Monitor Audio has been consistently successful for years by following a simple maxim – give the people what they want, not what it thinks is good for them. It also makes clearly defined ranges of loudspeakers; Platinum for the cost-no-object high enders, Gold for the high-enders, Silver for the rank-and-file music lovers and Bronze for the budget-conscious. There is a lot of DNA shared between all four ranges, with trickle-up and trickle-down technology from previous designs built into the latest range developed. Gold is the most recently refreshed range, and it shows in speakers like the GX300.
It’s a three-way slimline tower speaker, absolutely bristling with acronyms because almost everything in the speaker is proprietary. The drive units all sport Monitor Audio’s C-CAM composite aluminium material, now with RST for the midrange and bass units. RST is essentially a ribbed cone profile, designed to increase rigidity without increasing the low mass advantage of C-CAM drive units. These units sit in cast alloy chassis, which have an additional bolt to the rear of the loudspeaker drive unit.
This single-handedly braces the cabinet, adds rigidity and decouples the driver from the front baffle. In the GX300, the cabinet holds a pair of 165mm bass units and a single 100mm midrange cone drivers.
The C-CAM material has now been used to make a ribbon tweeter, first seen in the Platinum series. This tweeter is said to work to 60kHz, so the problem of metal dome tweeters breaking up just out of band and creating a spitty treble is solved, as is the demands for a loudspeaker that can cope with the ultrasonic response of high-res files. As with many good designs, the components in the crossover and the cables used internally are of the highest quality. Monitor Audio chose to use both air and steel core inductors, because their properties suit different frequencies better. The GX300 is bi-wired, and sits on two outrigger plinth halves, and come with the option of removable spikes if you would like your hard floor unscratched.
The cabinets of Monitor Audio speakers have always been a strong point, and the GX300 is no exception. Our sample came in a dark walnut veneer that was fabulously rich and deep, and the piano finish examples don’t exactly disappoint either. It’s best to remove those magnetically-held grilles, not only for sonic properties, but to take in the quality of the finish itself. When the light hits the loudspeakers in the right way, they have the sort of ‘oohhh’ appeal normally reserved for really good furniture.
The GX300 need power and some run-in. They are rated for use with amplifiers of 100-200 watt power output, and have a rated 200W power handling, so they perhaps aren’t the first choice for a three-watt triode design or a kilowatt powerhouse. They are distinctly more comfortable with something in the 150-180W per channel power delivery stakes in tow. Similarly,
the GX300 sound a lot better with a few hours under their belt. Once again, in giving the customer what they want, this is not the kind of speaker that takes nine months of hours of daily loud playing to hit its comfort zone, but you will notice that over the course of the GX300’s first weekend, it will sound a bit freer across the board.
Similarly pragmatic, these are some of the least fussy loudspeakers around in terms of positioning. Roughly three feet from the rear and side walls, with anything from 1.8m to about 3m apart hits the spot. Some toe-in would be advisable too. Too little bass, move them closer to the wall, but if you get closer than half a metre from the rear wall, use the bungs supplied to fill in the ports. And of course… experiment with positioning. But principally, so long as you get the GX300 positioning ‘sort of’ right, they work well. Yes, you can fine tune the speaker placement and hone the sound still further, but there are loudspeakers that seem to be always a couple of centimetres away from perfection, and never sound good as a consequence. These, on the other hand, always sound good and fine tuning makes them slightly better.
This no-nonsense stance makes the GX300 refreshingly ‘un-audiophile’ in approach. There’s no need to get wound up in finding the perfect amplifier, just any decent 100-200W device will do. The speaker is resolving enough to highlight the differences between sources, but not so punishingly resolving that it insists on the best of the best. And the pin-point installation, the never-ending search for the best speaker cable, the right spikes and the best room treatment all becomes a bit academic. These are good, unfussy loudspeakers that don’t force the listener into a bout of audiophilia nervosa. Buy ‘em, keep ‘em, love ‘em!
Perhaps some of this comes from the performance, which is both precisely what real people like in a good speaker and often what those who long since stopped buying hi-fi never look for in their systems. It delivers, clean, clear and vibrant high-frequencies and tidy, deep and powerful lows. Treble instruments and voices soar away into that region cats, bats and dogs love so much; we humans just hear an extended, detailed – and yet not bright, ‘tizzy’ or accented – treble. The closer you get to naturally recorded, untreated a capella voices, the more important this becomes; The Tallis Scholars polyphony when singing Tallis’ ‘Spem in Alium’ (Gimell) stands or falls on the purity of voice, especially in the upper registers. The GX300 sailed through this test as if the designer had been listening to renaissance music when putting the GX series through its paces.
The other end is fabulously well-upholstered for so small a speaker, too. Massive Attack, Dr. Dre, Trentemøller… all recordings with both a lot of bass and a lot going on in the bass. They all highlighted how good the GX300 were with bottom end notes. The pace of Trentemøller’s fast-pitched electronic drums in particular is something of an acid test for a loudspeaker. Many a good speaker has fallen here, either by making a sound so overblown that leading edges blur together, or by simply failing to reach into the bottom octave and making a sound like ripping paper instead of drums a pace. Here, the GX300 gets the balance perfectly right – you could spend 10x as much and not get the same result.
Midrange is similarly well-crafted, although because this is the region that so many speakers concentrate upon, it’s not as directly noticeable. Many small boxes get the midrange right, it’s the top and bottom that’s found wanting. Here, the vocal articulation is excellent, and the midrange clear and true.
It does very slightly seem to turn an acoustic guitar into an electro-acoustic, which is something mildly to do with the midrange’s slightly dry presentation. But, like many things in audio, you have to really go looking for this.
Ultimately, the Monitor Audio sound is one that is big and impressive. It casts a wide soundstage, with full-sized, solid instruments in their own sense of space within that soundstage. It goes loud too. All this, combined with the extension of top and bottom, gives you a sense of immediate impressiveness. It’s not some magic transponder that beams you into the time and space of the recording, and those wanting filigree detail of the acoustic space will find their goals fulfilled in other speaker designs, but few speakers at this price can deliver something this impressive sounding, and even fewer will deliver that while making sure you keep a satisfied smile firmly in place.
I can’t help but think Wilson Audio here. The GX300 are more than training wheels for a pair of Wilson Sashas, but there is a strong similarity in character. Both create a big sound, with lots of extension at either ends of the scale. Both have plenty of detail delivery and both have that ability to excite and stun in equal measure. Where the Wilsons win over the Monitor Audios is they have even more insight, detail, dynamic range and shade, and even more extension. Where the Monitor Audios win over the Wilsons is their ease in installation and equipment partnering… and that you can buy a wall of GX300s for the price of a pair of Sashas.
It’s not hard to see why Monitor Audio is such a success story. The GX300 gives you a lot of what real people want to hear. It doesn’t need you to spend every waking hour obsessing over minutiae, in the hope to raise the performance a fraction; it just gives you the sound you like in a fuss-free package. What could be better?
Monitor Audio Gold GX300 Three-way, bass-reflex floorstanding loudspeaker
Drive Unit Compliment: 1x C-CAM ribbon tweeter; 1x 100mm RST midrange cone driver; 2x 165mm RST bass cone driver
Frequency Response: 30Hz-60kHz
Nominal impedance: eight ohms
Max SPL: 116.8dB
Recommended amplifier power: 100-200W
Power Handling: 200W RMS
Dimensions (WxHxD): 32x111x37cm
Finish: Bubinga, Dark Walnut, Natural Oak real wood veneers, white and black piano gloss
Price: £3,000 per pair
Manufactured by: Monitor Audio Ltd
Tel: +44(0) 1268 740580