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IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitor

Can something this small really be called a “studio monitor”?

 

by Craig Anderton

 

 

IK’s iLoud was the first Bluetooth speaker intended to go beyond typical consumer Bluetooth applications. Voiced like studio monitors, compact, and with a built-in iRig interface, the iLoud is an extremely versatile box—as shown by the many applications discussed in the iLoud Pro Review Xpress here on Harmony Central.

 

This main claim to fame of the iLoud Micro Monitor—the latest member of the iLoud family, packaged as a stereo pair—is that it violates the laws of physics. It seems impossible to generate this much bass from something this small, but I did the “trance music low end check” and not only is the bass there, it’s tight. Although I suspect there has to be some DSP going on to compensate for the small size, most small speakers taking that approach have a more diffuse, less defined low end. And yes, they’re loud, with a combined weight that’s only a bit more than the original iLoud.

 

What You Need to Know

 

  • The package includes the two speakers, “line lump” AC adapter (100-240V, 50/60 Hz), speaker interconnection cable (don’t lose it), and 1/8” minijack to dual RCA cable for feeding the RCA inputs from a minijack, or feeding the iLoud Micro Monitor’s minijack from dual RCA outputs (e.g., a CD player).
  • Overall size is 18 cm (7.08”) high, 9 cm (3.54”) wide, and 13.5 cm (5.31”) deep.
  • Bluetooth capability means you can stream music from phones, tablets, computers, etc.
  • One speaker has all the controls and the AC adapter jack. The other has one connector, for the interconnection cable.
  • Switches include power, high frequency flat or -3 dB, low frequency flat or -3B, flat or “desk” response (“desk” reduces lows to compensate for when the speakers are sitting on a desktop), and Bluetooth.
  • When you first use iLoud Micro Monitor, start with the volume control turned down. Trust me on this.
  • IK specs wattage for the bi-amplified speakers (3” driver, 3/4” silk dome tweeter) at 50 W RMS, with Class D amplification. I assume this is for both speakers, because the AC adapter is rated to deliver 24V at 60W. I’d spec it as “loud.”
  • There’s a cool little kickstand in the front for pointing the iLoud Micro Monitor up at an angle, along with padding on the base’s contact points to provide some degree of decoupling.
  • You can mount the speakers on a mic stand.
  • Given the mobile orientation, the speakers have non-removable front panel grilles for protection.
  • The street price is about $300, which is pricey compared to consumer-oriented Bluetooth or extension speakers, but quite reasonable for a set of high-powered, mobile studio monitors.

 

Limitations

 

  • Unlike the original iLoud, these do not have internal batteries, and require AC power. Then again, IK will probably be happy that I can’t complain about non-user-replaceable batteries.
  • No mono-stereo switch, so you need to bring both speakers when traveling.

 

Conclusions

 

When I first heard these at the 2016 winter NAMM, it was hard to believe my ears that something this small could have such presence and bass—they don’t sound “small” at all. Of course I needed to know why, so it was time for nerdspeak with the developer. A lot of it has to do with the ported design, which probably benefits from the depth of the speakers…I’m picturing a port that probably looks something like an intestine (I wrote this before seeing the picture on the left, and it does kind of look like an intestine). The enclosure also uses a semi-rounded enclosure to minimize diffraction; this technique is effective with KRK’s speakers, and it’s effective here as well.

 

The enclosures are very low resonance and radiate little energy—crank the bass, wrap your hand around the cabinet, and you won’t feel much. The sound waves you hear come from the speakers, not the cabinet vibrating. And because there’s DSP inside, the two drivers are time- and phase-aligned; the DSP also allows for a precision crossover, driver protection, and frequency response optimization that accounts for bass response that's down only 3 dB at 55 Hz.

 

The small size has several implications: they’re desktop speakers for people with desktops small enough that even a 4” speaker is too big, and for mobile applications they fit in your carry-on, taking up only a tiny bit more space than the original iLoud. However compared to the iLoud, the stereo imaging can of course be much wider because you’re dealing with two speakers instead of one, and if you want, you can position them close to your listening position for stereo while minimizing room reflections. These are clearly intended for stereo desktop monitoring setups, and fulfill that function with style.

 

That’s all there is to it. The bottom line is if you want a portable, loud, small, Bluetooth, stereo monitoring system for home, desktop studio, or mobile, these are the speakers to beat.

 

Resources

 

Available from Sweetwater

B&H Pro Audio

 zZounds

 American Musical Supply

Reverb

Amazon

 

Video from IK Multimedia

 

 

______________________________________________ 

 

 Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

 

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