PreSonus Eris E3.5 Speakers For A Home DJ Set Up (Review)

A cheap (and cheerful) DJ booth monitor for your home DJ set up, the PreSonus Eris E3.5 Speaker.

Last year I was looking for a speaker monitor solution for my home DJ booth set up. I wanted a pair of small lightweight speaker monitors that offered relative good clarity for a small price. My intention was to hang the speakers over my DJ booth which sits close to a wall. So, I didn’t want huge speakers that jutted out too far (as to be too close to my ears), nor did I want the speakers to obstruct my DJ space. Furthermore, I didn’t want the speakers to be too heavy, as it would be harder to mount and didn’t want big heavy speakers precariously hanging over my gear. (I know, try mounting them properly). I do have a pair of QSC CP8 but even these for their small size seemed like overkill for this purpose, if I am just DJing in my small studio/dj room. Also, I didn’t want to have to dismantle the CP8 speakers every time I needed them for a gig. I was looking for in situ speakers that would be ready anytime I wanted to DJ or listen to records.


More DJ Tech reviews:
REVIEW: QSC CP8 SPEAKER – A DJ’S LIL BEST BUD?
TRACK FREEZE PROBLEM WITH ROLAND DJ-505 & REVIEW


For years, I would practice DJing or listening to records in my headphones almost exclusively. I still do often but you are really limiting your experience by not listening to music or DJing on speakers. There is something magical and sound altering that happens once music is played through the air. So, it is really important to experience both for perspective. Also, I realized that once I wanted to start making DJ mixes on vinyl again (without computers or screens), you need speakers to do “old school” cueing: previewing the next track in your headphones before you drop it into the main mix. This makes only using headphones problematic. So, that is when I decided I needed speakers to make analog DJ mixes.


Listen to Dougie Boom’s All-Vinyl Mixes!


Alternatively, for speakers I looked at the Pioneer DJ DM-40BT DJ Studio Monitors (only RCA inputs), the Mackie CR Series CR3-3-Inch (wow that some green colour) and the KRK Rokit 4 (that’s a lot of bass). However, after much consideration I went with the PreSonus Eris E3.5 Professional Multimedia Reference Monitors. Now, after a year of use I can say that I am happy with the purchase. The Eris E3.5 sound great! Good clarity and flexibility. I was worried that these speakers would not be much better than your conventional computer speakers. However, I was wrong and they have exceeded my expectations.

PreSonus Eris E3.5 Features

First off, these are not bass heavy type of speaker. For that I would consider the KRK Rokits with its front ports are known to be a bass-ier speaker. If you are mostly listening to bass heavy music then you may prefer those instead. For me I was looking for something more neutral sounding. I own Yamaha Monitors for my studio and they are extremely flat but clear in their response (what you hear is what you get). That is not to say that the bass on these Eris do not meet my expectations. A smoother more subtle bass is delivered by the E3.5’s 3″ woven composite woofers. A 1″ silk dome tweeter offers clear highs that aren’t too harsh. The speakers are plenty loud at 25 watt/side power amplifier. Its more than enough volume, considering my use and its proximity. The E3.5’s are active (powered) so they don’t require an external mixer or a power amp.

The speakers have a low profile with a width of 5.6″ (141 mm), a depth of 6.4″ (162 mm) and a height 8.3″ (210 mm). The speaker cabinets themselves (I thought were plastic) are actually medium-density fiberboard with vinyl-laminate, so some of the sound is preserved.

The speaker with all the connections is powered and feeds to the other through speaker wire.

On the back it includes a stereo RCA input (unbalanced) but the real kicker is the inclusion of 1/4″ balanced inputs! A little bit unusual for a speaker of its size, most would use 1/8″ or RCA, but the choice to include them is so appreciated. I would say 60-70% of the DJ mixers or controllers out there have a 1/4″ outputs (for the booth outputs or otherwise), so hooking a DJ mixer with a stereo 1/4″ cable sounds great and is seamless. It includes two EQ controls on the back for highs and lows (-6dbs to + 6dbs). The AC port is a female C7 2-Pin style port, which is easily replaceable and non-proprietary.

