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Monoprice Monolith MTM-100 Powered Desktop Speaker Review

by April 14, 2023
Monoprice MTM-100

Monoprice MTM-100

  • Product Name: Monolith MTM-100 Powered Desktop Speaker
  • Manufacturer: Monoprice
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: April 14, 2023 00:30
  • MSRP: $ 500/pair
  • Buy Now
  • Frequency Response: 50Hz ~ 20kHz
  • Woofer Drivers (each): 2x 4" cone
  • Tweeter Driver (each): 1x 1.25" silk dome
  • Passive Drivers (each): 2x 5.25" passive radiators
  • Amplifier: Class D, 2x 50 watts
  • Inputs: Stereo analog RCA, digital optical S/PDIF, USB, Bluetooth
  • Outputs: Mono analog subwoofer, Stereo 3.5mm headphones
  • Bluetooth range: up to 32 feet (10 meters)
  • Audio codecs: SBC, Qualcomm aptX HD
  • Input power: 100 ~ 240 VAC, 50 / 60 Hz, 150 watts
  • Dimensions: 6.3” x 14 x 7.9”

Pros

  • Very neutral and even sound
  • Nice satin black finish
  • Good selection of inputs
  • Exceptional low-frequency extension for the size
  • Simple to set up and use

Cons

  • Enclosure could use more rigidity and damping

 

Monolith MTM-100 Introduction

Ever since Monoprice launched their Monolith product line in 2016, they have produced a variety of products that had to be taken seriously within the sphere of high-fidelity audio. Even though we at Audioholics have reviewed quite a few Monolith products, we have only managed to cover a fraction of their offerings under that series moniker. One segment within the Monolith series that we have yet to deal with is the powered desktop speakers, but that will change today in this review of the MTM-100 powered desktop speakers. The MTM-100s are on the larger end of loudspeakers meant for desktop use without getting into actual studio monitors (which aren’t really meant to be placed directly on a desktop anyway). The MTM-100s are desktop speakers for users who want more dynamic range and bass extension than normal desktop speakers. They should also be good as a shelf system in a bedroom or office on account of their Bluetooth connectivity. How well do they work in their intended roles? Let’s dig in to find out…

Shipping and Appearance

The MTM-100 shipped double-boxed, an unexpected bonus at this price point. The speakers were sandwiched in polyurethane foam blocks to protect against shipping shocks and were wrapped in a soft foam cover to protect against moisture and scuffs. This is very good packing for $500/pair speakers, and they should survive the typically rough shipping of any of the major carriers.

100 packing    MTM100 pair8

The MTM-100s look fine for a large desktop speaker. The overall design was given more to function than form, but Monoprice has still taken efforts to make the speakers look nice, which has undoubtedly added to the cost. They have a true satin-black finish instead of the usual black textured vinyl that we see in so many speakers in this segment. That does mean that fingerprints and scuffs will show up a lot easier, but it does look nicer if taken care of. All of the edges and corners are rounded, and this goes a long way toward softening their appearance. I would say this is really needed because these speakers are large and will not go unnoticed on anyone’s desktop. Their height is really what makes them stand out, and they will be nearly as tall as some people’s monitors. There is no grille, so if the idea of looking at all those drivers all the time isn’t appealing to you, the MTM-100s might not be the speakers for you. If you want powerful speakers, you are going to have to accept a loudspeaker of a larger size, so their size is a consequence of the kind of performance they can offer. Most buyers will know what they are getting into and shouldn’t be bothered by the appearance of the MTM-100s.

Design Analysis

The MTM-100s are desktop speakers for those who want a bit more punch than can typically be had from speakers in this category. This is not unreasonable since most desktop speakers are fairly weak. Many have specs like a 2.5” full-range driver powered by 15 watts. Monoprice’s other desktop speakers are more formidable: for example, the one popular model uses 25 watts to power a 4” woofer along with a ¾” tweeter. That would be sufficient for most people for a desktop system, but there are those of us who want more dynamic range for our music, movies, and games. So how well do the MTM-100s fulfill that mission? Let’s start that discussion with the tweeter…

The tweeter is a 1.25” silk dome tweeter loaded into a small waveguide. That is considerably beefier than the normal 1” to ¾” domes that most desktop systems have, at least for those that use tweeters at all. The tweeter is protected by a perforated metal grille piece within the waveguide. The larger size of the tweeter and waveguide will enable it to play down to lower frequencies than a smaller dome mounted on a flat baffle, all else being equal.

