In the end though, being pretty doesn’t matter if the speakers can’t sing. After a reasonable amount of background music to loosen everything, I fire them up for some serious listening, starting with the underrated third album by Tears for Fears, The Seeds of Love. I’m immediately drawn to how clear and concise they sound. Pino Palladino’s bass in “Badman’s Song” is tight, taut, and extended. For such small speakers, the Studios have remarkable depth in the low end, likely helped along by the dual mid/bass drivers and the two slot-loaded ports in the back. The bass is satisfying and controlled, not remotely wooly or bloated. The gorgeous, lush vocals by Oleta Adams are smooth and avoid any displeasing harshness when she hits those high notes. Later in the song, when it’s just toe-tapping drum and rolling piano, the cymbals stay tight and the bass really thumps. The kicks aren’t exactly shaking the floorboards, but the sound is satisfying and accurate, and I’m having a good time.
I think that’s the strength of these speakers. Their clarity is almost startling. Soundstage extends to the edges of the enclosures and just beyond, filling my new and fairly large listening room. Along those lines, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Phil Collins’ drumming on the opening track, “Woman in Chains.” The snare clap has such nice reverb, and the Studios do a good job extending that decay, letting it fade just until the next snap. Especially during the first chorus, cymbals sparkle just outside the speaker’s width. Background vocals float throughout the mix, sometimes coming from all directions, sometimes from just off to my left.
These are the sort of speakers I want to crank up. The CXA80 can get them pretty loud, and I don’t feel like they lose any resolution or cause any annoying fatigue when I have them turned up to eleven. Fortunately for me, my listening room/office is above the garage and I’m home alone three days a week, so I can blast away as much as I want. Maybe my neighbors don’t love getting subjected to my fantastic taste in music, but oh well, can’t win them all.
Next up on the turntable is a new reissue from one of my favorite companies, Vinyl Me, Please. If you like monthly deliveries of really beautifully packaged and well-pressed records, check it out. My current obsession is Malik by the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band, a really solid funk-rock record. On the third track “Conga,” voices mesh with complex rhythms and in the background—almost lonely in the middle of all this frenetic forward movement—are these little clapping hands. It’s the sort of detail a very finely resolving speaker can bring to life. I feel like I can pinpoint just where those hands are coming together in front of me. On top of all this rhythm are the horns, blaring away but never shrieking. Horns at high volume can definitely get tiring, but I don’t find myself reaching for the remote.
The B-side opens with a track called “Darkest Light,” a nice little downtempo jam with some smooth horns playing the same little melody over and over. In fact, I’d describe the whole midrange as smooth and clear. I don’t detect any colorations, not to my ears at least, and I’m finding the Studios can reproduce a serious groove. I’m into this music, keeping time with my fingers on the keyboard, and a large part of that is because the Studios avoid any sort of upper-end harshness and keep the midrange easy-going. I’m not exhausted by the horns’ repetitions, and actually invite more of it. Toss in a healthy dollop of tight, surprisingly extended bass, and you have the kind of sound that makes me want to play this record over and over again.
Monitor Audio’s Studio speakers are solid-sounding beasts with really superb design aesthetics. They’re sleek and modern and would look good in any living room. They’re more expensive than other products I’ve reviewed in the past, but not absurdly costly, and it’s not unreasonable to imagine they would be a really good second step up the audiophile ladder. If you can justify the cost, then this is where you should be putting your dollars, though remember to keep the Studio speaker’s cabinet depth in mind. I absolutely recommend these to anyone looking for their first big upgrade, anyone who loves sleek modern design, anyone who wants great sound, really anyone who loves good audio.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Stand-mounted loudspeaker
Driver complement: 2 x 4" mid/bass; 1x MPD (micro-pleated diaphragm) tweeter
Frequency response: 48Hz–60kHz (-6dB)
Impedance: 4 ohms
Loading: Dual-slot bass-reflex
Finish options: Black, White, Gray
Dimensions: 13 3/8" x 6 1/8" x 14 3/16"
Weight: 16 lbs., 9 oz.
Price: $1400/pr.; optional stands $500/pr.
KEVRO INTERNATIONAL (North American Distributor)
902 McKay Road, Suite #4
Pickering, ON L1W 3X8