Can such attractively priced studio monitors really do the job of presenting your mixes accurately?
I've always had a soft spot for the less costly Fostex monitors, as they tend to perform extremely well within their price range, so I was keen to try out their new PM0.5n, which follows up the smaller PM0.4n model, which we reviewed in our February 2011 issue.
As with previous members of the PM series, the PM0.5n is a two-way, active, nearfield monitor, in this case designed for use in small programming rooms and home studios. It's based around two newly designed drivers that are arranged symmetrically, so there is no difference between the left-hand speaker and the right.
The 130mm woofer's cone is formed from a mix of cut and milled aromatic polyamide fibres, impregnated with resins to improve stiffness and damping. There's also an olefin film thermally bonded to the cone's surface, with a view to controlling the driver's frequency response, as well as maximising its long-term mechanical reliability. A centre dust-cap covers the front of the voice-coil assembly, and is made from resin-impregnated cellulose. The cone itself sits in a roll-rubber surround.
Handling the highs is a 20mm tweeter, the soft dome being made from cloth and laminated with a polyurethane film, to achieve physical stability without adding much weight.
The tweeter and woofer are powered by a 70W amplifier, whose power is split equally between them via an active crossover. Both drivers are mounted in a very stylish piano-black baffle (though you can also order the speaker in white, as the PM0.5nW), and are set back in machined recesses, so that they sit tidily flush. The baffle's edges are rolled, which minimises edge diffraction. With the exception of the glossy baffle, the cabinets are made from particle board covered in a black plastic foil.
The cabinets are ported to maximise low-end efficiency, while the two frontal exits are flared to reduce air-flow noise. The dimensions of the speakers are 280 x 181 x 260mm (HxWxD), and each monitor weighs 6.5kg. A blue LED on the front, next to the central Fostex logo, illuminates when the speakers are powered up.
Turning to the rear panel, the mains power comes in on the usual IEC socket, with a power switch just above it, while the signal input is via a balanced Neutrik Combo connector that can accept either a jack or an XLR plug. There's an input-gain trim, but as this is a smaller monitor with limited bass extension, there are no additional controls for changing the HF/LF balance, or for adjusting the bass response to suit the speaker's position in the room. Finally, a finned heat-sink is fixed to the rear panel to aid in cooling the amplifiers.
Given the small size of these speakers, their frequency response is actually pretty respectable, extending from 50Hz to 20kHz (±2dB, measured free-field), with LF 10dB down at 40Hz and HF 10dB down at 22kHz. There's no figure provided for their maximum SPL capability, but I found them to be adequately loud: I certainly had no problem operating them at a comfortable monitoring level, and even pushing them beyond this elicited nothing worse than a slightly reedy tonality from the tweeter.
At sensible listening levels, and with the speakers positioned up to around a metre from the monitoring position, the bass end was satisfyingly solid, albeit a little 'plummy', due to the cabinet's port resonance being used to make the best of the low end. The mid-range and high frequencies were even and detailed without sounding aggressive, and the stereo imaging was also very good.
These are all the attributes I've come to expect from the monitors in Fostex's PM series. They have a good all-round tonal balance, and the inevitable design compromises have not been allowed to have a serious impact on the audio quality. Of course, there are limitations, such as a modest maximum SPL and a slightly under-damped bass end, giving rise to some overhang on kick drums and so on. These are unavoidable when designing small speakers, however, and the main point to make here is that there's nothing so far out of kilter that your ears couldn't compensate after listening to some commercial material over them.
Overall, the PM0.5n sounds like a very 'grown-up' little speaker. If you're shopping for smaller monitors while keeping an eye on your budget, it should definitely be on your list of choices to consider. .
There are now quite a few smaller active monitors at the lower end of the price scale, such as the M-Audio Studiophile AV40, the Alesis M1 Active 520, the ESI nEar08 Classic and the Samson Media One 4a. The KRK Rokit RP5 G2 is a little more expensive, but well worth auditioning.
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