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Monolith Air Motion Cinema 5 Bookshelf & Center Channel Speaker Listening Tests

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So How Do They Sound?

In my approximately 24’ by 13’ listening room, I set up the speakers with equal stand-off distances between the backwall and sidewall, and equal distance between speakers and listening position, with tweeter at ear level and the speakers facing the listening position directly. A Pioneer SC-55 receiver was used in ‘Direct’ mode, so no tonal processing would interfere with the speakers’ natural sound. Subwoofers were used when listening to these speakers, since, after hearing them attempt full-range playback, their low-frequency extension was found to be insufficient for content with material below 70 Hz. I used 80 Hz and 100 hz crossover frequencies, alternating between different content. These speakers are intended to be used with subwoofers. Speaker distance from listening position is about 10 feet.

Music ListeningListen_ComeAwayWithMe

The easiest way to hear when something is ‘off’ with a speaker is to listen closely to some sparse vocals that are not drenched in instruments or processing effects like reverb. The sound of the human voice falls into the frequency range that our ears are most sensitive to, and it is also one of the sounds we are most familiar with. You could say our ears are ‘tuned’ to the sound of the human voice, so if anything is amiss with a speaker’s reproduction of sound, it is here where we will hear it more readily than any other instruments. Towards this end, I used Norah Jones’ classic album ‘Come Away With Me’, an album highly regarded for its superb recording of Mrs. Jones’ vocals as well as her musical artistry. Through the Air Motion speakers, Mrs. Jones sounded good, and I could no fault of their rendition of her singing. Imaging was also good, with stable, fixed positions of Norah and the accompanying instruments. Piano, acoustic guitar, bass, percussion, and the occasional accordion all had distinct locations in the soundstage presented by the Air Motion speakers. While I used this album merely as a tool to critically listen to the speakers rather than the performance itself, I was still drawn into the music, and it was not long before I forgot that I was supposed to be scrutinizing the speakers rather than enjoying the music. I suppose that is due not only to the power of the performance but also the speaker’s ability to render that performance, and this should serve as a compliment of the Air Motion speakers.

For music on a larger scale, I turned to J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion as conducted by John Eliot Gardiner and performed by the Monteverdi Choir. The reason I chose this famous oratorio was to hear how the Air Motion speakers could handle the separation of instruments and performers amidst such an expansive and full soundstage as is on this classic recording. As with ‘Come Away With Me,’ imaging was quite good, and the instruments were vividly and clearly reproduced. The many outstanding vocals in this piece were convincingly effected by the Air Motion speakers. On this gorgeous recording of this celebrated work, the Air Motion speakers proved to be a pleasure to listen to, even at higher volume levels. I must remind readers here that subwoofers were employed for this recording. The Air Motion speakers themselves would not have had the bass capability to do this recording justice.

Listen_StMatthewPassion     Listen_kinetik

the Air Motion speakers proved to be a pleasure to listen to, even at higher volume levels.

In evaluating the Air Motion speakers, I decided to switch gears to something radically different after St. Matthew Passion; dubstep. I turned to an album called Kinetik by Phutureprimitive. It that is not the hardest music of this genre but still demands loud playback. I purchased this album a few years ago mostly for its wicked cover, but was pleasantly surprised by some inventive compositions and some interesting new electronic sounds, at least by the standards of dubstep which had by then become stale from too many tunes that were indistinguishable from each other. With subwoofers taking care of the heavy bass lines, the Air Motion speakers ably took care of the rest of the musical spectrum. I find it difficult to describe the wholly synthetic sounds that constitute this album: bleeps, bloops, and other invented tones, but they all sounded pretty good on the Air Motion speakers, even when cranked to roaring sound pressure levels. By the end of the album, I could attest that the Air Motion speakers can deliver the goods on rowdy electronic music.

Movie Listening

One of the films I watched with the Air Motion speakers was the recent Blu-ray release of the 2016 science fiction epic ‘Arrival’, which, for those who do not know, is about an unusual first contact scenario with an intelligent alien race. What has to be the most standout element of the ‘Arrival’ sound mix is the eccentric and arresting music score by Johan Johansson that arranges strings and vocals in strange new ways combined with more traditional orchestral scoring. Along with the music, the sound effects within the alien ship deliver a sense of apprehension that accompany the visuals perfectly. Even though I played this movie loud, the Air Motion speakers did not break a sweat. Music was rendered cleanly, and effects sounds were visceral and dynamic. Dialogue intelligibility was not a problem through the Air Motion Center Channel speaker. The Air Motion speakers helped to make my viewing of ‘Arrival’ an engaging and enjoyable experience.

Listen_ArrivalBD     Listen_noahBD

After ‘Arrival’, I decided to go for something with a bit more bombast. One movie I had been itching to rewatch was the unusual biblical epic ‘Noah’ released in 2014. This film adaptation of the bible story is nothing like the wooden biblical epics of DeMille. It uses its ancient source material as a canvas to create some of the strangest imagery ever conceived for a big budget motion picture. With lots of divine, large-scale mayhem, Noah’s sound mix is not short on dynamic range. Clint Mansell’s music score is grandiose but restrained in the mix so as not to be blaring. The quality of the overall mix is very good, as one would expect from a big-budget Hollywood film these days. The Air Motion speakers had no trouble tackling the dynamic peaks of ‘Noah’. The oncoming waves had a satisfying crash and roar on the Air Motion speakers with assistance from the subwoofers. The big rock creatures also had an imposing aural presence with their voices mixed for a ‘wall of sound’ effect. Throughout ‘Noah’, as with ‘Arrival’, dialogue was clear and intelligible on the Air Motion Center speaker. While opinions are certainly divided about the quality of Noah’s drama, I do think most people would agree it would sound fine on the Air Motion speakers.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

panteragstk posts on May 16, 2017 01:57
Pogre, post: 1187468, member: 79914
Ah, so there are distinct differences. I wish brick and mortar stores were still around for hifi audio. I'd love to get out and listen to more.

They are, just depends on where you are…and if you are willing to drive.
Pogre posts on May 15, 2017 18:55
shadyJ, post: 1187452, member: 20472
Hey Pogre,

AMTs and ribbon tweeters are not the same at all, at least in design. AMTs use a folded membrane, and it collapses and expands the folds to squeeze air in and out of these folds. It does so at a frequency determined by the voltage signal. Ribbon tweeters oscillates a light film back and forth as a whole. AMT tweeters tend to be more robust, but they can range in quality from good to blah. I have heard very good AMTs and also very good ribbon tweeters.
Ah, so there are distinct differences. I wish brick and mortar stores were still around for hifi audio. I'd love to get out and listen to more.
shadyJ posts on May 15, 2017 17:52
Pogre, post: 1187439, member: 79914
How does the AMT tweeter compare to a Raal? I have very little experience listening to ribbon tweeters.
Hey Pogre,

AMTs and ribbon tweeters are not the same at all, at least in design. AMTs use a folded membrane, and it collapses and expands the folds to squeeze air in and out of these folds. It does so at a frequency determined by the voltage signal. Ribbon tweeters oscillates a light film back and forth as a whole. AMT tweeters tend to be more robust, but they can range in quality from good to blah. I have heard very good AMTs and also very good ribbon tweeters.
zieglj01 posts on May 15, 2017 17:32
They look like they have potential, however for now I will wait and see if they improve the tweeter response. First order on the tweeter at this price point disturbs me.
Pogre posts on May 15, 2017 16:55
How does the AMT tweeter compare to a Raal? I have very little experience listening to ribbon tweeters.
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