Review: Samson MediaOne BT3 – can monitors this cheap and small be any good?
As an extension of downsizing my guitar rig, such as my pedals and amp, I finally started to look at how I might downsize my setup for recording music also.
I’d been using Samson’s Studio GT monitors for maybe six or seven years. They were perfect for where I was at when I first got them. I had a command center, in a house I lived in by myself, and I could just leave them on my desk in my bedroom as a permanent place for them. Apart from being monitors, they also had a built-in audio interface. Handy!
Fast forward to now, and they no longer fitted my circumstances. Firstly, they had a UK plug – not much use for those in New York City!Before we begin, make sure you’re ordering Samson from a legitimate retailer, NOT from a counterfeit seller. For your convenience, here is the Amazon link to an authentic Samson retailer.
Secondly, I no longer had the space I’d had – I was now sharing a one bedroom apartment with somebody. This meant that I didn’t have a command center, and I didn’t have a permanent place for my music production gear.
Thirdly, early in my ownership of the Studio GTs, I snapped the clamps for holding the speaker wire in. I had been using a shim – a broken off matchstick – to hold it in place. It was no big deal when they had a permanent spot, but that I had to take out and put away my gear as required, it was somewhat less feasible.
I was muddling by for a while longer with the Studio GTs, but I was also investigating alternatives. Samson’s MediaOne BT3s caught my eye.
I’d been so happy with the Studio GTs, I absolutely trusted Samson as a brand, so I was happy to continue using them. The reasons the BT3s got my attention were…
- They cost less than $100 – I like affordable things
- They’re incredibly compact
- BlueTooth connectivity
As mentioned, they were already super-affordable, so when I spotted a deal on Amazon to get them for just under $80? Well, I was all over that.
|Sold as single or pair?||Pair|
|Output||15 watts per channel RMS, 30 watts per channel Peak|
|Woofer size||Three inches|
|Tweeter size||One inch|
|Additional features||Bluetooth connectivity, and RCA input|
When I unboxed it, it was as described. Compared to my guitar reviews, it’s important to be realistic about what monitors are: little black boxes. They’re absolutely function over form, and the one thing they do not have, is any kind of a wow factor.
That’s fine. It’s actually how I prefer things.
The woofers and the tweeters have metal grilles covering them, which I like. Because I have to take them out and put them away as I need, any bit of extra protection at all is welcome.
I’m a little bit nervous about how far the volume knob sticks out, but I’m sure I’ll manage.
As you’d expect from a brand like Samson, all the parts seem solidly attached. I know to be more care of the clamps connecting the speakers this time. It also has an RCA input at the back, as well the button for pairing Bluetooth.
In addition to the volume knob on the front, there’s a headphone input and an auxiliary input.
And on a purely personal note… my gosh! What a relief to have a US plug!
The main thing I need from such monitors is to work with my Chromebook, and in particular the website I use for music production, called BandLab.
So, that’s the first thing I checked, rocking my Bluetooth (click here for a review on some bluetooth headphones!). It was all good, just what I needed. I also checked the Bluetooth with my phone, and it was also fine.
Because I like to keep things minimal, I didn’t want to connect via cable, but I had one on hand, because well, I’m a musician, therefore I always have a bag of cables.
That was my initial test, I guess just to make sure it made noise, and it did, so I was satisfied.
However, getting into recording music, was a slightly different case. Not bad, not a returnable offence, but different. I recorded some bass, and for some reason, looking at the stems and waveforms I’d created, they weren’t aligning with the sound.
It was messing with me, and when I listened back a few days later to what I recorded, it wasn’t good enough, namely in terms of timing and I ended up rerecording it with my Studio GTs.
For some reason, and I don’t know where the idea came from, I wondered if there might be some lag between the BT3s and my Chromebook. Well, I consulted Google on the matter, and it turns out that lag between Chromebooks and Bluetooth audio devices is very much a real issue, and an ongoing one at that.
I got my wire, and plugged it in. No problems after that. Lesson learned, and since then, I’ve kept things securely wired when I’m making music.
With that, and the song I’ve been working on, I’ve started doing some mixing on it. For my little apartment, they’re absolutely the right size. For editing and mixing, they go to about halfway up, and then once it’s mastered, it doesn’t need to be any more than one quarter.
With neighbors above, below, and beside, that’s just right.
While the Bluetooth is no good really for producing music, it’s great for just listening to music. Previously, I only had my phone or Chromebook for listening to music… neither of which have great speakers. So I’d mostly listen to music when I was out and about, walking or on the subway or whatever.
Now however, I’ll just use the BT3’s Bluetooth to have high quality music at a comfortable distance away. As in the other side of the room. It certainly makes listening to music a far, far more enjoyable experience, and I’m more inclined to just casually put on music for enjoyment. I’m listening to Taylor Swift as I write this.
Now, look, these have three inch woofers. Those are not big woofers. If you’re looking for the kind of bass response that’s going to make a building rumble, well, it’s not coming from a three inch woofer.
In saying that, I certainly can’t fault the clarity and presence of the bass response, in either my own productions, or in listening to stuff made by the pros. That’s actually quite impressive.
However, in terms of the music I make, none of it is particularly bass-heavy, so whatever I can hear from the BT3s is more than likely going to be plenty for most people’s tastes.
|Affordable: there are very few options for monitors that cost less than $100, so if you’re on a budget, you’re certainly winning with the BT3s||Bluetooth: I was hoping to keep things tidy by having fewer wires around the place, but the lag between the BT3s and my Chromebook makes that impossible; I haven’t tested on a mac or PC|
|So compact: if you need to use your space conservatively, you’re onto another win with the BT3s||Too compact for bass: the trade-off for compact monitors is that your bass won’t rumble like it might on monitors that accommodate much larger woofers|
|Bluetooth: it’s nice to have decent speakers to listen to music through in a casual yet enjoyable way – it’s something I had stopped doing||Controls: I miss having a separate volume control for headphones – I didn’t even think about it; it’s far from a big deal though|
So far, so good, with the Samson MediaOne BT3s. As long as I’m living in an apartment – and hopefully at least a bit thereafter – I hope I produce many songs with them.
I can’t imagine any other monitors fitting my needs as well right now. A bit of color on them might be nice – I don’t know why pro audio doesn’t have hot pink or purple variations. So much black, that it can be none more black.
As well as the music production, I’m delighted to be able to listen to music for enjoyment at high quality again. Good times!