Monster has just expanded their line of iPod related offerings with their Clarity HD Model One powered speakers with integrated iPod dock. The Clarity HD Model One was designed to be easy to use with a variety of sources while providing high quality sound that would fill a decent sized room with what I would call listening volume music rather than a lower background volume. These substantial, bookshelf sized loudspeakers retail for $749.95 a pair and feature an attractive contemporary design with "automotive grade" gloss finishes. My review sample came in yellow though red is also available with more colors to follow soon. The speakers are equipped with digital bi-amplification that allows their attractive industrial design to be exploited in a room without being compromised by a stack of audio gear.
The speakers themselves have a triangular cross section, tapering down to a narrow back which reduces internal standing waves. The driver complement consists of six and a half inch woofers with four-layer voice coils and concave one inch soft dome tweeters. The rear panels are left with sufficient room for RCA, quarter inch TRS and 3.5mm headphone inputs, a high frequency adjustment control, a wireless module port (more on this below) and power cord port. All connections are made to the right speaker, which is connected to the left speaker through a lengthy and substantial eight pin DIN cable. The wireless module port allows for the addition of Monster's soon to be released Streamcast module which allows streaming directly form a Bluetooth equipped source. The speakers have flush handles molded into their tops and the right speaker has an iPod dock power button and volume knob. A small credit card sized remote controls power, volume and basic iPod transport functions.
• The simplicity and ease of setup and operation allow the user to go from box to listening in less than five minutes.
• The design of the Clarity HD Model One allows for an iPod to be docked in the top or the wireless streaming of music, eliminating the visual clutter of boxes of gear, leaving only a pair of contemporary styled speakers visible.
• The capabilities of this portable system allow it to expand beyond the low volume, background music levels that are typical for this type of system.
Read about the low points of and competition for the Clairty HD Model One on Page 2.
• The speaker lacks a subwoofer output. While the speakers have better than expected bass extension I would like the option of being to augment the low end extension, particularly when used in larger rooms.
• While self contained, the Clarity HDs do need to placed close to a standard wall outlet seeing as how they are a powered design. Also, you'll be using interconnects versus speaker cables when connecting these loudspeakers. This may or may not bode well for some of you in terms of their ultimate flexibility in terms of placement within your living space.
• The sound quality is above average but is not as refined as some other similarly priced products.
Competition and Comparisons
If you're looking for a more lifestyle friendly, iPod or iPhone compatible loudspeaker there are more than a few options to choose from -many of which are less expensive than Monster's Clarity HD speakers. One option that immediately jumps to mind is Bowers & Wilkins' MM-1 desktop loudspeaker at $499.95. Another option, one that is a bit more than the Clarity HD loudspeaker is Audio Pro's LV2 wireless active digital loudspeakers at $1,000 per pair.
For more on these fine loudspeakers as well as others please check out Home Theater Review's bookshelf loudspeaker page.
The Clarity HD Model One powered speaker system is a convenient and attractive way of getting an iPod sourced system in place. Unlike many of the other iPod sourced powered systems the Clarity system is capable to providing satisfying sound at levels well beyond their capabilities. If this was my main stereo system I would wish for more resolution and in the upper regions, more refinement. However, I do not think most potential purchasers are looking for an audiophile rig to audition new music with. This system is for providing music for relaxation and enjoyment and it delivers that. If you are seeking more audiophile type refinement with similar capacity levels for playback levels and range you could compile a system with better sound quality (i.e. an integrated amplifier and a pair of mini-monitors) but you would lose the style and utter simplicity of this system.
The bottom line is that the Clarity HD Model One speaker system is a stylish, easy to use system that can fill a good-sized room with music rather than audio gear clutter.