What's the recipe for creating an audiophile quality speaker? It starts with the ingredients; they don't have to be expensive, rare, or fancy, just good. But the result, which pleases the senses and makes it all worthwhile, ultimately hinges on the execution.
Whether we're talking speaker design or cooking, the result should be more than just the sum of its parts: It should satisfy the senses and please the purchaser. This is why we've got a tasty 5-channel speaker system on today's menu featuring Monolith by Monoprice Encore.
The review system consists of three separate Encore speaker models: The T6 tower, the B6 bookshelf, and the C6 center. These speakers all have 6.5-inch mid/bass drivers, hence the naming convention. The Encore line also includes the T5, B5, and C5 variants, which utilize 5-inch drivers and cost marginally less.
The Monolith Encore T6 tower ($399.99 each) is a 2.5-way design with a 25mm soft dome tweeter in a deep waveguide and three 6.5-inch drivers, two of which handle just bass while the topmost unit also handles midrange.
The first thing to know about these speakers is that Monoprice rates them at 4-ohm impedance, and they dip down to 3 ohms. Monoprice recommends that you drive this tower with between 50 and 180 W of power.
The rated sensitivity is 87.8 dB ([email protected]) technically puts them in the "power-hungry" category, but it's nothing a decent AVR can't handle and if you invest in a dedicated amp, you'll surely get more current out of it with these speakers.
The upshot here is the rated frequency response of 37 Hz to 20 kHz makes these a viable option for standalone use—as a stereo pair—while offering the flexibility to choose a low crossover setting with bass management and a subwoofer when deployed in a 2.1 or multichannel system.
The Monolith Encore B6 bookshelf ($179.99 each) serves as a perfect complement to the T6 tower. It's a two-way design that shares the same tweeter with the waveguide, and essentially the same 6.5" woofer, albeit with a crossover that is optimal for the bookshelf model using a slightly lower crossover point vs the T6.
Recommended power is 50 to 150 W and like its siblings, it is rated at 4 ohms nominal impedance, the frequency response is 49 Hz to 20 kHz and the sensitivity is 85.0 dB ([email protected]).
I used a pair as surrounds but they are highly capable bookshelf speakers in their own right that will surely please music lovers seeking an audiophile listening experience on a tight budget. Just add a subwoofer for a full-range 2.1-system, 5.1 system or beyond.
Surround sound systems leaned heavily on the center channel speaker, it often handles the majority of the sound at any given point in time and often is tasked with the most important role in the speaker system: Reproducing dialogue in movies and vocals in music.
The Monolith Encore C6 center speaker ($249.99) has the same 50-150 W power handling as the B6 bookshelf, but the sensitivity is a bit higher at 87.7 dB ([email protected]), which is only 0.1 dB less than the T6 tower, so for all practical purposes in a surround-sound system, this center will keep up with the towers.
Just because I use a subwoofer doesn't mean that you absolutely have to with these speakers. I measured excellent bass extension, I have no reason to doubt the results reported by Audyssey plus confirmed with my ears and test tones.
In-room, the T6 towers are providing clean, solid bass down to about 32 Hz. Shutting off the sub and running the system with the towers set to large proved the point: As long as you have the power, these towers will generate their own deep and powerful bass.
Even when I cranked the volume using just sine waves, and got the drivers moving in and out to what must be near peak excursion, the bass sound was clean and visceral. But, as I walked around the room, I was reminded of how many issues there are with peaks and nulls when you don’t have a sub.
As a rule of thumb, if possible, get a sub and find an acoustically advantageous spot for it—even if your speakers, like these Monolith Encores, have solid bass response already.
There is a big hint as to how this speaker manages to play deep and clean, and it's found on the back of the cabinet. It's the port! You usually see a much smaller diameter and length of a port on a speaker like this. It is clearly designed to leverage the large, deep speaker cabinet and deliver enhanced deep bass output while avoiding chuffing. It works.
You can even run these speakers as a 2.0 stereo pair, and if you've got a beefy 2-channel amp, they will rock your house—rattle windows and all that— if you ask, or if you go moderate on the volume, they'll impress with delicacy and depth that you're not expecting from speakers selling for well under a grand per pair.
What's great about the Monolith Encore speakers is they'll take a lot of power, and with the 4-ohm impedance, good amps will oblige and deliver. With a good amp, 4-ohm output can be up to double the 8-ohm output, without any penalty in terms of distortion.
The deep bass response—even the bookshelf extends to 40 Hz in-room per Audyssey measurements—gives you a lot of flexibility in setting a crossover. If you use an 80 Hz crossover like I do and relieve the speaker of deep bass duties, the output levels you can achieve before hitting its limits are quite intense!
The setup and listening for this review occurred in two stages, separated by several months. I set them up for several weeks when they first arrived, but without the benefit of MultEQ-X software. Due to prior commitments, I put them aside and wrote up reviews on several other speakers that were in my queue. After several months, I returned to these Monolith Encore speakers.
So here's the cool thing about these Monoliths: They sound so good, that it does not feel like a downgrade when I swap out speakers that cost thousands of dollars per pair for these much more affordable towers. My subjective impression remained the same, which is that the sound quality is truly excellent.
Let's start with the basics: The T6 towers can do "perfect" mono. What does that mean? It can make the sound of a mono recording appear to emanate from a holographic, floating "point source" suspended in mid-air between the two speakers. If there are phase issues, you get false stereo effects or a diffuse sound. But not so here! When playing The Kingsmen's version of Louie Louie, the sound came from that exact center spot. Of course, all the lyrics were perfectly clear through these speakers (just kidding, but it is fun to try and decipher them through good speakers like these).