On the front, we have the volume and power switch conveniently placed, making it easy to access. Most monitors usually have these controls on the back, but this works especially for our purpose of being wall-mounted. Also on the front there is the inclusion of a 1/8″ headphone jack and aux in jack, which both sound pretty good as well. The on light, although not adjustable in brightness, is a soft blue and will not burn holes in your eyes.

Your all I need to get by…..” The Eris speakers more than o-blige for your DJ room set up.

Presonus Eris E3.5 Conclusion

The Presonus Eris E3.5 have become more useful to me than expected! I use them now all the time: listening to my DJ blends, previewing finished mixes and songs, preparing for gigs, and listening and grading 45 records. Yes the Eris E3.5 are that discriminating in sound! You will hear the record with pops and all. But most importantly I hear great balanced sound coming from my Pioneer S9’s booth outs. Once you get the eq-ing right (from its controls on the back), taking in consideration the room and how far they are placed from the wall, just as you would normal studio monitors.

I was worried that the speakers would not be able to take the signal from my mixer without overloading or sounding terrible, but I was and still am really happy with them. Some critiques complained that the rear ports allow the bass to be absorbed by nearby walls. However, mounting them away from the wall with speaker mounts, gave them adequate space from the wall and eliminated that problem for me.

For mounting them, I used Primecables Speaker Wall Mounts, which are another bargain and are easy to set up. Plus they are Canadian company. You can tilt them to almost any specification and they hold up to 55 lbs, easy for the Eris’ 3.5 lbs each.

Lastly, it should be noted I would never consider the PreSonus Eris E3.5 as “gig” worthy speakers. These are more so for home/personal use as inexpensive but great sounding studio monitors. However, they make a great powered speaker solution for your home DJ set up. It should be noted these do not have bluetooth, which keeps these lower in cost. Instead, you get great sounding speaker for your money and, alternatively, you could easily attach a bluetooth receiver instead, and let’s face it, wireless technology will always get better.

PreSonus Eris E3.5 – Pros

-powered small speaker solution, which will work for most home DJ set ups.
-excellent sound (no glaring highs and nice smooth bass)
-great value. $150 CAD price well worth it.
-Proper 1/4″ inputs (which suits most DJ mixer’s booth outputs) but also has 1/8″ and RCA inputs as well.
-speakers this good could ultimately be used somewhere else if you upgrade (e.g. portable studio monitors).

PreSonus Eris E3.5 – Cons

-the supplied stereo speaker cord to connect between speakers could be longer (depending on your set up)
-EQ controls (pots) on the back feel cheap.
-Not a bassy pair of speakers, like the Rokits if you are going for a more club heavy feel but these could probably be paired with a subwoofer.

dougieboom.com

Review: QSC CP8 Speaker – A DJ’s lil best bud?

Check out my review on tote bags for the QSC CP8

QSC CP8 Speaker Front
The QSC CP8 Speaker: Angelic glow and loud as…

Late last year QSC revealed a new series of speaker, the “CP” series, which touted the same QSC signature sound we would expect, in a more affordable and lighter incarnation. Now, plenty was written in anticipation but not many reviews have surfaced out there. Particularly, for my intended purpose, which is how does it perform as a speaker monitor for DJing (for mobile set ups) and maybe as a secondary solution to a full rig?

