Freelance contributor, TechHiveDec 31, 2019 3:00 am PST
At a Glance
Very good sound
Loads of input options
Hi and lo boosts
Slight mid-range deficit
If we considered price, these speakers would rate at least a 4.5. But even as it stands, they’re darn good sounding speakers that will do fine for small AV editing setups. Throw in the the integrated 50 watt power amp, plethora of input options, and Bluetooth 5.0 and you’ve got speakers that blow away the average soundbar or portable BT speaker. Good stuff from Presonus.
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As a former starving musician, I can tell you that speakers marketed to musicians often deliver more bang for the buck than audiophile hardware. This is partially because musicians often don’t have a lot of disposable income, and partially because musicians are too knowledgeable to befuddle with nonsensical terminology or specs. The PreSonus Eris E4.5 BT Bluetooth speakers are an excellent example of this state of affairs.
These aren’t the best-sounding speakers I’ve heard, but they do sound fantastic for a $230 pair of self-powered monitors. I listened to them with one of the IDG chaps who serves as my sanity check, and both of us were impressed. The PreSonus Eris E4. 5BT reveal a lot of detail, or you can tweak them from reference quality to party mode in a heartbeat.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best Bluetooth speakers,where you’ll findreviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
Design and features
The first thing I noticed about the E4.5 BT is how light they are: just 6.4 pounds for the pair, with the left speaker housing the 25-watt-per-channel amplifier, controls, and connections accounting for a bit more of the heft than the right. Light weight doesn’t necessarily mean cheap construction though—these speakers are solidly built.
It does mean that there’s less resonance at lower frequencies, and less acoustic coupling in that range, which diminishes the need for isolation. That is, you can set them on a work surface and not worry too much about that surface enhancing the bass. The light weight also means they travel relatively painlessly.
Each rear-ported enclosure houses a 4.5-inch woven-composite woofer and a 1.0-inch silk dome tweeter, with the combo rated to reproduce frequencies from 70Hz to 20kHz (the latter spec being the general limit of human hearing). Rotary controls on the back of the left-hand cabinet enable you to dial in up to a 6dB cut or boost of both low and high frequencies. This allows you to tune the E4.5 BT to your acoustic environment, or you can enable a modest party mode with greater levels of boost. Note that party mode is not something PreSonus mentions in its documentation, that’s my own description.
Inputs include RCA, 1/4-inch balanced TRS (Tip/Ring/Sleeve), and an 1/8-inch (3.5mm) stereo jack for playback from smaller devices. As you can see above, there’s also a two-prong AC jack and spring-clip terminals that connect the powered speaker to the passive one. PreSonus includes an approximately four-foot, stripped-and-tinned zip cord for this purpose.
A power-transient-limiting on/off switch eliminates audible pops when power is applied. This, along with the volume control, headphone jack (for personal listening), and an auxiliary input are handily located on the front of the left-hand speaker. The on/off switches on the Yamaha HS8 studio monitors I use are on the back, and they are a pain to access—so much so that I turn them off with a separate power panel.
The PreSonus Eris E4.5 BT feature a Bluetooth 5.0 radio, and there’s a pairing button on the back of the left channel. Bluetooth can be extremely handy for auditioning or casual listening from portable devices, but if you don’t need the convenience of wireless streaming—or if you just prefer the reliability and fidelity of wired connections—Amazon was selling the PreSonus Eris E4.5 $195 as of this writing. Those are the same speakers, but without Bluetooth.
Performance and sound
As I mentioned earlier, I have a partner in crime who helps with the thumbs-up/thumbs-down analysis. In this case, the Eris E4.5’s revealed enough detail that a long discussion of side-chain compression ensued after he asked about that pumping phenomenon you get with dance music and hip-hop these days. Yes, we throw a wide variety of music at every set of speakers we review. That’s a thumbs-up from my partner, by the way.
I did find the Eris E4.5 BT to be a little light in some areas of the mid-range, but in a pleasant way (speakers that accentuate that region can tire your ears quickly). Yet, I was still able to easily pick out individual instruments and sounds, which is what these speakers are designed and tuned for.
The Eris E4.5 BT’s one weakness might be its relatively high low-end limit (70Hz). That’s a decent amount of bass for most purposes, but it’s not the same experience you’ll get with larger speakers. I would caution anyone using these for studio mixing to remember to implement your high-pass filters on your own—these speakers might not remind you as prominently as larger monitors. That’s no reflection on PreSonus, but if you’re primarily mixing music, something just a bit larger might be in order. Or not. A good engineer can accustom themselves to the particulars of any decent speaker with just a little experience.
If I were using these speakers at a dance party (not that they’re not intended for such an application), I might add a subwoofer. PreSonus manufactures a couple of subs, but nothing specifically designed for pairing with its Eris speakers.
Most of my listening, to be honest, was with the highs and lows dialed up a bit. I’d leave the EQ neutral if I were mixing, to better distinguish individual instruments, but to me and my high-mileage ears, the R4.5 BTs sounded a tad staid at their default settings. Then again, EQ can be addictive, and as I always point out, tastes variy. I liked them. My amigo liked them. You listen, you decide.
Great sound, good price
If you’re looking to fill a small room with sound, the PreSonus Eris E4.5 (with our without Bluetooth) are a great choice that won’t break the bank. They’re also a good choice as multi-purpose speakers for your home video/audio studio, and they beat the pants off soundbars and portable Bluetooth speakers costing far more.
Jon Jacobi is a musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time computer enthusiast. He writes reviews on TVs, SSDs, dash cams, remote access software, Bluetooth speakers, and sundry other consumer-tech hardware and software.