This is a long journey of sorts, it began with my new HT room, and the journey came to a temporary halt with the setup I had been using for the past few months. However after understanding my room dynamics more, and knowing I had a near field monitor situation, I wanted something else if possible. I knew my amp was capable of more, so it intrigued me to see if partnering it with a better speaker might be better, and when someone offered to buy my tube amp and some other bros got my RS series, I was in the game again.
The search was biased towards MA, since I already had two of their series, so the natural progression was to the Gold series, and it was quite value for money too, as Edward’s prices are possibly the cheapest for it in the world. (don’t ask me how much I paid)
As for Edward, it is impossible to continue this tale without mentioning a few words about him…. He has a winner of a product range on him with the Monitor Audio series, but he isn’t the most perky and sunny chap this side of town and you need to put up with that when you see him. Also his setup is based on his Cayin stuff, and sometimes the speakers are brand new, and he won’t tell you that. Why does that matter, well read on…
So I tried some Tannoys and they sounded fine, but they were not cheap for floor standers at close to 3k. I was tempted, but I was still drawn to the MAs. They had quite decent bass and a good even response. Worth considering.
The B/W were out of my league as the ones I was looking at was the 8 series. The 6 series was just too costly with their markup and the rather prosaic finish. If you examine the GS ones, the lacquer piano gloss is a marvel to behold that even their deliver man was in awe and took so much extra care with them. By the way, Ban Leong sends two people to send them over when you get them, and they help you to remove the plugs to insert banana plugs and allow you to give them the once over to look for damage or scratches before they leave. When you pay, you get service...
I also tried Dynaudios, which were a set I owned before, and they are perfectly neutral sounding and boy do they love power… they can devour current and watts with no tomorrow and if you have a high current high wattage amp sitting around, use it to feed them. In the showroom they were driven by a Roksan Caspian, 80w pc, and already they were lovely, but if you can give them more, they will reward you with scale and a soundstage that belies the size of the bookshelves. The Focus series as its names implies gives a more focussed sound, that is just more directional than the Audience SEs, which take their drivers from the Contour series. These are serious babies and I was really tempted to get them, given their even handed unburstable quality. The only chink in their armour is the rather soft and limp presentation if you do not crank them up. The large magnet drivers and woofers thrive on volume and will feel large spaces easily. Do give them room and power. The music is an image of stability and a broad even presentation. Well recommended.
So I went to try out the GS 10 in Precision Audio and it was quite shocking. I had a previous experience, having brought my own amp down to the shop, and auditioning them, there. It was alright but when I tried it with Edward’s setup, it was brash and bright, which left my ears bleeding almost. My friends who were with me also felt the same. There was plenty of bass and the soundstage was wide and fulsome but the top end was akin to nails on a blackboard. I was in trouble here, as my carefully dreamt up plans to buy the GS series seemed to be in doubt now.
This is where the power of the internet and some fortuitous generosity by a forummer proved so wonderful and helped Edward get his sale too. I had posted in echoloft and elsewhere for someone to allow me to try out his GS 10 as I wasn’t convinced that it was so bright from memory. Hence I wanted to hear it in a home environment. And within a few hours of my post, someone had responded and I was in touch with him. Here I would like acknowledge Melvin, you the man! He not only allowed me into his home, where he partnered it with a Arcam Solo all-in-one, he even agreed to let me try them out in my own home! Such is the generosity of this brother.
I will write more about the sound when I have had some sleep, but just one point, we were chatting through a series of songs, I was playing when suddenly it became quite and none of us were speaking. I realised that both of us were engrossed in the music, and wanted to pay attention to the wonderful partnership of a pair of run in GS 10s (at least 2 months he said) and my venerable SR 12 legacy amp. After running through most of the CD, he suddenly turned to me and declared:” you know, I am not selling this speakers…” I think he was thinking aloud about his impression of how the speakers matched the Marantz so well that I might offer to grab this pair off him. Lucky for him, it was the wrong color ;D
So it was done then, the next day, a quick cheque to Edward and a few hours later, the speakers are delivered to my home. Set up on Atacama stands which are half filled with silver sand on spikes and a wooden floor, they are being run in now.
So the real review....
The Gold Series from Monitor Audio is something that is a sight to behold and write about..
Marantz SR 12 AV amp
QED XT tube 300
Pioneer DV 525 as a transport to the amp.
Atacama Stands, half filled with silver sand
I often espouse about how the sound should matter most, and that is still true but when you lay eyes on a pair of these in piano gloss, plus the corresponding centre, it is quite something else. It goes well with my Pioneer 507 plasma which is also in black gloss. The cabinet work surpasses the RS series and IMO is one of the best for sane money. You really feel like it is a fine piece of furniture and the picture shows a perfect reflection, quite delightful. The delivery folks have a real task too, as the centre weighs in at 12.5 kg and each GS 10 is about 8.5kg. you really feel like there is a lot of speaker. Benefits of Chinese mass production, I guess.
So the external appearance is one of a fine item of beauty, well made with the gold tweeter and build quality something you long to show off, how about the sound then?
