REVIEW: MONITOR AUDIO STUDIO 2-WAY STAND MOUNT LOUDSPEAKERS
It was way back in 1993 if my memory serves me correctly, that The Proclaimers released their anthemic ‘500 miles’, REM came out with the sublime ‘Man In The Moon’, and The Spindoctors released their one hit wonder masterpiece ‘Two Princes’ - an irritating tune that once in your head just sticks like, you know what to a blanket.
Ah yes, 1993, what a year it was. It was also the year I proudly unpacked and set up my brand new pair of Monitor Audio MA14’s, a rather diminutive floor standing design with excellent sound quality. Resplendent in their black glossy paint finish and sporting a state of the art aluminium dome tweeter, I enjoyed my MA14’s for quite a few years before I typically contracted another bad case of upgraditus (aka change for change’s sake), and eventually sold them.
I distinctly remember experiencing a pang of regret as the new owner came to collect, but as I always tell myself when making semi-unnecessary upgrades to my audio system; that’s the price of progress.
That was a long time ago, and many loudspeakers have come and gone in my system, but finally, in 2018 I had a chance to hear how Monitor Audio had evolved in loudspeaker design as the Brit speaker gurus have just released the Studio model. It’s an all-new design with a completely different design focus to my dear old long departed MA14’s.
The Studio is a stand-mount design utilising ‘trickle down’ technology as used in the flagship Platinum II series at a more real-world price, but could they really live up to the reputation of their illustrious stablemates?
A short drive to Soundline in Penrose ensued, and I hastily trekked my way back to my western enclave to set them up with anticipation.
Once I’d unpacked them and assembled the optional stands I stood back to take in the aesthetic. The Studio is deceptively small, but there was no doubting that they are indeed an attractive speaker. The sleek enclosures, exotic tweeters and silver finished main drivers simply ooze a very modern appeal.
Monitor Audio makes its Studio model available in three finishes including Satin Grey, Satin White, Satin Black. They sell in New Zealand for $2,500 RRP.
The review samples were clad in a very fetching Satin Grey, and they really did look a treat when securely attached to the appropriately named Stand ($999 RRP), which securely couple to the speakers with bolts.
Even though the stands are an optional extra, I consider them an essential part of the purchase – not only do the speakers look a million bucks on them, they are incredibly secure once bolted on to the stand and anchor the Studio speakers firmly to the floor.
Getting back to the drivers, a single MPD (Micro Pleated Diaphragm) tweeter is flanked by two RDT II bass-midrange units in an MTM configuration. The low mass pleated diaphragm works a bit like an accordion, squeezing the pleats to produce a smooth, extended frequency response all the way up to a claimed 60kHz.
The RDT II drivers are impressively high tech as well, with Monitor Audio’s proprietary C-CAM skin bonded onto the front of a Nomex inner cone material with a woven carbon fibre skin bonded to the rear.
This method of construction has resulted in an 8dB reduction of distortion above 300Hz, according to Monitor Audio.
The bass reflex Studio uses Monitor Audio’s own HiVe II dual slot loaded port system, and beefy Rhodium plated non-bi-wire binding posts borrowed from the Platinum II take pride of place on the uncomplicated rear panel.
I set the Studios up initially with my Line Magnetic LM201IA Integrated valve amp and with its glorious 8wpc of SET power, they sounded great, albeit with a slightly wobbly bottom end.
Some good old solid state grunt was required to cure the soggy bottom, and luckily Monitor Audio's local distributor, Denco, was kind enough to supply me with a Roksan K3 integrated amplifier. This 140wpc powerhouse promised better grip in the bottom end, so as quick as a flash I had it cabled up and switched on.
Impressive! Although small, they certainly didn’t sound like it. What’s more, the Studio’s didn’t suffer from that ‘small speaker trying to sound like a big one’ malaise – they were extremely well controlled and natural sounding, and surprisingly room-filling in terms of bass performance.
Better still, they also created a superb soundstage with a near single point source delivery, the MPD tweeters combining beautifully with those striking main drivers.
Small-ish stand mount speakers shouldn’t be able to do justice to ‘Super Ape in a Good Shape’ from the Lee "Scratch" Perry & Mad Professor album 'Black Ark ExPerryments', but somehow the little Studio manages to produce a fulsome enveloping sound with an oh, so full bass register. Nice and phat, but tuneful and agile – just the way I like it!
Indie rock/pop courtesy of The Ting Tings was up for appraisal next with ‘That’s Not My Name’. Here the lead singer's vocals were as crisp as a freshly picked Granny Smith, the funked-up ‘My Sharona-esque’ bassline just grooved along with drums and keyboards in close support. Fun stuff!
Moving a few decades back in time saw The Rolling Stones' ‘Street Fighting Man’ streaming at16/44.1 Redbook via my Antipodes DS1/Audiolab M-Dac+ combo. It’s a killer track, a bit dark in tone and ‘old school' in terms of production, but it was a joy to listen to via the Studio/Roksan combo – jangly guitar, splashy Hi-Hat cymbal and all. And Jaggers layered vocal came across very nicely. Cracking stuff.
I tend to throw in the odd ‘challenging’ recording when listening to review kit. Just about everything sounds great with music from Yello for instance, but the really great gear can make those recordings ‘work’. Another track that springs to mind is Peter Gabriel’s ‘Shock the Monkey’, a notoriously difficult track in terms of clarity – unless it’s replayed on a system with synergy.
Part of me wasn’t too surprised by the fabulous sound quality from Monitor Audio's latest Studio stand mounts. Harking back to my experience with my Monitor 14’s all those years ago left me with an expectation of excellence, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
And let’s not forget those looks…
The Monitor Audio Studio is the little loudspeaker that could, and does.
For more information visit Monitor Audio.
Addicted to music from a very early age, Gary built his first pair of loudspeakers at the tender age of 12. Since then he has contributed to a plethora of publications/websites and has even been heard on Newstalk 1ZB as the stations ‘gadget man’. Technically proficient in both analogue and digital, he feels the road ahead is just as exciting as the road already traveled - and he can't wait to tell you about it.
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