Monitor Audio’s new entry-level speaker range is the successor to the Bronze BX series and has been revamped with a raft of driver and cabinet upgrades. Despite being Monitor Audio’s affordable series, the use of technology from the upmarket Platinum, Gold and Silver speakers allows you to sample the company’s renowned sound quality at a realistic price.
Our 5.1 system comprises a pair of Bronze Five floorstanders (£550 a pair), the Bronze Centre (£160), a pair of Bronze FX surround speakers (£280 a pair) and the £500 Bronze W10 subwoofer, which comes to £1,490. Depending on your room size and budget, you can interchange these with the compact Bronze One and slightly larger Bronze Two bookshelf models, or the higher-spec floorstander, the Bronze Six.
The Bronze Five is simply gorgeous. For a so-called affordable speaker it has the air of a high-end model, thanks to its elegant styling and rock-solid cabinet – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better made floorstander for the money. It’s built from 18mm MDF and stands on a thick white plinth.
The entire range is available in Black Oak, Walnut, Rosemah and a new White Ash finish, which adorns our samples. The vinyl veneer lacks the wow factor of a lacquered finish, but it’s still built to a high standard.
The drivers can be concealed behind "floating" magnetic cloth grilles that preserve their minimal, streamlined appearance, but I prefer them without. That way, you get to see the new dished C-CAM (Ceramic-Coated Aluminium/Magnesium) cones, which have been engineered in steel-grey for the first time and sit within a black rubber surround. Above them is a 25mm C-CAM gold dome tweeter shielded from prying fingers by a sturdy black mesh.
And if you think "floorstanding" is synonymous with "imposing" then think again – these slender, compact speakers aren’t particularly difficult to accommodate.
The centre speaker is styled to the same high standard. The combination of rounded corners, 5.5in steel-grey C-CAM drivers and White Ash styling works equally well, although you’ll need to clear some shelf space to fit the bulky cabinet into your AV rack.
Designed to be flush-mounted to the wall, the Bronze FX surround speakers sport a front-firing C-CAM mid-bass driver and two tweeters mounted on angled side panels. Again, build quality is top-drawer and the elegant styling makes them a subtle, unobtrusive addition to any room.
Created from the ground up for the new Bronze range, the subwoofer is a solid and attractive unit that mirrors the other speakers cosmetically. Its 18mm thick MDF cabinet boasts heavy internal bracing to keep resonance at bay.
All of the speakers employ Monitor Audio’s new "dished" C-CAM drivers, which use the entire cone surface to radiate sound. Unlike conventional driver designs there’s no hole in the middle, which makes the cone more rigid and efficient, as well as being less prone to break up when driven hard.
The drivers’ voice coils are thermally coupled to the back of the cone, which draws heat away and improves power handling, while the whole thing is fixed to the cabinet with a through-bolt that tensions the driver at the front. Both the 2.5-way Bronze Five and Centre use two 5.5in C-CAM drivers in separate acoustic chambers, while Bronze FX uses one.
The 25mm C-CAM gold dome tweeters found on Bronze Five, Centre and FX extend high frequencies to an impressive 30kHz. Structural improvements to dome geometry and the drive mechanism help improve top-end accuracy, while a new venting system channels air away from the magnet system into a rear chamber to help reduce distortion.
Elsewhere, Monitor Audio’s HiVe II ports with rifled grooves speed airflow in and out of the cabinet. These ports are found on the front and rear of the Bronze Five, making them easier to place than rear-ported designs.
Bronze FX can be used as dipole or bipole speakers at the flick of a switch. Dipole mode results in a more diffuse sound where the exact location of sounds is harder to pin-point, whereas bipole dispersion is more directional.
On the outside the W10 may share the same look and footprint as its predecessor, but the inside has been tweaked to improve performance. Its new long-throw front-firing 10in C-CAM driver – stylishly covered by a panel of speaker cloth – is backed up by a down-firing 10in Auxiliary Bass Radiator (ABR) to boost low-frequency extension and power handling. As a result, Monitor Audio says it delivers 6dB greater SPL than the previous W10.
Power is provided by a 200W Class D amplifier, while onboard digital processing offers three EQ settings: Music, Movie and Impact. The rear panel sports volume and crossover controls, EQ, auto power and phase switches, plus mono and stereo RCA inputs.
I started my audition in anger with Snow White and the Huntsman on Blu-ray (DTS HD Master Audio). It’s clear from the word go that Bronze is a remarkably sophisticated performer.
As Chris Hemsworth narrates the opening scenes in a half-decent Scottish accent, his voice becomes a life-like presence in the room. It’s solid and focused but dripping with detail, as the drivers reveal the huskiness and sibilance of his delivery.
The narration is accompanied by tinkling piano lines and fulsome strings, the clarity and richness of which makes the movie’s intro more absorbing than ever. There’s a lovely sense of depth to music and voices that keeps you hooked.
As the movie progresses, sublime high-frequency reproduction becomes Bronze’s defining characteristic. Every scene is bursting with detail and texture, particularly when the titular duo encounters a troll at the edge of the Dark Forest.
As they creep over the bridge, every footstep has a delicate, textured crunch, while the trickling stream and eerie ambience flitter from every speaker. It’s a terrific study in tension building, but when the troll awakens this gorgeous top-end performance continues.
As the creature thumps the stream and rips up a tree trunk, Bronze renders the splashing water and splintering wood with wonderful crispness and precision. Subtleties such as these make the soundstage seem utterly realistic – well, as realistic as a fairy-tale troll attack can be.
The scene also gives the system a chance to flex its muscles – and there’s plenty of power on offer. The troll’s roar fills the room without sounding harsh and its footsteps land with a taut, heavy thud. The powerhouse subwoofer anchors the action with slamming, subterranean bass notes, while the speakers handle dynamic shifts with aplomb.
As the soldiers battle Ravenna’s glass minions at the movie’s climax, the surround speakers do a fabulous job of immersing you in the action. The ceiling shatters and shards of glass rain down on you from every angle with a clean, airy tinkle. I prefer the more focused surround field of the bipole setting, but dipole mode is still hugely satisfying.
We should say, however, that Bronze isn’t the type of system that jumps out and grabs you by the cojones. If you like your movies served with a side of aggression, Bronze’s smooth, refined approach might not satisfy – it needs serious encouragement with the volume dial to really get the adrenalin flowing. There’s enough attack to keep things lively, but a little more bite would certainly up the ante.
On the upside, Bronze’s polished approach works wonders when playing music. Its subtle, sensitive two-channel treatment of Miles Davis’ "Blue In Green" on CD sends shivers up the spine. Bill Evans’ piano chords are like audio velvet and Coltrane’s sax solos boast great presence and tons of detail. But it’s Davis’ mute trumpet that steals the show – Bronze’s crystal clear, distortion-free reproduction puts you right there in the recording studio.
Monitor Audio has hit the jackpot with this new Bronze system. Its sumptuous design is worth every penny of the asking price, while sophisticated sound quality turns music and movies into a thing of beauty. It’s a remarkably detailed and insightful performer, but doesn’t skimp on power and scale. This is thanks to a powerhouse sub that doles out deep thumping bass like it was going out of fashion.
Monitor Audio’s typically polished approach leaves movies lacking a little bite and aggression, but most listeners will be too spellbound to care, and musically we think it’s second to none.
Monitor Audio’s accomplished entry-level package looks the business and delivers a sublime performance.