Listen up, pros: these are true monitor-quality loudspeakers with very
low levels of distortion and a true-to-life sound quality.
Review by Greg Borrowman | Australia Guitar
A renowned musician, recording engineer, and a loudspeaker designer, Phil Jones has created the Airpulse SM200 Active Speaker System with a musician’s ear, an engineer’s precision, and an entrepreneur’s ambition. Unlike conventional studio monitors crafted by hi-fi experts, the Airpulse SM200 is the outcome of Jones’ versatile expertise, making it an intriguing choice for professional musicians and audiophiles.
The Airpulse SM200 is an all-in-one active speaker system, designed with an inbuilt amplifier in each cabinet. It’s critical to note that it’s distinct from the similar-looking but differently targeted Airpulse A200. Unlike the A200, a consumer variant with one active and one passive speaker, the SM200 is targeted at professionals and comes devoid of Bluetooth connectivity.
Crafted with an alloy ribbon, the high-frequency driver in the SM200 is a horn-loaded ribbon tweeter shielded with a stiff black metal mesh. This design amplifies its efficiency and optimizes horizontal dispersion, allowing a pair of SM200s to serve as near-field monitors. The internal Class-D amplifier drives this tweeter with an output of 15-watts.
The low-frequency driver in the SM200, equipped with a hard-anodized aluminum cone, reflects Jones’ preference for alloy cones, a signature traceable back to his past collaborations. The 134mm diameter driver (based on the distance between mounting holes) is driven by an under-hung 35mm diameter voice coil and a neodymium magnet, bolstered by a robust, well-constructed frame. The Class-D amplifier driving this LF driver has a 55-watt output.
Encased within a 19mm MDF cabinet, the Airpulse SM200 offers high-quality piano-grade finishes such as gloss red and gloss black. Compact enough to be positioned on a mixing desk or a small home studio, this bass reflex design houses an elliptically-shaped port at the top rear of the cabinet.
The rear terminal plates of the SM200 are fitted with balanced XLR, balanced TRS (6.35mm phone jack), and unbalanced RCA inputs. Unlike the A200, this professional variant is equipped with advanced high-pass, low-frequency, and high-frequency shelving filters, devoid of any impact on the midrange frequencies. The volume control is variable, and its status is displayed on a small blue-lettered LCD screen adjacent to the level control.
One distinct feature setting professional monitor loudspeakers apart from their home hi-fi counterparts is the former’s delivery of a linear frequency response across the midrange. This characteristic enables accurate evaluation of the sound being recorded and played back, whereas home hi-fi speakers are often designed to enhance the music playback according to personal preferences.
The Airpulse SM200 promises a remarkably flat and linear midrange, extending well into high frequencies beyond the limits of human hearing. Tweaking the HF control a dB or so can help maintain this linearity depending on the speaker’s positioning. Low-frequency linearity, affected by speaker positioning, can also be compensated for using the LF shelving control. However, the absolute bass response is largely defined by the size of the SM200’s driver and cabinet volume.
When used with a keyboard or for playing pre-recorded music, the SM200s deliver exceptional tonal accuracy, clear delineation of arpeggios, and richly textured chords. Furthermore, they have an uncanny ability to reveal any flaws in a recording, making them a true representation of a monitor-quality loudspeaker. In terms of stereo imaging and channel separation, the SM200s perform remarkably well.In a nutshell, the Airpulse SM200 is not merely a professional studio monitor loudspeaker; it is a testament to Phil Jones’ lifelong commitment to music and sound engineering. Designed for precision, versatility, and most importantly, for a superior sound experience, the SM200 is a class apart, offering an unadulterated and true-to-life sound quality that any musician or audiophile would appreciate.