Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 loudspeaker Page 3
Soundstaging was simply superb: wide, deep, and precise in the spatial definition of sonic images on the stage. The soundstage was also quite high, seemingly located above the speakers. I would expect this from a taller speaker, and/or one that has an extra, upward-facing tweeterbut, of course, the PL200 isn't and doesn't. I really liked this effectit made me feel as if I were sitting in the front of the orchestra section, rather than farther back or in the balcony.
When it came to transparencydefined as an absence of coloration or a distinctive "speaker sound" added to the music being reproducedthe PL200 once again performed like a champ. Colorations created by cabinet resonances can be problematic with floorstanding loudspeakers, but in the case of the PL200 were conspicuous by their relative absence. The midrange was essentially neutral, which was effective in communicating the distinctive characteristics of the voices of various singers; they sounded, as I noted in my April 2007 show report on the PL300, "arrestingly lifelike."
To the extent that the PL200 had a distinctive sound, it was in the direction of a slight brightness. If you consider tonal balance to be on a continuum, with warm/lush/soft at one end and airy/cool/bright at the other, then the PL200 was closer to the latter. The treble was highly extendedmy hearing falls just slightly short of extending to 100kHz, so I'll have to take Monitor's word for that specand very clean, to the benefit of the sound of percussion instruments. In fact, at least some of what I heard as extra brightness might have been due to other components in the system. This is a perennial problem in evaluating the contribution of one component in a system, which is why it is best to switch out only one at a time. The Nordost Valhalla cables, which offer superb neutrality and resolution, aren't known for being forgiving or sounding soft. The Simaudio preamp and power amp are excellent products, but in John Atkinson's review of the Moon Evolution P-7 in the March 2009 Stereophile he noted that it had a "slightly more forward, slightly more robust" sound than his reference preamp, the Mark Levinson No.380S; that may have been part of what I heard.
I also briefly drove the PL200s with tube electronicsConvergent Audio Technology's SL-1 Renaissance preamp and PrimaLuna's ProLogue Seven power amplifiers. The results were interesting: The sounds of voices and musical instruments took on a decidedly softer, more rounded quality that was most attractivemore "musical," if you likebut the resolution was a notch lower, and the bass was not as tight or extended. On balance, I preferred the Simaudio Moon Evolution combo of P-7 and W-7.
With the Simaudio electronics, the PL200's bass was nearly as impressive as its treble. Played at a fairly high level, the bass drums and synthesizer on Mickey Hart's Planet Drum (Rykodisc RCD 10206) came over with enough impact to not sound wimpy, and the bass had excellent clarity and articulation. The double-bass line in "I Won't Dance," from Sylvia McNair's Sure Thing, was easy to follow without overwhelming the singer. As one might expect given the PL200's size and driver complement, the extreme lows (2030Hz) weren't therethe speaker's claimed low-end limit is 35Hz, which seems about rightbut the bass that was there held up to fairly high levels without sounding strained. Those who want more extended, more powerful bass might consider Monitor's matching PLW-15 powered subwooferor the PL300, whose larger cabinet contains, along with the same midrange and tweeter as the PL200, a pair of 8" rather than 6.5" woofers.
Which leaves us with dynamicsanother of the PL200's strengths. With the appropriate recordings the speakers sounded "quick," and music had a subtle ebb and flow that resembled that real thing. Many speakers must be driven to high levels to get much of a sense of dynamic contrastsnot so the PL200. Some of my most memorable times with the Monitors were when I listened at night, with the volume set to what most people would consider a background level. The PL200 maintained its resolution at this leveleven the softest musical passages had the appropriate dynamic variations. In this respect, the PL200 resembled the original Quad and KLH 9 speakers that I used to have. The PL200s were also able to play pretty loudat levels that would have resulted in the Quads or the KLH 9s going up in smoke. At very high levels, the PL200s couldn't match the sense of dynamic ease that characterizes the Avantgarde Uno Nanos, but the same thing might be said of just about any speaker of similar size and driver complement.
The ideal loudspeaker would have no sound of its own: the sound that it made would simply reflect the input signal, communicating all of the detail and nuances present in the source. If such a speaker exists, I haven't heard itbut the Monitor Audio Platinum PL200 comes closer to this ideal than most. The product of a design process that has apparently examined every aspect of loudspeaker performance, the impeccably finished PL200 uses drivers that are unique to Monitor Audio, features high resolution and a high degree of transparency, and does an excellent job of getting out of the way of the music. It offers a balanced performance from top to bottom, with perhaps a slight bias toward the upper end of the rangebut not so much that it sounds "etched." At $8000/pair the PL200 is by no means cheap, but neither is it crazy-pricedthe price is justified by the design, the quality of components, the obvious care taken in manufacturing, and, most of all, by the sound. It's a lovely speaker.