Mon Acoustic SuperMon Isobaric Bookshelf Speaker Review
- Configuration: 2.5 Way Isobaric
- Cabinet Material: Aluminum 6061 Grade
- Face Plate Colors: Silver, Black, Red, Royal Navy
- Bespoke Color: Available on request for additional cos
- Tweeter Unit: SEAS Exotic T35
- Mid Woofer: Audiotechnology 6A77
- Woofer: Eton Bass Woofer
- Frequency Range: 37hz ~ 25,000Hz
- Impedance/Sensitivity: 4 Ohm/ 89dB
- Speaker Dimension(inch): 9.69w x 16.54d x 19.69h
- Stand Dimension(inch): 10.63h x 17.32d x 23.54h
- Speaker Weight (lbs.): 80 lbs.
- Stand Weight (lbs.): 62 lbs.
- Build quality is second to none
- Very well-controlled midrange
- Excellent imaging capabilities
- All aluminum cabinets make for an impressive sight
- Interesting solution for speakers’ contact with stand
- Depressed bass response below 100Hz (fixable w EQ)
- On-axis angle has a rough treble response
In our review of the Mon Acoustics SuperMon Mini, we found it to be a good little desktop speaker for a luxury office space or a small bedroom. A mini speaker with an aluminum cabinet and an isobaric woofer system made it one of the more unusual speakers that we have reviewed. Today, we look at what happens when that design philosophy is expanded into a full-size stand-mount speaker in the SuperMon Isobaric. The size and weight are increased by a factor of seven and the price is increased by a factor of twelve. The SuperMon Isobaric is a seriously high-end offering with a formidable spec list, but what is it like in practice? That is what we intend to find out in this review…
While the SuperMon Isobarics are stylish and classy-looking speakers, they aren’t the kind that will disappear in a room without notice, so people who do not care for the appearance of speakers will not like how prominent they will be. They do not come with grilles to hide their ‘speakerness.’ They are bound to be noticed by guests and will be a point of discussion unless they are placed in a room with so many high-end luxury pieces that they wouldn’t stand out. These are large aluminum stand-mount speakers, and even the stands that they come with are very posh. The stands are some heavy-duty aluminum constructions with three massive legs that come down to a thick base with a slightly chamfered front lip. The base rests on top of large aluminum feet that are tipped in a broad conical spike. The spikes rest in some saucers that protect the floor, and even the saucers are glistening solid metal pieces that look swank.
The speakers themselves have an unapologetically metallic presentation. That is not a bad idea since much of what the buyer is paying for is the specialized metal enclosure. The front plate can be had in different colors other than metallic grey, and MonAcoustic can work with customers to find a preferred color. The front baffle is flat except for some mild rounding at the top edge and a shallow beveling at the lower edge that continues into the top plate of the stand. The drivers are somewhat recessed into the front baffle. Both the plate of the tweeter and the trim ring of the woofer are anodized black to match the black dome and cone of the drivers. No attempts are made to hide the machine screws, and that gives them an industrial chic aesthetic that would make them easy to blend in with any modernist interior decor. As speakers go, I think they look great, but the appearance of the SuperMon Isobarics will be divisive; those who like the sight of speakers will love them, but those who prefer speakers to be subdued and out-of-sight will likely abhor them.
The SuperMon Isobarics are very involved loudspeakers from an engineering perspective, so there is a lot going on to discuss. Let’s start our discussion with the enclosure design since that is the first thing that would be noticed about the speakers. The enclosure is made from aluminum; a lot of it. The front baffle is 1” thick and the side panels are ⅖” thick. Leather seals are used for resonance elimination, and melamine foam is used for tuning isobaric resonance and port output harmonics. It adds up to 80 lbs., the heaviest stand-mount speakers I have dealt with yet.