MTM100 Tweeter    MTM100 woofer

The woofers are two 4” polypropylene cones with inverted dustcaps and fairly beefy surrounds. The back pressure from those woofers propels 5.25” passive radiators mounted on both sides of the enclosure. Passive radiators usually need to be larger than the drivers that are loading them, and, as a rule of thumb, they should have twice the displacement of the drivers that are loading them. Implementing passive radiators was a good idea here since they don’t need as large an enclosure as ports would require in order to have the same low-frequency output, and the MTM-100s are already quite large for desktop speakers. The MTM-100s should have much lower bass than normal desktop speakers, which would be lucky to reach 100Hz with any authority. Indeed, Monoprice claims a 50Hz extension, but will see for ourselves in the measurements section.

MTM100 passive radiator     MTM100 rear2

As an MTM (midwoofer-tweeter-midwoofer) design, the vertical dispersion between the woofers will constrict itself to a degree outside of a vertical on-axis response, so this speaker should be situated with the tweeter set at the same level as the ears of the listener. In our article about properly setting up a desktop sound system, I actually advised readers to steer clear of MTM designs because of the narrow vertical dispersion that they tend to have. As we shall see in the measurements section, the MTM-100s don’t constrict the vertical dispersion as badly as most MTM designs because the woofers are not spaced too far apart. Nonetheless, listeners will not want to be listening too far above or below the tweeter’s aim. We take a look at just how much vertical coverage the MTM-100 has in the measurements section of this review.

MTM100 remote2This is all powered by a 50-watt class-D amp for each speaker. One speaker has all of the active electronics and powers the other speaker, which is passive. Since there is only one amp per speaker, the crossover circuit is passive for each speaker. The crossover circuit is simple and consists of two capacitors and two inductors, which creates second-order high-pass and low-pass filters for the tweeter and woofers respectively. The good news is that all the crossover circuit has to do is simple filtering since digital electronics onboard the amp’s processor should be capable of EQing the response to a fairly fine degree. As with so many other powered speakers, the MTM-100s do produce a soft hiss that is audible if the listener is close enough to the speaker. It is a very mild hiss, and I couldn’t hear it even at my desktop listening position, which is about 1 meter from the speakers. It seemed to get a bit louder when I switched from the RCA inputs to the digital inputs. I don’t think it would bother anyone unless they are in very close proximity to the speakers.

The MTM-100s have four inputs: analog RCA, optical S/PDIF, Bluetooth, and USB. That should accommodate most sources of audio that a desktop system would use with the exception of HDMI. Those who want to stick with HDMI can simply use an HDMI audio extractor like this Monoprice unit: Monoprice Blackbird 4K HDMI Audio Extractor. The inputs are selected by a front-mounted knob that also serves as a volume knob and the power button. Users also have a remote control unit that controls inputs, volume, and power as well, and it also has tone controls as well as a mute function. The MTM-100 has a front-mounted stereo output for a 3.5m headphone jack. It also has a mono RCA subwoofer output on the rear panel. The subwoofer output sends out a full-range signal, so whatever subwoofer that the user wants to connect is going to need its onboard crossover or a low-pass filter. The MTM-100 is not just a speaker set but also an entire audio system: just add the source.

