this would then follow with measurements but none are provided. Nor could I find any online.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

Suspecting that the soundfield may be complex from HR5, I ran a high-resolution scan with more than 1000 measurement points. Despite that, toward the end of the spectrum, the complexity of the soundfield still went outside the bounds. The Klippel NFS can characterize this error using its redundant measurements against predicted one:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Measurement Error Measurement.png

Red ("Measured") is the actual in-room measurements. Blue ("Radiated") graph shows what the system is computationally predicting. We see that the computational one overstates that peak by a dB or two. So not a big deal.

The complexity should not be there by the way for a simple 2-way speaker. Likely there are multiple sound sources beyond the two drivers in that region (diffraction, cabinet resonances, etc.) causing the soundfield become too complex for the numerical value chose (20 order Hankel functions).

Spinorama Audio Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker can be used. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws: [Please ignore the inflated SPL absolute values -- Measurement level was at 96 dB SPL @ 1 meter]

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Frequency Response Measurements.png

Boy, this is not what I expected to see from a speaker that is supposed to be +- 1 dB. There is at about 10 dB difference between 8 kHz and 13 kHz for example! And then we have that trough near 200 Hz. Tons of sharp peaks in all the top three graphs indicate resonances as does some of the peaking above 10 kHz. Fortunately the sharp peaks are too narrow to be clearly audible (need a note to just land on them to be audible) but still, in studio monitors customers was accuracy. And that is what Allen Sides promises.

Early reflections, well, reflects the uneven on-axis response fair bit for good or bad:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Early Reflections Frequency Re...png

Is this worse or better than on-axis? If it is better, you need to leave reflections alone. If not, then better cover all your walls with 4+ inch absorbers.

Predicted in-room response which is of less value in a fully padded studio gives us this:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker CEA-2034 Spinorama Predicted In-room Response Fre...png

As noted, if care had been taken to knock out the anomalies, this would not be half bad. But they haven't so we don't have an accurate speaker.

Let's examine the other claim of 100 degree even response in horizontal axis:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Horizontal Directivity Measurement.png

I don't see a smooth, even response. Directivity narrows a fair bit above 10 kHz as well. It may be easier to see the issues using our beam width graph:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Horizontal Beamwidth Measurement.png

Looking at the red line which represents -6 dB drop in level, we see that it is anything but smooth. And it becomes smaller than +- 50 degrees as soon as you go above 4 kHz.

If you allow -12 dB level drop, you get the pink line which is still not that wide and suffers from a lot of uniformity errors.

Let's look at a well done version of this in the form of Genelec 8341A which I reviewed a while back:

Genelec 8341A Horizontal Beamwidth Directivity Measurements.png

Now we are talking! Superb accuracy and better than 100 degree total width. No wonder that Genelec provides such measurements and Ocean Way does not.

In an interview Allen says vertical directivity is perfect to I think 20 or 25 degrees. Let's look at that:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Vertical Directivity Measurement.png

This is horrible directivity for a professional speaker. No way is it a flat 25 degree seeing how it shrinks to almost nothing around 7 kHz.

Distortion measurements show an issue at high frequencies:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Rewlative Distortion THD Measurement.png

Low frequency distortion also goes up although I don't yet have a good metric to characterize them as bad relative to others. Here is how it looks in absolute levels:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Distortion THD Measurement.png

I like to see nothing above a few hundred hertz and we have that, sans the peak around 8 to 10 kHz as noted before.

Finally, here is high resolution CSD/waterfall:

Ocean Way HR5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker CSD Waterfall Measurement.png

Speaker Listening Tests
Being a studio monitor, I decided to test it in near-field on my workstation. I elevated the speaker and pointed it up a few degrees to more or less have it aimed at my ear. Listening distance was probably 3 feet or 1 meter. Admittedly, I should have given it more but I don't currently have space for it.

First the positives: the bass is clean and strong so this marketing statement is true. Second, there is good power handling. I could get the monitor to cave with clear audible distortion in bass if I turned it up way high (seemed like amplifier limitation). But otherwise there was plenty of volume.

Good news ended there unfortunately. The sound was rather harsh. Directivity was not terrible but you could easily hear the tonality shift as you moved up and down or left and right. I really don't understand how the designer can claim no difference across a large console. In my short listening distance, I could also easily localize the highs to the tweeter which was annoying. This got better if I pushed my chair farther out.

