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Monitor Audio MA301
4 Reviews
rating  3.5 of 5
Description: Small Bookshelf Speakers


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Reviews 1 - 4 (4 Reviews Total)

User Reviews

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by colonel_yba a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: January 8, 2011

Bottom Line:   
Have use them for the last four years. they sound really good especially if they are bi wired, low coloraton ,accuracy , soundstage could be a little more open but not bad, build quality is top notch !, manufactured in the UK
!, these needs good cable to be part with them, i prefer to use them with Cardas interconnects, and Cardas speakers cables, this match is perfect. If you can find a pair at a good price, go ahead , you won't be disapointed!

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by wstan a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: January 3, 2002

Bottom Line:   
I felt I had to write a review of these excellent little speakers after seeing the other two reviewers unfairly give the 301's inappropriately low ratings that do not reflect accurately this speaker's qualities. I recently listened to a whole lot of sub-$800 speakers, as listed above, and these were the best speakers I heard in that price range; the Dynaudios were close, but otherwise, the Monitor Audio was a hands down winner over all the others. By the way, my reference standard is my custom made speakers that have the same drivers as the older model Thiel CS 1.5 and share a close physical and sonic resemblance to the Thiels.

If you read the other reviews carefully, the first reviewer is critical of the 301 because it has no bass if placed in the middle of a large room?! How many small speakers do? I believe that these speakers were designed to be front speakers, not rear surrounds, so that factor should not be a consideration unless you are looking solely for a home theater speaker. The second reviewer's conclusions made practically no sense at all, sound as if he more likely suffered from a cheap Radio Shack component, and he does not even describe the sound from the speaker. Quite possibly, these other two reviewers did not allow sufficient time to burn in these speakers, which is necessary with most speakers and audio components.

I would describe these speakers as an audiophile monitor (i.e. a small speaker designed to reproduce accurately all of the details and characteristics of music in a smaller room), rather than just stereo bookshelf speakers. Maybe others in this price range are better for home theater applications (have deeper bass, higher sensitivity, etc...) but the MA 301's were designed for playing music accurately and are very successful at doing that. They had a very large, impressive soundstage - they made music sound natural, as a good speaker should - and unlike virtually all of the other speakers I listened to, did not sound like a woofer and tweeter stuffed into a small, hollow enclosure. These were the most accurate speakers I have heard, of those listed above, for reproducing electric guitar, bass, drums, pianos and keyboards, and vocals, particularly male vocals. The B&W and Dynaudio perhaps had a touch more detail and were better on acoustic guitars, but lacked the MA's depth, focused midrange and reasonable bass and soundstage. I found the imaging to be very good also, probably the equal of the B&W's, but not quite as good as the Dynaudios. On Dire Straits' Private Investigations, the 301 made the keyboards sound like a piano, rather than the more electronic sounds of most other smaller speakers, and the deep heartbeat sounds were a sharp "tunk, tunk" sound, rather than a sloppy "boom, boom" sound. These speakers do full justice to Mighty Sam McClain's superb voice on Give It Up To Love, displaying his deep, rich soulfulness as it was meant to be heard, rather than the thinner, gravelly sound that most cheaper speakers produce; similarly, Knopfler's vocals have depth and presence with the Monitor Audios that is missing with the B&W's and others. The 301's handle a broad range of music very well - louder rocking songs from Luther Allison's Reckless CD sounded powerful, whereas the B&W's sounded thin and strained with tracks from that disk.

The two "weakest" areas about this speaker are the imaging and the bass, which obviously isn't as deep as that of a full range speaker and could be a bit tighter. However, these are very niggling little criticisms and the Monitor Audios were quite strong in those two areas compared to most other sub-$800 speakers.

