Monitor Audio Gold 100 Standmount Speaker Review
Cue the cheesy gameshow music because we’re going for Gold
What is the Gold 100?The Gold 100 is the smallest stereo member of the fifth generation of Monitor Audio’s long running Gold series of speakers. Originally, the Gold was the flagship of the whole line-up - the ultimate expression of what Monitor Audio felt a speaker should be. More recently, the Platinum range of speakers has taken on this role and - as the lower Bronze range increased in price, the Monitor Audio range has moved into the bottom rung.
For the Gold range, this has meant that they can borrow some thinking from the Platinum range, as appropriate, and concentrate on being the best in a sector that has become a very keenly contested one indeed. From £1,500 to £2,500, the market fairly bristles with decent standmounts and this smallest member of the family has to keep the brand’s honour intact.
This means that the Gold 100 has to be very good indeed. The omens are positive - the Platinum 100II that we looked at in 2017 was extremely impressive and the unusually proportioned but deeply enjoyable Silver 100 also delivers on what it promises. Does the Gold deliver the same virtues and take the fight to some of the stars at this price point? Time to get stuck in.
Specification and Design
Perhaps because of this, the Gold 100 is almost the type standard for a two way design at this price. It is a rear ported model standing 36 centimetres tall. The mid/bass driver is 6.5 inches across which is in keeping with most rivals although I miss the ‘big banger’ element that the eight inch unit brought to the Silver 100 but it does make for a more normally proportioned design.
This driver is of the RDT II type that we first saw in Platinum. This combines the classic C-CAM (Ceramic Coated Aluminium and Magnesium) layer with a sandwich of more exotic materials including carbon fibre and Nomex behind it to make for an extremely stiff and lightweight driver. The cone is a continuous profile type with no dustcap and behind the cone is a 50mm voice coil and a die cast chassis.
The tweeter is more unusual and is also borrowed from the Platinum range. Monitor Audio calls it MPD - they do love their acronyms - and this stands for Micro Pleated Diaphragm. This is, contrary to the appearance, not a ribbon but is instead a folded membrane. This means that the radiating area of the device is very large - the amount you can see is rather less than how much there is when unfolded. Monitor Audio describes this as working like a ‘high frequency accordion’ which happens to be one of my favourite descriptive terms I can remember reading. As well as its hefty radiating area, Monitor Audio claims an upper frequency response of 50kHz which should be sufficient to cover behaviour over the remotely audible aspects of the spectrum.
The cabinet these drivers are placed in is rather simpler than the one used in the Platinum range. Rather than go for the full curved sided affair, this is a flat sided design that uses rounded edges to reduce the effect of parallel sides. The drivers are attached to it via the rear bolted principle that Monitor Audio now uses on the majority of their products, which has the dual benefit of providing a solid and resonance free mounting while also reducing the number of visible fastenings. Around the back, you will find an example of the company’s HiVE II bass ports that are specifically engineered to reduce the amount of audible airflow.
One refinement that has been added to the Gold 100 has been borrowed from the one off (and technically interesting) Studio model. Monitor Audio has moved to a bolted mount for the bespoke stand available for the Gold 100 which now more closely follows the design practise we’ve seen from Bowers & Wilkins and some others. This wasn’t supplied for review but it did make a significant difference to the Studio model when I tested them.
In all the years I have been testing and using Monitor Audio product, everything they have sent has been well assembled for the asking price. Even the titchy Monitor 50, which was the most recent test subject before this, felt pretty sturdy for its rock bottom price. With rather more budget available for the Gold 100, it is fair to say that they have excelled themselves. The Gold 100 is a simpler and more understated device than the Platinum 100 II but in many ways it feels every bit as well assembled. Things like the sturdy terminals with their proper cable based links (Monitor Audio still allows for a bi-wire fitment on the bulk of their products) and the really well implemented magnetic grilles all help you feel like you are getting your money’s worth.
All these details are really set off by the cabinet though. The proportions are lovely and while I’m sure the rounded edges really do have sonic benefits, they also serve to shrink the perceived volume of the speaker to the immeasurable benefit of the aesthetics. Another lovely touch is the use of a soft touch leather insert on the top panel. It reduces reflection from low sunlight (handy at this time of year) and further breaks up the lines. The only thing I’m still not a fan of is the ‘dot matrix’ effect around the tweeter surround.
The real triumph is the finish though. There are four to choose from - Piano Black, Piano White, Walnut and Piano Ebony. This final option is the finish of the review samples and frankly, I don’t recall seeing anything as lovely since I was graced by the Dynaudio Special Forty. Even at £1,600, most Gold 100s are going to wind up being used in lounges and other ‘public’ rooms and very few rivals can match it for feeling and behaving like furniture. Appearance should always be a secondary consideration when choosing speakers but it would foolish to pretend it doesn’t matter and Monitor Audio has done a superb job with the Gold series.
