On paper, the Monopulse 42As' specification – 28mm soft-dome tweeter decoupled from the rest of the cabinet, offset mid/bass driver on the front panel in a quest for class-leading time alignment – looks exciting.
In the flesh, the looks (halfway between a hessian Hoover and something from Space Family Robinson) are perplexing. We thought all this on the way to awarding the 42As five stars back in December 2008.
We'll get on to exactly why the Monopulses are among the most focused and effective loudspeakers at any price, but let's deal with the downsides first.
Anyone who assumes £2000 is going to buy real wood cabinets, or indeed perfect symmetry between speakers, is going to be disappointed.
Heath Robinson constructionThe Heath Robinson aspects of the 42As become suddenly less important when you hear them in action, though.
More after the break
Marmaduke Duke's Heartburn is a rapid, clattering test of timing and detail resolution, but it's meat and drink to the Monopulses.
The soundstage the 42As present is open, expansive and utterly coherent, and they present the song in fast, fluent and rhythmically adept measures.
They're unflustered by dynamic shifts and, thanks to a midrange that's fluid and expressive, grant singers all the anima they require.
Low frequencies may not have the out-and-out extension of some, but they're punchy, controlled and tonally articulate.
Superb sound let down by finishThe real party piece, though, is the way the 42As enter individual notes and sounds – these speakers grip and control information like the Stasi, and have the precision to make a tune as unruly as Four Tet's Wing Body Wing sound organised and cohesive. As a listen, they're endlessly satisfying.
So they should be five stars all the way – they certainly sound a match for many floorstanders.
But one thing bothers us, it's that £2000 should buy a minimum standard of build and finish; the 42As aren't up to the mark.