These are near-field monitors with a difference, namely the ability to tune them by attaching a simple, supplied microphone. Not only does this mean that you can have them sounding as good as possible in your own particular listening environment, but by using the included X-Monitor software, you can have them emulate 20 iconic monitor speakers, too, and more. On top of all of that, they’re simply excellent powered monitors, well built and with a wide, flat frequency response. They may not be entry level, but for a mid-range price, they’re punching way above their station.
Don’t have our 2023 DJ Gear Guide? Click here to grab your free copy
First Impressions / Setting up
These are clearly a quality speaker from the off, with a highly polished (not literally) appearance. While there are three types available, we have the smallest, the iLoud Precision 5, for review, which are nonetheless substantial speakers, yet no bigger than they have to be – the 5″ woofers go right to the edges of the units, for instance, and the curves on the vertical edges also give them a slightly more sleek look than more traditional, boxy speakers. It’s IK Multimedia’s first stab at a speaker above the excellent consumer speakers it’s made so far, and it shows – they’re impressive immediately.
They’re rear ported meaning you won’t want them hard against a wall, and feature coated paper membrane woofers and 1.5″ textile dome tweeters. Around the back are buttons for tweaking the frequency response, with an “LF extension” button for bass adjustments from 35Hz to 80Hz cut-off, LF and HF boost/cut (five settings for all of these), and a button to adjust them between a flat frequency response, a desk-enhanced response (boosted lower midrange), or the calibrate mode (more later on that). Auto standby is switchable to your requirements, and there’s an overall volume control for -5db to +5dB from input signal. There’s one input, which is an XLR/TRS combi socket.
Most interestingly are a USB socket (more about that shortly), input and output sockets for the optional remote control (again, more later on this), and an ARC mic in socket, for the supplied tuning microphone. An IEC power socket and hard on/off switch round out the feature set at the rear.
Initial set up, as with all speakers, involves choosing a listening position and hopefully angling them so the dome tweeters are level with, or at least pointing at your ear positions – assuming you’re setting up a stereo pair, as most DJs and producers will be doing in their home studios. In our studio, we have a standing DJ desk, with two desk-attached stands to both raise and slightly angle the speakers up towards the DJ’s position.
Read this next: What’s The Right Height For A DJ Desk?
In this instance, by using the supplied iLoud Isolation Pods (jumbo circular rubber pads that can be used to help isolate the speakers from any hard surfaces they stand on), I managed to position the speakers horizontally, even though they have slightly curved vertical edges; the MTM speakers in the same range use exactly the same DSP and software for calibration, so I suspect this will have no effect at all on the results obtainable, and they fit much better for us this way.
IK Multimedia also provided an (optional) iLoud remote control, which, in their words, “lets you switch easily between four X-Monitor speaker emulations or custom voicings and assign functions like ARC On/Off, Mute or Dim. [When used with] ARC room correction software, the remote can control the measurement/room calibration process from the desk while providing visual feedback on the process status.”
We thought we’d better plug this in too, then, and it’s done by using the supplied TRRS-to-TRRS control cables to link the remote control to the speaker, and then the speakers to each other in the stereo pair. The remote control itself is a small, square box, made of metal and rubber, and nicely curved – a cool addition to the set up, for sure. The provided cables are about 10ft long, which is long enough.
So, all plugged in, we sent some music to the speakers and proceeded to play…
Right, first things first – these are Class-D, 175W RMS, which is LOUD. They’re definitely punching above their weight in that department, and we couldn’t run them anywhere near as loud as that in our studio – while they’re near-field monitors, and you should never use such a speaker for a party, they could certainly do it volume-wise!
Straight off the bat the sound was full, realistic and authentic, with a wonderful sense of space and that full, flat frequency response shining through. Initial tweaking is possible with the cut/boost buttons and the desk/flat button as described above, but IK Multimedia is rightfully proud of the “iLoud Precision voice” – the basic flat, extended, uncoloured sound which the company says benefits from the linear phase crossover and superior timing, typically only found on much more expensive speakers. Certainly sounded good to us.
Calibrating the speakers
If you’ve ever used a Sonos speaker system at home, you’ll know about Trueplay tuning, a clever way for Sonos to tweak the DSPs in its speakers to provide the best sound according to the characteristics of the room the speaker or speakers are in. It does this by using your mobile phone’s mic, and is easy.
At the other end of the spectrum for this kind of tech, you may have seen our review of the Adam Audio A4V and the way these speakers can also be tuned with a calibration microphone – from memory, I think we had to tune about 90 different points in the room with those, and it took about an hour!