Now, I should not have to explain why a speaker monitor for DJing is important, but I find I have to all the time (lol) to: wedding planners, restaurant owners, brides and grooms, my girlfriend, sound-techs, and even other DJs (I thought we were in this together). The answer is simple: DJ’s need to hear what is going on, more than anyone else in the room in order to perform. It is not unlike any other type of musician/performer. Timing, volume, pitch, tempo are all factors that are important to DJs or at least should be. Digital DJing is definitely more forgiving in that respect, you can almost DJ with your eyes now but ultimately we need to hear what we are doing, no interpretation. That is why any DJ mixer worth its salt has at least one “booth out” output. Now, there are some cases, as a DJ, where you are positioned close enough to a speaker where you are, more or less, hearing it the same way your audience is. More often, however, you may not be near a speaker, it may be positioned away from you or perhaps you are isolated from your audience almost altogether. I remember playing an early gig with kQuattro (1/2 of the duo was Egyptrixx, now ACT!) and Crystal Castles (RIP) and I was playing in a closet (pretty much) before the kitchen with the speakers and audience in another room. Every time someone would come out of the kitchen I would get hit with the swinging door: how am I sounding? In a more recent example, I played the Design Exchange in downtown Toronto. Huge space! However, the audio vendor would not provide stage monitors. We are talking $300,000+ worth of equipment, but fair enough. Furthermore, the reality is DJs are often an afterthought to establishments. Their makeshift booths don’t consider the things that DJs need, including an adequate amount of space and a speaker close enough to hear what you are doing. In some cases, you may need to hear the music louder than your audience does to get the mix right, for example in a restaurant or playing a wedding reception.

So, having a monitor for DJing is invaluable. Personally, I kept holding out for a 8″ to 10″ speaker that was lightweight and could wedge (perfect for the urban DJ to jump in your car service with). You would be surprised how little options there are. For example, the Yamaha DBR10 and Yamaha DXR8 which sound great, albeit a more flatter-true to the sound response, do not set up as a wedge, otherwise they would have been a contender. The JBL EON610 is kind of ugly, if you want to use as a secondary P.A., and JBLs sound (in my experience) is just ok: loud but can get brash (convince me otherwise in comments). There is of course the QSC K8, which is not a bad option but because it is discontinued you may have to go secondhand (i.e. no warranty for an expensive item).  Its newer replacement the K8.2 are a good option, but they are  for many, a rather expensive indulgence for the main purpose of a DJ speaker monitor at almost double the cost of the CP8s. However, even in a city as “world class” as Toronto, being able to hear them in the flesh is tough, no floor models anywhere. So, I decided to take the plunge so you don’t have to.

QSC-CP8-Speaker-Size-Comparison
Compared to the universal DJ ruler (a milkcrate) The QSC CP8 is approximately the same size.

First Impressions

It is of small stature and width but has a good weight to it. That is, enough weight to feel substantial but an easy pick up. There is no side handle but a top handle. Although, it should be relatively easy to take on an and off a speaker pole. The hard plastic (polypropylene) outer shell feels nice and solid. When you hear “plastic” you fear the worst but it feels solid, hopefully it withstands the test of time and doesn’t scratch easily. It is the perfect size for a booth speaker where space is often limited. Being able to set up 5 ways is nice: vertically on a tabletop; horizontally flat on one side or as a wedge on the other side; on a speaker pole (35mm); or they have a yoke / wallmount kit for installing to a wall. For the audio we have 3 inputs: two (x2) mic / line inputs; one (x1) 3.5mm input for a mp3 player and one (x1) xlr output to link the signal (post gain) to additional speakers. That is enough inputs to do smaller demo size setups or perhaps for weddings, small ceremony or a smaller reception room. Is it enough power though?

QSC CP8 Speaker Back with Inputs
The QSC CP8 has lots of inputs: Two (x2) TRS 1/4″/XLR inputs; even a 1/8″ 3.5mm input.

The QSC C9 boasts a 1000 watt Class D Amplifier, the same as its larger version the CP12. It does not have full control of the EQ rather it has six (x6) different EQ presets. On the first power up I would say it definitely met my expectations and surpassed them! This thing is loud with good clarity! As a monitor, placed facing towards me, I put the CP8’s volume at 8 o’clock (2 clicks) and 9 o’clock (2 clicks) on my booth output from the Pioneer S9 mixer and it was comfortable room-level listening and it only went up from there.

As far as the EQ setting I preferred the default setting. I got really good clarity (highs, mid, lows) testing a vinyl record. The more I turned it up, in the confines of my small studio, the more it scared me how loud it got (hello neighbours). The dance setting added more bass but I felt it was a little bit muddled (your audience will probably not know). However, I don’t really see that as its purpose, as full P.A. solution. I think this is best suited as a monitor;  an additional speaker for filling up a room; or as tops with the addition of a sub (there are EQ settings that drop the bass on the CP8 to accommodate a sub). However, if your client is on a smaller budget maybe 2 of these in a small setting would be adequate.