The build quality is OK. There isn’t any internal bracing since most of the panels have something installed on them. There isn’t any internal acoustic stuffing either, and I think that is an omission. The paneling is made from ½” MDF; since there isn’t much room for bracing, I think the paneling should have been thicker. With all the drivers, these units do have some heft at 10 lbs each. There are no feet, but Monoprice provides some adhesive rubber pads that users can install. There isn’t much more that can really be discussed about the design, at least from a visual examination, because much of what will determine the MTM-100’s success are aspects that can’t be seen. That being the case, let’s put these speakers through the paces to see how they fare in actual use…

Listening Sessions

MTM100 desktop10

Most of my listening with the Monolith MTM-100s was done in an office room with the speakers placed about three feet in front of me on an office desktop with some desktop speaker stands to angle them at my listening position. It is not the ideal space for speakers, but it is an intended environment for the Minis that many owners will use. This being the case, I decided to evaluate them in the conditions that they will probably be used in by most users. A PC was the source. No equalization was used, and no subwoofers were used unless stated otherwise.

Music Listening

From the first track, it was apparent that the MTM-100s could image well.

Starting with an album that demonstrates the speaker’s ability with a human vocal, I found a great example with “Ghost Song” by Cecile McLorin Salvant. This is a jazz album with fairly eccentric arrangements and is not at all beholden to the customs of traditional jazz. Her break from tradition has earned her a slew of Grammys for past albums, and this album has already racked up a collection of awards since its release a year ago in March of 2022. There are more original compositions than covers on this album, but it is all seamless, and Salvant makes the covers very much her own due to her unique approach. This album deserves hi-res treatment thanks to the top-notch production that it gets from the Nonesuch label, and that is how I listened to it from Qobuz.  

From the first track, it was apparent that the MTM-100s could image well. It does take some work to get good stereo imaging from a desktop system, but with proper setup, it can be done. I placed the MTM-100s on some desktop speaker stands which angled them to aim at my ear level and arranged them to form an equilateral triangle with my listening position. I also made sure that the desktop was clear of stuff that could add more reflection and diffraction points than a desktop environment already had.

After some tweaking of the speakers’ positions, Cecile’s voice was nicely centered between the speakers. It wasn’t the most precise imaging I have ever heard, but it was quite good for a desktop setup that faces some significant acoustic compromises. I could hear the close mic recording of the piano on track 2, “Optimistic Voices,” and, like sitting at a real piano, the pitch rose as playing went from left to right speaker. The soundstage was generally well-defined, and each instrument had an unambiguous location in the sound field. Track 6, “I Lost My Mind,” brings in some frenetic pipe organ playing, and the MTM-100s managed to give the larger pipes some gravitas, although they did not carry a subwoofer-like authority with the lower notes. The tonality of Salvant’s voice as well as the instruments sounded mostly fine. There was some mild excess of lower mid-bass, but that was almost certainly a product of the quarter-space desktop environment rather than the speakers themselves. Using the bass EQ adjuster on the MTM-100’s remote control alleviated this, but it took too much of the bass bandwidth down thereby making the speaker sound a tad thin, so I just left it at the default position. It wasn’t a lot of extra bass, and I am sure many users would even enjoy the extra punch in that range. Overall, I thought the MTM-100s reproduced “Ghost Song” very well, and it’s hard to imagine anyone would be displeased with the sound they produced in a desktop setting.

Ghost Song   Bach Orchestral Suite

the MTM-100s are the most neutral-sounding desktop speakers that I recall hearing that aren’t studio monitors.

A brand-new hi-res release that I found on Qobuz, “Bach: Orchestral Suite No.1 in C Major, BWV 1066, Live” would do nicely for seeing how the MTM-100s fare with classical music. Large-scale orchestral music can be good for discerning any timbral eccentricities from the speakers for two reasons: many people know how these instruments are supposed to sound, and when played together, the sound tends to be spread over most of the frequency spectrum, so any oddities would be heard fairly quickly. This suite, one of four written by Bach, is performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and is released under their own label, BR-Klassik. This is a terrific live recording of a full orchestra at the historic Hercules Hall ballroom in Munchen and so serves as a good example of traditional classical music done well.

