Monitor Audio Studio 10 Loudspeakers Reviewed

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The Monitor Audio Studio 10s, like all world-class minis, have the capability of fooling you into thinking that they're huge boxes. This is done in one of two ways, and you can guess which most of them

employ. The first is to deliver bags of bass, which the Studio 10s do not do. The second is to create a soundfield in three dimensions, with scale which dwarfs the speakers themselves. In
this the Studio 10 is something of a miracle worker, because it created a stage with width, depth and height of convincing and realistic dimensions. By comparison, the vista created by my cherished LS3/5as seems like a 3/4 scale model.

Don't let my reference to the inability to produce 'bags of bass' suggest that these sound in any way 'light'. For a speaker of this size, the Studio 10 is on a par with the best and is not
embarrassed by champions like the much dearer Sonus Fabers. The Studio 10 may lack extension when compared with much larger speakers but it compensates for this with exceptional slam and control. And it's this characteristic, directly attributable to the super-stiff metal bass driver, which gives the Studio 10 its own special appeal in a sector crowded with fine products. And when that sector includes a couple of Acoustic Energy faves, the Celestion SL6/600/700, the Sonus Fabers, the Ensemble, the SOTA and a few others, you can see that a new contender really does need an edge.

The bass performance tends toward the 'dry' or 'lean', in part because small speakers can only ameliorate this characteristic with a minimum of weight as a distraction. But this impressive control is a desirable enough virtue to allow some listeners to forgive the lack of extension. Compared to true minis like the LS3/5a, though, the Studio 10 is a headbanger's dream and easily on a par with the more ample minis of SL6-ish dimensions. The only way you'll extract the maximum from the this speaker is to fix it to a substantial support. I used the Partington Dreadnaughts, but Monitor Audio has released a dedicated stand (to sell for #299 per pair) which wasn't available when I pushed for this scoop. One can assume that it will be up to the task; it weighs enough at 25kg...

The upper registers, while easily recognizable to those familiar with other recent Monitor Audio designs, improve on the rest of the family because they integrate far more smoothly with the lower registers. The transistion from metal to metal is far more homogeneous -- as you'd expect -- than a transition from metal to plastics, so the argument about using identical materials for both drivers holds true. The Studio 10 just might be the most coherent and consistent of the high-end mini-monitors when it comes to top-to-bottom seamlessness. This is not to diminish the achievements of the competition, most of which are carefully
crafted to allow for a discontinuity in materials. It must be said, however, that a critical listener can detect the character differences (however subtle) which help to identify the cone or dome materials. If a perfect speaker would incorporate a single, full range driver, then the most readily apparent 'second choice' would be a two-way employing drivers of similar construction. That's why multi-way electrostatics or ribbons seem more coherent that panel/cone hybrids; the Studio 10 shows that it also applies to speakers employing dynamic drivers.

My penchant for crystal-clear female vocals (Juice Newton, Connie Francis) or soul which drips with emotion (Aretha, Howard Tate, Aretha, Sam & Dave, Aretha) naturally forces me to focus on mid-band performance. The Studio 10s, while not a match for my 'vocal reference' LS3/5as, did a marvellous job with both the textures of throaty male voices and the burr-free sweeps of distaff country warblers. Sibilance was tolerable rather than indetectable; the absence of extra 'warmth' in the midband meant that the Studio 10s sounded more life-like with valve amps than solid-staters for most vocal material. Curiously, the Studio 10s' lack of warmth was not apparent when dealing with acoustic instruments, so I'd suggest that you audition them with both uncluttered vocal recordings and small scale acoustic works before you form an opinion about this particular characteristic.

Intentionally or not, the Studio 10 lives up to its name because the aforementioned dryness and bass precision combine to lend the speaker an analytical air -- just what you'd want when monitoring recordings. Fortunately for music lovers, this characteristic falls short of being clinical. A good sense of decay, ambience and smoothness keep the edges from intruding, while the benefits of surgical precision mean clear-cut images and bullseye positioning.

Cautions are few and mainly concerned with the choice of ancillaries. The Studio 10 is not a forgiving design; by comparison, the Sonus Faber is 'easy'. If you don't choose carefully, the Studio 10 can spit and produce a graininess which many will find intolerable. With solid speaker stands and a hefty amplifier, though, the Studio 10 is yet another dream solution
for those who want or can only house small systems. Mo Iqbal may not appreciate my saying this, but I reckon that the Studio 10 is the most complete product Monitor Audio has produced since the MA6 over a decade ago. I just hope that it's demonstrated with the care it demands.

Additional Resources

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HTR Product Rating for Monitor Audio Studio 10 Loudspeakers

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