dmax audio super cube 5

REVIEW: DMAX Audio Super Cube 5 powered monitor

Music technology lecturer and author Stephen Bennett delivers the Audio Media International verdict on the DMAX Audio Super Cube 5 powered monitor…

What is it?
The 5” DMAX Audio Super Cube 5 uses some DSP jiggery-pokery to perform better than any single driver monitor has any right to.

Whats great?
Excellent wood finish that smells lovely out of the box. Amazing balanced sound from such a tiny enclosure. Simple to use and perfect for small untreated spaces

Whats not?
You’re not going to get thundering bass or ear-splitting volume from these monitors. Their effectiveness is sensitive to vertical positioning.

The bottom line:
If you need to mix or master in a small space, or need a second set of reference monitors, the DMAX Audio Super Cube 5 could be just the ticket.

To obtain a full frequency range output from an audio monitor, most manufacturers turn to multi-driver designs. However, once you split the audio into two or more streams, problems arise. The physical separation of high, low and midrange drivers can introduce time-alignment issues, while the filters required for the crossover, introduce their own distortions.

Many manufacturers have addressed the former issue by placing one driver at the centre of another–Tannoy’s ‘dual concentric’ being the most well-known design—but, although this can address the timing issues, it does nothing for the problems of the crossover. Single driver monitors don’t suffer from these problems but coaxing a useable frequency and dynamic range from these has been an ongoing engineering challenge.

The DMAX Audio Super Cube 5 uses proprietary ‘amplitude-frequency linearisation’ DSP technology alongside a 5” aluminium diffuser that has been chosen for its low harmonic distortion. This combination generates some impressive phase and frequency range plots, with a response of 50Hz-20kHz, +/-2dB and a SPL of 95dB at one meter.

The DSP is loaded into firmware that sits in the 19” rackmount amplifier box alongside a 50 watts per channel Class D amplifier. I’d call these ‘powered’ monitors rather than ‘active’ or ‘passive’ as it makes no sense to use any other amplifier with the Super Cubes. Two three-meter cables terminated with locking SpeakOn connectors are included and the audio inputs sit on female XLRs. I didn’t notice any appreciable delay due to the digital processing going on in the amplifier.

DMAX Audio Super Cube 5: Build quality
Crafted from oiled 18mm solid oak, the Super Cubes are certainly striking. They each weigh over three and a half kilos and are beautifully made. They can be painted—DMAX has no plans to produce other finishes—but I can see why most users keep them as they are. The separate amplifier produces no clicks or bumps when powered on and the system is designed to be used with the monitor controller on your desk or interface, so there are no gain or other controls.

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DMAX Audio Super Cube 5: Sound
I set these up in my small home studio on either side of a large screen. The Super Cubes need to be carefully placed, as there’s a noticeable loss of clarity if they are not pointing directly at your ears. It’s probably sensible to pop them on something like the IsoAcoustics Iso-Stand if they’re on a desk, although angling them upwards also seemed to work well. I auditioned the Super Cubes with some commercial tracks and with my own mixes, initially comparing them to my ATC SCM16 active monitors.

Predictably, perhaps, the ATCs appeared brighter than the Super Cubes and were more extended in the low frequencies, but these properties cause real issues in my small studio anyhow, so I was keen to put the Super Cubes to some real-life practical tests.

A more obvious comparison perhaps are my Auratone MixCubes, but these active 6” monitors are designed to concentrate on the midrange frequencies and so are limited in both low and high frequency extension. Tonally, I felt that the Super Cubes had a lot more in common with my Harbeth LS3/5a monitors. Though a two-way speaker, this BBC-licensed design was created to enable the engineer to have confidence in their mixes in less-than-ideal conditions and I feel that the Super Cubes could easily perform a similar function.

DMAX Audio Super Cube 5: daily use
The Super Cube 5 are designed to be used in a nearfield setting—I sat about 1m from the speakers which were set just over the same distance apart—and I found them relatively insensitive to horizontal head movements. As I began to mix, I soon became aware that the monitors were offering a superb stereo soundstage, with excellent mid-range detail. Reverb tails and distortion were very easy to distinguish and, while bass extension isn’t going to trouble my Linn Isobariks, there was enough information there to make sensible creative decisions.

To be fair, this limitation is true for all the nearfield monitors I use and, as I don’t have a pair of soffit-mounted Quested speakers available, I tend to use visual metering to check for any ultra-low-frequency grot. Transient response is impressive, with percussive elements cleanly reproduced. They didn’t really sound very different when moved around a room (unlike my ATCs), though I couldn’t place them right next to a wall because of the speaker cable connector on the rear. I also took the Super Cubes into a well-treated studio to see how they behaved there, and I was quite surprised by how little difference there was when set up in a similar way as in my own studio.

DMAX Audio Super Cube 5: The Verdict
Many of us are working in smaller rooms these days, and the DMAX Audio Super Cube 5 are ideal for these untreated spaces where lower volumes are a must. As you are going to be sitting pretty close to the speakers, you won’t need more than the power provided—which also has the advantage that you won’t excite the room too much.

The more I worked on the Super Cubes, the more I was impressed by their performance. Mixes transferred well onto my usual array of hi- and lo- fi speakers and headphones and, even if you have a pair of high-end monitors, the Super Cube 5 would make an excellent additional reference—but I would have no problems mixing (or mastering) solely on these cute little speakers.

Available now – £590, $800 (Per pair, including DSP/Amplification)

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