Having recently bought Roksan Monitor Audio are certainly a brand to watch in the coming year. Here Lionel Payne takes a listen to their Platinum PL300ii loudspeakers costing £8000.
When the Monitor Audio Platinum PL300ii floorstanding loudspeakers arrived I was immediately struck as to how big and heavy they are, particularly within their packaging. They arrived in two crates (part wood, mostly cardboard) and they immediately presented me with a problem of getting them into my house. With packaging, each weighs almost 75kg but once unwrapped they present a much more moveable 54.5kg. This is a good thing as I had to get them up two floors to my dedicated listening room (mancave). Obviously such an expensive item as these has to be packed very safely and I have to say that this was certainly the case here and I couldn’t help but notice how carefully thought out the packaging process was to make them as safe as possible without adding too much undue weight to the overall packaging. This careful attention to detail was something that I would continue to notice throughout my review period with them.
I like attention to detail !
The PL300ii’s are a 4 driver 3-way loudspeaker with two 8 inch long throw bass drivers with Monitor Audio’s second generation Rigid Diaphragm Technology (RDT), one 4inch midrange RDT driver and a Micro Pleated Diaphragm (MPD) high frequency transducer which you and I would simply call a ribbon tweeter. There are separate grills for the 2 bass drivers and another grill for the combined midrange and tweeter. I tried listening with and without the grills in place and found no discernible difference. The grills are a strong fine metal which fit snugly and require a magnetic tool (provided) to aid removal. There are three available finishes; a piano gloss black and two real wood veneers in either Santos Rosewood or Ebony. All three finishes are completed with no fewer than eleven coats of clear gloss lacquer and then buffed up to give an exquisite finish. The front baffle is covered in the finest Inglestone black leather which allows the loudspeakers, when their grills are in place, to blend into the background quite effectively for such a large chunky loudspeaker.
The cabinets have chamfered sides and there are two rear ports per cabinet, although the midrange drivers are placed within sealed internal enclosures. The loudspeakers are attached to bases which extend the footprint and add to their stability and I loved the design of the spike system. The spikes are far different in design than your normal loudspeakers would have and they can be finely adjusted in situ through the fact that they carry a threaded allen bolt which is accessible from the top (tool provided). Even the attention to detail of the loudspeaker terminals must be applauded. These terminals are at ground level affixed to the base and face upwards which makes so much logical sense to me (am I alone in this ?) allowing the banana plugs to point straight down. The terminals themselves are not round as we see so often but a softly curved triangular shape which makes for a much easier shape to grip and turn.
The cabinets seem to be totally inert when faced with the “knuckle rap test” and a lot of work has gone on beneath the surface to produce this result. The drivers have no visible front fixings as they are ingeniously fixed with a bolt-through system and tightened from the rear. Monitor Audio have also developed a material they call ARC (Anti-Resonance Composite) which is ideal for acoustic design, and is used to aid structural rigidity and vibration damping as well as preventing the propagation of standing waves and modal resonances.
I was lucky enough to have Monitor Audio’s Technical Director, Dean Hartley, call on me soon after the arrival of the PL300ii’s. Dean’s enthusiasm and pride in being a part of this speaker’s development really shone through in our meeting and the quantifiable reduction in distortion of all the drive units came across, in particular, within our conversation.
When a product for review first arrives and is linked into my system I tend to try not to be too concerned how it sounds immediately. Electronics tend to need at least a couple of days to settle down and loudspeakers are often in need of some “breaking in” before sounding at their very best. As soon as I had the PL300ii’s hooked up to my upgraded Musical Fidelity Tri Vista 300 integrated amplifier I immediately recognised that here was a pair of loudspeakers with some very special attributes. I’m fairly sure that the output from the ribbon tweeters is the sweetest that I have ever heard. They seemed to be firing with all cylinders immediately and Dean did verify that the whole of the Platinum range undergo several hours of testing before being released for sale. I remember well the first CD I listened to with these speakers – it was Hard Believer by Fink.
However, without taking any notes I still remember that evening, and that first CD, and the effect they had extremely well. The clean, smooth sound and wide open soundstage immediately grabbed my attention but the track that really nailed it was track 4, a song called “Pilgrim” which starts with simple beginnings but grows through the track with a rhythm that can take over your whole being. I’ve listened to this track and indeed, the whole album many times but this presentation through the PL300ii’s transcended anything I’d previously heard. At the end of the track I appeared to be in a world of my own as the music had simply taken over my being ! Great music and great hi-fi can do this to you and make no mistake, the Monitor Audio PL300ii’s are great hi-fi ! The sound from these wonderfully attractive loudspeakers is so beguiling it is hard to fault. With those two 8 inch woofers they produce a wonderful low end which, to my ears, seems just right. The bass is quick, agile and tuneful and it can plumb the depths with the very best. I tested the bass response with several test tracks from the likes of Dead Can Dance, Prince, Erykah Badu and Leftfield which the PL300ii’s passed with flying colours.
