REVIEW: Cerwin-Vega! XD Speakers

LINK: Cerwin Vega  |  PRICE: XD3 Pair – $149.99, XD4 Pair – $265, XD5 Pair – $331.67, XD8s – $331.67

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INTRODUCTION

Almost every single resource online for DJs discussing recording states that you are required to own studio monitors. There is a core issue with this, namely that studio monitors, at least a pair worth a damn, are generally very expensive. Our other options are either PA systems which take up way too much space and are usually way too loud, or are computer speakers which are a pain to connect to our mixers, controllers and various types of noise making gear. Enter Cerwin-Vega! XD series affordable powered desktop speakers.

Cerwin-Vega! was nice enough to provide DJWORX with the entire XD series for us to compare and review. Along with their already well-established 3” model, the XD3, they sent their new XD4 and XD5 speakers, as well as the new XD8s subwoofer. These speakers are not studio monitors, and are not intended to be used for professional music production. No one is recommending using these for mixing or mastering audio, but instead for general purpose use. I’ll get more into the details later, but I definitely found them extremely useful for a variety of settings.

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First Impressions

The speakers ship in pairs and are all pretty much identical in design, save for the XD8s subwoofer. They have a matte black body with a glossy front face For all sets, the left speaker is the primary speaker, and the right speaker has no connections whatsoever, except to connect it to the left speaker. On the front of the left speaker are 1/8” headphone and aux input jacks plus the volume knob which has a shiny red ring around it when the speakers are active and turns off when they are in auto-standby mode. The back panel of the left speaker has a pair each of unbalanced RCA and balanced ¼” inputs plus a Vega-Bass Boost switch. The XD3’s ships with a standard binding-post speaker cable, whereas the XD4’s and XD5’s come with a specialized 4-connector speaker cable.

Each box of speakers comes with a very convenient line-to-line cable and a line-to-RCA connector. In the good old days of me just getting excited about DJ gear and music equipment and wanting to hook better speakers up to my computer it was always a pain in the ass to find the right cables to get them all hooked up. The major retailers like Best Buy were rarely useful and finding a Radio Shack around me worth anything was practically impossible. Cerwin-Vega! figured they’d just throw it all in there because, well, you’re probably going to want it.

Cerwin vega XD3 XD4 XD5 speaker review (12)On a design angle, the speakers sit very subtly on my desk and entertainment center. They are never overwhelming or distracting, and since most of my office is black (as I am super goth) they fit in very nicely. I set them up on my entertainment center in my living room where they also blended into the surroundings well. They definitely made their presence known, though, at every fantastic explosion or fighter jet sound (note: I only watch Top Gun ever).

The subwoofer is much larger than the speaker sets, but of course it’s going to be relegated to as unassuming a position as possible. The subtle red ring around the woofer looks gorgeous, but you never really get to see it. Hooking everything up is a breeze. My only main complaint is that the included RCA cables to connect the speakers to the subwoofer are just a shade short for certain setups, but you can always buy longer cables if needed. The remote control is a breeze to set up, and the multi-color LED ring gives you a clear sense of its state between on (red) and sleep (amber).

Regardless of the place I put these speakers in they look great and fit in very well. They are never overbearingly large, and they never seem to get in the way of anything. My two speakers on my desk are separated by two large 22” monitors and I was concerned that the connector cable would be too short, but it worked out just fine.

So that’s how they look, which I know is something everyone is always massively concerned with. But let’s move on to the fun stuff: how do they sound.

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IN USE

I tried to cycle all the speaker sets through different uses to see if I could really find a difference. The XD3’s, 4’s and 5’s all sounded really great on their own. I did run into issues with the XD3’s, which were a little lacking in bass when I was listening to bass heavy music but the Vega Bass switch compensated nicely. The boost provided is not a huge one, but it is just subtle enough that, on their own, the bass gets just slightly louder. Since I can’t adjust the frequencies that get boosted, I’d hear a song every once in a while that would sound a little muddy until I turned off the Vega Bass. Then it would sound really crisp. I didn’t find this so prevalent on the larger 4’s or 5’s, but when it did come up I could just flip their Vega Bass switch as well.