As a speaker wedge on the floor by my feet, it performed well. It has a 90 degrees of sound dispersion, which makes it ideal for this use. I had this placed maybe a foot away from me on the ground and could hear it no problem. The speaker was more or less pointing at my lower torso but could still hear it. I would say ideally at around 2-3 feet away from where you are standing (depending on your height) it would be pointing directly at your ear.

Update: Recently, I used the QSC CP8 as a DJ booth monitor for a wedding (250 people, 30 foot high ceilings, a pretty big room and it did a great job. When I arrived, being unfamiliar with the venue, I had to walk around for a bit to find the room I was playing in but I did not break a sweat or my back carrying it around. May buy another in the future to see how it fairs for a P.A. with a subwoofer.

Pros:

  • A more affordable QSC speaker that does not sacrifice sound.
  • Compact design that will fit most DJ booths.
  • Has a 90 degrees of sound dispersion, which makes it ideal for a wedge by your feet. Even at a foot away I could hear what I was doing.
  • Loud enough for small crowds.

Cons:

  • Very little
  • Warranty is only 3 years compared to their usual 6 for other speakers. *Be sure to register online to qualify, otherwise it’s only one (1) year.

Check out my additional review on tote bags for the QSC CP8

Review: Is the Sony PS-HX500 the USB ripping turntable we have been waiting for?

IMG_4778
The Sony PS-HX500’s all black exterior will have you hearing in colour.

Recording your vinyl records (LPs, 12″s, 45s) to digital files can be a costly, precarious, time consuming task, where the results can often be underwhelming. I am by no means an audiophile, but a DJ who has collected thousands of records over the years, and I know enough that the better the recording sounds, the better it is for DJing and listening. Now that digital DJing has become so much a part of what I do, I still long for digital copies of those records in my collection that are unavailable elsewhere or, in some cases, they are not decent rips (e.g. YouTube rips, illegal sites, 128kb rips of yesteryear). So, my review is going to be looking at what many of the other reviews of the Sony PS-HX500 don’t cover. While focusing on the Sony PS-HX500’s ripping capabilities (not its phono stage or sound replication in a stereo set up, maybe for a latter post), I am going to be asking:

  1. How do “natural” recordings from the Sony PS-HX500 sound?
  2. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip club records well?
  3. Is the Sony PS-HX500 kind to scratchy records?
  4. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip 45s / 7″ records well?
  5. How does the Sony PS-HX500 compare to my current DJ set up for ripping records?

  1. How do “natural” recordings from the Sony PS-HX500 sound?

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First, I started with a “natural” recording. That nuance of live instruments seems like a reasonable first approach. For that, I decided to begin with a reissue Alice Coltrane ‎– “Journey In Satchidananda”. Not only does it have live instrumentation but the harp is a very vibrant instrument with sweeping highs and mids (probably hard to capture digitally I figured). For rock and amplified instrumentation, I used another reissue, here Black Sabbath’s Self titled debut.

The results across the board were excellent for the recordings. Alice’s harp rings through with great clarity, the double bass bumps, cymbals glisten. You could hear the reverberation from the room that they were playing, so there was great depth of sound. Black Sabbath sounded great as well. The rainy intro did expose a little surface crackle in my copy but as soon as the thunder kicks in it sounded great. The instruments (bass, guitar, vocals & drums) were allowed to play their respective roles and were easily accessible to my ears.

2. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip club records well?

In contrast, with the more “natural” sounds of real instruments, I wanted to compare it with more modern recordings with some bump, i.e. some “club” records. For this example I used Jay-Z’s  ‎– “Vol. 3… Life And Times Of S. Carter” .  The results in comparison to a digital copy I had, “Big Pimpin'” sounded remarkably close, taking in consideration the limitations of a 33 1/3 record with 3 songs on the one side. The recording had good low-end with the kicks coming through as they should without detracting from the vocals. The vocals coasted on top with good clarity. The stereo spectrum was a bit more narrow but I think that has more to do with the medium itself more than a fault with the turntable.

