You may notice that Keyboard doesn’t often review studio monitors. For one thing, the recording magazines have them pretty well covered. (Check out the roundup in the October issue of Electronic Musician.) For another, unless your monitors are magically good or just plain awful, they’re just one factor in what you hear and how well your mixes translate—your ears and your room are the other elements of that organic whole. But monitors are the only part of a studio setup you actually hear, so unless you play acoustic instruments exclusively, you need a good pair to get work done. So when something hits a price-performance sweet spot we think makes it a winner for keyboard players’ home studios, we’ll take a closer look. That’s PreSonus’ new Sceptre line in a nutshell.
I tested a pair of Sceptre S6 along with a Temblor T10 subwoofer, and also logged some brief listening time on the larger Sceptre S8. The Sceptres are coaxial, meaning that the tweeter is mounted right in front of the woofer such that a straight line would pass through the centers of both. In theory, the advantage is that since all the frequencies are coming from the same point, they’re all time-correct when they arrive at your ears. In practice, this design is hard to get right. The woofer’s wave can distort the tweeter’s, and some the woofer’s sound is bound to reflect off the back of the tweeter horn.
That said, PreSonus did get it right, employing internal DSP to cancel out any negative effects of coaxial design. So how do they sound? The first thing I noticed was that they have a wide sweet spot. With them placed at the corners of my studio (about 15 by 25 feet) I found I could walk all over the room and hear basically the same stereo soundstage of a dense acid-jazz mix I’d been working on in Logic Pro. To test this further, I purposely made the panning on some stereo tracks (such as Rhodes, drum overheads, and the backing vocals group) narrower than I wanted. No problem—I could wander and still hear the difference between say, a nine/three o’clock pan and a ten/two.
One of the only other makes that does this for me is my reference pair of Adam S2A, which is why I paid nearly $3,000 for them in the late ’90s. As to accuracy and evenness of frequency response, the Sceptres surprisingly bat in the same league. The two brands present detail a bit differently: The “electron microscope” factor Adam has in the high-mids to extreme treble, PreSonus has more squarely in the midrange band. Yet neither come off as hyped in any given range, and neither tire out my ears after spending all day mixing, working on audio examples for articles in the magazine, and listening to music by artists we plan to interview.
The rear panel of the S6 is a simple affair, with push-buttons to select three options each for wall proximity, high cut/boost, and low cut for use with a subwoofer.
Speaking of subwoofers, the one thing the Sceptre S6 could have a bit more of is bass. For making mixing decisions on bass-forward music such as funk or EDM, I was glad I also had the Temblor subwoofer. Though I only listened to already-mixed material on the larger S8s, I got the sense that though the sub is nice to have, I wouldn’t need it in conjunction with them.The Temblor T10 ($499.95 list/$399.95 street) pumps out tight, clean, and loud bass while being compact enough not to be a knee-buster under small home studio desks. Around back are XLR, 1/4", and RCA stereo inputs, stereo XLR and 1/4" line-level outs for routing crossed-over audio to your main monitors, and a monaural sub out. In my particular room, I got the smoothest blend by setting the crossover frequency to 80Hz but the S6 low cut filters to 60Hz. Unless I need the surround routing of my Genelec 7060A, the T10 is likely to remain my everyday sub.
The Sceptres’ value is outstanding, and I predict they might get as popular in project studios as the original Mackie HR824 (at one price point) and Adam S3A (at another) did when they first came out. I won’t say that everyone will like them—there are a ton of choices out there and everyone’s ears hear differently. But at the end of the day, what we have here is a $1,400-ish (less) pair of speakers that acts like it’s a $3,000-ish pair. In fact, that’s the price I’d guess if someone covered up the logo and with it, PreSonus’ reputation for making gear at approachable prices. Nicely done!
Coaxial design done right. Wide sweet spot for stereo imaging. Accuracy and sound quality on par with monitors costing much more.
For mixing bassy music, you’ll want to step up to the S8 model or add a subwoofer.
$899.95 list each | $649.95 street each