The British loudspeaker maker Monitor Audio has been a leading proponent of using drivers that features light, stiff, and highly responsive metal diaphragms. In fact, one could argue that high tech metal drivers are as much Monitor's design signature as, say, horn-loaded drivers might be for a firm such as Klipsch. But an equally strong element in Monitor's corporate identity is a laudable commitment to value—a commitment that translates directly into product lines that consistently offer disproportionately large helpings of high-end technology at sensible prices. Nowhere is this commitment more obvious than in the firm's new "entry level" Bronze BX-series speakers, which were announced as the CEDIA 2010 show last fall. I put the term "entry level" in quotes here simply because the new Bronze BX models frankly do not look or sound like "entry level" products at all, but rather seem to be cut from finer cloth (which is precisely the impression Monitor Audio hopes the speakers will create).
How exactly does Monitor Audio pull this off? Well, part of the answer lies in the firm’s practice of using its own mid- and high-priced speaker lines as the performance targets for which its newly revised lower-priced models can aim. There is, at Monitor Audio, historical precedent for this sort of thing. Two great examples would be the firm’s Silver RX range, w- current Gold GS-series models, and also the new Gold GX-models, which quite obviously draw design influences from the firm’s top-tier Platinum speakers. Now, we come to the new Bronze BX models, which take more than a few design cues from the critically acclaimed Silver RX series.
I once spoke with the head of Monitor’s engineering team, Technical Director Dean Hartley, about whether it ever became problematic to update lower-priced ranges of speakers such that they became competitive with the firm’s existing mid- or high-priced models. I don’t recall Hartley’s precise words, but I found his answer refreshingly candid, in that he told me he believed designers had a moral and ethical responsibility to design the very best products they possibly could at any given point in time, subject only to the constraints of intended build cost and the available design know-how, and to let the chips fall where they might. To do anything less, Hartley argued, would simply be wrong. “Besides,” I remember him adding with a grin, “if you build great low-priced products that simply means you get a chance to reach that much higher and push yourselves that much harder when you go to revise the next product range up the line.” My thought: when designers (and companies) challenge themselves in this way, we all win.
The Perfect Vision’s Monitor Audio Bronze BX review system consists of two Bronze BX5 2 ½-way, three-driver floorstanders ($749/pair), a Bronze BX-Centre 2 ½-way, three-driver center channel speaker ($299), two Bronze BX-FX 2-way, three-driver, bipolar/dipolar surround speakers ($489/pair), and a Bronze BXW-10 200-watt subwoofer ($629).
At this stage, Monitor’s Silver RX speakers have raised the mid-priced performance bar sufficiently high that it probably is not realistic to expect the much lower-priced Bronze BX models to equal their more expensive siblings and they don’t, though the Bronze BX models do narrow the performance gap considerably. In fact, as you’ll learn in this review, the new Bronze models now manage to channel much of the sonic goodness of the Silver-series speakers, but at a pennies-on-the-dollar price. And as you can see from the “FEATURES” section below, a great deal of Silver RX technology trickle-down has found its way into the Bronze BX range.
Bronze BX speaker system technical highlights: