RCF AYRA PRO 5 Professional Monitor Review
I have a review for you of this rcf speaker. If you havent heard of the companys, an italian company and the model that i have is this uh ira pro 5.. It comes in five inch. This is the smallest one and then theres, i think, six and a half and then theres an eight inch model. Uh you can go to their website, i havent memorized their model numbers, but anyway this was requested by a couple of members to be tested. So i went ahead and bought it from amazon, us and uh surprisingly, cheap for a power studio monitor including uh shipping from amazon so hard to imagine how to make these speakers so cheap and so much stuff going on in them. This is actually a rare uh. Dsp speaker uh its biamp, so all the signal processing for the uh crossover is done. Digital domain, as is uh some uh correction uh for the frequency response done there so uh, usually the lower end powered monitors that just have uh analog crossover and no dsb. So this have that be at this price range is quite remarkable. Um nice thing about a professional monitor is that usually as xlr input and whenever you use powered speakers, i highly recommend using the xlr connection, because you have multiple sources of power. Usually the speakers plugged in yet another outlet you have your computer and everythings got – is at the different ground potential with respect to safety, uh chassis ground.
So if you use the rca youre, really oops, really inviting ground loops so xlr my book is, is quite necessary unless youre using some kind of desktop, monitor where everythings plugged into where the computer is. But in general you know, try to use xlr and you know so get a dac with the xlr output to drive it um not a whole lot else going on here, the couple of boundary uh and the high frequency uh correction. Over here i i tend to never use those leave them at zero, for both measurement and for equalization. I do the eq and software so much more powerful and flexible, but to the extent you dont have eq capabilities. You have a little bit of of control here. Um uh lets see what else i want to tell you um the uh, all of almost every speaker analyst. I tell you otherwise is measured relative to the uh center of the twitter uh. Sometimes the manufacturer will specify a different uh acoustic center. I dont think they did and even if they did, it would be so close to the center of twitter and such a small speaker that shouldnt matter it is front ported. You can see these classic dual eye ports in the front and ports. If you dont know, allow you to have more extended low frequency response, which tends to be very necessary in this class device, but they do have some drawbacks and well get into that shortly.
Um its a little cool in here and where i live in northwest washington. In the united states um so from experience, uh sometimes base performance suffers a little bit uh in these colder temperatures. So uh just figured id note that uh usually its not enough to worry about, but there it is so we always start with uh our acoustic measurements. That are done with the clippable near field scanner. This is a high resolution scan and where we measure the speaker about a thousand different points and using the you know, all those measurement points around the speaker were able to then model an entire radiation pattern. For that speaker, so we can then project it that any angle, any frequency we can figure out what the response is. Those measurements are then extracted using the standardized process by cea and nc. I call 2034 that says, show me the on axis response and a few other ones that ill talk about, but the most important one is the on axis response its in black in here its the one that you can see goes up and down ive drawn a Horizontal line, which is an ideal speaker which would have no variations, and unfortunately, here we see some variation this little bit. Here is not that important, but we see a broad increase in energy from 300 hertz, all the way up to uh one and a half kilohertz. Then we have a dip and then after that is sort of more or less good enough.
It would be nice if it didnt go up like this but uh. You know thats thats, a minor thing and whenever you see peaking in in here, thats replicated and all the other graphs means theres a resonance means something. You know your note that you hit, and also the the speaker starts to amplify that on its own, more than it should and those resonances are colorations and sound that we prefer to not see if it doesnt show up in the other graphs. That means its just its just in the on axis chances of it being audible, slow, but here clearly we see the resonances here we see them here. We see them here. We see them here so and so for sure its there are resonances so um. Instead of going further and analyzing more of this graph, i do another measurement where i take a microphone and the same measurement microphone, and i put it very close to each driver and the port and measure that by doing that, more or less, we exclude the contribution From the other components of a of a speaker so without taking it apart were able to see what the twitter is doing, what the woofer is doing, what the port is doing so here um the strong red one is the woofer response, and you know it handles Low frequencies and then at some point, the crossover and the response of the woofer itself starts to go down.
