PreSonus R80 V2 Powered Studio Monitor Review
- Product Name: R80 V2 Studio Monitor
- Manufacturer: PreSonus
- Performance Rating:
- Value Rating:
- Review Date: January 04, 2023 01:30
- MSRP: $ 600/pair ($558/pr sale price)
- Frequency Response: 40 Hz – 22 kHz
- LF Driver: 8” Woven Composite
- HF Driver: AMT
1 balanced XLR
1 balanced TRS ¼”
1 unbalanced RCA
- Enclosure Material: Vinyl-laminated, medium-density fiberboard
Output current limiting
Turn off/on transient
External Mains Fuse
- Crossover Frequency: 2.6 kHz
- Amplifier: LF 75W Class AB, HF 65W Class AB
- Weight: 19.8 lbs (9 kg)
- Size: 9.5” W x 15” H x 12” D
- Wide dynamic range
- Lucid soundstage
- Very good dialogue intelligibility
- Good selection of tonal adjustments
- Heightened upper frequencies create a spectral tilt
PreSonus impressed us in our review of their Eris E8 XT studio monitor a couple of years ago, and we have been looking forward to revisiting a design of theirs ever since. With the recent revision of their AMT-based R series, we thought now would be a good time to see what else they could do in the realm of studio monitors. The R series comes in two sizes: a 6” woofer version and an 8” woofer version. In for review today is their 8” woofer version, the R80 V2. As the larger of the two, the R80 V2 is for those looking for more punch from the low frequencies, of course. The question we will be asking in today’s review is how do the R80 V2s compare to the Eris E8 XTs? What benefits do AMT tweeters bring to the studio monitor segment? And how do they fare in general as a monitor for content creation and also as a speaker that could be used for a home audio system? Let’s now dig in to find out…
As a studio monitor, the R80 V2 is not primarily concerned with aesthetics. However, it does make some efforts to not look totally utilitarian. There is a curved chamfer running down the front vertical edges. Ostensibly that is to lessen baffle diffraction, but I am guessing that aesthetic styling was the real reason, and that is fine since there is no rule that says that monitors have to look boring. The front baffle is a two-piece plastic molded assembly with the top piece hiding screws and mounting components for the drivers. There is a small function light on the front that shows the on/off state of the speaker. The woofer cone looks like it means business with its tough-looking woven texture and inverted matte dust cap. The cabinet finish is a textured vinyl that we see on many lower-cost speakers. It is not a beautiful finish, of course, but it is not bad, and it is not easy to scratch nor will it show fingerprints. The R80 V2 isn’t as busy-looking as some other studio monitors, but I think it would be on the edge for a lot of people whether it’s clean enough in appearance to have a place in a family room. Were PreSonus to remove the decal badging on the front of the speaker, that would help to make an even cleaner and more appealing look.
The goal of any studio monitor should be to accurately reproduce the signal of the sound mix. This is quite a bit more specific than home audio equipment, which is merely supposed to produce an enjoyable sound. There is overlap here in that research has shown that what most people regard as most enjoyable is accurate sound reproduction, so in theory, a good studio monitor should also be a good home audio loudspeaker for most people. So, a studio monitor must have high fidelity as a part of its mission; how does the R80 V2 go about accomplishing this goal? Let’s discuss its designs starting from the top, the tweeter, which is where the R80 V2s differentiate themselves from typical monitors.
As mentioned before, the R80 V2s use AMT tweeters, and that stands for “Air Motion Transformer.” As opposed to a conventional dome tweeter that pistonically oscillates a little dome, AMT tweeters contract and expand the folds of a pleated membrane to produce sound. To explain using an example, imagine the folded surface of a half-closed curtain- then line the interior folds of the curtain with conductive rods on adjacent sides of the folds, and set two powerful magnets on the sides of the curtain. Run some alternating current through the conducting rods and their newfound electromagnetic field will rapidly collapse and expand the folds of the curtain, and, in doing so, squeeze air in and out of the folds, thereby creating pressure waves that we experience as sound.
