If you've been reading What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision for a while, you'll be aware of the long-running contest between Monitor Audio's BR5 and KEF's IQ5.
You'll also probably be aware that Monitor Audio has lost this particular round, and lost a star in the process. Don't go thinking that means these are bad speakers though. It's just that with such fierce competition we've had to raise the bar, and the BR5s just miss out, partly on sonic grounds, partly due to a £50 price rise.
Like the KEFs, these are compact floorstanders, and they're very stylish to boot, from the smart wood finish, to the vertical symmetry of the driver array. Unlike the KEFs, they're hard to knock over, thanks to their four feet.
Spin up REM's Losing My Religion and the MA's are immediately likeable, their tonal evenness and integration working well on a track with well-defined layers.
The usually hard-to-follow bass line is revealed clearly and tracked with depth and texture, Michael Stipe's vocals are well-defined and full of life, and the upper frequencies of the acoustic guitar are solid and detailed. Bear in mind that if you position them too close to a wall, the bass can begin to overrule.
More after the break
Balance, fluidity and deep bass A bigger, orchestral score is required to separate the best speakers here, and this time it's The Battle from the Gladiator soundtrack. The 10-minute epic flows from the speakers with excellent balance and fluidity, and the large soundstage and deep bass make for a likeable listen.
Yet, through extended listening and comparative testing, it's clear that they lack the dynamic excitement of the very best speakers here, so the track's highs and lows don't create the emotive response that some of the newer, more attacking speakers can muster.
That doesn't make these speakers bad; in fact some may prefer the laid-back nature of the Monitor Audios over the more forward delivery of rivals such as the KEFs.
In our book, though, a speaker should offer all the excitement that's on the disc – and there are speakers available now that do that just a bit better, and for less cash.