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Product Review - Monitor Audio Bronze 3 Speakers - December, 2000

Arvind Kohli
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Monitor Audio Bronze 3 Speakers

Floorstanding 2 way speakers

1” gold dome tweeter, 6.5” Metal Matrix Polymer Mid/Bass driver

MFR: 40 Hz - 25 kHz ± 3 dB

Sensitivity: 90 dB/W/M

Recommended Amplifier Power: 150 Watts Peak

Size: 33" H x 7 1/2" W  x  9" D

Weight: 31 Pounds Each

MSRP: $499/pr USA

 

Monitor Audio USA, 902 McKay Road, Pickering, Ontario, CANADA L1W 3X8; Phone 905-428-2800; Fax 905-428-0004;

E-Mail goldinfo@monitoraudio.com; Web http://www.monitoraudio.com

Introduction

Monitor Audio has been in the business of designing speakers in Cambridge, England since 1972. It was founded by Mo Iqbal who designed of all their products up until about 2 years ago when the company was bought out by Dave Collins and some other minority interests.  Collins brought in a new designer, Dean Hartley, the founder and designer of Keswick Audio.  Dean has certainly kept himself busy since joining Monitor Audio, introducing the well received Silver series (click here for our review) and Bronze series.  Early next year, he will be revealing a high end GR series to replace the current Studio line.

The Bronze series was conceived to be positioned for the entry level market, a first for Monitor Audio. As we will see, there are some definite trickle down advantages to an established audio heavyweight coming up with entry level products.

The design of the drivers got the benefits of the anechoic chamber at Monitor’s facilities. The finished product evolved as a result of A/B tests performed with models from the competition. The priority for these and all their speakers is the ability to accurately reproduce music first (rather than home theater crash, bang, boom). This is an admirable statement, when many manufacturers are trying to position entry level speakers by appealing to those looking to set up a home theater. This includes calling them "designed for home theater", and in one case I know of, even including a switch to toggle between "audio" and "HT" settings.

Setup

My listening room is 16’ by 16’ by 8’. For casual listening, the speakers were placed so that there were 70” between the tweeters, and 128” from the tweeters to the listening position. For critical listening sessions, all three points were about 70” from each other, and well away from room boundaries.

It took me less than an hour to unpack the speakers, screw in the spikes, and set them up.

The Outside

The review samples were finished in a light cherry laminate on the sides, top, and bottom. The front and back were finished in black plastic. You would need to get up close and personal to realize that the sides are not real wood. Two 1.25” ports sit on the front baffle a few inches below the woofer. The black cloth grille covers the front only down to the woofer, leaving the ports and rest of the plastic front uncovered.

The bottom has four threaded holes that accommodate the included adjustable spikes. The supplied diagram shows the holes could also be used to fasten a plinth. The rear of the speaker has four gold-plated 5-way binding posts with plastic caps. This allows for bi-wire and bi-amp configurations, and the requisite bridge is supplied if only one set of cables is to be used.

There is a plastic cap on the back that opens into a cavity at the bottom of the cabinet. This cavity can be filled with sand or lead shot, supposedly tightening up the bass and providing more stability. This is an optional feature and can be experimented with, depending on your needs and preferences (I elected not use this feature during the review).

Technical

The Bronze 3s employ a 1” aluminum-magnesium alloy tweeter, its gold color being a cosmetic embellishment that I personally find aesthetically appealing.  The tweeter is set in a natural rubber surround that is said to take the "edge" off the high frequencies (a common complaint with other metal tweeters). This is where the Bronze tweeter ends its similarity with those found in the other Monitor Audio lines. The higher end models have more expensive components and better power handling capabilities.

A 2nd order crossover sends signals below 3,200 Hz to the 6.5” woofer. The woofer material is dubbed as Metal Matrix Polymer, which in simple terms means it is made of a synthetic material and impregnated with fine grains of aluminum to add stiffness.

Great attention has been paid to the rigidity of the enclosure. The front baffle is not made of the usual Ύ” MDF that is ubiquitous at this price point.  Instead, two 1” boards are glued together, a design feature intended to hold the drivers steadily in place, with an expected benefit of better imaging. The remainder of the box is Ύ”MDF.

 Sound

The recommended break-in period for these speakers is about 30 hours. After running it for about 4 days with a variety of material, I sat down for some serious listening.

The Bronze 3s have excellent resolution in the top end, evidenced by my ability to pick out faint notes and sounds. It was very easy to distinguish instruments no matter how complex the arrangement or music.  This accuracy seems to be at a sacrifice of horizontal dispersion which I felt to be limited. Instruments and vocals that should have staged dead center, shifted to the left or right with only a small shift in the listening position.

In spite of the detailed top end, the speakers were never tiring to listen to, as is often the case with designs where the treble is gritty. I auditioned the speakers for many an evening, 4 to 6 hours at a time, and it was never a fatiguing experience.

Bass extension seemed to respect the specifications, with the –3 dB point at 40 Hz.  For the size of the driver and box, the bass was about as deep as one would expect.  But the quality of bass was indeed impressive, with not a hint of boominess, thanks probably in part to the aluminum grains in the woofer. I would rather a speaker be designed to put out whatever bass it can as long as it is flat and tight. If you intend to listen to music only, there is not much you will be missing. For home theater applications these speakers will benefit from being mated with a good subwoofer, and in my case, they blending well with my Velodyne F1500R.

The speakers' soundstage was very good. In the critical listening position, I was impressed at how wide and deep an image was projected. On most well recorded material, instruments and vocals were placed clear of the speakers. It was often easy to place an instrument several feet away from where the speakers were sitting.

Conclusion

Regardless of price, these are very nice sounding speakers. But at this price point, I must award kudos to Monitor Audio for an awesome speaker. At higher price points, there is more room to include expensive components and processes, but to put out a good sounding speaker at a lower price is very difficult. If this is entry level, I can't wait to see what they will do with their high end GR line.

Associated Equipment:

PSB Image 5T speakers

Velodyne F1500R subwoofer

Bryston 4B and NAD 912 amplifiers

NAD 917 preamp

Pioneer 414 DVD player

DH labs BL-1 interconnects

Self designed speaker wire

- Arvind Kohli -

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