Some comments on the other speakers I listed: I think the Paradigms are somewhat overrated speakers, as they lack much punch, are a bit lethargic during transitions to quicker/louder passages, have average imaging and below the Monitor 7, have small speaker characteristics (i.e., sound like they are playing within a small metal shed). I thought the PSB's sounded similar, but with even more of a small speaker sound and very poor imaging - most sound comes straight from the left and right speakers, rather than the central soundstage as a good speaker should. The Phase Techs sounded similar to the Paradigms, but handled bass a bit better and had a slightly better soundstage. The MB Quart is very clear and detailed but is probably the brightest speaker on the market, the sonic equivalent to a 500,000 watt spotlight. The JM Lab speakers were quite similar to the B&W's with slightly weaker detail and imaging, but better low end and beautiful wood cabinets. The Athenas sounded pretty similar to the Paradigms and Phase Techs, had nicer wood cabinets, but still sounded small, even when attached to the dual, matching subwoofer units (the dual subs are a poor value in my opinion). The little Polks were a pleasant surprise and I don't really disagree about the Stereophile editor who recently gave them a budget product of the year award (except the Monitor Audios deserved it more, but they may be a now-discontinued model). The $260/pr RT-25i has the best soundstage and most accurate reproduction of vocals and many instruments of any bookshelf speaker I have heard under $350; the B&W 303 has more detail and clarity, but the Polks just sound smoother and more satisfying on non-acoustic music. The Mirage bookshelves are forgettable and have very low sensitivity. However, the Mirage FRX 5 small tower speaker is a very nice unit, that has good overall balance of all characteristics; it is more efficient than the Mirage bookshelves but still needs reasonably strong amplification and is very, very smooth and mellow sounding (too much so for fans of metal, rap or punk). This speaker can be obtained at tweeter.com for $300 including shipping ($550 MSRP) and is a steal, one of the best deals one can find on a new speaker.

However, given the Monitor 301's strengths, I would say that it is an equal bargain compared to the Mirage. This small bookshelf plays a lot better than most of the speakers approaching or exceeding double its price and would be very satisfying for listening to music for the long term. There are obviously better speakers out there on the market - a $10,000 pair of Martin Logans should very well sound better - but given this price range, the 301 is a clear five star speaker for both value and overall performance.

P.S. I ultimately did not purchase the Monitor Audios because I was shopping for speakers for my sister and came across a mint used pair of Paradigm Monitor 7 floorstanders at more than 60% off retail that I judged would fit her tastes better. The Monitor 7's had a good, deep bass and a better soundstage, shedding the small speaker sound of its smaller siblings and improving on all of their weaknesses, although the Monitor Audios still outclassed them in every category except bass and efficiency. Had I been shopping for myself, I wouldn't have hesitated a second to buy the Monitor Audios.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $500.00

Purchased At:   local audio store

Overall Rating:2
Value Rating:2
Submitted by ktl a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: January 23, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I always thought this pair of speakers produce a bit week bass and too loud high.

Recently, I used RadioShack in-wall volume control - an autoformer type speaker attenuator -. When I reduce three steps, the level decreases of about 7dB. Then I get acceptable balance between mid and high.
This indicate poor quality control of MonitorAudio MA301.

I also measured the respose both at 50cm on axis from speaker (speaker was 80cm from rear wall, more than 2m from closest side wall) and at listening position with RadioShack sound level meter and third octave band-pass-filtered pink noises in the Sheffield/Coustic test disk -I did C-curve compensation -. The measurement also indicates that the 7dB-attenuation gave proper balance.

Through the measurement, I also found that 40~80Hz is several dB lower than mid frequency. However, this does not indicate poor quality control. It means that the speaker is optimized for smaller room.
One side of my living room is open to dining area and corridor. This results in lack of bass reinforcement for my MA301's.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   1997

Price Paid:    $1200.00

Purchased At:   yong san

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Neal a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: December 16, 1999

Bottom Line:   
This product has, pretty good, written all over it. I mean, okay, the product was packaged very well, and came with superb monitor audio literature, which gave insightful information on placement and care. The speakers are rather well built, except for the fact that they are ported, and the ports were loose (not glued). They don't vibrate, but I found it annoying, except mabye one could change the lengths of the ports, in this situation. The speakers have very nice gold bi-amp binding posts. A Gold Anodized tweeter and a firm poly woofer with butal surround show that this speaker is made with quality materials. Put these babies in the middle of the room with no sounding board behind them, and they lack any bass whatsoever. Heck, even low mids for that fact. BUT. Put them about 1-2 feet from a sounding board (that is the wall behind them) and about 6-10 feet from the side walls and about 15-20 feet from the opposing wall, and mount them on high mass stands, and you have your self a very accurate system. I used a variety of amps, from just your everyday solid state Japaneese type, Llanoaudio monobloks (hexfets)around 100 watts/ch, to an old solid state Macintosch, to a refrence Mackie, to a old tube Bang, and finally, back to my favorite, a vintage Marantz (solid state). The results were fairly the same among all amps, varying, or course, on bi-amping. They sounded best with tubes, because they are a little harsh, it softens them down a little. The only thing lacking is soundstage, it is a very little area, but if you are mixing, or in one spot, it will be fine. If you are looking for a VERY NON COLORED sound i would highly reccomend these. If you are looking for a nice always pleasing and airy sound i would not.
Thanks for your time.

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1996

Reviews 1 - 4 (4 Reviews Total)

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