After appropriate break-in time, I began critical listening with the NuPrime IDA-8 Class A/D hybrid 100Wpc integrated amp (which I reviewed favorably in Issue 263). Its smooth liquidity and sense of effortlessness suited and balanced out the more or less “bottom-up” character of the Gold 300s. For the bulk of my listening my source was an Acoustic Signature Challenger Mk. 3 turntable with the German maker’s AS-1000 tonearm, an Air Tight PC-7 cartridge, and a Walker Procession on phonostage duty. I did some listening both with and without the addition of a pair of JL Audio e110 subwoofers, crossing over at 50Hz initially, though results proved more favorable when I downshifted to 40Hz, then 35Hz. I didn’t uncover an across-the-board preference; some LPs played back more pleasingly without the subs, others benefited from their added extension and fullness. On tracks such as “My Oh My” and “Never Mind” from Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems LP, the resolution was remarkable with subs. Every detail of his gravelly diction came nearly as alive as if he were in the room. Fiddle and acoustic guitar, too, were reproduced with noteworthy naturalness.
Broadly speaking, some LPs seemed to fare better sans subs for definition, pacing, and vocal clarity, including Buena Vista Social Club’s marvelous Lost & Found [Nonesuch] collection of “lost” studio and live concert cuts, where guitars—especially the laúd (12-string Cuban guitar)—sounded as warm, heady, and beautiful as the Havana sun. The English Beat’s Special Beat Service [Mobile Fidelity] showed a lively ambience without subs, with plenty of air and space around vocalists and the plethora of instruments, from horns and saxes to strings and percussion. Soundstaging displayed reasonable depth and dimensionality, while bass lines resonated with respectable definition and without chuffing or noticeable overhang. Overall, I found that the NuPrime combination proved quite well balanced, pretty clean, and relatively neutral. Midrange proved to be a strong suit as well.
After some weeks with this system, I switched out electronics—the solid-state NuPrime amp and Walker phonostage for a Soulution 525 full-function preamp and the tube delights of an Air Tight ATM-1S stereo amplifier. (The analog source setup stayed the same.) The general impression here was a fuller and more beautiful sound with plenty of bloom along with slightly darker, richer timbre. Perhaps the most dramatic difference (or improvement) I noticed with these reference-grade electronics driving the Gold 300s was on the sweep and scale of large orchestral works. The gloriously sinister sounds of Khachaturian’s “Masquerade Waltz” [Analogue Productions], especially the lower registers of brass and deep woodwinds juxtaposed with the soaring strings, were felt as much as heard. Transient attacks as well as decays were more pronounced, lending a thrilling sense of realism alongside generous helpings of musicality within a deeper and wider soundstage. Broadly speaking, carefully chosen electronics seemed to expand these transducers’ repertoire—especially if you’re a classical music fan.
I thought it might be worthwhile to include a few comments by way of comparison with a different dynamic floorstanding three-way speaker in a pretty similar price range: the Focal Aria 948 (which I reviewed favorably in Issue 254). Call it the English versus the French (just kidding!). Both deliver plenty of resolution and detail, but like anything else, it depends on what you like. If you tend to go for transparency and true-to-source accuracy, you might prefer the 948. However, the Gold 300 was consistently balanced, rich, and full—and always sounded musical (yet without much in the way of coloration, depending in part on electronics). The Aria 948 has a more “top-down” sound with a fairly neutral-to-slightly brighter overall balance, while the Gold 300 displays a more “bottom-up” flavor with greater heft. Another important sonic consideration here is the Gold 300’s ribbon tweeter boasting remarkable range (per the specs) versus the Aria 948’s aluminum/magnesium TMF inverted-dome, which can walk a fine line between clean, razor-sharp precision and slightly brighter beaminess in the treble. (Bear in mind these comments are meant to be broad-stroke, at-a-glance comparisons. I recommend doing plenty of listening before buying.) Finally, from an aesthetics angle, they’re certainly both luxurious-looking, no matter which finishes you choose. The Aria 948 is more elegantly austere and slightly understated with its classic wood veneer, while the Gold 300 is more streamlined, slick, and shiny—more along the lines of a sexy car.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but the Monitor Audio Gold 300 represents a special breed of loudspeakers that successfully combines style with substance, as should be apparent from my experience. In addition to its stellar sonic capabilities (particularly throughout the midrange), consider that such a strikingly handsome speaker may be more likely to meet with partner/spousal approval. (I don’t want to let my review samples go.) Whether or not style is among your hi-fi priorities, the Monitor Audio Gold 300s are highly recommended for a long look and listen.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Four-driver, three-way, ported floorstanding loudspeaker
Driver complement: 2 x 6.5" bass, 1 x 4" midrange, 1 x ribbon tweeter
Frequency response: 30Hz–60kHz
Recommended amplifier requirements: 100–200W
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 8 1/4" x 41 3/4" x 13" (210mm x 1060mm x 330mm)
Weight: 59 lbs. 14oz. (27.2 kg)
Price: $5699; piano ebony finish, $6799
Subwoofer: JL Audio e110 (pair)
Sources: Acoustic Signature Challenger Mk. 3 with AS-1000 tonearm, Air Tight PC-7 cartridge; George Merrill GEM Dandy PolyTable with Jelco tonearm and Air Tight PC-7 cartridge; MacBook Pro with 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 processor running OS X 10.9.5 with Audirvana Plus Phonostage, preamplifier: Walker Audio Procession, Soulution 525
Power conditioner and power cords: Ansuz
Cables and interconnects: AudioQuest Fire, Shunyata Research Venom series, Crystal Cable Absolute Dream
Equipment racks: Critical Mass Systems Maxxum
KEVRO (North American Distributor)
902 McKay Road, Unit #4