Published on April 21st, 2014 | by Greg0
Samson MediaOne BT5: Studio Monitors With Bluetooth?!
Most people can imagine that there are two basic classes to many types of gear- professional and consumer, with largely varying degrees of durability and cost. With audio equipment, there is a sort of third category- audiophile- a higher-end segment that markets itself much like an automobile. Most listener needs- even those who can afford top-of-the-line gear- are more suited to design, style and a certain sound rather than what professionals actually need. It’s kind of like the difference between a Maserati and a police car, and they serve very different purposes.
Today’s product is aimed more towards the quasi-professional, or prosumer market, rather than a strictly audiophile one. Samson produces a pretty wide range of some excellent gear, including microphones that are considered amongst the best in the world. Their MediaOne BT5 Active Studio Monitors with Bluetooth take their audio heritage and aim at a new category- wireless speakers, perhaps best aimed at amateur on a budget. And though they are a compromise of sorts, they fill a specific niche well, and offer some considerable power at a reasonable price. The unit actually consists of three very similar models, each with 1-inch silk dome tweeters, an all-black satin vinyl finish, and either three-, four-, or five-inch woofers. We tested the BT5, which has the largest subwoofer.
Yesterday, we looked at a pair of Bluetooth speakers from Harmon Kardon with lots of pizazz. But they add a lot of color to the sound, and considering the similar price point, offering half of the rated power output (though offer a smaller footprint as well). Studio monitors aim to be clear, precise, and ‘colorless’, ideal for studio mixing and audio work with artists, where transparency and accuracy are key, consistency critical, and durability as well. Like with the in-ear monitors from Audio-Technica, size and form factor are less of a concern, and these are well built, sturdy, though nothing amazing to look at. They are made to be workhorses, and also fairly narrow in soundstage, a problem if you are trying to use them for home audio or theater where you want audio to spread around a room but perfect for close quarters, short range use by a couple of people. In other words- they are built for a desk or work station, and not your bedroom or living room. And we found them pretty neutral indeed, especially after a nice burn-in period, with a flat response curve. And don’t misunderstand, because they can certainly pump out some serious volume. And unlike most consumer speakers, they connect regular audio cable and offer an RCA input for connection to your amp (as well as a front auxiliary mini-jack).
We were a bit more skeptical on the Bluetooth aspect though. No serious musician or producer would try to mix their tracks using Bluetooth, and especially when it isn’t even the superior aptX protocol. It can be convenient- especially if you’re using your iPad as a mixer, as more and more people do- so it’s perfect for those “in a pinch” or “showoff to your friends” situations. But, frankly, you might as well connect a cable, and these aren’t portable in any way, shape or form. Pairing is handled via a button on the back, a bit awkwardly. By default, the BT5s offer quite a bass- a bit too much, actually, as it can add a bit of a hum we noticed. But their mids and highs are solid, very tight and focused and fast, great for guitar and jazz sounds where instrumentals are showcased, a bit rough around the edges of some electronic music. In short, they offer a nice bonus of wireless capabilities over many other monitors, but feel a little like a “fish with wings”. If you’d like Bluetooth and a set of desktop monitors, though, these are a great option and are certainly reasonably priced starting at $100 for the BT3 and going up to $200 for the BT5s as tested.