The tweeter used is the SEAS Exotic T35. This is a heavy-duty 1.5” fabric dome tweeter with a 600Hz free-air resonance and 100 watts of long-term power-handling ability- numbers that indicate this is a very beefy dome tweeter. The Exotic T35 lives up to its name by using an AlNiCo magnet in the motor system. AlNiCo is a metal alloy with the word deriving from Aluminum-Nickel-Cobalt. It is much more expensive than traditional iron ferrite magnets (mainly due to the difficulty in sourcing cobalt), but it isn’t as subject to induction effects or modulation distortion.
As its name indicates, the SuperMon Isobaric uses an isobaric woofer system. The SuperMon Mini also uses this system, so we will simply quote our description from that article:
Isobaric derives from Greek and means the quality of having equal pressure. For an isobaric loudspeaker design, the equal pressure refers to an air mass suspended in a chamber that is sandwiched by two active drivers which are moving in phase. So the SuperMon Isobaric’s other driver is hidden and is mounted behind the exposed woofer at a halfway-deep point in the enclosure, and the two drivers enclose a sealed pocket of air between them. The reason to use this design is to get deeper bass from a small cabinet. The effect of having a pocket of air with unchanging pressure between two drivers is that the system retains a lower resonant frequency in a smaller cabinet by doubling the moving mass yet halving the compliance. It is like using one driver with a heavier moving assembly but a larger and softer suspension; it will have a low resonant frequency although at the cost of efficiency. The efficiency cost is minimized with an isobaric system since it halves the impedance and sensitivity.
The SuperMon Isobaric doesn’t fully load the woofers using an isobaric equal pressure system. The exterior woofer crosses over to the tweeter at 2.7kHz, but the rear woofer is low-pass filtered at 130Hz. The rear woofer also loads a large port mounted on the back of the speaker so the outer pressure that it is subject to will not be the same as the pressure load on the front-mounted woofer. That means it is not entirely an isobaric system, but it does take advantage of isobaric loading in the range where it counts for most, in the lowest frequencies. The exterior bass driver is the AudioTechnology 6A77, a high-performance 6” driver made in Denmark. The interior driver is a German-made Eton bass driver. Both are premium drivers known with a good reputation among loudspeaker designers. Likewise, the crossover circuit is using premium components such as heavy-duty Mundorf capacitors and air-core inductors to ensure the highest tolerance filters with the least amount of losses.
The SuperMon Isobarics come with their own stands, and the way that the speakers rest on the stands is interesting. The underside of the speakers and the top of the stands have three matching concave cavities. The speakers each come with three ball bearings that are seated in the concave recesses. The bearings are slightly larger than the combined depth of the recesses so they give the speakers a small rise above the stand. This gives the SuperMon Isobarics a stabilized wobble on the top of the stand. I assume the benefit is supposed to be some kind of damping for lateral movement caused by driver motion. I wouldn’t guess that this feature has any real audible benefits, but it is nonetheless a cool way to be mounted on top of a stand. One problem with it is that the clearance between stand and speaker does not allow enough room for fingers, so it can be a potential pinch point for someone lowering the speaker into the stand itself. My method for dealing with this was placing some thin paperback books flat on the stand, then lowering the speaker on the books, and then slide the books out so the speaker would be gradually lowered onto the ball bearings. The stand has three thick legs going to a base. The base rests on the ground on some massive spiked feet. The spikes rest on some hefty metal floor pads that have some inverse conical divots that the spikes can be slotted in. The overall stand itself is a heavy-duty contraption, and, at 62lbs., weighs more than many floor-standing speakers alone. That's a whopping 142lbs (80lbs speaker and 63lbs stand).
With high-power handling drivers, a large enclosure, and a large port, the SuperMon Isobarics should be very capable in dynamic range for stand-mount loudspeakers. Given the premium components used at every turn, it should offer a very high-fidelity experience as well. Let’s now find out how all of this over-the-top design pans out in some listening sessions…
In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with a few feet of stand-off distances between the back wall and sidewall and equal distance between speakers and listening position. I gave the speakers a slight toe-in, and I found the treble a bit aggressive when facing my listening position directly. The listening distance from the speakers was about 9 feet. Processing was handled by a Marantz 7705, and amplification was handled by the Monoprice Monolith 5x200. Equalization was used but not automated room correction equalization. No subwoofers were used unless otherwise noted.
