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PreSonus R80 V2 Powered Studio Monitor Review

by January 04, 2023
PreSonus R80 V2 Studio Monitor

PreSonus R80 V2 Studio Monitor

  • Product Name: R80 V2 Studio Monitor
  • Manufacturer: PreSonus
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: January 04, 2023 01:30
  • MSRP: $ 600/pair ($558/pr sale price)
  • *For your convenience, we've included a link to Amazon.com to buy this product. As an Amazon Associate, Audioholics.com benefits from qualifying purchases.
  • Frequency Response: 40 Hz – 22 kHz
  • LF Driver: 8” Woven Composite
  • HF Driver: AMT
  • Inputs:

1 balanced XLR
1 balanced TRS ¼”

1 unbalanced RCA

  • Enclosure Material: Vinyl-laminated, medium-density fiberboard
  • Protection:

RF Interference

Output current limiting

Over-temperature

Turn off/on transient

Subsonic Filtering

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

Pros

  • Wide dynamic range
  • Lucid soundstage
  • Very good dialogue intelligibility
  • Good selection of tonal adjustments

Cons

  • 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…

Appearance

R80 pair8As 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.

Design Analysis

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.

R80 tweeter

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.

R80 bass driver  R80 woofer cone

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.

R80 amp plateThe 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…

Listening Sessions

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

Music Listening

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.      

 Muna Orphee

The R80 V2s imaged Irglova’s solo exquisitely and anchored it squarely in the center of the soundstage.

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.

Magic Oneohtrix Point Never Black Mirror

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.    

Movie Watching

...the R80 V2s managed to deliver a full and energetic experience.

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.  

 The Wretched gangster squad

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.

shadyJ posts on January 04, 2023 20:03

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? Read our in-depth review to find out…

READ: PreSonus R80 V2 Review
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About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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