|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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Monitor Audio has had a presence in the development and manufacture of high-quality speakers since 1972. Monitor has also been an early pioneer in metal driver technology that started some 16 years ago. Other notable speaker manufacturers have recently migrated to metal driver configurations, for good reason. The benefits of using metal are pretty significant, including the ability to control speaker driver distortion. The new Gold Reference Series utilizes the latest advancements from Monitor Audio in metal driver technology.
The speakers involved in the Monitor Audio 5.1 system I received are the Gold Reference GR 20. I used these for the main channels. The Gold Reference GR 20 is a floor-standing loudspeaker system ($2,995 a pair). Each speaker sits 37.5 inches tall, is eight-and-seven-eighths inches wide and 12.5 inches deep. They weigh 44 pounds each. The GR 20 is second from the top in the Gold Series and benefits from many of the advanced technologies developed for its bigger brother, the $3,995 GR 60. It employs a three-way design, utilizing drivers in a vertical array, with a six-and-one-half-inch bass, a six-and-one-half-inch midrange and the one-inch Gold Dome C-CAM (Ceramic Coated Magnesium) alloy tweeter. The cabinet is a dual differentially tuned bass reflex design, which is a variant of the Gold Reference 60 enclosure, with a single rear port. It has a measured response of 30 Hz to 30 kHz and has a sensitivity of 89 dB.
I chose the Monitor Audio GR 10 loudspeaker ($1,495 a pair) for my rear-channel speakers. The GR 10 has a stand-mounted design and is 17-7/8 inches tall, eight-and-seven-eighths inches wide and 11.5 inches deep. Each speaker weighs about 20 pounds. The GR 10 uses a six-and-one-half-inch mid-bass and a one-inch Gold Dome C-CAM tweeter, with a measured response of 40 Hz to 30 kHz + 3dB and a sensitivity of 88 dB.
The Gold Reference Center Channel ($995) is seven-and-seven-eighth inches tall, 22 inches wide and 10 inches deep. It weighs in at 26 pounds. It uses two six-and-one-half-inch mid bass drivers and a one-inch Gold Dome C-CAM tweeter. The measured response of the Gold Reference Center Channel is 40Hz-30kHz with a sensitivity of 90.5 dB.
The system used for this review also includes two ASW 210 subs ($999), which have been reviewed previously by AudioRevolution.com. The ASW 210 is 20 inches tall, 14 inches wide and 14 inches deep, weighing in at 55 pounds. The Monitor Audio ASW 210 uses two 10-inch gold aluminum magnesium active drivers, one forward-firing and one down-firing. The high pass filter starts at 40 Hz and adjusts to 140 Hz on high level. It also includes a 0-180i-phase adjustment. Frequency response is 25 Hz-140 Hz +3 dB. All of the Gold Series loudspeakers can be bi-wired and are shielded for video applications.
Monitor Audio 5.1 speaker systems aren’t really prepackaged. The company prefers to allow you to customize your speaker choices to the needs of your system and your listening environment. There are a variety of combinations that can be used to suit your budget and room size, and the Gold Series has the flexibility to use as either a music-only system or a surround sound and music system with very good performance. The Gold Center can be effectively used as a center channel or Left, Right, Rear Effects and Center to give you a perfectly matched home theater/music system.
The Gold Reference Series speakers I received were decked out in a light cherry wood veneer finish and are very attractive with the black grille installed, but they also look decidedly high-tech, with the metal drivers peeking out. Other finishes for the surround speakers include black oak, natural oak or rose at no additional charge. The subwoofer is offered only with a black finish.
The build quality of the Monitor Audio Gold Reference speaker is excellent, with thick wood veneers used on the all sides except for the back of the enclosure, which was done in black. A knuckle rap all around the enclosure confirmed a very rigid design, which is internally braced throughout.
You get a small toolbox with the GR 20s. When inspected, the toolbox provides gold points that screw into the black base, which I chose to install. You could put the points provided by Monitor Audio directly into the speaker bottom, but the base adds a wider, more stable footprint and looked nicer. Monitor Audio has thoughtfully provided the gold-plated discs with a registration hole for the points to set in, so you don’t ruin your hardwood floors, something that I found very helpful in my installation. You can alternatively use the steel points provided for carpet applications. Also included in the toolkit is a nifty little bubble level that sits on top of the speaker for leveling. Use the provided Allen wrench to adjust the height of each point.
Monitor Audio designs and manufacture their midrange and bass drivers in their factory in Raleigh, England. This has allowed them to control and improve the manufacturability of their metal cone drivers, thus lowering manufacturing costs. The aluminum/magnesium alloy is Monitor Audio’s answer to the cone material. To enhance this material, they have a proprietary approach they call Rigid Surface Technology (RST). What this means in layman’s terms is that a series of radial patterns of dimples are added to the surface of the driver material. These start from the center of the driver and progress to the outer edge, getting larger as they move outward, kind of like a golf ball in appearance. This is to break up low and high-frequency standing waves, which will color the sound. It also allows the cone material to be thinner, but not at the expense of stiffness. The result is a harmonic distortion of less than one half of one percent. It is also said to make it easier to match the drivers, providing a very seamless presentation in all of the frequencies. Another part of this harmonic sleight of hand is the lack of the use of capacitors in the midrange, which is said to give a wider mid-band than usual.