This Monitor Audio Gold 300 loudspeaker marks the third Monitor model I’ve reviewed for TAS, the first having been the previous incarnation of this speaker (which shares the same name—no Mark III, Plus, or other added designation) four years ago, and the second, the $30k flagship floorstander of Monitor’s top-tier Platinum Series, the PL500 II, a towering (it certainly towered over me),three-way, seven-driver d’Appolito design capable of big-time sonic power, energy, and overall musicality. I gave it a Golden Ear Award in 2016.
Now in its fifth generation, the Gold 300 embodies many of the technological advances and materials that have “trickled down” from Monitor’s latest flagship Platinum Series. It’s no coincidence that Monitor Audio Chief Technical Engineer Michael Hedges was involved in both the Platinum II project (under Dean Hartley, who’s since retired from the company) and this latest Gold Series model. In addition to the top-of-the-line Gold 300 under review here, the series consists of the smaller 200 floorstander, the 100 bookshelf speaker, and a W12 subwoofer (there’s an FX surround and C250 center-channel for home theater, as well). Monitor also offers a Silver Series, now in its sixth iteration, from which Robert Harley glowingly reviewed the Silver 300 (which he bestowed a Golden Ear upon last year).
Before discussing my set-up and sonic experiences with the Gold 300s, it’s worth running through some of the driver technologies and materials that play a part in Monitor speaker sound. Starting from the top, the tweeter is a new proprietary MPD (Micro-Pleated Diaphragm) low-mass transducer with a surface area eight times larger than that of a traditional dome. It works like a tiny but very fast accordion and is said to provide smooth response up to 100kHz. It is also purported to deliver more lifelike sound with greater accuracy, which I certainly heard; this marked a key sonic difference from other Monitors.
Next is the 2.5" C-CAM (Ceramic-Coated Aluminum Magnesium) midrange, whose extremely light yet rigid material was originally developed for use in the aerospace industry in jet engine components. A die-cast aluminum chamber module houses both the MPD tweeter and C-CAM midrange driver below it, isolating them in a pressure vessel apart from the bass enclosure. The driver baffles are also made of die-cast aluminum for rigidity and damping. The pair of proprietary 8" RDT II (Rigid Diaphragm Technology) bass drivers are of a three-layer sandwich construction with ultra-thin C-CAM skins bonded to a honeycomb Nomex material beneath (offering strength and exceptional heat insulation) with a woven carbon-fiber skin behind it—all housed within a cast-aluminum basket. This design is the lowest-distortion driver in Monitor Audio’s history, with cited decreases of more than 8dB above 300Hz. Interestingly, Nomex is deployed in service for another kind of driver—race car drivers’ flame-resistant suits.
This bass-reflex design uses dual rear ports in the 18mm-thick MDF cabinets to augment low-frequency response. Foam plugs are also included in case users prefer more damping. (Though I didn’t use them, it’s nice to have the option.)
Handsome and sturdy- looking yet not too tall, the Gold 300 exudes a stately rather than showy elegance. Its aesthetics say “quality” with a kind of understated sophistication that’s less trendy, more timeless. My review samples came in an attractive piano gloss black; three additional finish options are available: satin white, dark walnut, piano ebony (the latter two are described in the product materials as “premium-quality mirror-matched wood veneers”). The tops have a nice leatherette trim—a soft touch of luxury. This brought to mind the leather top-panel inserts seen on some Sonus faber models, including the latest Olympica Nova models intro’d at RMAF. Generally speaking, I’m a non-grille gal, but the ones here attach discreetly with “invisible” magnets for an unobtrusive and streamlined appearance. They are said to be sonically inert, but without them it’s also pretty cool to see the shiny silver drivers with subtle honeycomb patterns (you have to look closely). All told, it’s apparent that Monitor Audio takes pride in maintaining high standards for its loudspeakers’ fit and finish as well as their construction, materials, and sound. (See sidebar for more on the company and its manufacturing.)
Setting up the speakers was neither tedious nor taxing. The Gold 300s ship with a pair of X-shaped, cast-aluminum outrigger feet that attach to each speaker base; their spikes can be removed for hardwood floors (like mine). Handily, all the necessary Allen wrenches and bolts are included. After I perused the small diagram and instructions in the user manual, installation took mere minutes, though on my floor it took a little more time to level the speakers by tightening or loosening the attachment bolts to the feet ever so slightly. From a marque distributed worldwide one might expect a multi-lingual user manual, but this Gold Series booklet had no fewer than twelve languages inside—impressive.
Speaker placement proved fairly straightforward, as well. The manual recommends placing the Gold 300s at least 300mm, or nearly a foot, from the rear wall (which seems relatively close given that the ports are rear-firing); that could be helpful for systems in smaller rooms, though Monitor recommends the 300s for larger rooms. After some toe-in tweaking and minor shifts front-to-back I felt pretty satisfied with the center image, including its general scale and dimensionality (recording-dependent, of course).
Obviously much also depends on the source components and amplification ahead of the speakers. Recalling past experiences with other Monitors I figured these too would benefit from extra power, particularly to maximize bass. And, indeed, this was the case. The 380Wpc into 4 ohms (the Gold 300 is 4-ohm speaker) MBL N51 integrated provided a pleasing match; the amp also tends toward the slightly darker side of neutral, which seemed to suit the relatively more transparent Gold 300s. The user manual recommends required amplifier power of between 100 and 250W, which I’d take to be more of a minimum. Especially if you like some slam, feed them ample power, and extra headroom doesn’t hurt, either. The majority of my critical listening—including the examples I’ll soon describe—involved a setup with a MBL Noble line N51 integrated amplifier and N31 CD player/DAC, a MacBook Air and MacBook Pro running Qobuz and Tidal respectively, a Boulder 580 phonostage, and the MoFi Electronics UltraDeck+ and Clearaudio Performance DC Wood turntables.