Then it has some breakups that happen up here at very high frequencies, but the amplitudes uh quite low for it and then twitter response is this one? In teal or blue, depending on what color youre seeing on this thing, so we can see the crossover more or less here and some resonances close to the high frequency at the end of the spectrum. The biggest thing ive noticed the port, though i put a microphone in front of the uh one of the holes and measure that at first we see what ports are supposed to do, which is generate a lower frequency than the woofer itself can do so. The woofer response is down, but we can see that at this point the port is contributing and is able to flatten the base response, which is, by the way, quite excellent uh. This thing is flat to 60 hertz, which is quite remarkable for a little speaker like this, where you could just pick up with one hand, but you know: hes got a flat base down to 60 hertz, not just rolled off or responding, but actually flat response, which Is pretty good and then so going back to this? This is the goodness that the port provides. Unfortunately inside the cabinet, you can get resonances that are proportional to the dimensions of the speaker vertical and horizontal and widthwise, and those resonances need to be controlled. Otherwise, basically, the speaker speakers singing in those tunes, if you dont, do anything to to absorb those.
They just come out of the hole uh and in this case the holes are unfortunately in the front, the ports in the front so theyre, quite a bit more audible than if the port was in the back. For some reason, these front ports have become popular because they think somebodys going to stick these speakers literally into a wall. Nobody does that these days, just one or two inches of distance from the wall is good enough to let the rear port breathe. So i much rather prefer to see a port thats firing backwards, because then these things have to first reflect from the wall, then come to you and that distance attenuates them, whereas if theyre in the front, they act like basically other speakers that that are spitting out These tones – and these this is unfortunate in a lot of times these resonances from the cabin and the port land, where the crossover is which means where the speakers the weakest. Here we reducing the output of the woofer for the crossover and then this thing comes in with a you know. Very you know strong resonance so it actually. You can see how its pushed up the response over here and it does it again over here and itll. Do it again over here so its where the speaker is most vulnerable? We have resonances so thats. Another technique is to try to size the enclosure in a cabinet where these resonance frequencies at least land.
You know here where theyre, not where the you know, woofers response gone down. So if its here and its trying to compete with a stronger output from woofer, it has a harder time. But when the woofer is rolling down by many db, then all of a sudden you have resonance it, takes the overall response and unscrews it up. Basically – and this is the classic coloration – you get from a port thats designed this way on this thing uh, but there are a lot of good things in here and ill get to them in a second but and one of the things that ill show you proof Of in a second is that this has good directivity, which, because of that wave guide, thats there in front the sort of horn looking thing um its able to produce an off axis response, thats similar to on access and as a goodness, we bond the drawback of That is that what was wrong with on axis also shows up in off axis. So we see all this coloration over here. All you know are there and the trough gets deeper, and so it makes it even worse in here by the way, company is unique and almost unique in that they have proper measurements for something thats cheap on their website and they more or less match my measurements. Theyre very smooth, theirs are, as is typically the case, but overall they also show the dips and the peaks that that you see in my response.
If you were to use the speaker in far field, meaning for stereo, listening as opposed to studio monitoring, we have models that predict what the strongest reflections are that combine with direct sound and then we can create a composite tonality curve for the speaker. If we apply that, we see that it is not very good, we have extra energy in this area and upper base and and mid range, and then we have a hole in here. Then it actually smoothed out is fine. So this changes the tonality of a lot of stuff in your music and content, because you know so much is going on in your music here. Not a whole lot going on way out here, uh on this, so theres good engineering in here, but somehow this this port thing was allowed to happen, uh where it is now. You can see example of excellence in engineering and this beam width. This says that if we pick something like a 6db drop off as you go off axis, what does that curve look like and the curve looks beautiful, its almost flat, which is unusual? This is extremely good. Were talking general, like a neumann kind of uh professional, monitor at far higher prices, able to achieve this kind of linearity in beam with, and also means that you can go left and right and the sound will not change much at all. The tonality remains the same, which is important when you work in near field.
Just slight movement, youre moving a fair amount of angle away from the on axis response. So you want this kind of you know large beam, width and smoothness. Sometimes you get smoothness but its very narrow, and so, if you go outside of that, all sudden drops like a brick. We can see the same thing color coded in here, and you can see how how pretty it is, how beautiful this and that its just very smooth and predictable, and then it narrows the highest frequencies, which is expected uh vertically its more chewed up uh, but thats Expected uh, basically, the uh, woofer and the twitter are not concentric, and so, when you go up and down depending on what distance you go up and down relative to the distance between the center of those two drivers, you get cancellations in addition, so forth um. So pointing the speaker at your ear, thats how i tested it. I have it pointed up in my when i normally test it. I didnt test it there and and have it point to your ear and usually your height doesnt change that much. But if you stood up, you know you will get uh. You know some of the frequency response. Thats, not very good youll run into these holes so stay within plus and 20 plus or minus 20 degrees, and you should be fine um. The only solution to that problem is to get a coaxial uh driver where the center of the twitter is inside uh, the woofer, and that has its own challenges with power handling other things, but under activity, but so dont be alarmed with this one being the way It is, i measure distortion at two points: 86 dbs spl or 96 uh at 86.