A major advantage of AMT tweeters is that since the folds of the diaphragm are much deeper than they are wide, the air is ejected out at a much faster speed than the vibration of the diaphragm itself- as much as five times faster. That can move air very quickly, and that can equal high SPLs in upper frequencies. In fact, the R80 is spec’d at 107dB for peak SPL at 1m, whereas the Eris E8 XT with its 1” dome tweeter is spec’d at 105dB. Since the amp power and woofer are largely the same between the speakers, the increased headroom is likely due to the AMT tweeter.
Another advantage is the very low mass of the diaphragm, which makes it very easy to move and change direction since it does not have the momentum of the weight of a typical dome tweeter. Indeed, the diaphragm material for PreSonus’s AMT is Kapton with a 0.01mm thickness. These elements give AMT tweeters an extended response well into ultrasonic frequency ranges. Also, since AMT tweeters can have a relatively large surface coupled with the air, they can have a very wide dynamic range.
PreSonus mounts the AMT in a waveguide that is geared for a wide horizontal dispersion but a narrow vertical dispersion. This strategy is common to many monitors in this class, and their reasoning for it is that reflections from vertical surfaces cause problematic acoustic issues that degrade the sound. I do have two problems with this design strategy. First, there is not much actual research to show that vertical reflections in normal situations do hurt the sound quality in significantly audible ways. Second, many monitors, the R80 V2 included, only take measures to constrain the tweeter’s dispersion but not the woofer’s dispersion. The problem with that is now the vertical acoustic reflections are spectrally uneven; you will get acoustic reflections from the woofer but not the tweeter. If vertical reflections do degrade the sound, having an uneven balance of those reflections may be the worst-case scenario. Luckily for us, there isn’t much to suggest that it does hurt the sound in typical situations.
The 8” woofer uses a woven composite cone that has a beefy-looking surround. It uses a ¾” thick, 4” diameter magnet on the motor that is vented through the pole piece. The woofer is driven by a 75-watt amplifier, and the tweeter is driven by a 65-watt amplifier for a combined total of 140 watts of amplification using a class A/B amplifier. Most of the competing monitors have moved on to class-D amplifiers, but PreSonus has stayed with class-A/B for its lower noise floor that those amps tend to have in this class. Unfortunately, the R80 V2 still emits a hiss, although it’s no worse than what is normal in this segment. If the class-A/B amplifier reduced the noise floor, it only went from worse-than-average to merely average. The PreSonus Eris E8 XTs fared better in this regard with a lower noise floor.
The crossover frequency between woofer and tweeter is listed as 2.6kHz which is relatively high for an 8” woofer. With such a high crossover frequency, the nature of the crossover, i.e., the slope of its filters, will be crucial in avoiding beaming and cone break-up issues that can occur with a high crossover frequency on a large woofer. Luckily, the R80 V2 uses an electronic crossover that enables them to easily achieve any kind of filter shape that they want. I would guess that the reason for the high crossover frequency is that while the AMT tweeter can get loud in upper frequencies, it just doesn’t have as much raw displacement on tap as a good dome tweeter, so it cannot handle a low crossover frequency. Indeed, the R80 V2’s dome tweeter brother, the Eris E8 XT, has a significantly lower 2.2kHz crossover frequency.
One smart design decision here was to move the AMT tweeter as close to the woofer as possible. This should enable the individual sound coming from the tweeter and woofer to integrate at a closer distance, and that is a good idea for a monitor that may be placed at a relatively close distance from the listener. It should also help to reduce crossover nulls in the off-axis response at angles close to the on-axis angle. That could help to make it less picky to get a full, smooth sound without needing to have the listener’s ears precisely level with the tweeter height.