It’s not easy for loudspeakers to replicate the sound of a symphonic hall in a living room or home theater, and it’s that much more difficult to do it in the tight confines of a desktop space, but I thought the MTM-100s performed admirably in these circumstances. In this environment, very early reflections are more prominent, so loudspeakers cannot effect the spaciousness of a larger room. That means the burden of recreating the acoustics of the symphonic hall lay more on the recording itself, but that is usually a good idea anyway since so much music is heard in headphones or automotive interiors these days. The MTM-100s created a wide soundstage that was great for orchestral music, although that was partly due to the spacing that I gave them, which does spread them apart a bit more than speakers would be for a typical hi-fi system. This is probably a compromise that most people with desktop audio systems have to make unless they are using small video monitors, but it didn’t seem to have a major adverse effect on the center imaging with these speakers. It was easy to hear instrumental section placements, and the layout of the orchestra was very lucid.

Since the purpose of these speakers is to be desktop speakers with a wider dynamic range than normal, I did crank the volume during some moments in “Bach: Orchestral Suite No.1 in C Major, BWV 1066, Live,” and the MTM-100s retained their composure and put out a powerful, clean orchestral sound. I was impressed! Again, aside from the light bass boost, the tonality was very good, and all the instruments sounded natural. In fact, these speakers are the most neutral-sounding desktop speakers that I recall hearing that aren’t studio monitors. Most desktop speakers are not supposed to be ‘good’ speakers but rather just ‘good enough.’ But these speakers actually sound good; I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given their pricing with respect to other desktop speakers, but I suppose my expectations were tempered by this class of product. Lovers of classical music who want desktop speakers that won’t choke on crescendos at higher loudness levels have a great choice in the MTM-100s.

R Plus 7Our reviews last saw Oneohtrix Point Never in the evaluation of the PreSonus R80 V2. He is an innovative artist that has been enormously influential in a number of genres of electronic music. Oneohtrix Point Never’s intricate compositions and frenzied sound design are an electrifying experience on a good sound system. “R Plus Seven” is one of, if not the most, acclaimed album of his. This 2013 release charted a new course for him by combining primitive digital synthesizers with modern production techniques. It presents a tremendously fun and wild sound, and I was curious to see what this modern classic of electronic music would sound like on the MTM-100. 

The soundstage presented on “R Plus Seven” is a wholly artificial creation that was carefully crafted in some multi-track digital audio editor. It’s tough to say what it is supposed to sound like since it is entirely unnatural. However, I do think the MTM-100s gave a superb rendition, especially considering their desktop environment. Quick pans and phase-induced studio trickery localized the sound sources to odd locations, but the MTM-100s could follow them without problem. The sounds themselves, whether heavily processed samples or pure synths, could emanate from anywhere, and the width of the soundstage projected by the MTM-100s made this aspect all the more immersive and enveloping. The stark synths sounds and brisk arrangements cut a striking path on the MTM-100s. An example of this is “Problem Areas,” where synth stabs danced wildly over my entire desktop (the corresponding video for that track is an artistic masterpiece in its own right). The bass generated by these speakers was surprisingly muscular- not just that it was loud but that it held its dynamic range down to a surprisingly deep frequency. While these are large for desktop speakers, they are still not large speakers, so I didn’t expect much low-frequency extension from them, but they managed to give some of the lower notes in “R Plus Seven” some real oomph.

This album was a joy to listen to on the MTM-100s, even at a desktop, so I decided to try them out in my home theater room to see what the speakers could do when given a much more advantageous acoustic environment. I have about an eight-foot distance from the speakers to the listening position in my home theater room. It gives both speakers about a one-meter stand-off distance between the side wall and back wall. There are a lot more acoustically absorbent surfaces around as well, so there aren't any sharp reflections to screw up the response. The improvement was immediate and obvious. The sound became ‘larger’ and much more open, and the imaging seemed to gain significantly more precision. The elevated mid-bass was gone as well. I went over some familiar tracks, and the bass tonality seemed to be level with that of higher frequencies. Moving the speakers to my home theater room yielded such a major improvement that they seemed wasted on a desktop.

