Hi all. Just a regular Audiophile here who has a serious passion for music, sound, and writing. One day, I'd love to write for a large audio publisher.Backstory
Monitor Audio, the British loudspeaker company has been making fine loudspeakers since 1972. Since then they have contributed quite a few models into the pantheon of high-end speakers. Among their current lineup I have owned everything from the Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Just recently however, I had the chance to upgrade to the Platinum setup for marginally more than the gold.
Monitor’s speaker technologies have sure come a long way. As an innovator in metallic driver technologies, MA has learned quite a bit in the 30+ years they’ve been in business. I will admit – I wasn’t the biggest fan of some of their older speakers. However, quite a few years ago my father scored a pair of their ultra-rare piano black lacquered Studio 50s (made in UK!), and I fell in love. Although using entirely metallic structures, they sounded lifelike, smooth, and utterly sweet. It was at this time I became more interested in the Monitor Audio brand.
I took a break from their speakers and tried many others. Among these were B&W, Paradigm, Focal, Klipsch, and Revel to name a few. Eventually, I came back to their Bronze BX series for my secondary theater. Played these for a while and eventually purchased their Silver line for my father (which he still uses!). After hearing how good they were for the price, I moved my BX up to the RX series as well. Fast forward 6 months or so and I find myself auditioning a pair of GX200s for my main system. Upon audition, I was immediately impressed with how smooth the highs were, how truly untouched the mids were, and the excellent sound stage which brought my music to life. I heard the price and was stunned. I was then able to compile a full 5 channel setup and fell in love. Keeping all this in mind, I tend to split my listening into half music, and half theater. After several hours of listening to my system, I promised myself I wouldn’t part with these until I found the Platinums for a steal of a deal. OK, it turned out to be very quickly I found them and jumped.
Building on the Gold GX series, the Platinums feature a far more sturdy and resonant-free cabinet construction, better drivers, and a far superior crossover system. The crossover system definitely helps with the mids/highs, and it’s very transparent after listening after a few hours. The cabinets of the Platinums is really sometimes to look at. Featuring high quality leather stretched perfectly over the front, the Platinum series unquestionably looks the part. Combine this with a tremendous high quality real wood veneer and 11 coats of lacquer and you have a piece of furniture in your listening room.Room/Equipment
I took much attention in setting up my 5 channel system (PL200s, PL350C, and PL100s for the rear). I found the 200s like a bit of toe-in and at least 6-7 feet from each other. I found them placed 7.5 feet from each other, 2.5 feet from the rear and side walls, and 8 feet from my listening position. After everything was positioned perfectly to the 1/10th of an inch, I ran Anthem’s Room Correction to correct room nodes and imperfections (Even though it’s very well treated by GIK acoustics paneling). My listening room measures 14x16 and a small pocket where the door to the room is. Upon looking at the frequency response, I noticed it looked pretty good pre-ARC. However, ARC did an excellent job at correcting what I could not.
For processing I use Anthem’s MRX300. My main reason for this choice is ARC. For a power amplifier, I use Emotiva’s XPA 5 until my Mcintosh gear can be accommodated in this space. The subwoofer is a JL Fathom F113. For media playback, I sport a Marantz SA15S1 for CD media, and a Playstation 3 for Blu-Rays. GIK 242, 244, and Tri-Traps are all placed in the right spots with help from Alex at GIK. Television is a Samsung PNF8500 Plasma. Cabling is a mix of Emotiva and Audioquest.ListeningAll music is auditioned in 2.1
First on my list for listening was Diana Krall’s “Love Scenes” redbook CD. Her charming vocals combined with delicate instruments make for a brilliant soundtrack as well as a demo CD. I simply love the way she breaths while singing. On a first-rate system this recording can provide you with Goosebumps that slowly creep up your spine. The PL200s re-created this album with pinpoint accuracy I have never heard before. Imaging is so lifelike and faithful it’s frightening. The delicate notes of the string section compliment Diana’s voice so well. Smooth is too mild a word to explain how the PL200s recreate vocals. No harshness and no dullness can be detected from any frequency these floor standers put out. I often find every speaker over-accentuates one part of the frequency spectrum. B&W’s 800 Diamonds were far too bright, the Paradigm Signature 6s had a somewhat dull mid-range, and the Focal Electra’s didn’t sound right no matter how I put it.
