Fast FactsApplications: Studio, broadcast
Key Features: Two-way; 6.5-inch woofer; ribbon HF driver; 75W LF amp; 25W HF amp; shielded
Price: $429 per pair
Contact: Samson Technology at 800-372-6766, www.samsontech.com.
+ Great imaging
+ Smooth midrange and high end
+ Great price
- No separate adjustment for the low frequency driverI have been a user and advocate of ribbon transducers for years, and have been pleased with some of the latest ribbon offerings from various manufacturers of microphones, studio monitors, headphones and installed sound loudspeakers. So when I heard that Samson was coming out with two new low cost models of monitor speakers with ribbon tweeters, I just had to check them out.
The Rubicons come in two sizes; The Rubicon 5a uses a 5-inch copolymer butyl surround woofer, while the 6a uses a 6.5-inch woofer. Both use the same 1 x 2-inch planner ribbon tweeter and both units are internally biamplified. On the 6a, which is the pair I auditioned, it uses 75 watts for the low frequency driver and 25 watts for the ribbon tweeter. The 5a uses a 50 watt amp for low frequency and 25 watt amp for the ribbon tweeter. The crossover frequency used is 3 kHz. They are front-ported and shielded for use in multimedia applications where close proximity to monitors will be an issue.
The enclosure is medium density fiberboard covered with a textured black epoxy paint and I must say they look pretty nice setting up on the monitor stand. The speakers provide connections for -10 and +4 dB signal sources via balanced XLR and TRS 1/4-inch inch jack and unbalanced phono jacks (on the 6a only; the 5a only has the unbalanced phono and 1/4-inch TRS balanced inputs).
On the front of the unit is a blue power LED; in the rear is where the power cord and input connections are made, along with the power switch and a four-position switch for the high frequency response adjustment. The units also ship with little isolation feet that hug the corner of the speakers.
Hooking up the units was a snap, of course. I used the balanced TRS connection from my PreSonus Central Station which is a passive switching device and great for comparing monitors. The settings available for adjusting the HF level are: - 2 dB, 0 dB, +2 dB and + 4 dB. There was no adjustment for the LF driver which I thought was strange since these units are biamplified, so I selected the 0 dB to start and powered them up.
What I noticed immediately was the amount of white noise coming from these units compared to that of my passive ribbon monitors powered by a Crown PS400. In a closefield environment, you notice things like that. I sent some program material into them and listened. My first impression was that they were really bright and the low end seemed to be missing.
However, the imaging was excellent. I adjusted the HF setting to –2 dB and listened again. Better, but still no substantial low end. I remembered reading the manual and seeing a setup with a subwoofer so I engaged my subwoofer and, WOW, I was impressed. I had to adjust the balance and settings on my subwoofer to match the response of the speakers, but when I did, the image was wide, deep and well balanced. I flipped back to the 0 dB setting, but that still seemed a tad bright for my taste.
One of the reasons I love ribbons is that they have such a smooth midrange and can usually reproduce faithfully. A lot of two-way biamplified systems can sometimes mask distortion in midrange near the crossover frequency. I have a test CD I made to test monitors for this that has tracks I found through the years that have subtle moments of distortion. The Rubicons passed muster on this test, so they won some credibility points on that. I then mixed a few tracks for an upcoming project using the subwoofer setup over the course of a few days. I noticed that my ears were not used to the brightness of the speakers, and that they did fatigue a little after a few mixes. The mixes, however, translated very well to the other monitors in the studio, consumer stereo systems and in my car.
I listened to some reference material for a few hours without the sub to retrain my ears to deal with what I thought was an imbalance between the high and low end and I just couldn't get used to the balance. I would have liked to see a separate adjustment for the low frequency driver and maybe some additional adjustment to tailor the low end response for use with the subwoofer.
Although these speakers are squarely aimed at the project studio market, the retail price is under $500 per pair, I was very impressed by these little wonders. I recommend the use of a subwoofer for any serious near or mid field mixing environment.
Fast FactsApplications: Studio, broadcast