Mon­i­tor Au­dio

Stu­dio Loud­speak­ers

NOVO - - REVIEW -

Mon­i­tor Au­dio has con­sis­tently im­pressed me with the qual­ity of their sound at the au­dio shows. Whether top tier or more mod­est gear, they have al­ways achieved a high stan­dard of per­for­mance that has hon­ored the mu­sic and earned spots on my per­sonal wish list. This British com­pany has a proven track record dat­ing back to 1972, and has been on a roll of late, con­jur­ing up a pa­rade of state of the art chal­lengers and high value trickle down of­fer­ings that have gar­nered uni­ver­sal ac­co­lades. The newly in­tro­duced Stu­dio loud­speaker marks a fairly rad­i­cal de­par­ture from their more tra­di­tional book­shelf de­signs. It stands in its own di­vi­sion, fall­ing price wise be­tween the Bronze 2 and Sil­ver 50 speak­ers, and bor­rows tech­no­log­i­cally from their top tier with a tan­ta­liz­ing mix of fresh ideas ap­plied to their proven tech­nol­ogy. Just how good is the Stu­dio?

DE­SIGN & FEA­TURES

The de­signer has opted for an am­bi­tious D’Ap­polito con­fig­u­ra­tion, mar­ry­ing their ad­vanced Heil vari­a­tion MDP (Mi­cro Pleated Di­aphragm) tweeter to a pair of long throw 4 inch mid woofers de­rived and mod­i­fied from their up­per­most Plat­inum II line. The woofers uti­lize Mon­i­tor Au­dio’s pro­pri­etary C-CAM and RDT II tech­nolo­gies to achieve ex­cep­tion­ally low dis­tor­tion. The woofers are clamped rigidly into place onto a cur­va­ceous, die cast metal sub baf­fle via a bolt through assem­bly con­nect­ing the mag­net struc­ture of each driver to the rear panel to in­crease rigid­ity. The cabi­net, though rel­a­tively light, is ex­tremely solid. The de­sign is dual rear ported, us­ing a slot­ted vari­a­tion of their HiVe II de­sign, and al­lows an un­clut­tered rear panel lay­out. The con­nec­tors get the full pre­mium treat­ment, with large, rhodium plated ter­mi­nals from the Plat­inum line. Cross­over com­po­nents are like­wise, high grade. Spec­i­fi­ca­tions in­di­cate an ef­fi­ciency of 86 dB and a nom­i­nal 4 ohm load that dips be­low 3 ohms, so qual­ity am­pli­fi­ca­tion pos­sess­ing a ro­bust power sup­ply will be needed for best ad­van­tage.

In the looks depart­ment, the Stu­dio gets high marks. The grill-less sculp­tured face and svelte 340 x 156.2 x 361 mm (133/8 x 61/8 x 143/16”) di­men­sions echo their pre­mium PL500 II line with a re­fined

aes­thetic that screams slick, modern life­style dé­cor. The speak­ers are done in a taste­ful satin paint fin­ish, avail­able in white, black or grey, with up­scale lower cor­ner logo em­bel­lish­ments. The size al­lows wide place­ment ver­sa­til­ity, from ca­sual table­top mount, to more tra­di­tional stand mount con­fig­u­ra­tion, de­pend­ing on your re­quire­ments and the se­ri­ous­ness of your au­dio play­back am­bi­tions.

The op­tional stands in­cluded for re­view were very nicely matched, both in aes­thetic ex­e­cu­tion and build qual­ity. The top plate is laser cut steel, the pil­lar is ex­truded alu­minum, and the base is die cast alu­minum. The pro­vided fin­ish had a match­ing grey pil­lar with a satin black top plate and a richly con­toured black base. Full white satin is also avail­able. Mon­i­tor Au­dio has opted for a 4 footer ar­range­ment with height ad­justable chrome plated spikes. The Stu­dios can be bolted to the stands via 4 threaded holes lo­cated on the un­der­side of the speaker, for a more rigid and sta­ble in­ter­face. Damp­ing and sur­face pro­tec­tion is af­forded by over­sized, rub­ber spac­ers on the top plate. The rear of the pil­lar of­fers a ver­ti­cal re­cess with ad­justable plas­tic re­straints, to keep cabling tidy. The spike mount is thought­fully re­cessed within an elas­tomer sur­round to al­low for ad­justable place­ment with­out spikes for those with hard­wood or solid floor­ing, a nice touch.

PER­FOR­MANCE

My stan­dard mon­i­tor ar­range­ment au­to­mat­i­cally as­sumes the re­quire­ment for ad­di­tional vi­bra­tion man­age­ment and uti­lizes IsoA­cous­tics res­o­nance con­trol mounts be­tween the speaker and stand. To cre­ate a bench­mark ref­er­ence point, the Mon­i­tor Au­dio speak­ers and stands were set up as a matched pair, mi­nus the IsoA­cous­tic en­hance­ment. Elec­tron­ics was a combo of Tor­tuga pre/Bel Canto/Wyred com­po­nents, with Arkana Phys­i­cal Re­search ca­ble. A sec­ond round of lis­ten­ing ses­sions added the mounts back into the mix to see if the speak­ers would see ben­e­fits.

