The premise of Edifier’s MR4 is a pair of studio monitors aimed primarily toward audio and video production. Wooden enclosures, custom drivers, class D amps with DSP equalisation, tone adjustment and balanced inputs are all part of the package. This is a lot to offer for £130, so I was keen to see if they lived up to their claimed performance.
These dinky desktop monitors are comprised of wooden enclosures with plastic baffles, each fitted with a 1 inch (25 mm) coated silk dome’ tweeter and 4 inch (100 mm) diaphragm midbass driver. While most active studio monitors are configured (and sold) to be used independently of one another, with their own internal amplification, controls and connections, the MR4s can be used only as a pair. The right-hand speaker contains the electronics, whereas the left-hand speaker is passive and contains only its crossover. Those crossovers do actually contain filtering for the midbass driver too, not just a capacitor across the tweeter and a reliance on the woofer’s natural rolloff.
On the active side there’s a lot more going on. Class D amplifiers based around Texas Instruments TAS5713 delivering 21W RMS per channel, though no reference level or frequency is given. Signal to noise is rated at 85dB (A-Weighted) which is primarily limited by the amplification, as the internal ADC is rated to 90dB SNR. Again, no reference figures are given, nor is a linearity figure for the claimed 60Hz – 20kHz frequency response.
Edifier were not willing to share a linearity graph, nor detail the response curve of the two modes – monitor and music – which they detail in subjective terms only. They did tell me that the analogue to digital conversion, through which all inputs pass, is 16-bit, 48kHz. That limits you if you want to mix or listen to true high-res audio, but your’e not going to be doing that on these speakers. And anyway a 16-bit, 48kHz sample gives you headroom up to 22kHz and over..
First impressions are pleasing with minimal but smart packaging containing the two speakers, a 3 metre connection cable to link them, RCA to 3.5 mm jack and 3.3 mm to 3.3 mm jack cables and some documentation. You don’t get grilles which is common for monitors, and the power cable is permanently attached to the right-hand speaker. The speakers are powered by an internal switch-mode power supply, universal in input voltage and frequency. In my testing the power supply didn’t produce any undesirable noise of any kind.
Nor do the speakers produce any idle noise of concern at moderate levels, though if you crank the volume to full you get some audible hiss which you may hear in a near field setup. It’s not overly intrusive, but it is present. Noise performance is broadly similar when using headphones, though I found the idle noise is slightly lower which suits sensitive cans and IEMs. Unfortunately the DSP correction seems to be applied to the headphone output, so the sound you get out of that output is anything but flat with a midband presence that shouldn’t be there.
Operation is simplicity itself, mostly achieved via a the single dial on the front of the active speaker. A long press toggles power and standby, a short press changes between the two listening modes, and rotating the knob changes the volume. There are bass and treble adjustments on the back, both with a detent at the centre position and both with pleasingly subtle effect on the sound. It should be possible to dial these in to most setups and get decent results.
The most interesting feature given their price is the balance input. It’s not clear whether the input stage is truly differential, nor is it possible to check as disassembling the speaker would be an exercise in destruction. I can say though that the balanced inputs were perfectly happy to accept a signal from the outputs of my Audient EVO16 audio interface. There were no abnormalities in the sound that I could hear. Likewise a Mac mini fed the RCA inputs just fine using the included cable, and the front aux input works fine too. All of the inputs can be operated simultaneously according to Edifier, though as it’s unclear whether they are isolated at the input stage I was dubious about doing this.
The sound is what I’ve come to expect from Edifier. Surprisingly good bass with crisp highs and a slightly forward midband. There’s obvious DSP tuning at work here, to squeeze a smidge more low end from small speakers but they haven’t overdone it. I wouldn’t say they’re flat though in either mode. The monitor mode gives you the flattest sound, though accentuated at the top end which can leave a final mix too dull.
The bass is forward too, so your mixes end up with a bit of extra bloat that shouldn’t really be there. I actually preferred music mode, where the mids are boosted slightly but the speakers generally seemed more even in tonality across the board. You can tell it’s not flat, but equally mixing with an even tonality is much easier than mixing on something that has specific problem areas to catch you out. If your’e mixing in music mode, dial back your mids a tad and be careful of the treble and you’ll end up with a relatively clean mix that will translate well to other devices, especially consumer devices with a broadly similar sound.
Music mode is more pleasant to listen to as well. In this mode the MR4s are a pleasing desktop speaker, even if they aren’t the last word in accuracy. Would I choose to mix on them? Probably not. But I’m quite happy listening to them as a quality speaker for media consumption, and I’d mix on them in a pinch.
The MR4s are perfectly suited to on the go use with a portable interface like Audient’s EVO 4 or EVO 8 or something from Behringer’s U-Phoria lineup. If you’re a gigging musician or travelling content creator, and you absolutely cannot produce with headphones, a pair of MR4s can get you most of the way to a final mix which you can then refine on something better. And if you’re starting out in production, content creation, recording your band or trying to build a bedroom setup on a budget, you could do a lot worse.