We reviewed the first generation of Monitor Audio’s Platinum PL300s back in 2008.
At that time, Monitor Audio didn’t have a reputation for high-end speakers, but out of nowhere came a pair of luxury floorstanders that could stand toe-to-toe with the best at the price.
We were impressed enough with the results to use a complete 9.2 Platinum package (PL300s as fronts) as a reference for many years. There’s no doubt in our minds that the range succeeded in establishing the company at the top end of the market.
It also did well enough to ensure that the idea of a £8000 pair of Monitor Audios doesn’t seem strange at all.
Some may be disappointed to note there’s little surprise in the new ‘300s. That fits perfectly into the company’s way of doing things – good products are evolved rather than scrapped – yet, no part of the original has survived.
Everything from the cabinet and drive units to the spike assembly is brand new, all designed with a view to improving the performance.
To a large extent, we think Monitor Audio has succeeded.
Build and finish
The PL300 II’s cabinet is an elaborate affair. It’s impressively inert thanks to a combination of multilayered curved panels, extensive bracing and the clever use of damping materials.
These are heavy speakers at almost 55kg each, and large too, standing 111cm tall so make sure you have help unpacking them.
We love the way the company’s engineers have designed the drive unit mountings.
Rather than the usual screws through the front panel, these speakers – as with other products from Monitor Audio’s current stable – feature a bolt-through design that is tightened from the back.
This method not only removes the need for untidy fixings on the front but also, the company claims, clamps the drivers more effectively. Such an arrangement also braces the cabinet further, improving rigidity in the process.
The company calls the tweeter an MPD (micro pleated diaphragm) design, but we’ll call it a ribbon. Rather than being a bought in item (as it so often is) this one has been developed in-house.
The idea was to keep all the positives of the ribbon used in the original series but improve on the resolution, refinement, power handling and reliability. The new tweeter is a kinder load for amplifiers too.
Both the 10cm midrange and 20cm bass drivers use second-generation RDT cones. RDT II is a composite of low mass skins – C-CAM and carbon – separated by a honeycomb Nomex core.
This material is claimed to combine lightness with rigidity and good self-damping – an ideal blend of qualities for a speaker cone. Monitor Audio claims RDT II is the lowest distorting cone technology in its history. That’s quite some statement.
There’s more than just a new cone material here. The engineers have looked at every aspect of the driver’s design from the chassis structure through to the motor system, right down to the way the interface between the voice coil and cone works.
Move away from the engineering and this Monitor Audio remains on rock solid ground. The company has long been known for turning out classy speakers and the 300s are yet another.
What grabs your attention is the beautifully finished lacquer coat polished almost to a mirror finish. There are no fewer than 11 layers of lacquer applied in total and the final result looks lovely.
Positioning and compatibility
The speakers come in two wood options – Santos Rosewood or the Ebony of our review sample – and both finishes work well. We like the small tool kit Monitor Audio provides too, and the nicely machined chunky spikes
The 300s need plenty of space to breathe, a metre or so from the rear wall is as close as we would go. Despite good dispersion from the tweeter a touch of angle towards the listening position helps to solidify the stereo imaging nicely.
Those with small rooms will have to look elsewhere in the Platinum II range.
Any speaker at this price level demands high quality partnering kit, and though Monitor Audio has tried to make this range easier on the partnering amplification, we don’t think it makes sense to compromise.
We used our usual reference system, which consists of Naim NDS/555PS streamer, Clearaudio Innovation Wood record player and a Gamut D3i/D200i pre/power combination. On the whole the results are impressive.
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Having spent years listening to the original PL300s, we’re pleased to report that the new ones remain as listenable as ever. These are beautifully refined delivering class-leading levels of detail without sounding least bit clinical.
One of the design priorities was to reduce distortion levels, and it certainly sounds like the company has succeeded. We can’t think of a rival with a presentation as clean and clear as this one. The PL300 IIs sound crisp without being edgy and are as precise as they come.
These are big speakers with two hefty bass drivers so it comes as no surprise that they deliver a sound of considerable authority.
Take a listen to Hans Zimmer’s Inception OST and these towers generate impressively deep lows; the kind that you feel as much as hear. Just as pleasing is the agility at these frequencies.
Basslines are taut and articulate with little evidence of overhang.
There’s plenty of composure at higher volumes too, with the Platinum’s large-scale presentation able to fill bigger listening rooms with ease.
Push the speakers hard and they stay in control, refusing to harden up or sound strained. Their composure is impressive and absolute.
We admire the speaker’s stereo imaging on this piece too. Large speakers often struggle to produce a properly ‘out of the box’ presentation, but not these. This is down to the PL300 II’s well-controlled cabinet as much as it is the carefully judged dispersion of the drive units.
The sound stage is wide, deep and populated with precisely focused instruments. These instruments stay locked in position no matter how demanding the music gets.
While we would expect big floorstanders to go deep in the bass and play at high volumes, we’re surprised to find just how subtle the new 300s sound. We play First Aid Kit’s Ghost Town and love the way these speakers render the vocals.
The PL300 II’s clarity makes it easy to hear every word as well as feel the emotion of this touching song. This recording isn’t flawless though, sounding a little thin and hard.
While the Monitor Audio’s high level of transparency makes these shortcomings crystal clear, their deeply ingrained refinement prevents them from spoiling our enjoyment.
Things aren’t totally rosy, though. Feed these Monitor Audios music that requires more aggression, say Kanye West’s Black Skinhead, and they don’t wholly convince.
With most material, we’re impressed by the PL300 II’s civilised nature but with music that needs a bit of bite it works against them. Kanye’s aggression is tempered, and the song’s abrasive arrangement sounds almost cultured.
Percussion that should punch through the mix fails to come to the fore while the music’s thumping beat lacks the kind of drive and attack we expect.
The Monitor Audios deliver a clear, detailed rendition, but filter quite a lot of the music’s attitude, giving it a mellower feel than intended.
There are many things these speakers do brilliantly. We can’t think of a rival with a cleaner, more detailed presentation, or one that is as refined. That midrange transparency is noteworthy too.
Yet, the PL300 IIs aren’t all-rounders; their highly polished presentation making them picky about the music being played.
They mostly sound excellent, but give them something that requires a bit of bite and they don’t quite deliver. We find ourselves full of admiration, but not in love.
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