Most of the initial impressions are based on the run-in pair I borrowed, and I will tell more of how the GS works in a HT setup too later on.
When you have good electronics, they beg for you to get good speakers to match and speakers are about 60-70% of the whole sonic signature of the system. There have been many good reviews of the GS and esp the GS 10 but one recurring note was that the treble was noted to be forward or bright. This was a real concern, especially after the rather dismal demo at Edward’s place. But if you partner them well and run them in, then the sound is just on the ‘shiny’ or enthusiastic side of neutral and in return they will reward you with an incisive sound with loads of detail and also perform well in the HT role which generally requires a more exciting sound. Marantz partners them well and you are rewarded with a sound I have become familiar with, but this new partnership offers just that much more of everything. The key is to audition with your amp / source and see how it sounds.
So how does it sound? Well I used the analogy of a vivacious energetic lady for the RS 6 and this is her sister, who inherits similar characteristics yet you will know she is different. She is the high class girl who caught your attention, always coffered up, refinement and class are her middle names.
This is a speaker that lets you know that you paid good money and will receive your just rewards. Think of a high class geisha, whom you hired. She is beautiful to look at, exquisitely made up and when she move, each movement is refined, well trained and you can definitely see the difference from the more prosaic stuff that costs less.
Similarly here, the GS 10 is not just a good looker, but when you play something delicate, it responds with the same gentle touch, and you heard details that you never quite noticed before. It may mean it is a little less forgiving of sources, but it like the good geisha, doesn’t embarrass the source either.
MP3 and Itunes is not considered hi fi no matter how you cut it, but interestingly, even though you are left with no doubts about the difference between compressed and lossless music, these revealing speakers still let the compressed songs make a decent tune. It was no pain using my Ipod with its dock connected via analogue inputs to my amp.
When you play larger scale music, it also responds and the soundstage is solid, clear and stable. The music is presented just slightly ahead of the speakers and details are located precisely in the sound landscape built in front of the listener. You can quite easily follow individual instruments in the orchestra.
But scale needs more than a single woofer and if Mahler or other big orchestral pieces is your kind of music, and you have a bigger room, then you will need the bigger brothers to the GS10.
I once comments that some hi end systems are often played with so called ‘audiophile’ discs, that include scatter isolated drums, simple vocals to show off the ‘hi end’ equipment but has no relevance to the owner who lives on a diet of pop and techno. The GS 10 is a rather flexible creature, able to show off your carefully mastered Gold recordings, Chesky stuff but equally adept at playing the trashy pop and demonstrating it has pace rhythm and plenty of mid bass to boot. In fact it will easily best some small floorstanders, but no one will mistake this for the GS 20.
Since I sit quite close to the system, having one cone only has its advantages as I have less risk of phase coherence problems. And with my diet of vocals, and instrumentals the GS 10 is able to keep me happy. In fact one of the ice features is how well it sounds at low volumes, not requiring you to listen at head-banging volumes to come alive.
It is a sensitive design, at 88 db, 8 ohms, and will slot nicely into mostly modestly powered homes. But give it more juice, a better amp and it will rewards you with more detail, bass and control. The dynamics are a close match for the Dynaudio 52 SE and it can play loudly too but where it differs is its ability to sound good just cruising along at softer settings.
Comparing to the RS 6, which is what I used before, the differences are essentially in scale and refinement. What you give up in scale due to the smaller speaker, you gain in refinement. I found that in my 3.5 by 3m room the phase coherence was difficult to achieve with the larger RS 6. The RS 6 is a very exciting speaker (literally) and will perform well in HT and music, especially with that bass hump, but when it comes to refinement, it loses out to the GS10.
Also the GS LCR is a far better speaker than the corresponding RS centre speaker, so if you intend to form a HT based system, then the GS setup makes a better system which you will not need to trade up for a long time.
The bass is integrated, and meaty, but I also should mention the treble is like the RS 6, her top end is tamer than the RS 6 but remains brighter than soft-domed competitors. A run-in period of at least two months is advised and if you grab one off the shops it will sound rough and unpolished, just like a new apprentice geisha. But give it a few months, and the rough edges are replaced with a smoother top end that gives detail without causing your ears to bleed. The Marantz SR 12 makes a good match, a slightly warm to neutral amp will be better than one which is already treble happy. I also use a copper based cable from QED to help smoothen things. Avoid silver. Adequate room treatment, with blackout curtains also helps absorb excess high frequency reflections.
The mid takes time to emerge since the GS 10 has a dual hump characteristic, and after running in, the mid starts to sing too and you will feel that it is quite an all rounder.
So should you get one? Well if you have a bright system, them maybe not, otherwise this will enhance a system that has a good amp, and bring life and excitement back to familiar recordings and get you cocooned in a aural cloud nine, sans boxes.
Look at the quality of the gloss and the reflection, a work of art and the benefits of switching manufacturing to China, allowing a high quality speaker to be made at a fraction of the price in UK. No issue with the finish and fit either.
The centre speaker is equally substantial too.