Friday, 15 August 2014

Dynaudio BM5A (mk II vs. III) and Oslo in the Spring

Last Spring I visited Oslo a few times, both for business and pleasure. On the groovy side, Norwegian ticket agency Bilettservice gave me a couple of tickets for Angie Stone’s tour. At the Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo she put on an amazing night of Soul, Gospel and R’n B. Great band, amazing backing singers, and fantastic audience! Anything with Funk, Gospel or melodic Soul tends to do well in Norway.

(Angie Stone in Paris this Spring - from her Twitter)

I also had time to visit Norwegian pro audio distributor ProLyd. I used them as a supplier for education-facilities and a studio I set up in the city of Trondheim and was very happy with their services. On this visit I had the time to play around at their facilities for a few hours and had a list of speakers I wanted to do a simple comparative test on.

Dynaudio have just launched generation three of their much acclaimed BM-series and I was curious to more about the difference between the generations. Since ProLyd are huge on Dynaudio there were plenty of models to choose between. Time eventually limited my review and there is much more to be written about the new models. This blog-entry looks at the BM5A mk II & mk III. In the next post I will look at the Dynaudio BM6A mk I, the new BM12A mk III, and the Eve Audio SC408.

Introduction to the Dynaudio BM5A

The BM5A is probably one of the most popular nearfield monitors in its size, and it has been for a number of years. It is a very powerful speaker with a reasonably good sense of balance. Although it has a 7-inch woofer, the cabinet is quite small and compact for the driver-size, and there has traditionally (until the new generation) not been much bass extension to talk about. Higher bass/ low mid-range is quite abundant in the mk II though, and although it won’t let you feel the lowest lows you’ll still get a decent sense of the bass levels from the upper bass-range. For reference, the BM5A mk II frequency response goes down to 48 Hz. Though the overall balance is pretty good, in the mids they are not as revealing as for instance a pair of Adam A7X. Their strength is rather in delivering a tighter and more powerful sound. The BM5 are comfortable speakers to work with over a long period of time. Thus are my memories of working on the mk II.

For those who have read my blog before you’ll know that in my monitor-reviews I name commercial music-tracks and tell you how the monitors respond to them. From the test we’ll derive information about the relationship between the mix and its representation through the monitor. For a technical overview I encourage you to follow the links provided to the manufacturer’s web-page and read a few conventional reviews along with my own review.

Mk II vs. Mk III

BM5A mk II

Corinne BaileyRae ”I'd Like To” and ”Put Your Records On”

These mixes have plenty of lows, well-recorded instruments and beautifully layered vocals and I use them regularly as test-tracks.

To start with the mk II, I perceived it as more of a narrow and tight “radio-sound” than the mk III. The sound is more flat and less flattered than the mk III.

The mk III on the other hand sounds fuller, richer and a bit more forward. The high mids are more present and the bass extends a little deeper. The bass may be a little less defined (possibly both in level and in time), but Dynaudio’s pages say that they extend to 42 Hz, and this is a difference you clearly can hear. In spite of a fuller sound I also found the mk III a notch more fatiguing on the ear, but the difference is very subtle.

Derek Frank ”Pinball Number Count”

For this track I started with the mk III, which again gave me an impression of the ‘largest’ sound in the comparison. The track has quite a lot of horns and the mk III gave a very clear sense of both the horns and the space around them, such as the reverb. The reverbs sounded more detailed and a little less 'washy' in the mk III. I also got a good sense of what the bass was doing at any point in time.

The mk II did not appear fully as three-dimensional as the mk III. But they appeared a little more accurate all-over. Although they contain less bass extension, I felt they provided me with a little more accuracy in determining what the bass actually was doing in the mix.

Miles Davis “Freddy Freeloader”

Like I found with the previous track, the mk III has more detail in determining the impression of 'room' in the mix. Reverb comes across more clearly defined and I preferred this for listening. The mk II gave a sense of more tightness and accuracy again, which would make me prefer to mix on them in most cases.

To see if I could do anything to improve the sense of flatness and accuracy of the mk III, I turned both the high and the low eq down on the mk III’s rear dip-switches. This made them sound closer to the mk II and it also came across as less fatiguing (although it isn’t a very fatiguing speaker in the first place). After adjusting the dipswitches on the mk III, the mk II seemed like the brightest one of the two.

Martha and The Vandellas “Nowhere To Run”

This reiterated the sensation of a nice low bass extension with marginally less control over the levels in the mk III. On this track too, I'd choose mk II for mixing and mk III for listening.

Summing up:

The mk III is a bit more hi-fi like than the mk II. With the right eq-adjustments for your room, I am not sure if this would provide much difference in mix-quality at the end of the day. For recreational listening, the mk III sounds more exciting, but I found myself going back to the mk II for a slightly ‘truer’ sense of these tracks. I have always felt like I was missing some bass extension in the mk II and the mk III now provides what has previously been missing. This comes at the cost of some low-end control though. Reducing the high and low eq-shelves provide a more tidy sound from the mk III and makes it come across as more accurate and similar to the mk II. For the pure pleasure of listening this might not be the way to go.

In a radio studio or for mixing, the mk II is for me the winner, but in a scenario where the speakers are to inspire music creation (songwriting, beat-making etc.) the race is much closer. For music creation the mk III with its more impressive sound would probably be preferable to most users. For education and home-studios, both these monitors would be great tools. And finally, for the guys at the other side of the fence: home-cinema owners and hi-fi people; the mk III would be a great tool to open up and present material that is already well mixed.

Don’t get this review wrong, the differences between these speakers are not as big as it may appear. Both are very good monitors and the mk III is a solid heir to its predecessor—especially given the flexibility you get from the dipswitches and the improved extension in the low bass.

Review setup at ProLyd's listening room.

All files were played as WAV from CD, through a Lynx Hilo and an SM Pro Audio M-Patch 2.1

Big thanks to ProLyd (ProSound) in Oslo!

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