Monitor Audio Studio Review – High-end in compact, elegant design

If you want to address customers who not only expect the finest in sound, but also value exclusive, simple design, then Monitor Audio Studio could be the answer. Elegance paired with sovereign appearance despite the most compact design are united here, as our extensive test proves.

It would hardly be necessary to mention it, because it should have been common knowledge long ago that hi-fi must be understood as part of a modern lifestyle. After all, hi-fi is a variety of everyday luxury that people want to afford. It is therefore crucial that hi-fi can be seamlessly integrated into the customer’s environment, that it is perceived as an enrichment in every respect.

Loudspeakers are by nature the crowning glory of a hi-fi chain. There is no getting around them. Regardless of which electronics are used at the beginning, the quality of the entire chain ultimately depends on the quality of the speakers at the end. It is therefore absolutely essential that loudspeaker systems in a living room are not perceived as disturbing but as an integral part, that they can be harmoniously integrated into the room and thus match the interior. Only in this way will customers ultimately accept hi-fi in their environment.

For a loudspeaker manufacturer, this is of course an immensely complex matter, because when designing his solutions, he must not only ensure that they are flawless from a purely technical point of view, that they meet his specific idea of sound characteristics, but also pay attention to design trends and fashionable currents and incorporate these promptly into the product range. Even for loudspeaker specialists who are about as broadly based as the English company Monitor Audio Ltd. this is no easy task. However, a product range that is as broad as possible offers the chance to reach as many customers as possible with different concepts.

Not only does Monitor Audio Ltd. cover all relevant areas of loudspeaker development, from classic stereo to home cinema and custom installation, but the respective product groups also offer a wide variety of series that naturally follow a basic, largely uniform philosophy, but are also very versatile in terms of design. From rather classical approaches to very modern, innovative solutions, a lot is represented here.

First and foremost, a speaker system stands out, because while Monitor Audio Ltd. is very careful to develop product series that are already broadly based in themselves in order to be best equipped for the most diverse tasks, this speaker system is, at least so far, a loner, namely the Monitor Audio Studio.

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Alone on a wide corridor…

In fact, Monitor Audio Ltd. has a unique design concept with Monitor Audio Studio, so this speaker system is not part of a product line. Clearly, this speaker is a solution aimed at modern, design-oriented music lovers who are looking for a solution that is compact and focused on the essentials. It was thus designed primarily for users who rely on innovative, flexible electronics that offer modern hi-fi solutions from a wide range of manufacturers, even in the premium segment, and which can be integrated into any modern living environment simply by virtue of their design.

Monitor Audio Ltd. clearly describes the Monitor Audio Studio as a premium-class solution, and identifies this loudspeaker as a system that is designed to provide unrestricted sound reproduction in a compact form, while at the same time offering a detailed and powerful reproduction. How does Monitor Audio Ltd. intend to achieve this, and how did it succeed? Questions that we will get to the bottom of in this test…

Clear lines, very subtle in appearance…

Even at first glance, it is clear that the designers were guided by modern industrial design, slim form, clear lines, free of any dazzle and embellishment, and even in the choice of colouring, they were very careful not to use any kind of veneer. Only Satin Grey, Satin White and Satin Black are available as options. And while it’s normally almost obligatory for us to write that a loudspeaker grill is included, we have to point out here that no loudspeaker grill is provided at all. The Monitor Audio Studio should show its full splendour, and this includes the special arrangement of the chassis at the front, as well as the very specially designed baffle. But more about that in a moment.

It is striking that the Monitor Audio Studio is a very slim speaker, it measures no more than 156 mm in width, and the height is also very compact at 340 mm. In order to still achieve a reasonable volume, the depth of 361 mm is relatively generous. It’s also remarkable, even if we’re already talking about the technical key data, that the Monitor Audio Studio weighs 7.58 kg with these extremely compact dimensions. The reason for this can be found in the elaborate construction…

Sophisticated housing construction

As is well known, a solid construction of the cabinet of a loudspeaker system is virtually indispensable for accurate reproduction. Especially in the compact segment, this requires a clever approach instead of a sheer “battle of materials”. The developers at Monitor Audio Ltd. have used a simple but clever “trick”, which is only revealed to the user by a tiny detail on the back of the speakers.

The Monitor Audio Studio is completely symmetrical, as can be seen from the chassis on the front, and this is further emphasized by a look at the rear. This is of course also continued inside.

