Monitor Audio PL200 II Floorstanding Speaker Reviewed

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Monitor Audio PL200 II Floorstanding Speaker Reviewed

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Measurements
Here are the measurements for the Monitor PL200 II speaker (click on each chart to view it in a larger window).
Monitor-FR.jpgMonitor-imp.jpgFrequency response
On-axis: ±1.5 dB from 36 Hz to 10 kHz, ±4.0 dB to 20 kHz
Average ±30° horiz: ±1.8 dB from 36 Hz to 10 kHz, ±3.1 dB to 20 kHz
Average ±15° vert/horiz: ±1.5 dB from 36 Hz to 10 kHz, ±3.1 dB to 20 kHz

Impedance
min. 3.6 ohms/117 Hz/-33.9°, nominal 6 ohms

Sensitivity (2.83 volts/one meter, anechoic)
85.7 dB

The first chart shows the frequency response of the PL200 II. The second chart shows the impedance. The computer that runs my LMS analyzer broke down as I was putting these measurements together, so I am temporarily unable to present charts with average responses. In the meantime, I've presented a chart showing the response at 0° on-axis and 10°, 20°, 30°, 45° and 60° off-axis. Ideally, the 0° curve should be more or less flat, and the others should look the same but should tilt down increasingly as the frequency increases.

The PL200 II has an admirably flat response through most of the audio range, with a subtle downward tilt that suggests it's unlikely to strike a listener as bright-sounding. There is a substantial peak in the tweeter's response, centered near 16 kHz, but this will be audible to few, if any, listeners (and certainly not the older male audiophiles who are the likely buyers of this speaker). The grille covering the midrange and tweeter is one of the most acoustically transparent I've encountered, with just a very subtle roll-off, typically about -0.5 dB, beginning above 9 kHz, and a small extra -1.8dB dip centered at 13.5 kHz.

Sensitivity of the PL200 II is about average at 85.7 dB (measured at one meter with a 2.83-volt signal, averaged from 300 Hz to 3 kHz), which means it needs about 25 watts to hit 100 dB. That's the anechoic sensitivity; you'll get perhaps an extra three dB in your listening room. Impedance is rated at four ohms but actually averages about six ohms. Most solid-state and reasonably powerful (at least 30 watts per channel) tube amps shouldn't have any trouble driving this speaker.

Here's how I did the measurements. I measured frequency response using an Audiomatica Clio FW 10 audio analyzer with the MIC-01 measurement microphone, and the speaker driven with an Outlaw Model 2200 amplifier. I used quasi-anechoic technique to remove the acoustical effects of surrounding objects. The speaker was placed atop a turntable that elevated it three inches off the ground. The mic was centered on the tweeter axis and placed at a distance of two meters from the front baffle and a pile of denim insulation was placed on the ground between the speaker and the mic to help absorb ground reflections and improve accuracy of the measurement at low frequencies. Bass response was measured by close-miking the woofers and ports, then scaling the port responses appropriately and adding that sum to the woofer responses. I spliced this result to the quasi-anechoic results at 180 Hz. Results were smoothed to 1/12th octave. Except as noted, I made measurements with the grille covering the midrange and tweeter removed. Post-processing was done using TrueRTA software.

The Downside
The stereo presentation and tonality of the PL200 IIs is straightforward. You'll find a lot to like if you sit down for a long listen, but this isn't the kind of speaker that grabs your attention right away when you walk into a room where it's playing.

For example, in "Edie (Ciao Baby)" by The Cult, the PL200 IIs have what I'd call an appropriately large soundstage. It stretches from speaker to speaker and a few feet beyond, but it doesn't have that colossal sound many people would expect from a heavily produced rock or pop recording. I expect many fans of dipolar panel speakers, such as Magnepans or MartinLogans, may find the PL200 IIs' presentation too reserved for their taste.

The PL200 II's treble sounds great to me, but it may be too reserved for some audiophiles' taste. In R.E.M.'s "1,000,000," for example, the snare drum had more dynamics and snap with some of the other speakers I had around at the time. Of course, there's an upside to this, too: The PL200 II won't fatigue your ears or annoy your living companions.

Comparison and Competition
Unfortunately, I didn't have any speakers in the PL200 II's price range on hand when I did the review, but I did have my trusty $3,500/pair Revel Performa3 F206s. I compared them with the PL200 IIs using my Van Alstine AVA ABX switcher, which allows precisely level-matched comparisons.

The strengths of the PL200 II compared with the F206 start with its bass, of which there's not only more (which in this case is a good thing), but the bass also sounded tighter and better-defined, with more detail and growl than the F206's woofers could muster. The PL200 II's midrange also sounded a little clearer; I could hear a little more detail in vocal recordings. Vocals also never sounded thin through the PL200 IIs, which is something that can happen with the F206 because its 2.15-kHz crossover point puts much more stress on its tweeter. That said, the F206 sounded more open and produced a bigger soundstage.

Competitors in the PL200 II's price range include the $9,000/pair B&W 804 D3, which I reviewed in June 2016. The 804 D3 isn't as neutral-sounding as the PL200 II; its measured response is definitely not flat, and it doesn't sound flat. But the 804 D3 has a wonderful, charming character I loved, and it looks much cooler than the visually understated PL200 II.

Once you get into this price range, speakers start to get more esoteric, and the straightforward engineering of the PL200 II becomes more rare. It's up to you to decide if you'd rather spend your 11 bills on a more by-the-book design like the PL200 II or on a big panel speaker from MartinLogan or Magnepan, or various other options from smaller, boutique brands. We're very much at a hardcore enthusiast price point here, in which case the purchase becomes more a matter of taste. That's why I recommend attending a regional hi-fi show to listen to as many speakers as you can to find out what you like the best, if you don't have years of experience as an audiophile to rely on.

Conclusion
The PL200 II is a beautiful, well-engineered speaker that looks, sounds, and measures like Monitor Audio put years of work into it. Its strengths are terrific bass response, clear midrange, clean and unfatiguing treble, and a realistic sense of space. It doesn't sound as dramatic and exciting as some exotic audiophile speakers, but that seems to be by design. Those who value natural, unhyped sound over audio pyrotechnics will love the PL200 II. 

Additional Resources
• Check out our Floorstanding Speakers category page to read similar reviews.
• Visit the Monitor Audio website for more product information.
Monitor Audio Debuts ASB-10 Soundbar and WS-10 Subwoofer at HomeTheaterReview.com.

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HTR Product Rating for Monitor Audio PL200 II Floorstanding Speaker

Criteria Rating

Performance

4.5

Value

4

Overall

4.5

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