The Sterling MX5 (and MX3) Studio Monitors sound great, offer a small footprint and are ultra-affordable for home studios and commercial spaces on a budget.
By Chris Devine on September 2, 2016
The gap between commercial studios and home recording spaces used to be huge, both in price and in sound quality. Thankfully these days, there are some great choices in studio monitors; Sterling’s MX5’s won’t beat up your bank account, and they’ll deliver quality sound for your tracking and mixing sessions.
Inside the polished MDF enclosure is a 5” low frequency driver as well as a 1” silk domed tweeter that uses a Neodymium magnet, which in the speaker world delivers plenty of clarity. Vocals and timbrally-complex instruments came through clearly, without any loss of subtle nuance. The rear panel has the usual RCA, XLR and 1/4” TRS connections, as well as 3-position high frequency and low frequency filters. A rear bass port is also located here, so be sure to place these a few inches away from walls.
With 70 watts of power, there is plenty of nice clear headroom, even at high volumes. The hi and lo filters really allow for the ability to tune the speakers to the room, regardless of the music being tracked through them. The low-end is very present and tight, so dubstep bass drops should not be an issue with these. One frequency range that did pop out a lot was the lower mid-range, which is great for most music in that area, but might require some additional adjustment for lighter acoustic music to sit better in a mix.
Mixing at lower volumes wasn’t a hindrance, either. In most cases being able to mix or track for a long time, and not have to strain to hear, or even worse cope with high volumes means less ear fatigue. The MX5s also have a great field of dispersion, meaning the listener doesn’t need to be right in the middle or “sweet spot” to hear everything. This is great, especially for project studios that aren’t located in an optimal physical space.
The street price is currently $149 each, which should be well within any home studio’s budget. A commercial studio could certainly use a set of these during long tracking sessions, as well as for a second set of reference monitors to test various mixes. Size-wise, they don’t take up too much space, and it’s tough to find fault in a set of speakers that deliver this much for such a reasonable price.
We were also able to test out the 3-inch version, the MX3s (street price $99 per pair), which offered front-end headphone monitoring as well as a main front volume knob. Sound wise, you lose a little with the smaller drivers and enclosure, but honestly, bang-for-buck, we can’t help but recommend the MX3s to any studio where not only is budget a concern, but space is at an ultra, ultra premium. An even better use for these would be “road monitors,” especially if your band likes to engage in mobile recording while on tour. A laptop, a USB interface and a small pair of MX3s would make up a pretty potent portable recording rig for just about anyone (and not take up a ton of room in the van). As with the big brother MX5, the MX3 excels in bass frequencies, where other monitors of its size simply pump out a lot of muddled low-end. We were pleasantly surprised with the clarity of the bass coming from our DAW’s demo tracks, and also the stereo imaging from such a small unit.
All in all, the new MX line (which also includes a third model, the larger MX8s) from Sterling is quite a bargain, and comes highly recommended.
• Great sound
• Excellent sound field dispersion
• Great price
Lower mid frequencies tend to be a bit more present.
Sterling MX5 Features
• 5” Low frequency driver with proprietary cone design
• 4-Layer voice coil provides greater motor force for outstanding low-frequency performance
• 1” Silk dome tweeter features lightweight neodymium magnets
• 70 Watts of high-efficiency, low-distortion Class A/B amplification
• Bi-amp Class A/B design ensures superior transient response and natural bass presence
• Unique dual-axis WaveGuidanceVH technology and rear panel port
• High and low filters to custom tune monitors to your listening preference and environment
• Polished ebony front baffle with Sterling LED iconography
• Studio grade internal components with protective electrical design
• Professional balanced XLR, 1/4” TRS inputs and unbalanced RCA inputs