The cabinet of the Monitor Audio Studio is, how could it be otherwise, made of MDF, whereby a comparatively low wall thickness of 15 mm was used to achieve sufficient volume with such compact dimensions. It goes without saying that high manufacturing quality with the smallest tolerances allows for a flawless cabinet, whereby the inside is appropriately damped. Solid bracing of the sides is achieved by the construction of an inner chamber, which also accommodates the crossover, and is directly connected to the rear connection panel, thus centrally located. The symmetry already mentioned several times is also maintained in the rear bass reflex system of the Monitor Audio Studio, because the inner chamber divides the airflow of the two mid-bass drivers into a slot on the top and another slot on the bottom. To put it in a nutshell, the bass reflex system uses elongated outlet openings at the top and bottom. The manufacturer refers to these as Monitor Audio HiVe II reflex ports with slots.

And then there’s that detail we were talking about, two massive screws, one above and one below the rear connection panel. Hidden behind them are metal rods that go all the way through the interior to the drivers on the front, even screwed tightly to them. The drivers, in turn, are not directly embedded in the MDF baffle, but are located on a separate aluminium panel. This aluminium plate has been precisely recessed into the baffle, whereby the screws mentioned above are screwed from the rear to the front, thus eliminating the need for screws that would impair the perfect appearance. A rather simple concept, but exactly for this reason very ingenious, which gives the whole construction enormous stability. This is what well thought-out solutions look like.

Classic D’Appolito arrangement around AMT tweeter drivers…

Monitor Audio Ltd. advertises that the Monitor Audio Studio uses technology from the outstanding Monitor Audio Platinum II Series, with particular reference to the two low-mid drivers that make up this compact model, which are based on a so-called D’Appolito arrangement. Have we already said that symmetry plays an important role here?

D’Appolito arrangement means nothing else than that the two 4 inch drivers are arranged above and below the tweeter. This increases the effect of the drivers by their arrangement alone, while at the same time, in combination with the tweeter, a very directional radiation is achieved, which in turn minimises the influence of the room.

The low/midrange drivers are modified drivers from the Monitor Audio Platinum PL500 II, they are called Monitor Audio RDT II drivers and use the so-called Monitor Audio C-CAM technology and polymer cast chassis. The heart of the system is a diaphragm in sandwich construction, whereby a carbon fibre fabric forms the basis, on which a layer of so-called Nomex with a special honeycomb structure is applied, and a wafer-thin aluminium layer as a final layer. This results in a very rigid, yet very light construction, which should be able to reproduce every detail accurately and with the appropriate dynamics.

An extremely detailed reproduction is also promised for the AMT tweeter, which the manufacturer calls MPD, i.e. Micro Pleated Diaphragm High Frequency Converter. Here, too, a very low weight of the diaphragm is said to provide incredible clarity, whereby the description of its function is based on an extremely fast accordion, in which the folds are compressed at top speed, so that smooth, extensive and naturally fast reproduction is possible even up to the ultrasonic range. According to the manufacturer, this means a natural sound without sharpness and distortion.

Also for the crossover, the manufacturer relies solely on excellent components, such as polypropylene film capacitors. Even the connection panel has been designed with every detail in mind in order to eliminate any sound-damaging influences. Therefore, rhodium-plated connections are used to guarantee the lowest resistance and reliable “contact” for many years.

The new Monitor Audio Studio should be able to reproduce a frequency range between 48 Hz and 60 kHz, with the crossover working at 2.7 kHz. The impedance for the new Monitor Audio Studio is specified as 4 ohms and the recommended amplifier power as 100 watts, with 40 to 100 watt amplifiers being recommended. According to the manufacturer, the sensitivity is 86 dB and the maximum sound pressure is 110 dBA.

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So much for technology…

As essential as the technology may be, numbers alone do not say much, but practice is much more important, and for this we had a fine chain of products at our disposal around Monitor Audio Studio. We used a solution from the Arcam HDA range, the Arcam SA20 Integrated Amplifier, which boasts outstanding Class G technology, as well as an Arcam CDS50 SACD/ CD player, which served as our primary source with its integrated streaming functionality. When it came to cables, we relied on solutions from Wireworld, whether it was the choice of signal cables, speaker cables or power cables.

First of all, we placed the Monitor Audio Studio where it is probably often actually used, namely on a sideboard. This is also the position that the manufacturer himself likes to use product photos to illustrate the flexible integration into the living environment.