Louie Louie is a terrible recording, but the rest of what I used for evaluation is produced at a very high level of skill. I like to listen using the Dolby Surround feature that expands stereo into surround sound. Tracks by DJ/producer Blockhead from the album Bubble Bath tend to work super well with upmixing, creating a three-dimensional soundfield that is encompassing and immersive, but not overwrought or cheesy.
The main aspect of performance I want to call out is how these nicely balanced, detailed, high-performing speakers work together. Sounds travel around your head, not from speaker to speaker. The whole surround-sound system exhibits good imaging, which gives it the ability to make sounds appear to float, and move freely around the room. This is a key benefit of having a matched system of high-performance speakers handling surround sound.
Great as upmixing and using as a sub is, I kept being surprised at the standalone, un-EQ'd capabilities of the T6 towers. If I put my AVR in pure/direct Stereo mode, it bypasses room correction and shuts off the sub. And the listening is seductively great!
The album Living Dub Volume 6 by Burning Spear provided a perfect example, reggae dub is well known for stereo mixes that are maximalist in nature, big echoes and reverb, and panning sounds are all par for the course but there's also tight production, visceral drums, etc. I was worried that without a sub, the system would flub the bass, and I'd miss out on the feel of the percussion.
All concerns melted away upon listening, these speakers produce that tight bass you can feel even at a modest volume, and without sounding too loud. Even un-EQ'd, just as a stereo pair, these tower speakers offer genuine audiophile performance.
To my ears anyhow, Monolith Encore T6 towers are superior in overall performance versus what you get for twice the money in a pair of GoldenEar Triton Seven speakers (which I have on hand for direct comparison). The sound is more open, and the Encores are not as sensitive to the exact amount of toe-in.
The company with speakers I am familiar with—from reviews and multiple demos—that comes closest in price/performance to these towers, is SVS with its Prime series. But even those come at a 50% price premium versus these Monoprice, and the towers don't have the outrigger feet that give the Encore speakers extra stability. The one thing the SVS system does have over the Encore is a center channel with a better 3-way design that places the tweeter over the midrange.
The C6 center is a horizontal MTM design, which in general gets criticism for off-axis deviation in response. My take is the concern is overblown, but technically 3-way centers with a relatively low crossover to the twin woofers have a superior measured dispersion characteristic and avoid comb filter artifacts.
What matters to most center channel shoppers is dialog clarity, and my listening revealed zero issues in that regard. The center channel is, to my ears, just as clear and neutral and resolving as the towers and B6 bookshelf model I used as surrounds. But it should be noted that Monoprice has its own three-way center channel solution, the THX-365C, which is part of its higher-performance THX-certified home theater speaker line.
Look, I can spend all day tossing superlatives at these speakers and it won't really mean anything versus hearing them in person. But that's the crux of it, give these speakers a listen—even just a pair of the B6 bookshelf on its own, as a stereo pair, powered by a modest amp like an AVR—and what you'll hear is all the stuff audiophiles rave about. The soundstage and imaging and clarity and tightness and cohesion and maybe even some whipped cream with a cherry on top.
The long story short is: If you are shopping among value-oriented high-performance speakers in a classic form factor and appearance, then you must consider these new Monolith Encore options.
They may not have the brash appearance of Klipsch Referenced Premiere, but they can jam out just as hard as rock and roll speakers, for example when blasting Ministry's A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste—the moment I hit play on "Thieves" I jumped out of my chair!
But also, they dish out Mozart with exquisite subtlety. And if you want an almost clinical clarity (sans fatigue) with which you can deep-listen to all the layers in a Boards of Canada album, like the classic Music Has The Right To Children, you get that too—the Encore 5,1 Best of all worlds!
And duh, yeah it all sounds fantastic when I'm playing Grand Theft Auto Online (Xbox Series X enhanced edition). For gamers, the most important thing when it comes to surround is being able to tell direction and distance using sound. But there's also the excellent music, and then there's the hair-raising adrenaline of going through an intense sequence that ends in a crazy explosion and the sound from the game keeps up with everything you are seeing.
You see, with games just like with movies, the speakers should in effect "disappear" and render sound objects as well as ambiance in a holographic manner. Good speakers do this, and when optimized with room correction the effect can be sublime. Monolith Encore speakers are, ultimately, good enough to achieve this higher-level sound.
So, what else do you want to know? How about this: I'm in the market for a new speaker system, now that my GoldenEars have been soundly defeated by speakers that cost half what they did new. With my actual, precious money and balancing my budget versus my love of great sound, these Monoprice Encores check every box in terms of what I want to hear. They are true price-performance champions.
If you're looking to invest a bit more in sound, you should for sure check out our review of a Monolith THX Ultra speaker system. I also reviewed the THX speakers when I was Editor at AVS Forum and can personally vouch for their superior performance, they are among the finest speakers I have heard and represent a rather remarkable value.
But then so too are these Encore speakers. Pretty much the whole point of Monoprice Monolith is that you don't have to sit around waiting for high-performing speakers to go on steep discount like you do if you (for example) are shopping for JBL, where the MSRP is pretty much double what they go on sale for several times year. With Monoprice, you are already paying that sale price.
Monolith Encore speakers don't look as fancy as high-end luxury speakers, but they also don't have the boutique price tag that comes with automotive-grade paint jobs or cabinets that look like modern art sculptures.
The fact is, to achieve great sound from a speaker, all the ingredients you need are present in the Monolith Encore. And while I may seem critical of the aesthetics, the understated good looks are a plus in my book. You get more than your money's worth with Monolith Encore speakers, you get a system that delivers exceptional listening experiences. It's my Editor's Choice pick for picky shoppers who want speakers that do right by their hard-earned dollars.
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