When I first set the SuperMon Isobarics up and started listening to them, I noticed they were relatively light on bass. In order to alleviate this, I set them up closer to the back and sidewalls, and that did help a bit, but to my ears, the bass still sounded thin. To be sure, they had bass, but it was not quite level matched with the rest of the frequency range. It’s possible that this was deliberate voicing, since my own room doesn’t get much low-frequency room gain, and these speakers are geared more for smaller rooms that are more common in Korean households which would get significantly more low-frequency room gain. So the natural sound of these speakers in my room sounded somewhat thin. With two beefy 6.5” drivers, I knew that they had the output capability for more bass, so I installed an equalizer on my computer, which is the source for most listening (Equalizer APO with the Peace interface extension). I boosted the range below 70Hz by 6dB and rolled the elevation off to 0dB at about 300Hz. This voicing made these speakers sound more natural and full to my ears.
I don’t normally use any equalization for loudspeakers under review, since I prefer to hear them in their most natural state. However, anyone who can afford the SuperMon Isobarics can also afford any number of tone control solutions for them, so it’s a problem that is easily remedied (the software solution I used costs nothing). It’s also possible that my own room acoustics just wasn’t playing nice with these speakers in particular. This being the case, I have opted to use an equalized response with these speakers for my listening. The response curve I use is very simple and only raises the bass, and it leaves other audio characteristics of the speaker alone.
By the time he passed away at age 48 in 2018, Johann Johannsson had already left a body of work that cemented his status as a major figure in contemporary orchestral music. His status wasn’t based on sheer volume of work but rather the unique quality of his music, thanks to albums such as “Drone Mass.” This album is performed by a choral octet and a string quartet accompanied by some electronic atmospherics arranged by Johannsson himself. The lyrics are taken from the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians, and some of the hymns from that text have almost no consonants, a trait that can be used to place greater emphasis on the sound of the singers’ voices in themselves. This vital work of art was performed and recorded posthumously to Johannsson’s death, and it was given an appropriately excellent production courtesy of Deutsche Grammophone. I listened to it in a hi-res 24-bit/96kHz resolution stream from Qobuz.
The first thing that impressed me was the definition of the voices. The clarity of the singers was astonishing, both in tonality and imaging. The positions of each of the singers were easy to discern, even though there were eight of them. The sound mix has a lot to do with that, of course, but the speakers need to be good enough to reveal that level of artistry, and I am happy to report that the SuperMon Isobarics was more than good enough. Similarly, the stringed instruments, which consisted of two violins, a viola, and a cello, were exquisitely reproduced and were given a lifelike presentation by the SuperMon Isobarics. While this recording was done in a sizable church (The Garrison Church in Copenhagen), the acoustics weren’t awash in reverb and helped to retain detail that might have been lost otherwise. Nonetheless, some acoustic elements of the environment could be heard through the speakers, and the sound of the performers was not completely dry. The electronics were organically mixed in with the performers and sounded like a natural part of the soundscape rather than an external element. “Drone Mass” is a somewhat challenging listen as an album, but thankfully the SuperMon Isobarics made the experience easier, through their superlative fidelity which made it more engaging than it might have been otherwise.
2023 saw an auspicious album debut of jazz vocalist Gabi Hartmann, a singer who exhibits tremendous talent as a lyricist as well as guitarist, and who holds a very promising future if her eponymous album is an indicator. She effortlessly mixes her native French with English, Portuguese, and a bit of Arabic into a melodic brew that world music fans and jazz lovers alike are sure to find intoxicating. The songs are all gentle, personal pieces consisting of Gabi’s reflections and lamentations. “Gabi Hartmann” is a wonderfully produced studio album that could sound good on any sound system but will really shine on a truly hi-fi setup. I found this marvelous album on Qobuz’s new releases spotlight and am glad that I did.
