Monster THX Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Brian Kahn   
Thursday, 01 June 2006

Introduction
The mighty Monster Cable is diversifying. The company that successfully taught mainstream consumers the value of high-performance cables is now taking extraordinarily measures, like buying naming rights to sports stadiums, to teach consumers that they now sell home automation products, cables (of course) and, believe it or not, loudspeakers. Head Monster Noel Lee knows exactly how competitive the loudspeaker business is and, armed with 20 years of trendsetting industry experience, he is not holding back. Consumers should be excited.

The Monster speaker line consists of a tower speaker, two monitors, a dipole surround and two different subwoofers. The system I reviewed was comprised of the Monster THX Select Tower 200s for the front left and right speakers, a Monster THX Select Monitor 200 in center position, Monster THX Select Dipole Surround Sound Speaker 100 in the rear and two Monster THX Select Subwoofer 200s on the LFE channel. The speakers are priced at $800 for each tower, $600 for each monitor, $800 per pair of dipoles and $1,200 for each subwoofer.

The Tower 200 has a three-way design with three seven-inch Kevlar drivers and a one-inch silk dome tweeter. The speaker itself is approximately 47 inches tall by 10 inches wide and 11 inches deep (without grilles). The front and back walls of the speaker are parallel to each other. However, with the back only four inches wide, it gives the side walls a slight curvature, minimizing the total number of parallel surfaces and thereby reducing standing waves within the cabinet. The speakers appear triangular when viewed from above and with their rear grilles in place. The rear grille is V-shaped and carries the curved side walls back to a point. These grilles also hide the bi-wireable five-way binding posts for a neat appearance. Speaking of appearances, my review samples were finished in a rich cherry veneer; piano gloss black is also available. The bottoms of the speakers also have threaded inserts to accept the included spikes. Behind the front grilles are two yellow seven-inch Kevlar drivers at the top of the cabinet above the first port, and another seven-inch Kevlar driver below the second port on the bottom. On top of the cabinet is a slightly domed protrusion covered with a rubber-like material, upon which a tweeter enclosure rests, similar to many B&W products. While crossover specifications are not provided, one of the seven-inch drivers is utilized as a midrange driver, the other two as woofers providing the speaker with a claimed response of 60Hz – 20kHz at 90 dB sensitivity. Lastly, the Monster THX Select Tower 200s, like all speakers in the Monster THX line, are THX Select certified (if you couldn’t guess from their names) and are magnetically shielded.

The Monster THX Select Monitor 200 is similar to the Tower, but it is a two-way design with two seven-inch drivers flanking the tweeter. The monitors are rated at 63 Hz – 20kHz at 92 dB sensitivity. Like the Tower speakers, the Monitors are bi-wireable and have threaded connections for spikes. However, the Monitors can also be mounted on top of powered bass units and connect electrically to the bass units through the spike inserts to form one cohesive speaker unit.

Next in the system are the Monster THX Select Dipole Surround Sound Speaker 100s (try saying that five times fast) in the surround position. These speakers are designed to mount on the wall next to the primary listening position. The back of the cabinets feature mounting holes and the speakers come with clear installation instructions. Like the other speakers described above, the Dipoles are biwireable and utilize a seven-inch Kevlar woofer and a one-inch silk dome tweeter. When viewed from the front, the center of the speaker is covered by black grille cloth with a tweeter to each side, firing to the front and rear. Under the grille cloth is the woofer and a single port firing perpendicular to the side walls. The dipoles have a frequency response of 80 Hz to 20 kHz and a sensitivity rating of 87 dB.

Rounding out the system are two Monster THX Select Subwoofer 200s. These subwoofers look like a larger version of the dipoles (absent the tweeters) and sit on a gloss black pedestal base. Behind the grille is a single forward-firing 12-inch driver over a pair of front-mounted ports. The subwoofer is powered by an internal 200-watt amplifier and has line and speaker level inputs and outputs, an adjustable crossover and volume controls. The back panel also features an IEC power connector, status light, a two-position phase switch and a THX selector switch. The THX selector switch features Subwoofer, THX 1, 2 and 4 settings. In the subwoofer position, the volume and crossover controls are active; in the THX settings, they are bypassed. The total number of subwoofers in your system will determine whether to choose the 1, 2 or 4 position. Lastly, Monster includes one of their beefy high-end power cables to complete the package.

Set-up
Setting up the Monster THX select speakers was fairly simple. I placed the Towers to each side of my 96-inch screen and about three feet out from the front wall. The Monitor was placed horizontally under the screen in the center position. All three front speakers were connected with Monster Cable Z series speaker cables. The dipoles were placed to the side of my listening position and the subwoofers were placed upon the front wall, inside the main speakers. I used a Velodyne SMS-1 for the crossover, level control and equalization of the subwoofers.

I did some listening with Monster’s MPA 5150 (review coming) providing the power, but used my reference Krell Theater Amplifier Standard for critical listening so I could concentrate on the speakers. I try not to change out more than one component at a time, so that I can identify what is causing the changes in what I am hearing.

