Waldorf are perhaps best known for their wavetable synthesizers (and their salads), but like most musical equipment manufacturers, they're diversifying into other areas -- in this case, studio monitors. The Waldorf Blue is categorised as a nearfield monitor, though in the context of a project studio or post-production facility, it has the power handling and bandwidth required for main monitoring. Rated at between 200 and 300 Watts each, the Blues are passive 2-way designs, but with dual bass/mid speakers to increase the power handling. As they stand, these speakers will cover the range 52Hz to 21kHz within 2.5dB, but for those needing an even more extended bass end an active pre-equaliser, the Blue Boost, is available as an optional extra. This is connected between the signal source and the power amplifier and can push the lower frequency limit down to 34Hz.
Measuring a compact 480 x 250 x 300mm, the Blues appear to be built from MDF, finished in deep blue, and are loaded with two 7-inch, Kevlar-coned drivers which take the strain up to 1600Hz. Above that, a Ferrofluid cooled, 1-inch, titanium-domed tweeter cuts in, taking the response right up to 21kHz. Conventional front porting is used to tune the cabinet, and the cabinet edges are slightly rounded, constituting a nod in the direction of reducing the effects of cabinet-edge diffraction.
With a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and a sensitivity of 92dB for 1 Watt at 1 metre, even a modestly rated power amplifier should be capable of generating a realistic near-field monitoring level with these monitors, though to get the most out of them, I'd consider a 150 Watt-per-channel amplifier to be a practical minimum -- especially if the Blue boost is used, as that inevitably eats into the available headroom. The maximum available SPL is quoted as 116dB, though in the interests of preserving my hearing, I didn't put this to the test!
Without the Blue Boost, the Blues come over as loud, confident and reasonably revealing, though they don't have quite the transparency of the best monitors. There's also something slightly 'constricted' sounding about the mid-range, and the titanium tweeters can tend towards splashiness. However, these artifacts are really quite mild and don't detract unduly from the overall sound.
Add the Blue Boost and the fundamental sound quality doesn't change -- it just seems to grow another octave at the bass end. Even with the Blue Boost in circuit, there's still enough headroom available to drive the blues to a punishing monitoring level, and it's hard to believe that such a 'big monitor' sound is coming from such a compact system.
The stereo imaging from this system is exceptionally good, and the off-axis response is such that you still hear a reasonably accurate sound when you're well off the main axis of the speakers.
Used with the Blue Boost, the Waldorf EMES Blue monitors could happily substitute for a conventional full-range monitoring system in the smaller studio, and because of their compact format, they should also be popular in video post studios, where the need to hear deep bass often runs alongside a lack of space for a large monitoring system.
Speakers may be a new area for Waldorf, but I get the impression that the Blues are the result of a serious attempt to produce a studio monitor that is nominally accurate, yet still has the kind of sound that studio engineers expect to hear. Every speaker has its anomalies, but I must stress that the criticisms levelled at this particular speaker relate to very low level artifacts, and that the general impression is good. On the other hand, you may feel that, given the cost of these speakers, you should be able to take a high level of performance for granted, and the decision to buy one loudspeaker or another may hinge on exactly such subtleties.
On the whole, these monitors are impressive, but they're not without competition in what has recently become a fairly crowded sector of the market. You really need to hear them in a proper environment to fully evaluate them, but from what I've heard so far, they're quite able to give some of their better known competitors a real run for their money.
The Blue Boost is a 1U rackmount pre-equaliser designed to actively boost low-frequency information in such a way as to extend the useful response of the Blue monitors down to 34Hz. Other than a Bypass switch, its only control is a rotary, 6-position switch designed to provide various LF contour options to match various control room scenarios. These provide various overdamped and underdamped bass responses, as well as a flat position, which the manual relates to various room types and mounting positions. For example, position 6 adds 6dB of boost at 80Hz for use in highly damped control rooms, whereas position 1 applies 6dB of cut at 50Hz, for situations where the speakers are mounted close to corners.
Wide frequency range.
Good imaging and accuracy.
Optional Blue Boost further extends an already impressive bass response.
Versatile, professional monitors that, when used with the Blue Boost unit, can cover the same frequency range as most large monitoring systems.
£ EMES Blues £1633.25 per pair; Blue Boost £351.33. Prices include VAT.
A Turnkey Studio Systems, 14 Flitcroft Street, London WC2H 0DT.
T 071 240 2041.
F 071 379 0093.
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