The SuperMon Isobarics presented a strikingly realistic soundstage on “Gabi Hartmann.” Her voice was centered squarely between the two speakers, and various instruments flanked her at well-defined positions throughout the soundstage. In track 4, “Une errante sur la Terre,” the depth of imaging from the woodwinds and piano made my room sound larger than it actually was. Track 6, “L’amour incompris,” does the opposite, and the simplicity of Gabi and her guitar performing close to the microphone made my room into a much more intimate setting than it was, thanks to the imaging abilities of the SuperMon Isobarics. Tonally, everything sounded good, although anything with bass would have been highly influenced by the equalization curve that I implemented. Without the equalization, bass guitar and lower frequency percussion were present but fairly recessed. With equalization, the sound was full without becoming bloated on the low end, at least with the curve that I used. Gabi’s voice was recreated with nice articulation. It was finely detailed without being sharp or sibilant. In some of the tracks, it was as though she had been teleported into my room by the speakers. I quite enjoyed “Gabi Hartmann” on the SuperMon Isobarics. The album sounded terrific on these speakers, and I would strongly encourage SuperMon Isobaric owners to give it a try regardless if they like jazz or not.
December of 2022 saw the passing of iconic composer Angelo Badalamanti, a tremendous musical force in my life ever since I saw the premiere of “Twin Peaks” in 1989. The score for “Twin Peaks” has to be considered one of the greatest ever written for a television series, but Badalamenti has done so much more since then. Outside of his many collaborations with David Lynch, his body of work is an eclectic mixture of genre movie scores, collaborations with a wide range of other music artists, and scores for experimental short films. While it is not all that unexpected for an 85-year-old man to pass away, his death still came as a shock since he has been such a musical titan for so much of my own life. I thought it would be the perfect time to revisit some of his classic pieces as well as explore works that I had not yet heard, and a good vehicle to do that looked to be the compilation titled “Angelo Badalamenti: Music for Film and Television.” Like its title says, this is a collection of music that displays Badalamenti’s range for the scores he has written.
The SuperMon Isobarics projected a wide, enveloping soundstage on this album, which is how I would have guessed it was meant to be heard. The venue sounded like a soundstage, so it didn’t have much symphonic hall reverb. That is how soundtrack music is usually engineered to sound; the listening room is supposed to be the performance space, whether that be a commercial theater or a living room. As was heard in other recordings, imaging was excellent, with the various lead instruments taking center stage, whether that be piano, vocal, guitar, or accordion, with other orchestral sections spanning the width of the soundstage, each with their own defined area. Solo instrumentalists and performers were rendered with vivid detail, and an example of this can be heard in track 7, “Who Will Take My Dreams Away, “ which features singing from Marianne Faithful whose delicate voice is realized with superb precision. Most of the music was made with sweeping, dramatic orchestrations, which is very much a Badalamenti trademark, and, on the SuperMon Isobarics, it was a lush and immersive sound.
To see what the SuperMon Isobarics could do when driven hard, I threw in a compilation of electronic bass music titled “Overdriven.” The title was apt, since it was what I might very well do to these speakers in spite of their high cost. Anyone forking out 25 large for a pair of speakers has a right to know what their limits might be. The tracks in this album come from a range of genres within electronic bass music from faster-paced drum’n’bass to lower-velocity dubstep and dubfunk, but the one thing that they all have in common is heavy-duty beats and bass, perfect for pushing a sound system hard. In theory, the SuperMon Isobaric’s beefy woofers and port should be able to get along great with this kind of music, but the proof is in the listening.
This music definitely benefited from boosting the bass. In fact, I gave low bass an extra 4dB for this album, and the SuperMon Isobarics were game for such hot bass. Many other stand-mount speakers would have had trouble with high-volume playback plus a cumulative 10dB bass bump below 100Hz, but these speakers could handle it. The woofers were visibly moving, so I probably didn’t have much headroom left, but there was no doubt that these speakers could jam. Kick drums had a real thump, snares had a sharp snap, and cymbals sparkled with vivacity. The bassline could be nearly subwoofer-like. While a serious subwoofer would have had more oomph, these bookshelf speakers could be made to produce some honest-to-God meaty bass. While MonAcoustic probably didn’t envision that buyers would purchase these speakers for electronic bass music, they did sound good with it, albeit with an equalized low end. The SuperMon Isobarics made this album a fun experience, an impressive feat considering these are stand-mount speakers playing heavy-bass music without any help from subwoofers.