With the iLouds, the complexity is somewhere between the two.
Firstly, they don’t provide an XLR cable for plugging in their microphone, which I can understand as it would be a bit of a waste – but that said, they do provide a microphone with each speaker, which is definitely a bit of a waste, as you’ll almost certainly be buying two or more.
The idea is that you attach the mic horizontally to a boom mic stand positioned just behind and ahead of your left ear, then your right ear, so four positions in total, for both speakers. (You can also simplify it by just using one position, right at the centre of the spot you’ll be listening in.)
Learn to DJ with us: The Complete DJ Course
You don’t need to set up the control software to do this – you can do it simply by using the CAL/PRESET button on the back of the speaker, and you let the speaker take its four measurements, one for each press of the button. The white LED on the front of the speaker flashes to tell you when it’s time to press the button again, and if all is good, the LED turns green momentarily at the end of the process.
I went for the easy (one mic position) route, and it took all of two minutes to calibrate each speaker. Did it sound any different? Bass definitely got tighter and less flabby, but for the finer differences, this is the kind of thing you’d notice over weeks and months of intensive use of the speakers, not a few minutes. This tech definitely works, so no reason to think it won’t work in your studio, too (and I’ll bet you’ll calibrate them more than once too).
Using the remote
Should you also purchase a remote, when you plug it in, it auto-configures itself so that the four buttons do this to your speakers:
- Button 1: Analytic, linear phase
- Button 2: “High end” three-way monitors
- Button 3: Classic 7 AMT
- Button 4: Studio White
You can definitely hear the difference here – it’s fun! That said, I would also have liked to see a nice, big fat volume control on the remote – useful, or is that just me? It is possible to assign other functions to the remote’s buttons of course, but this is done through the X-Monitor software, so lets take a look at that now:
This software lets you complete the calibration process more easily (not that it isn’t easy anyway), assign functions to the Remote Control, and do other fine-tuning tasks such as tweak the standby timer length.
More usefully, it contains a whole host of speaker emulations that you can switch through (and assign to the remote control if you wish), with 20 studio monitor emulations, hi-fi speaker emulations, even a stab at emulating portable Bluetooth speakers, TV speakers and smartphones – the whole idea, of course, being that you can “test” how projects will sound in different speaker set-ups and listening environments.
If you’ve ever played with Sonarworks SoundID, it’s the same kind of thing. The aforementioned Adam Audio A-series speakers work with Sonarworks, but the problem lies in how complicated it is to set up and use, requiring hardwiring to an Ethernet network – whereas with the IK Multimedia speakers, all you have to do is get a USB cable from each speaker to your computer, making the extended functionality simpler.
The software is free, so you’ll definitely want to play with it if you go for these speakers.
Let’s cut to the chase – these speakers are undeniably huge fun for geeks and control freaks, but it would count for nothing if they didn’t deliver the goods. Luckily then, they sound really good, and are instantly and easily configurable to your room (as long as you have a spare XLR cable knocking around) for an extra bit of icing on the cake.
The isolation pods are a good addition, and the optional remote control gives a little bit more control (although it’s by no means an essential addition).
IK Multimedia has over the years developed its iLoud range through a number of well-loved models (our very own DJ Jazzy Jeff is a big fan), but these are now easily the most accomplished addition – and remember, we’re testing the smallest here (there is also a 6.5″ two-way model, and an “MTM” variant, designed more for being part of a multi-speaker system, for instance in surround applications, which is beyond the scope of us humble DJs).
Read this next: 5 Tips For A Great-Sounding DJ/Producer Home Studio
If you’re looking for a professional grade studio monitor that costs a mid-range price and punches way above its weight, take a look at these, and more importantly, take a listen to them. For DJ use, they’re full enough sounding to, we suspect, work fine for you without ever adding a sub-woofer, and for small to medium production studios, again, they’d fit the bill nicely, with a revealing character and flat frequency response.
Want help choosing gear? Grab your free PDF: The Digital DJ Gear Buyer’s Guide
Is it worth buying them over cheaper monitors? If you’re upgrading from truly budget speakers, maybe not – simple KRKs or other speakers costing a third will blow you away. But if you’re already using half-decent monitors and want more detail and controllability – hell, do take a look at them. They’re cheaper than, say, equivalently-specced Genelec SAMs, but you may find you like them as much or even more. They definitely punch way above their weight, despite the price.