It’s almost like vinyl versus streaming: active and passive loudspeakers. Active speakers kill the hobby, many fans believe. But on the other hand: active offers a lot of value for money. Everything is matched. And that has many advantages. We put five completely different active monitor speakers side by side: PSI, Yamaha, Behringer, HEDD and Neumann. Which one steals your heart? By the way, if you want to hear them: we’ve also included the live stream in the article.
We have deliberately set up the control of these monitors without compromise. It is the famous Alpha-Audio reference set with the Pass Labs XP12 preamplifier, Metrum Pavane DAC, Metrum Ambre Roon Bridge. Wiring from Grimm (in this case TPR).
The active monitors are powered by the Torus RM power conditioner. We use standard power cables. This way we know for sure that the control of power and sound source is optimal.
PSI 14-M Broadcast
2.000 per pair
The Swiss PSI mainly makes active studio monitors. The A14 is the smallest variant, which is available in both studio and broadcast versions. PSI has a special way of achieving coherent phase behaviour, ultra-precise timing (they are Swiss!) and woofer control. PSI does this by means of an electronic feedback system between the components; and then completely analogue. See this video we made during a factory visit to PSI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkMcTVlbKdweature=emb_logo
The A14 is small. bit with still an impressive weight. It is unbelievable how complete, spacious and balanced this (the Dutch call this size a ‘bottle of milk’) sounds. Rich in detail, big when it has to be big and intimate when it is intimate. A beautiful speaker system for in a small room, or as in radio and TV studios, suspended in the air. Listening fatigue is not going to happen with the PSI A14. Combine it with a sub and the system is complete. Because, well, don’t expect pumping bass with air displacement. Small and very special, this PSI.
The PSI measures quite straight. In this test field it is one of the most neutral. The Neumann still beats it, but we are talking small differences here. Distortion is low and well under control. We can’t judge much from the PSI’s measurements.
514 per pair
This is not even the most price-friendly Yamaha active studio monitor. The cheaper HS-7 and HS-6 are also available. The iconic white woofer refers to the equally iconic Yamaha NS-10, the ‘terror of mastering engineers’. Because only when a mix sounded good on this NS-10, it was good. And the NS-10 was a monitor that by definition did not sound good. With the white woofer and the black cabinet, the comparison between the HS-8 and NS-10 stops, because this HS-8 actually always sounds good.
This Yamaha is a somewhat warm-sounding speaker that sounds surprisingly spacious and coherent. But as the dynamics in the music increases, the HS-8 loses some control. It’s going to sound messy. Fortunately, the user can influence the frequency behavior of the speaker. That will certainly be necessary for the bass (a little mute). But: for 500 euros a lot of nice sound and a lot of power.
Both this HS-8 and the Behringer TRUTH 2031A are very suitable for a home cinema system. Take five or seven and one or two subs; and for a reasonable amount of money you have your home theater complete.
The Yamaha is not neutral. We see a somewhat warm low and a bump in the high frequencies. Distortion is somewhat high, if we’re honest. Only after the crossover (to the tweeter) it dives to decent values. In short: a fine monitor, but not really suitable to mix on.
Behringer Truth B2031A
249 per pair
Quite a mouthful for a loudspeaker set that is available for an almost unbelievable price. Behringer is now a company that has almost carelessly taken over renowned brands such as Midas. In the early years of Behringer it was a skilful copy cat that shamelessly offered successful products from other brands for a much lower price. So is this monitor, which is suspiciously similar to Genelec monitors.
The Behringer TRUTH B2031A is the largest and heaviest of the series of monitors we are testing. The sturdy toroidal transformer, the MDF of the cabinet and other components take care of that. We already found Yamaha a bang for the buck, the Behringer is even more banger for the buck!
Of course, there is a lot to be said for the precision, the phase coherency and the focus of this Behringer. But these Behringers sound just fine and it can be loud, very loud. If you no longer want to spend 250 euros on an audio system, look no further. Below 100 Hz, this monitor is going to be quite distorted. Again, take a subwoofer and set this TRUTH so that the low frequencies are not played. On the back of the speaker you can switch all kinds of filters on and off. A set of these Behringers with a sub will sound very fine.
The Behringer doesn’t measure bad at all. Something we did expect to be honest. The mid-area is a bit tame, but that’s where the criticism ends. Ow, yes… the tweeter falls off a bit earlier than we like to see. Distortion – like mentioned – is a bit high in the bass. Especially considering the size. But from 70 Hz it’s under control. So… just use a subwoofer.
1.300 per pair
HEDD stands for Heinz Electrodynamic Designs and was founded in 2015. This is a young company, but Klaus Heinz has already founded the speaker brand ADAM. HEDD makes studio monitors, from nearfield to midfield/long throw. And recently there is the HEDDphone. What all HEDD products have in common is the Air Motion Transformer. This is a high-frequency reproduction technique in which an electromagnetic driver combined with a strong magnetic field produces an airflow. This leads to a combination of the speed and precision of a planar speaker and the dynamics of a conventional system.
The HEDD monitor 07 is the second in the series of studio monitors. Already at the first tones it was noticeable how complete this speaker is. We hear detail and soundstage, it feels right; everything is in balance. This is the most polyvalent monitor of the tested specimens that offers as much precision as listening pleasure. It’s just right, and we hear it right away. Period.
What can we say: excellent. Balance – trebble a bit high if we measure directly – but a little off axis it is already under control. The distortion is neatly under control in this loudspeaker. A beautifully spread image and no loud, dominating harmonics. All in all, it’s an excellent image that this HEDD paints.
Neumann KH 120
1.300 per pair
Neumann origens – you guessed it – from Germany. The brand is especially famous for its microphones, with or without tubes. This small monitor is mainly characterized by its ability to play every detail in a music track. It’s as if an X-ray picture is taken of the music. German precision? It sounds so stereotypical, but that’s how we experience it. It’s not a speaker that draws us into the music, but it’s really an instrument; a tool. Definately the most professional of the bunch, because that’s exactly what engineers use a monitor for.
The Neumann measures insanely well. It is practically a ruler that we see on our screen. And it doesn’t stop there. Because the distortion is also incredibly low. Lower than our Focal Sopra No1 which just costs 8000 euros per pair. However in the bass we can see that the woofer has some trouble. Not bad – understandable -, because it is a compact monitor. All in all, technically an impressive speaker.