Viewing Review: Monster Unleashes an Exceptional Speaker - AVS Forum
Monster Unleashes an Exceptional Speaker Edit
by imagic Combined Rating: 4.4
It has been a long time since I purchased a product with the Monster brand name on it. Back when Circuit City was a store, I probably bought a few feet of their eponymous speaker cable, but in the...
Pros Cons
  • Accurate, dynamic sound. Capable of very high SPL playback, relative to size and weight. Self-powered, plenty of inputs, balanced wiring.
  • Cable connecting the speaker pair could be longer. Monster brand name is frowned upon by some. Requires line level input—not speaker cables.
It has been a long time since I purchased a product with the Monster brand name on it. Back when Circuit City was a store, I probably bought a few feet of their eponymous speaker cable, but in the past few years, my only references to them have been joking—I like to cite the "Monster Cable vs. Coat Hanger" audiophile challenge published a few years ago by Engadget. Fast forward to June 24, 2013; I was in the back room of a local Best Buy, a room labeled "last chance."

I am an avid open-box and clearance shopper, and I found myself in clearance heaven. I had been shopping for a Roland audio interface for which I expected to pay $270. In the "last chance" room, I found two units for $130 each. I bought both—they sound wonderful when used as a DAC. I looked at every item in the room, and in a back corner, I spotted a box labeled "Clarity HD One." The Clarity HD Model One is a self-powered speaker from Monster that originally retailed for $750 per pair and currently sells for $499—but the pair I found were clearance priced at $278. I absolutely love experiencing a new pair of speakers, so whenever I see a good deal, I grab it—even though in the back of my head I was thinking, "Didn't Monster design Beats headphones?" and "Caveat Emptor."

I used my phone to read a few reviews on the spot and eventually gained enough confidence to give the Monster speakers a shot. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve loudspeakers—the magic of listening to the classic "Peter and the Wolf" and the shock of hearing Pink Floyd's "The Wall" when it was released. I was eight at the time. Listening to great speakers is one of my favorite activities. Actually, listening to music is one of my favorite activities, but speakers affect that experience in numerous ways.

The first thing to know about the Clarity HD One is that it does not come in a traditional black finish. Instead, the trapezoidal speakers come in red, yellow, silver, and bronze finish. My pair happened to be yellow. And there was much more that I would have to get used to regarding these newfangled speakers, beyond the color. For example, the grill is not removable. Also, even though they are self-powered, the amplification is contained within one speaker, and the pair is connected with an auxiliary cable in a manner not dissimilar to how many desktop computer speakers are wired.


The Clarity HD Model One is versatile, serving as both a desktop monitor and "main" speaker system.

Yet another oddity with the Clarity HD One is the lack of any specs regarding wattage. It's an interesting omission, since the marketing materials note that the drivers are bi-amplified and utilize an electronic crossover. I do not fault Monster for the omission; the number is probably relatively small and not very useful to the marketing department. Efficiency is an underappreciated trait in loudspeakers.

Whatever the power rating happens to be, it's also irrelevant—the speaker's actual performance quite literally speaks for itself. The Clarity HD One punches way above its weight class and is capable of producing full range, linear, sophisticated, and dynamic sound at any volume level from a whisper to a shout. It's really remarkable how these speakers maintain composure when pushed to volume levels that are undoubtedly dangerous but in no way unpleasant thanks the absence of any audible distortion.

I took some quick measurements and found that the Monsters were perfectly capable of playing flat down to 50 Hz. That made choosing a crossover point for my stereo rather easy—50 Hz it is. Integration with my subwoofers was smooth, simple, and seamless. I'm thrilled not to have to use any EQ to achieve a very flat response at the listening position. I am also happy to relieve my Pioneer SC–55 of having to amplify my mains. Currently, the only speakers powered by my AVR are the "front wide" pair. I have separate amplification for the rear and main L/R speakers in the system, not to mention four 12-inch ported subwoofers—each tuned to 16 Hz—that receive 500W each from a Crown XTi-2002 amp. That all adds up to a great deal of power in a rather small space, which is why I was really surprised that the Monsters were able to keep up, despite their modest size and power draw—200W according to the back panel. Whatever volume level I chose to listen at, the Clarity HD One lived up to its name.

