Monitor Audio Gold Signature Home Theater Speaker System

      Date posted: January 25, 2008

Monitor Audio Gold Signature GS 20 Monitor Audio Gold Signature GS 20
Sugg. Retail: $3495 pr (CAN)
Size: 36 3/4″H x 8 1/8″D x 11″”D

Monitor Audio Gold GS-LCR
Sugg Retail: $1295 ea (CAN)
Size: 8 1/8″H x 22 1/16″W x 9 1/16″D

Monitor Audio Gold GS-FX Surround
Sugg. Retail: $995 ea (CAN)
Size: 12 3/16″W x 15 3/8″W x 6 5/16″D

Monitor Audio Silver RSW-12 Subwoofer
Sugg. Retail: $1295 (CAN)

Distributor: Kevro International Inc.,
902 McKay Road, Pickering ON L1W 3X8
(905) 828-2800 FAX 428-0004

Once known best for its cabinetry, Monitor Audio has come quite a distance in recent years to become notable for the audio quality and manufacturing consistency of its loudspeakers of all sorts, without losing that leading edge in furniture fashioning. The beefing up of their engineering in recent years has resulted in some speakers that both look and measure very well.

Perhaps not entirely modestly, the company describes its GS20 floorstanding speaker as, “combining gorgeous aesthetics, sublime sonics and superlative build quality. Its two-and-a-half way, three driver configuration is built around dual-cavity cabinet design, in which one of the 6 1/2-inch RST-2 bass and bass/mid drivers work into separate enclosures, tuned to different frequencies and impedances. This provides improved power handling and delivers faster, deeper, more dynamic bass and greater transparency through the crucial mid-range. Above that, the gold C-CAM tweeter ensures a smooth, detailed sound all the way up to 43 kHz, exploiting the full potential of the latest wide bandwidth digital formats.”

“Amazing at it may seem, a centre speaker may be required to reproduce over 60% of the entire output of a film sound-track. This means that it must deliver the dramatic impact of explosions and sound effects as precisely as it recreates the many tonal subtleties of dialogue. The outstanding dynamic reach and generous power handling of the Gold Signature LCR speaker allow it to master the most dynamic drive conditions with ease and still have something in reserve. Monitor Audio has optimised the design to provide accuracy and control over a wide listening area while preserving the exact tonal signature and balance of the GS series. This means that the GS LCR will integrate perfectly with any of the speakers in the Gold Signature range.” Monitor Audio Gold GS-FX Surround

“The GS-FX is a completely new design from Monitor Audio. Its advanced dualmode configuration can be switched automatically by a processor to accommodate a range of surround sound applications. The speaker’s slim-profiled angled baffle design incorporates no fewer than three driver pairs. When used in monopole mode to reproduce side or rear channels, its front-firing 6 1/2-inch RST-2 bass/mid driver and gold C-CAM tweeter come into play, delivering an accurate wide-bandwidth sound-field to complement perfectly a front-channel GS speaker combination. The GS-FX in dipole mode uses two side-firing pairings of of 4-inch C-CAM bass/mid driver and gold C-CAM tweeter combined with the tailored output from front-firing bass/mid driver to provide wonderfully diffuse yet tonally precise surround effects.”

The subwoofer provided for review was from the Silver group of speakers: “The RSW-12 active subwoofer provides another stunning dimension to the Silver RS sound. Its 12-inch (300mm) C-CAMTM front-firing driver, powered by a potent 500W (RMS) digital amplifier, will extend the reach…to add the deepest drama to movies and music. The RSW-12’s lowest frequencies are controlled so expertly that even subtle effects are better defined…”

There, I couldn’t have said it better myself, though I might have arranged the hyphens and commas a little differently, and cut some of the hyperbole. But all this does show that MA has put a lot of thought into creating coordinated high end HT systems to suit all users equally. And it’s evident too that, depending on the type of home theatre you envision, you can employ multiples of either GS-LCR or GS-FX speakers to provide the desired precise or ambient surround and effect channels in combination. Monitor Audio HT System Frequency Response

We have quite a complex set of measurements for this excellent upper tier home theatre speaker system, with virtually identical PNS (Pink Noise Sweep) at top, indicating almost perfect dispersion of sound in front of and well to the side of each GS 20, with just the expected (less so in fact) rolloff at the very top of the frequency range. Looking at the axial measurements just below, we see virtual symmetry at 0 and 15 degrees off axis, with just the expected rolloff at 30 degrees above 10 kHz.

