What PreSonus calls the MTM configuration — Mid woofer, Tweeter, Mid woofer — places two low frequency speakers on either side of a single tweeter in a long, low cabinet that delivers more speaker surface area than similarly sized cabinets. Several manufacturers offer variations on this design, which seems drawn from the built-in large scale studio monitors from professional recording facilities in the past.
Having already reviewed the Eris E44, I am impressed with the amount of bass coming from such a compact monitor. The PreSonus Eris E66 Active MTM Near Field Monitor kicks out even more. Not surprising, since the E66 provides about 35 percent more speaker surface to generate mid and low frequencies.
There is one compromise this design seems to present. The way the MTM arrangement reproduces bass is different from a conventional two-way monitor. Instead of one source for mid and low frequencies, there are now two, separated by about a speaker’s diameter, in this case, about 6.5 inches. Time alignment is a Big Deal when it comes to speaker design. There’s something in the way the Eris MTMs sound down low that makes me think that this a factor in play.
There is lots of bass, no problem there, but I find it a bit soft. That’s a rather vague term, and I completely admit it’s taste-based. To me, the lower midrange frequencies of both the E44 and E66 lack a bit of definition, whereas the Eris E5 and E8 seem punchy and distinct. Check with the next reviewer over, and they may find the E5 and E8 too harsh in the low end and the E44 and E66 round and natural. This is a particular quirk of the review process. PreSonus presents a series of four speakers in two design philosophies and inevitably each gets compared to the others while being held up against some writer’s taste. Meanwhile, all four designs sound good and likely each is the perfect choice for one user or another.
So, to discuss the E66, I’m going to concentrate on what it does well, because it does a lot well. All the Eris speakers do. Typically, we only use one set of monitors though. Let’s look at the reasons you might choose the E66.
Setup and Usability
The Eris series is not only very connectable, it’s very adjustable. These points alone make the line an attractive choice. The E66 is no different. As well as the standard IEC power connector, the monitor has audio input jacks for consumer equipment — an unbalanced RCA connector — and professional products — ¼-inch TRS phone and three-pin XLR balanced. This is a good spread. Many makers include only two of those three. Since active monitors need audio supplied with shielded cables, these three reasonably cover the gamut.
Where the real added value comes with the E66 is in the audio control offered on board. Two 3-position switches and two rotary knobs permit customization, whether it’s to compensate for the user’s taste or the monitor’s position in the room. The switches affect low frequency cut-off and wall/corner positioning. Those are fairly common on monitors in this price bracket, regardless of maker. Where PreSonus ups the ante is the two rotary controls that allow boost and cut for midrange and treble frequencies. While these are at fixed 1kHz and 10kHz points, they add up to ±6dB of bell curve equalization at those points, great spots to vary the overall characteristics in many situations. A typical bedroom studio may suffer from room modes that create a midrange spike that dropping the Mid Freq control on the E66 could tame. Similarly, a room with an abundance of absorbent surfaces, such as carpet, drapes and upholstered furniture, can often use an upward tweak of the High Freq knob on the E66 to restore a little brilliance.
This extra control is a very nice touch, particular for a user like me who likes the overall sound of the E66, but has a few concerns about specific performance characteristics.
The first impression from the E66 is big and bold. Pumping 80 watts into the low frequency drivers and 65 watts into the tweeter, there’s lots of power, even when the back input gain control is set to its midpoint. There is a wow factor to the initial listen. The E66 is bright without harshness and the bottom end is deep and full.
The frequencies with which I have issue are those around where a floor tom or electric bass sit. The effect is almost like that of a room resonance, but that’s not quite it. It’s definitely a characteristic of the E66, and I think it probably works back to the fact that two speakers share the chore of moving mid and low frequencies in each cabinet, a weird time interaction.
As I mentioned, it’s not a horrible audio dysfunction, simply something I notice and that isn’t to my taste. In fact, it might actually be a good thing for certain types of music. One complaint I have with some contemporary dance music is that the deepest synth bass and drums often seem apart from the rest of the music, a foundation upon which the rest of the house sits, but doesn’t quite match. With what I’ll call the sonic blur of the E66, that audio seam doesn’t seem as unseemly. There’s a smoothing effect that’s quite flattering in the genre.
The same characteristic annoys me when listening to orchestral music. Timpani sound clear and crisp. Violins, flutes and upper register brass come through without any harshness. Deep cello and contrabass, though, tend to mush together. There’s not a feeling of distinct and discreet instruments as there is with the ultra low and higher frequency ranges. Jazz quartet sounds amazing and life-like. Rock really depends on the particular track. Alan Parsons and Donald Fagen reproduce well. Guns N’ Roses and Def Leppard exhibit a bit of the blur.
What is really amazing with the E66, however, is the clarity and expanse of the stereo picture a pair of these produce. Whether mounted on their sides as intended, or upright, which is not discouraged, whether in a traditional equilateral nearfield triangle or with the E66s tighter in an isosceles arrangement, the stereo image is very distinct, almost exaggerated. I sometimes had the feeling of sounds originating beyond the speaker locations to the sides.
One thought occurred late in my testing, so I didn’t fully examine it before running off to write my review. And that was how the E66 sonic blur would respond to increased speaker isolation. Most of my listening occurred with the E66 mounted on a commercial mixing desk. The monitors sat directly on the shelf designed for that purpose. Adding acoustic isolation pads under the E66s does seem to reduce the sonic blur effect, but more notably, it enhanced the already notable stereo field. I can see these monitors being a go-to mid-priced monitor for audio-visual use. Directionality is outstanding. I would have thought that the extra drivers would actually muddy the stereo picture. They do not. If this stereo picture feature is the trade off for the sonic blur, it’s a fair trade for sure.
Vinyl laminate over MDF is pretty much de rigeur for active monitors in this price range. At 23 lbs., the Eris E66 is a substantial monitor in weight, while modest in dimensions. Still, at a little over 18 inches wide, these things take up 3 feet from side to side when placed together. Optimal arrangement seems to be the equilateral triangle with the cabinets angled to the listening position.
Protection built into the E66 includes a mains fuse, thermal protection against overheating, RF shielding, subsonic and transient filtering and a limiter for output current. Between the solid build and the internal protection, you’re not likely to kill this monitor with reasonable or even slightly excessive audio demands.
Once again, many of the Eris product user reviews appear lumped in together, so it’s difficult to pinpoint which precisely apply the E66 when it’s not named specifically. Those I could substantiate as speaking directly about the E66 scored an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. The best of the negative reviews also had problems with the low and low-mid frequency range, but seemed quite a bit more bothered by it than I am. Overall, there are no additional concerns or issues generated by user reviews.
If you’re mixing in a small room, the E66 may be too much speaker, with enough bass output to excite room modes. Usually excitement is good. In this case, perhaps not so much. If you like the sound of the E66, but are stuck with a tiny room, the E44 is worth a listen.
The price/value equation is reasonable. PreSonus has a great reputation because they make good products. Where monitors are concerned, not every monitor appeals to every ear. It’s up to you to decide what you like, then find the product that makes you smile. The PreSonus Eris E66 Active MTM Near Field Monitor is a solid contender with some great features and it has a place on many people’s monitor short list.