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      08.10.2009 21:10
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      Just A Tad Under-Spec And Overpriced... But Still Very Useful In Some Situations.

      My review of the Fostex 6301B Active Speaker.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      I'll explain my weird title regarding the purple monitor later I promise -lol!!


      Introduction
      ~~~~~~~~
      Every once in a while I audition new speakers for my little modest home recording studio and on my travels I happened upon the Fostex 6301B active speaker (speakers are always called monitors in a studio environment - not to be confused with the PC one you're reading this review on -lol!!).


      Barry Manilow ASBO!!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      There's quite a difference in design between a traditional hi-fi speaker such as you'd use to blast out your super cool, cutting edge collection of Barry Manilow CD's at 4am in the morning till the police come and arrest you (oh sorry that's just me... just kidding!!) and monitors (speakers) used in a studio; because they have completely opposite uses.

      A traditional hi-fi speaker is there to enhance the sound of your CD/ Record/ Cassette /MP3/ or Minidisk player etc... The speakers are ported (now you know what those little tubes are for -lol!!) and designed using some nasty equations that would probably turn Carol Vorderman's hair grey to find the best speaker enclosure dimensions to reinforce certain frequencies in order to give a very exaggerated bass response....

      ...As impressive as this sounds it's a far from accurate representation of the recording you're playing back (via CD, Vinyl Record, or MP3 etc)... So for playing back most music - hi-fi speakers are great, but from a sound engineer's/ music producer's point of view (while they're trying to mix and record bands, musicians or vocalists etc) hi-fi speakers are an absolute nightmare.


      You Know It's A Proper Monitor Cuz It Sounds Boring!!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      Conversely, if you use proper studio monitors (speakers) to play your record/cd etc collection through - the resulting sound would be very lifeless and unimpressive when compaired to hi-fi speakers.

      What recording studio's require are accurate speakers with as flat ('flat' in this context just means 'even')a speaker response, so the producer etc can be sure when recording or mixing that the sound they're hearing is as close as possible to what's on the studio's recorder (which could be a PC running specialist software like Cubase, or a stand alone studio hard disk recorder like Fostex and Alesis make, or some studios still use the old reel to reel multitrack machines to get a warmer sound).

      Nowadays, with the advancements in digital technology, quite serious recording equipment is within the financial reach of almost every musician -hence many home studios (like mine; hurray!!) have become the norm.


      You'll Have To Sleep On The Couch; I Need Your Bedroom!!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      However, most musicians can't afford and don't particularly understand how to set up/ damp rooms sonically** so that they're good control rooms (where the mixing is done) or good live rooms (where the recording is done) -in fact often the rooms used for hobby studios are usually too small to work with sensibly anyway, since it's often a small, spare bedroom that gets converted to studio use... and most small bedrooms aren't even long enough to contain the wave from a low frequency note -lol!! So it's an uphill struggle to set a decent studio room up.

      (**I have an armchair in my studio to soak up unpleasant hi frequency ambient room reverb, and also cuz my dog likes somewhere comfy to sit while I'm recording -lol!).


      Close To A Paddock? No It's Near Field!!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      One tried and tested technique is to use near-field monitoring... Which simply involves have relatively small speakers (purely because they're cheaper; big full range studio monitors can be enormously expensive!) positioned fairly close to the listeners ears to cut out as much of the room colouration as possible.

      (Much like a hi-fi speaker's design - sound waves will bounce round a small room and reinforce certain frequencies while negating others - which is really bad when you need as a flat frequency response as possible; so that's why the near-field monitors, used as described in my previous paragraph are so popular).

      Fostex have a long history of making equipment for semi-pro and home studios - and one of their near-field monitor offerings is the Fostex 6301B Active Speaker.


      I'm A Go Getting 'Active' Speaker!!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      'Active' doesn't mean that the speaker has a busy social life -lol!! it just means that the amplifier is built in to the speaker. The amp in this case is a 10 watt (again not impressive for hi-fi use but perfectly adequate for small near-field monitoring; though a tad bigger would have been better to provide more headroom and a cleaner sound when driven hard).


