Monitor Audio Radius R90AV £1250

31st Mar 2005 | 23:00

Speakers that play the style card to great effect

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Impressively big performance from these surprisingly small speakers

Like:

<p>Excellent build quality</p><p>Superb performance</p>

Dislike:

<p>Treble not always great</p>

If there has been one characteristic of note with recent Monitor Audio designs, it's that while they have all been worthy, they have sometimes lacked a certain pizzazz - that indefinable ingredient which makes the heart beat faster. However, either the Radius system is an exception, or Monitor Audio has turned a new leaf.

There is nothing accidental about the way the Radius has turned out. The Radius range is designed for those who don't want to compromise interior design for the sake of good sound.

It's no exaggeration to say that Monitor Audio appears to have touched the design lodestone. There are inherent compromises with any sub/sat system where the satellites are small enough to impose a relatively high crossover frequency, but the designers have done their homework.

System setup

The system consists of four small rearvented satellite speakers, a similar centre speaker in a slightly larger front-vented enclosure, and a compact powered subwoofer. Also supplied with the test system was a set of four pedestal stands for the main satellites: the centre speaker will look after itself, typically by being placed on top of the TV (if it's old fashioned enough), though a shelf stand is available as an optional extra.

The quality of execution is something to behold. The black gloss test system is superbly finished, each speaker built like a full size speaker in miniature, all edges neatly radiused, and with a superb nearmirror quality gloss finish. The drive units are covered in perforated metal covers which are supplied in two alternative contrasting finishes, and the system is available in a number of cabinet finishes.

The floor stands are as well designed as the rest of the system, with cable management included: as soon as the stands are screwed to the speakers, the floor entry speaker connectors become live.

Not only does this mean less cable intrusion, it also means there is nothing hanging around in mid-air behind the speaker with the obvious potential for accidents. The satellites can be shelf mounted, or attached to the adjacent wall using the hardware supplied in the box.

The enclosures are made from MDF, and the satellites are fitted with smoothly flared port tubes to minimise portgenerated wind noise at high volumes. Drivers include 101mm unit bass/mid units in a glass loaded engineering polymer basket, nestled in variable thickness polymer cones formed by injection moulding and loaded with metal particles to increase stiffness.

The fluid-cooled tweeters employ gold anodised alloy domes made from ceramic coated aluminium/magnesium, and are said to reach well above 25kHz. Polypropylene caps, and a mixture of air core and laminated iron core inductors populate the crossovers. Drive units can be decoupled from the baffle to reduce mid-band box type colourations.

Total immersion

The Radius 360 subwoofer is no less serious in its design and its intent. Built around a downwards-facing 203mm pulp cone drive unit, power is supplied by a 100W amplifier that inhabits its own sealed internal enclosure. It's tuned by a large area, low noise reflex port. The R360 is supported by four machined metal feet, and its control panel includes a full range of adjustments.

Musically, the Monitor Audio R90AV is as bright as a button, metaphorically if not tonally. Tonally, it is as close to neutral as you will hear from a sub/sat system of this calibre and dynamically it is a lot less stilted than most. The overall effect is of a system that's vivid and lively, and that makes listening to music and movies alike an engaging musical experience.

But for optimum performance, the setup of the sub is crucial. Pleasingly, the Radius sub has the virtue of responding well at average settings - the kind you might begin with by default. When running properly, the bass is well integrated, taut, tuneful with a respectable extension.

Conclusion

The R90AV has an easy going nature that works well with both movies and music, thanks to an expressive range of tonal colours and uncommonly strong vocal intelligibility. Like rival sub/sat systems, the balance is relatively lightweight, but there is sufficient gravitas to make a valid attempt at virtually any soundtrack, and visually the system speaks for itself. For those looking for a high-style speaker system for use in a relatively modest sized living room, this is a great proposition.

Hi-Fi/audioHome cinemaSpeakersMonitor Audio
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