As music making equipment such as laptops, MIDI controllers and audio recorders seems to get smaller with each new generation, the idea of a fully portable professional music studio becomes more and more of a reality. The only part missing from the equation is a truly portable set of high quality studio monitors, which is why a decent pair of headphones is an essential part of almost any portable studio setup.
But is it finally possible to substitute the headphones with a set of speakers that would deliver the same amount of portability while providing all the advantages of professional studio monitors? Judging by the hype surrounding IK Multimedia’s new iLoud Micro Monitors, the answer seems to be… yes! However, let’s take a closer look at this miniature set of speakers first, before jumping into conclusions.
iLoud Micro was designed to replace larger studio monitors while providing similarly accurate sound reproduction capabilities in an extremely portable form factor. In other words, these speakers are meant to transform a large desktop music production setup into a laptop/tablet setup that can easily fit into your backpack.
But how is this possible? Can such a small pair of speakers really sound good enough? We’ll get to that in a minute.
Design & Build Quality
The speakers come in a nicely designed box containing the following items:
- The iLoud Micro Monitors.
- A power brick and a power cord with the total length of around two and a half meters.
- A cable for interconnecting the left and right speaker.
- An RCA to 3.5mm audio jack cable.
- And a cute little quick start guide.
The build quality is ever so important for gear that will spend a lot of time outside the studio and we’re happy to say that iLoud Micro definitely delivers in this department. The monitors feel sturdy enough to be carried around in a backpack on a regular basis. The body is made almost entirely out of solid feeling plastic, with additional metal grills which are used to protect the woofers and tweeters.
The overall design is classy and somewhat subdued. It wouldn’t hurt to have multiple color options on offer, but the matte black that IK Multimedia went for will definitely fit a large number of setups. We’re happy to point out that the power LED’s brightness is very subtle, which is a great touch. There’s nothing more distracting than those blindingly bright diodes that plague a ridiculously large percentage of studio equipment.
With that out of the way, let’s talk sound quality. Now, what’s particularly interesting about iLoud Micro Monitors is how their tiny size instantly reduces everyone’s expectations to a bare minimum. Looking at these two miniature speakers, it’s hard to expect anything more than a mediocre sonic performance. Needless to say, we were caught in this trap as well, and OMG, were we positively surprised by how great the iLoud Micro Monitors actually sound!
But even without the surprise factor, these speakers sound almost unbelievably good for their size and they do come very, very close to what we’d expect to hear from a pair of 5″, or even larger studio monitors.
To put things into perspective, iLoud Micro are bi-amped monitors featuring ¾” tweeters and 3” woofers, along with a front firing bass reflex ports which are responsible for the product’s surprisingly good low end performance. During our sine wave test, we did notice a slight volume bump in the 50 Hz area, followed by a subtle dip around 60 Hz, but this is always to be expected from bass reflex port speakers. In use, the bass frequency response is powerful yet detailed enough for mixing purposes, and it perfectly matches the overall clarity of the mids and the highs. The frequency response remains fairly well balanced even when the volume is pushed towards dangerously loud territory, as well as at lower volume settings.
Controls & Connectivity
Of course, proper placement is crucial with small speakers such as these and placing them in a triangular listening setup will ensure the best possible results. The adjustable kickstand makes it easy to set the speakers to the correct vertical angle when placed on a desk, whereas the included screw threads make it possible to mount the speakers on a pair of mic stands.
The speakers also feature a volume knob and a set of three EQ controls for adjusting the frequency response depending on the placement and listening preference. The controls are located on the back of the main speaker, however they are fairly easy to reach and adjust from the front.
The audio inputs are positioned right below the volume knob. There are two types of wired connections on offer: a pair of RCA inputs and a stereo 3.5mm jack, providing easy connectivity with most audio devices. Which brings us to another great thing about the iLoud Micro Monitors, and that is Bluetooth connectivity.
Pairing is done by pressing the Bluetooth button on the back of the main speaker and choosing iLoud Micro on your device’s list of available Bluetooth connections. Once connected, iLoud Micro will play a subtle notification sound, announcing that a new connection has been established.
The Bluetooth connection was rock solid during our test and we found it rather refreshing to use an iPad in tandem with a pair of studio quality monitors without having to mess with any additional cables. There is a bit of lag present when using the Bluetooth connection, though, but this mostly depends on the device that is being used to connect to the iLoud Micro, as well as the software being used. We found that the lag was minimal with a Windows 10 laptop and the iPad 2 Mini, whereas our Nexus 5 lagged up to one second when using music making apps via Bluetooth.
What’s particularly interesting is that the Bluetooth and wired connections can be used at the same time. This isn’t something we’d do on a regular basis, but the option is there in case you’re in the mood for a bit of impromptu dual touchscreen music making.
There’s no doubt that IK Multimedia broke new ground with iLoud Micro Monitors. These speakers are the first of their kind, delivering superb monitoring capabilities in a truly portable package, while remaining more than reasonably priced. Whether you’re looking for a pair of monitors for a small studio, or something to replace the headphones in your portable music making setup, the iLoud Micro Monitors are definitely worth looking into.
More info: iLoud Micro Monitors (€299.99)
IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors Review
iLoud Micro Monitors are the first of their kind, delivering superb monitoring capabilities in a truly portable package, while remaining more than reasonably priced.