As usual, I decided to use parametric EQ to see if I can improve the sound. After about an hour I gave up. I could make small differences based on correcting response errors in the on-axis graph but they were not big enough or consistent enough for me to show them here and defend. This is in marked contrast with many other speakers I have tested with EQ completely transforms their sound.

To make sure I was not in my "bad sound mood," I switched to the little JBL 305P Mark II speaker and wow, what a revelation! Mid-range and vocals were now smooth as silk. There was a bit less bass but what was there was very balanced. The 305 could not play quite as loud but man, was it a delight to listen to. I went back to the HR5 and just could not tolerate it. It sounds so unrefined for lack of a better word.

In a video I post below, Allen was asked if he had any formal education in speaker design. He changed the topic and just said he has been building speakers since he was a child. He also said a lot of competitor speakers are poor because he has measured them and knows their response is not flat. Well, his own speakers don't measure flat by any stretch of the definition.

I always say the way to sell audio these days is to have a "story" and a personality behind it. We have those two here so no wonder people give speakers like this the benefit of doubt. But objectively the HR5 doesn't perform as a studio monitor should. I mean what is up with that huge peak above 10 kHz? How are people supposed to mix or grade a master using that? I know, you have to be over 50 and not hear it. :)

Anyway, if the company or the fans think this data is wrong, let's see alternative measurements to show otherwise. Until then, this speaker doesn't measure as it should, nor sounds good to me. Buy products from companies like Genelec which use real science and measurements to design speakers, not stories.

Needless to say, I can't recommend the Ocean Way HR5.

As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

In my last review I noted that there are benefits to donating to ASR but I could not remember them. Now I do. One of them at least. I become less grumpy and my like a product you send to me for review! So donate what you can using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/


  • Ocean Way HR5.zip
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I'm really happy to see this measured. This was one of the contenders when I was choosing my monitors. I ended up not going for it because the seeming "detached" design of the waveguide for the midwoofer never made complete sense to me.
By the way, I was shocked to see Loudspeaker Explorer compute an Olive preference rating of -1.0(!) for that speaker… turns out that score is wrong, the shape of the frequency response is confusing the LFX calculation:


Looks like I will have to tweak the formula in Loudspeaker Explorer to go no further than the leftmost crossing of the threshold… maybe @MZKM will face the same hilarious issue, depending on how its formula for selecting the LFX frequency works.
By the way, I was shocked to see Loudspeaker Explorer compute an Olive preference rating of -1.0(!) for that speaker… turns out that score is wrong, the shape of the frequency response is confusing the LFX calculation:
Yeh, lack of monotonicity will confuse the algorithm
They have a more "standard" model with angled sides that supposedly sounds good based on the two people in the Warren Huart video listening to monitors, but this leads me to believe it's probably a company wide issue not measuring things and doing stuff by ear, unless this speaker is somehow broken.
Is a headless panther worse than one with a broken arm? Many frequency response problems can be fixed, but dispersion is baked in . Thanks for the review.
Is a headless panther worse than one with a broken arm? Many frequency response problems can be fixed, but dispersion is baked in . Thanks for the review.
Yes and I was going to give it a headless panther but decided to go up a step for good bass and power ability.
Thanks Amir, great review.
Did you try just with a low-pass at 10 kHz? According to @edechamps's graph it should be quite nice.
These results are unsurprising. Allen Sides may be a good salesman, but in addition to being bad at designing speakers, he's bad at listening and bad at analytic thinking. Here's a snippet from an interview he gave to Tascam:

You've mentioned that you hear a generational loss when copying or burning CDs.
Well, I've never been able to make a copy of a CD, from a CD to a CD, ever, that sounds like the original CD. About 15% of the sonics goes away, for me. If I have multiple CDs, I'll load them into the hard drive. Going to the hard drive and playing it back doesn't sound any worse than a copy of a CD. I've just never been able to make a transfer of a CD like that. But if you record directly to the hard drive, and then you're making CDs, it's a reasonable approach.

There are entirely too many BS vendors in this industry.
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Thanks Amir, great review.
Did you try just with a low-pass at 10 kHz? According to @edechamps's graph it should be quite nice.
I did. But did not have time to optimize it. I thought it improved things but on some content made no difference so I did not go with it.

Here is where I abandoned the testing:

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