Out of the box the Stu­dios played very much in the mold of a stu­dio con­trol mon­i­tor op­ti­mized to em­pha­size de­tail, all up front, all start-stop pre­ci­sion. The sheer de­tail level at this stage was mes­mer­iz­ing, but ul­ti­mately lacked some re­fine­ment. As the sys­tem broke in, the Stu­dios gained their British her­itage, be­com­ing more nat­u­ral and dis­play­ing warmth and so­phis­ti­ca­tion, with­out sac­ri­fic­ing their re­solv­ing power. Both drivers ex­hib­ited tight con­trol, and the folded rib­bon tweeter showed del­i­cacy, sound­ing un­forced and un-etched. Raw de­tail re­mained a strong suit of the Stu­dio, show­ing high lev­els of enun­ci­a­tion that al­lowed me to fol­low com­plex lines of vo­cal or orches­tral ma­te­rial. En­hanced vi­bra­tion con­trol added con­text to that de­tail, fus­ing quan­tity of in­for­ma­tion into more re­al­is­tic in­stru­men­tal char­ac­ter. Au­di­ence clap­ping on live venue record­ings like Diana Krall “Live in Paris” or Loreena McKen­nitt “Nights from the Al­habra” evolved from a cloud of en­er­getic tran­sient snaps to a mul­ti­tude of en­thu­si­as­tic hu­man hands.

Driver in­te­gra­tion gelled at dis­tances beyond about 3 feet, al­low­ing a gen­er­ous seat­ing area for ca­sual lis­ten­ing. Crit­i­cal lis­ten­ing gave im­mer­sive re­sults in near field and quite com­pelling per­for­mance far field, where bass re­sponse op­ti­mized with a meaty zest. The lower fre­quency limit was com­mend­able, given the speaker’s mod­est pro­por­tions and 4 inch paired driver com­ple­ment, plumb­ing down to a solid 35 cy­cles with good au­thor­ity, pro­vided that vol­ume lev­els were kept at sane lev­els. I never felt the need to aug­ment with my sub­woofer, although those de­mand­ing greater im­pact may pre­fer that op­tion. Mid­band per­for­mance was very much stu­dio mon­i­tor neu­tral, nei­ther adding or sub­tract­ing warmth, and could be mildly tai­lored to taste by choice of an­cil­lar­ies. Highs reached up­wards with pedi­gree fi­nesse, show­ing Mon­i­tor Au­dio’s MPD tweeter to be a stand­out per­former. With the IsoA­cous­tics res­o­nance con­trol mounts in place, the Stu­dio trans­formed the char­ac­ter into a clas­sic British ref­er­ence mon­i­tor, be­com­ing more midrange cen­tric, with the re­sponse ex­pand­ing in both di­rec­tions as nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion.

Best dy­namic be­hav­ior was achieved op­er­at­ing at nat­u­ral acous­tic lev­els, al­low­ing the speaker re­spectable macro swing with a wealth of mi­cro de­tail. Higher vol­ume lev­els were pos­si­ble, but at the ex­pense of some dy­namic and spa­tial com­pres­sion. Sub­woofer aug­men­ta­tion would ex­tend that range by a few dBs and in­crease the com­fort zone of the main speak­ers. The Stu­dio fared sur­pris­ingly well on a tor­ture test record­ing “From the Age of Swing” by Dick Hy­man, a Ref­er­ence Record­ing jazz CD which chal­lenges even top tier speak­ers and elec­tron­ics. It demon­strated that the spec­i­fied 110 dB dy­namic abil­ity could flex real mus­cle if ap­plied to dy­namic range rather than ab­so­lute vol­ume level.

Im­age depth and pro­jec­tion ex­panded over the break-in pe­riod, re­ward­ing with a good sense of space and a rea­son­able amount of lay­er­ing, although ini­tially fall­ing slightly short of more ex­pen­sive, up­per tier. The over­all size of the sound­stage showed greater pro­fi­ciency in width where the Stu­dio could achieve near panel speaker spread, as well as good re­pro­duc­tion of height. It did a rea­son­able job pro­ject­ing im­ages for­ward, but com­pressed depth in­for­ma­tion to a small de­gree. Im­age fo­cus and speci­ficity fol­lowed suit, de­lin­eat­ing bet­ter in the left to right plane, but some­what ho­mog­e­niz­ing depth in­for­ma­tion. With vi­bra­tion man­age­ment ap­plied, the Stu­dio changed its game, ex­pand­ing in all di­rec­tions, show­ing small, but no­tice­able gains in width and height, and dras­tic gains in depth and fo­cus. Im­age lo­cal­iza­tion and di­men­sion­al­ity be­came far more pal­pa­ble, plac­ing per­form­ers with su­pe­rior pre­ci­sion in a deeper, more de­fined sound­stage. The Ref­er­ence Record­ing “The Chicago Ses­sions 1994-1995: Clark Terry” came alive with full scale venue, and the del­i­cately lay­ered ar­ti­fi­cial sound­scapes of mu­si­cal pop like the Ti­dal track “Turn: The Wom­bats (fea­tur­ing Dagny)” were re­vealed, big, bold and in­fec­tiously fun. At full po­ten­tial, the Stu­dios added a con­vinc­ing im­age and sound­stage to their list of at­tributes, ri­val­ing much pricier fare.

Bot­tom line, how good are the Mon­i­tor Au­dio Stu­dio and stand? The stand is ef­fec­tive, stylishly at­trac­tive, and a joy to use. It mer­its an easy rec­om­men­da­tion. The Stu­dio? Be­neath that life­style ex­te­rior beats a heart of pure Plat­inum pedi­gree. If you treat it like an up­per crust life­style com­po­nent, it will de­liver im­mi­nently sat­is­fy­ing re­sults. If you treat it like a Plat­inum se­ries prog­eny, it will re­ward with true High End per­for­mance. Life­style or au­dio­phile? I’ll take both, thank you. Add an­other Mon­i­tor Au­dio prod­uct to my short list.

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