Monitor Audio Studio 10 loudspeaker Page 2
On my Chopin recording on the Stereophile Test CD, I had recorded Anna-Maria Stanczyk's Steinway from considerably farther away than had Kavi Alexander for the Silverman recording. This sacrifices some of the left-hand weight of the piano sound in favor of a better representation of the acoustic surrounding the instrument. The Monitor Audios present the piano a little more forward than it should have been, but still with an exquisite sense of space.
J. Gordon Holt's recording of the Järnefelt Praeludium on the Stereophile Test CD also reproduced with a delicate sense of space. This has a very live, almost theater-type recorded ambience which on lesser equipment merely sounds rather dry and close. Via the Studio 10s, one is transported into that acoustic. It is rendered believable in a manner which is truly transparent. Transparent—I can't remember when I was made more aware of the J;darnefelt's inner parts yet without those parts being thrust forward in any way. This is what stereo reproduction is about.
The stereo image diagnostic tests on the Chesky Test CD showed that the Studio 10s could throw a wide, stable soundstage, at the expense of a little image precision in the center. The speakers did quite well on the LEDR "Up" test, managing to produce good image height but in rather an unstable manner. The sampled cabasa image in the "Over" test reproduced with a good, arch-shaped path.
The Studio 10 will not generate prodigious levels of sound in anything but very small rooms. In my room, the maximum loudness with full-spectrum music—orchestral and organ—was about 96dB average with the Classic 60 before the sound started to lose its lushness. But in all honesty, putting to one side the admitted need to play Led Zeppelin at ear-bleeding levels, that is about loud enough for most kinds of music. Dynamically, the speaker seemed "fast," by which I mean that it seemed to have reasonably good jump factor for a traditional two-way design.
Tonally, the Studio 10 is smooth through the upper midrange and treble, the sound lacking any undue emphasis, at least with the Audio Research amplifier. (The Mark Levinson came across as being a little more grainy than I'm used to.) In the middle midrange, however, things tended to be a little forward-sounding, though not unmusically so. This does add some warmth, a rather "trumpety" color, to the sound of the flute on Stereophile's Poem album. But again, that transparency...you can "hear the walls," to grab a cliché from my spare-phrases bin.
There are, of course, those misguided souls who say that any metal-dome tweeter must, by definition, sound "metallic." In my opinion, these people overlook the point that resonances and tonal-balance problems that typically lead to a "metallic" sound are relatively low in frequency, down in the crossover region, and tend to be due to woofer breakup modes, not to the nature of the tweeter. The Monitor Audio, however, with its metal-cone woofer, would seem a ripe candidate for sounding metallic, and, indeed, as the measurements show, the woofer does feature some reasonably severe breakup modes. Though these are above the crossover region, they are in the right frequency region to lead to added brightness, so I listened very carefully for any subjective effect they might have. I was unable to hear anything with the Classic 60, which might suggest that the resonances are generally of a high-enough Q that they will only be excited when hit with a tone of pretty much the same frequency (footnote 2). Some writers have found the Studio 10 to be critical regarding the amplifier with which it is used, however, which might be due to the presence of these breakup modes. This might have contributed to the feeling of grain with the Levinson.
If you've been reading my speaker reviews for any length of time, you'll know that I'm no big fan of reflex bass loading, generally finding it to be a little sluggish-sounding compared with a good sealed box. The Studio 10 didn't quite have the slam of, say, the Celestion SL700, and needed a lot more fussing with to get it to work with the room rather than against. Nevertheless, it was pretty good for a reflex design in achieving a good balance of bass extension against upper-bass definition. There was audible wind noise heard coming from the port, despite its contoured external edge, with the speaker driven by pure tones between 30Hz and 70Hz at high, 90dB spls (measured at 1m). This seemed to be well-masked by music, however. Putting on the Dorian Pictures at an Exhibition recording would seem cruel and unusual treatment for a minimonitor, particularly as I had most recently heard this CD with the Infinity subwoofer putting out prodigious amounts of tight, well-controlled ultrabass. Yet the Monitor Audio, peaking at around 95dB, managed to keep the musical strands from becoming confused even while the woofer was flopping around like a dying fish trying to reproduce all that power-organ pedal point.
The Monitor Audio Studio 10 joins that select group of minimonitors with which I could happily spend the next 10 years listening to music. At no time during my auditioning was I aware of any "metallic" coloration which could be ascribed to the metal-cone woofer. With the right sources and amplification, the Studio 10's neutral, smooth treble, excellent soundstage depth, and good feeling of low-frequency authority more than compensate for its slightly forward midband balance, and its lack of ultimate low-frequency definition and extension.
But at a price. At $3750/pair including the mandatory stands, this is an expensive loudspeaker. It is even an expensive loudspeaker in its native UK. And the competition from full-range loudspeakers in this price region is severe. If you have a smallish room, however, and want superbly musical sound from a stunning-looking minimonitor, then check out the Studio 10. It might be all the speaker you'll ever need.
Footnote 2: A rule of thumb to remember with resonances is that they need to be hit with the same number of cycles of their resonant frequency as the Q of the resonance in order to fully ring. In other words, a resonance at 1kHz with a Q of 1000 needs to be stimulated with 1kHz for 1000 cycles, or one second, to fully develop. Depending on the Q, as the exciting frequency moves away from the exact resonance frequency, this time increases rapidly.