From spendy cables and wires to celebrity headphones and now to loudspeakers, Monster seems to be less focused on connecting your home theater these days and more interested in providing the actual components. Judging from its first pair of bookshelf speakers, that’s not a bad thing.
While there’s no big celebrity name backing the new Clarity HD Model Ones, it’s not particularly hard to trace their pedigree. Especially if you look at the price tag. In the same way that the Beats have become just as much “digital lifestyle accessories” as they are a line of headphones and speakers, so too are these candy-colored boxes.
It’s clear, for instance, that Monster intends the bi-amped Model Ones to be your new go-to, all-in-one musical workhorses — speakers suited for all your digital music, where ever it may reside. As such, the these 16 x 9 x 8-inch active loudspeakers come ready for plenty of different situations. You’ll get an embedded iPod dock, plenty of audio inputs, a slot for a future Bluetooth wireless module (not tested), a +2/0/-2 dB high filter switch, and even a tiny little remote to conduct the swirling symphony of sound they produce.
Yes, the Model Ones actually sound good. Really good, in fact. Not only do they exhibit a delightfully sharp and detailed soundstage but, like their higher-end Beats brethren, they also do an exceedingly good job of going to 11. Mind you, it’s not just that they go loud, it’s that they do so and still sound good — no easy feat for a run-of-the-mill desktop speaker. Merely turning the volume on El-P’s “Driving Down the Block” to notch below half way caused picture rattling tremors thanks to the Model One’s two 6.5-inch bass drivers.
It’s not just the lower frequencies that stand out. When fed some ethereal Thom Yorke and Jonsi Birgisson falsetto, the Model Ones still managed to sound natural, and never overly bright or harsh.
Adding to its list of bonafides is how ridiculously simple the Model Ones are to set up. Plug one speaker into an outlet, connect the two together with the multi-conductor cable, add an iPhone or iPod, and you’re ready to rock. There’s also myriad inputs on the back of the right-hand unit, including a 1/4-inch input, RCA ins and a 1/8-inch stereo miniplug input.
Unfortunately, in trying to make these bookshelves ideal in as many different contexts as possible, Monster has ended up with a speaker that’s not quite perfect in any of them.
While I definitely appreciated them on my desktop, my neighbors most certainly did not. And at 16-inches tall, these things will be huge on most desks (and probably overkill for anyone who isn’t a musician or mixer). Ditto for the bedroom and kitchen. If you’ve got a pair of speaker stands handy, the Model Ones will make for a nice stereo replacement for your crappy HDTV speakers. But again, at $700 that’s overkill in every sense of the word. And with no digital inputs, these things are really meant for music anyway. In fact, the ideal place for the Model Ones is probably the one room I don’t have in my house: the sound-proofed music studio.
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