Westlake Audio have been in the monitor business a long time, and those who use their monitors do so because of their distinctive sound rather than because they are the most accurate speakers on the market. The BBSM4 is a nearfield monitor of the type normally found perching on the meter bridges of studio consoles; so that they don't intrude too much, the cabinets have been designed to be used horizontally. To achieve this, the centrally ported cabinet is fitted with a pair of identical 4-inch bass/mid drivers and a 3/4-inch diameter soft-dome tweeter. With a rated continuous power handling of around 50W continuous, the BBSM4s can produce an SPL of up to 89dB at 1m and have -3dB frequency points of 65Hz and 20kHz. The surprisingly solid MDF cabinet is finished in black textured paint and the drivers are recessed into the baffle so as to be flush with the surface. There are no time-alignment steps between the bass/mid drivers and the tweeter as there are in the case of the LC 6.75s.
Though passive, the monitor is fed from a 4-way terminal strip to facilitate bi-wiring (unlike some bits of hi-fi black magic, bi-wiring often results in a demonstrable improvement in sound quality). Short link cables are supplied for conventional, non bi-wired operation. The nominal impedance is 4(omega) but, as always, there will be dips, so an amplifier capable of driving lower impedances without flinching is essential for optimum operation. I used my AVI integrated hi-fi amp delivering around 60W per channel, and found that, because the speakers are quite efficient, I could get plenty of level without clipping. Even so, for serious studio use I'd probably go for an 150W-per-channel amplifier, just to keep the peaks clean at higher listening levels.
The well-damped bass/mid unit employs a doped paper cone in a roll surround, and the voice coil seems to be approximately one inch in diameter. The tweeter is a fabric dome design and the bass port is mounted directly below the tweeter. With overall measurements of 15 x 8 x 10 inches, these speakers are slightly smaller than the LC 6.75s and weigh 31lb each.
When testing unfamiliar near-field monitors, I use a set of familiar CDs, some of which I know to be well recorded, and I also compare the speakers under test with a pair of ATC10s or ATC20s. Like the LC 6.75s, these BBSMs have excellent stereo imaging with a usefully wide sweet spot and plenty of detail. There's also a surprisingly deep, tight bass end, but for me the sound is marred by being unrealistically bright to the point of harshness. This is evidently part of the Westlake trademark, and I can accept that a certain amount of coloration is acceptable in the name of fashion, but I feel they've gone too far -- these speakers sound fatiguing almost from the word go.
At the low-frequency end, the handling of transients was definitely better than from the LC 6.75s, and you get the kind of kick normally associated with rather larger monitors. There's also plenty of mid-range detail, but the voicing makes even well-recorded material sound on the scratchy side -- which is a pity, because I get the impression that, with just a little work on the crossover, these could be really excellent-sounding monitors.
The BBSM4s provide the necessary level for near-field work, as did the LC 6.75s reviewed in last month's issue, and have irreproachable stereo imaging, but their voicing is too bright for my comfort. I've speculated that the voicing might be designed to appeal to users of the original NS10s, but my own view is that studio monitors should provide an accurate record of what's going on. An engineer using coloured monitors is rather like a fisherman using a ruler with 13 inches to the foot, just so he can make his catch seem bigger!
Ultimately, these are quite expensive as passive near-field monitors go, and, to be ruthlessly honest, the excessive brightness makes them very unpleasant to work with. I appreciate that Westlake have their own sound, and I know some engineers like to work with that sound, but my advice would be to listen very carefully before you buy. There are plenty of other far more accurate monitors in this price range -- you can even get a well-specified active system for the same price -- so unless you specifically want the Westlake sound, I'd recommend that you shop around.
Excellent stereo imaging.
Good bass end.
The BBSM4s have a similar family sound to the
LC 6.75s' but have a tighter bass response and better
mid-range clarity. They are, however, voiced to sound very bright.
£ £1295 per pair including VAT.
A Music Connections Chelsea, 202 New King's Road, Chelsea, London SW6 4NS, UK.
T +44 (0)171 731 5993.
F +44 (0)171 731 2600.
2.1 Monitor System
This interesting monitor system uses the natural roll-off of the satellite speakers to provide the crossover with the subwoofer.
Studio Nearfield Reference Monitors
Building to a price inevitably entails compromises. The art is in choosing the right ones...
Three-way Active Monitors
Sometimes, a dose of old-fashioned good engineering delivers something well worth listening to...
Active Two-way Studio Monitors
Their A7 nearfield monitors received many plaudits, not least in the pages of SOS, but manufacturer Adam thought there was room for improvement.
Active Nearfield Monitors
PMC broke new ground a decade ago with their TB2 monitors, but the competition have been catching up. Does PMCs new activated design nudge them back to the front of the pack?
Secondary Reference Monitors
Avantone have added on-board amplification to their contemporary take on the classic Horrortone secondary monitor, and the result is something quite special...
Two-way Nearfield Active Monitors
India may be a growing force in most industries these days, but few Indian pro-audio companies have made it into Western markets. Can Sonodynes speakers change all that?
The time-domain response of monitors is often sacrificed for level, but this sealed-cabinet design tackles that issue head-on...
Nearfield Monitor Speakers
With digital and analogue inputs, these small speakers from newcomers Infrasonic promise a lot for the money. Can they outperform their budget price tag?
2.1 Monitoring System
If you demand brutal and revealing precision from your monitors, read on...
Active Three-way Monitors
As well as a distinctive design, these huge nearfield monitors offer a frequency and time-domain performance that compares with the best.
Studio Reference Monitors
Adam make the leap to a three-way speaker design that seems to pay dividends in clarity and separation.
JBL have a reputation for clinically precise monitors, but this time theyve come up with something a little smoother...
Coaxially-mounted speakers may seem a bit old-school, but theres nothing wrong with the theory — and a touch of DSP can make them very modern indeed!
DSP Reference Monitors
Built-in DSP extends the flexibility and usefulness of these capable speakers.
Events new owners make some extravagant claims for these new high-end monitors, whose design is said to put quality first. Do they live up to the hype?
Studio Monitors & Subwoofer
Samsons new low-cost nearfields can produce a big sound, but do they measure up for serious mixing? We find out.
Ribbon tweeters can yield a smooth sound, while still capably reproducing transient detail — and the Pro Ribbon range promises to do so for an attractive price.
Active Nearfield Monitors
Focal control everything from design to manufacture in their factory in France — and this approach appears to be paying off.
Active Midfield Monitors