This speaker has good connectivity, featuring stereo balanced 1/4-inch inputs as well as unbalanced RCA and 3.5 mm inputs. There is an iPhone dock, although that requires an adapter to use the latest model. Of greater interest is a port that accepts an optional $90 Bluetooth wireless receiver. Monster claims the wireless module—called StreamCast—receives music at a higher resolution than standard Bluetooth. I don't have the module, so I can't speak to its quality, but I do plan on getting one in the near future.

I connected the new speakers using an pair of RCA-to-1/4-inch cables that I purchased from Guitar Center. Connecting the speakers is incredibly easy, and the sound is unbelievably clear. After setting speaker levels, I was ready to get down to some critical listening. I auditioned the speakers with and without a subwoofer and as a stereo pair as well as part of a 7.4 surround system.

I can't find anything to criticize about the performance of these speakers. I'm actually getting a headache over that conclusion, because as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I had never expected this sort of refined sound quality from Monster. I certainly did not expect a pair of speakers that could play flat, loud without distortion, and with perfect clarity. I did not expect the extraordinary and almost hallucinatory imaging, which brought singers right into my room, creating the illusion of an actual orchestra in a concert hall behind my speakers. The Beatles classic "I Am the Walrus" twisted time and space in a most unusual way. I've had them for about a week now, and I've made it through a number of my favorite songs several times. I'm left with no choice but to rate the Clarity HD One as a significant upgrade to my system's overall sound quality.

The soundstage rivals that of the best tower speakers I've heard lately. The only giveaway that they are not expensive tower speakers was that without a subwoofer, the bottommost octave—where deep bass dwells—was relatively subdued in the genres that use it. The same is true for movie soundtracks that utilize deep bass as an effect. However, when paired with a competent subwoofer and crossed over at 50 Hz, the Clarity HD One can act as the core of a full range speaker system that has few peers at its price point.
Comments
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imagic 07-04-2013, 05:48 AM

Tubetwister -

Retail on the HD One is $499. I'm not sure why Amazon is so pricey, but Monster's own site has the $499 price. It's definitely worth $500.

I would have agreed with you regarding the value proposition, if I did not actually get a pair of Clarity HD Ones. They utterly crush the Andrew Jones speaker, any model. I have two pairs of SP-FS52, no competition. I can;t believe you'd even bring up Bose, but since you did I hasten to point out that the Clarity HD Model One is self-powered.

It's quite easy to list some alternative speakers and ponder which would be better, but it's also meaningless. If you can't compare the speakers, how do you know? I know for a fact that the Monster Clarity HD One blows away the entire Pioneer Andrew Jones 2012 line, whether bookshelf or floor-standing. My AVR is an Elite SC-55, so the Pioneers were getting plenty of power. I've also run the FS52 off a Crown XTi-1000, which puts over 3000 watts/channel into 6 Ohms. There's still no way they could match the Monsters.

Wattage is practically irrelevant when it comes to self-powered speakers. Efficiency is what matters. The Behringer Truth is much closer to the Clarity HD than your other suggestions, but the price is about the same. That's a comparison I would like to make.

Anyhow, the Clarity HD One is a much better speaker system than I expected, and based on your comment—much better than you think it is.

tubetwister 07-03-2013, 09:03 PM

At $600.00 a pair they should offer something more than a Monster logo. With no specs it looks like they are sticking to their usual policys .
I have to wonder how they compare to the Bose 301 at half the price which would leave some money for a modest AVR or integrated amp .
Some of newer Pioneer Andrew Jones Desighn maybe the Pioneer SP-BS41 would fit in well also with an AVR or amp. for less money .
Then there are The Behringer Truth B3031A 225W Active Two-Way Nearfield Monitors w/ 2" Ribbon Tweeter 8.75" Long-Throw Kevlar Woofer , A 225W Bi-Amped design that will probably out perform the perform the Monster speakers at $499.98 PR. just saying

imagic 07-02-2013, 02:27 PM

"It's nice to see Monster producing products worth buying they need to do that with beats because I love the look of those headphones."

Monster is no longer associated with Beats in any way. That's why Monster now has their own line of headphones. In fact I just bought a pair of Monster Inspire headphones—an hour ago—because of my positive experience with these speakers.

kbeam418 07-02-2013, 01:39 PM

It's nice to see Monster producing products worth buying they need to do that with beats because I love the look of those headphones.

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