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Monoprice Monolith K-BᾹS Bookshelf Speaker Conclusion

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It makes sense for Monoprice to get into hiK-BAS-singleC2.jpggher fidelity speakers, since the consumer audio market already turns to them for a variety of other audio-related items. Anything they launch is guaranteed a certain amount of exposure simply because Monoprice offers it. They could have just phoned in their effort with a nice-looking glossy speaker that had mediocre performance and still have made some money, but they have instead launched a speaker that sounds very good and measures well, although it does look somewhat plain. It can be seen that Monoprice was concerned about performance due to the complex internal enclosure design, a muscular midwoofer, and a crossover built from high quality components, all of which do add up in manufacturing cost. They might have been able to cut costs by using a more conventional approach but at the cost of absolute performance.

Monoprice has thrown their hat into a crowded ring of bookshelf speakers of similar cost, but there are certain features of the K-BᾹS speakers that help them to stand out. First, there is the low frequency extension; the K-BᾹS speakers have a very good response down to the low 40 Hz region- without the need for qualifiers such as “usable output”. Extension below 50 Hz is not easy to come by in bookshelf speakers in this price point and especially this size. Anyone looking for an affordable bookshelf speaker system that has to get by without a subwoofer would do well to strongly consider these.

Another admirable feature of the K-BᾹS speakers is the nicely uniform horizontal off-axis response. As mentioned before, the ‘Early Reflections’ curve can be a good predictor of in-room response, and the K-BᾹS speakers have a very smooth ‘Early Reflections’ measurement. These speakers do not need a heavily treated room to sound good; they will sound fine in a typical room. The good off-axis response was surely responsible for the excellent imaging that the K-BᾹS speakers projected. Another benefit of the uniform off-axis response is how much it broadens the coverage of area with good sound. The response out to 40 degrees off-axis is very good, so there is an 80 degree angle of decent coverage. If you have a wide area of seating that you want good sound for, or if you move around a lot when listening to your system, those circumstances make these speaker a good choice. A uniform off-axis horizontal response makes the sound better not just for one location but all of them. Because of this, the K-BAS speaker’s sound can compete very well with speakers that are quite a bit more expensive.

The Monoprice K-BᾹS speakers are a solid choice for bookshelf speakers for the $500/pair cost.

To briefly go over some of the other positives of the K-BᾹS speakers: it is an easy load for any amplifier to run and has no special requirements for amplification. It sported a very clean distortion profile for a 95 dB sweep run at 1 meter, which indicates good dynamic range considering it’s a bookshelf speaker with a 5.25” woofer. While the K-BᾹS speakers have good bass extension, the bass response is not elevated like so many other bookshelf speaker in its class; many of these speakers have a tendency to have a boost around 100 Hz or so, but the K-BᾹS speakers have a neutral bass response here. To top it off, the cabinet sports a slick satin black finish.

 

K-BAS-pairC.jpg  

Monolith K-BᾹS Speakers

K-BAS-single2C.jpgThere is a lot to like about the K-BᾹS speakers, but for the sake of balance, I will go over some of the areas I would like to see some improvement, although I have to admit my criticisms are rather minor. First of all, while the on-axis frequency response is balanced overall, it does have some wrinkles that could stand to be ironed out. To be sure, I didn’t hear any clear flaws in my listening sessions with the K-BᾹS speakers, on the contrary, I thought the overall sound was nicely balanced, but the case might have been the content I used wasn’t majorly affected by incongruities the K-BᾹS frequency response, minor though they were. I think a more likely case is that the good off-axis response negated the shallow 3-6 kHz dip on-axis, and that the 700 Hz peak was too narrow and not high enough to significantly color the sound for me.

I also think that while the stock finish is not bad, having other finishes available for the K-BᾹS speakers would go a long way to making them more visually appealing, like perhaps some real wood finishes, or gloss finishes like pearl white. That would, of course, hike the prices of those speakers, but the extra options would be nice. One thing I will mention again here, even though this is not a gripe, is that these speakers are not suited for outrageous, headbanging, THX Reference level sound output. 84 dB sensitivity with a 8 ohm nominal impedance with a nominal power capacity of 50 watts mean that these speakers will safely able to run at around 100 dB at 1 meter outdoors continuously, maybe, (assuming typical content is being played back and not test tones) and around 105 dB peaks at 1 meter outdoors, maybe. The boundary gain of having to pressurize a smaller space means that it will be able to get a bit louder than those outdoors figures, but this is speculative; if you try running your K-BᾹS speakers at these levels and destroy them, I will not be held responsible! This is not a complaint against the speakers though, since few people will run them at these loudness levels, and few bookshelf speakers are designed to operate at levels much louder than that. I only mention this to caution those who like to listen at loud volumes in large rooms that there are more suitable speakers than the K-BᾹS.  