The three inputs on the R80 V2 are typical for this segment: a balanced XLR, a balanced ¼” TRS, and an unbalanced RCA. There are a host of controls that can alter the frequency response to compensate for different acoustic conditions. A boundary gain level switch can cut the low frequencies by 2 or 4 dB which can come in handy where the R80 V2 has to be placed near surface boundaries that can disproportionately boost bass. There is a high-pass filter that can come in useful if the R80 V2 is paired with a subwoofer in a system with no bass management. It can set the filter frequency at 100Hz, 80Hz, or let the speaker run full range. That high-pass is a really good idea since most ‘prosumer’ audio systems don’t have an easy way to blend a sub in with the speakers; this allows the speaker to cross over to the sub in a much more controlled manner, especially since most subs have adjustable low-pass filters. The R80 V2 also has a knob that can boost or cut the midrange frequencies or treble by up to 6 dB; the purpose of this is to emulate cheap speakers that have problems in that range. I think the midrange boost/cut knob is unnecessary since it can only emulate one problem area that a bad speaker can have. In any case, there is very little reason to leave it at any setting except for zero. Along with these response shaping controls, there is a gain knob, of course.
There is a front-mounted slot port beneath the woofer with some mild flaring at both ends. The enclosure uses a plastic molded front baffle mounted on a ½” thick MDF enclosure. There is a line of bracing around the midsection of the enclosure, and the side paneling is lined with polyfill. While the construction of the cabinet is OK, there is room for improvement here in reinforcement and damping, although I don’t know if that would have any noticeable improvement in sound quality. Bolder users could probably do some simple modifications to improve the enclosure, although that would void the warranty, of course.
The PreSonus R80 V2 monitors seem like competently designed speakers with some intelligent design decisions. Let’s now see how that pans out in giving them a listen…
In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with a few feet of stand-off distances between the back wall and sidewall and equal distance between speakers and listening position. I angled the speakers to face the listening position. The listening distance from the speakers was about 9 feet. Processing was handled by a Marantz 7705. No room correction equalization was used. No subwoofers were used unless otherwise noted
For a good recording of a human vocal, I found a terrific album titled “Muna” from Marketa Irglova. I had not heard of Irglova even though she had previously won an academy award for her music in the movie “Once.” I stumbled on this album in Qobuz on one of their automated recommendations, which can be hit or miss, and I am glad I did. This is a gorgeous recording, and Irglova’s music is like a sumptuous combination of folk and gospel music. She is both writer and performer of these pieces. Irglova’s voice is lovely, and “Muna” captures it magnificently with top-notch sound engineering, especially in this hi-res recording on Qobuz.
The first track nicely demonstrates some of the sound system’s capabilities. It starts out with Irglova singing alone against a pipe organ backing and then opens up to a choir. The R80 V2s imaged Irglova’s solo exquisitely and anchored it squarely in the center of the soundstage. Choral sections broadened the performers to span out across the front of my room which demonstrated the breadth of the soundstage that the speakers could project. Subsequent tracks brought in a variety of instruments, and it was easy to discern near-field mic’ing on the R80 V2s. This gave the performances a more intimate quality that was conveyed with clarity and detail by the speakers. Irglova’s voice sounded natural and none of the instruments sounded off or exaggerated in any way. The R80 V2s were able to catch all of the bass in this recording and no subs were needed; bass drums as well as the lower notes on the piano had enough oomph for a realistic presentation. The speakers painted a detailed picture in higher frequencies but not in an obtrusive or conspicuous way. In other words, while the treble didn’t seem especially hot, it definitely was not lacking. In the end, I found “Muna” to be an enchanting listen on the R80 V2s, and anyone looking for an alternative to traditional home audio sound systems for traditional music has a great option here.
