The British company Monitor Audio, which is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of Hi-Fi loudspeaker systems used in stereo systems and multi-channel surround sound systems, etc. architectural acoustic systems (panels) customized to specific buildings to provide extremely balanced, high-quality sound throughout the entire home and even outside!
In the audio reproduction industry, the Monitor Audio brand is a shining example of creative companies. The British have never been afraid to invest money in research, try new market segments, create and use modern technologies, some of which were spotted in the aerospace industry. Therefore, Monitor Audio is a success; its products have unique features and are recognizable. This plays a positive role not only with high-end class products; the company’s status is no less important if the product belongs to the budget segment; fortunately, the British have always had enough models that are affordable to almost any music lover.
The history of Monitor Audio began in 1972, the company was founded by engineer Mohammed Iqbal and his associates Martin Colloms and Mike Bean. The first years the company was based in Cambridge, and then production moved to the suburb of London, the town of Rayleigh. In the 70s and 80s, the company was looking for its own style, its own sound philosophy, nevertheless making very good acoustic systems; some of the models of those years are today considered rarities and are highly valued by collectors. Monitor Audio’s first products were large, conventionally bookshelf 3-way MA1 speakers, for installation of which it was necessary to use special low stands. Housings and speakers were purchased externally, but they did not skimp on components. Heavy cabinets with thick walls and the best emitters from famous manufacturers at that time were used: KEF, EMI, B&W, Peerless, etc. However, after a few years Monitor Audio switched to its own standards, ordering exclusive drivers and opening its own factory in 1976 for the manufacture of cases. For a long time, the company collaborated with the largest British speaker manufacturer ELAC (not to be confused with the German company of the same name).
Monitor Audio MA1 (1972)
Released in 1974, the 3-way MA3 models opened the door for the company to the prestigious society of audiophile acoustics manufacturers. The speakers were 715 mm tall, weighed 27 kg and were distinguished by oval bass drivers, the large dimensions of which forced the designers to place them diagonally on the front panel. The speaker had a rigid sandwich membrane made of fabric layers coated with a polymer. Equally popular were the 1977 MA7 models – shelf 2-way monitors with dimensions: 405x228x203 mm (HxWxD) and weighing about 7 kg. Music lovers liked the compactness of the speakers, which is in demand at home, coupled with high sound quality. The MA7 was equipped with a Mylar tweeter and a mid-woofer with a polymer-coated fabric cone.
Monitor Audio MA7 (1977)
Back in 1979, the British tried to get rid of the cliché of a company associated exclusively with hi-fi speaker systems by releasing the ET600 vinyl turntable. Although the story ended there, without receiving a continuation. Note that already at an early stage, in search of better quality and efficiency, Monitor Audio actively used membranes made of synthetic and composite materials, which were experimental at that time, in the emitters. Continuing their research in the 80s, Monitor Audio engineers came up with the idea of metal diffusers. The company was one of the first in the world (along with the pioneers from Acoustic Energy) to create a metal “tweeter” recognized as corresponding to the Hi-Fi level. As a result, in 1986, the Monitor Audio R852MD models appeared – the first speakers with an aluminum-magnesium alloy tweeter. In addition to the proprietary feature – the composition of the alloy, the new HF emitter was very well protected from temperature compression. Improved heat dissipation was achieved through a metal dome, ferro-fluid in the magnetic gap, a metal voice coil frame and an additional ventilation system. The tweeter technology for the R852MD later led to the creation of a whole generation of C-CAM tweeters. However, in the mid-80s everything was just beginning.
Monitor Audio R852MD (1982)
By the way, in the 80s, famous designer Robin Marshall worked on Monitor Audio speaker systems, including the R852MD. After leaving Monitor Audio a few years later, he founded Epos Acoustic and developed the legendary ES14 monitors. Looking at the R852MD and ES14, one can easily discern related features in the speakers, starting with the notorious metal “tweeter”. In 1988, Monitor Audio improved its metal tweeter with another proprietary technology, the Gold Metal Dome, named for the distinctive color of the dome. Although the golden shine of the “tweeter” was only an external effect, since the membrane itself was made using the company’s traditional method from an aluminum alloy, followed by anodizing the outer surface.
Monitor Audio Studio 10 (1989)
In 1989, Monitor Audio engineers took it even further, extending the ceramic-coated metal diaphragm technology to midrange/woofer drivers. The first models with all-metal drivers were the Monitor Audio Studio 10 bookshelf speakers, released in the same year. And in 1991, the C-CAM ceramic-metal diffuser was officially introduced – a key Monitor Audio technology that determined the look and sound of speaker systems for many years right up to the present day. Armed with its own driver technology, Monitor Audio conquered the speaker market in the 1990s with varying degrees of success. But in 1998, the company carried out an important reorganization of its entire model range, dividing it into several classes. The invented and implemented pyramid of series has remained relevant today, although some floor-series have already changed up to 5 generations.
Monitor Audio Reference
At the base of the pyramid today is the Monitor Reference series – a basic level, economy class with a very favorable ratio of sound quality and cost. Next comes the Bronze line – this is the next class (Monitor Reference = Bronze of the previous generation), in which the appearance and sound are raised to a higher level, while the price tag remains in the budget segment. The third floor is occupied by the Silver line – a respectable class with improved technology and noble design, including finishing the speakers with varnish and natural veneer. Standing one step higher, the Gold series is High-End with elite technologies and audiophile components, to which high-quality ribbon tweeters have been added in recent generations. Which precious metal is more valuable than gold? At the top of the pyramid is the Platinum line – the best that Monitor Audio has to offer from speakers and crossovers to cabinets, the highest class in everything from design to sound quality, hand-crafted assembly and luxurious finishes.
