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$140/pr Monoprice MP-T65RT Tower Speaker Review

by May 30, 2019
Monoprice T65RT

Monoprice T65RT

  • Product Name: T65RT Tower Speakers
  • Manufacturer: Monoprice
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: May 30, 2019 00:00
  • MSRP: $ 140/pr (free shipping)
  • Buy Now
  • Woofer: 2 x 6.5” polypropylene cone
  • Tweeter: 4” x .76” planar
  • Power Handling: 30 watts RMS, 60 watts maximum
  • Frequency Response: 45Hz - 20kHz
  • Impedance: 6 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 86dB @ 1W/1m
  • Terminals: Quick Connect Push Terminals
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 30” x 7.6” x 9.3”
  • Weight: 17.5 lbs. each

Pros

  • Extremely affordable!
  • Exceptionally good off-axis response
  • Very friendly electrical load for any amplifier
  • Convenient size and weight
  • Very enjoyable sound when set up correctly

Cons

  • Rugged midrange response
  • Enclosure construction is minimal
  • Low height of tweeter requires speaker to be elevated or angled back

 

T65RT pair hero angle3Monoprice MP-65RT Introduction

Last year Audioholics ran a series of reviews for low-cost bookshelf speakers, one of which was the Monoprice MP-65RT. We were delighted by its unexpectedly good sound considering its extremely low $50/pair pricing. So earlier this year when Monoprice informed us that a floor-standing version was in development, we were quite interested in what they were cooking up, especially when they told us about an unusual decision about its design. Now that speaker has finally landed, and we managed to snag a pair for review. The Monoprice MP-T65RT (not the most graceful name) takes the same components used in the MP-65RT and uses them in a modestly-sized floor standing speaker. It is priced at an astonishingly affordable $140 per pair shipped. At this extraordinarily low pricing, I don’t expect perfection, but that would be a bargain even if the sound were merely “OK.” However, the original MP-65RT sounded better than just OK, so that sets the bar higher for these than others in this price range. So the question is do they continue Monoprice’s success as an extremely high bang-for-the-buck product for this speaker series? And just how much tower speaker can you get for $140/pair?

Unpacking and Appearance

T65RT box     T65RT grille on and off

The MP-T65RT arrived in a prudently packedT65RT packing box. The packing was thrifty yet smart, so those who order these speakers should manage to receive them undamaged. One factor in that is these speakers are very light, so they don’t have as much mass to put stress on themselves or the packing should they encounter a sudden shock. They were nested in a bunch of foam blocks, and they wrapped in plastic to protect them against moisture. Once out of the packing, I was presented with a pair of petite and somewhat plain looking tower speakers. The finish is a simple textured vinyl that is seen on many speakers these days, including much more expensive speakers. With grilles on, they really are just tall, featureless black boxes. With grilles off, they are more utilitarian looking, but they also have more personality. The woofers take up so much of the front-baffle real estate that it gives the speakers an almost aggressive feel as if they are begging to be given music to play right this instant. These speakers aren’t going to dazzle anyone with their appearance, but they are too simple to offend as well. Unless they are placed in the middle of the room, they will likely disappear into the scenery. If you like your speakers to look unpretentious, these accomplish that.

Design Overview

The MP-T65RT speakers are pretty simple floor-standing speakers, and at this price point, you can’t expect much complexity. However,T65RT pair simple doesn’t mean bad. There may not be that many pieces to this puzzle, but so long as all the pieces fit together just right, the assembled picture will still be correct. The MP-T65RT is a two-way, ported, floor-standing speaker using two 6.5” woofers sandwiching a planar tweeter in an MTM configuration. It’s unusual to see budget floor-standing speakers use an MTM design where the woofers sandwich the tweeter, but it’s a good idea for a couple of reasons.

1) An MTM design is better than a traditional MMT because using two woofers that are both the same distance from the tweeter, there will be only one lobing pattern of interference where their bandwidths overlap. All speakers with drivers that do not share the same spatial location (essentially all non-coaxial speakers) will suffer from lobing patterns off-axis. The lobing patterns occur on the plane where the drivers differ in distance, so in most speakers, it happens on the vertical axis. Most two-way tower speakers use an MMT configuration where the tweeter rests above both woofers on a vertical line, but that puts the woofers at two different distances from the tweeter which increases their off-axis interference pattern at the crossover region. In an MTM design, both woofers are equidistant from the tweeter, so the crossover interference pattern is no worse than a speaker that only has one woofer. This makes the vertical off-axis dispersion a bit tidier, and even though the off-axis dispersion of the vertical axis is not nearly as important as the horizontal axis, it’s still better to have a more uniform dispersion pattern no matter what the axis.

