Definitive Technology's exceptional combination of build quality, performance, features, versatility, and affordability quickly made its products best sellers around the world. The company ran a tight ship which enabled it to stay healthy and productive throughout bad industry conditions, and flourish when the industry grew. Even after its acquisition by Directed Technologies in 2004, Definitive continued its record of producing excellent products, and expanded its offerings into many new categories such as custom installation and architectural models.
Definitive's StudioMonitor series contains two bookshelf speakers intended to provide full range performance in an attractive, compact package. The smaller of the two, the StudioMonitor 350 ($249 each MSRP), packs an incredible amount of technology and engineering into its compact, 14 pound enclosure measuring 6 15/16 inches wide, 9 11/16 inches high, and 10 11/16 inches high. Mounted onto narrow baffles to reduce diffraction, the design's driver array includes one 5 ¼-inch bass/midrange driver featuring a die-cast aluminum basket, mineral-filled polymer cone, butyl rubber surround and dust-cap, and custom voice coils and magnet structures. The 350 employs a 1-inch moving coil aluminum dome tweeter that Definitive developed for the BP7000 Series, utilizing specially annealed pure aluminum suspended by a silk surround, an acoustically loaded by a phase plug/lens over the top, and magnetic fluid damping. This amount of technology would typically suffice at its price point; however, slipping off the sock covering its rock-solid monocoque cabinets constructed of high-density medite with 1-inch thick front and rear baffles, diffraction-reducing rounded edges, foam damping pads and internal braces, and gorgeous high gloss black end caps reveals the wonderfully clever secret of this design: carved into the side, an 8-inch passive radiator pumps out the bass, and pushes the StudioMonitor 350's value proposition off the charts. The 350 provides a single pair of gold-plated 5-way binding posts and a keyhole bracket with two mounting screws. While the StudioMonitor 350 is not exactly cheap, the combination of technology, engineering, and fit and finish it provides simply has no equal in the even remotely affordable loudspeaker world. For all the raw technology, parts, materials, shiny goodness, etc. packed into this product, what jumps out is its air tight, holistic elegance - completely thought out with not a hair out of place. It's always refreshing to discover a company that, on the other side of its hype and ads and noise and PR, not only delivers the goods but exceeds your expectations.
According to Definitive, the StudioMonitor 350 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with a 90dB efficiency. However, the 350 needed very good quality power to sound its best, and clearly was not as easy a load to drive as the specs would indicate. It generally ate up budget power sources, and really needed some oomph to open up and sing. This came as no surprise - one look at this compact, dense, parts-packed rock of a speaker and you knew that good clean power would be critical.
Sonically, the StudioMonitor 350 made an impression immediately. It presented a deep, wide, very well imaged soundstage with very little smear and a terrific sense of space and air on all types of acoustic and electric material. The highs had a great clarity and crispness without being fatiguing, and blended smoothly into the midrange. The mids had a really smooth character, with terrific liquidity and speed over vocal and piano tracks and only a miniscule level of shallowness. The lower mids and upper bass, in particular, really push the 350 into elite territory at its price - they mesh seamlessly, and never lose their way with the right power behind them. The 350's bass has an awesome punch and depth, and a superb balance with the overall sonic presentation. The raw depth of the bass shockingly belied the 350's size - no doubt the work of that terrific side-firing passive radiator. It should be noted again, however, that this design needs high quality power to really open up. There's a lot going on in that box, and it needs good stuff to move. Not necessarily Krell monoblocks, of course, but entry-level receivers and tiny, second zone amps need not apply. So, from a pure loudness standpoint, sure they'll play plenty loud, but be prepared to either pay for that privilege or start your amp on a death plunge (which, of course, will cost you anyhow). The 350 also sounded much better with a decent amount of space around it.
The control, coherence, and musicality of this speaker set new standards in its price category. While it has no overt flaws, it also beautifully hides its minute ones inside its wonderful overall neutrality and consistent sonic palette. It stretches over all types of music with ease, and makes you want to hear more. Ironically, its stunning neutrality, consistency, and musicality run counter to the head shaking impression its cosmetic and engineering profile creates - you can't stop looking at it and touching it, and then when you turn it on it disappears.
Read more about the high points and low points of the StudioMonitor 350s on Page 2.