Db. Response is quite good other than this one spike in here, so something in there. Around 300 hertz is sinking inside there. Whenever you see a distortion profile, thats very narrow, usually means the resonance, and you can see it over here. Also, it doesnt show up that much in frequency response, but clearly some other thing is starting to sink in there and therefore it amplifies harmonic distortions. Uh of other tones lower frequencies get amplified and show up in here as distortion, so i wish that wasnt theirs otherwise, 86 db response is very good. 96 db. That resonance goes through the roof, but also woofer gets very unhappy. This is very typical of a small speaker like this woofer gets unhappy. You have to go way up above the speaker in power handling to not have a woofer uh get unhappy at 96 db, spl um, so you know the woofer is unhappy. Usually, twitter doesnt get unhappy and thats what we see in here, but the woofer is unhappy. Detecting distortion at lower frequencies, thankfully, is harder. So if youre going to have distortion or rather see it here, then in the mid frequencies here i run a waterfall display and these displays can be very, very misleading. Basically, this is frequency response over time and theres, so many parameters involved in generating this graph that i can make it look like anything i can make it look like a perfect speaker or i can make it look like its the worst speaker in the world, but Im more or less going in biddle and show you something which is in this case anything that sort of hangs on and keeps going.
Uh is a resonance and we can see these resonances around two three hundred hertz, that we saw in the distortion spike and but also the ones from the port and the cabinet going all the way up to one kilohertz and even beyond in here. So you know this just backs up uh its not needed, because we already knew this information anyway. Um you can see the impulse response actually pretty clean, thats, one of their claim to fame with the fair filtering, and you can also see the step response. The sharp one is a twitter and the slow one is the woofer uh. You know i i dont usually pay attention to either one of these measurements, but some people like to see them. So when i played the speaker, it wasnt annoying or anything and it had some signs of excellence in their occasion. I would hear a note and say that sounds good, but overall i wasnt getting excited over the sound of it and but you know it was hard to put a finger on it doing what was wrong, but i had the measurements, so i said all right. Let me go create filters in drone player, which is what i use, and i use a parametric, eq and whats nice about metric eq is that i can design independent filters and then turn them on and off independently, not all or nothing and see. If, if im, getting better performance or not and the the response, if you go back to on axis response, its really chewed up so to make a proper correction, youd have to build a lot of filters in there to fix each one of these things.
Excuse me, i took a shortcut – and i said, like i have a hump in here and why not just put an inverted hump in the eq, so i just took all this as if its continuous and i put one down the inverse of that in eq. I have a dip in here, so i assume that it was just carved out like this, and i put it inverted one above and this thing was going up, so i just put another one going down. I didnt try to match the exact deviation and so forth. So only three filters um, so lets go back to that again. Uh. So ive got this filter in here and ive set up the width of it to be quite wide to cover that entire region and then a narrower one, because thats all that little ditch was and then again this one i just put in this will be to Taste, depending on how much brightness you want and how good your hearing is, i tend to not like too much brightness and the speakers are maybe more aggressive here. You may be okay with out of box response and not even need this and lets say theres. A switch in the back you could also throw that switch and see if that was enough, uh thats enough to get rid of this. So three simple filters in here and when i first dialed them in. To be honest, i was like okay.
That sounds a little bit better and, as i was working on the review, i was listening to it with the filters on and then after um, you know maybe 10 or 15 minutes. I went back and then rooney can turn off all the filters at once, and it was dramatic when you turned it off. Also the sound got a little bit a little bit more bass, but also became a bit. Boomy is not the right word, but it just became too much of that upper base and because of this ditching here because of this, it also sounded less interesting and more close, i find that any deficiency in sort of one to three kilohertz takes away that ambience. That openness that sound can have, and so turning it off it was like. Oh, i dont want to listen to it, even though it wasnt terrible it it did. It was so dramatic in in listening to a correct response and then making it broken as opposed to when we first listened to it, and i was like okay theres a filter. Did it make it better did not um one other beautiful thing about this approach that i use is that one it confirms the measurements to be correct. So, in my view, everything that we saw at macro level, at least in measurements, were correct. These corrections definitely made the thing sound better, but you might say well: thats cited youre looking at measurements. Well, you could just close your eyes and and do these things blind.