      Speaker To Me You Little Woofer!!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      The speaker itself is a 4 inch woofer (or 10cm as Fostex annoyingly put it -lol!) which means it's ok as a near field monitor but will lack the bottom end capabilities of a more preferable 6 inch woofer (the bigger the woofer, the lower the frequencies it can reproduce). Fostex's speaker is magnetically shielded (meaning it won't affect PC Monitors etc), which is good news considering many home studio enthusiasts use a PC or Mac, so are bound to have a visual monitor in close proximity to their speakers...

      ...If you've never put a dirty great unshielded magnetic speaker next to your computer monitor -I seriously don't recommend it; but your PC monitor does go a lovely shade of purple while the picture gets distorted; hence my title 'I Put My (studio speaker) Monitor By The (PC) Monitor And My (PC) Monitor Went Purple' - well it makes sense to me -lol!!


      Bar (Chords) & (Speaker) Grill?
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      There's a good strong grill in front of the speaker, which does protect it nicely, though some studio buffs would argue that anything that comes between the speaker and your ears is likely to reduce top end frequencies very slightly (though in real terms this would be imperceptible).

      The Fostex 6301B has an on/off button and a rotary volume control... It is a well designed, nice looking, ruggedly built monitor speaker. The impedance of the speaker is 8 ohms and there's an external speaker socket too. The input signal from your studio output (what do you mean you don't have a studio? -lol!) is via a phone jack input socket (that's a phono socket to you and me :-)


      I Love It When You're Sensitive!!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      The SPL/ Sensitivity is 84db which isn't particularly impressive, but fine for near field applications. The Fostex 6301B weighs 3 kg, and there's an optional mounting bracket available...

      ...(which I suspect will be of little use to most home studio owners -as the whole point of near field monitoring is to keep the speakers quite close to your ears rather than wall mounting them; where there's far more likelihood of room colouration/ wall reflections).


      What's The Frequency Kenneth...I Mean Fostex!!
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      Frequency response low to high is 80Hz (just about adequate for near field monitoring, though still not quite low enough to catch the lowest note of a bass guitar)...

      ...up to 13Khz (again this is fine for near field, but there's a school of thought - for reasons that are just to complex and long winded for me to want to type them up here -lol -that higher inaudible harmonics up to 20Khz or so, still subtlety affect the sound in an important way).

      One final welcome feature of the Fostex 6301B is that it has a built in protection circuit, which will hopefully protect the monitor from harm if it's driven too hard.


      Classy Sounding Or Woolly Pounding??
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      Sound-wise the Fostex 6301B sound surprisingly good and un-coloured considering that single, small 4 inch woofer; though the weaknesses at both the top and bottom end are noticeable.

      I think a pair of Fostex 6301B would be a great second set of near field reference monitors, or they'd be useful to someone who has to keep relocating their studio to different locations, or setting it up and packing it away often -as the Fostex 6301B is relatively compact at 119mm x 188mm x 133mm (wish they'd write sizes in proper inches; did we lose a war or something? -lol!).


      Would George Martin (Beatles Producer) Ask Santa For A 6301B?
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      I wouldn't (apart from the above reasons) recommend the Fostex 6301B as your only set of monitor speakers because of the following;

      A 4 inch woofer is too small for a full bottom end.

      13khz is a tad too low for the upper end.

      They're quite expensive at around £175 each plus postage.

      Unless you're doing a Phil Spectre (mono -lol!!) or a Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys (deaf in one ear!) you're going to to need 2 Fostex 6301B for your set up... One for the left side of your stereo set up, and one for the right. For that kind of money you could get a decent pair of passive (unpowered) monitor speakers and a half decent second hand power amp instead, and have a sonically superior monitoring system.


      Delusion Free Conclusion
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      So would I buy a pair of Fostex 6301B for my studio? I would if they were on special offer, and I had a bit of spare pocket money for a second set of reference monitors to double check my mixes out on -otherwise probably not.

      But still the Fostex 6301B isn't a bad little monitor speaker at all; just a tad under-spec and overpriced.

      Thank you so much for reading my review and I hope you found it interesting!!!

      Best wishes,
      Caveat-Emptor

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