One movie that I watched with the SuperMon Isobarics was the WW2 espionage adventure “Operation Mincemeat.” This 2021 Netflix production concerns a ruse to trick the Axis powers into believing that the imminent allied invasion of southern Europe was going to occur in Greece rather than Sicily. With an all-star cast and a big budget, this movie looked like a good opportunity to demonstrate the dialogue, music score, and period effects sound of a major Hollywood production. This movie is based on true events, and even though I had picked up a fair amount of trivia about World War II events over the years, I knew very little about this particular episode.
While the fullest expression of the sound mix for “Operation Mincemeat” would have been for a full surround sound system rather than a two-channel system, it still sounded terrific on the SuperMon Isobarics, and I didn’t miss the additional channels or subwoofer at all. These bookshelf speakers could dig fairly deep in bass, and I was not left wanting for a subwoofer, at least for this particular sound mix. They did need some prodding with equalization to apply their muscle, but they certainly had the muscle to do that heavy lifting when required. I never had any problems with dialogue intelligibility, and that is critically important in a dialogue-driven movie such as this. “Operation Mincemeat,” is not an action movie, but the effect sounds it did have were reproduced with enthusiasm.
The most notable aspect of the sound mix is undoubtedly Thomas Newman’s pensive music score. Thomas, son of renowned film music composer Alfred Newman, gives the music emotional subtlety as well as a propulsive drive. It sounded terrific on the SuperMon Isobarics, and it lent this talky movie a tension without which it might have come across as staid. In the end, I quite enjoyed the movie, and it compelled me to look up the real Operation Mincemeat to learn more about this historical episode.
For a movie with a more bombastic sound mix, I watched “Bullet Train,” a 2022 big-budget movie with an all-star cast and a very over-the-top vibe. This movie concerns a semi-competent assassin (think the anti-John Wick, hilariously played by Brad Pitt) who decides to take a simple assignment to steal an aluminum attaché on a high-speed train in Japan. Complications arise when he discovers five other assassins onboard who each has also been given the assignment to take the briefcase. I had yet to see this colorful and comical action movie but now seemed to be a good time with loudspeakers seemingly as capable as the SuperMon Isobarics. It looked to be a good demonstration of what a sound system could do with lots of action scenes.
“Bullet Train” proved to be a wild ride, visually, sonically, and narratively. The sound mix was densely packed with action, music, and dialogue from beginning to end. The action was primarily hand-to-hand combat, and the SuperMon Isobarics made these sequences lively and dynamic. Music was a mixture of orchestral and classic pop music, and it shined on the SuperMon Isobarics. The Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive” was the anthem for this movie, and it played in English, Spanish, and Japanese versions at moments throughout the film. Englebert Humperdinck’s “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” also makes an appearance with perfect comic timing. Dominic Lewis supplies the original music to the movie, and it is an appropriate combination of kitsch and kinetic energy for the action. The SuperMon Isobarics delivered the score with as much enunciation as could be had underneath all of the dialogue and effects sounds. Dialogue intelligibility was never a problem on the SuperMon Isobarics, even with the cast affecting a variety of accents from British Cockney, bland American, Japanese, Russian, and Mexican. The dialogue was delivered with a screwball comedy fast pace, but I could easily follow everything that was said and did not miss any of the many quips or F-bombs. I liked “Bullet Train,” and the SuperMon Isobarics ended up being a fine sound system to hear this bombastic movie. I am sure that most potential buyers will see the SuperMon Isobarics as speakers for a two-channel music system, but I can report that they can be used to enjoy an extravagant action movie as well if needed.
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