Behringer Studio 50USB review. Are these an entry level audiophile speakers??

If You are looking for set of inexpensive desktop speakers that will amp up Your music listening experience and You have budget limited to around 150 Euro/dollars, then You probably, at some point, came across Behringer Studio 50USB monitors and wondered if they are any good. Well, let me tell You that You are in the right place to find out, because today we are going to take a close look at these exact speakers. Welcome to my review of Behringer Studio 50USB monitors.




Let's s start with technicalities. Behringer 50USB is a bi-amped design, which  means there is one amp for every driver built in. This gives us 4 amps, but unlike more expensive studio monitors all the amps are hidden in just one enclosures. The other enclosures hides only drivers and signal is fed through cable, making this speaker a slave speaker. Drivers used are 1inch silkdome tweeter and plastic 5inch woofer. Each enclosures has a bass reflex port located on the back. Behringer is saying that 50USB has total of 150W of power, but that has to be a peak power, I think there is around 70 to 80 watts of constant power available, which should be enough for most nearfield situations. To feed the signal to the speakers there are only two types of connections that can be used and both are balanced (XLR and TRS), there is no RCA inputs so if You want to use RCA connection You will need an adapter. It is important to mention that Behringer does not include ANY connecting cables so You have to buy them yourself. On the other hand Behringer decided to build in a DAC inside the speakers so You can connect Your computer via USB cable and avoid using Your soundcard, which is nice, but again there is no cable inside the box, so You will need USB cable with with type B connector. On the amp plate, beside the inputs and gain rocker, we can find a switch responsible for high end level control allowing to choose between flat, -4dB, -2dB, +2dB settings to restrain or amp up the high end performance of the speakers.




Now lets focus on the looks and build quality. 50USB is all black with just the silver Behringer logos under the woofers. Fronts of cabinets sporting the drivers are made of  matte plastic with shiny gloss black surround around the drivers that look rather tacky and will scratch easily. Front panel, just like the one used in Mackie CR4, is rather vocal when tapped with finger, which has the potential of coloring the sound on higher levels. Rest of the cabinet is made of solid MDF and wrapped in black vinyl. Cabinets are smaller than typical 5 inch designs making it quite compact and easy to place. 50USB is 2cm shorter and has 4cm less depth than my KRK RP5 G3. It is also a bit bigger than Mackie CR4, hitting nice, sweet spot between the two. On the master speaker, between tweeter and woofer, is placed an orange, easy on the eye LED light that inform the user when the power is on. There is no "Auto Off" option here. Overall, build quality is OK with some few smaller issues that are acceptable at this price point. It is definitely better build than Mackie CR4, I tested some time ago, that goes for similar price.

Listening

My experience with Behringer 50USB is divided in two stages. First few weeks I was listening to them exclusively with no comparison possible as I was in using them away from home. The other stager takes place after I finally was able to compare them with my KRK RP5 G3 I use as my daily driver at home.





Let's start with the "exclusive 50USB" experience I had. Like I already stated, I have spent first few weeks abroad with only 50USB to listen. This was an infatuation period where I was really impressed with sound of these speakers. First thing I noticed was a complete lack of hiss or hum coming from the drivers when they where not playing any music. After few other  speakers in this price range I tested before that was a nice surprise. Coming back to sound, I was quite impressed with midrange clarity, all the voices sounded clear and where nicely focused. There was only a hint of nasal coloration to low midrange that reminded me of the price of these speakers. Top end was sweet and non fatiguing with nice detail. Soundstage was also nicely focused and detailed, but seemed a bit crowded between the speakers, lacked a bit of width. The most controversial part of sound of 50USB was bass response. Bass was nicely extended and punchy, for a 5 inch woofer, but there was an audible bump in upper bass regions. This gave bass response a bit of thumpy and boxy quality, that really annoys me in the long run and exist probably to mask lack of dynamic capabilities below 70Hz. This is not a speaker for bassheads, but the rest of listeners should be fine;). Behringer 50USB, thanks to it's ample power, was able to play quite loud but when the volume goes beyond what I normally use listening nearfield they start to sound boxy, forced and not very enjoyable.