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The use of the remote is also genius. If you turn the speaker volume all the way down the fat knob on the remote will control the volume of the subwoofer independently. Then you can dial in the precise volume of the speakers and use the remote knob to control everything. It gives you a really elegant way to control the sound you need for your room. The remote also allows you to bypass the subwoofer altogether, which is a nice, easy solution when playing games or listening to music late at night.

On that note, I did run into a small issue with the auto-standby function of the speakers. When you don’t use the speakers for a while they go into a speaker-protect mode and you can’t get out of that mode without sending audio to the speakers. But if the signal you send is too low to begin with (say, you control the volume of the computer instead of the speaker remote) the speakers won’t actually “hear” it and won’t turn on. I also had an issue that if the signal being sent to the speakers was too low they would go to sleep and you’d lose all of your sound. At first I thought the speakers were broken, but with a little trouble shooting I figured out the issue. This was frustrating when I wanted to listen to music later at night while my fiancé was asleep, but once I figured out what levels needed to be it wasn’t so bad. I just sent a louder signal from the computer and turned it down on the speakers. This also occurred when I turned the remote down too low. The speakers would not respond until I turned the remote up, and then turned the volume down on the front knob on the speakers.

When playing these things loud they sound fantastic. They don’t break up, the bass is pure and I could even really get a good sense of music that uses a lot of panning. I wish the headphone port would get a little louder, but I can always get an added boost from my computer volume. The Line In signal gets very loud, and stays very crisp as well. As expected, plugging in a pair of headphones will turn off the speakers.

With my KRK ROKIT 8’s set up right behind my XD’s, I tried to switch between them frequently while listening to music to see which I thought represented it better, and unsurprisingly, the larger ROKIT 8 is more balanced. I would not try to design a kick drum or dial in a synth sound using the XD’s, but that isn’t their purpose. They were fantastic at playing finished products; to get a feel for another sound source, or while DJing.

Without the subwoofer connected the speakers get loud enough. Hooking up the subwoofer, though, adds a whole other gain stage which can get pretty awesome. The XD3’s were the only model that felt a little lacking in a larger room, and were completely overwhelmed by the subwoofer. But hooking the XD4’s and 5’s up to the subwoofer gave a fantastic extra layer of sound, and they really brought some heavy kick.

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DECIDING

Deciding which of these great, and inexpensive, speaker sets to purchase can be difficult, but it really comes down to figuring out what you want to use them for. The XD3’s, in my opinion, are fantastic for a bedroom computer setup. They respond well to all different kinds of uses (video games, movies, music, et al) but can’t really provide the huge sound offered by the XD4’s and XD5’s. If you have a larger bedroom, or a small living room, and can deal with that extra punch, I’d go with the XD4’s. If you’re planning on setting these up in a living room for all of your general audio needs, the XD5’s are definitely the way to go.

If you are the kind of DJ that can’t afford a dedicated PA system, but hosts or spins at small house parties, then definitely get the XD5’s. I wouldn’t even necessarily recommend the subwoofer since it would require more careful tuning based on your location and placement, but the 5’s definitely output enough heavy sound to fill a large room/small apartment. Anything too big might be pushing it, but at full blast I was able to easily fill up my 1200 square foot apartment with sound.

As far as the XD8s subwoofer goes, this is completely subjective. While you can dial in a lower sound for the XD3’s, it would really be going to waste. If you are in a smaller room then the subwoofer can become completely overwhelming, and cover up a lot of your sound. But with the right amount of space, you can dial in a really great combination of volume and get a great sound.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

To be perfectly clear, these speakers are not for professional music production. You can use them for that but, buyer beware, they will color your sound heavily and will not offer an accurate representation. This is not a critique of the XD line, it is just not their intended purpose and common for desktop speakers.

The whole range of the XD speakers looks great in most spaces and provides a great sound, pumping out some great volume when pushed. Take careful consideration regarding your use cases and the room you are using when deciding on the model to buy. The subwoofer can really pump out some great sound, but if you don’t have the adequate space it can completely muddy up your audio and make things less than pleasant. It can give a fantastic extra oomph, though, when used correctly.

In the end, I can’t recommend these speakers enough for any bedroom DJ. They can provide enough sound to fill a small apartment for a party, and can definitely wake up your neighbors.

GALLERY

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