|Min OS X: Any Version Requires: Minijack Audio Port|
|Monsoon PlanarMedia 14|
May 7, 2003 | Greg Gant
Who can resist the idea of flat? There's something inherently cool about something flat, whether it be a plasma screen television, a LCD monitor, a DVD disc, a ceramic glass top oven or transducer speakers. Monsoon happens to be one of the leaders in flat panel speaker technology. Their technology isn't just for show either; Monsoon's philosophy states a transducer can more accurately reproduce sounds than standard driver.
The PlanarMedia 14s follow the tradition of the Monsoon speakers, featuring true flat panel speaker satellites and a standard longthrow subwoofer. Each satellite uses a slightly updated PFT 100 series Planar Ribbon Traducer developed by Level 9 Sound. The biggest difference is the large eight-inch woofer versus the six and half inch woofer in the PlanarMedia 9s. Also, the 14s sport a total of 100 watts RMS, which is noticeably greater than the 76 watts RMS found in the 9s and the 35 watts in the 7s.
Setting up the PlanarMedias was like revisiting an old friend. First and foremost, I noticed Monsoon now includes illustrated instructions that show correct speaker positioning. The guide can also be found at Monsoon's website as well. The PlanarMedias are highly directional and have a very defined sweet spot, so proper placement is important for the best listening experience. Out of the box, the satellites need a fair amount of break in time; Monsoon recommends roughly 35 hours. During the break in period, the speakers sound tinny and judgment shouldn't be passed without giving them a full session.
Versatile ControlOf all the speakers I've reviewed, the Monsoon speakers have the best wired remote - it is simple and very efficient. The remote features a bass dial, a volume dial, a mute button, and a oft omitted headphone jack. The headphone jack is slightly noisy but useable. The remote can also be tucked neatly under either satellite.
In a Word, UniqueWhen I first reviewed the PlanarMedia 9s, I was quite curious as to how a transducer, a flat piece of metal suspended between two magnets, could compare to roughly 70 years of woofer driven speakers. I spent a great deal explaining transducers versus woofers, my likes and my dislikes and so forth. I've come to the conclusion that Monsoon's speakers are an acquired taste. Their speakers have some interesting characteristics that make them very unique. The more time I spend with them, the more they grow on me.
By nature, transducers are bipolar, meaning the speakers are able to produce sound from the front and rear. The advantage of bipolar sound is that it generates a natural reverberation, which creates a naturally full sound. The results will vary depending on the acoustics of the room. Bipolar speakers are generally more expensive due to the fact that they usually need additional drivers/woofers at the rear of the speaker, which in turn also causes them to be less efficient. Since Monsoon uses a transducer, they are able to produce bipolar sound without adding any additional drivers, mitigating price and power inefficiency.
Another property of transducer-based satellites is the bright sound they produce. Overly bright speakers can cause the listener to feel discomfort after long periods of time, a condition called ear fatigue. The severity of ear fatigue varies greatly from person to person. Personally, I am not a fan of overly bright speakers.
On the other hand, the satellites produce very detailed and well-imaged sound. One would be hard pressed to find any speakers in the price range that produce a soundstage that feels as spacious and three-dimensional. Unfortunately, the lower midrange lacks the strength and presence that the highs do, which makes for thin sound.
Lastly the satellites are very directional, moreso than a horn driven speaker. Proper placement makes a large difference. If you don?t have these speakers positioned correctly, you?re not getting the full effect.