Johan Johannsson’s status as a preeminent neoclassical composer continues to grow, even now four years after his passing, and his influence continues to be heard in neoclassical music released to this day. “Orphee” is a studio album released in a particularly fertile period of his productivity in 2016, but it is one I only recently discovered. This album is inspired by the myth of Orpheus, the bard who descended into Hades to rescue his beloved wife Eurydice with tragic results, or more specifically it is inspired by the interpretations of the myth by the Roman poet Ovid and the French filmmaker Jean Cocteau. Much like the Orphic myth, this orchestral music is emotionally charged and tinged with tragedy, even without considering Johannssonn’s untimely passing just two years later. As a major Deutsche Grammophon release, its production quality is outstanding, so it can take advantage of a high-fidelity sound system if one is supplied.
In the opening track, a piano is placed at the forefront and is lightly abetted by some strings as well as a sound that resembles radio static. The piano is given a full-bodied sound by the R80 V2s that some bookshelf speakers can miss since pianos can have significant low-frequency components. The radio static sound builds into a steady low-fi counting that resembles a coded message sent over a ham radio broadcast, and this acts like a ghostly background to the main orchestral melody, a separation of sound layers kept clear by the R80 V2s. As a studio recording, the acoustics of the sound are dryer than orchestral recordings made in symphonic halls with all of their natural reverb, and that was plainly evident through the R80 V2s. This gave the album’s sound a soundtrack feel, although the music itself didn’t have a soundtrack feel since it was structured to be the locus of the audience’s attention. Bass reproduction was good considering the size of these speakers. Some tracks brought in a pipe organ such as “The Burning Mountain,” and the R80 V2s gave the organ some low-frequency strength. I don’t think the addition of a subwoofer would have contributed a lot on top of what these speakers could do for this album. As for tonality, there were no timbral aberrations that I detected, and all of the instruments sounded balanced and even. I enjoyed listening to “Orphee” on the R80 V2s. This album deserves to be played on a capable sound system, and these speakers certainly meet that criteria.
For a very different musical experience, I loaded up Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never.” If you think that is a strange artist name and album title name, you are correct. Oneohtrix Point Never has been very influential in many subgenres of electronic music including glitch, experimental pop, ambient, and vaporwave. He has a range of styles, and he brings many of them together in “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never” which spans from twisted pop to sedate ambiance. His inventiveness in manipulating samples and production techniques makes his music a wild ride for a high-performance sound system. Anyone looking for a totally idiosyncratic sound would do well to check his stuff out, because there is not really anything else like it out there.
Many of the tracks feature heavily distorted vocals that sound like they have been run through every Pro Tools effects plugin in existence, and R80 V2s reproduce this sound with a crisp detail. The vocals may be strange, but the speakers leave no ambiguity as to what the sound is supposed to be. The erratic singing and low-fi synths set inside of a conventional pop rhythm sound like someone struggling against a terrible mental illness and is just barely able to hold their mind together. Likewise, the soundstage can be a cyclone of rapid panning and stereo effects at times, but the R80 V2s were able to track all of these spatial effects with precision. A great example of this occurs on track 15, “Shifting.” Kick drums were punchy, and bass lines could be strong. I don’t think the R80 V2s were fully catching all of the amplitude from the very lowest notes, but the vast majority of bass on this album was more than adequately reproduced. Oneohtrix Point Never also uses upper treble sounds to artistic effect, much more so than many other music producers, and the R80 V2s delineated all of these higher-pitched noises with exactitude. “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never” is an acquired taste as far as musical styles go, but it was a lot of fun to hear on the R80 V2s. Some listeners might not enjoy this music, but I think almost anyone could appreciate how vividly the R80 V2s could recreate this strange sonic environment.
To see what the R80 V2s could do when pressed hard, I queued up the “Black Mirror” EP from Broken Note. This is rambunctious drum’n’bass music, and, as such, it can serve as a good stressor for loudspeakers if cranked to a high enough level. Broken Note hits the entire frequency spectrum hard, especially in bass frequencies. Broken Note’s music isn’t just standard repetitive electronic dance music; he uses the freedom of harder-edged music to explore new sounds that wouldn’t fit in any easy-listening music, so there is innovation here as well as fodder for those looking for some of the most brutal music that can come out of a synthesizer. While this music is certainly too aggressive for most people’s tastes, it can do a good job of seeing where the limits of a sound system are at a high volume.
