Alesis are one of the acknowledged leaders in affordable digital recording equipment, but can they compete in the crowded world of studio monitoring?
Just when it seems that we know what Alesis are up to, they suddenly bring out a new product that couldn't be predicted from an examination of their current range. Indeed, if it wasn't for the fact that Alesis' president told me almost two years ago of their intention to build a monitor, I would have said they would be the last company on the planet to get involved in loudspeaker manufacturer.
The Monitor Ones look like fairly conventional near‑field speakers, measuring just 15 x 9.25 x 8.5 inches, but a closer examination reveals that the rear port has a right‑angled bend in it, producing a longer port than is common in a speaker of this type. This is claimed to have several advantages over conventional ported designs, mainly to do with tuning stability and the reduction of turbulence within the port.
Though the stereo imaging is best with the speakers standing upright, the front panel legending indicates that most people are expected to use the Monitor Ones on their sides. Because of the relatively tight driver geometry, the stereo imaging doesn't suffer too much if the speakers are mounted in this way.
I tested the speakers with my Yamaha 2075 amp, which produced plenty of level before the clip lights came on. Out came the usual test selection of CDs, and I was surprised both by the accuracy of these speakers and by their powerful bass performance. They don't have the same fine resolution as my ATC SM20s, but then they are around a third of the price. What they do have is an overall balance that provides an acceptably accurate translation of programme material while revealing the degree of fine detail required to make mix decisions. I feel the choice of a soft‑dome tweeter was wise, as the upper registers are detailed and uncoloured. There's plenty of brightness and focus, but no real tendency to over‑brighten the sound or add harshness, as is often the case with solid diaphragm tweeters.
The quoted frequency response of these monitors is 45Hz‑18kHz, plus or minus 3dB, and certainly the slam in the chest you can get from monitoring a bass drum or bass synth at volume belies their physical size – and the port tuning doesn't seem to have the high Q of some designs, which so often results in lots of bass but only over a narrow range of notes. In the case of the Monitor Ones, the bass is deep but reasonably even and the overall effect is one of tightness and control. The nearest equivalent to these monitors that I've heard recently is the Wilmslow Audio Volt Home Studio Monitor, which is around the same price but physically larger.
The final analysis must take into account both cost and performance, and on that basis I'd have to say that the Monitor Ones are amongst the best in their class. I'd be confidenct that any mixes done on them would sound reasonably consistent when replayed on other systems, and the powerful bass performance means that you could also use them to mix dance music or rock as well as more lightweight musical styles. It's always been difficult to recommend a monitor in the £300‑£400 range, but here's one that fits the bill very nicely indeed.
It's worth pointing out that the brief manual that comes with the Monitor Ones presents some refreshingly common sense advice on speaker placement and usage, including the suggestion that you buy the heaviest speaker cable you can and use as short a length as possible. It is also advised that near‑field monitors are placed on stands a little way behind the mixer and not on the meter bridge; we've been saying this for years, but does anyone listen?
The bass/mid driver is a specially built 6.5‑inch device utilising a mineral‑filled polypropylene cone suspended in a well‑damped rubber surround. This is driven by a 1.5‑inch voice coil wound on a Kapton former.
Handling the top end is a 1‑inch soft dome tweeter featuring a silk dome and ferrofluid cooling. The second order crossover operates at 2.5kHz and presents an impedance of 4 ohms, allowing most power amplifiers to work near to their maximum efficiency. Low dielectric loss, non‑polarized capacitors are used in the crossover along with a hefty low frequency inductor to provide a safe power handling of up to 200 watts peak power, though the speakers work happily with any decent amplifier rated from around 50 to 200 watts, providing the amp isn't driven into clipping. Connection to the monitors is via rear‑panel binding posts with sensibly large holes, allowing heavy‑duty cable to be used.
With a nominal sensitivity of 88dB for 1 watt at 1 metre, the speakers are capable of producing more than enough level for comfortable nearfield use when driven from a 100 watts per channel power amplifier; Alesis' own RA100 is an ideal size for the job.
- Nearfield size with mid‑field performance.
- Good overall accuracy and balance.
- Doesn't require a large power amplifier for good results.
- None at this price level — except perhaps that you can't use them as an excuse for doing a bad mix!
Though there are cheaper monitors, the Alesis Monitor Ones turn in a very high level of performance for a very attractive price.