M-Audio Studiophile AV 30 monitors - Could they be Auratones for the digital age?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Record-Producer.com.

Monday May 20, 2013

A short and to-the-point question from an Audio Masterclass reader...

"What do you think about the M-Audio AV 30 monitors"

That's all. No name, no contact details, not even a question mark. I wasn't going to bother because the question could have been about any loudspeaker and there didn't seem to be any special reason to single this model out for comment. But out of idle curiosity, I took a look...

And actually the M-Audio Studiophile AV 30 monitors are very interesting. Not least because you get a pair of powered monitors for a list price of $89. And the manufacturer assures us that they are suitable for "professional-quality media creation".

OK, let's consider the realities here. This loudspeaker measures a tiny 20 x 13.4 x 16 cm. That's 8 inches high in Queen Victoria's units. So unless M-Audio has access to alien technology, the quality of sound that these loudspeakers can produce is going to be limited. They could possibly be OK in the high end, but they are not going to be able to tell you accurately what's going on in your recording at low frequencies.

What we have here therefore isn't what any reasonable person would call a studio monitor. It's a computer speaker. It falls into the same category as those little Logitechs that you can buy for $15 a pair. Except that for $89 you'd expect them to be better.

The kind of person who will buy the AV 30 isn't an audio person. It's someone who has upgraded from iMovie to Final Cut Pro X and thinks that they need something better than their laptop's internal speakers through which to monitor the sound. This is the 'media creation' industry that powers much of YouTube, and can indeed give viewers what they want and turn a profit.

Since we are all audio people here, then we're looking at the AV 30 from the other end of the telescope. As audio people we revere high-quality monitors and aspire to models such as the mighty Genelec 1036a, or equivalent. Since a pair of these costs somewhere in the region of $60,000 then most of us will settle for something lesser, but still the best we can afford.

The purpose of high-quality main monitors is to tell you exactly what's on your recording, and to provide a sound quality that inspires everyone in the studio to greater heights of musical achievement. But they won't tell you what people who consume your product hear. For that you need a secondary pair of monitors of a more humble stature. And the M-Audio Studiophile AV 30 could be just the thing!

In the early days of the modern recording era, engineers would check their mix on a pair of Auratone Sound Cube 5c loudspeakers. This model had a single 5-inch drive unit mounted in a 6 x 6 x 6 inch cabinet. Actually it didn't sound bad. The sound was 'small', but a good representation of what people would actually hear on their radio or Dansette-style record player.

You could buy a pair of Auratone clones now, and it wouldn't be a bad idea at all. But there's a middle ground of audio consumption where people aspire to something a little better, and the M-Audio Studiophile AV 30 could well be a useful reference monitor to cover this area.

In summary therefore, although you would always want to have as high a quality of monitoring available as you can afford, it is useful to be able to reference your work on lesser loudspeakers. The M-Audio Studiophile AV 30, or similar, could be just the thing.

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