All-metal drivers are nothing new. Anyone possessing old copies of the missing-in-action Hi-Fi Yearbook can rattle off a list of forgotten manufacturers who offered metal woofers and tweeters of myriad shapes and sizes. The current revival in metal as a driver material, concentrated so far on dome tweeters, has been made possible because of advances in metallurgy and manufacturing techniques, but few makers have been tempted to create modern-day metal woofers. With only Acoustic Energy springing readily to mind, I'm here to tell you that the number of makers has doubled with the introduction of Monitor Audio's Studio 10.
Like the Acoustic Energy models, a couple of Celestions and legends like the LS3/5a, the Studio 10 is a classic example of what is primarily a British specialty: costly, 'high end'
compacts. The Americans still can't understand why British consumers are so enamoured with pocket rockets, but few of my compatriots have experienced life in a 10x12ft listening room. Whatever others think, I'm particular fond of the genre and welcome most new entries.
Monitor Audio's candidate features the now-(painfully)-familiar 26mm gold metal dome which has already appeared in at least five 'MA' prefixed models. Briefly, then, the tweeter consists of a magnesium/aluminium dome with an anodized layer of gold (hence the colour), fitted to an ABS-plastics plate. The anodising improves the rigidity and pushes the first breakup mode to beyond 28kHz, in contrast with breakup modes occurring at around 21kHz in earlier metal dome designs. For high power handling (Monitor Audio eschews protection circuits), better cooling and improved damping, the tweeter employs a vented coil former, ferrofluid cooling and specially selected surround material.
The news is what's down below, a development which means that Monitor Audio's new speaker sports two drivers made from the same material. The 170mm cone is formed from soft, pure magnesium/aluminium sheet, anodized on both sides with a special ceramic coating. This differs from other, spun-formed metal woofers because the press forming (in one piece, as per polypropylene drivers) ensures the consistency of the thickness
from the centre out to the edges and with no tolerance variations. The cone is strengthened on the outside rim through the formation of an integral lip. The manufacturing process
ensures that the cone opening is perfectly spherical for superior coupling to the 32mm high temperature voice coil; this also improves heat transfer. Other benefits of both the forming
process and the ceramic anodizing include greater cone stiffness as well as superior scratch and corrosion resistance. The finished cone weighs in at 5g, which MA mainman Mo Iqbal reckons is the lightest in the galaxy. Another feature of the cone is a first breakup mode above 6kHz, well beyond the 4kHz crossover point (at 6dB/octave).
The woofer also uses a vented pole magnet like the tweeter and is fitted to a 10mm-thick diecast chassis. The crossover is a simple two-element design using a ceramic resistor to correct the tweeter sensitivity. The main ingredients are polyester capacitors and custom-made 100-strand wire. The Studio 10 is supplied ready-to-biwire, with the bass and treble pairs of five-way binding posts linked by short lengths of wire.
The drivers are fitted to a rear-ported cabinet fashioned throughout from 18mm Medite, veneered inside and out and 'bituminized', which is Mo's way of saying that he's damped the
cabinet with the same stuff used to deaden car body panels. The cabinets measure 400x200x240mm (HWD) not counting the removable grilles; they're perfect for mounting on 24in stands of the chunky variety.
I'd rather not waste any calories typing out a justification for high-priced mini-speakers, because the perceived value of such boxes will always pale alongside the gigantic, multi-drivered beasts available for the same money. You already know the reasons why some would prefer a small box to a floor-standing behemoth, so let's just say that the Studio 10 is typical of the breed in that it's solidly built and packs a wallop not available from like-sized speakers at 1/10th of the price. I'll tell you now that the Studio 10 sells for a few pence less than a grand, and that it is not a rival for the more substantial floor-standing bass generators. As I fully comprehend the notion of niche marketing and am in favour of judging products in context, I have assessed the Studio 10 only in terms of other quality 'minis'. To judge them in terms of dipoles or floor-standing phone kiosks is a useless exercise.
The Studio 10 was auditioned with amplifiers ranging from the solid-state Aragon 200-watter to 50W valve amps to the 50W Solen Tiger tube/tranny hybrid. The Studio 10s proved relatively easy to drive, but the prospective user is advised to go for more rather than less power. While reasonable levels could be obtained from small amplifiers, in keeping with an 88.5dB sensitivity at 8 ohms, the Studio 10's real virtues were only apparent with ample reserves of power. Smallish amplifiers with even the most minute traces of clipping will be shown up by the Studio 10s, and I'd find it quite tragic if you misjudged these speakers because of the amplifier.