"The Barefoots are possibly the most significant improvement in my audio chain ever." That was my Facebook post to Jeff Ehrenberg, co-owner of Infrasonic Sound in Los Angeles and a Vintage King audio dealer. I've had sweet listening sessions on the Barefoot MicroMain27 (MM27) three-way active monitors, but it was on a tracking date at Infrasonic and a subsequent test of the speakers at my studio that convinced me.
I skipped the measuring tape and just started mixing. Go Jimmy Go asked me to transform their modern recording into something more 1960s Desmond Dekkeresque. The task required my favorite harmonics and distortion plug-ins, like the PSP MixSaturator, Crane Song Phoenix, and Waves JJP Collection. The Barefoots kept me on my exploratory paths without sending me down rabbit holes, revealing all consequences of my not-so-subtle reinvention of the recording's tonality and dynamics. The band was happy with the transformation and hired me to mix the rest of the record.
The Barefoot MM27's imaging is startlingly real. Vocals hover distinctly between the speakers. Sounds panned out hard seem to be panned exactly there and not beyond the speaker: a panorama translated literally. As I moved around, the off-axis sound changed less than any speaker I've ever used. I have a theory — a speaker that emits great off-axis sound is going to be more compatible with a wider variety of rooms. Furthermore, the Barefoots both create a trustworthy near-field presentation and project cohesively into the midfield. I cannot recall ever enjoying the mix so much when I step back and crank it up; likewise, the part of the tracking session when the band comes into the control room to listen "at level."
The first time I heard the Barefoots at a shootout, they sounded so deliciously "juicy." I was hesitant to work on the Barefoots because they sound so good — as though I wouldn't have to work as hard as should be necessary and would be lulled into complacency. In truth, the Barefoots are honest about what already sounds good and what does not. Throughout the mix, my attention surrendered to the sound of the music, not the speaker.
SECOND OPINION: Barefoot(s) in Hawaii Flying from Nashville to Hawaii to mix a song: sounds like a dream job, right? Unless I can't take my monitors and have no idea what speakers I'll be mixing on, and that was the deal. Fortunately for me, the studio — Seti Orion's Island Vortex on the Big Island — had a newly installed pair of Barefoot MM27 loudspeakers.
I had never seen or heard these speakers before, so I began mixing with caution and much uncertainty. My fears were quickly dispelled, however; after a few hours of listening and tweaking my mix, I was completely and surprisingly at ease with these speakers. I was shocked by how revealing and musical the Barefoots were. The bottom end was solid with lots of impact and the midrange was effortless, even when listening loudly.
After using two sets of speakers for the last 25 years, I have found I don't easily "warm up" to many speakers, readily finding aspects I don't like about them. That was not the case with the MM27s. At the end of the day, Seti and I listened to the powerful mix in his Jeep, and we both had big South Pacific smiles on our faces. —Lynn Fuston
Lynn Fuston is the technical editor for Pro Audio Review. You can reach him viawww.3daudioinc.com. The Barefoot MM27 comes close to erasing the adage that any speaker must be learned. The next song I tried was a Rascal Flatts-esque ballad by Rocket Club. On the first round, I made the mistake of mixing the vocals too low. Other than that, my mixes translated very well, very quickly.
The Barefoots are like a Bentley Coupe: the definition of finely machined elegance, confidently heavy, yet nimble and authoritative at any volume or angle of view. Leather interior? I wrote Thomas Barefoot to ask a more legitimate question that's been plaguing me about the di-pole woofer design. I understand how two woofers moving in opposite directions on opposite sides of a cabinet would cancel out inertial forces on that cabinet, thereby stabilizing the speaker, but what about their effect on low-frequency phase, time alignment, and cancellation?
His answer: "The subs radiate omni-directionally, the long wavelengths wrapping around the cabinet as if the cabinet wasn't even there, acting as a single point source located 6.75 inches directly behind the tweeter. The phase alignment is easily accounted for in the crossover. The MM27 actually has smaller phase offset than a traditional three-way, and it occurs at lower frequencies where our ears are less sensitive to such effects." Ultimately, four 10-inch woofers in two sealed cabinets produce clear fundamentals like I've not heard before in a near- or mid-field speaker.
In a conversation with Chris Goosman — Ann Arbor-based mastering engineer and vinyl cutter with a Dunlavy/ Augspurger room — he made the point that ear training has as much to do with improvement in monitoring clarity as an upgrade in playback system. Speakers like the Barefoots are part of this ear-training process, telling us what we've been missing, educating us on our past mistakes and successes, and helping us move forward.
This Barefoot MM27 pair is unquestionably the most fun studio monitoring system I've ever had the pleasure to mix or track through. The only other piece of equipment that influences every single choice we make and how much fun we're having is our ears. As such — at $7,495 street, per pair — the Barefoots may be a bargain.
Alex Oana is an award-winning mixer/engineer.www.alexoana.com