MONITOR AUDIO GX50 loudspeakers
First impressions: Shiny and slippery. That’s what struck me when I unpacked the box and the Monitor Audio GX50 speakers revealed themselves. Curvy, too. I’ve not taken home a pair of Monitor Audio speakers for a long time and had forgotten just how competent this Brit stalwart is at fit and finish, from back in the days when Mo Iqbal (now retired from the hi-fi business) ran the company.
The GX50 is the smallest cabinet in Monitor Audio’s Gold range (which is above the Bronze and Silver, and one step down from the flagship Platinum line). It looks every bit its part – that is, a high quality mini monitor. Of course, the ribbon tweeter also sets it apart from the pack. The piano black lacquer finish is gorgeous, but here’s the trade-off – it’s a fingerprint magnet, so you want to keep a polishing cloth within reach. The silver finish of the mid/bass driver is a striking contrast to the cabinet.
Hooking the pair up turned out to be fidgety affair – I couldn’t get the caps off the speaker terminals and had to dig around my storage boxes for spade adaptors. Since bi-wiring is provided for, the back is rather cramped. You don’t want to use thick cables in bi-wired configuration, because they could well topple the GX50 from its perch.
All done, the sound emerging from the GX50s had me transfixed … how do small speakers sound so big and expansive? The quality of the bass had me gobsmacked, too, and the pristine nature of presentation – without sounding clinical – immediately singled these tiny tots out as something special.
Specs: The two-way bass reflex design uses a single 5.5-inch RST bass driver and C-CAM ribbon transducer, based on the Platinum range units and crossing over at 2.3kHz. The ribbon unit extends the GX50’s higher frequency range to 60kHz while at the other extreme, 55Hz response is claimed.
Eleven layers of lacquer are applied individually on the cabinet, which is made of 20mm MDF, to attain the luxurious finish. A floating magnetic grille provides protection for the drive units without cluttering up the front panel’s styling. For additional protection, the ribbon is housed under a metal mesh.
The HiVe port technology here is claimed to have better transient response and tighter bass. The large-radius cabinet edges result in low diffraction and smoother frequency response.
Quoted sensitivity is 86dB and nominal impedance, 8 Ohms – however, these really aren’t difficult speakers to drive, as I found out along the way. They will go up to 109.8dB but if pushed too hard, you will hear it. Power handling is 100 watts and a fairly efficient 50 should get this going smoothly – make sure they’re good quality watts, though …
Each cabinet measures 300 x 180 x 263mm (h/w/d) and weighs 7.5kg. Other finish options are bubinga and dark walnut real wood veneers, and piano white lacquer and piano ebony.
Performance: My initial impressions were reinforced the more I listened to these speakers. They possessed a surprising magnitude of authority and scale when playing more complex music, like orchestral works; yet, they also conveyed the raw edge of rock recordings without effort.
The musical diet I fed them was my usual mixed bag – Dire Straits, ZZ Top, AC/DC, Patricia Barber, Jacques Loussier, Lee Ritenour (his Six-String Theory album is almost a complete test CD in itself!) and a handful of reference compilations of “audiophile” jazz, pop and classical recordings.
Impressive was the fact that, even at low volume, there was no lessening of impact in the GX50’s presentation – I could tell the speakers had great bass, projection and resolution even with the knobs turned well below the levels I prefer. Always the sign of a good system, that there’s no affecting its presentation when played soft.
Pushed up to normal volume, I marvelled at how splendidly communicative the GX50s sounded – despite the physical laws, there is loads of bass emerging from these compacts. Not the deepest, understandably, but in terms of tautness, detail and conviction, about the best I’ve heard in small speakers in a long while.
They’re excellent with dynamics and possess the ability to stop on a dime when handling transients … minimal overhang was heard in the low frequencies, while the highs were precise and pristine, and never induced fatigue after longer sessions.
Despite ribbon tweeters’ tendency to sound bright, I never heard a suggestion of this on the GX50 until the speakers were pushed beyond their comfort zone. This is also when the mid-bass drivers made it clear they were operating outside their standard parameters – they sounded harsher and cracked up with certain dynamic bass recordings. Not that one would want them to play this loud – you don’t want to test the laws of physics at extremes.
This apart, the GX50 handled all types of musical programmes comfortably – at reasonable volume for sane people, they were always very communicative and involving, and resolving enough to inform the listener of the nuances and subtleties in the mix and music. The midrange is well voiced, and singers, whether female or male, were projected as the studio engineer intended to – the GX50 never added anything to the brew, instead taking the direct approach.
The good: The quality of finish of the GX50 is excellent, and the sonic performance mostly impeccable … in fact, when you factor in their size, they’re about as perfect as a small monitor can get at the price.
That they have a bi-wiring option can only be good news for those who can hear these little incremental differences. Both sonically and visually, the GX50 will also certainly win the approval of the lady of the house.
The ungood: Nothing, unless you like to play your music like you’re at a discotheque. In which case, I recommend a pair of bass bins …
Final verdict: The Monitor Audio GX50 is a top-notch small speaker for today’s audiophile – they’re significantly superior in performance to the lower range models and versatile in the bargain.
While they possess a pristine sound, this is not at the expense of emotion – if this appears to be a contradictory observation, I suggest an audition. If deep bass is not a priority, these are the speakers of the hour.
Digital sources: Ayon CD-1s CD player, Linn Majik DS / Preamp: Odyssey Audio Tempest SLB / Power amps: Odyssey Audio Khartago Extreme SE monoblocs and Stratos Extreme / Speakers: Magneplanar MG1.7, Zu Audio Omen / Interconnects: MIT CVT 1 & 2 / Cables: MIT CVT 2, Exposure / Power cords: Furutech, DHLabs, Kimber / Power supplied via AVIA balanced Powertrans / Supported on Finite Elemente Spider racks
Malaysian price: RM6,500
Review sample courtesy of: Acoustique System (+6012-339 3738) / Find your distributor here.
Sujesh Pavithran is an ardent fan of Magnepan and Apogee speakers, loves vinyl AND supports digital formats as he believes they will keep improving, has a yen for tubes and is a gadget-head (shamelessly encouraging consumerism in this sector). He has been reviewing hi-fi equipment and music since the mid-1980s, but occasionally wonders if he should have made a detour into motoring or photography instead…