What is the Monitor Audio PL100II?
Not too long ago, the number of standmount speakers that exceeded this point was fairly limited. By the time you were dropping the sort of money that buys a reasonable used car, good mechanical watch or tailored suit, the thinking went that you'd be looking for a floorstanding speaker. In recent years, this thinking has changed significantly. Firstly (and inescapably) £3,000 buys less speaker than it did as inflation, material price rises and our own freefalling currency take effect.
There are some other considerations though. The space we have for equipment is often shrinking as houses become more expensive. There is also a change to speaker ranges. This is the smallest member of a family of speakers that goes up to a £15,000 leviathan that deeply impressed us at
The main focus of attention is the tweeter. This is a unit that Monitor Audio calls the MPD – Micro Pleated Diaphragm and it is somewhat unusual. The radiating area takes the form of a diaphragm that is pleated (Monitor Audio's exact choice of words) and equates to a flat surface that is eight times the size of a conventional dome tweeter. This generates sound by squeezing the pleats in the manner of an accordion bellows and has clean and measurable output well beyond the threshold of human hearing.
This ability is something that seems to be a source of confusion on the part of some critics. Monitor Audio (and other companies that make similar tweeters) are not claiming that their customers are X-Men with senses far in advance of mere mortals. The benefit of this extended response is two fold. The first is that a tweeter capable of such extension won't be struggling with audible frequencies. The second is more complex but repeatable as a test. The presence of these extremely high frequencies has an effect on our perception of the audible band. By reproducing these frequencies correctly, the reproduction of the audible band is 'shaped' in such a way as to be more musically satisfying.
The whole driver is then mounted in an extremely rigid enclosure made from composites that almost completely encase it. This is to prevent the formation of standing waves that would need to be dissipated via the cabinet otherwise. As the PL100II does without a dedicated midrange driver, the enclosure here is slightly different to the completely enclosed one used in other models in that it has to allow the driver to vent to the rear mounted bass port but the principal remains the same.
The cabinet and the attendant bass port are almost conventional judged by the drivers. Monitor Audio has chosen to use relatively conventional materials in a well-engineered fashion rather than do anything outlandish. The 'HIVE II' bass ports have been seen on other Monitor Audio products but help to control the flow of air through the port and to try and alleviate it from becoming disturbed at the mouth. The gentle curve on the side of the cabinets should help further reduce standing waves. Unusually, the PL100II supports bi wiring and does so via custom made and impressively hefty speaker terminals.
First up, the packaging that these speakers turn up in is a fairly hefty piece of engineering in its own right. It takes the form of a reinforced carboard liner in which the speakers sit on a foam tray. It's large and immensely solid. This solidity is nothing compared to the speakers themselves though. If we take the PMC twenty5.21 to be a well finished example of a home speaker, the PL100II is an altogether more luxurious object. What is intriguing is that in many ways, the Monitor Audio is the more subtle of the two.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this is that thanks to careful thinking, the Monitor Audio is no more challenging to live with than another large standmount. It has a dedicated stand but thanks to a decent footprint, it works perfectly happily on aftermarket ones. It needs some space around it (which I'll cover in a little more detail in a bit) but ultimately it is a well implemented speaker that manages to make you feel special without being ostentatious.
How was the PL100II tested?
What do I mean by this? In greatly simplified terms, the performance of the PL100II is so effortless, it takes a little time and concentration to appreciate quite how good it is because there's so few obtrusive clues to what it is doing. The only attribute that makes itself felt from the off is the bass response. For a relatively compact speaker, the Monitor Audio has exceptional bass extension. Listening to Underworld's Everything, Everything live album, the PL100II is seriously impressive. It extends effortlessly off the lower midrange and is packed with detail and texture. Provided that you are thirty centimetres or so away from the wall, there is no sense of boom or over driving either.
Spend some time listening to the PL100II though and the bass response is actually one of the less remarkable aspects of the speaker. The upper registers of the Monitor Audio are sensationally good and the more you listen to them, the more impressive they become. Firstly, despite the very different technologies involved in the tweeter and mid bass drivers, the integration between them is perfect – something that isn't always a given with speakers of this nature. I've spent a bit of time trying to find the handover between them and it simply isn't there. The speaker then makes use of this driver complement to deliver a sound that often only really shows up its fundamental rightness when you choose to listen to the same music on something else.
What appeals to me at least about this is how unobtrusive the process is. The PL100II manages to bring a truly invigorating level of scale and energy to music but even when provoked, it stays smooth and civilised. When used with the Naim streamer, the results are thoroughly satisfying but the results with vinyl via the Avid and Cyrus have genuinely been some of the best I've achieved with analogue – and this includes some considerably more expensive setups. There is an effortlessness to the way it makes music that is a true taste of the high end at an almost reasonable price.
Finding things that don't quite work in this tidal wave of positivity is pretty tough. This is not a speaker that adds additional pace or joy to music. With the superbly groovy 1999 by Cassius, the Monitor Audio is tremendously enjoyably but – as befits the general mission statement of the whole design – it isn't adding anything additional to the mix. If you live on a diet of high energy music (and even I don't do that any more), you might find that the PL100II is a little too refined but the entire system I use probably contributes to this. As an all-rounder though, the Monitor Audio does an awful lot more right than it does wrong.
- Detailed yet impressively refined sound
- Beautifully built
- Easy to drive and position
- Won't flatter poor equipment
- Possibly not always the most joyous speaker around
Monitor Audio PL100II Platinum Speaker Review
This makes what this one does rather more singular. If you partner the PL100II with any remotely compatible electronics, I will be very surprised if you can honestly find no merit in the way this speaker performs. This is an attractive, exquisitely assembled and very forgiving speaker that delivers a truly outstanding performance across a huge variety of music. This incredible set of abilities garners the PL100II a Highly Recommended badge.
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