Perhaps the standout element of the sound from these speakers is their treble. The ribbon tweeter, or Micro Pleated Diaphragm high frequency transducer if you prefer, is a wonderful addition whatever you wish to call it. When I met Dean Hartley he explained that the distortion from the MPD had been reduced dramatically from the previous incarnation’s ribbon tweeter. It is an improved version of Dr. Oskar Heil’s Air Motion Transformer design and is a folded design which works almost like an accordion and gives a flat and even response right up to 100kHz. It really does sound excellent and produces highs that are crystal clear with real panache and not one iota of over emphasis which can lead to a fatiguing overall sound. In fact, during his visit, I remember playing the Fink CD – Fink Meets The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and thinking how the triangle strikes in The Infernal Machine just seemed to float in space and then decayed so naturally. Further listening to this CD proved how effectual the soundstage is as every instrument appears to have its own space and is clearly defined within a deep and wide soundscape. Another thing to notice about this ability is how well balanced this soundstage is as you are not pinned to one seated position to enjoy the benefits of stereo. I have known certain loudspeakers to have a glorious soundstage as long as you remain rooted in one position but even a turn of the head can ruin this. The PL300ii’s do not suffer this curse and you can still enjoy the soundstaging of the speakers, even when you are seated directly opposite one of the pair. I found their positioning fairly easy on placement as long as you give them a metre minimum behind. I preferred them toed in so each speaker was virtually pointing directly at me but, as always, your view may vary.
It seems almost scurrilous of me to criticise these loudspeakers in any way as I found them to be a glorious addition to my system and a fabulous partner to my (JS upgraded) Tri Vista 300 amplifier, and even Dean commented on the synergy between the pair but there is one thing to mention. I found that they had the uncanny ability to smooth out the leading edge to notes which can be a double-edged sword. With some music this is actually a bonus as it can make edgy recordings more listenable and it certainly makes the loudspeakers completely fatigue-free. An example of this would be Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” from her debut album 19. In my reference system I simply cannot listen to this track as it is far too strident and quite frankly sounds nasty. It became listenable with the PL300ii’s in place but still far from enjoyable. I will keep listening to her live version of the song from her recording at the Hotel Café which is exquisite. However, listening to Fink’s “Sort Of Versions” which is a closely miked acoustic recording of a few of his tracks from his “Sort Of Revolutions” album took a little quality away from the overall mix but it still remained a glorious listen. Another recording which highlighted this trend was The Waterboys’ “In A Special Place: The Piano Demos For This Is The Sea” which I find to be a wonderful but somewhat edgy recording. The opening track of this (Don’t Bang The Drum) perfectly highlights the differences with the PL300ii’s taking some of the edginess away but perhaps a little excitement with it.
I tried using other amplifiers with the PL300ii’s with good results. I have a Stemfoort SF-200 class AB 100 watt amplifier here for review and the pair worked extremely well together. I also hooked up a vintage Albarry PP4 integrated which has a mere 45 watts in Class AB but had no problem driving the Monitor Audio’s and surprised me as to the quality on offer.
I can’t praise these loudspeakers highly enough and, quite frankly, given the funds for purchase I would happily pay the asking price (not sure my wife would agree though !). Even watching television with them hooked up improved my viewing enjoyment. I have a more than adequate 5.1 system in my lounge, but the mancave is strictly stereo and the PL300ii’s more than satisfy with their dynamics, fine detail and soundstage. A real tour de force !
Highly recommended !
Build Quality: Beautiful cabinetry and impeccable build quality
Sound Quality: Awesome sound at all frequencies with seemingly perfect integration
Value For Money : They aren’t cheap but worth every penny
Smooth and sophisticated sound which never becomes fatiguing
The new ribbon tweeter is a gem
Good enough to, perhaps, be your very last loudspeaker
A slight softening of the leading edge can take away from some recordings
3 Way – 4 Driver
Frequency Response (-6dB – IEC 268-13)
28Hz – 100kHz
4Ω (4.2Ω min. @ 111Hz)
Power Handling (RMS)
Recommended Amplifier Requirements (RMS)
100 – 300W
Two HiVe®II ports
Sealed mid-range TLE enclosure
Drive Unit Compliment
2 x 8″ RDT®II long-throw bass drivers
1 x 4″ RDT II mid-range driver
1 x MPD high frequency transducer
External Dimensions (Inc. plinth) (H x W x D)
1113 x 410 x 470mm
(4313/16 x 161/8 x 181/2”)
External Dimensions (Inc. feet & spikes) (H x W x D)
1158 x 410 x 470mm
(459/16 x 161/8 x 181/2”)