A question for audiophiles: Does the word “lifestyle” give you pause when it comes to hi-fi gear? If a loudspeaker looks a bit too elegant, do you tend to question its sonic bona fides in relation to how much time, attention, and budget went into its design and finish? If so, be forewarned. In the case of Monitor Audio loudspeakers—and the company’s other offerings (such as integrated amps, streaming products, soundbars, and even soundframes!)—equal emphasis is placed on both great sound and visual appeal.
Although the British-owned-and-managed company has been in business for more than four decades, the brand is still somewhat under the radar in the U.S., but that’s likely about to change. Monitor Audio has increased its presence at U.S.-based hi-fi shows, and this year’s CES saw the debut of its flagship Platinum PL500 II loudspeakers, which delivered remarkably high-end (think Raidho-like) sound and style well beyond its $29k price. (Even JV was impressed by them! He gave them a shout-out in his show report, calling them the “surprise of CES.” I, too, was impressed by the PL500 II’s and will be reviewing them in an upcoming issue.)
Monitor Audio’s loudspeakers are divided into tiered categories whose precious-metal names are reminiscent of credit-card designations (and in keeping with the lifestyle aspects of the brand’s image): Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Which brings us to the loudspeaker under review, the Monitor Audio Gold 300, which is the top model (alongside the Gold C350 for home-theater) in the eight-speaker Gold lineup. Given its build-quality, applied technologies, and high-end finishes, its $5699 (more for piano ebony finish) pricing seems fair. Far from frivolous, this model delivers style and substance in spades or, er, diamonds. It’s an elegant three-way floorstander featuring a pair of 6.5" bass drivers, one 4" midrange, and a high-frequency ribbon transducer that, according to company specs, has a frequency response extending from below 30Hz to over 60kHz!
Monitor Audio’s Dean Hartley is the principal designer behind both the Platinum PL500 II and the Gold 300 and works closely to develop innovative technologies with the company’s engineering group, including the acoustic team (five people with three electronic engineers, six product designers, and five general project engineers). Dean is present for every listening session throughout product development as well. [I had lunch with Dean at the recent CES, and was greatly impressed by Monitor Audio’s driver and enclosure technology, as well as by the company’s dedication to sound quality. —RH]
A plethora of proprietary technologies has been employed inside the Gold 300, many with trademarked names, most notably the C-CAM (Ceramic-Coated Aluminum/Magnesium) alloy metal-dome drivers. Metal may not be an easy material to work with, but Monitor Audio is among the pioneers of metal-cone driver technology and has been using it for the past 20 years. Here, the complement includes a C-CAM ribbon tweeter and C-CAM (with RST, no less) bass and midrange. Melding impressive sound with cool-looking functional design, the drivers’ shiny metallic surfaces have small, round dimples in a graduated pattern that makes them resemble a kind of space-age honeycomb. Other trademarked elements are Pureflow Silver internal cabling and HiVe II port technology that is said to smooth airflow for improved transient response and tighter bass with improved tonal accuracy. The driver systems use single-bolt-through construction for decoupling from the baffles and (per company claims) to increase front-to-back cabinet bracing and stability.
The Gold 300’s smooth curved enclosure not only looks attractive, but is also said to reduce standing waves. As befits a modern-day high-quality speaker, the MDF cabinet features radial- and cross-bracing for greater rigidity. The speaker is available in four luxe-looking finishes—a dark walnut wood veneer, or high-gloss piano finishes in black, white, or ebony. Generally speaking, I’m a non-grille gal, but the ones here attach discreetly with “invisible” magnets for an unobtrusive and streamlined appearance.
My review samples arrived in piano black lacquer, which nicely accentuated those futuristic-looking embossed metallic drivers. If this speaker had a dress code, it would be black tie. Of all the loudspeakers I’ve had in my systems at home, none has received more compliments than the ultra-high-gloss Gold 300. Even friends who aren’t audiophiles have been wowed by the speaker’s fine looks—and in short order, its superb sound impressed them in equal measure. But before I describe the 300’s sonics in greater detail, let’s talk a bit about setup.
The Gold 300s come with black-metal X-shaped bases with screw-in feet or floor spikes that connect via locking nuts and washers at each of the bases’ four end-points. After attaching those bases—which (luckily for me) was a straightforward assembly process using the bolts and Allen wrench included—I toed the speakers in slightly and positioned them roughly 8 feet from my listening-room sweet-spot and approximately five feet from the rearwall. Generally, this placement delivered immediacy, impact, and excitement, even at tempered volumes. Depending on what I was listening to—or in some cases listening for—I also spent some time sitting and standing farther away from the speakers (between 10 and 12 feet). This additional distance brought forth a greater overall sense of blended cohesion and coherence among the drivers. (Happily, my listening room is large and deep enough that I can afford to move my sofa back a couple of feet.) In fact, my only real criticism with this transducer was its fairly directly frontal projection at relatively close range. But as noted, some distance took care of this.