M-Audio M3-8 Studio Monitors – New high end active studio monitors
The M3-8 three-way monitor is the latest in M-Audio’s active studio monitor line – and what a beast it is! To make its noise, this darling of a speaker features a high quality 8” woven Kevlar woofer, 5” mid-range and a 1” silk-dome tweeter – mounted in a three-way setup not typically found in this price range.
There are many studio monitors out there that sound great for this price, but this one certainly shines with a playback range of 38 Hz – 22 kHz, a powerful low end, dazzling highs and a surprisingly precise mid-range.
With a $349 per speaker price tag one should expect quite a good reference studio monitor, but this is an exceptionally well-engineered piece of sound producing gear that gives you pretty much all you need to mix and master music, but also to enjoy it with high fidelity.
Quick specification overview
- $349 per-speaker
- Frequency response range: 38 Hz – 22 kHz
- Active monitor / built-in amplification drivers
- Total amplifying power: 220 W
- 8” woofer amp: 150 W
- 5” woofer amp: 35 W
- 1” tweeter amp: 35 W
- Crossover frequency:
- Low-Mid: 450 Hz
- Mid-High: 3.9 kHz
- Volume knob
- EQ controls:
- LF: ± 6 dB @ 100 Hz
- MF: ± 6 dB @ 1 kHz
- HF: ± 6 dB @ 10 kHz
- LF cutoff switch: flat, 60 Hz, 80 Hz
- EQ Bypass switch
- XLR and 1/4″ balanced inputs; RCA unbalanced input
- Wood veneer front baffle and vinyl-laminated cabinet
- Size: (W x H x D) 26.8 cm x 43.4 cm x 28.5 cm (10.6” x 17.1” x 11.2”)
- Weight: 12.8 kg (28.2 lbs.)
“It’s all in the design.”
The speaker elements are set up in a three-way design, with three individual drivers for each of the speaker elements. That means the 5” midrange woofer gets its own dedicated driver which is something used for high end speakers to ensure that the oh-so-important midrange frequencies get the power they need to be accurate. A total of 220W(!) of Class AB amplification empowers this bad boy.
It has a very sleek and classy visual design with its red wood veneer front baffle, a vinyl-laminated cabinet and an LED indicator telling you if you’re sitting in the “listening sweet spot” – which by the way has a large range on a pair of these lovelies. It is very sturdily built, feels very qualitative and just overall bad ass. The M3-8 weighs in at 12.8 kg and is quite large, so it really is a beast. I would not recommend travelling with them!
But now, to get to the most important aspect for music enthusiasts, producers, composers and musicians alike – how do they actually sound?
The sound of the M3-8
After hours and hours of listening to a large range of low and loud, bass-heavy and sparkling, thick and reverberant dynamic music, switching back and forward between different playback setups, the verdict of this monitor is that it has a very potent and unbending low end capable of handling and providing an accurate sound field for any musical style I playback through it. I was really pleasantly surprised by the sheer immensity and clarity of the lows, and it’s not overpowering at all.
The 5” mid-range woofer and the 1” silk-dome tweeter are driven each by their own drivers, and they really do punch through. These all come together nicely to create a wide range of powerful and sonically accurate spectrum of sound. Comparing the M3-8 to other monitors at the same or lower price ranges with simpler, 2-driver amplification design, the increased reliability for sonic accuracy is greatly noticeable. Man, I love these things.
The stereo width and imaging of the M3-8’s is good. It has a wide range for its sweet spot, so you can move around quite a bit and still get just the right stereo image for your mixing sessions listening.
A small drawback with the M3-8, and with many other active monitors, is that when no sound is playing, there is a slight, noticeable hiss present and since I like to mix at low levels, this bothers me slightly – but so far I haven’t felt the hiss affecting my listening or how I mix as it gets hidden when sound is playing. In a way, it kind of adds a classical recording feel to it. But again – it’s very quiet.
I did have to cut the 100 Hz about -3 dB using the EQ controls on the back panel, because my room has a slight interfering mode at that frequency, so yes – the room makes all kinds of difference to how well your monitors work and that does not escape the M3-8. I also lowered the Volume knob about -10 dB to lower any kind of electrical noise. The sound image and clarity is now just right.
All in all I think that the M3-8 outdoes its price. It has a potent, rich and deep sound. What stands out is its clarity in the bass and mids which is really what I and many other music producers focus heavily on to get accurate for any kind of mixing. The very low end of this thing is immense and the highs are definitely shining through while the mids sit nicely in the whole stereo image.
Since sound waves are richest when you listen to them emanating from a single source, the design choice to make this into a three-way setup with the tweeter mounted inside the midrange woofer makes the power and richness of the mids and highs very clear and reliable. You don’t really need a subwoofer to go with these either as the 8″ really covers that part well!
The only negative thing I can say about the M3-8 is the small amount of hiss due to it being an active monitor. The hiss is audible when sound is turned off, but it is so low that it definitely does not affect how I mix – so I’m basically nitpicking like hell as I usually do.
Even if you’re a starting out music producer or an experienced studio composer, the M3-8 is a wonderful addition to your studio that pleases not only your ears and your eyes, but also your music.