So, you want to enter the loudspeaker market. Where do you start? Lower prices? That’s been done, though below some level, at the expense of performance. Higher performance? There have been great strides made in loudspeaker system performance, though typically with a high price tag. sE Electronics has experience in offering value and performance in the crowded microphone market.
With that background, the company approached the development of its first loudspeaker with the same philosophy — chase an aggressive price point but refuse to compromise quality. Acoustician, studio designer and loudspeaker designer, Andy Munro, teamed with Siwei Zou and James Ishmaev-Young of sE Electronics to develop the design brief, chasing a goal of an accurate, uncompromised yet affordable loudspeaker, neutral in character. The result of the multi-year development process is the sE Munro Egg 150, a truly unique product in a “me-too” marketplace.
Starting with a clean slate, Munro underwent a good deal of research before beginning design. While the rectangular box is the most common shape for a loudspeaker enclosure, it’s hardly the most neutral in terms of the effects of internal reflections on frequency response — a reason for variations on the simple box shape by a number of manufacturers, from trapezoids to additional front baffle facets to working with molded or cast materials to shape cabinets for nonparallel and nonlinear surfaces with rounded edges. Research Munro reviewed showed a spherical enclosure as having the least impact on frequency response, though the regularity of the shape had negative implications for internal cabinet resonances.
Extending the shape to an ovoid further randomized the internal reflections, and conveniently offered a place to mount a tweeter (the 1-inch soft-dome tweeter on the Egg 150 is a sealed unit, so the 6.5-inch woofer has the internal cabinet volume to itself). The packaging calls the sE Munro Egg 150s “Medium Eggs” (roughly 10.5 inches wide and deep, and 18.5 inches high), with Small and Large to follow in the line.
The Eggs are extremely light (at 15.65 lbs. each, packed for shipping), the theory being that the shape produces cabinet resonances significantly above the crossover frequency so that achieving higher resonances by using mass is unnecessary. Creating the molds for the cabinet shape was no trivial matter, and developed at considerable expense, the internal bracing having to be weighed into the cabinet’s internal reflection pattern. An egg-shaped cabinet is also not going to stand upright on its own, so an adjustable (vertical to front downward) foot was developed to both support and isolate the cabinet.
Not wanting to compromise the internal cabinet geometry by building in an amplifier, the Eggs are bi-wired. The crossover is low-level, external to the cabinet, housed in an attractive 2U aluminum chassis (rackmountable) with four channels of 50 WRMS amplification (a separate, third-party amplifier module for each loudspeaker component). The crossover and additional analog processing circuitry reportedly ensure identical performance from every Egg monitor — the Eggs have to be considered a system comprised of the processing, amplification and loudspeaker pair. The speakers are designated Left and Right, with individually tailored electronics. The provided speaker leads use Speakon connectors on both ends, a sensible approach that makes for an efficient transfer of energy as well as a secure, simple and tidy connection.
The Egg monitor housings have a blue LED above the tweeter that serves an important setup function; the LED is recessed and maximum visual brightness is achieved when the speakers point precisely at the listener; this clever touch greatly speeds placement. The amplifier unit houses a pair of volume controls, one for the main XLR inputs and one for the RCA aux inputs (front panel switched-nice for comparing two sources). In addition to I/O, the rear of the unit has a +4/-10 sensitivity switch (for the main input, the RCA input is fixed at -10) and two trimmers per channel for tailoring response. The LF response can be adjusted +0/-10 dB with a 63 Hz shelving roll-off frequency. The HF response can be trimmed +1/-5 with a 10 kHz roll-off frequency (the rated response has the -3 dB points at 45 Hz and 20 kHz). The monitor positioning LEDs can also be extinguished via a rear-panel switch, and AC input can be selected between 230 VAC and 115 VAC.
Second Opinion – sE Munro Egg 150 Studio Monitor System
Paul Mac, editor of PAR sister publication, Audio Media Worldwide, concluded his own evaluation of the sE Munro Egg 150s thusly:
“After the ample feature set, after the offers and incentives, and after the science, I think there still remains an important point to make. Andy Munro and sE Electronics have gone old-school with the Egg. There’s no DSP, there’s minimal ‘voicing’ electronics, and the neutrality of these monitors is more down to fundamental acoustic design solutions than problem modification features. And actually, you can hear that. You can hear that nobody is faffing or fiddling with your signal and that air, and the source is doing most of the work.
“It’s the closest thing I’ve heard to actually being [what it’s like to listen as] the microphone in a wide price bracket. It might even cause other manufacturers to rethink their pricing. I’m certain you’d have to go a way up the cost scale to find comparable quality.”
In addition to the two large front-panel volume knobs, input selector and power switch, there’s a unique midrange control, selectable between “Soft” (a wide Q bell filter centered on 2 kHz with -1.5 dB of attenuation), flat and “Hard” (+1.5 dB of broad boost at 2 kHz). This subtle effect is billed as emulating the character of some other monitoring systems, or for providing a touch of boost to the vocal frequencies. Of course, if you prefer to use another monitor controller for level control, you can just crank the volume wide, select a midrange EQ position and tuck away the amplifier unit. There are no fans, so it runs quiet (yet cool).
The proof of any monitoring system is in the listening, and the sE Munro Egg 150 system simply satisfies. I listened loud, I listened soft, I listened long. We can run through all the typical adjectives —smooth, flat, dynamic, even, with superlatives given on all counts including imaging and depth — but in the final analysis, the music played through the Eggs just sounds as it should; I found no fault in their performance within their response capabilities. It’s worth noting how unusual it is at this price point to achieve the low-end performance the Egg 150s demonstrate from the combination of the 6.5-inch woofer and a well-designed port. Honest and controlled, when pushed with material with aggressive low frequencies, the Egg 150s deliver what they promise, with none of aberrations so common from small cabinets being fed more than they can deliver. The Eggs are very well behaved, whether due to preprocessing or acoustic design, or more likely, the combination of both.
I did listen with the EQ modes engaged and fiddled with the response trim. Though useful tools in certain environments, in the end, I opted for flat for most of my listening. If there’s any complaint I had with the Egg system, it would be that the HF trimmers aren’t stepped for simple, repeatable adjustment, and don’t have a detent for their flat position (nor is there a detent at the recommended -90 degree/ -2 dB position for the HF).
The sE Egg 150s don’t get extremely loud, though there’s plenty of oomph for my tastes. Pushing the system well beyond what I would consider normal, I was lighting the peak light regularly and measuring 95 dB SPL peaks (A-weighted) at my listening position, 48 inches from the monitors (with music and pink noise, both channels driven). I measured 102 dB SPL with the peak light lit mostly solid (with some audible strain) with a music source, about 100 dB SPL just before I lit the light solid with pink noise. The crossover and woofer/port transitions were inaudible to me.
Reflecting sE Munro’s confidence in the product, as well as a bit of marketing for a new brand, the company is providing a generous warranty. For three years, a “Zero Downtime” program will provide a loaner system to replace any system that might need repair. The manufacturer defect warranty extends to five years.
sE Munro is also offering an aggressive demo program, offering to provide a system for in-your-space evaluation, something I’m not sure has a precedent on the potential scale of the offer. Consider my evaluation a pretest. You truly should take advantage of the opportunity to hear these monitors for yourself.
Price: $2,499 (System includes two Eggs, amplifier/processor and speaker cabling.)
Contact: sE Electronics | seelectronics.com
U.S. Distributor: Fingerprint Audio | fingerprintaudio.com
Frank Wells is the editorial director of Pro Audio Review.