Sonodyne, a relatively new name on the tongues of U.S.-based engineers, producers and other pro audio types, is not a new manufacturer. Based in Kolkata (Calcutta), the capital city of West Bengal in India, Sonodyne has been making hi-fi stereo amplifiers and speakers since the 1970s. And only judging Sonodyne by its SM 100Ak two-way active monitor (made available in the U.S. via pro audio distributor, TransAudio Group), the company can obviously design and build high-performance, high-quality, impressively accurate studio monitors at a price point that will raise eye brows and heart rates of consumers (and competitors, for that matter).
The SM 100Ak features a 6.5-inch Kevlar cone woofer and 1-inch silk dome ferrofluid cooled tweeter; 120W of total power (80W for LF, 40W for HF); and front-panel volume control and twin ports in its beefy 23-lb., die-cast aluminum cabinet. Its vented aluminum rear panel accepts both balanced XLR or TRS i nputs and offers built-in EQ adjustments: treble tilt, -2 dB; bass tilt, -4 dB; bass tilt, -2 dB; and bass roll off (6 dB per octave @ 80 Hz). Overall frequency response (+/- 3 dB) is 60 Hz – 22 kHz.
The rear-panel EQ dipswitches and variable bass roll-off pot are recessed, yet easy enough to reach and adjust. The EQ panel’s text is written upside down, while silk-screened EQ directions are right-side up, both on the rear panel; whether leaning over the top of the speakers (from mixing position side) or moving around back, adjustments to settings are clear. I utilize my normal monitors’ -1 dB treble attenuation regularly, and found the -2 dB treble attenuation of the SM 100Ak unnecessary, so I listened “flat” for most of this review.
Relatively compact at 9.1-x13- x11.8 inches, these flat-black studio monitors are subtle in style and tight in fit and finish. Though “feel the quality” is not necessarily a trustworthy aesthetic test regarding future reliability, as I unpacked these SM 100Ak monitors, it struck me that Sonodyne builds beyond what you may expect at this price.
Upon listening to a pair of SM 100Ak monitors for two months in tracking, mixing, reference and recreational listening applications, I found their accuracy in translating stereo image incredibly impressive, so much that it’s hard to believe the price (just over $1,250 street, per pair). I mention imaging first because I believe that may be the most impressive trait of the Sonodyne SM 100Ak: it provides the kind of accuracy normally found in pricier popular studio monitors.
They also sound great, are not fatiguing in the least, and are frequency- flat enough to allow for translatable mixes. After experiencing the Sonodyne as auxiliary/”B” monitors to my normal midfield powered speakers, I swapped in the SM 100Ak pair as my main monitors for two weeks. In that time, I heard details I wasn’t hearing before— track-based noise, miniscule bits in reverb tails, etc.—that most definitely affected my audio in a good way.
During reference/recreational listening, qualities that many of us do not normally appreciate in modern audio productions (over-compression of the mix, for one) were underlined and circled by the SM 100Ak; I find that these speakers do not flatter, making them all the more useful for those that regard accuracy as job one of their speakers.
I must admit I was disappointed to return to my own monitors that now seemed less than accurate. Ah, the post-review/return shipment blues….
In our day and age of DSP-based room correction and other advanced features built in to the latest studio monitors, the feature set of the Sonodyne SM Series is comparably short. Of course, that’s not a criticism, as great products are often simple in both concept and design. What you pay for in the SM 100Ak is less about features and more about quality of components and workmanship. It’s refreshing to experience products like the Sonodyne monitors: ones not yet known to most but sure to impress and inspire.
Is Sonodyne destined to be a revered studio monitor brand in America? We shall see. But the product itself is ready: the SM 100Ak’s build suggests tight quality control and the experience of four decades of continuous manufacturing. Thus, I find these nearfields unquestionably prograde, able to hold their own performance- wise against legacy brands’ monitors twice the price, while, out of the gate, already leading its own category when directly compared to similarly priced boxes.
TransAudio Group (U.S. distributor)