To bring this review to a close, I think the Monoprice K-BᾹS speakers are a solid choice for bookshelf speakers for the $500/pair cost. That $500 does not include shipping but does include a 1-year warranty. Monoprice does offer a full refund for the speakers for any reason if sent back within 30 days, so all you have to lose is shipping charges if you want to try them. I don’t think Monoprice will be seeing many returns on these speakers though; for most people, the K-BᾹS speakers are so good that they will be keepers.

Monoprice Monolith K-BᾹS Bookshelf Speakers Review

MSRP: $249.99 each
Monoprice, Inc.
11701 6th Street
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730

www.monoprice.com

877-271-2592

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStarhalf-star
About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Motrek posts on February 13, 2017 19:25
For $220 less, you can get a pair of Elac B6s which are super-well reviewed and have advertised bass extension down to 44Hz.

I'm actually in the market for something like this. I watch TV with a pair of Ascend CBM-170 SEs which have amazing midrange and treble output but are noticeably lacking in bass (58-20KHz +/- 3dB). It would be nice to buy some affordable speakers with more bass output but I'm not sure how to decide between, e.g., the Elacs and these Monoprice speakers…
shadyJ posts on February 06, 2017 22:36
Dennis Murphy, post: 1171434, member: 29480
Thanks again I still don't really understand why this curve is indicative of the weighting the ear would give, which intuitively and in my experience is dominated by the earlier arrival times. But I do see why it would be a useful means of determining whether an observed on-axis peak is benign or a serious resonance. However, i don't think it would take 70 measurements to establish that, and a waterfall plot should also give you that information.
Floyd Toole explains it with a bit more depth in his papers and lectures. For example, this one, from about the 20 min mark to about the 40 min mark he discusses these curves and how they affect room acoustics, etc. By the way, Floyd did mention to me that Sound Power is not the most useful curve in that bunch, so I wouldn't worry about it too much, but I do think it has some merit, so I include it in that graph.
Dennis Murphy posts on February 06, 2017 21:49
shadyJ, post: 1171379, member: 20472
Here is what Dr. Floyd Toole writes about Sound Power in his book:
“Sound power: is intended to represent all the sounds arriving at the listening position. It is the weighted average of all 70 measurements, with individual measurements weighted according to the portion of the spherical surface that they represent. Sound power is a measure of the total acoustical energy radiating through an imaginary spherical surface with the radius equal to the measurement distance. Thus, the on-axis curve has very low weighting because it is in the middle of other, closely adjacent measurement points (see the perspective sketch at the top of the figure), and measurements further off axis have higher weighting because of the larger surface area that is represented by each of those measurements. Ideally, such a measurement would be made at equally spaced points on the entire surface of the sphere, but this simplified spatial-sampling process turns out to be a very good approximation. The result could be expressed in acoustic watts, the true measure of sound power, but here it is left as a sound level, a frequency response curve having the same shape. This serves the present purposes more directly. Any bump that shows up in the other curves and persists through to this ultimate spatial average is a noteworthy resonance.”
Thanks again I still don't really understand why this curve is indicative of the weighting the ear would give, which intuitively and in my experience is dominated by the earlier arrival times. But I do see why it would be a useful means of determining whether an observed on-axis peak is benign or a serious resonance. However, i don't think it would take 70 measurements to establish that, and a waterfall plot should also give you that information.
shadyJ posts on February 06, 2017 17:13
Dennis Murphy, post: 1171371, member: 29480
Thanks. That does seem counter-intuitive in terms of the relative audible importance of on-axis vs extreme off-axis sound. I guess the technique is just supposed to tell us how relatively directional a speaker is?
Here is what Dr. Floyd Toole writes about Sound Power in his book:
“Sound power: is intended to represent all the sounds arriving at the listening position. It is the weighted average of all 70 measurements, with individual measurements weighted according to the portion of the spherical surface that they represent. Sound power is a measure of the total acoustical energy radiating through an imaginary spherical surface with the radius equal to the measurement distance. Thus, the on-axis curve has very low weighting because it is in the middle of other, closely adjacent measurement points (see the perspective sketch at the top of the figure), and measurements further off axis have higher weighting because of the larger surface area that is represented by each of those measurements. Ideally, such a measurement would be made at equally spaced points on the entire surface of the sphere, but this simplified spatial-sampling process turns out to be a very good approximation. The result could be expressed in acoustic watts, the true measure of sound power, but here it is left as a sound level, a frequency response curve having the same shape. This serves the present purposes more directly. Any bump that shows up in the other curves and persists through to this ultimate spatial average is a noteworthy resonance.”
Dennis Murphy posts on February 06, 2017 16:51
shadyJ, post: 1171350, member: 20472
You can get the standard online, but its a tad pricey, something like $120 last time I looked.

The weighting numbers makes the direct axis angle very small and insignificant compared to the angles at and around 90 degrees. This is because the surface area of the sphere that the direct axis and near direct axis represents is very small. The weighting gives more weight to angles as they approach 90 degrees, with 90 degrees being given the most weight.

Thanks. That does seem counter-intuitive in terms of the relative audible importance of on-axis vs extreme off-axis sound. I guess the technique is just supposed to tell us how relatively directional a speaker is?
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