2) Another reason why an MTM design can be an improvement over an MMT design is that the woofers can interfere with each other, and this can be used as an advantage in reducing vertical dispersion altogether. If you are standing dead ahead of both woofers, the time-arrival of their sound will hit you simultaneously, but if you are standing at an angle that puts them at different distances, the time-arrival between them is different, and this difference causes interference with each other and can cancel output. The result in a speaker like the MP-T65RT is that less sound is emitted at off-axis angles in the vertical axis, so there will be less acoustic reflections from the ceiling and floors. That can be beneficial for these speakers in that floor bounce, where the acoustic reflection off of the floor interferes with the direct sound of the speaker, will be less of an issue. Floor bounce primarily affects the mid and upper bass regions and manifests itself as a rocky and uneven frequency response.

Something else that helps to mitigate floor-bounce is that the drivers are spaced further apart from each other, so their individual path-lengths are significantly different from the floor, and this can help randomize the interference patterns that form from floor reflections.

T65RT interior

Placing the tweeter between the woofers makes the tweeter the acoustic center of the speaker in a more meaningful way, and it’s strange that more two-way tower speakers don’t use this design strategy to their advantage. It does not increase the complexity of the design much. The only drawback is that it can make the speaker taller in order to get that tweeter at an ear-level height. Here, the MP-T65RT does have a deficiency: the tweeter on this speaker is fairly low compared to most speakers. The optimal height to listen to most speakers is with the tweeter at ear level, and this is especially true of MTMs, but the height of the tweeter on the MP-T65RT is only 20” off the floor. That means that their tweeters will be lower than ear levels of most people sitting in normal-height furniture. This can be fixed by T65RT tweeterplacing them on a shallow stand or by angling them back slightly so that the tweeter’s ‘aim’ intersects the listener’s ear position. Monoprice likely did this to save on costs, after all, a larger speaker would have been significantly more expensive to ship. In my opinion, it’s not so bad to make a speaker that’s a bit too low; you can always prop the speaker up on something to adjust the height, but if a tweeter is too high, it’s a lot less convenient to prop of the listening position, since there is no way to make the speaker shorter.

The MP-T65RT uses a ribbon tweeter, kind of. It’s the same tweeter used in the MP-65RT. In our original review of the MP-65RT bookshelf speaker, we misidentified the tweeter as a classic ribbon tweeter, but it turned out to be a planar tweeter. Monoprice calls this a ‘ribbon’ tweeter, and there is a slight similarity, but it wouldn’t quite be considered a true ribbon tweeter. True ribbon tweeters use a very thin piece of conductive film such as aluminum as the diaphragm, but a planar uses a conductive film etched into a light but durable plastic such as polyester as the diaphragm. Among the differences this makes is that the planar tweeter can have an intrinsically more controlled impedance load, so it does not need its own transformer like a true ribbon tweeter, and the manufacturing is much simpler, making it a far less expensive tweeter. Planar tweeters are also a lot more durable than true ribbon tweeters. Many ribbons have a difficult time dealing with midrange frequencies, but planar tweeters tend not to be as fragile if given a lower frequency range to cover.

T65RT woofer

Monoprice MP-T65RT 6.5" Woofer

The MP-T65RT also uses the same polypropylene woofer used in the MP-65RT, and this is good news because these woofers don’t have severe breakup effects. This speaker is too inexpensive to have a real crossover circuit, so the woofers are running mostly full-range and are not being low-pass filtered. In order to pull this off without sounding horrendous, the woofers cannot have high-frequency excitations that jump sharply up in amplitude. Many drivers, when pushed beyond their upper-frequency comfort zone will run into break-up modes, where the cone or diaphragm starts to bend because it’s being asked to move too fast and therefore can’t hold its shape. At this point, it loses pistonic behavior, and its frequency response becomes very erratic and uneven. Most speaker designers try to filter out playback of frequencies where breakup occurs, but that means the use of a real crossover circuit with inductors. Instead, the MP-T65RT uses a woofer that was engineered to have less objectionable breakup behavior, so when these woofers do run into breakup modes, the effects on the response aren’t as loud or offensive-sounding, so it shouldn’t be as audibly intrusive on the overall response of the speaker.

