Over the past few months I've been fortunate to audition several speaker ensembles in the $1,300 to $1,800 range. And the scores indicate that I have generally been impressed with the ensembles I have reviewed. While some yield a higher score based on build quality, others may have received higher marks for utilizing a better driver selection, bottom or top end, etc.
• Learn More About Monitor Audio Speakers from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Read other high end audiophile floorstanding speaker reviews from the likes of Monitor Audio, KEF, PSB, Paradigm, Bowers & Wilkins and others.
I tend to be wary of companies who seem to focus their product development towards the aesthetics, and perhaps even roll over model numbers once a year. While I appreciate a unique design if it compliments the performance of a product, I cannot help but be wary.
Then again, there are a handful of companies who rarely make changes to the look and feel of their product (and then only if the occasion warrants it). This "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach is common with many English companies (i.e., Land Rover), and Monitor Audio is no exception.
In the case of the Monitor Audio Bronze Series ensemble, it's what's left alone that makes them different from many other speaker offerings. The Bronze 4 towers (33.5" x 7.25" x 10") are true two and a half way (more on that later) speakers that encapsulate two new Metal Matrix Polymer (MMP) 6.5" woofers and a single 1" Gold Dome tweeter. The Bronze Center (10.25" x 18" x 6.5") features a pair of MMP 5.5" mid/woofs flanking a single 1" Gold Dome tweeter in a sealed cabinet. For the rear channel components in this audition, I chose the larger Bronze 2 bookshelfs over the smaller Bronze 1. The Bronze 2 (13.75" x 7.25" x 10") feature a single 6.5" MMP woofer and single 1" Gold Dome tweeter in a frontward ported enclosure. The cabinet is slightly larger than the Bronze 1 and, with the larger woofer, yields an increased bass response. The subwoofer I matched with the series is the Monitor ASW100 (12.5" cubed). This sub features a frontward firing, 10" long-throw woofer and 120-watt amp in a compact dual rearward firing enclosure complete with all the ins and outs (plus phase shifting) you'll need to get going.
I mentioned that the Bronze 4 towers are "two and a half-way" speakers. And actually so is the Bronze Center. What this means is that Monitor has effectively detuned one of the pair of MMP woofers to compliment the performance of the other rather than work against it. This is done through managing the driver in the
crossover network which, by the way, is comprised of quality components worth mentioning. All of the speakers in the Bronze Series are very simple and straightforward in design. Unplugged with the grilles on they are indeed very boring. (Kinda reminds me of a girl I used to date.) But, once properly set up and roken in, look out, friend.
Read more on Page 2.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
All of the speakers in the Bronze Series are frontward ported (except the sub) so there are no sideward firing woofers built into the towers making setup relatively straightforward. I do, however, have a few recommendations for those of you who will invariably go out and purchase this ensemble. The entire Bronze Series line is made up of precision instruments with quality components and very tight tolerances. And, like any quality component, they should be run in (burned in) to insure maximum performance and longevity.
I recommend a run in period of no less than 24 hours. Likewise, with regards to all speaker ensembles, placement and positioning should be carefully negotiated. I faced the L/R towers in about 15 degrees, a foot and a half from the wall. The subwoofer I positioned between one tower and the Center about a foot from the wall and away from the corner, crossed over at 80Hz.
I connected the Monitor Audio Bronze Series up to my Marantz SR8200 A/V receiver, using Monster Cable Z1 speaker cables, Revelation interconnects and a Rotel HD1080 DVD player all preconditioned by a Monster HTPS 7000. After the run in period, I opted to listen to some DVD-Audio discs and DTS 5.1 music cuts first, rather than jump right in to theater mode.
Although I've been reviewing audio for over seven years, there are still moments when I am tickled and sheepishly awed by a remarkable first impression--this was one of those times. After inserting Faith Hill's Cry, I was immediately transfixed by the purity of her voice and the refined delineation even during the most subtle passages. The transition between each speaker from top to bottom was remarkably flat and the subwoofer was notably musical. I was so impressed by the quality of the Bronze Series that I actually auditioned the B4 towers in 2-channel (stereo) and then the B2 "bookshelfs." (ME in 2-channel!) I would never admit to this if it had not been for the fact that I must pay homage to the B2 bookshelfs as stand-alone speakers. The bass notes achieved were profound and the top-end was absolutely superb.
Getting back to work, I reconnected everything back into the original configuration. Thumbing through my reference DVD collection, I had the feeling I was going to brutalize these Bronze instruments with the harsh audio realities of cinema. I jumped in with both feet and threw in Armageddon. The scene where they are drilling on the meteor is loud and complex with quick cuts of clean dialogue from mission control. These speakers are incredibly fast, with an efficient nature and clean appeal. Highs reach up and bass notes reach out and all with the control and precision one might expect from an ensemble at twice the price. The Bronze Center is an accurate speaker and does an excellent job with dialogue. Be careful though, its detailed approach reveals bad recordings instantly--junk in, junk out.
The ASW100 subwoofer packs quite a wallop for such a small package. I won't go so far as to say it is gut-wrenching, not quite as present as the Infinity Entra I reviewed last month, or as tight as the RBH sub I reviewed as part of the CT-5, but where musicality and well-rounded performance are concerned, the ASW100 impresses.
Yeah, I've reviewed a lot of ensembles in this price range recently, but the Monitor Audio Bronze series outperforms them all hands down. The well-balanced attack of movies and music combined with the exceptional component selection and competitive pricing make this decision a no-brainer. If you're tight on space, or not, you can certainly do well by using B2s in the four corners with the Bronze Center in the middle. I can live with boring looks, and if you're searching for a speaker ensemble in the $1,500 range, then I recommend that you learn to live with boring, too. Although I was putting more than 100 watts per channel of power to the ensemble, I believe the Bronze Series would be well matched to an Onkyo receiver delivering as little as 60 watts per channel. Also note that the Bronze 4 towers are 6 ohm and some receivers will not deliver a fidelity performance at 6 ohms with any degree of stability. Do these speakers justice by matching them with a high quality receiver. Get online and locate a Monitor Audio dealer in your area--and do yourself a favor, bring your checkbook.
Price as Tested: