With the subwoofer out of the equation, I set the StudioMonitor 55s at 40 Hz to have most of the information sent to them. Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits (Columbia) was up next and the new and improved StudioMonitor 55s magically conveyed their voices. Art Garfunkel's voice on "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was captured and portrayed accurately alongside Paul Simon's piano. What great songwriting throughout the entire album. The Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55 bookshelf loudspeaker casts a wide net of sound and it does not lack bass at all. I love two-channel music and the StudioMonitor 55 allows me to rock out appropriately.
Starting with my first 24-bit 192kHz music file, I listened to Marquise Knox's Here I Am (APO Records). Many consider Knox to be a blues guitar-playing prodigy who started very young, and it was nice to hear his guitar accompanied by his made-of-molasses voice. The StudioMonitor 55 did not disappoint and the bass radiator was ever-present without being intrusive. I really like the bass radiator idea over rear-ported types, just based on the limitations a rear-ported speaker presents when trying to place speakers. Rear ports can be tricky, for if placed too close to a wall, the bass becomes boomy, but there was no hint of boominess in the StudioMonitor 55's top-mounted racetrack radiator.
Next up, I switched to an SACD by Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia), and dove into the music. The sound of Coltrane and Adderley on saxophone was musical and on the mark. Bill Evans was tickling the piano and the timbre of the instruments sounded incredibly natural. All of a sudden, it hit me: bi-wiring has opened up the Definitive Technology StudioMonitor and my initial feelings about bi-wiring are wavering. With the Emotiva XPA-1's in control of the bi-wired StudioMonitor 55, the sound had become full-bodied and much more lush than it was via the wiring of a single terminal. I started to realize how good the Definitive Technology StudioMonitor was when I played guitar-heavy music, especially electric guitar. That said, it handled all instruments well.
The Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55 is just about the right fit for my living room. I can live without mating a subwoofer to the SM55 but others will want a subwoofer in the mix. If you are interested in mating a subwoofer to it, Definitive Technology offers the SuperCube 4000 and 6000 subwoofers as possibilities for pairing with the StudioMonitor 55. You can add the Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 45 at $398 per pair and the CS-8040HD center channel for $499 to create a 5.1 system. The bookshelf speakers easily filled up the room. For their size, they are really transparent and they excel in the midrange. There was no smearing in the highs, no matter how hard the Emotiva XPA-1 pushed the Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55. The StudioMonitor 55 excels in the midrange bass and this is where the "technology" in Definitive Technology starts to shine through. My prevailing thought was, "Damn, I'm having fun listening to my music." No matter what genre I played, the StudioMonitor 55 bookshelf speaker kept spitting out really great sound without a hint of harshness. I also listened to classical music featuring Yo-Yo Ma/New York Philharmonic/Kurt Masur in Concertos from the New World (Sony), and I was in for a surprise, since the StudioMonitor 55 proved to be a great speaker for classical music. Talk about keeping up with speedy transients and providing intense ambience. The StudioMonitor 55 really does provide a three-dimensional image that produces amazing imaging and a wide, immersive soundstage for bookshelf monitors. In my home, I could not break the StudioMonitor 55.
If I may be a bit nitpicky, the cloth grilles that shroud the top-mounted bass radiator may look stylish, but they excel at collecting dust and debris, which in my case meant pesky little strands of pet fur. I'm not sure how to curb this issue, other than to suggest that you have a light power duster or Swiffer on permanent standby.
Although the StudioMonitor 55 is fine when placed in or on a bookshelf, I prefer the Definitive Technology speaker on stands, meaning you will incur more cost to get at the StudioMonitor 55's better sound. Thankfully, Definitive's factory stands aren't that much extra, though there are cheaper options if you're willing to shop third party.
Also, to get the best sound out of the Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55, you should bi-wire the speaker, though I understand not everyone will be able to do that.
Competition and Comparison
At $598 per pair, it's going to be hard to compete fairly with the Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55s, for they are not only affordable, but you gain so much performance with the new enhancements and the top-mounted bass radiator. The Decware DM945 is competitive, albeit at $995. It is rear-ported and more expensive, but built to order. Emotiva sells the XRM-6.1 monitor at $319 per pair, which is an absolute steal, though I'm not certain it outright bests the StudioMonitor 55. There is also the Aperion's Verus Grand bookshelf speaker for $699 per pair, and Wharfedale offers the Diamond 10.1 at $350 a pair, which is also a great deal, but which is ultimately right for you is going to be determined by your personal tastes and budget. I think I'm siding with the StudioMonitor 55 for now, but you are welcome to differ from my opinion.
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Fun! Fun! Fun! The Definitive Technology StudioMonitor 55 provided the most enjoyment I have had reviewing speakers in a long time. The StudioMonitor is an absolute steal for $598 per pair. Definitive Technology StudioMonitors have been in my home for the last two months and in that time they have proven to be some of the most - ahem - definitive leaders in speaker technology. The StudioMonitor 55 is refined beyond its asking price, which in my opinion makes it an unfair fight against other similar-sized speakers. I love the StudioMonitor 55's control and top to bottom balance when bi-wired, though I found them to be nearly as engaging when not. The new racetrack-style, passive bass radiator supplies enough low-end augmentation that, in certain installations, a subwoofer isn't necessary, which adds to the StudioMonitor 55's value. I can only imagine what a set of five StudioMonitor 55s must sound like for multi-channel music and movies. As a two-channel bookshelf speaker, the StudioMonitor 55 is a hell of a bargain and one of the industry's top budget performers.
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