Review & Video: Numark NPM5 Studio Monitor System

Review Summary:

Initially they sound good, and with the right music they certainly outperform 2.1 computer speakers, but don't go buying these thinking they're up there with even the cheapest studio monitors, because they produce too coloured a sound for that. For simple, "thump thump thump" dance music, they're a good buy, especially if you see them at a discount anywhere. But for a more refined all-round sound, save the extra and audition the M-Audio Audiophile AV40s, the Reloop ADM5s, or something else with a wooden cabinet.

NPM5 Studio Monitor System
The Numark NPM5s: A low-priced, complete monitoring system for DJs - but is the sound quality up to scratch?

The Numark NPM5s: A low-priced, complete monitoring system for DJs – but is the sound quality up to scratch?

Review: Numark NPM5 Studio Monitor System

A couple of readers have asked if we can look at the Numark NPM5 studio monitor system, and Numark has kindly provided us a review pair of these entry-level powered DJ monitors. We weren’t expecting audiophile quality at this price, but we were interested to see what is possible when you’re spending under US$100 for a pair of speakers, complete with built-in amplifier – and whether ultimately you’d be better off spending a little more.

First impressions and setting up

They’re about a foot tall, made of thin black plastic, with a slight taper towards the back, and angled very slightly upwards. There’s a black metal mesh grill across the front, that curves around the bottom of the fitting for the bass speaker. Each cabinet has a 5″ bass speaker and a 1″ tweeter, and there’s a front-firing bass port as well, hidden behind the grill. There’s a shiny plastic “Numark” badge glued to the front of each grill.

These are powered monitors, but they’re a powered “pair”. That means there’s a master and a slave; the master does all the amplifying, the slave is simply a passive speaker with a wire that connects the two. More expensive active monitors are independent, ie they’re two identical speakers, each with its own amplification circuitry built in, and each taking its own mono music feed. Here, you plug your source into one speaker and it feeds the other one. If you’ve ever owned computer speakers, you’ll be familiar with this concept.

Round the back of the master speaker, there is an on/off button, a mains cable (wired in), a pair of poles for connecting the cable to the other speaker, and a pair of RCA line ins. There are also three rotary controls, for gain (volume), bass and treble.

They’re monitor speakers so they’re designed to be used “close field” – you have them in a rough triangle with your listening position, pointing directly at your head. They’re not designed to fill rooms or, God forbid, to use at parties. Save yourself the expense of replacing them when you accidentally blow them – studio monitors are meant for the studio.

In use

On powering up, there is a small blue LED in the left-hand speaker to show they’re switched on. We connected them into our system, and chose a couple of tunes to audition them with. The first impression I got was that there is a surprising amount of bass from them, and that they sounded OK for the price. They are also quite loud (they’re quoted at 20W, but for desktop or practice studio use, practically you’re not going to want to drive them very hard so that’s enough).

The gain, bass and treble controls were good to have, to adjust for room characteristics and source material, and the LED is nice because it reminds you to turn them off when you’re finished! However, I’d like to have seen at least one extra input to save unplugging and plugging in around the back when switching sources.

Numark NPM5 back

The back of the speakers, showing the controls on the master speaker, which also contains the amplifier. (Click to enlarge.)

They sounded best on simple, bass-heavy house music, when they were quite impressive. But listening to more complex music with more going on (especially with things like vocals and pianos), they started to show their limitations.

While there is lots of bass, it’s boomy rather than full. The midrange is a little thin, lacking punch at times. And on some of this more complex material, the treble can be harsh and unrefined.

At very high volumes, they can rattle, basically because the cabinets vibrate (there is no padding provided to put between the cabinets and the surface you put them on; often with speakers you get sticky foam pads to isolate the speakers, which improves sound quality).

I concluded that the thin plastic cabinets were ultimately colouring the sound, and so I decided to dig out another small desktop monitoring system, the slightly more expensive M-Audio Audiophile AV40s. These are smaller than the Numarks, but made of wood, so heavier. Compared to the Numarks, the M-Audios had fuller, warmer bass, and more thump in the mid-range.

Conclusion

Ultimately you get what you pay for. For US$99, you can’t expect studio quality, and so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get it. Initially they sound good, and with the right music they certainly outperform 2.1 computer speakers, but don’t go buying these thinking they’re up there with even the cheapest studio monitors, because they produce too coloured a sound for that.

Definitely adding some isolation in the form of rubber or foam under the speakers will help, but ultimately I think it’s the thin plastic casings that both mean you can get them at a low price, but also that they’re never going to sound amazing.

You should have a listen and decide for yourself, though, as speakers are subjective. For simple, “thump thump thump” dance music, they’re a good buy, especially if you see them at a discount anywhere. But for a more refined all-round sound, save the extra and audition the M-Audio Audiophile AV40s, the Reloop ADM5s, or something else with a wooden cabinet.

