What We Like
- A far nicer design than most brands offer at the entry level price point.
- Audio is clear, crisp, and dynamic; especially mids and highs.
- A versatile, lightweight, and portable form factor.
What We Don’t Like
- Bass is a little underwhelming and doesn’t have much presence.
Sterling Audio are best known for their high-end condenser microphones that you can find inside a number of professional recording studios. In recent years, they have begun branching out into other areas including I/O gear, headphone amps, and studio monitors.
The MX3s are a fairly unique design. In the sub-$100 category, you tend to find a lot of similarities. Standard, oblong cabinets in an often uninspiring, black or natural wood finish. Sterling Audio have somewhat eschewed this trend towards a homogenous look by incorporating some interesting visual aspects to differentiate the MX3s from the competition.
The cabinets themselves are a fairly standard proposition, albeit with a nicer finish than many we have seen at this price range. However, the fun starts on the front. Sterling Audio have created an attractive, glossy baffle of polished ebony effect which contains within it a gun metal gray housing for the two drivers. The low frequency driver features a proprietary cone design finished in a nice dark blue/purple color which, again, helps to create some real visual flair.
In the bottom right and left corners respectively, you will find a dial for volume control, a 3.5mm input jack, and a 3.5mm TRS output for headphone playback. These are well placed and allow easy access to controlling and managing the device while in use.
Let’s begin with a closer look at the drivers. The ¾” silk dome tweeter features neodymium magnets to enhance playback by creating a more natural high frequency response, while the cone design of the LF driver is essentially unique to Sterling Audio’s models. It offers, they claim, “superior damping, which minimizes sonic artifact and unnatural resonance”, and the effects of this could definitely be heard in our tests.
One of the features which Sterling Audio are most proud of in the MX3 is something they call dual axis WaveGuidanceVH technology. They don’t talk a lot about how it works, but the desired effect is that it helps to create as wide a ‘sweet spot’ as possible which means that the speakers sound articulate, clear, and natural even when you are listening off center of them. This dispersion affects both height and width, so having the monitors on the ground or on a shelf above where you will be listening to them from is not going to be a major issue.
Studio monitors in this price range can be hugely variable when it comes to their performance capabilities. Luckily, Sterling Audio has done a good enough job with the MX3s that they come in towards the upper end of what is currently possible for the price point.
The overall impression one gets is that they are far better than you would expect for both the price and the size. In particular, the response from the mids and the highs sounds like it’s coming from a much larger, much more expensive pair of speakers. The bass is a little underwhelming, but not unexpectedly so given the fact that there just isn’t very much room for huge drivers or tons of resonance within the cabinets.
As far as entry level studio monitors go, Sterling Audio has crammed a good deal of quality into the MX3s which have the added bonus of looking a lot nicer and more unique than much of the competition. Very solid.