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Product Review - Monitor Audio Full Metal Theater - June, 1998

By Stacey L. Spears

Divider

Front Left/Right
One 6 1/4" Metal woofers
One 1" Gold Dome Tweeter
Black Oak, Rosewood
Rated FR: 30Hz - 30kHz + 3 dB
Sensitivity: 90 dB, 8 Ohms Nominal
Size: 34 ½ " H x 8 " W x 10 ¾ " D
Weight: 49 Pounds Each
Center
Two 5 1/2" Metal Woofers
One 1" Gold Dome Tweeter
Black
Rated FR: 45Hz - 30kHz + 3dB
Sensitivity: 89 dB, 6 Ohms Nominal
Size: 6 ¾ " H x 20" W x 8" D
Weight: 15 1/2 lbs.
Rear Surrounds
Two 5 1/4" Metal Woofers
Two 3/4" Gold Dome Tweeters
Black or Off White Vinyl
Rated FR: 50Hz - 22kHz
Sensitivity: 89 dB, 8 Ohms Nominal
Size: 9 ½" H x 10 ½" W x 7 ¾" D
Weight: 22 Pounds Each
Subwoofer
Two 10" Aluminum Drivers
Black
Amplifier: 200 watt MOSFET
Rated FR: 25Hz - 140Hz
SPL: 115 dB Max
Size: 22 ¼" H x 15" W x 17 ¼" D
Weight: 49 Pounds

 

Monitor Audio USA, P.O. Box 1355, Buffalo, New York 14205-1355; Phone 905-428-2800; Fax 905-428-0004; Web http://www.monitoraudio.com; E-Mail goldinfo@monitoraudio.com

When JJ first asked me if I was interested in reviewing the Full Metal Theater, I immediately had visions pop into my mind. You know when someone mentions a word and you start daydreaming. Well, the first thing that popped in was the military (I was there), and the movie "Full Metal Jacket" is what I stated thinking about. After a few minutes I started thinking about that adult cartoon "Heavy Metal", which, by the way, has a sequel coming out in ’99. Ok, I finally got a hold of myself and quickly sent John a reply mail saying I would love to review them. You might be wondering why I brought up the thoughts that went through my mind. Well, I am a product of advertising and am struck by the name.

While I was attending the CES this year, the Full Metal Theater arrived at home. I actually heard them first at CES while I was there, and David Solomon was happy to show off what they could do. I listened to their entire line for a long period of time. When wandering the endless corridors of CES, it is always nice to find a company who is very courteous and makes you feel comfortable. So many manufacturers these days try to move you through their exhibit like cattle, but this was not the case with Monitor Audio. I could not wait to get home and listen to the Full Metal Theater with my own setup.

By now, you are probably asking yourself just what is this Full Metal Theater all about? As the name implies, metal cones (aluminum-magnesium alloy) are used throughout. The alloy, in the past, has been reserved for the Studio series, but is now used throughout the 700PMC line.

Included in the 700PMC line are the members of the Full Metal Theater: the 703PMC-tower speaker, the CC700 center channel speaker, the MAFX2 surround speaker, and the MAS 1 subwoofer. This package retails for $4,896. No chump change, but I remember just a few short years ago when a full blown THX speaker system would cost you $8,000 and it did not sound half as good as this when it came to music, much less film! As I have mentioned in previous reviews, buying speakers is no easy task. They are a big investment and are totally dependent on the room that they are installed in.

Why does Monitor Audio use metal drivers? It is said that because if their stiffness that they have lower distortion. I think they look cool! As important as sound quality is, and to me it is the utmost important part, looks do make an impact, especially if you have a spouse! When I first received the speakers, David was very adamant about letting them break in for at least 50 hours, because of the speaker material. I had no problems with that, but I just had to hear how the sounded fresh out of the box, and they sounded good to me. But I ended up letting them burn in for at least 80 hours before I paid close attention to them.

