Monitor Audio Studio 50 loudspeaker Page 2

I could tune the subjective LF weight quite easily, by adjusting for the distance to the rear wall while making relative shifts to the sidewall distance to maintain smoothness in the bass region together with the optimum midrange tonality. As for toe-in, with the grille detached, a placement where the inside walls of the cabinet could just be seen was appropriate in my room acoustics.

As supplied, the driver-mounting screws had slackened a little, as is common; judicious retightening brought rewards in definition and midrange dynamics. I also preferred the sound with the grilles detached, despite appreciating that the overall treble balance was probably more correctly "sweeter" with the grilles in place. The Studio 50s were well broken-in and operated at what I regard is their "natural" 68–72°F operating temperature.

As supplied, the relative phase responses of the '50's mid and treble sections indicated that the best crossover integration and the best sound would be obtained above-axis. This contrasted with the result I'd obtained for the original pair two years ago. Given my usual seated height below the tweeter axis, I tried the reverse connection for the current sample of the bi-wired system and preferred it; this agreed with my measurements (see above- and below-axis data in the test results section). My listening results are for the tweeters reversed; no doubt we'll hear more from the manufacturer on this matter.

Sound quality
Depending on the designers' views of life, speakers often reflect a corresponding attitude to music replay. Those with a strong leaning towards classical music may tend to maximize speaker performance, given the limitations of recording technique, in one particular direction. A concert-hall sound is the objective, encompassing the scale, majesty, and tonal color of a large orchestra. Silky-sounding treble, a neutral midrange, and a full extended bass with natural acoustic perspectives are the order of the day.

On the other hand, a designer with a more active temperament, who loves to dance, and who strongly appreciates rhythm and close-up dynamics, will seek to express these qualities in the loudspeaker system design. In fact, the engineering parameters available to a designer are so varied that many dimensions of speaker performance are possible within nominal limits of specification; this fact helps to keep scribes like myself in work.

Subtleties of voicing, the final determination of the speaker's octave-by-octave tonal balance, represent just the first layer of this complex procedure, which even reaches back to the detailed mechanics and acoustic properties of cone and enclosure materials. Vital design decisions are made all the way down the line.

Such variations sometimes bias a loudspeaker in the direction of classical program—but on the other hand, a speaker that's a touch coarse for a sufficiently mellifluous orchestral replay may have the right rhythmic and dynamic balance to be highly involving and entertaining on studio-mastered rock music.

Proving tolerant all round, the Studio 50 blended well with a number of trial systems and was evenhanded in its treatment of a wide range of program material. Sufficiently smooth-sounding and neutral for easy listening with classical program, the Studio 50 is at the same time quick enough on its feet to drive well on rock. Thinking back to the Studio 20, I find a strong family resemblance, not surprising in view of the major common parts. Where the '50 advances the cause is revealed at higher sound levels where the '20 might begin to sound comparatively stressed.

Driven hard with a wide range of material, the '50 remained cleaner and clearer than the Studio 20, achieving several decibels more of usable dynamic range. In the bass, and at first hearing, the Studio 50 was less generous than the '20, but the listener quickly learns to appreciate the greater control as well as the superior if subtle bass extension, this achieved without drama. Studio 50 bass is less colored than that of the '20, thanks to the sealed-box design.

However, the Studio 50's bass may be on the lean side for US tastes. Judged right for concrete-clad apartments and stone- or brick-built houses, it may sound too dry in timber-frame properties with a more open layout. I got good bass power down to 30Hz in my room, if not to the 25Hz –3dB point claimed. Nevertheless, this is good performance for a compact system of this highish sensitivity.

Heaviness can afflict the upper bass of this class of floor-mounted speaker. Not so in the case of the Studio 50, which I felt matched the room boundaries well and avoided false richness.

Given substantial power inputs, that crisp, taut bass came into its own, helping to give an unexpected turn of speed on complex, heavy percussive bass lines. It can be driven hard on heavy rock, acquitting itself with honor.

That legendary metal-cone transparency was certainly present. The Studio 50's presentation of fine midrange detail was excellent, both at whisper-quiet levels and at volumes close to maximum. The speaker accepted high power inputs without complaint, and a brief trial with a professional 250Wpc amplifier showed no premature rattling or knocking except on very deep, high-level bass below 30Hz. On the other hand, you could create a very big-sounding system by coupling the Studio 50 with a pair of high-quality active subwoofers.

I hesitate to describe the midrange as perfectly neutral; there was a hint of boxiness apparent. But such coloration was sufficiently mild that one's awareness of the effect faded in the memory as the total of listening hours progressed. The vocal balance was well-judged and the midrange wasn't overly projected out of the soundstage.

Through the treble, the sound was up to Monitor Audio's usual high-quality standard. However, it seemed even more focused than that of the '20, perhaps due to the very rigid compartmented cabinet section housing the tweeter. There was no false stridency; the treble sounded airy and extended, delicately shaded, with well-formed sibilants. Only really critical listening—together, perhaps, with the benefit of foreknowledge—revealed a touch of glaze in the mid-treble, this expressed as a slight carelessness, even a sheen on some treble sounds. Despite this, the treble was transparent and helped throw considerable depth in the soundstage.

Stereo imaging was particularly good, while stage width was excellent and considerable depth was achieved. Perspectives were stable, aided by very good focus. Lead vocals were presented in the plane of the speakers, and there were no spurious variables in perceived image height with widely differing sounds. Big, well-focused soundstages were readily achieved with the '50.

Perhaps the '50's best quality was its unobtrusive character, both visually and sonically. It didn't let you down. Longer-term listening was consistently rewarding, free from false drama and yet satisfying in the context of the chosen music.

Weighing all these aspects, I was aware of a measure of British reserve and control, of correctness, all of which inspire confidence and a sense of ease. On the other hand, in a more reckless mood one might wish for more of the unrestrained enthusiasm and excitement of a Wilson WITT. This is a matter of temperament, and will find its resolution in the perception and taste of the potential purchaser for these rather different speakers.

An expensive but undeniably classy speaker, the Monitor Audio Studio 50, performs with considerable credit. Fine-focused, with a taut, tidy presentation, it also possesses considerable transparency, this quality apparent over a wide frequency range. In dynamic expression and rhythm, it holds back a tad, but at the same time it allows the program to speak for itself—it doesn't interpose itself between source and listener. Fine detail comes easily to the Studio 50, while its high power handling allows this comparatively compact, slim pillar-style enclosure to generate clean, room-filling sound levels.

Technically, it performed well, especially with the tweeter polarity reversed to my taste and preferred listening height. It offers a good directivity, fine frequency balance, high sensitivity, and tolerably good amplifier loading.

The Studio 50 is a good speaker, one that can be recommended with some considerable confidence.

Monitor Audio Ltd.
US distributor: Kevro International
902 McKay Road, Suite 4
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3X8, Canada
(905) 428-2800