Product Summary

Review Summary:

Initially they sound good, and with the right music they certainly outperform 2.1 computer speakers, but don't go buying these thinking they're up there with even the cheapest studio monitors, because they produce too coloured a sound for that. For simple, "thump thump thump" dance music, they're a good buy, especially if you see them at a discount anywhere. But for a more refined all-round sound, save the extra and audition the M-Audio Audiophile AV40s, the Reloop ADM5s, or something else with a wooden cabinet.

NPM5 Studio Monitor System

Video Review

Do you have the NPM5s? If you’ve only spent around $99 (or even less) on your speakers, how do you find your solution? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments.

Comments

  1. DJ Freez' says:

    I think you mean ‘Reloop ADM-5′, not ‘Reloop RPM5′, at least that’s what you link to ;-)

  2. I don’t suppose you could take a look at the new Line6 L3m from the perspective of a mobile dj? 1400w at about 25kg all in a single speaker sounds really promising.

    Would you say the best value for money for mobile DJ gig speakers are still the Mackie Thumps?

    • Mackie Thumps are great, watch out for some reviews of similar speakers coming up here.

      • Chuck van Eekelen says:

        I am a total Mackie fan, love what they make.

        The Thumps are nice. I considered them two years ago when I wanted to upgrade my speakers. I eventually decided on the (then new) HD-series. Got two HD1221’s (Digital bi-amped 600W RMS 12″ two-way) and a HD1801 (Digital 800W RMS 18″ sub). The 1221’s have special “modes” for monitoring (stage) and contour (speech) which work as advertised.

        Greetinx,
        Chuck – “DJ Vintage”
        They are seeing a lot of action, for DJ work, live band PA setup and stage monitors and the sound absolutely great!

        Even without the sub they do well for small PA or DJ work.

  3. Chuck van Eekelen says:

    Thanks for the test.

    I have been looking for a serious set of active DJ monitors for a while now. Like the NPM5’s, most are meant for studio monitoring and/or bedroom DJ monitoring. There are some 8″ alternatives, I’ve seen ‘m from American DJ and Behringer, to name two brands, but they are not at the top of my wishlist.

    Digging deep I found the Numark NPM-100’s. Different price range (buy a PAIR online for € 302,00 incl. shipping and VAT) but a WHOLE lot more useful I think. Still waiting to have a closer look at the bottom, but they feature “bottom mounting points” which hopefully means I can attach a flange so they’ll mount on a stand (or other piece of 35mm pipe available :-)). They look more like PA speakers, definitely not your average “studio” monitors. ABS case, double 5″ drivers protected by a metal grill and a 100W RMS amp should make them loud enough. Yet they should be still small enough to carry around, setup close to your “booth” (I mostly do mobile/wedding stuff) or stick on your table when you are trying stuff out at home.

    Combo XlR/Jack and line inputs, gain control and line/mic sensitivity switch (so you can plug in a mic if you need to have a quick small setup for some speeches) make it a pretty complete lay-out.

    Hope to get mine next week and put them to the test.

    There isn’t really much around but the 100’s seem to fit the (my) bill. If they sound halfway decent, I think I’ve found what I am looking for. They would actually be enough for the odd garage party too :-).

    Greetinx,
    Chuck – “DJ Vintage”

  4. Save some more money and buy a pair of better speakers.
    Love Numark controllers and mixers, but speakers are really not their thing.

    I use Yamaha Stagepas 300 at home. They sound great and you get a small mixer/amp for more connections.
    If you plan to stay a bedroom dj, go ahead and get some small active monitors, but otherwise get something you can use both at home and on smaller gigs, or as live monitors.
    Many recommend the Thump, but I rather go for the Behringer B215D/B212D that got twice the output compared to Mackies Thump.

  5. If you are looking for a decent set of active monitors for home use i highly reccomend the Wharfedale diamond 8.2 actives.
    They come with 100rms amp in each speaker,1″ soft dome tweeter & a 6.5″ kevlar mid/bass driver.They have rca & xlr/jack combi balanced input
    You can pick a pair up new for £200 or secondhand from £100/£150.
    I have used the same pair for over 3 years with no trouble & they also double up as hi-fi speakers for regular listening.
    If i had the money i would probably go for a pair of those 3 way active Krk’s you reviewed a few weeks back.
    I got a pair of the Numark NPM5’s aswell,but only for use with the pc or ipod.I admit they do sound a bit boomy,but with regular use or once they have been ‘broken in’ they sound better,but what do you expect for £80?

  6. I got a used pair of numark nmp5 for $65 and they are so good. I had PSB, Sony, Polk Audio, Behringer speakers before but these numark pair have the best sound. His critics says complicated songs sounded bad, well complicated songs sound bad with anything, usually a bunch of noisy music with bad arrangement anyway. These have clear punchy bas and clear detailed treble, I don,t know what else do you want more. I cranked up to near max volume and the bas still clear and punchy. At just volume 5, I was playing my real drums with the songs. Get it.

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