I cranked the volume to see what the R80 V2s could do for “Black Mirror.” There was no question it could deliver some mid-bass thump, and it managed to tap a few of the deeper notes, but it was by no means as authoritative as a subwoofer in bass frequencies. At very loud levels, the low frequencies would compress, so the treble had headroom to spare but not bass. Mind you, this occurred at absurdly loud levels that few people would ever crank these things. And while I could push the speakers to compress the low frequencies, I never heard anything I could readily identify as distortion, so there seemed to be some kind of electronic protection kicking in. Bringing a capable subwoofer into the proceedings gave the whole system an increase in dynamic range (in this instance, the Arendal 1723 1V subwoofer). This music was digging into frequencies below what the R80 V2s could capture. To be fair, this music is pretty extreme, and few monitors in the R80 V2’s class would have fared much better. I think most people would be satisfied with how these speakers performed with this music, at least until they hear what a subwoofer could add. I enjoyed listening to Black Mirror on the R80 V2s, but I liked it way more when a capable sub was used.
Many horror movies depend on the sound mix to do much of the heavy lifting in terms of delivering scares. The reason is there can be an uncertainty in hearing something strange that a visual depiction doesn’t have, so sound can be better for building tension than sight. The things that an individual’s imagination can conjure are usually a lot scarier than whatever a filmmaker can come up with, so the power of suggestion that sound has can be much more effective in creating fear than showing the scariness directly. 2019’s “The Wretched” banks extensively on sound to create a sense of dread. It concerns a troubled teenager who believes that a witch has possessed his next-door neighbor. When he tries to warn people, naturally they do not believe him, and he realizes he must face this threat alone. A good sound system is critical in getting the most out of a movie like this, so what can the R80 V2s do?
Asking two bookshelf-sized studio monitors to tackle a movie in a home theater is a tall order, but the R80 V2s managed to deliver a full and energetic experience. The speakers imaged the spatial cues in the sound mix nicely, and I did not miss the surround speakers at all. The creepy noises as well as the grotesque sounds of the antagonist consuming and ‘shedding’ victims were evocatively reproduced. The R80 V2s animated the pandemonium of the climax without turning the sound mix into a blob of loud noises. The balance between the dialogue, effects sounds, and music score was kept even so that no element overwhelmed anything else. The dialogue was always clear and intelligible. The orchestral music score by Devin Burrows was a traditional but effective one, and, on the R80 V2s, it gave this movie a big-screen cinematic feel despite its modest budget. “The Wretched” was a competent horror movie that was made all the more effective by such a capable sound system as the R80 V2s. They gave this movie so much more impact than if it had been seen on a soundbar system or, God forbid, TV speakers.
To see what the R80 V2s could do with a conventional Hollywood production, I watched the 2013 crime thriller “Gangster Squad.” This big-budget movie has an all-star cast and is about an elite LAPD crime unit put together to take down the ruthless underworld kingpin Mickey Cohen in 1949. It is supposedly based on true events, but it looks to me like this film treatment has taken some major liberties with historical accounts. I had not yet seen this film, but departures from historical facts don’t bother me so long as the movie is entertaining.
