Any speaker with low-profile woofers and not much internal volume is likely to suffer power-handling problems. So, at the risk of (or, truth be told, the hope of) pushing the Shadows past their limits, I started my tests with the Blu-ray Disc of the first season of Falling Skies, the brutal post-apocalyptic series that began on TNT last year. I skipped right to a big battle scene in Episode 3, in which human insurgents confront robot alien “mechs” and lots of stuff blows up.
The Shadows sounded really clean at a moderate volume, so I decided to keep turning up the volume until the distortion became uncomfortable. Up and up the level climbed, but the distortion didn’t appear. Eventually, I ran out of ammo — the Outlaw processor at full volume, the AudioControl amp’s front meters pegged, my SPL meter reading 106 dB from my listening chair. Yet the Shadows still sounded clear and dynamic.
Seeking a radical shift from this bombast, I switched to my vinyl copy of Steve Khan’s Evidence, a record of acoustic guitars drenched in reverb. On-wall speakers are sometimes criticized — often by enthusiasts who have little or no experience with on-walls — for lacking spaciousness when playing stereo music. They do have a point, or at least half of a point, but no one could have made such a blanket statement when I played Khan’s gorgeous medley of Thelonious Monk tunes on Side 2. I couldn’t believe how spacious the sound was. Not only did I get up and go over to the left surround to make sure it wasn’t on, I actually pressed my ear up to it, unable to accept that I was getting such spacious sound from a pair of on-walls.
Subjectively, the tonal balance seems mostly flat, with a little bit of emphasis in the lower treble that makes voices sound unnaturally bright but also more intelligible. Only on one recording — James Taylor’s Live at the Beacon Theatre DVD — did this bother me. When I played movies, it made dialogue easier to understand. I also heard a little extra emphasis in the upper bass, probably the result of bass reinforcement caused by the wall-mounting. (Check out the extended measurements in the Test Bench for more information.) A subtle effect that was audible as slight bloating in some dialogue spoken by male actors, it was really the only thing I didn’t enjoy about these speakers.
I never got around to saying much about the RXW12 when I originally reviewed it, but it deserves a pat on the back. It offers terrific output for such a small sub, with a powerful sense of punch and pitch definition that made all the music and movies I played sound more dynamic.
The Monitor Audio Shadow series speakers play really loud and sound really good. Yeah, on-walls are still a compromise, but when you hear these, I think you’ll agree that the compromise is minimal.
Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.