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review

A review of the PreSonus R80 studio monitors

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PreSonus R80
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PreSonus R80

Active Monitor from PreSonus belonging to the R series.

PreSonus recently added to its growing line of studio monitors with its new R-Series, active near-field monitors that feature AMT tweeters, and come in two sizes, the R80 (8” woofer) and the R65 (6.5” woofer). We got our hands on a pair of R80s for this review.

Looking them over

The first thing I noticed when I got the R80s out of their boxes was that they’re nice and compact compared to a lot of 8” monitors. The cabinets measure 9.5” x 15” x 12”, and weight a shade under 20 lbs. each.

The enclosures are ported on the bottom of the front panel, and a nice-looking blue plate encloses both the 8” kevlar woofer and 6.8” AMT tweeter. A front panel power status light is included on each speaker.

For those unfamiliar, AMT stands for Air Motion Transformer, and is a different technology than the dome-type tweeters that you find in most studio monitors. It is somewhat reminiscent of a ribbon tweeter, but is a different shape and made of different material. AMT tweeters feature very fast response and low distortion, and according to PreSonus are designed to provide “air and [a] sense of space not possible with traditional dome tweeters.”

The frequency response of the R80 is listed as 40 Hz to 22 kHz.

Back in black

The back of the monitors offer quite a few options. First, you can choose from three input formats: balanced XLR, balanced TRS 1/4” or unbalanced RCA. I used the XLR inputs, but it’s handy to have such a wide choice. A level knob is included that lets you adjust the loudness from Min to Max settings. I was glad to see that it has a center detent. That way, you have three options; Max, Min, and the center, where you can be sure both speakers’ levels are evenly set. I’d actually like to see a couple of more detents in the range, to give you more level choices that you know are balanced between the speakers.

The back panel offers three adjustable EQ options for tailoring the monitors to your room. The first, Acoustic Space, is designed for reducing bass boost that can occur when monitors are placed close to walls or corners. When engaged, it cuts frequencies from 250 Hz and below by your choice of  -1.5 dB, -3 dB, or -6 dB.

Next to it is the HF Driver circuit. It allows you to tailor the response of the high-frequency driver. It affects the signal from 2 kHz and higher. You can adjust it to boost by +1 dB or cut by -1.5 dB or -4 dB.

Finally, a high-pass filter is included so that you can adjust the low end to the crossover frequency of a subwoofer if you add one to the system. Each monitor is bi-amplified, with a 100W RMS going to the woofer and 50W RMS to the AMT tweeter. 

Turn those suckers on!

The R80s come with a set of four small rubber pads to be placed on the bottom corners of the cabinets to help with decoupling them. I tested them with just those pads on my wooden speaker stands, and also with Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers underneath them. Both sounded good, although the image was (not surprisingly) a bit more focused with the Stablizers between the monitors and the stands.

I also tried them out in two different positions: About 4 feet diagonally from each ear, and about 2.5 feet diagonally from each ear. They sound was particular impressive at the closer position, where I was hearing them with less impact from the room. 

The speakers provided good low-end detail (they go down to 40 Hz) without being boomy. I could hear the lower parts of the kick drum and bass. Upright bass was nicely reproduced as well. For the kind of music I generally mix, acoustic, bluegrass, rock, blues and country, I wouldn’t feel the need to add a subwoofer. If I were mixing electronic dance music or hip hop, it might be a different story, as there certainly is more territory below 40 Hz that can impact a dance mix, in particular. 

One of the things that really impressed me was how smooth the R80’s response was. The transitions between low, mid, and high frequencies were seamless, and everything sounded very natural. The high-end was clear and detailed without being harsh. I used the R80s in mix sessions and didn’t find them in the slightest bit fatiguing, thanks to the AMT tweeters.

The imaging was good, as well. Even with the speakers only about five feet apart, I still got a nice wide stereo spread.

Conclusion

I have grown quite fond of the R80s ($499 each) in my four or so weeks of using them. They’re comfortable to listen to, and they have a smooth sound and an even frequency response. The R80s are the first speakers I've used with AMT tweeters, and I'm very impressed. What's more, the generous input and EQ options, and the HP filter for adding a subwoofer, increase the monitors’ utility. While they’re certainly not cheap, they’re reasonably priced for the quality you get. Good job PreSonus.