Let me say one thing about this: just put it up, and well, that’s not how it works. And this has nothing to do with the Monitor Audio Studio alone, but concerns all so-called shelf speaker systems. Of course, it is tempting to simply place the speakers on such a piece of furniture, after all, such compact systems are chosen to save space. Without the right “base”, however, you are giving away an enormous amount of quality. A good decoupling is therefore a must.

For such tests, we are therefore happy to use solutions such as IsoAcoustics Aperta Series or in-akustik Excellence Gel Absorber, to name just two examples of the countless solutions available for this problem. This is the only way a compact speaker on a lowboard or sideboard can actually unfold its full potential without transferring energy into the furniture.

After just a few bars of music it was clear that the Monitor Audio Studio’s comparatively highly directional radiation described above can be a great advantage, especially when the room is not perfect, as is often the case in a normal living room. With a little patience, the Monitor Audio Studio was eventually set up in an optimal position for a comparatively direct radiation towards the listening position, and thus a reproduction was achieved that is hardly affected by any disturbing factors in the room. This applies, for example, to rather sparsely furnished living rooms that have been propagated as chic for years, floors with tiles, rooms with large glass surfaces through windows or doors, in short, anything that can be considered problematic from the point of view of room acoustics.

So that this is not misunderstood, of course the radiation of the Monitor Audio Studio is not so strongly directed that it only has a very small sweet spot, and as soon as you move your head a little, you are already outside. In fact, it is possible to cover a sufficiently large area with the finest sound to enjoy music while sitting comfortably on the couch, not only alone, but also in pairs…

In the course of our test, we naturally placed the speaker on a stand, the stand that Monitor Audio Ltd. offers as the optimal solution for the Monitor Audio Studio. Once again, based on this experience, we have to conclude that even a bookshelf speaker ultimately needs a stand to be able to really reach the full potential of the speaker system. Despite perfect decoupling, the placement on a conventional furniture is always a compromise, the placement on a stand is always the optimal solution.

The fact that Monitor Audio Studio has done it for us was probably already apparent from what we wrote so far, after all, we were repeatedly leading the way in terms of fine sound. But what does this mean in concrete terms?

First of all, the Monitor Audio Studio presents itself as remarkably “grown-up”, in a typical living room of 15 to 25 m2 it plays with great ease, nothing that would allow conclusions to be drawn about its extremely compact dimensions. The basses are punchy, crisp and to the point, voices and instruments have contour and body, and are reproduced with astonishing detail. The reproduction of the sound stage in width and depth is also extremely impressive, not least in view of the compact design.

One thing was once again clearly audible during this test, compact speakers do not mean that one should save on electronics, it is certainly a solution that is powerful enough to have everything under control. This applies all the more to the Monitor Audio Studio, as it has a sensitivity of 86 dB, which is quite usual in this class, but in the end is low, so it is grateful to have a powerful gaming partner and rewards this with appropriate pressure. A task that the Arcam SA20 Integrated Amplifier took on with flying colours.

In conclusion, the following can be said in summary…

Getting to the Point

The Monitor Audio Studio initially attracts with an extremely elegant appearance, it facilitates integration into the living room through very compact dimensions, but also through a radiation characteristic in which any acoustic inadequacies in the room are not so important. A sophisticated design and technologies borrowed from speakers located above the Monitor Audio Studio deliver a flawless sound in the most elegant, compact form.

HiFiBLOG Award Excellent

The new Monitor Audio Studio is the result of the company’s efforts to create a loudspeaker system that is both elegant and compact, yet powerful and of a high quality to appeal to a wide range of users, even those who do not want to compromise on performance. Our extensive testing shows that Monitor Audio Ltd. meets this objective with flying colours.

Manufacturer:Monitor Audio Ltd.
Distribution:R.M.S. State of the Art Audiovisual Products
Price:Monitor Audio Studio € 1.300,-
Monitor Audio Studio Ständer € 500,-
The Good– Extremely elegant and simple design
– highly compact
– fits into every modern living space without any problems
– comparatively uncritical of acoustic inadequacies in the room
– confident appearance
The Bad– Requires somewhat more powerful electronics than game partners
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Michael Holzinger

Michael Holzinger, founder and editor-in-chief of HiFi BLOG and sempre-audio.at, has been working for years as a journalist in the fields of IT, photography, telecommunications and consumer electronics.

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