Equator Audio D8

Active Monitors

Published in SOS January 2014
Bookmark and Share

Reviews : Monitors

Equator prove that real quality needn't cost a fortune, with their new active, coaxial D8s.

Paul White

US-based company Equator Audio build all their studio monitors around the common theme of coaxial drivers — in other words, the tweeter is in the centre of the bass/mid driver. This topography, most famously applied by Tannoy, ensures consistent time alignment between the two drivers, even when the listener moves off axis, but it is not without its technical challenges.

Equator divide their studio monitor speakers into two product lines: the more powerful (and more costly) Q series, which is designed for mid- and far-field use, and the D series, intended for nearfield work and priced to appeal to home-studio owners.

The D8s reviewed here are the latest in the D series line, which also includesEquator Audio D8 a five-inch version (the D5). Employing an eight-inch-chassis LF driver, the D8's polypropylene cone itself measures around seven inches, including the roll surround, and has mounted in its centre a silk-domed, one-inch tweeter.

Measuring 14 x 10 x 12 inches, and finished in textured grey paint, the cabinet is front-ported, with the 2.5-inch vent opening being part of the extended driver trim ring, which is fitted to smooth the transition from the driver chassis to the baffle. All the box corners are slightly rounded, which helps reduce cabinet edge diffraction, and there's a blue power LED visible at the bottom of the trim ring when the speakers are running. Each speaker weights 22lbs.

Power comes from Class-D amplification totalling 100W (60W for the lows, 40W for the highs). Driver protection and amplifier protection, for both short-circuit and excess-heat conditions, is built in. The combination of driver, cabinet and amplifiers delivers a frequency response of 44Hz to 20kHz (±3dB), and the maximum SPL is quoted as 106dB at one metre, which should be more than enough for comfortable near-field listening.

The rear panel houses the input connections (both balanced XLR and balanced/unbalanced TRS jack). Also around the back is a level calibration control, which is stepped to make left/right matching easier, and there are three boundary voicing settings to help manage the bass-response changes caused by placing the monitors close to a solid wall. Position 1 introduces a 2.5dB cut between 1kHz and 44Hz, and is suited to using the speaker close to a wall, where the roll-off helps counteract the bass build-up that results from siting the speaker close to a reflective boundary. Position 2 is essentially flat, for situations where the speaker is used further from a wall. Position 3 is again tailored for setups where the speakers are located well away from boundaries, so again there's no bass cut, though there's a gentle dip at 150Hz, augmented by a gentle HF rise starting at 6.5kHz.

D Is For Digital

DSP plays an important role in the D8's design, with the coaxial drivers being fed via a digital, fourth-order crossover (the actual crossover frequency is not specified). The designers cite midrange clarity as being a particularly important factor, so they also use DSP to implement a group-delay filter, which optimises the phase response in the 900Hz to 3kHz midrange area where the drivers overlap.

As part of the factory calibration process, every speaker is individually fine-tuned using DSP to iron out the tolerance variations that even the best drivers suffer from. This allows precise matching of the speakers for use in stereo or surround systems, and is done after the drivers have been mounted in the cabinet by connecting the monitor's rear-panel dataThe rear panel houses the D8's input connectors, as well as a stepped level control and a three-way boundary voicing switch.The rear panel houses the D8's input connectors, as well as a stepped level control and a three-way boundary voicing switch. port to the factory calibration system and then loading in data that is individual to each speaker.

While a perfectly flat frequency response might seem the ideal for a monitor, the Equator design team enlisted a panel of 'golden ears' from the recording industry, including mastering engineers, and made subtle voicing adjustments to the speakers based on their input. Tweaks that all panel members seemed to agree on included pulling down the 150Hz region very slightly to allow the midrange to come into better focus — but according to Equator, we're only talking about adjustments of fractions of a dB in most areas.

Performance

So, that's the Equator design approach, but how do they actually sound in a real-world environment? Well, in my studio they sounded extremely transparent and well focussed, with very clear mids and detailed highs. There was also a sensible amount of bass extension given their physical size, with no obvious bass 'flab' caused by over-zealous port tuning. More importantly, they showed up the shortcomings in some older recordings such as digitally remastered versions of analogue tapes that were clearly past their best at the time of transfer. For example, some of the Jimi Hendrix material I have on CD sounded just a touch grainy, whereas more up-to-date recordings of known good quality, such as John Mayer, sounded smooth and three-dimensional with vocals you could almost reach out and touch. The stereo imaging was particularly good, as you'd expect from a properly-designed dual-concentric speaker, enabling the listener to hear into and around the mix and making it easy to pick out vocal treatments and to separate instruments. There was no sign of strain at higher playback levels either, at least not until you get to a level that is uncomfortable to work with.

Although this level of quality usually comes at a premium price, in this instance the Equator D8s actually fall closer to the mid-price bracket rather than to the esoteric end of the price spectrum. When I initially checked the price, I thought I was being given the cost per speaker rather than per pair, so I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the cost was indeed for a pair.

It's A D8!

