Reviewing the PreSonus Eris E4.5 monitors awhile back, I found a very competent, easy-on-the-budget set that would serve the entry level market admirably. At the time, I had not yet heard the PreSonus Eris E5 and E8 Active Studio Monitors. While the E4.5 certainly has its place, I felt that the monitor pair were not really in keeping with the high standard that PreSonus has attained with its interfaces and other audio products. The E4.5 isn’t a bad monitor, it’s just not a socks-blower.
The E5 and E8 are socks blowers. When you get into the 8-inch woofer category, there are many good active monitors out there, and the E8 takes its place among them. The 5.25-inch woofer in the E5 had my expectations lowered, since really good bass usually requires a bigger driver, generally speaking. It’s all about moving air.
When it comes to moving air, the E5 does it like no other monitor of this size that I’ve encountered at this price point. Specs say the E5 produces fundamentals down to 53Hz. I believe it. Given that lower frequencies are usually sonic mush, 53Hz is a great practical minimum. From a 10 lb. monitor of tiny dimensions, the E5 is an amazing performer. Considering its reasonable price only makes the deal look better.
The larger cousin, the E8, is essentially the same design as the E5, just scaled up. Bass reproduction extends to 35Hz, and it probably outperforms the E5 in really deep bass and low frequency effects, but it’s not by much. I have no trouble recommending either of these monitors for general purpose use across genres.
Setup and Usability
Audio connections include RCA unbalanced, ¼-inch TRS and standard XLR balanced connectors, a good complement for monitors of this class, able to accommodate almost any audio source, consumer or professional. Power arrives via the typical IEC style socket, combined with an AC Select switch for North American or European use. The power switch is right above the AC socket and selector. Both monitors have an input gain control with a center detent to boost or reduce input levels. For the most versatility in gain staging, I recommend leaving these at the “U” position, in the center.
Though there are some minor differences in layout, each model has the same acoustic adjustments available. A three-position acoustic space switch sets bass response to match speaker position, whether away from walls (0dB), against walls (-2dB) or in corners (-4dB). Walls and corners reflect radiated sound back to the listening position, and, due to the nature of low frequencies, bass is reflected with the most efficiency. The switch rolls off frequencies below 800Hz by the selected amounts.
The E5 and E8 allow further low-end sound tailoring through another three-position switch. Called Low Cutoff, it selects the point where ultra low frequencies reduce. Choices are Flat, 80Hz or 100Hz. This can further adjust for room conditions or for pairing monitors with a subwoofer.
Those adjustments are common on many makes and models of studio monitor. PreSonus ups the game a bit with the addition of Mid and High trim controls. These, like Input Gain, are center detent rotary controls offering ±6dB boost or cut at 1,000 and 10,000Hz, respectively. A nice extra touch permitting even finer room tuning.
The differences are minimal. Obviously, the wattage is higher in the E8 and the crossover frequencies differ between models. Both have a respectable sound pressure output for the size, louder than anyone rightly needs, which means good overhead at typical listening levels.
Some equipment reviewers get sample equipment directly from the manufacturer for a demonstration period. I like to imagine that one day, all the makers will pile free equipment on me, in hopes that my blessing will influence thousands of buyers, ensuring financial success for their company, for which they will be grateful and will then pile even more free equipment on me.
This hasn’t happened yet.
What I do is schlep down to my favorite full-range music store (who also don’t give me free equipment, so I won’t mention them by name), and ask to try the product at hand, in this case the E5 and E8. In this particular case, a pair of each were already set up, side by side, in a nearfield monitoring arrangement on a desk designed for home audio use. The speakers were on a raised desk shelf designed to support monitors.
My friendly but unnamed sales associate made the requisite connections for me. I have a CD burned expressly for the purpose of testing monitors. This includes a sampling of tunes, about a dozen in all, ranging from acoustic ballads and solo baroque piano, through contemporary dance music and analog synth samples, ending with some heavy rock and full orchestral sections, each piece edited to about 30 seconds.
I listened through the CD once and I was very impressed. Excellent bass reproduction, very clear in the midrange, vocals felt as though the singer was in the room, highs crisp and clear with no hint of brittleness or breaking up. Once through the CD, I asked my sales guy to switch to the E5s.
“Those were the E5s.”
What? I then went to the E8s and turned their power off and asked him to play the CD again. He has been known to yank my chain from time to time.
Replay gave me exactly the same impression. That really was the E5s the first time through. I have not heard a 5-inch woofer produce that kind of balanced bass without compromising elsewhere.
We switched to the E8. Okay, there was a little more authority in the bottom end. It’s hard to describe the difference, because it’s not a very big difference. In the deepest EDM music passages, there was a sensation of the bass hitting your chest with the E8s that the E5s didn’t give. However, sonically, the change wasn’t that enhanced.
The E5 may be the ideal monitor for someone recording in a small bedroom, where an 8-inch monitor system would simply overwhelm the volume of the room. This is a 5-inch monitor that plays with the big boys, and the 8-inch version is no slouch either.
The E8 is over twice as heavy as the E5, about 22 lbs. and 10 lbs. respectively. While 10 lbs. seems a little light for an active monitor, the E5 sounds so good that the weight point is moot. Construction is vinyl over medium density fiberboard, a de facto standard for monitor construction. Jacks and controls feel good and solid and there’s nothing loose or rattling in the speakers I encountered. Self-noise was audible only when I maxed out all controls and even then, it was only just noticeable. It’s not hard to find active monitors that seem built to survive combat, and the E5 and E8 are battle-ready.
With the Eris product line containing three models, online user reviews get confusing. Reviews for the E8 mention 5-inch woofers, models and sizes aren’t named at all, and features get mentioned that the Eris line doesn’t even pretend to have.
On top of that, there are some one-star reviews from self-proclaimed audiophiles who diss PreSonus, rave about other manufacturers’ vast superiority but offer nothing quantitative, beyond their own malfeasance. The first thing to know about an audiophile is that they would never pass up a chance to share their detailed impressions and measurements in a calm and unemotional manner, assuming that their interpretations are self-explanatory to all. “They just don’t sound good,” is nothing an informed audiophile would ever say. I’m pretty sure this is a user who mixes using laptop speakers.
With well over 200 reviews, erroneous or not, the E5 and E8 average 4.7 out of 5 stars. That seems right to me.
The E5 and E8 are hits. The E5 is the big surprise, and the E8 is as expected from PreSonus and in the size/price category. With the E5, my guess is the 5.25-inch woofer size, being 11 percent larger than 5-inch woofers, produce low end that much more efficiently. Combined with the long, narrow bass reflex port on the front of the cabinet, the PreSonus Eris E5 and E8 Active Studio Monitors deliver bass that’s clean and unhyped. It is, pun intended, unheard of at this price. The Eris E4.5 is rear ported and not bi-amped, and the results don’t compare to the E5. But E5 or E8, you can’t go wrong with either of these Eris monitors.