Mixing and mastering for radio is fairly straightforward. It requires, from a technical perspective, three important ingredients. The first involves using quality source material — good microphones, processing, acoustic considerations and production elements. The second ingredient is a producer who knows how to use a DAW and its amalgam of tools. The final ingredient sheds light on mix referencing. All the world-class production tools on Earth stand a good chance of being misused if the reference serving the listener’s ear is substandard.
All too often, good mixing environs and reference monitoring are hard to come by. These days, studio equipment is replaced by virtual mixing surfaces and plugins, and it begs this question: Why is much space is needed for a producer to mix audio? Additionally, that same producer may decide to stay home and commute via remote desktop. Chances are, he or she is mix referencing in his or her living room.
As studio equipment shrinks and producers become more mobile, relegating mix referencing to headphones, or worse yet “ear buds” is an unwise scenario. But who has room for professional studio speakers? For portable and compact studio-quality referencing, IK Multimedia designed the iLoud Micro Monitor. Don’t be fooled by the small footprint. It packs a full-range punch.
NUTS AND BOLTS
The iLoud Micro Monitor is a two-speaker set that boasts three input format options. A 3.5 mm/1/8-inch TRS jack and stereo RCA jacks are handy for plugging into laptops, peripheral sound cards or small mixers. The second input option is Bluetooth. This is useful in the following scenario: A client wants to hear an audio file attached in an email. Or the GM wants to hear how the station’s stream is sounding. More and more, we find ourselves using our mobile devices and the iLoud Bluetooth feature comes in extremely handy.
From a physical perspective, each speaker is 7 inches tall, 3.5 inches wide and 5.5 inches deep. The pair weighs in at 3.8 pounds and are connected together by a 6-foot cable. The “left” speaker serves as the master with DC power and audio input jacks and some rudimentary audio adjustments including volume control.
A “flat” or “desk” setting provides acoustical compensation for environments that present reflective properties resulting from hard desk surfaces. Adjustable high- and low-pass filters aid in tweaking unwanted frequency response due to the proximity effects related to room design. Fold-out isolation bases provide angling options for more accurate response, depending on speaker desk placement. The bottoms of both speakers are equipped with 3/8-inch mic stand threads for free-field use.
According to iK Multimedia technicians, the iLoud Micro Monitors contain a “secret sauce” that serves as the key to the full-range frequency response. While iLoud boasts a bass response down to 55 Hz, low frequencies near 47 Hz are audible. This is accomplished with 3-inch woofers and a bass reflex design that make iLoud’s bass response surprisingly accurate. Onboard Class D amplifiers have a combined output of 50 W. The 3/4-inch silk dome tweeters and composite material woofers are governed by 56-bit DSP, assuring accurate and transparent crossover response.
IN THE REAL WORLD
In field testing for this review, the iLoud setup was compared to high-end studio reference speakers with 8-inch woofers. The similarities were quite striking. Due to the diminutive iLoud footprint, the 30–50 Hz “bottom end” harmonics were hard to come by. To be fair, iLoud is most at home in compact, mobile and generally unfriendly mixing environments. In that sense, clean and highly accurate 50 Hz response is welcomed and iLoud can deliver.
Plus, it brings a flat, uncolored studio response, which is critical for top-quality mixing and production. The design is rugged and the speakers can take some abuse. All in all, the user doesn’t “hear” the iLoud Micro Monitors. Rather, the user hears an accurate reproduction of the working material. Having that quality, a compact reference monitor in compromised mixing conditions is worth its weight in gold.
iLoud Micro Monitor
+ Very portable
+ Nice EQ package for small monitors
+ Excellent sound
+ Bluetooth option
– Size limits reproductive range
Contact: IK Multimedia at 1-954-846-9101 or visit www.ikmultimedia.com.