While “Gangster Squad” can’t be called original, it can’t be accused of being boring either. It had more than its fair share of gunfights, and on the R80 V2 speakers, the many Thompson machine guns crackled to life and blew hundreds of holes in buildings, cars, and people with a satisfying thud. Gun blasts had punch, and the old Ford V8 engines roared to life in the car chase sequence. The climactic fist fight, reminiscent of “Lethal Weapon’s” finale, was reproduced with gusto, especially against Steve Joblonsky’s dutiful music score; quite a bit more exciting than the real-life arrest of Cohen who was merely taken into custody for tax evasion. The dialogue, which was rich in 1940s-style patter, sang on the R80 V2s and was always intelligible, even Sean Pean’s hammy delivery, which was somehow a combination of mumbling and shouting at the same time. I felt as though the R80 V2s gave a thorough accounting of the sound mix of “Gangster Squad,” and even though they were not assisted by subwoofers, surround speakers, or a center speaker, I did not miss them at all. “Gangster Squad” was an unusually straightforward, two-fisted actioner that was totally unconcerned about avoiding cliches, and I can appreciate that. In the right mood, this type of film can really hit the spot, and such a lively sound mix ought to be heard with speakers as capable as the R80 V2s.
PreSonus R80 V2 Powered Studio Monitor Measurements & Conclusion
The PreSonus R80 V2 was measured in free-air at a height of 7.5 feet at a 1-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at an 11-millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 250 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 110 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.
The above graph shows the direct-axis frequency response and other curves that describe the R80 V2’s amplitude response in a number of ways. For more information about the meaning of these curves, please refer to our article Understanding Loudspeaker Measurements Part 1. The measured response above is a bit ragged. However, it generally holds to a baseline response, and the listening window does fall within an industry standard of +/-3dB over its operating range. A lot of little peaks and dips don’t result in audible effects, so small undulations in the response can be ignored. The most significant feature in this graph that results in coloration of the sound is the recession centered at 500 Hz followed by the elevation in the response centered around 2kHz. That does give the speaker a bit more of a forward character. To be sure, this is not a huge deviation that makes the speaker sound badly unnatural, but compared to a speaker with a more neutral response, like the PreSonus Eris E8 XT, it has a more brash quality. It accentuates a region where much of the harmonics of human voices and musical instruments dwell, so it does have a more detailed sound, but it does so at the expense of accuracy. The smoothness of the directivity indexes indicates that this speaker could be equalized with predictability. Overall, we have a response that is good enough to enjoy music and movies, although I was hoping for something a bit less frayed from a studio monitor.
The above graphs depict the speaker’s lateral responses out to 90 degrees in five-degree increments. More information about how to interpret these graphs can be read in this article: Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II. One interesting feature that can be seen is that while the on-axis response is a bit craggy, its shape generally holds at off-axis angles, hence the smooth directivity indexes in our ‘Spin-O-Rama graph of the R80 V2. That means that the in-room acoustic reflections of this speaker will not deviate from the direct response, so any changes made to the speaker’s tonality be the same everywhere. That is particularly helpful to equalization systems like Audyssey and YPAO. The exception occurs at around 2kHz where the off-axis response dips a bit compared to the on-axis response. This is occurring because the woofer is starting to tighten its dispersion in this range, but the tweeter hasn’t yet kicked in full yet. The response widens at the handover to the tweeter. I had a feeling that the specified 2.6kHz crossover frequency was going to end up with an imperfect directivity match between the tweeter and an 8” woofer, and while we do see that here, it is not severe.
The above polar map graphs show the same information that the preceding graphs do but depict it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, these polar maps use color to portray amplitude, and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends of the speaker’s behavior more easily. For more information about the meaning of these graphs, we again refer the reader to Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II.
Aside from the waist-banding at around 2kHz, the R80 V2 holds a good dispersion pattern. We can see that the 2kHz directivity mismatch doesn’t really set in until around the 40-degree angle, so if it manifests itself at all, it will be as an acoustic reflection since few listeners will be seated outside that angle. We do see the tweeter start to tighten its dispersion at around 10kHz, but it is still broader in that region than the vast majority of dome tweeters would be. The response above 10kHz isn’t terribly consequential since there isn’t much content that high, and many listeners’ hearing degrades above that point as well. Overall, while the performance portrait shown here isn’t perfect, it is not bad, and I didn’t detect any midrange deficits from the 2kHz waist banding at all in my listening.
