The side-long examination of Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man by Grover Washington Jr on Soul Box [Kudu] is an even greater test of dexterity and expression, but the Monitor Audios remain authoritative. The recording simmers, fulminates, and simmers again in the long-established jazz tradition, and each dynamic variation is paid close attention to – Eric Gale’s virtuoso guitar (under)playing contrasts strongly with Washington Jr’s strident saxophone in terms of volume and drive, and it’s distinct again from Ron Carter’s fluently supple bass-playing. The ability to express glaring variations without making them sound remote from each other is a valuable one.
Effective integration is key to the Gold 200s’ overall sound, and they succeed in managing rhythmic details as commandingly as details of tone or timbre. They aren’t about to try and disguise the fact that Blackalicious’ If I May [Mo’ Wax] is a cut-and-paste collage from numerous sources, but they allow it all to fit together harmoniously even as the elongated bass sounds anchor it. There’s nothing overblown or attention-seeking about the Monitor Audios, and consequently none of the droning at the bottom end that less even-handed speaker routinely introduce.
No matter if they’re dealing with the massive attack of Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre [Decca] or the unaccompanied voices of Ensemble Marani’s Tsintskaro[Buda Musique], the Gold 200s remain organised, dynamically potent, and tonally convincing performers with composure that borders on the unflappable. And, it’s worth pointing out, they can do all this at volumes both negligible and oppressive. Playing quietly doesn’t hamper the Gold 200s’ ability to deliver the entirety of the frequency range with the required impact, and playing at antisocially loud levels doesn’t spoil their harmonic balance.
But while they have no difficulties describing the scale of the Saint-Saens piece, nor in defining a convincing and easily understood stage for the performers, these speakers don’t escape the confines of their own beautifully finished cabinets as convincingly as they might. Everything that happens on the stage is explained in full and in detail, but it all seems to happen between the two towers. Stereo focus is impressive, but there’s no getting the information to expand much beyond the speakers no matter how much fiddling with positioning is indulged in. There’s great unity and coherence to the Monitor Audio Gold 200s, but there’s relatively little of the wide-screen element some similarly sized speakers can deliver.
Which simply goes to demonstrate that nothing’s perfect (but we knew that all along anyway, right?), least of all in the world of loudspeakers. And whilst the Gold 200s are short of perfect, just like all their rivals, they demonstrate some real strengths and areas of convincing expertise. As suggested earlier, there’s no ripping up of the Monitor Audio rule-book going on here, let alone the wider Loudspeaker Manual – but in terms of finessing and honing a long-in-the-tooth technology the Gold 200s are an unarguable, categorical success.