It’s easy to love beautiful things. I believe we all know this, whether it’s comfortable to admit or not. It’s why our culture obsesses over youth and attractiveness. It’s why I spend too much time thinking about design. But sometimes, a beautiful product can be written off as shallow, all flash and no substance. There’s always a temptation to look at a beautiful pair of speakers and think to yourself, there’s no way those sound as good as they look. It’s a bad thought, but probably a thought we’ve all had.
Fortunately, that’s not the case here. I love the design of Monitor Audio’s new Studio stand-mounted speakers, because they’re straight-up nice looking. Pure white, with a surprisingly narrow yet relatively deep profile, they’re solid without being absurdly hefty, and beautifully designed without sacrificing substance. The figure-eight central indentation houses the two identical 4" mid/bass drivers, top and bottom, suspended over a rectangular MPD (micro-pleated diaphragm) tweeter right in the middle. The driver array also happens to be based on the updated designs and materials developed for Monitor’s Platinum PL500 II flagships (for more, see Julie Mullins’ review of the Platinum PL500 II floorstanders in Issue 268). I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I unboxed the Studio speakers, but I’m genuinely delighted with their aesthetics. They’re almost like futurist chic and would easily look at home in any lovingly decorated living room, modern office, the Starship Enterprise, or really wherever you decided to stick them.
I should note upfront that Monitor Audio sent me the matching speaker stands ($500 per pair) and, after some internal debate, I decided not to use them. They’re very, very attractive stands, finished in the same satin white as the speakers themselves with the same contemporary design. The stands are hollow and can be filled with sand or lead shot, and the Studios bolt right in on top. In the end, I decided that a more accurate and fair review would use my own stands, and since I’m writing with a budget in mind, I would personally allocate my money where it matters: the speakers themselves.
Which brings me to the all-important matter of cost. This is the most expensive product I’ve reviewed to date, clocking in at $1400/pair. I know, I know. Lots of seasoned audiophiles are rolling their eyes right now. I realize that’s actually pretty modest, relatively speaking, for high-end audio, but still definitely not entry-level by other standards. Most people would hesitate before dropping that kind of cash. But the Monitors are very clearly a cut above other speakers I’ve looked at in the past, both in build-quality and in sound. I’m not thinking of this as a part of my other entry-level reviews, but more like an extension. This is a review of a product that’s the next step up on the audio chain. You could definitely start with something like the Studios and be very, very happy, but I suspect most people won’t. Still, it’s good to know where to go when you get that upgrade itch, which is as inevitable as death, taxes, and the United States not making the World Cup.
All that out of the way, it’s time to set these beauties up. I drop them on my stands, very gently of course, and plug them into my Cambridge Audio CXA80 integrated amplifier. The Studios are rated at 4 ohms with a moderate sensitivity of 86dB, which means I think they’ll likely benefit from some solid wattage. My First Watt J2, which is only rated at 13Wpc into 4 ohms, can’t keep up with the Studios and really isn’t built to do so. Fortunately, the CXA80 has enough juice, and handles them just fine. That said, the more I listened, the more I thought they’d benefit from a little more power, a little more headroom to open them more. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have any monster amps hiding in my closet, so I relied heavily on my old trusty CXA80 with no complaints.
I’m happy with these speakers even before I dive into some close listening. I have them on in the background while I work most days, just playing whatever random record I throw on, nothing serious. But I’m pleased every time I see them perched on my little black stands. They look really nice in my office and they match my white-painted built-in shelving like they were built for the space. I know I’ve complained about high-end audio design in the past, but there aren’t any complaints here. The Studios are sleek, thin, and contemporary. They’re pretty, even.
That said, they are deep. If you’re looking to keep them on a shelf somewhere, make sure there’s enough room plus a little extra for their back ports. You don’t want them right up against a wall; there should be at least some clearance. On stands and in the middle of an open space, obviously this is not a problem, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.