3. Is the Sony PS-HX500 kind to scratchy records?

IMG_4768

If your ghettohouse records don’t have the wrong sleeves send them back, “they ain’t ghetto enough”

 

For my scratchy record (which could also arguably double as another “club” record) I used a Dance Mania test of DJ Chip – “Ghettoslide” . The condition of the vinyl is probably VG with lots of scratches. It was a well-loved soldier of the clubs, hence the wrong sleeve. Furthermore, Dance Mania records are NOT world renowned for their quality pressings and I can’t imagine their white labels fair much better. However, the results of the recordings made on the Sony PS-HX500 were relatively kind. Surface noise from the scratches were heard but ultimately the music came through with good balance (lows, mids & highs). One thing that was remarkable, the vocals although maniacally stacked, were more discernible. I could hear all the nasty words clearly. With a little bit of post-production finesse you could definitely get a good usable digital file I think. Something like the Izotope RX7 editor software (which I will do a review of shortly).

4. Does the Sony PS-HX500 rip 45s / 7″ records well?

I am a 45 fanatic. In fact my LP/12″ collecting has more or less subsided. Whereas I still have to look when I see some 45s. However, 45s are often not the greatest in fidelity. When you DJ them they often need a lot of EQ-ing to get them right. However, needless to say, I still wanted to be able to rip those impossible to find cuts. So, I tried various 45s of varying condition: High Rollers – “Place Your Bets” a Canadian disco cut; Fuji – “Revalations” a psych blues funk cut; Errol Scorcher ‎– “Roach In De Corner” a Jamaican pressing (not exactly a quality pressing or condition); Bobby Marchan ‎– “Rockin’ Pneumonia” a rock n roll romp.

Across the board: really good results. A little tinniness you would expect from a 45/7″ and little crackle, but really good clarity, and good lows particularly from the “Roach In De Corner”.

5. How does the Sony PS-HX500 compare to my current DJ set up for ripping records?

Compared to my other set ups (and many DJs will have the same equipment): a Technics 1200 mkII; various cartidges (Shure N44-7, Jico N44-7, Ortofon S-120), various mixers (Pioneer S9, Rane TTM-57sl and Roland DJ-505 controller) using the Serato software (Scratch Live & Serato DJ), the recordings of the same records didn’t even compare. I would say 40% better or more. Every single time the Sony PS-HX500 outdid these setups. The clarity was not only apparent to my ears but when I would load the files in Serato (without any tinkering), you didn’t get these “all one colour” waveforms, like with Serato’s all red waveform vinyl rips, suggesting a wider spectrum of sound. The only thing I think would be required to make excellent “ready for the club” rips, would be an ounce of preparation (clean your records) and a bit of post production (gain, EQ). The gain on the Sony recordings were really low, but this could be seen as a positive in the sense that you can add more and it gives you ample wiggle room to do so.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend the Sony PS-HX500 as an USB turntable for ripping records. I got really good results that surpassed all the other popular DJ set ups I have. I think I will definitely change the cartridge it came with (something that I will cover in another review) to hopefully yield even better results. The cartridge it comes with is supposedly an unmarked $50 Audio-technica cartridge and needle. Because of this I am ripping my really scratchy records first before purchasing another cartridge. However, cartridges are not easily swappable on this unit and needs to be installed and wired with a bit of finesse.

Pros:

  • All in one belt-drive turntable with phono stage & USB that doesn’t actually suck.
  • Good price and value.
  • Recordings are excellent and are kind to all genres.
  • 33/45 switch on top means no belt adjustment required to play at different speeds.
  • Comes with recording software that is easy to use, available here.
  • Records 16/24 bit .wav files but can also record using Sony’s propriety DSD format.

Cons:

  • the stock needle it comes with is just ok.
  • Needle replacement may be difficult (I will find out later)
  • No height adjustment for the arm means only particular cartridge of a certain height will work.
  • Legs are not adjustable,
  • Arm is not automatic (I am going to look to see if an automatic lift can be installed).
  • For the best results you will probably need a better audio software editor to do a little bit of post tinkering, but there are free ones (e.g. Audacity).