The above graph shows the R80 V2’s response behavior along its vertical axis where zero degrees is directly in front of the tweeter, negative degree values are below the tweeter, and positive degree values are above the tweeter. One important feature that we can see here is that the crossover null emerges very quickly at angles below the tweeter. Any speaker where drivers are separated by a distance greater than half a wavelength at the crossover frequency (meaning almost any speaker that isn’t using coaxial drivers or a single full-range driver) will suffer a null at some angles where the difference in distance causes a phase mismatch between the drivers in a shared frequency range at the crossover. Typically, it starts to set in outside of a 15-degree angle above and below the on-axis angle, but in the R80 V2s, it is becoming acute at 10 degrees below the tweeter. That means that this speaker should be listened to at or somewhat above the tweeter height, but not below the tweeter. The vertical response does stay strong out to 25 degrees above the tweeter, so that does give the user a good margin in which to aim the R80 V2 for the best sound. This is a trait we also saw in our review of PreSonus’s Eris E8 XT speaker.
The above graph show the R80 V2’s low-frequency responses that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground in a wide-open area). With the high-pass filter set to ‘flat,’ we do see a slight rise in bass below 90Hz. That could give the sound a bit more weight than a totally flat response, although it might lead to a bit too much bass in a small room. Should that be the case, users can set the R80 V2’s ‘Acoustic Space’ switch to -4dB which should alleviate some excess bass. One nice feature is the ability to high-pass the response at 80Hz and 100Hz, and that allows for subwoofer integration without the need for an external processor. In its ‘flat’ setting, the R80 V2 holds a steady response down into the upper 40Hz range which is good for a non-tower speaker. The roll-off below 45Hz is very steep which indicates that it is being electronically high-pass filtered. That means the R80 V2 won’t see much room gain below 40Hz, but 40Hz is enough bass extension to reproduce almost all acoustic music (with the exception of some pipe organs), and most other kinds of music. That does explain why the R80 V2s weren’t quite catching the lowest notes of some electronic bass music, but even most electronic bass music doesn’t dig below 40Hz.
The above graphs exhibit a few of the changes that can be made to the response using some of the controls on the amp plate. For the most anechoically neutral response, I would set the ‘Acoustic Space’ switch to -2dB, the ‘Mid Frequency’ adjust knob to 0dB, and the ‘High Frequency’ trim knob to 0dB. Of course, for a warmer sound, the user can knock down the ‘High Frequency’ adjust knob, or they can boost it for a hotter and more aggressive sound. The ‘Mid Frequency’ adjust knob appears on other PreSonus speakers and has always been a bit weird to me. PreSonus’s rationale for it is to emulate cheap speakers, but cheap speakers can go awry in many more ways than too much or too little frequency bandwidth around 1kHz, so I don’t think that one is very useful. The ‘High Frequency’ trim knob and ‘Acoustic Space’ switch, on the other hand, would be useful for those who want to tune these speakers for their taste. However, those buying these speakers for the most accurate playback should leave all the knobs at 0dB. The bass response is so heavily affected by the room, so that is more up to the user to determine what sounds natural, but I think most circumstances would call for an ‘Acoustic Space’ setting of -2dB or -4dB if the ‘Low Cutoff’ switch is set to ‘Flat’ since the ‘Flat’ setting gives elevation to lower bass.
Before bringing this review to a close, I will briefly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the product under evaluation, and, as usual, I will start with the weaknesses. While I enjoyed the R80 V2, it is not without its flaws. The chief misstep of this speaker is that it does depart a bit from a neutral sound character, and that is not an ideal attribute for a studio monitor. To be sure, the speaker does not sound bad, and its departure from neutrality is not severe. In fact, I did not notice it to be particularly unbalanced in my own listening, except perhaps for some more articulation in treble sounds, and it was only in doing an A/B comparison with a more neutral loudspeaker did its tonality become evident. If you are using this speaker for sound mixing and monitoring, you could be inadvertently mixing the sound to have a recessed sound on other playback systems, because its forward sound character is artificially lifting upper mids and lower treble, especially relative to upper bass frequencies. So what sounds right on the R80 V2s could sound somewhat soft on other systems that don’t share that response attribute.
