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Monitor Audio Studio 89

Before it switched to a hierarchy of precious metals, the priciest and most technologically advanced of Monitor Audio’s passive loudspeaker ranges was called ‘Studio’. And despite the logic of a model range that now runs ‘Bronze’, ‘Silver’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Platinum’, the company is ready to revisit past glories with ‘Studio 89’.

It’s a single model, rather than an entire range, and it follows a trend that’s recently become established in the world of audio equipment just as surely as it has in the automotive industry: modern retro. For every Fiat or Volkswagen that’s harking back to its illustrious past in an attempt to move forwards, there’s a Mission or a Wharfedale - and now we can add Monitor Audio to the list.

To labour the automotive analogy just a little further, you can have Studio 89 in any colour you like as long as it’s black. Thanks to the unconventional proportions (340x157x361mm, HxWxD) and a vertically arranged driver array, it’s a distinctive-looking loudspeaker - and if you decide to fork out another £500 for the bespoke stands, not only can you bolt the speakers directly to the top-plate but the bronze/copper colour of the drivers is echoed in some of the stands’ detailing. Which is nice.

The driver array consists of an MPD III high-frequency diaphragm behind a waveguide, with a 108mm RDT III mid/bass driver above and below. The idea of the layout is to offer wide sound dispersion in both the vertical and horizontal axes.

The tweeter unit is low-mass, and its pleats act rather like an accordion to deliver rapid, smooth high-frequency response. The mid/bass drivers represent the current state of the C-CAM art - three super-thin layers of ceramic-coated aluminium/magnesium combine with carbon weave and a Nomex honeycomb core to produce a light and responsive cone. Behind is an oversized motor arrangement with a magnet that is, according to Monitor Audio, larger than the driver itself. 

The baffle that supports the drivers is made of aluminium, and is isolated from the main body of the cabinet by a dense layer of foam. Both the baffle and the drive units are secured via a ‘through-bolt’ method that runs from the rear of the cabinet to the rear of the drivers. The upshot is an extremely rigid cabinet in which the drivers are effectively isolated and, what’s more, a cabinet with no visible fixings or screwheads anywhere.    

A couple of narrow velocity ports at the rear of each cabinet (one at the top, one at the bottom) offer some low-frequency reinforcement. They offer a large port area relative to the cabinet volume, and keep both internal pressure and airflow within the cabinet balanced. 

On the inside, the third-order crossover is a new design that uses polypropylene and polyester capacitors in conjunction with air-core and low-loss steel-core conductors. The design is intended to deliver minimal distortion and optimal signal transfer efficacy.  

Sound quality

There’s a caveat, of course - isn’t there always? But in the case of the Monitor Audio Studio 89 it is, at least, unexceptional: if you want to hear all the money you’ve spent on this shiny new pair of speakers, make sure they’re on the end of a similarly talented and, inevitably, similarly expensive system. After that, the news is almost entirely positive.

For instance, the Studio 89 is brilliantly neutral when it comes to tonality. Many loudspeakers, at many different prices, try to impose themselves on the tonal balance of your recordings, but these Monitor Audio are happy to leave well enough alone. If a recording is warm à la Jackie Mittoo, that’s how it sounds; if it’s chilly in the manner of Joy Division, that’s how the Studio 89 delivers it. 

Frequency response, too, is immaculate from the bottom of the frequency range to the top. The crossover design proves its worth by being basically imperceptible - no area of the frequency range, from the deep and substantial low frequencies to the bright, crisp top end, is overstated and no area is underplayed. The sweep from top to bottom and back again is smooth and even.

Detail is precise in every area, too, and this is particularly good news where the midrange is concerned. Vocalists of all types and techniques, all levels of expertise and all levels of eloquence, are made absolutely explicit by the Monitor Audio. The Studio 89 communicates without apparent filter, and as a consequence it’s always obvious that you're getting the full flavour of a recording and the vocal performance within it. 

Low frequencies are controlled with real authority, so that the attack of individual bass sounds is given an edge sufficiently straight that rhythms are expressed with confidence and momentum levels are always high. Sometimes the sort of bass weight and substance that’s available here can bog down a recording and drag at tempos, but the Studio 89 fairly motors along and positively snaps into low-frequency information.

The soundstage on which all of this good stuff happens is big in both the left/right and front/back directions, and organised to the point that even the most complex recordings have sufficient space for each individual element to enjoy room in which to operate. There’s very pleasing separation available, thanks to the agreeable level of focus - but it doesn’t in any way make a recording sound disjointed or remote. Instead, there’s a real sense of singularity and togetherness to the way the Studio 89 presents a recording.

Dynamic headroom is impressive too, and these Monitor Audios are attentive to the smallest harmonic variations as well as the big shifts in power and intensity. They never get carried away, though - which is, in fact, about the only area I can think of where listeners might hanker after a little more. There’s nothing matter-of-fact about the way the Studio 89 makes your music sound, but there’s no denying that where simple attack and a sense of assertiveness is concerned, there are competing designs that sink their teeth into a recording a little more readily.

Living with

The Monitor Audio Studio 89s are far from being the most demanding loudspeakers when it comes to accommodating them in your living space. They’re relatively compact, for starters, and if they’re positioned on their bespoke (and cost-option) stands they’re both secure and good looking. Build quality is absolutely impeccable, and the lacquer finish is so deep and lustrous the speakers can, in an emergency, be used as a mirror.

Like the majority of loudspeakers, the Studio 89 works best when toed in a little towards your listening position. After that, it’s really just a question of ensuring the system they’re on the end of is up to snuff - these aren’t the most judgemental speakers, but they’ll properly sound like the money you spent if they’re part of a similarly talented (and, inevitably, similarly expensive) set-up. 


Not every brand can look to its past without seeming like its own tribute act, but the Monitor Audio Studio 89 demonstrates that as long as specification, build quality and performance exist at the cutting edge of what’s currently possible, then there’s more than a little charm in looking a bit like a testimonial…  

Listening notes

The Fall Theme from Sparta F.C.

Who knew that ‘superb midrange fidelity’ could be a double-edged sword? The unmistakable sound of The Fall gets full expression here, offering further proof (as if any were needed) that virtuosity is not always the be-all and end-all.

Jackie Mittoo Summer Breeze

Far from the most famous reading of this FM radio staple, but the warm rough-and-readiness of this version never fails to delight. All the analogue crunch and grind is properly handled by the Monitor Audios - a sure instinct for tonality has seldom been more important. 

Sweet Baboo Bounce

Good-natured pop music is always a pleasure, and in the hands of the Studio 89 this tune has momentum to spare. Rhythmic expression, tempo-management and the ability to separate out a fairly dense mix are all spotlit here too.

What the press say

Why you should buy it

You’re after a pair of high-achieving loudspeakers of manageable size, with looks that are not going to be confused with any other design. You have a system that’s capable of bringing the best from them. And you think it’s all been downhill since the original Ford Sierra… 

Video review

Pair it with

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