The Auratone (or "Horribletone" or "Horrortone" as many called it in the day) was a 3 1/2 inch speaker in a very small un-ported square cabinet. Unlike virtually all other speakers, it was never meant to sound good, only an average of the typical consumer playback system of the time. It fact, it sounded mediocre at best and that's why studio rats liked it way back when. If your mix sounded great the Auratones, then you could be pretty sure that it sounded great anywhere.
The fact is that the Auratone 5C was the first more or less "standard" reference speakers for the studio, way before the Yamaha NS-10C held that distinction. But just like the NS-10, the Auratones haven't been manufactured for some time. As a result, you now see them on Ebay for $500 a pair or even more. As with all things vintage, many engineers who discarded their 5Cs years ago now wish they had them back.
And now they are, brought back to life as the Reftone, a new representation of something that so many found so useful in the past. The brainchild of engineer Dave Hampton, who had previously built custom versions for Prince and Herbie Hancock, the monitor is updated with a new heavy-duty shielded driver and made from birch instead of MDF. Plus they have a slightly smaller footprint than the original Auratone 5C. That said, the word is that they still sound very close to the old Auratones.
Reftones retail at $299 a pair and are available in a variety of different colors and wood enclosures. By the way, these speakers are passive, so you have to supply your own amp. The amp/speaker combination is critical so there's a list of amp suggestions of the Reftone site.
You're not going to get big thumping bass out of these things, but that's not the point. It's the midrange that so important to definition in a mix, and that's what these are best at. Here's a short video from producer Randy Emata regarding the monitors.
Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.
You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.