Fresh Listen: A Review of the Barefoot Sound MicroMain26
Over the past month or so, I've been fortunate to demo a few different monitors for Vintage King and recently brought home a pair of Barefoot Sound's MircoMain26 to review. I was very impressed by the performance and attention to detail Thomas Barefoot and his team put into these monitors. It's no wonder mix engineers like Chris Lord-Alge, Tom Lord-Alge, Butch Vig, Michael Brauer and so many others swear by Barefoots to achieve their signature mixing sound
In my own studio, I’ve been working with a pair of MicroMain27 for the last year or so, and have relied on them for their accurate translation between listening environments. They have the ability to impress clients from the second they hear the downbeat of a mix. With the MicroMain26, Barefoot Sound has taken their design to a whole new level.
I always like to start a speaker test on a flat frequency response setting, and run a variety of music through them to test the bass response and hear how “silky” the top end is. I wanted to hear what my favorite mix engineers hear as they are finalizing a mix, so I listened to some Muse, Weezer, Foo Fighters and John Mayer. Right off the bat, I was blown away by the attention to detail in the lower frequencies, which has always been a strong point for Barefoot Sound monitors, but it has also been highly improved in the MM26.
Listening to Muse on these speakers opened up a whole new part of the mix I wasn’t used to hearing. Muse has a signature fuzz tone on most of their recordings and on the MM26, I could feel the growl of the fuzz in the low end. This made the listening experience more emotional and gave me a real connection to the songs. When listening to Foo Fighters, I threw on “Something From Nothing” off Sonic Highways, which was recorded by the legendary Steve Albini. I always thought that mix sounded amazing anywhere I listened to it, but on the MM26, the kick drum in that tune blew me away and might have my vote for best sounding kick drum of this generation. The sound is full of sub frequencies, but super tight with tons of punch that will shake your bones. I could go on all day with the rest of the artists that I listened to and how great the listening experience was, but I want to get into the more technical aspects that make the MM26 so powerful.
What really takes the Barefoot Sound MM26 to the next level is their attention to detail in the mid range. Often times, I find that speaker manufacturers are most focused on making the low end and higher frequencies stand out, and to an average listener, those are the frequency ranges that are the most impressive. The MM26 has the addition of the brand new, incredibly transparent and detailed 2.5” aluminum cone mid range driver. The driver is housed in a cutting edge 3D printed waveguide enclosure. Each frequency range has their own power amp with the mid-range pushing out 180w per channel. Even with the speakers being pushed to the limit (indicated by the red limiter light on the front of each speaker), there was barely any noticeable distortion happening or fatigue to my ears.
The total frequency response of the MM26 is 30Hz - 45kHz, offering breathtaking dynamic range and ultra-fast transient response with crossover frequencies at 100Hz, 800Hz and 4000Hz. This is achieved by a 4-way active system with six drive units housed in sealed enclosures. The low end is driven by two 10” aluminum cone drivers with high linearity motors, located on the top and bottom of the speaker, and push 500 Watts per channel. Two 5.25” poly/paper cone drivers are located on the front panel, and work to fill in the top end of the low frequency range, as well at the lower range of the mid frequencies, these speakers can push 250 Watts per channel. A 2.5” aluminum cone mid range drive is located in the bottom center of the front panel, pushing 180 Watts per channel. Lastly, a 1” ring radiator tweeter delivers the silky smooth high frequencies with incredibly detailed very wide dispersion.
Barefoot Sound's MM26 has a very pleasing sound on its flat frequency response setting, but these speakers are loaded with DSP that can model a variety of different monitors, as well as a client pleasing “Hi-Fi” setting. While other monitors such as the Genelec 1238APM and Kii Three Pro DSP have the ability to adjust the frequency response with internal DSP to change the sound of the speaker, the MM26 features MEME technology.
To control the MM26's MEME functions, users select different options on the small cube pictured above, which connects to the monitor's rear panel through an 1/8” TRS connection. A six-way splitter is included which can connect MEME technology on up to five speakers. It has a four-way dial, and can select from "Hi-Fi," "Flat," "Old School" and "Cube." The “Flat” setting is the natural sound of MM26, and has no additional DSP to control the sound of the monitor. If you switch up to “Hi-Fi,” this adds a little bump to the low end, scoops a bit out of the mid-range and adds a small shelf to the high frequencies, giving you the “smiley face” EQ setting. If you are looking to impress your clients with their first listen of a mix, this is the setting to use. Switching down to “Old School” turns MM26 into a speaker similar to the famous Yamaha NS10, which has been a favorite of mix engineers for decades. This setting focuses on the mid-range frequencies, and doesn't provide too much information in the low end. It has punch, clarity and a fast transient response. Lastly, the “Cube” setting will turn MM26 into a speaker similar to the Auratone Sound Cube. This setting removes almost all the low frequencies and shaves off a bit of the highs as well. This is a good setting for checking how your mix will sound on a boom box, laptop speaker or cell phone.
The MM26 can be connected to your system through analog XLR connections, as well as AES3. The input selector will determine whether you are using the speaker in digital or analog mode. In the digital mode, the selector switch on the bottom left will allow you to assign your left or right speaker. The USB is for factory adjustments and calibrations, and is not used as an audio input. The “Voice” section is where you connect the MEME controller with the 1/8” connection cable. Each speaker can add up to 3dB of gain, or attenuation up to 6dB, conveniently controlled by a step switch dial, so there is no confusion setting both speakers to the exact same level. Lastly, a three position toggle switch can boost the sub frequencies +2dB or -2dB.
Barefoot Sound's MM26 monitors are priced at $12,495 for a pair, which is a great bargain considering you get four styles of classic studio speakers with the use of MEME technology. They look great in every control room and have a styling that is part space age and part throwback vintage feel. Hopefully when they go up in your room, you won't have to move them again, I had to haul them back and forth a few times, and the size and weight (71lbs) makes them a little awkward to carry. But what do you expect with six state-of-the-art speaker drivers? Regardless of their size, I highly recommend trying out a pair of these monitors. You just have to hear them for yourself to believe it.
If you're interested in demoing or purchasing a pair of Barefoot Sound MM26 monitors, please contact your Vintage King Audio Consultant via email or phone at 888.653.1184.