Pioneer DJ VM-50 & VM-80 Review
It’s hard to believe it’s been seven long years since Pioneer DJ last updated their range of active monitor speakers. The SDJ range of speakers was good but struggled against stiff competition from KRK, Adam Audio, and Focal. Often criticised for sounding too bass-heavy, Pioneer DJ aims to create a more versatile monitor, hence the VM name. A monitor that’s at home in the home studio as it is in the DJ booth. So have Pioneer DJ created the ultimate all in one speaker system for home DJ’s? This review takes a closer look at the entry-level VM-50 and range-topping VM-80 to find out.
The new VM series of speakers come in three sizes. The VM-50 features a 5.25 inch driver, the VM-70 a 6.5 and finally, the VM-80 featuring 8inch. Each model is constructed from a MDF cabinet with a vinyl laminate finish as expected at this price point. A 4mm thick aluminium plate surrounds the drivers. This elevates the speakers’ image, but it also helps dampen unwanted resonance and vibrations.
The speakers all feature a rear-ported design. Nicknamed the “Vortex Bass Accelerator” by Pioneer DJ’s marketing team, the port features ribbing on the outer edge to aid smoother airflow. Ported speakers are nothing new, the lower internal air pressure allowing the speaker to become more efficient at the expense of accuracy.
The placement of the port on the VM series however, is questionable. With most DJs purchasing these speakers to use them at home, chances are the speakers will be placed on a bookshelf with the back against a wall. Rear ported speakers often become boomy in such situations firing air against the wall. With this in mind, Pioneer DJ has included preset EQ’s to lower the bass to compensate.
Ported speakers are more efficient by design, and this is aided further with the driver’s construction. Using Aramid fibre, the cone is 30% lighter than a traditional paperbacked unit whilst retaining more rigidity. That said, Aramid cones were found on main rival KRK’s previous generation of speakers. Something that KRK has now dropped in favour of Kevlar.
The soft dome tweeter placement changes between the different model sizes. The horn’s shape custom-tuned to ensure broad, even coverage of the room. The horns design also adds a protection bar over the vulnerable dome tweeter. It’s a nice touch and should help avoid accidental damage.
Amplification and EQ
The VM series speakers feature bi-amp class D amplification. A dedicated 30-watt amplifier drives the same one-inch soft-dome tweeter at 4 ohms across the entire range. Each woofer size comes with a dedicated amplifier, with each speaker’s total output ranging between 60, 110 and 120 watts.
Each amplifier features digital sound processing to help tune the sound. The sound processing applies a preset EQ with the user having four options for both the low-frequency response and high. Sampled at 96kHz, the presets allow the user to change between 16 preset EQ at ease. Each frequency features one preset the lowers the output, one flat and two settings that boost the output.
Although the preset options are easy to change, we still felt the need to move the speaker to see the available options. Having to move the speaker to change these limited settings do make us question Pioneer DJ’s decision not to include a fully customisable DSP. Such as the one found on main rival KRK’s speakers.
Speakers are a personal item and a very personal choice. With so many factors influencing a speaker’s output, including the room, the music source, and even the listener’s ears, it wouldn’t be correct to subjectively tell you to buy one speaker over another without recommending you first listen to both yourself. With that said, though, we can critic the speaker and test the manufactures claims within a studio we know very well.
Pioneer DJ has put a lot of emphasis on the speakers flat tuning, promoting the ability for this speaker to be used in the studio and the DJ booth. With most DJ monitors being critiqued for being too bass-heavy, Pioneer DJ aren’t the first company to emphasise their latest speakers’ flat tuning. Using the VM-50 at home in the flat EQ, we agree this is a very balanced unit with tight bass response. The speaker sounds superb, with great separation and clarity throughout.
Reaching around the speaker’s back to change the speakers into a more DJ friendly tuned setting, the speaker certainly changes in character. That said, we never found the larger VM-80 became punchy enough to really excite when placed in our studio. Sure the bass drops low, but it’s more a frequency you hear rather than feel. Something the addition of a subwoofer might have aided.
The new VM series by Pioneer DJ is a clear improvement over the previous models offered by the company. The speakers sound excellent for the price point, with their clarity and separation impressing. The VM series will benefit most DJ/Producers looking for a great all-around speaker for home use.
Price matched to the industry-leading KRK Rokit speaker is an interesting choice, especially given that the KRK offers a fully customisable DSP with an accompanying room correction app. The VM series on the other hand aims to be easier to use than the KRK, changing between flat and tuned sounds with far less hassle. Which matters most, accurate sound or ease of use will come down to personal choice.
For an easy to set up, great-sounding monitor speaker, the VM series will please most users at this price point. It’s a clear improvement over Pioneer DJ’s older offerings and looks as good as it sounds.