T65RT crossover

The ‘crossover,’ as it were, is just a good-sized capacitor on the woofers, presumably to prevent them from playing below the port tuning frequency, and a small capacitor and resistor on the tweeter to protect it from lower frequency playback. T65RT rearThe cabinet is very much that of a budget speaker, with ½” thick MDF side panels and only small blocks around the internal edges for bracing. Thin, flat, large panels with little bracing such as these may have some resonance issues, and that is one of the sacrifices that must be made to achieve this low price point. However, the offensiveness of panel resonance has never really been established with exactitude, so the severity of this problem may not be all that bad. I measured the speakers to weigh 15 lbs. each which is less than Monoprice’s spec of 17.5 lbs. each, but they may have meant shipped weight. There is a layer of stuffing used in the cabinet to help damp backwave acoustic energy from the cones that may alleviate some panel resonance. The speaker wire inputs are just a set of spring clips, which is just fine. Spring clips are not as fancy as five-way binding posts, but they are a perfectly fine way of connecting speaker wire. They are a cost-cutting measure that wouldn’t bother me even on much higher-priced speakers, to be honest. The ‘feet’ are just some small felt pads that can prevent hard floor surfaces from getting scuffed.

Overall the design suggests an intelligent attempt at balancing a very small manufacturing budget to areas that will make the most audible difference rather than the speaker’s appearance. These are floor-standing speakers that cost much less than many bookshelf speakers, so these compromises made in its construction are to be expected. The question is how far do these compromises go toward affecting the sound? Let’s take a listen to find out…

Listening Sessions

In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with stand-off distances between the back wall and sidewall, and equal distance between speakers and listening position. The MP-T65RTs are rather short for floor-standing speakers, so they were elevated to a height where the tweeters were level with the listening position ear height (I did this by placing them on some bookshelf speakers). Listening distance from the speakers was about 9 feet. Amplification and processing were handled by a Pioneer Elite SC-55. No room correction equalization was used. For movies, subwoofers were used to supplement the bass with an 80 Hz crossover frequency.

After some experimenting with different positioning angles, and also after examining their measured horizontal responses, I ended up using a very hard toe-in which crossed the speaker’s aim at a point well in front of me. This toe-in put me at a 50 to 60-degree angle with respect to the on-axis direction. This may strike the reader as strange, but to my ears, this is where the speaker sounded best. The reason why will be explained in the ‘Measurements and Analysis’ section further below.

Music Listening

‘Slideways’ by Roy Rogers (the blues Slidewaysguitarist Roy Rogers, not the singer/actor) was loaned to me by a friend as a good acoustic recording for getting a sense of tonal balance and imaging, and after giving it a listen, I have to say he is correct. Roy Rogers is a slide guitar virtuoso, and ‘Slideways’ is an exhibition of his mastery over this instrument. He is aided by a team of top-notch musicians who assist in bass guitar, piano, percussion, harmonica, and other instruments to bring to life this set of compositions which were all written by Rogers. This is an up-tempo blues album that has excellent production quality that can be listened to as party music just as well as for critically evaluating a sound system. Roger’s slide guitar was front and center, and the MP-T65RTs imaging nailed his guitar work squarely in the center of the soundstage. Harmonica playing was positioned a bit to the right side, with accompanying guitar to the left and various percussion instruments swinging hard left or right depending on the individual track. All of the instruments sounded detailed and well-balanced with Roger’s guitar given a thick crunchy sound from some various effects filters. Even though these speakers are really cheap, I didn’t detect any obvious flaw or problem. There may have been some midrange thickness that wouldn’t have been present on a higher-end speaker, but then again that might simply be my expectations influencing my perception given the design compromises. In other words, I have to be careful in mistaking flaws in the sound reproduction, because I would be expecting a flawed sound due to the ultra-low price point of the speakers. No speaker is perfect, and a speaker this cheap is bound to have flaws, but I don’t know that I heard any real shortcomings while listening to ‘Slideways.’ For the price of these speakers, I was mightily impressed with the sound so far.

While I use a lot of orchestralChoral Harmony music to evaluate speakers under review, my own orchestral music collection is not enormously extensive, so I borrowed a large set of classical music recordings from a friend called ‘In Classical Mood.’ One disc in this set that had a superb collection of choral pieces entitled ‘Choral Harmony’ proved to be such a pleasing listen that I used it as a test CD for the MP-T65RT loudspeakers. This disc is a collection of recordings from various locations and performers, but the production quality is excellent throughout. The MP-T65RTs projected a wide soundstage yet with well-localized imaging within the breadth of the stage. The concert hall sound was enveloping and expansive, and certainly, this had a lot to do with the width of the positioning of the speakers where more reflected sound would have been heard than normal. But on occasions where a specific, discrete sound was reproduced, it had a precise location without vagueness. The overall sound was lush as one would expect from a recording of this nature. Again, when I went looking for some kind of flaw, I thought maybe I was hearing some thickness in the midrange, but that may have been my imagination. It could be that in seeking some kind of problem with speakers of this pricing. I was not fairly evaluating them since I don’t quite approach higher-end speakers the same way. I don’t go looking for problems in expensive speakers, and I just report anything amiss that I hear. The MP-T65RTs place an automatic bias against themselves by their extremely low pricing, and I am not sure I can break my own predisposition given my knowledge of their design compromises. To me, these sound good, much better than any speaker of this pricing has any right to sound, yet they may be even better than I am giving them credit for. 

