The HHB Circle 3A closefield monitors are purple, pint-sized and perfect for use in tight spaces or for portable applications. Though the 4.5-inch LF driver can’t reach down to hit the low notes on a pipe organ, the mid- and upper-range clarity is tailor-made for voice work. The stereo imaging is superb. Despite their small size, the units can get loud enough to rock when necessary.
Product PointsApplications: Studio monitoring, multimedia
Key Features: Shielded, sealed-box enclosure; biamped two-way design (60 Watts LF and 30 Watts HF); balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs; speaker protection circuitry
Contact: HHB Communications at 310-319-1111 Web Site
+ Excellent mid-upper clarity and warmth
+ Decent volume for the size
+ Terrific stereo imaging
+ Purple decor
– Placement of controls on back difficult to reach and difficult to set units flush against walls
The Score: Excellent performer where space and weight are at a premium and extended LF response is not.
The Circle 3As ($795 pair) are a sealed-box design with the drivers and electronics mounted in a one-piece, acoustically dead, composite case. Sizewise, their 10.6-inch by 6.9-inch by 8.7-inch form makes them a good fit for the cramped quarters of a home studio.
The units use a biamp design that dedicates 60 Watts to the LF driver and 30 Watts to the HF driver. The bass/midrange driver is a paper pulp cone; the tweeter is a ferrofluid-cooled soft dome design. Both LF and HF have Sallen and Key active filters. The crossover point is at 3.5 kHz.
The front side is simple enough – a tweeter over a midrange woofer. An LED indicator under the tweeter shows if power is on, and also if the tweeter’s emergency breaker has been triggered to protect it from overload.
A faux vent on the bottom matches the design on the larger HHB Circle 5s. All controls are on the back, including a master volume control and a switch to choose between an unbalanced RCA plug and balanced XLR input. The only other connectors or controls are the power plug and the on/off switch. Everything is magnetically shielded for work near computer monitors.
I used the Circle 3As to monitor, mix and master some voiceover work for local clients, and for radio features for Public Radio International’s “Beyond Computers.” I also used them while mastering two CD-length recordings by local artists. I connected the 3As via XLR connectors to a Mackie 1202-VLZ Pro and positioned them on either side of a 19-inch computer monitor.
I placed the Circle 3As on stands, bringing the tweeters up to ear-level. The overall sound was smooth and steady from the low mids on up. For the voiceover and radio work, there’s really no pressing need for heavy-duty bass. All of this was done in mono.
On the musical projects, I first used the monitors on a voice and acoustic guitar project. Again, the lack of full LF with the Circle 3As made little or no difference here, in that the only things going below 100 Hz were flaws in the recording, which needed to be cut out anyway.
Incessant listening to tracks to get just the right reverb and EQ was not fatiguing. What was particularly striking was the beautiful stereo imaging these units produce. The soundstage really conveyed a sense of 3D presence captured in the studio.
The second project was more challenging – a ragged garage band doing some experimental music. Lots of low end here! Unlike some speakers, the Circle 3As didn’t turn it into distorted mud. You could hear that it was there, but it was toned down.
Adding the HHB Circle 1 sub would flesh this out. In its absence, at least what I was working with wasn’t distracting. These monitors managed to do a credible job, even when cranked up. Naturally, they aren’t nearly as loud as the next model up in the HHB line, the Circle 5s, but they get to their limits without any noticeable distortion. While I did not crank the Circle 3As until the tweeter protection kicked in, it was nice to know that it was there.
In day-in/day-out use, the power switch placement and the way the connectors stick straight out the back can be awkward. It would be nice to have the on/off on the front. I hooked up a power strip dedicated to the units to avoid having to reach around back for each session. Also, the way the connectors come out make it impossible to put these flush against the wall. But, this could be said about many units on the market.
The only other issue was the very slight hiss coming from the monitors – about the same amount as other powered speakers I have used, however. This is a minor annoyance, to be sure, and not noticeable during playback.
The HHB Circle 3As are capable of handling production projects where deep bass is not essential. The beautiful stereo imaging and clean mid-to-upper reproduction makes the units well-suited for voice work. Given the size, the Circle 3As are ideal for smaller installations. At 11 pounds each, they are also great for setting up a portable shop on the road with a laptop.