Summer, the season of tempest and sizzles, floras and faunas, frenzies and feuds. To me, all the world is a stage; beauties and beasts its actors. My audio system to complement all the festivities? A Monitor Audio Bronze Reference 5.1-channel speaker system.
Making up the system is a pronounced pair of BR6 floorstanding speakers at the front, a clean BR-LCR centre channel, a pair of smooth-looking BR-FX for surround, and to round it all up, a stout BRW10 subwoofer. This entire 5.1 system retails for a price of $2400. My review set came in a black oak vinyl finish, which is just the way I like my home theatre speakers – stealthily present, or they’ll draw my attention away from the happenings of the motion screen. If you prefer a bolder visual presence, the speakers are also available in a cherry vinyl finish.
Dark as they are, the BR6s do have a bold appearance that says vigour and verve. So with no time wasted I connected just these two floorstanders to an Onkyo TX-SR701 receiver and watched Twister (the movie). Immediately I found both solidity and fluidity in the bass without the enhancement of a subwoofer. Of course, this soundtrack was produced back in the mid-90s and it wouldn’t be fair to measure them using today’s cinematic standards. What I heard, albeit not from the best audio material I could have found, was pleasant and agreeable; storm effects and human voices alike were as natural sounding as can be.
No surprises though. These Bronze BR6 speakers are the most commanding of the Bronze Reference series, each with a sensitivity of 90 dB. With dual 6.5-inch bass drivers, a 6.5-inch mid-range driver and a 1-inch gold dome tweeter, the pair covers a band from 33 Hz up to 30 kHz. No wonder I didn’t have to crank up the volume before I got what I was looking for: an anchoring bass, a dynamic middle, and a keen treble all working fluently together.
The rest of the system was sitting idly and the call for complete hook-up was too inviting. With the full 5.1 surround set, I managed six episodes of Planet Earth and spun the world with nothing more than a remote control in merely two nights. Planet Earth is my latest DVD acquisition that features not only scenes of splendour but also sounds of wonder. The last time I saw episodes of this show on TV, I dreamed about keeping a snow leopard for petting purposes. This time, with crisper diction and a far superior sound, I heard many more syllables of Sir David’s storytelling, and was convinced to upgrade my fantasy to running an entire safari.
Planet Earth’s custom designed musical pieces were written with classical ideas in mind and a British flare of grandeur and dignity in essence. Listening to these pieces on the Bronze Reference speakers heightened each moment of the musical experience. The natural musicality and expressiveness of the Bronze Reference speakers was simply perfect for the soundtrack of Planet Earth. My ears were certainly satisfied.
On top of a masterful orchestration of bright horns and precise percussions, were the symphonic sounds of nature itself. Each turn of tide or change of season, birdsongs and whale chants, shark attack to elephant hunt, I was submerged by both visual and sonic presence. Particularly as the audio tracks presented a pristine forest, the Bronze Reference series made it extra luscious.
The centre channel BR-LCR, with its dual 5.5-inch woofers and 1-inch tweeter, matches the floor-standing BR6s in sensitivity. It complemented the BR6s very well by reinforcing the mid to high ranges, and delivered clear dialogue to match the on-screen action.
The BR-FX surround speakers did a little less for me, partly because I told the receiver to send most of the signal to the front and partly because surround speakers are meant to enhance and not overwhelm. Each BR-FX speaker combines a single 5.5-inch woofer and dual side-firing 1-inch tweeters. Their operation can be switched from dipole to bipole with the flick of a switch in the rear. Of course, depending on the choice of the front speakers, these surround boxes may rise in importance. Personally, I dislike being surprised from behind by loud audio – I prefer to face danger affront. If you prefer to use typical bookshelf speakers for the rear channels, the Bronze Reference series offers them in two models, the BR1 and the BR2.
