Monitor Audio Monitor 100
FOR Clear, precise sound; well integrated; sweeping dynamics AGAINST Lacks warmth and refinement; lacks timing
“Any doubts that a compact budget speaker can sound confident at volume are soon put to rest”
It is said
that the best way to capture someone’s attention is by stimulating their senses. Speakers are unlikely to entice you through taste or smell, and aren’t usually soft enough to cuddle, but they can make a visual statement in addition to an aural one. We’ve seen pairs with transparent horn designs and those that resemble seahorses and trombones. But the aesthetic ambitions of a £200 speaker are more inherently limited.
Yet with its new entry-level speaker series, Monitor Audio has found a way to grab you by the eyeballs – orange speaker cones mounted on a grey baffle. It’s perhaps a shade of orange better suited to a pair of football boots than a speaker, but it certainly makes an impression.
But do the 100s, the larger of the range’s two standmounters, have the skills to justify the look? We play The Tallest Man On Earth’s There’s No
Leaving Now and it’s clear the 16.5cm MMP II (Metal Matrix Polymer) bass driver and 25mm black C CAM (Ceramiccoated Aluminium Magnesium) dome tweeter (derived from Monitor Audio’s next-level Bronze series) make a good team. There’s a stark clarity to Kristian Matsson‘s tender, nasal tone, and plenty of scope within the spacious soundstage for it to soar. Any lingering doubts that a budget, compact pair of speakers can sound clean and confident at a good volume are put to rest after just a few moments with the Monitor 100s.
It’s not the warmest or most refined of deliveries. The vocal has a coating of sun-kissed country twang that the Monitor Audios doesn’t quite lay bare, and their somewhat coarse manner at higher frequencies doesn’t caress the piano harmonics quite as they should. But the 100s’ precise and articulate approach, especially with the midrange, goes some way to compensate for that.
The low-end harnesses enough substance and texture for the balance to avoid feeling lightweight, too – as is evident when the drubbing mass of drums and electric guitars in Caspian’s
Halls Of The Summer comes through the Monitor 100’s driver. And, showing off the speakers’ impartial handling of frequencies, the twinkling synths that cut in above ring through loud and clear.
A fine sense of drive allows them to go full speed ahead, and that space and scale keeps things easily digestible. A fair degree of dynamic flexibility within its considerable range saves the track from sounding in any way constrained too.
The stumbling block is their handling of rhythms. Perfume Genius’s Just Like Love is an exotic Afrobeat-like array of percussion, keyboards and bass guitar, and the plaited rhythmic structure feels a little haphazard through the Monitor Audios. But, while not quite experts in timing, they capture the track’s sprightly nature with dynamism.
Seen and heard
Whether or not you choose to hide the orange cone and grey baffle behind the grilles, the Monitor 100s – also available in black, walnut or white – warrant a place where they can be seen as well as heard. They don’t favour being placed right against the wall, as giving them too much freedom in a room only highlights their lack of warmth and weight. We’d suggest placing them around 30cm away for the most agreeable sonic balance.
On a practical note, two sets of binding posts mean they can be bi-wired (connected to an amplifier via two cables, one for the high frequencies, the other for the low) or bi-amped.
Naming products after the brand suggests a certain level of confidence, and the Monitor 100s do the company name proud. However, a lack of refinement and outright rhythmic dexterity means they aren’t quite as successful as the company’s pricier three-time Award-winning Bronze 2s.
The orange hue may be better suited to football boots, but it makes an impression