M-Audio's BX5 has long since established itself as an affordable, reliable and small-format two-way studio monitor, and its popularity has been sustained over a number of updates, upgrades and redesigns.
The latest BX5 inherits common features from recent versions, such as the one-inch silk-domed tweeter, the five-inch woven Kevlar woofer, and the vinyl-laminated MDF cabinet. Both the woofer and tweeter are magnetically shielded.
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We also see a rear-ported design to enhance low-end projection,with rear panel elements including Volume control, XLR and TRS jack inputs and a trio of Acoustic Space bass settings (Flat, -2dB and -4dB) to compensate for the monitor position. Just as you can with the recent BX5 Carbon, both XLR and jack inputs can be connected simultaneously.
The onboard Class AB bi-amplification has been upgraded across these D3 models and now delivers 60 Watts and 40 Watts to the LF and HF units respectively, with the crossover set at 2.5kHz rather than the 3kHz on the Carbon.
Also, the front baffle has a new look. The two-part design keeps the familiar M-Audio look, with the rubberised feel to the speaker surround. The new and improved tweeter waveguide offers broader dispersion making for a wider listening sweet spot.
The previous BX5 Carbon monitor was a bit too baggy in the low mids for our tastes, but this has been rectified on the D3. Good news. That said, the bass port still tends to hype frequencies – even with a generous half-metre between rear port and back wall, we had to use the -2dB Acoustic Space setting.
Indeed, you could argue that the Flat setting should be reserved solely for those times when you set your monitors up to be free standing in open space.
Again, in comparison with the BX5 Carbon, the D3 sound has a smoother top end performance. The D3s can still be sharp, and there is no HF fix, more is the pity. But we didn’t find them too tiring, though, and the waveguide really does expand the sweet spot nicely.
Elsewhere, the BX5 D3 provides an array of protection circuits – current limiting, over temperature and transient protection – and yet it remains projects a lot of volume for its size, just as its predecessors did.
A/B-ing the BX5 D3 with pricier monitors proves them to be pretty revealing, and after a short while being reacquainted with their sound, we feel we could easily deliver good, reliable mixes on them.
MusicRadar verdict: The D3s are a triumph for the BX5 line. If you are looking for compact, affordable monitors, these are one of the best budget designs on the market.