First up is the 703PCM tower speaker. In the Full Metal Theater, this is utilized for the left and right front speaker. It would also make a fantastic surround speaker if you wanted to spend the extra dough. The 703 has a 1" Aluminum Magnesium Anodized Gold Dome Tweeter and one 6 1/4" Aluminum Magnesium Ceramic Coated Woofer in a ported design. That's quite a mouthful, but wait until you get an eyeful and an earful of these babies. The speakers have two sets of binding posts for bi-wiring or bi-amping. By themselves, these retail for $1,799 in black and $1,899 in rosewood. The pair I had for review were in rosewood, and this is the first speaker I have had that was not black. It has a beautiful finish and the gold colored drivers are truly knockout gorgeous!

To round out the frontal hemisphere in the theater is the CC700 center channel speaker. It uses the same 1" Aluminum Magnesium Anodized Gold Dome Tweeter as the 703s. It also has two 5 ½" Aluminum Magnesium Ceramic Coated Woofers. Like the 703s, the CC700 has two sets of binding posts. The center channel is pretty small and fits nicely atop my Toshiba 16x9 TV, which usually does not allow a speaker on top because of its very small depth. It does not come in rosewood though. Probably because TVs are generally black, and a rosewood box on top would look pretty weird. Center channel placement is not always an easy thing as some center speakers throw the image up and others down. The CC700's image seems to come right from the center of the speaker. Bt itself, the CC700 retails for $799.

The MA FX2 rear surrounds use two ¾" Aluminum Magnesium Anodized Gold Dome Tweeters in a dipolar configuration, and two 5 ¼" Aluminum Magnesium Ceramic Coated Woofers in a bipolar configuration. The literature states that the dipolar configuration for the tweeters give you an added sense of 3-dimensionality, and the bipolar configuration for the bass drivers gives you an extended bass response. The surrounds just have one set of binding posts, and if you want to bi-amp the rear channel speakers, you are crazier than I am. Like the Model A Ford, they come only in black. MSRP for the pair is $1,199. Again these do not come in the very attractive rosewood color!

The last piece in the Full Metal Theater is the MAS 1 powered subwoofer. The sub uses two 10" aluminum (not the alloy) drivers. The reason aluminum-magnesium is used for the other driver cones is that magnesium reduces the amount of ringing. It is an extremely difficult alloy to work with, and thus very expensive. Ringing is not a problem with a cone being moved at 140 Hz and below, so the alloy is not used for the woofer cone. (By the way, aluminum oxide is the ceramic.) The sub is powered by a 200 watt MOSFET amplifier that is sufficient for the two drivers. On the back are one set of line-level inputs as well as a pair of speaker-level inputs and outputs. There are controls for volume, crossover frequency (40 – 140 Hz), and phase. The phase control allows continuous adjustment between 00 and 1800. There is also a video/audio switch, that provides a 3 dB boost at the lowest frequencies. MSRP is $1,000. Adding all the individual MSRPs together gives $4,897. The package is $4,896. I guess there are no bargains when you buy the good stuff!

Room Response - 700PCM Front Left/Right Loudspeaker set to 80 dB at 1 kHz -- (This is not maximum output, but rather just the response in an "average" room with the volume set to 80 dB at 1 kHz.)
1 meter, left channel, grille on 13 feet, left channel, grille on
31.5 Hz 70.1 dB 31.5 Hz 69.8 dB
40 Hz 74.9 dB 40 Hz 70.5 dB
50 Hz 85.5 dB 50 Hz 74.3 dB
63 Hz 83.2 dB 63 Hz 73.5 dB
80 Hz 82.0 dB 80 Hz 80.4 dB
100 Hz 78.1 dB 100 Hz 77.4 dB
125 Hz 80.5 dB 125 Hz 78.4 dB
160 Hz 84.4 dB 160 Hz 79.8 dB
200 Hz 80.3 dB 200 Hz 77.8 dB
500 Hz 80.2 dB 500 Hz 69.0 dB
800 Hz 82.5 dB 800 Hz 71.4 dB
1 kHz 81.4 dB 1 kHz 73.5 dB
2.5 kHz 80.5 dB 2.5 kHz 72.8 dB
5 kHz 75.5 dB 5 kHz 71.1 dB
8 kHz 78.3 dB 8 kHz 74.0 dB
10 kHz 81.6 dB 10 kHz 78.3 dB
12.5 kHz 84.7 dB 12.5 kHz 72.3 dB
15 kHz 83.4 dB 15 kHz 72.0 dB
18 kHz 77.8 dB 18 kHz 69.1 dB

