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Barefoot Footprint03

Active Monitors By Phil Ward
Published June 2024

Barefoot Footprint03

These compact three‑way speakers are Barefoot’s most affordable monitors to date.

Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve not reviewed a Barefoot monitor since the Footprint01 in 2017. Back then, Barefoot were still relatively new entrants to the monitor market, but these days they feel like part of the establishment, and the company should be applauded for surviving and apparently thriving in an intensely competitive market.

With the Footprint03, Barefoot have in two respects entered new territory. Firstly, the Footprint03 is significantly more compact and affordable than other products in the range. And secondly, it’s Barefoot’s first reflex‑loaded monitor. All previous Barefoot monitors have been closed‑box designs, and the company have been evangelical advocates of the benefits of closed‑box loading. It will be fascinating to see how the engineers at Barefoot have managed the trade‑offs inherent to reflex loading.

Baby Steps

The Footprint03 is a three‑way active monitor of relatively compact dimensions and light weight that ought to be easily compatible with the majority of studio installations. It’s an attractive and neat‑looking design that follows the established Barefoot aesthetic of dark grey textured paint, rounded cabinet edges and aluminium trim panels.

The rear panel offers just mains power and balanced analogue input sockets, along with a stepped input‑sensitivity knob. There are also a couple of tapped, standard pitch‑mounting hardware attachment points, and I can absolutely see Barefoot having multi‑channel Atmos studio aspirations for the Footprint03. Why sell monitors by the pair when there’s applications out there for seven, nine, 11, or even more? The Footprint03 is optionally compatible with Barefoot’s proprietary MEME (Multi Emphasis Monitor Emulation) technology, which aims to offer the subjective characteristics of alternative monitors, and the rear panel offers the necessary sockets. However, the review pair didn’t include the MEME hardware controller so I wasn’t able to try it.

The rear panel hosts a single combi XLR/jack input with a stepped input gain control, and jacks for accommodating a Barefoot MEME controller.The rear panel hosts a single combi XLR/jack input with a stepped input gain control, and jacks for accommodating a Barefoot MEME controller.

Downstream of the input, the Footprint03 includes separate Class‑D amplification for its bass, midrange and tweeter drivers, rated at 100W for the bass and midrange and 60W for the tweeter. Prior to its amplification stages, the Footprint03 incorporates a DSP module, with 28‑bit/96kHz conversion, which handles EQ and crossover functions. However, there’s an interesting twist in the way the Footprint03 crossover filters are configured, in that an initial low‑frequency filter is implemented in the analogue domain before the DSP. Once the low‑, mid‑ and high‑frequency signals reach the DSP, further digital filter stages then complete the necessary crossover filter function. This patent‑pending composite filtering technique, which Barefoot call SPOC (Spectrally Optimised Conversion), is claimed to ensure that digital resolution isn’t lost in accommodating the typical spectral balance of music, where high frequencies generally reach lower maximum levels than low and mid frequencies.

Motoring Along

The drivers comprise a 165mm aluminium‑cone bass unit, a 90mm aluminium‑cone midrange unit and a newly revised, 25mm fabric‑diaphragm ring‑radiator tweeter that, say Barefoot, boasts increased sensitivity and diaphragm excursion capability and reduced compression. The ring‑radiator tweeter architecture is fundamentally that of a dome tweeter, except that the apex of the dome is fixed and the surround area outside the voice‑coil diameter is enlarged. Ring radiators offer a slightly different set of characteristics and compromises compared to traditional dome tweeters, and when they were first introduced (by Danish driver specialist Vifa) in the late 1990s, they made quite an impact among driver engineers. The impact has died down in the intervening couple of decades, but Barefoot have stuck with the ring‑radiator format, and to my mind, it definitely offers some benefits. A significant one is typically a very low fundamental resonance frequency, combined with good high‑frequency directivity.

The midrange driver is of small diameter, so you would expect it to be relatively limited in terms of low‑frequency bandwidth. This will tend to pull the bass‑midrange crossover frequency upward, and that’s confirmed in the Footprint03’s 600Hz specification. The bass‑midrange crossover in a monitor with a larger midrange driver would typically be around an octave lower. At the other end of the midrange band, the driver’s small size takes the pressure off the tweeter by enabling a higher‑than‑usual 3.9kHz high‑frequency crossover frequency. This will potentially minimise distortion at the lower end of the tweeter band, and reduce the possibility of thermal compression — a phenomenon which typically affects tweeters first because the thermal mass of their voice‑coils is smallest.

A small midrange driver only requires a modest isolating enclosure, and this helps keep the overall monitor dimensions compact. The driver features a small roll‑surround, its minimal size made possible by the diaphragm not requiring the generous excursion levels of bass drivers. Having said that, Barefoot specify the midrange driver as having ±3.5mm linear excursion potential, which is pretty generous for such a small driver. The driver incorporates multiple copper shorting rings in its motor system, which bodes well for distortion performance and subjective clarity.

The Footprint03 bass driver features a generously dimensioned rubber roll‑surround and is specified with an impressive ±9.5mm linear excursion. Like the midrange...

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