For something to see what happens when the MTM-100s get pushed hard, I selected Counter-Strike’s ”Time Dilation” EP. Counter-Strike produces music in the harder end of the drum’n’bass genre, so this would be pretty brutal on loudspeakers at higher volumes. As the name of the genre indicates, the percussion and bass are paramount in this music, and they are given the majority of the bandwidth, but cutting lead synths and creepy samples from horror movies are also given some space too. It all adds up to a real workout for any loudspeaker system at high volumes. This music would also be good to demonstrate the MTM-100’s low-frequency extension.

Time Dilation

Since I already knew the MTM-100s could get louder than I could tolerate in a near-field desktop setup, I listened to this album in my home theater room, which gives me as well as the speakers a lot more space. Even in my home theater space, the MTM-100s could pack a punch with “Time Dilation.” They could be pushed into audible distortion and low-frequency compression when I briefly cranked them to near max volume levels, but those were levels I would rarely ever listen to anything in my home theater room let alone a near-field listening situation. At loud levels, hats, snares, and cymbals had an eye-wincing snap thanks to the 1.25” tweeter. The lead synths shredded the space in front of me with ferocious sawtooth sounds. The kick drums and bassline were good up to a point, but after a certain level, they didn’t want to get much louder. The lower-pitched sections of the bassline were fairly light and only touched on, but this was music with pretty deep bass, likely lower than the MTM-100’s operating range. The levels at which the bass started to compress were higher than I thought these speakers would be capable of.

The MTM-100s have a subwoofer output, so I decided to compare the experience of listening to “Time Dilation” as well as some other works by Counter-Strike with and without a sub to hear the difference. The sub brought out a lot more of the basslines in these tracks. The low-frequency performance of the MTM-100s wasn’t bad for their size, but bringing a sub in dramatically improved the low-end, not just in dynamic range but also in low-frequency extension. The subwoofer could hit notes that flew under the usable extension of the MTM-100. I think many people would be satisfied with the low-frequency extension of the MTM-100s, but users looking to rock some electronic bass music should consider adding a sub. Thankfully, these speakers make that easy to do. 

Movie Watching

these speakers lent my viewing experience a cinematic quality even though I watched it on a desktop PC monitor.

One recent release I had been interested in was the Netflix release “The Pale Blue Eye” starring Christian Bale. This period mystery concerns the investigation of a mysterious and grisly murder of a cadet at West Point Academy in 1830. A retired detective is asked to investigate, and he enlists the help of a young Edgar Allen Poe who is also a cadet at the academy. This big-budget movie looks like it would be a good vehicle to use to see what the MTM-100s could do to convey a cinematic experience.

“The Pale Blue Eye” turned out to be a bit more outlandish than I was expecting, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The dialogue was attempting historical mannerisms if not period authenticity, but it was always crystal clear on the MTM-100s. Indeed, the richly written dialogue as executed by a top-notch cast was one of the highlights of the film, so I was grateful that the speakers did nothing to inhibit its intelligibility. Another highlight was Howard Shore’s moody orchestral score which adds to the atmosphere and finds an emotional vein amongst the detective work. The score shined on the MTM-100s, and these speakers lent my viewing experience a cinematic quality even though I watched it on a desktop PC monitor. Aside from dialogue and music, there wasn’t much more to this sound mix except a smattering of effects noises and environmental sounds. The cinematography for “The Pale Blue Eye” was gorgeous, and I regret not having watched it on a larger screen, but at least the loudspeakers were up to the task. If you find yourself frequently watching movies at your desktop, the MTM-100s will make your viewing experience a lot more enjoyable than typical desktop loudspeakers.

Pale Blue Eye    2guns

the MTM-100s delivered the film’s rowdy sound mix with gusto.

To see how the MTM-100s could deal with a more rambunctious sound mix, I selected the 2103 action movie “2Guns” starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. I hadn’t seen this movie, but the trailer promised a slick Micheal Bay-esque crime caper with the corresponding over-stuffed sound mix. The movie’s premise concerns an armed bank robbery by characters played by Wahlberg and Washington but neither of them is who they pretend to be, much to the surprise of each other. There are some double-crosses and drug lords and other shenanigans that lead to shoot-outs and car chases. It looked like it could be fun and also a good test of the dynamic range of the speakers.