Very few rivals can match it for feeling and behaving like furniture
How was the Gold 100 Tested?The Monitor Audios were placed on a pair of Soundstyle Z60 stands and connected to a Musical Fidelity M6 500i, a Bluesound Powernode 2i and a Naim Supernait 2, all running from an IsoTek Evo 3 Aquarius mains filter. Source equipment has included the Naim ND5 XS and ND5 XS2 taking a feed from a Melco N1A and an LG 55B7 OLED and a Michell Gyrodec and SME M2-9 running Hana EL and Nagaoka MP-200 cartridges into a Rogue Audio Triton II and Cyrus Phono Signature phono stage. Material used has included lossless and Hi-Res FLAC and AIFF, some DSD, Tidal and vinyl as well as some TV and on demand duty.
Sound QualityOut of the box and in the speaker position demanded of my current digs, the Gold 100 wasn’t truly happy in terms of bass response. There was a slightly fat and ponderous quality to what was coming out of the bottom end that wasn’t ideal. As ever, Monitor Audio supplies a pair of foam bungs with them and in the situation they have been in here, they have been in for all but the first half an hour of listening. If you are planning on using them less than 30cm from a wall, don’t forget to take the bungs out the box before you put it somewhere safe.
With the bungs in place, the Gold 100 loses the low end flab and starts to shine. Historically, the presentation of Monitor Audio speakers might be said to have an ‘edge’ to it. In recent years, this has been something that has been gently dealt with and the upper echelons of the line-up with the MPD tweeter have dispensed with it all together. This is now a speaker that is extremely hard to provoke in normal use. There was a time when saying you were partnering Monitor Audio with Naim would have prompted some nervous looks. Here, the result is a very happy partnership indeed.
The most admirable part of this is that none of the civility comes at the expense of top end detail and bite. This is a fantastically detailed performer, anxious to tell you everything about what is happening in a recording but doing so in a way that is constructive to the overall presentation rather than a slightly joyless forensic undressing of everything. Returning to Twin Shadow’s Caer shows this to good effect. The top end of Brace positively sparkles and the superb vocals have all the emotion the recording contains at the forefront of the piece.
The integration between this space age accordion and the more conventional mid bass is also excellent. The crossover is 2.5kHz and it is handled seamlessly with no audible clues that you have moved from one type of diaphragm to another. This reflects well on the mid bass in particular. As a low mass type tweeter, the MPD unit is breathtakingly fast. It can hurtle through the most complex of material without the slightest sense of delay and the mid bass manages to keep up (certainly once the port bung is in place). If you are a fan of music that shifts, this is a speaker that is more than up to the job of keeping up.
When (if?) you stop birching them like a high gloss PA system, the news remains entirely positive. The Gold 100 has excellent soundstaging and the tonal balance is generally excellent - although at my pickiest I’d say that the tweeter has the tonal edge over the midrange. The shimmering, slow burning start to the live performance of Rakim by Dead Can Dance is really well handled. There is a decent sense of the space that the recording is being produced in and enough of the live ambience to be convincing.
Normally, a ‘but’ arrives at about this point and there is one here but it’s neither terribly serious nor one I was expecting to write about a Monitor Audio product. Historically, the company’s products have always been impressively sensitive and something that didn’t need an enormously powerful amp to drive. With a posted sensitivity of 86dB/w, the Gold 100 is rather less sensitive than versions of old. It would be nonsensical to describe it as hard to drive because it isn’t but it does benefit from quality amplification. This is not a speaker that is going to make a system of more affordable components disproportionately better and it might have the less desirable effect of pointing out failings that you weren’t previously aware of.
- Superb balance of detail, grunt and refinement
- Beautifully made
- Fairly easy to place in a room
- Not as sensitive as earlier models
- Bass output can be a little over enthusiastic
- Won't flatter more limited electronics
Monitor Audio Gold 100 Standmount Speaker ReviewBased on recent experiences with Monitor Audio products, I was fairly sure that the Gold 100 was going to be good. In truth, it is better than that. This is at least 85% of the performance of the PL100 II for a whisker over 50% of the price. That, by anyone’s standards is very, very good going. On a purely subjective level, I think this is the better looking speaker too.
This means that it slots into the combative world of £1,500+ standmounts with considerable assurance. There are strong cases to be made for the PMC twenty5.21 and Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 and they remain outstanding speakers but for a little less money, I honestly prefer the Gold 100. In fact unless you in a position to spring an extra £900 for the Dynaudio Special Forty - still some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on - this is pretty much the best of the entrants I have so far tried. For this reason, the Monitor Audio comes Highly Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,250.00
Ease of Use8
Value for Money8
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