Monitor Audio Bronze
Today Monitor Audio showcases a very wide range of audio components. In addition to a wide variety of acoustics, including subwoofers, specialized speakers for home theater, these are also outdoor speakers and architectural models. In the British model range there are several original solutions, for example, a series of thin designer Radius speakers and flat Soundframe picture speakers, the Apex and Mass satellite series, and now fashionable soundbars. In addition, the company offers a large range of built-in acoustics, which deserves a separate story.
Monitor Audio Silver
However, the Monitor Audio developers have not lost their desire to experiment, especially since, due to the rapid growth of the capabilities of electronics and computer technology, many new and promising things have appeared around. So in 2005, Monitor Audio became the first of the major Hi-Fi manufacturers to release an audio system with an iPod docking station. Later, the company began to produce products with network and wireless functionality, streaming audio, multi-zone capabilities, and desktop audio systems with integrated amplifiers appeared. But these are topics for separate publications; the rich model range of Monitor Audio cannot be covered in one material. We will finish our review with a list of proprietary technologies that have made Monitor Audio speaker systems recognizable all over the world. Proprietary Monitor Audio C-CAM (Ceramic-Coated Aluminum/Magnesium) technologies : This cone technology has been used in most Monitor Audio loudspeakers since 1991. The technology is adapted for audio from the aerospace industry, where it was used to produce jet engine components. The need for lightweight but durable structures is not only among aircraft or rocket engineers; in principle, the same requirements are imposed on speaker membranes. The manufacture of diffusers from an aluminum-magnesium alloy includes three stages of removing residual stress to ensure the solidity of the material. Then a high-temperature anodizing process takes place on the outer surface of the membrane to produce a ceramic layer 50 microns thick. The result is a very rigid material, much more resistant to bending and resonance than conventional diffusers made of pure metals or alloys. Today, C-CAM technology is used by Monitor Audio in drivers of any range from subwoofer speakers to high-frequency drivers.
Monitor Audio Gold
Gold Dome C-CAM : A variation of C-CAM technology commonly used in Monitor Audio tweeters. The thin aluminum alloy membrane with a ceramic surface has very high rigidity, shifting the first resonance of the dome into the far ultrasonic region towards 35 kHz. The name Gold Dome is not associated with the use of a noble metal in the membrane. Despite the golden color of the dome, there is no gold in it. RST (Rigid Surface Technology) : the technology was first introduced in 2000 in the Gold Reference speaker series. The idea of increasing the strength of the mid/bass speaker membranes was inspired by the traditional Japanese art of origami. If the principle works for paper, then it will also work for metal – Monitor Audio engineers thought, and they were right. The surface of the diffuser is covered with pits of different sizes, the diameter of which increases towards the outer edge. This irregular profile of the diffuser increases its rigidity and prevents the propagation of standing waves, giving an advantage in the power and sensitivity of the emitters. RST is used in modern acoustic systems of the Gold, Silver, Soundframe lines, older built-in models and Apex satellites.
RDT (Rigid Diaphragm Technology) : a unique technology for the production of composite diffusers, developed specifically for the flagship acoustic systems of the Platinum series. The RDT is another step towards the dream of audio engineers who want a cone that is both durable yet lightweight. It is clear that it is very difficult to combine these requirements and it is necessary to use unusual materials. During the manufacturing process of an RDT diffuser, a very thin layer of C-CAM ceramic metal is applied to a honeycomb structure woven from Nomex polymer fibers. The layer thickness is only 40 microns, twice as thin as a human hair. The resulting material has impressive properties: it is lighter, but 150 times stronger than 200 micron thick C-CAM. Additionally, the rigidity of the structure is increased by the concave geometry of the diffuser, calculated by computer FEA methods.
Monitor Audio Platinum
Ribbon tweeter : Monitor Audio first used ribbon tweeters in the 2007 Platinum line. Now the new generation Gold speakers are also equipped with the “ribbon”. This type of emitter uses a long, conductive, ribbon-like membrane suspended in a powerful field from NeFeB magnets. The membrane is both a diffuser and a voice coil, experiencing the same control field over its entire surface. The ultra-thin and very light Platinum speaker membrane, made using proprietary C-CAM technology, weighs only 18 mg. Therefore, it gives a very fast response and excellent impulse characteristics, which leads to excellent naturalness and high detail of sound. The frequency flatness of Platinum Series ribbon tweeters extends up to 100 kHz, making them ideal for HD playback.
Monitor Audio Radius
MMP (Metal Matrix Polymer) : technology first used in 2003 in Radius series speakers. During the manufacturing process of diffusers, metal particles are fused into the polypropylene membrane material under high pressure. In addition, to reduce the influence of resonances, the thickness of the diffuser is made variable. Compared to a purely polymer membrane, this treatment adds almost no weight to the diffuser, but significantly increases its strength. The latest generation of Radius loudspeakers have switched to C-CAM drivers, but MMP technology has been used with continued success in various budget Monitor Audio series. ARC (Anti-Resonance Composite) : Anti-resonance composite panels were taken by Monitor Audio from the automotive industry. ARC material is made from a curable polymer infused with mineral additives. ARC produces acoustically inert structural elements with optimal damping properties. Monitor Audio uses ARC composite for the fronts, bases and mid-range driver compartments of its flagship Platinum Series speakers.
Monitor Audio Reference iDeck (2010)
HiVeII (High Velocity) : HiVeII ports are a very common technology found in many Monitor Audio speakers. HiVeII bass reflexes are distinguished from standard FI pipes with smooth walls, which are used by most manufacturers, by longitudinal cutting, which serves to reduce turbulence and accelerate air flow. The music lover hears faster and denser bass.