 

Room Response - MAS 1 Subwoofer -- set to 90 dB at 25 Hz -- (This is not maximum output, but rather just the response in an "average" room with the volume set to 90 dB at 25 Hz.)
1 meter 13 feet
12.5 Hz 65.2 dB 12.5 Hz 67.4 dB
16 Hz 79.4 dB 16 Hz 74.0 dB
20 Hz 86.3 dB 20 Hz 80.3 dB
25 Hz 91.5 dB 25 Hz 85.7 dB
31.5 Hz 94.9 dB 31.5 Hz 90.6 dB
40 Hz 93.6 dB 40 Hz 89.8 dB
50 Hz 95.3 dB 50 Hz 94.2 dB
63 Hz 94.5 dB 63 Hz 94.4 dB
80 Hz 91.6 dB 80 Hz 89.3 dB
100 Hz 90.3 dB 100 Hz 88.4 dB
125 Hz 83.7 dB 125 Hz 74.0 dB

We all know how reliable first impressions are with people. The same goes for audio and video equipment. The first time I listened to the Full Metal Theater, even before burn-in, I was IMPRESSED! Then, they got better, and I was even more IMPRESSED.

Placement is always important. I put the center channel on top of the TV and the left and right approximately 2 feet on each side of the TV, slightly forward, making an ARC with the left, center, and right speaker. The subwoofer was in the front right corner of my room just behind the front right speaker. I placed the surround speakers on stands to the left and right of my couch about 1 foot above my head. The arrangement worked very well.

Because this system is packaged for home theater, I started the tests with movies. "Air Force One", with its larger than life soundtrack, blew me away with tight deep bass, extremely intelligible dialogue and great sound effects. As the sound panned from left to right I could not hear a change in timbre, so tonality-wise, the threesome is a nice match. I wish the center image would have been a little lower, but the blending with the left and right was almost seamless.

These speakers are similar in size to the Carver 5.1s that I reviewed a short time ago. Compared to the Carver 5.1s, the Full Metals have better low level detail and are more musical. At more than double the price, you would expect that (but you don't always achieve it . . . thus, the comparison). Other movies with great sounding music and nice effects are "L.A. Confidential" and "Boogie Nights". Everytime I sat down to write about the Full Metals, I kept pushing away my laptop and just listening to them. I ended with Starship Troopers, a totally cheesy movie that I loved! There were lots of Foley effects to give any speakers a workout, especially the subwoofer. While the MAS 1 sub does not put out as much bass as the big Velodynes, what it does give is extremely clean! It is one subwoofer that plays better with music than movies because of its fine detail.

For music, I started off with a little Yo-Yo Ma. His "Soul of the Tango" CD from Sony Classical kept me entertained for days. I also listened to all of my favorite female singers and each was replayed with crisp, clean sounding vocals that were entrancing to say the least.

Other audio equipment used with the Full Metal Theater included the Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier to power all five main channels, wired with Nordost Flatline speaker cable and interconnects. The Meridian 565-surround processor handled all of the audio and home theater surround modes. Sources included the Meridian 508-24 CD player, Sony S-7000 DVD player, and Pioneer Elite CLD-97 LD player.

OK, so you don't save a bundle by getting the package as a system. However, it was not packaged as a bargain. It is put together as a top of the line, balanced, all metal cone, home theater set of speakers, that are priced in the reasonable and practical range. Because of the metal cones, the sound is extremely detailed. Their response is fast, fast, fast. Musical, tight, and they are beautiful. Not much else needs to be said.

Stacey L. Spears


© Copyright 1998 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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