Most project studio owners tend to look in the sub-£800 bracket for their monitors, which pits these against brands such as Mackie, Adam, Event and Eve, with models of a similar size from the likes of PMC, Focal, Quested and Sennheiser costing more. There's a lot of subjectivity when it comes to choosing speakers, all of which have advocates and detractors, but this is the first time I've fired up a pair of Equators in my own studio and I found them to be immediately comfortable to work with. The bottom line is that, with these speakers, good mixes sound good and bad mixes sound bad, while their almost forensic sense of clarity and focus lets you critique the various mix elements with confidence. I'll be genuinely sorry to see them go.  .

Alternatives

Although the Equator range competes on price with a number of traditional two-way monitors from companies such as Adam, Genelec, Eve, Event and Mackie, they stand comparison with some speakers costing significantly more.

Equator Audio D8 £649$777
pros
Good clarity and focus.
Stable stereo imaging with a true sense of depth.
Revealing of any sonic imperfections in the recording.
cons
I really didn't find anything not to like, especially given the price.
summary
A lot of work has gone into the design of these speakers, and the 'golden ear' listening panels have clearly paid dividends. They compete well on both price and quality in the nearfield monitor middle ground.
information
£649 per pair including VAT.
Hand In Hand +44 (0)1752 696633
$777 per pair including delivery.
Equator Audio +1 888 772 0087.
 

SOS Readers Ads
GRAB A BARGAIN

£467,653

of Second-User Gear for sale now — don't miss out!

AVI Neutron Five

2.1 Monitor System

Thumbnail for article: AVI Neutron Five

This interesting monitor system uses the natural roll-off of the satellite speakers to provide the crossover with the subwoofer.

Tannoy Reveal 601A

Studio Nearfield Reference Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Tannoy Reveal 601A

Building to a price inevitably entails compromises. The art is in choosing the right ones...

Quested V3110

Three-way Active Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Quested V3110

Sometimes, a dose of old-fashioned good engineering delivers something well worth listening to...

Adam A7X

Active Two-way Studio Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Adam A7X

Their A7 nearfield monitors received many plaudits, not least in the pages of SOS, but manufacturer Adam thought there was room for improvement.

PMC TB2S AII

Active Nearfield Monitors

Thumbnail for article: PMC TB2S AII

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?

Avantone Active MixCube

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...

Sonodyne SM 50AK

Two-way Nearfield Active Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Sonodyne SM 50AK

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?

Unity Audio The Rock

Monitor Speakers

Thumbnail for article: Unity Audio The Rock

The time-domain response of monitors is often sacrificed for level, but this sealed-cabinet design tackles that issue head-on...

Infrasonic Blow 4D

Nearfield Monitor Speakers

Thumbnail for article: Infrasonic Blow 4D

With digital and analogue inputs, these small speakers from newcomers Infrasonic promise a lot for the money. Can they outperform their budget price tag?

Blue Sky Sat 8 & Sub 212

2.1 Monitoring System

Thumbnail for article: Blue Sky Sat 8 & Sub 212

If you demand brutal and revealing precision from your monitors, read on...

Barefoot Sound MicroMain 27

Active Three-way Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Barefoot Sound MicroMain 27

As well as a distinctive design, these huge nearfield monitors offer a frequency and time-domain performance that compares with the best.

Adam S3XV

Studio Reference Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Adam S3XV

Adam make the leap to a three-way speaker design that seems to pay dividends in clarity and separation.

JBL LSR 2300

Monitor Speakers

Thumbnail for article: JBL LSR 2300

JBL have a reputation for clinically precise monitors, but this time theyve come up with something a little smoother...

Equator Audio Q8

Active Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Equator Audio Q8

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!

M-Audio Studiophile DSM1

DSP Reference Monitors

Thumbnail for article: M-Audio Studiophile DSM1

Built-in DSP extends the flexibility and usefulness of these capable speakers.

Event Opal

Studio Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Event Opal

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?

Samson Resolv A6 & 120A

Studio Monitors & Subwoofer

Thumbnail for article: Samson Resolv A6 & 120A

Samsons new low-cost nearfields can produce a big sound, but do they measure up for serious mixing? We find out.

Prodipe Pro Ribbon 8

Active Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Prodipe Pro Ribbon 8

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.

Focal CMS65

Active Nearfield Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Focal CMS65

Focal control everything from design to manufacture in their factory in France — and this approach appears to be paying off.

Klein+Hummel O410

Active Midfield Monitors

Thumbnail for article: Klein+Hummel O410Getting the balance right between the benefits and disadvantages of ported and non-ported speaker designs is a tricky job, and K+H do it better than most with this ported model.

WIN Great Prizes in SOS Competitions!

 

Home | Search | News | Current Issue | Tablet Mag | Articles | Forum | Subscribe | Shop | Readers Ads

Advertise | Information | Privacy Policy | Support | Login Help

 

Email: Contact SOS

Telephone: +44 (0)1954 789888

Fax: +44 (0)1954 789895

Registered Office: Media House, Trafalgar Way, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB23 8SQ, United Kingdom.

Sound On Sound Ltd is registered in England and Wales.

Company number: 3015516 VAT number: GB 638 5307 26

         

All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents. The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.

Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media