“2Guns” delivered what it promised in terms of drama and guns, and the MTM-100s delivered the film’s rowdy sound mix with gusto. Washington and Whalberg’s rapport was undoubtedly the highlight of the movie, and their many quips and improvisations were always clear as a bell on the MTM-100s. I watched this movie in my home theater room rather than a desktop since I wanted to hear what the speakers could do for a movie when not hampered by the confines of a desktop environment. I didn’t crank the sound levels to THX Reference loudness, but for the levels I did listen at, the action was reproduced with energy and bombast. The many gunshots and explosions bellowed with enough intensity for a cinematic experience, and Clinton Shorter’s music score, a mixture of rock music and orchestral, was reproduced with enthusiasm. While the MTM-100s didn’t really have the verve of speakers intended for a home theater, they certainly performed better than I ever expected from speakers intended for a desktop. The bass extension from the speakers themselves was OK, and it was present enough to make the movie enjoyable, but bringing in a subwoofer gave the action scenes a lot more weight and excitement. “2Guns” is not a bad movie, but it’s not a very memorable one. If I remember it, it will be more due to the fact that I tried to use a pair of desktop speakers as home theater speakers, and they did surprisingly well in that role. 

Monoprice Monolith MTM-100 Measurements and Conclusion

The Monoprice MTM-100 was measured at a height of 4 feet at a 1-meter distance from the microphone, and the measurements were gated at a 4.5-millisecond delay. In this time window, some resolution is lost below 600 Hz and accuracy is completely lost below 300 Hz. Measurements have been smoothed at a 1/24 octave resolution.

MTM100 Spinorama graph 

The above graph shows the direct-axis frequency response and other curves that describe the MTM-100’s amplitude response in a number of ways. For more information about the meaning of these curves, please refer to our article Understanding Loudspeaker Measurements Part 1. The results shown here are surprisingly good. Much of the midrange is very nicely flat. There is a small on-axis dip centered at 4kHz which might soften the upper harmonics of female vocals and some musical instruments, but it is ameliorated at off-axis angles. The tweeter does get a bit rocky above 9kHz, but even then the general levels are about the same as lower frequencies on average, so I don’t expect this speaker to sound odd at high treble frequencies. The early reflections curve is very neutral and quite good. That means that the MTM-100’s acoustic reflections have good correspondence to the direct sound from the speaker.  The sound power response shows a bump centered just below 4kHz, and this would be due to the vertical off-axis nulls caused by the MTM driver arrangement. The horizontal off-axis behavior matters a lot more, and that is where this speaker shows much more neutral performance. Most desktop speakers intended for casual listening do not have this level of accuracy or anywhere near it.

MTM100 3D waterfall response 

 MTM100 2D waterfall response

The above graphs depict the speaker’s lateral responses out to 90 degrees in five-degree increments. More information about how to interpret these graphs can be read in this article: Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II. The MTM-100 controls the response behavior extremely well, both on and off-axis. I am assuming the response was shaped by the DSP. One indicator that DSP is being used to shape the response is the slight upper treble raggedness, where the off-axis response starts to lose correlation with the on-axis response. Equalization can’t really fix that kind of problem, but it is pretty mild on this speaker. Most audio content lives below 8kHz, and in that region, this speaker performs beautifully, better than many studio monitors that I have dealt with in fact. Above that, it still does well, just not perfectly. I would guess that the waveguide is responsible for some of the slight off-axis jaggedness in upper treble, but it is so minor that I doubt it would have any audible impact on the sound. It is only of interest for academic curiosity. These graphs reflect what I heard in my listening demos: a neutral, balanced sound.