Few words of comment needs to be said about USB DAC that is implemented in 50USB. Most of my listetning in this first period was done with the speakers connected via USB cable (after I had organised this cable myself - no USB cable inside the box). When I finally got the cable and connected the speakers I was blown off my chair by LOUD music. During connecting I had some music playing on my laptop and after pluging Behringers in, Windows immiedietly switched to them with no software or clicking needed. This was the moment I realized that they can play really loud, but at the same time something started bother me while I was trying to lowerd the volume to normal levels. I had to turn the gain rocker on the back of the speakers to minimum and then lower the windows volume settings to 2/100 (SIC!) to get anywhere near the nomal levels, quiet listetning is quite hard to accomplish. If you plan using them connected via USB You have to be aware of that otherwise You will be dissapointed. Besides the volume issue, USB DAC built in is definely an improvment over my internal soundcard in my laptop, I do not think You will need anything more when using this speakers. To put it's quality into prespective, 50USB sounded more or less the same sourced from my Matrix Mini-I DAC and sourced from it's internal DAC, so clearly it's the speakers itself that are limiting factor here.



Second phase with 50USB took place after I was finally able to make comparison with my KRK RP5 G3 at home. This comparison confirmed my observations and tempered my enthusiasm a bit. First of all nasal coloration became more obvious when switching from KRK to Behringer. It is something  that bothers me a bit, but on normal use it is OK and easy to forget. Midrange is still more natural than in Mackie CR4 and Edifier R1700BT I reviewed not so long ago. Behringers upper midrange seemed also pushed back a bit, a bit darker than in KRK. Top end also seemed a bit restrained and rolled off compared to KRK, with less "air" in the sound. Bass response again was better in KRK, but Behringer, with it's bump in upper regions, seemed to have weight and was well extended if not as extended as KRK. KRK was also able to play much louder without any distortions and coloration. Below are sound demos that can give You some idea how Behringers compare with more expensive competitors:



Overall the difference in price between KRK and Behringer was obvious in the way they compared in sound quality as well as build quality. That is not to say that 50USB is bad speaker, but for half the money You it is to be expected. When I reach back with my memory to other speakers I tested recently I have to say that I liked the Presonus Eris E4.5.  It was closer to sound quality of KRK than 50USB, with more open midrange and high end, Presonus is worth the extra money it costs over Behringer. Compared to Mackie CR4 and Edifier R1700BT I will say that I liked 50USB much more than Mackie in all areas. Compared to Edifier the choice is harder, Behringer seemed more natural in tone and more extended down low without so much boost in upper bass regions, but build quality and looks of Edifier are much nicer, also the features are more appealing in Edifier. If it was my money than I would rather go for Edifier or saved up some money and go for Presonus Eris E4.5 or, even better, JBL LSR305.


Conclusion

So, to answer the question from the title, "is Behringer 50USB and entry level audiophile's speaker?" I will say not really. My first weeks with this speakers where more optimistic, but in the end there are some shortcomings to the way they sound that stops me from giving it a wholehearted recommendation. Is it a bad speaker? Definitely not, I would say it is a good, solid speaker for the money without any glaring flaws but If You are looking for something honest and natural for around the same money then slightly more expensive Presonus Eris E4.5 is a better choice. Cheers!


Verdict : 7.5/10

Pros:

- Good price to preformance ratio
- Very low self noise
- Good built in USB DAC
- Compact size for 5 incher
- Ok build quality and looks
-  Easy on the ear

Cons:

- Coloured sound (upper bass and lower midrange)
- Loudness issue with USB DAC
- Obscure equipment inside the box (lack of any connecting cables)
- Plastic front panel colours the sound
- Soundstage squished between the speakers










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