So the R80 V2 speakers have a tonality that isn’t fully even; what is the purpose of this kind of voicing? This type of response does emphasize the range where much of the harmonics of human vocals and musical instruments inhabit, and in that sense, it puts those sounds under a magnifying glass, so users who are after a more detailed sound do have it here, at least in its default settings, but it does so at the expense of neutrality. It is what some would call a ‘revealing’ speaker; the heightened upper mids and treble do expose all the ticks and pops more than something with a flat response. The problem is that the same effect could just be achieved by EQ’ing the response of any speaker to boost upper mids and treble ranges. It could be argued that the R80 V2s could also simply be EQ’d to have a neutral response, but the problem is that its natural response is so jagged that the compensation curve would be fairly complex to devise.
In my view, the tonality of the R80 V2 with respect to monitoring is its only significant flaw. There are other measured imperfections with the performance, but they are largely academic with regard to audible consequences so are not something that would have any real-world effects. This brings us to its strengths, of which there are many. To start with, while they might not be the most accurate monitor out there, I did enjoy their sound and never disliked what they brought to movies and music. They bring forward a crisp sound character, but it was never obnoxiously hot or fatiguing. The sound was detailed without being shouty or overly sibilant. I think that most users would be pretty happy with the way they sound. They had good bass extension to below 50Hz, so the addition of a subwoofer is not an absolute must depending on the application.
Speaking of subwoofers, one feature I really like is the high-pass filter switch which cuts off bass below 80Hz or 100Hz so that the inclusion of a subwoofer into a simple setup can be very easy. With the popularity of subs even in simple bedroom studios, all monitors in this class should have this feature, but only some do, and they aren’t often implemented as well as the R80 V2s. Likewise, the tonal adjustments available on the R80 V2s make it easy to tailor the sound to the user’s taste. While user taste shouldn’t be a factor in actual monitoring applications, it does help the speakers to have more flexibility in recreational listening. On the subject of recreational listening, the tonal character of the R80 V2s have an advantage for those who struggle to understand dialogue; the response elevates the upper harmonics of human vocal ranges which can enhance speech sound. In other words, these speakers make it easier to understand what people are saying.
The R80 V2s have a good dynamic range which is not surprising with an 8” woofer with an AMT tweeter and 140 watts of amplification, so anyone looking for speakers that can take on typical living room listening distances of a few meters without compressing or distorting heavily, these can do that. They would make a great alternative to a soundbar for a larger domestic space, especially for someone who struggles with speech intelligibility with typical soundbars. In addition to their dynamic range, the R80 V2’s imaging ability was very good, and they had no trouble keeping resolving complex soundstages in recordings.
To sum all of this up, as a speaker for recreational listening, I think the R80 V2s are a good choice. However, as a monitor, they are somewhat flawed, although not fatally so. For monitoring purposes, I think that their similar but less expensive PreSonus sibling, the Eris E8 XT, is a better choice since it is a more tonally balanced loudspeaker, although they are a tad larger. This isn’t a knock on the R80 V2s as much as praise for the Eris E8 XTs; in fact, I liked the Eris E8 XTs so much that they are the only product that I have purchased after reviewing to this date. Some people may prefer the increased high-frequency articulation of the R80 V2s for content creation, but they should understand the drawback that carries its spectral balance. I do think the R80 V2s could be used to create good mixes, although they aren’t what I would use to make a high-fidelity mix such as highly realistic recordings of acoustic instruments unless the user understood how it would be affecting the sound in a more neutral scenario. While they are marketed as a studio monitor, I do think they should also be considered for movies, music, and gaming purposes, and those who decide to get a pair will likely be delighted with the results.
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
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