I often do that where i randomize these these, whether its on or off, and then i just leave my cursor on it. Without looking at the ui i can hit. You know toggle the switch on and off on and off and then decide which ones better than id look and ill say. Okay did i pick the eq version or non eq version, and sometimes that happens where im like? Oh, you know i picked the non eq as being better, then i play some other music and then its the other way. When thats the case, i just throw my hands up in here and i either dont provide the filters or ill tell you that i couldnt conclusively decide when the filters were good. In this case i could and uh you know. Obviously it is subjective and its my ears and and not yours, so uh you can choose to uh, go by him or not and um. So overall, i thought just a bit of correction was enough on this thing. One problem with these active speakers, especially at lower price point, is, is twitter hiss because you dont have a passive crossover anymore theres. Nothing to reduce the efficiency and eat up some of that noise and the amplifiers and dsp they tend to use is on the noisy side. You know its 150 speaker. They cant afford to put state of the art uh technology in there. Um ive noticed that, for example, jbl ls series, the you know the 305 can be the twitter hiss.
You can hear it when its paused at three to four feet. This one has his but past about seven or eight inches. I couldnt barely hear it. I do have my computer running so a little bit of noise being masked there, but id say its not perfect, but its definitely on the good side and at listening distance of three to four feet five feet. I dont think youre going to hear the the highs. Even in a i mean the noise, even in a quiet room, the uh one of the nice thing was the power handling um. There is dynamic compression in there that protects the amplifiers and protects the speaker from being overdriven. A lot of superbly designed uh active speakers have a problem that, as i crank it up also the amplifier runs out of juice and it will crackle itll, create static and or theyll also compress uh, and for that reason i dont those speakers. I dont give the highest remarks: uh rewards because it just to me there shouldnt be a technology limitation that all sudden hits you in the nose um. This one has a nice limiter in it. You turn it up and it gets quite loud, even though im listening to just one speaker and then it gets to a point where you turn it up more and more. It just refuses to get louder and so its like a suspension in there theres no hard limit in there and it gets to a point and then it just gradually says.
Okay, you know you told me to go 50 louder. Im only going to go. Five percent um at this price range is great. I couldnt detect any driver bottoming out or the amplifier generating static, which is very, very good. So to me, oh many things are done correctly in this rcf speaker, its just. The one thing is just front ports which is fashionable in this industry and the fact that you know at this price range they probably couldnt, afford to put you know: exotic material and theyre, a better filtering inside or design theyre sort of restricted to where they could Put the boards in there when theyre in the front, whereas in the back you can move it around to try to minimize some of those effects, go left and right, and but i also think that they could have done better and they can do better. Because this thing is programmable, dsp based so ive sent them a message asking for feedback and and confirmation to see if theyve got the same measurements and they wanted the frequency response. That looks the way it does or that their measurements are too rough and they didnt see all the issues that i found and maybe now they can apply a correction ill. Let you know what they say. I dont know if theyll answer or not, but i did contact them because i think its just too good of a speaker for it to have this one flaw.
If it didnt have this flaw, this would be an incredible speaker. Yes, once you go to 250 300, you can get very nice speakers, but 149 and at 149 youre getting two amplifiers. You get an analog digital converter back to that digital to analog, because this thing will digitize the input to do the dsp youre getting dsp correction. Youre getting balanced input, youre getting you know proper speaker only 149, each. So to me, if it didnt, have this one issue with the board resonances. This would be just such an incredible value. It would really cement this place at this price level. No way you can match this thing with any kind of passive speaker, you know that you have to you know, have add up because of the amp and everything else to it. It should youre just not going to get an optimized design for 149 dollars, thats flat down to 60 hertz. So anyway, um came close, came close to being a very, very good speaker, but it didnt quite get there um. If you go on a forum there, we have other members that do uh full eq based on you know all those drops and peaks and generate a what we call olive score for this, which i think was around 3.5 3.6 without eq, but it jumped up to 5.6 or so with eq, so just a bit of eq really lifts the score of this speaker, saying this more neutral and and good.
So without eq. I think its fine. It sounds okay and maybe good, but i really hope somebody whos using this in the desktop environment. Like me, if youre doing professional audio work, then you have full control to eq go ahead and create one with these just two three simple filters and have a beautiful speaker without it im nebulous as to whether you know you want to use it or not, um. Looking at what the membership voted based on, my data looks like everybody is sort of straddling between not terrible and fine, which is, i think, the right rating, but it could have been fine to great if it came with that eq built in okay. Hopefully this was useful to you and, if youre not interested in this speaker as far as measurements and what makes a good speaker and what causes problems for us.