MTM100 Polar Map

The above polar map graphs show the same information that the preceding graphs do but depict it in a way that can offer new insight regarding these speakers’ behavior. Instead of using individual raised lines to illustrate amplitude, these polar maps use color to portray amplitude, and this allows the use of a purely angle/frequency axis perspective. The advantage of these graphs is they can let us see broader trends in the speaker’s behavior more easily. For more information about the meaning of these graphs, we again refer the reader to Understanding Loudspeaker Review Measurements Part II.

Above 1kHz, we see a very nicely even dispersion from the MTM-100. The dispersion stays fairly even and only narrows a little bit from 50 degrees to 40 degrees as we move up in frequency. It isn’t perfect, but it is amazingly good considering this speaker’s intended application. The tweeter doesn’t start to aggressively beam until just below 20kHz, and that is very good considering it is a 1.25” dome. The waveguide must be helping out to preserve the dispersion out to such a high frequency. Normally, dome tweeters in that size start to narrow in dispersion heavily above 9 or 10kHz. The bottom line on this graph is that the MTM-100s cover a fairly wide listening area with an even response, so these speakers should have a good tonal balance over a wide area.

MTM100 3D waterfall vertical response 

The above graph shows the MTM-100’s response behavior along its vertical axis where zero degrees is directly in front of the tweeter, negative degree values are below the tweeter, and positive degree values are above the tweeter. As would be expected of an MTM driver arrangement, the two woofers do start to bicker at off-axis angles. The good news is that the off-axis behavior on the vertical axis isn’t as important as the horizontal behavior, at least from the point of acoustic reflections. That being said, this graph matters more for desktop speakers or speakers intended for near-field listening than typical stand-mount speakers, because the direct sound from the speakers is going to have a greater impact on the listening experience than if the listener were seated far back. What is more, listening height can change much more relative to the speaker than further back or mid-field listening like in a normal living room or home theater setup. For example, if you set up the desktop speakers so the tweeter is level with the listener’s ears when seated at an upright position, the listener could be significantly far off in the vertical axis if they slouch or change their posture. The off-axis cancellation lobes caused by the two woofers are not as constricting in the MTM-100s as it is in some MTM-style speakers that we have seen, and that is because the woofers are not mounted very far apart. That does give the listener some flexibility on the vertical angle before the off-axis nulls start to mess up the response.

MTM100 Polar Map vertical 

The above graph shows the MTM-100’s vertical response in a polar map. The most important feature to see here is how wide of an angle the listener has before the cancellation nulls take their toll. The answer is good: users have about a +/-20degree angle from the on-axis response before the response starts to incur nulls. That is definitely better than average for an MTM speaker. As I said before, I don’t normally encourage readers to look at MTM speakers for desktop applications, but in this case, I will make an exception, because that kind of dispersion should cover a reasonable range of listening heights for a near-field environment. In other words, you don’t have to keep your head at an exacting height for these speakers to sound good, and you have a 20-degree angle above and below the tweeter that you can listen at before the sound takes on any significant changes.

Eagle-eyed readers might see that while the measurements are very symmetric above and below the on-axis response, they aren’t an exact match. That is because this speaker’s enclosure is slightly longer on the bottom than the top. That does cause a different pattern of diffraction and reflection from the cabinet from both the top and bottom but just barely. This isn’t of any audible concern but rather just an interesting feature to note for hardcore speaker nerds. 

MTM100 Low frequency Response 

The above graphs show the MTM-100’s low-frequency responses that I captured using groundplane measurements (where the speaker and microphone are on the ground in a wide-open area). The response here is good overall. We can see the tuning frequency of the passive radiator is about 60Hz. In my listening, I heard strong bass down to about 50Hz before the sound rapidly lowered in output. This is very good considering the size of these speakers. I can’t quite call these speakers full-range, but most users will be pretty happy with that kind of extension.

Users who want to add a subwoofer from the MTM-100’s own subwoofer output might want to try a 60Hz crossover on the sub so there won’t be much overlap between the sub and speakers, although given the way that normal room acoustics screws up the low-end response, there is no sure thing here (at least without measurements from the user’s own room). I would encourage users who utilize the MTM-100’s subwoofer output to experiment with different crossover frequencies on the sub and keep whichever setting sounds best to their ears.

