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Looking Good, Sounding Fresh

M-Audio's CX8 monitors are a triumph in both sound and design

The first thing you to notice when you lift M-Audio’s CX8 Studiophile Active Studio Monitors out of the box is how gorgeous they look — black, sleek, smooth to the touch, very minimal and with a soft neon blue power light on the front. 

But, as we all know by now, looks aren’t everything so how do these studio monitors sound?

Well, thankfully the CX8 monitors prove to be as pleasing on the ear as they are the eye. The CX8 is an active bi-amped speaker, which means it has an internal amp with two dedicated channels — one driving the bass, the other driving the tops. This gives the CX8 a clearer sound delivery at various listening levels. It also allows users to listen for longer without fatiguing either their speakers or their ears.

For the dance producer, the bass response on the CX8 is full but tight, the mids are clearly defined while the tops deliver a bright sound without being too harsh on the ear. Stereo positioning is also good and is detailed enough to pick out those sounds that tend to pan into the distance in a mix.
For more detailed listening still (i.e. those needed for mixdown duties), it is important that the speakers don’t ‘colour the sound’. Colouring is when the speaker makes the sounds appear more bassy or bright that they really are. It gives an artificial impression of what you are listening to, and is no good at all when it comes to achieving an accurate mixdown.

Thankfully, the CX8s don’t suffer in this area, but we would be cautious if adding an optional sub woofer to your system as the bass response may be a little heavier than imagined.

As the name hints the CX8 features an 8-inch low-frequency driver made out of Kevlar. Kevlar is the stuff used to make bulletproof jackets so, needless to say, it’s designed to withstand vigorous usage.

The 1.25-inch, silk-dome, high-frequency driver is set back into the rubberised casing. This design feature aims to give extra detail and clarity to the top-end but also helps to protect the tweeter from accidental damage. The sealed rubberised casing also minimises cabinet distortion, which is another plus in the sound department.

Versatility & Adaptability

We tested the CX8 speakers out under various production scenarios. First up, we mocked up a quick drum & bass track to get a feel for how the speakers would respond to more bass heavy tracks. The CX8s handled them really well. It didn’t seem to lack any bottom-end definition and picked out all the driving elements of the drums with good detail.

Secondly, we messed around with an electro-disco style track, which had a lot going on in the mid-range area thanks to the percussion and filter effects used.

The CX8s dealt with this with ease and the sound was remarkably detailed. Cheaper speakers tend to lose definition in this area and start to sound harsh and muffled so we were happy with the results. 

The CX8s can also be customised to adapt to any production space with their ‘Acoustic Space Controls’. These allow the user to tailor each speaker to its specific room, using a control switch at the back of the speakers. Acoustic Space settings include 4dB, -2dB and Flat. The monitor also features LF Cut-off, MF Boost and HF Trim switches for additional customisation.
These settings are designed to help optimise frequency response within even the most difficult acoustic environments, such as lofts and bedrooms.
To be honest, though, only the super technical or those with a deep knowledge of room equalisation are likely to use this feature. But it’s still nice to know that the sound of the speakers can be tailored to their environment, if they start to sound too bass heavy or toppy.

Verdict

Price   £399
Contact   m-audio.com
Build Quality   4.0
Ease of Use   4.0
Features   4.0
Value for Money   4.0
Sound Quality   4.0
Hype   Great sounding nearfield monitors.
Gripe   None to be honest. If we were pushed, they don’t sound as great when used for indie music.
Conclusion   Versatile, adaptable and sleekly designed, the CX8 monitors deliver clear and solid sound at a variety of volumes.
Overall Score   4/5