For an album that pushed these speakers toward a singular vocal, I thrMorning Dove Whiteew on One Dove’s ‘Morning Dove White,’ a down-tempo pop music classic from 1991. The instrumentals are mostly electronic, but the vocals by singer Dot Allison are what anchor this music, and it is her voice that takes center stage for the most part. One thing I noticed is that as slight as the MP-T65RT speakers are in size and lightweight as the woofers looked, these speakers were not lacking for bass. At times, ‘Morning Dove White’ can be clubby, and the MP-T65RTs could produce an unexpected amount of punch and growl for the kick drums and bass line. Tonally, the bass seemed proportionate with the mids and treble, and no instruments or frequencies were sticking out above everything else. When I initially listened with the speaker’s angled outward from the listening position, I did notice the imaging was OK for higher frequency sounds but seemed to inflate when lower midrange sounds were brought in. This had the effect of giving a center image to elements that had mostly treble, such as when Dot whispers, but when she sings in closer to the mic thereby bringing midrange frequencies to the fore of her voice, the image ballooned. The speakers still presented a center image of midrange-heavy sounds, but they were broad in size. With a speaker of this many construction compromises, I couldn’t be sure what exactly was causing this effect. I listened to other music of this nature, and the effect remained no matter the recording. Later on, when I angled the speaker’s position to face sharply inwards in front of the listening position, the center imaging snapped in place and was no longer frequency dependent. I also noted what I thought might be a ‘swishineess’ in the upper mids/lower treble where a ‘shhh’ sound slightly smeared other higher-pitched transients, but it didn’t seem to be very pronounced. It might have been a product of my imagination from being unintentionally hyper-critical of super-cheap speakers.

For something radically different, I listened to the alRendered Fantasybum ‘Rendered Fantasy’ by サイバー '98. I don’t know how to classify this music except to say that it borders the genre of vaporwave but is much further out. This is experimental electronic music that has a unique sound that is highly-textured yet pseudo-low-fi, glitchy, deep-bass heavy, semi-hip-hop, and a bunch of other sonic themes thrown into the stew. There is nothing quite like it, and for those who want to take a listen, it can be had for free on bandcamp (although I recommend compensating the artist to encourage more of this unbounded musical exploration). The sound mix is so crazy with hard panning and phase tricks that I would guess it is intended for headphone listening only, but to hear it on a pair of properly set up loudspeakers is something else. This music pushes deep bass and high treble hard, so it will definitely exercise your woofers and tweeter. ‘Rendered Fantasy’ on the MP-T65RTs sounded otherworldly, and in a good way. Somehow these small tower speakers with ultra-low-cost woofers manage to produce some real bass. The soundscape that the MP-T65RTs created on ‘Rendered Fantasy’ was vivid yet surreal, like some extremely well-executed visual effect for a movie, it made something fantastical seem tangible. I cranked the sound as high as I judged the speakers could safely handle, and they managed to get pretty loud, likely as loud as most people would ever want to listen for pleasure. With a 30-watt RMS and 60-watt peak maximum power handling capability, they aren’t party speakers, but they can sound decent at relatively loud levels. These speakers wouldn’t work well for large rooms or dedicated theaters, but for a medium to smaller room, I think most people would be satisfied with their dynamic range. ‘Rendered Fantasy’ was a fun romp with the MP-T65RTs, and their sound quality continued to impress me given their price.

