A brand new range of Monitor Audio Bronze speakers was among the highlights at this year's Bristol Hi-Fi Show, and we were given a first listen right before doors were opened to the public.
The sixth generation of the line comprises eight models: there are two pairs of standmounters (Bronze 50 and Bronze 100) and two of floorstanders (Bronze 200 and Bronze 500), with a centre speaker (Bronze C150), surround speaker (Bronze FX), Dolby Atmos speaker (Bronze AMS) and subwoofer (Bronze W10) rounding out the range for AV use.
The prices have increased a tad – the suite now ranges from £260 for the 50s up to £770 for the 500 towers – and the numbering has altered, but the headline is that these speakers are a ground-up re-design aimed at being loyal to the Monitor Audio brand both in terms of audio quality and its striving for innovation.
Monitor Audio says the range takes both performance and build quality further to make the best Bronze Series yet – an expected but nevertheless bold claim considering how successful the range has been. Earlier generations of Bronze speakers have picked up many What Hi-Fi? Awards and five-star reviews over the years, with the three-time-award-winning Bronze 2 from 2015 even included in our list of the 13 best Monitor Audio products of all time.
It makes the starting from scratch a somewhat bold move. Even the dimensions are new, with the new cabinets generally a little larger than the equivalents from the previous generation. The Bronze 100, the bigger of the two standmounters and arguably the core model in the range, is in fact dimensionally identical to the Silver 100 – so a fair bit larger than the Bronze 2 it replaces.
It features a larger driver, too – an 8-inch, single-piece C-CAM dome rather than the 6.5in unit of before. Monitor Audio is keen to point out that this isn't a cost-reduced Silver driver, but a custom, bespoke Bronze driver.
The entry-level Bronze 50 is bigger and more of a 'proper' stereo speaker than the outgoing Bronze 1, too, which was often thought of as more of a satellite speaker for surround systems.
The C-CAM gold dome tweeter also now features a uniform dispersion waveguide for greater dispersion of sound. It sits behind a new version of the honeycomb-speckled grille first seen on the Silver range. Monitor Audio is keen that its speakers be instantly recognisable, and it seems that this tweeter grille is key to that.
It certainly gives the new Bronze speakers a very smart appearance, particularly when combined with the clean lines, lack of a front-facing reflex port (that has now been moved to the rear, which Monitor Audio insists doesn’t actually affect placement that much), and new finishes, which consist of White, Black, Walnut and Urban Grey'.
The new Atmos topper is an exciting addition. Surprisingly, it's the first speaker of its type that Monitor Audio has produced, and is designed to dimensionally match the 6-inch-driver speakers – so the Bronze 50 standmounter and Bronze 200 floorstander. It has its own, upward-firing 4.5-inch driver.
Our demo was of the Bronze 100 standmounters, so those replacing the much-loved Bronze 2s, but it’s worth noting that the appearance and finish of the collection is impressive across the range. We’re great fans of the larger cabinets – especially, in fact, the boxier dimensions of those wider models – and the Walnut finish with black fascia is a particular favourite.
Regardless of sound quality – and we’ll have to wait until later in the year, probably May, until we can give a full verdict on that – everything here suggests we’re getting the same fantastic build quality and attention to detail we’ve come to expect from Monitor Audio. In that sense, at least, you can buy with confidence.
At £325, the Bronze 100s are firmly in the mid-range price bracket for standmount speakers, and there has clearly been much work done to ensure a clean and detailed presentation befitting of the cost. Despite being in an unfamiliar and untreated room, it was clear that the sharply defined edges of instruments and voices, and the texture within, is going to be one of these speakers’ main calling cards.
The tweeters are certainly working hard, too. While it might be tempting to roll off a little top end, even at this price, to ensure an easy-listening experience and wider versatility when it comes to system matching, Monitor Audio has left the treble wide open and balanced it with a generous helping of bass weight, no doubt aided by these larger cabinets.
Stereo imaging appears to be a forte, too, with instruments panned definitely in right and left channels and vocals well focused, hanging in the middle of the two speakers. In these respects, the Bronze 100s appear to aim for a quite mature, hi-fi sound, which for this kind of money is no bad thing.
There are perhaps some question marks still over their musicality, those aspects such as rhythmic drive and dynamic expression, but these kinds of things are impossible to truly judge before we get the Bronze 100s into our listening rooms and plugged into our reference test kit.
It is certainly admirable that Monitor Audio has seen fit not only to tweak an existing, winning design, but to push things forward with an entirely new product. It is also immediately apparent upon listening what the brand has focused upon in terms of sonic character.
And without wanting to guess how the rest of the range will sound, it’d be a safe bet that the Bronzes win out in terms of uniformity. Home cinema is another area in which the company has thrived in our test rooms with its Bronze and Silver ranges, and the partnerships between its speakers have always been a big part of that.
We will have to wait until late spring until we can deliver a full verdict on the Bronze 100s, and indeed the rest of the range, but we’re already eager to give them a proper run.