Conclusion

Let’s quickly go over the strengths and weaknesses of the MTM-100s before bringing this review to a close, and let’s start with the weaknesses as we usually do. There isn’t a whole lot to complain about with the MTM-100s. I do think the build quality could be a bit more robust. I wish they would have added some interior acoustic damping or bracing. I understand there isn’t much internal surface that they could have mounted bracing or stuffing, but I think that some clever engineering could have solved that. The speakers sound good without it, so I wonder how much of an improvement that would have yielded.

MTM100 desktop7

One drawback to these speakers that wasn’t a problem for me but might present a problem for some is their sheer size for desktop speakers. Most desktop speakers are quite small because manufacturers know that a lot of people don’t have much free desktop space. There will be many people who simply cannot fit these speakers on their desktops. While the MTM-100s are larger than almost any other consumer-type powered desktop speaker, it does have a smaller footprint than many studio monitors, so it does split the difference between those styles of powered speakers.

MTM100 single3One addition that could have increased the value of these speakers is balanced analog inputs whether ¼” or XLR. I know that those inputs are geared more toward professional applications and the MTM-100s is intended for consumer applications, but its performance is certainly good enough for prosumer applications. The inclusion of balanced inputs would have made these speakers even more versatile, and they could be used with the many hundreds of professional or prosumer audio interfaces out there.

There isn’t a lot else that I could fairly complain about, so let’s move on to these speakers’ strengths. The first thing I have to compliment these speakers on is the sound quality; it was much better than I expected. As we said before, many consumer-level desktop speakers are pretty bad. The sound that the MTM-100s make isn’t just passable, it is actually very good. There are much more expensive hi-fi speakers as well as studio monitors that do not match their tonal accuracy. The excellent tonality extends over a fairly wide angle of the speaker’s dispersion as well. You don’t need to have your head fixed in a single location with a vice for these speakers to sound good. The bass extension is very good for the size of these speakers; they are pretty capable down to 50Hz. That is deep enough to cover the bass in almost any acoustic recording and a lot of electronically produced recordings as well.

The MTM-100’s dynamic range is overkill for desktop speakers. This is the opposite of so many other desktop speakers which are anemic. One advantage of the extra dynamic range is that these speakers will never strain under normal or even spirited listening levels. The MTM-100’s can be driven to the point of compression and distortion, but by that point, the listener’s ears would be bleeding in near-field listening. In fact, I think these speakers are more suited for a family room or bedroom system. They are too big for many people’s desktops but do have a good size for an audio system in a small-to-medium-sized room. All they would really need for that is the addition of a grille. These would be a lot better than most soundbars that can be had for the same price. And they can be used more easily for different sources than a soundbar. They are only missing an HDMI input for that kind of use, but, as we mentioned earlier, an HDMI audio extractor can be added fairly easily and inexpensively. Those who want deep bass for movies and heavy-duty electronic music can easily add a subwoofer via the MTM-100’s subwoofer output (any of the subwoofers mentioned in our article The Best $500 Powered Subwoofers for 2023 would be a great choice to compliment these speakers).

MTM100 pair11

The MTM-100 is basically a very good all-in-one audio system for $500. It’s perfect for people who want to skip an AVR and are looking for something simple and small but still sounds good. It’s fine for desktop use, at least for people with the desk space who can accommodate its footprint. It’s a great choice for those who want a decent stereo system but live in a very confined space like a small apartment or a dorm. Whoever designed the MTM-100s could have phoned in the sound quality part, and I think many of the buyers would still have been satisfied because few people expect high-fidelity from speakers in this product class. The engineers didn’t do that for these speakers and instead opted to make a fairly accurate loudspeaker. I really like that aspect of the MTM-100s and hope that kind of effort gets rewarded with success. These are good speakers that are a great solution for a variety of circumstances, and I am sure many buyers will be delighted with how well they perform.

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 QualityStarStarStar
AppearanceStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
ImagingStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
PerformanceStarStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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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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