Bass extension is flat to 70 Hz, with a gentle rolloff, down 5 dB at 50 Hz, and just 7 dB at 30 Hz, very respectable deep bass, and still going at 20 Hz, off about 12 dB. This is a quite compact true full-range loudspeaker, with a very smooth across-the-band response.

The GS-LCR matches well, with bass response holding well to 70 Hz (3d curve group down) and smooth upper bass and midrange above, and showing the same general slope and shelf above through the mids and into the treble. Its 30 degree off-axis measurement does show some lack of energy between 1 and 3 kHz, typical of systems in which the woofer/mids flank the tweeter. That’s of course, when it’s on its side, the driver array not showing this horizontal lobing effect when vertical. But the effect here is minor, a couple of dB, and will be in most cases covered up by radiation in the same range by left and right speakers.
Monitor Audio HT System Impedance
At bottom we find the response of the GS-FX, measured at 0, 15, and 30 degrees off axis as it would face you from the wall or stand from the rear (but not with its back to the microphone as you would be when listening, but as if you were facing it). The very smooth bass/midrange carries over in the GS range, but with a rolloff starting at about 400 Hz, down 4 dB at 1 kHz, and shelved at 9 dB down relative to 400 (and 6 dB relative to 1 kHz); off axis this increases a bit in the midrange, but at all three angles, we see smooth treble that rolls off above about 7 kHz. I think the wider design brief for the GS-FX may be a bit dated in the post Pro Logic/VHS era, and personally prefer wide dispersion direct radiating surround speakers, but these will offer excellent surround to match the other GS models, and can be configured slightly differently in a manner I was not able to test in the brief time available before deadline with these late arrivals.

And now let’s talk about the RSW-12 subwoofer. First, let me note that the relative levels of the measurements are accurately shown with quite interesting unintended results. I started at our standard 85 dB level with the crossover setting at full rotation in what is called EQ1 mode (this latter selectable on top at rear where the overall level control is also located in the Silver medallion section). We see that first measurement just slightly above the the GS 20 axial curves at left. Frankly, it’s not very promising, offering little in the way of deep bass extension, what a subwoofer should be all about, and the next curve down, at half rotation, is no better, both down 9 or 10 dB relative to 100 Hz. After these two runs with the LMS system (both the result of 4 averaged actual measurements, as with all subs to ensure accuracy), I was starting to wonder about this supposedly “high end” sub.

However, as I continued, things got more interesting. With the crossover at minimum rotation I got a trace that looked very much like the response of the KEF sub without any adjustment, this RSW-12 curve seen below and to the left of the GS-LCR curves, +/-1 dB from 20 to 100 Hz, exemplary, and comparable to the best subs we’ve used and measured. It seems that Monitor Audio has left a little too much adjustment room in this subwoofer, that is, enough to make it sound bad, or at best inadequate. Hey, who could be happy without any deep bass from a high end sub?
Monitor Audio Silver RSW-12 Subwoofer (no grille)
The final two measurements seen below this are with EQ2 in circuit, and here the situation is similar (and I didn’t even bother with the full crossover setting this time), the 1/2 rotation sloping off below 60 Hz, with a falloff under 30 as well, but very flat at the minimum crossover setting, which I would recommend as a starting point for buyers of the RSW-12. Perhaps that little dip below 30 Hz is part of the accommodation to an HT system, I don’t know, but overall, this is a very fine subwoofer when properly set up, something especially necessary in this case. In all respects, this is a very fine top-of-the-line home theatre speaker system, with almost no dynamic limitations, plus beautiful cabinetry available in veneers or a gorgeous glossy black. And perhaps it would be even more powerful at the bottom end with its own recently introduced dedicated GSW-12 subwoofer, which wasn’t yet available for review at the time of writing.

High end HT is very much a byword with the Monitor Audio Gold system. This is a very fine and beautiful system in its glossy black, and the sound quality matches very well, the surround imaging exemplary, as expected, and the bass solidity and speed commensurate with this company’s much improved engineering in recent times. It’s about $8000 of HT “Kit” as the Brits say, and worth every farthing.

Andrew Marshall

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One Response to “Monitor Audio Gold Signature Home Theater Speaker System”

  1. Dmitri c-ru Says:

    Great review! Thanks a lot! I like GS speakers very much.

    Would you only please make the graphs a bit more readable? Better in color and with short description about all the measured curves.

    BTW, some MA RS/GS f.r. graphs I saw before indicated +14dB tweeter resonance at 19kHz or about. Did you notice it?


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