8/10
Pros
  • Even frequency response
  • Detailed, non-fatiguing high end from AMT tweeters
  • Compact size
  • Plentiful input options
  • Plentiful EQ options for room compensation
  • HP filter makes adding a subwoofer easy
  • Good imaging
  • Good value
Cons
  • Back panel level knobs could use more than one detent
  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    If I put my ear right up to the woofer on the R80s, I do hear kind of a lower-midrange rumbly sound, but it's very quiet.
  • Teø Tsalmpouris
    Teø Tsalmpouris
    New AFfiliate
    2 posts
    Thanks for the quick reply

    Im reading on various sources that some hiss is normal in most active monitors, but i guess is shouldnt be audible.
    Sorry for repeating myself, but do your R80 are completely dead silent when they are turned on, without any music playing?
    Im guessing that the R80 have even a stronger amp, which, in theory, might had a greater hiss

    im not sure if i need to get myself used to it, and just turn them off when im not listening,
    or there's something wrong with them:(

    P.S sorry im not sure if hiss or hum is the right word to describe it. eitherway, is just a soft white noise, nothing buzzy or qurky

  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    Quote:
    I do wonder if that's the case with the R80s as well.

    I never noticed such an issue with the R80s. Possibly it's a defect in the pair you have?
  • Teø Tsalmpouris
    Teø Tsalmpouris
    New AFfiliate
    2 posts
    I have the R65 for a couple of days now. They are stunning! However, there's a minor thing tha bugs me. When turned them on there's a small but audible hiss/hum. I've tried to get the gain knob all down or completely unplug the audio cable but nothing changed. I even tried to use another power socket. I do wonder if that's the case with the R80s as well.
  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    OK, I heard back from Steve Oppenheimer from PreSonus. Here's what he said:
    Quote:
    The key thing here is that the speakers use entirely different technologies. We now have four lines, each with a different technology.

    The Sceptres are coaxial, codesigned with Fulcrum Acoustic coaxial guru Dave Gunness. Coaxial designs offer the advantages of a single point source for a consistent acoustic center and a symmetrical dispersion pattern but until time-based DSP became affordable, designing coaxial systems without a variety of acoustic anomalies has been extremely expensive. Gunness does some very specialized DSP (Temporal Equalization, or TQ, technology) to overcome the usual problems with coaxials, and the results are pretty spectacular. The crossover point is inaudible, and the biggest thing to me is that the imaging is incredible. It takes serious DSP to do this stuff, and PreSonus has managed to make it affordable. This is the same technology (in fact, the same coaxial drivers) found in StudioLive AI-series PA speakers. You can throw a lot of power at these speakers, and they do not break up, they just stop getting louder when at maximum level.

    I also have been very impressed with the Sceptre’s low-end reproduction. It’s very accurate, and you get much more low end than you might expect from a 6.5-inch woofer (the S6) — and the 8-inch woofer (S8) has huge bass but tight and clear, not muddy.

    The R series you’ve heard, of course. There, the strength is the super-sensitive AMT tweeter, which acts like a ribbon and gives you that very airy, super accurate high end. The other big thing is the wide sweet spot. For more info, I suggest you read Mike Levine’s review in Audiofanzine. Oh wait a minute…. <grin>

    If I were doing a lot of work with acoustic instruments and vocals, I’d consider the R series because of that AMT sensitivity. If I were mixing rock, pop, and the like, I probably would go for Sceptres. But you can do fine with either speaker for acoustic or electric music. I would not say one is better than the other so much as that they have different strengths.

    The Sceptres are physically larger and heavier, if that makes a difference.
  • Michael Oresteen
    Michael Oresteen
    New AFfiliate
    2 posts
    Ok great, I look forward to it! Thank you!
  • Mike Levine
    Mike Levine
    AFicionado
    1064 posts
    Hey Michael--I haven't had any hands-on experience with the Sceptres, but will reach out to my PreSonus contact to get some more info on the differences between the two product lines.
  • Michael Oresteen
    Michael Oresteen
    New AFfiliate
    2 posts
    First off, thank you for taking the time to review these speakers. I have been on the verge of upgrading my studio monitors, and was just about to grab some Presonus Sceptre series when I saw these new R-series. I'm still very much on the fence between the two, and there is nowhere less than 100 miles away to hear them in person. I'm hoping more reviews and opinions will start popping up, but in the meantime could you compare the two? Thanks!

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