Music and Movies
Monster states that their speakers are designed to work equally well on movies, music and gaming. I am not a gamer, but I had plenty of music and movies to put the speakers through their paces. New speakers deserve a new movie, so I watched “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” (Walt Disney Home Entertainment). When Edmund was visiting Narnia and the White Witch’s sled first arrived, the bass was palpable and clearly tracked the onscreen action in its positioning within the soundstage. The vocals were clear and distinct from each of the listening positions, easily portraying the strength of the Witch’s voice and the trembling quality of the young boy’s speech.

Moving from fantasy to a more traditional action flick, I watched “X2: X-Men United” (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). I watched the scene in which the fighter jets chase the X-Men’s plane, listening to the DTS soundtrack. The system had no problems with the multitude of sounds in this scene. The surround channels did well with the effects as the planes went through the storm clouds. The timbre of the surround channels matched the fronts, which isn’t surprising, as the speakers in the series all use a similar driver complement. The storm clouds and missiles moved around the 360-degree sound field without any noticeable gaps.

I came across the “The Rock” on one of the high-definition satellite channels, which also featured a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The movie is filled with explosions and gun battles. During the many gunfights, the speakers were able to distinguish between the different weapons and their firing positions. The explosions were deep and powerful, with enough detail to discern the various secondary explosions and impacts. Sean Connery’s voice is very distinctive and remained so when played through the Monster THX speaker system.

I continued watching action flicks, moving on to “The Fifth Element” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment). The Diva’s vocals during the concert scene were strong and dynamic. The high frequencies through the Monster THX system were not as open or as airy as the best speakers, but they were never shrill or harsh. I listened to the Diva concert/battle scene at high volume and the speakers remained composed throughout the frequency range, with only slight compression at levels that were beyond my listening comfort. The music and explosions provided plenty of dynamic bass, which the system was able to handle and blend well between the subwoofers and the rest of the system. I used the Velodyne SMS-1 to maximize my control options and flexibility with good results.

Moving back to something a bit more current, I watched “The Wedding Crashers” (New Line Home Video). The song “Shout” is prominently featured in many of the reception scenes and has a bass line that made the subwoofers slightly sluggish when compared to the rest of the system.

I moved on to 5.1 music, listening to Medeski Martin Wood’s “Uninvisible” (Blue Note Records – DTS). This DVD-Audio disc played on my Marantz DV-9600, utilizing the analog outputs for the best possible sound. The title track is an energetic jazzy piece that is fast-paced and complex. The piece has good horns that are portrayed energetically, without being overly bright. The horns were dynamic and textured, with a good sense of separation from the other instruments. The bass notes were properly blended between the main speakers and subwoofers, with a good sense of timbre and decay.

Listening to a favorite, the Eagles’ “Hell Freezes Over” (DTS ), I was able to compare it to music I have heard live and through many different systems. The track “Hotel California” features drums that were reproduced slightly fatter and slower on the decay than with my reference Cantons. The guitars were lush and relaxed, while lacking ultimate detail on lower notes; any errors were those of omission rather than the addition of unnatural artifacts. Moving to the song “New York Minute,” the piano notes were natural and full-bodied. The soundstage was a bit further from the listening position and was wider than it was deep. The chorus presented itself as a solid wall of sound without any holes.

The Downside
The Monster THX system sounds to me like it has a bump in the mid-bass region. While this bump didn’t muddy up the vocals, it was noticeable upon close listening to music tracks. I noticed it mainly as a slight thickness in this region, as if the bass notes were a little heavier when compared to the frequencies around it. The towers’ low-end extension was also surprisingly limited. While this prevents distortion from over-exertion and the woofers bottoming out, it makes a subwoofer necessary for movies and, I suspect, gaming as well. My testing equipment isn’t sophisticated enough to spot a design flaw, but I also was not able to place the speakers in a location in my room that completely remedied the situation. Some spots were definitely better than others. It is possible that it is my room, but it is something that must be noted.

The powered subs started off slow and thick, but after breaking in, they became much more detailed. The Monster subwoofer’s level of detail never reached the level of my reference MartinLogan Descent, but then again, they are only 40 percent of the MartinLogan’s price. Once the subwoofers were broken in, I again adjusted their level and equalized them through the Velodyne processor, which allowed me to get a good blend with the rest of the Monster THX system. However, every once in a while, I was able to discern the difference in detail between the subwoofers and rest of the system.

Conclusion
The Monster THX series of speakers is surprisingly good. Monster is a large audio/video company that has the experience and the resources to take on such a lofty project. With a warm and engaging sound, the Monster THX speaker system give hints of the romantic, old-school sound that audiophiles will love, paired with the spank you need for home theater and gaming applications. Do not let preconceived notions keep you from auditioning these speakers. They are better than you might think and demand that you give them a listen before you make your next speaker investment.
Manufacturer Monster
Model THX Speaker System
Reviewer Brian Kahn





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