|Monitor Audio Gold Reference 5.1 Theater System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Sunday, 01 July 2001|
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After about 125 hours of loosely structured break-in time, I found a spot about one-and-one-half feet from the front wall, two feet from the sidewalls, with about seven feet between the speakers for my GR 20s. The rears were put into place using kite string from the TV to find the radius that would work for both rear speaker positions. The center channel sat nicely on top of the TV. Although you can use the high pass filter in the subwoofer by connecting the surrounds through the speaker terminals on the sub, I chose to bypass this feature, as I felt that even though the setup was a tad more tedious, I liked the results better. Besides, if you want to use this feature, you’ll need an extra set of speaker cables. I prefer to minimize the number of connections between components unless a sizeable benefit can be attained, and this wasn’t the case here. I set the subwoofers in the corner side by side. I then used a Kenwood VR-4090 A/V receiver for the driving electronics and a Toshiba SD 9100 progressive scan DVD player for the source. The Kenwood puts out 120 watts for all five channels and should drive the monitors pretty well. Although 88 dB-89 dB is not the most efficient load to drive, a good 100=watt amp should make these speakers perform well. All of the Gold series have a generous power handling capability of 100 to 300 watts.
I must say that the Gold Series is a handsome speaker. Its small footprint is very unobtrusive. In my case, putting anything in the living room that wasn’t aesthetically pleasing would most likely be met with disdain by the finance department, namely my wife. These speakers get the nod with what I call "High Spousal Acceptance Factor," or "HSAF".
Movies and Music
The first movie I used in my evaluation was Dinosaur (Walt Disney Home Video). In Chapter 6’s meteor strike, the Monitor Audios captured the subtle sounds of the meteors falling just prior to the large meteor impact. The sound of the shockwave as it moved front to back was very dynamic and detailed, blending seamlessly between speakers.
Did I mention how dynamic these speakers are? Don’t let size fool you. I have never heard the scene in Saving Private Ryan (DreamWorks DTS) when the Allied forces are storming the beach as I heard it with the Monitor Audios. The bullets hitting metal had me literally ducking for cover in my own living room. The explosions threatened to do the same damage to my house as they did in Normandy, with explicitly detailed information that never once sounded congested or overwhelmed. The center channel did a great job handling all of the information it was given. Its ability to sort out all of the complex sounds was done without ever sounding harsh or strained. I didn’t notice any lobbing effect that you can get from horizontally laying down a vertically-arrayed driver. This would be noticed by moving off-angle from the center channel and noting drop-off regions, if any, as you walk. No lobbing effects were apparent in any of the listening sessions I had. The horizontal and vertical dispersion of the Monitor Audio Gold center was very good. Having the drivers running at a different bandwidth solves this nicely.
The subs’ extreme levels of output tended to overload my wood floors, threatening to dislodge me from my couch. Having the subs sitting together in the corner may have aggravated the situation. Putting one of the subwoofers in another part of the room alleviated some of this setup problem. De-coupling the enclosure of the sub from the floor by placing it on a piece of wood of the same size as the sub, then supporting the wood at the corners with small foam blocks and setting the sub on this arrangement, helped quite a bit. The resonance I had experienced prior to this was taken care of and the audible bass control was much better. I would have preferred to install such powerful subwoofers on a cement floor, but that was impossible in this situation.
On low-level information, I used the scene from Gladiator (DreamWorks) where the Commodus and his sister are traveling to the war front at the request of Caesar in their luxury wagon. You can hear the subtle creaks and groans all around you, which makes you feel like you are in the wagon with them.
Upon watching many a DVD, I realized that the Monitor Audio Gold Reference loudspeaker system provides a audibly seamless presentation. Never did I feel like one speaker made itself known out of the mix. This is likely the effect of successful driver matching and the lack of distortion in the ceramic drivers. The polite and musical nature of this Monitor Audio speaker system makes it amenable to many a music and film enthusiast.
Next, I used some DTS recorded music DVD-Audio discs. One of these is a Steve Stevens DVD-Audio recording called Flamenco A Go-Go (DTS Entertainment). This is a 5.1 channel recording that has both lossy DTS surround and DVD-Audio MLP (Meridian Lossless Packing) surround on it. My Toshiba DVD-Video player isn’t capable of playing back the MLP version of the record, but the lossy version, which some enthusiasts prefer, was simply excellent. The high-resolution capability of DTS disc really shines on this live recording of this ex-Billy Idol guitarist as he plays his own interpretive style of flamenco. The guitar sounds lush and detailed as Stevens works his way through the complex musical structure of each song. The resonant sounds of the strings’ vibration are captured with all of the leading-edge transients that give their presence a life-like sound. The mix has most of the music coming from the mains and center channel, with echo, reverberation and audience participation coming from the rear channels.
The Monitor Audio’s musical midrange purity is captivating and is possibly its best characteristic. The Gold Reference really grabs your attention and makes you want to hear more, more, more. So more I gave it. This time, I wanted to see how it performed in two-channel land. I swapped out my trusty Kenwood receiver and Toshiba DVD player for my reference Audio Research CD2, Audio Research LS2B MKII pre-amp, and Bryston 7B-ST’s. First up was Collective Soul’s latest effort, Blender (Atlantic). "Why Pt.2" opens with kick drum, a solid bass line and ripping power chords, and the GR20s instantly surprised me. What a difference equipment makes. The presentation was very alluring, and the soundstage was pinpoint-accurate and three-dimensional. The GR 2’s were right up there with my reference Dunlavy SCIVs in their ability to reproduce a nice, wide soundstage. The GR 20s didn’t have the base control or the timbre accuracy of the SCIVs, but they aren’t in the same price range, either. The GR 20s does very well with female voices, such as Dido’s No Angel (Arista). Although the high-frequency transients are rolled off in comparison to the SCIVs, the midrange of the GR20s does a very nice job of conveying the sibilant and breathy voice on "My Lover’s Gone." I haven’t heard it quite like that on the SCIV’s and it is very agreeable. Dido’s voice hangs suspended between the speakers, while a diffuse soundscape seems to allow her voice to float on the currents of music. The mids and upper harmonics had a sweet character that could be a little soft, but nonetheless enjoyable and most definitely musical.