For an exciting blockbuster movie choice, Jurassic Park III came to mind – only here could I find the ironic fantasy that dinosaurs scream more intelligently and sensibly than humans. I placed the BRW-10 subwoofer well in the darkness of the back corner of my room and was pleasantly surprised by its versatility. The BRW-10, with its 10-inch woofer and 150 watt amplifier, produced bass that was quick and clean, and never painful – which was just right for my tastes. I was further impressed by the controls for fine tuning, right at the back of the unit. For me, Jurassic Park’s soundtrack was heavy with music and sound effects at times, and thin with civilized voices, so I was grateful for that readily available adjustment.
I then watched a bit of the Lord of the Rings. While I love the movie, my only complaint about this blockbuster is that humans are often put into heroic situations much too large for their size. By this, I mean that men frequently need to shout over Saint Crispin’s army and women over gigantic reptiles. This translates into great sound effects but much over-amplified human voices. Fortunately in this case, the BR-LCR speaker was sensitive to my protests. I turned the centre channel volume down a notch, and the actors and actresses no longer sounded like they were carrying a microphone around.
Another movie that I watched was Kill Bill, both parts. The movie is sushi meets filet mignon, tequila mix wonton soup – how the world seems to esteem gourmet and measure both culture and entertainment these days! My reason for playing the movies, on the other hand, is their wide audio spectrum that shows off any capable audio system. The classic sounds from retro films of the 70s, tracks of Japanese songs dancing to Latin rhythms, beautiful aggressive ladies throwing punches, strings of electric guitars energized by African drums, and that eerie sound from the unsheathing of a samurai sword – a mishmash of just about everything. The amazing surround sound effects featured in Kill Bill were a testament to the capability of these Bronze Reference speakers. Yes, at times I thought that I heard music in those gunshots, and poetry amidst swordfights. And yes, I do have a vivid imagination.
With an episode of Band of Brothers, I went back to the basics and heard a pinpoint accuracy in the surround soundstage. The speakers (as a system) were flawless in delivering every firing of the gun barrel and guiding it in the right direction. The layering of sounds was detailed and precise, and though it was mainly madness, there was method to it. The BR-FX surround speakers integrated perfectly with the rest of the speakers. I’ll admit that for the many times that I have previously watched Band of Brothers, I never once knew that it was supposed to sound like this – never this deep, this rich; never this powerful.
As I drew another night of auditioning to a close, I caught the tail end of another showing of Planet Earth on cable TV. Two polar bears clumsily slid across thin ice. Sir David’s familiar narration came directly from the speakers of the TV set. Credits came on screen and that ode of gorgeous melodies appeared – this time, lifeless with no emotion. Planet Earth’s soundtrack will never be the same to me after enjoying it through on the Bronze Reference speakers.With a price of $2400 for the full 5.1-channel speaker system, there is a lot to enjoy about the Monitor Audio Bronze Reference speakers. From sonic performance to visual appeal, these speakers have just the right stuff. But Monitor Audio does have more to offer. If you do have a larger budget, you may want to take at look at their Silver RS or even the Gold Reference series.
Distributed in Canada by Kevro International 905-428-2800
Monitor Audio Bronze Reference 5.1 Speaker System Highlights
Price: $2400 CAD (for the above 5.1-channel system)
BR6 Floorstanding, $1000
• Frequency response ( +/- 3dB): 33 Hz – 30 KHz
• Sensitivity (1W@1M): 90 dB
• Impedance: 4 ohms
• Recommended power: 40-150W
BR-LCR Centre Channel, $300
• Frequency response ( +/- 3dB): 60 Hz – 30 KHz
• Sensitivity (1W@1M): 90 dB
• Impedance: 6 ohms
BR-FX Surround Speakers, $500
• Dipole/bipole design (switchable)
• Frequency response ( +/- 3dB): 65 Hz – 30 KHz
• Sensitivity (1W@1M): 88 dB
• Impedance: 6 ohms
BRW-10 Subwoofer, $600
• Frequency response: 27-120Hz
• Amplifier output: 150 watts
• Driver: 10-inch