Movie Listening

One movie that I watched with the MP-T65RT speakers was the classic ‘2001: A Space Odyssey2001’ which, I am sure, needs no introduction. I chose ‘2001’ because of the range of music which really allows a sound system to show off its abilities. For example, the bombast of ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ is a magnificent demo for a speaker’s dynamic range, Gyorgi Ligeti’s mesmeric, powerful soundscapes gives the speaker a very wide-band sound test to ascertain a sense of tonal balance, and recording of ‘The Blue Danube’ is so well known that it could serve as a point of sonic comparison for those fans of ‘2001’ who have heard it so many times. Given the age of the soundtrack of ‘2001,’ it isn’t as high fidelity a recording as newer music, but it is still a terrific sound mix for any system to stretch its legs out on. The MP-T65RT speakers did a great job of reproducing the sound for ‘2001.’ A mightier speaker set might have been able to capture the peaks in the crescendo of ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra,’ but such a speaker would inevitably be a lot costlier than the MP-T65RTs. The MP-T65RTs managed to create a full and compelling sound, especially in Ligeti’s choral atmospheres, and they recreated ‘The Blue Danube’ with a terrific soundstage and tonal balance. Aram Khachaturian’s haunting, melancholy ‘Gayane Ballet Suite’ is a wonderful piece that retained all of its subtlety and beauty as replayed by the MP-T65RTs. I remember going to see ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ at a 70mm midnight showing on January 1, 2001, in the Imax theater at Chicago’s Navy Pier with its massive Danley Labs speaker system, and the MP-T65RTs were not able to match the force of that presentation, but they still did a stellar job. Once again, I enjoyed Kubrick’s masterpiece, and my enjoyment was partly because of Monoprice’s overachieving budget speakers and my experience wasn’t at all hindered by them despite their very modest design.  

A movie that is very different from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ that I watched using the MP-T6TheNightComesForUs5RTs is was the Netflix-distributed action movie ‘The Night Comes For Us.’ I wanted to see what the MP-T65RTs could bring in terms of action movie dynamics, and ‘The Night Comes For Us’ had been in my Netflix list for a while, so this was a great opportunity to accomplish two tasks at once. As with so many other action film fans, ‘The Raid’ opened my eyes to some incredible talent from Indonesia, and ‘The Night Comes For Us’ shares much of the same cast and crew of ‘The Raid,’ so I knew at the very least that this movie would have great action scenes. I was not wrong; ‘The Night Comes For Us’ is filled with the same kind of brutal action scenes and martial arts that made ‘The Raid’ such an international sensation. There were some odd elements in the movie’s sound mix, but the punches, kicks, stabs, slashes, slicing, bone saws, circular saws, car crashes, meat-hook punctures, breaking bones, disembowelings, shotgun blast decapitations, and grenade explosion dismemberments all came through crystal clear on the MP-T65RTs. While one could sense their dynamic range limit on loud music, it wasn’t clear that they were having any problems handling the myriad action sound effects that comprised this movie’s sound mix. The MP-T65RTs seemed to handle ‘The Night Comes For Us’ fine, even at an elevated level, and I am not too sure what more expensive speakers might have brought to the experience at the levels I was listening to. It may have been that I was pushing these speakers right up to their limit, or that they may have been driven into heavy distortion that I didn’t notice. All I can say is that the MP-T65RTs reproduced this bloody brawl with gusto, and I enjoyed the hell out of it!

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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:

Hokies83 posts on June 02, 2019 23:16
D Murphy, post: 1319843, member: 88657
I would have to start from scratch. The baffle dimensions are different, and the woofers and tweeter are different.
One day I want some BMRs…. one day…
D Murphy posts on June 02, 2019 21:03
bradymartin, post: 1319842, member: 82771
what about the center?
https://www.monoprice.com/product?c_id=304&cp_id=30404&cs_id=3040406&p_id=35125&seq=1&format=2

will your work on the towers translate to the center? same tweeter except the smaller woofers.
id be interested. looking for something for a small bedroom. bought speakers from you before.
I would have to start from scratch. The baffle dimensions are different, and the woofers and tweeter are different.
bradymartin posts on June 02, 2019 20:50
D Murphy, post: 1319838, member: 88657
No pm's yet. I have a plan B that may get me a pair supplied by the factory.

what about the center?
https://www.monoprice.com/product?c_id=304&cp_id=30404&cs_id=3040406&p_id=35125&seq=1&format=2

will your work on the towers translate to the center? same tweeter except the smaller woofers.
id be interested. looking for something for a small bedroom. bought speakers from you before.
D Murphy posts on June 02, 2019 20:19
No pm's yet. I have a plan B that may get me a pair supplied by the factory.
bradymartin posts on June 02, 2019 18:36
D Murphy, post: 1319355, member: 88657
Thanks Shady. I'm not sure how the tower maintains such broad dispersion in the upper midrange, lower treble. Although planars can go lower than ribbons, all else equal, that must be one inexpensive tweeter, and it's hard to believe it could go low enough to allow a crossover point that would avoid beaming at the upper end of the woofer's response. Any idea what the crossover point is? It looks like the tower would make an excellent crossover upgrade candidate, but the low tweeter height is a real problem. Still, if anyone is interested in my smoothing things out, just PM me. But you would have to agree to buy the final product at my cost + shipping.

has anyone pmd you about this? im interested in the results.
glad to see you didnt give up on the hobby completely. looks like you still want to have fun with it.
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