Up next on my roster of soundtracks was Allison Krauss’ “A Hundred Miles or More”. Track 1, “You’re Just a Country Boy” showcases the higher end of the frequency band unlike any other track I’ve ever heard. On too bright a system, this song sounds piercing and shrill. On too dull a system, the song sounds subdued and lifeless. However, when the system is precise the vocals sound so sugary and majestic it’s hard to not hit repeat. The PL200s sailed through this song as if Allison and her band had transported herself to the cabinets of the speakers! Another thing these speakers do well is create admirable stereo separation and imaging. The GX300s were merely very good at this, while the Platinums are outstanding. You can unmistakably pick out in the soundstage where each instrument is located and how far back or forward they are.
You can clearly tell how rock-solid these cabinets are built by the lack of coloration and resonance they demonstrate. Often times some speakers and drivers put out too much if that makes sense. In other words, they add to the music in places they shouldn’t. A proper speaker should relay just the musicians and their instruments exactly how the recording studio intended you to hear it. So many speakers I hear fall short. I’m not a fan of overly bright speakers because frankly, who wants to hear something tinny coming from costly speakers?
No speaker however, is without fault. After all, a speaker is merely a compromise of sound. The Platinums, while beautifully and soundly constructed, do have a few faults. First thing is first – these speakers will never reach out and attack you. By that I mean, they do lack the visceral impact other floor standers might provide (cough 800 Diamond cough). While not just in bass extension, they are not a super hard-hitting speaker. Even with demanding movie scores, they just get louder and keep the same clarity as they would down in the lower volumes. Nothing sounds in-your-face in the lower midrange or upper bass. With a sub to match however, you won’t be disappointed if films are your fancy.
This brings me to the movie part of the review. During this kind of test, I run my system hard. I run the volume up, shut the door, and close the curtains. In these tests, it’s game time. I fire up my PS3 and insert “The Dark Knight”. The opening scene provides awesome detail and imaging and can put a strain on a weak system when the volume soars. I turned up the receiver which in turn called on more power from the XPA-5 and we were in business. At ear deafening volumes NONE of the Platinum speakers ever showed a sign of strain. The center channel was incredibly clear and 3-dimensional; and its off-axis sound was superb. The 100s handled surround duty just fine as well, providing lifelike elements and details due to proper timbre matching with the fronts. The musical score in the Dark Knight is very spacious and depth-filled, and is emphasized heavily throughout the film. Like watching it in a movie theater, you should be able to hear a wide soundstage of effects and different bass frequencies. For instance, the scene where the Joker battles Batman on the streets of Gotham. This scene features a lot of fast paced and fast moving action across a range of frequencies. The PLs never disappointed, and not once did they become too harsh when turned up to neighbor-hating volumes. No distortion was present either, (And I was pushing the volume on the receiver almost up to max!) and to my satisfaction the PL350 stayed remarkably composed and fluent.Wrap Up
Monitor Audio’s Platinum line brings to the table a range of goodies you usually don’t see in a speaker under $10,000. An unbelievably beautiful finish, perfect cabinet construction, unbeatable and uncolored sound, and a soundstage that is fit for a concert hall. I find myself getting lost in a musical state of grace once my favorite CDs play through the PL200s. If you are someone who appreciates a translucent and neutral tone, this is a speaker you cannot overlook.
However, if one is looking for a very punchy, very large and bright sounding speaker this is not for you. If you watch movies and love to be hit in the face by your speakers, look elsewhere. The PL system will just provide you with hours of untouched audio liquid, and it not for everyone. Bass is not extra heavy, and the 200s don’t extend incredibly low. Lower frequencies are tight and controlled, not loose and boomy.The Platinums do require a little bit of power once played loud, but over the top is not required. I never stressed my XPA-5, even when pushing impractical volumes.
For ~ $20,000 for a 5 channel setup, I cannot think of a set of speakers I would rather have. Often I change and change looking for that perfect sound, and finally, I have found something that makes me truly happy.