Yeah, this is a little late to the party seeing as how NewEgg doesn't even stock them anymore. However, I recently picked up a pair in a package deal and felt the urge to do a little write-up on them. For the time being, they are still sitting in the Usher's place, though I'm about ready to make the swap again.... permanently.
Let me preface this by saying that I've heard the Monitors on several occasions and never been impressed. They've always fit the niche nicely between the RTiA and the LSi series for me, striking a voicing similar to the older RTxxi series. While that timbre usually wins me over, I had never wanted to sit for more than a song while listening to Monitors. Hauling them around had me rolling my eyes (I'm used to dragging 100 lb. speakers around, not including the lead shot), I figured what the hell... lets give it a shot.
There is no doubt this is a budget speaker. No spikes, bottom end connectors, and a cabinet that feels like you can crush it with one hand. I had no real expectations, but bit the bullet and let the amps warm up. I don't remember what song I started with, but I do remember eyes widening and thinking to myself... these are $300 speakers... holy ####. The center image was completely solid with nothing pulling my eyes towards the speakers themselves. Soundstage extended about a foot beyond each speaker with perceived depth hovering right between them.
I went to some of my favorite demo recordings, such as Depeche Mode's "Welcome to my World", Phil Collin's "In the Air Tonight", Everlast's "Painkiller", and a couple of songs from Gotye. I also threw in a few acoustic songs and the Soundtrack from the Hunger Games. I continued to be impressed with the presence and overall performance these speakers provided me. The bass was rather punchy (though it didn't provide nearly enough oomph at lower frequencies), image separation was excellent, and the speakers had enough transparency to almost completely disappear. I was starting to think maybe, just maybe, these are some speakers I might have to keep. Performance was not far off from the Usher's at first glance, and these were easily the second best overall performance from any speakers I've paired with my system.
I continued to listen and one downfall was readily apparent - these speakers became fatiguing over time. I do suspect that a higher powered amp would solve that issue, but they still sounded pretty damn nice. I took a break for a while and came back with some more music. This time, I decided to throw "Dancing Flute and Drum" from Dr. Chesky in the mix. I love this recording now because the echoing drums are able to make you feel like you're in a massive chamber listening to the performance live. This is where the separation between the Monitor 70 and the Usher 6311 became much larger. I was not getting the same atmosphere from the Monitors. While they did a decent job of providing a 'live' sound, the venue felt much, much smaller in comparison and the decay didn't last nearly as long.
On top of that, when the drums hit, I found my eyes redirecting every time to the bottom half of the right speaker. With the 6311, it sounded like the drums were somewhere in space - with the Monitors, it was readily apparent that the sound was coming from the speaker. This issue also presented itself in any sound coming from just one speaker. If the sound was isolated (1 or 2 instruments playing), the transparency of the speaker was completely lost.
One last thing that stood out to me during every song I listened to was that there was no depth to the music. It was like watching television - while you can still get a good picture that has a sense of depth, you are always able to tell its just a 2-dimensional image. The 'depth' of the Monitor 70 felt more like a simple difference in decibel level, rather than provide space between the objects like the 6311 does.
After about a week of listening to these, I've decided to move them down the line. These have always been my least favorite Polks, but after this demo, I realized that the Monitor line, much like the rest of their line-up, really shines with some tubes behind them. If I had to live with a pair of 'modern' Polks, my first choice would be the LSiM 703. Second choice would be the Monitor 70 - even before the rest of the LSiM series. Why? The LSiM sound is rather 'lazy' to me. Nothing about them excites me - they play the music at a high level but don't draw me in to the music. The Monitor 70 had the ability to keep my butt planted on that couch and throw more music at it. Are these as good as the LSiM towers? Nowhere near.... but the Monitor 70 was more fun for me. They won me over, and I'm very happy that a close friend of mine is the one buying them from me.
Pros: Big sound for little money, visually impressive, responds very well to changes upstream, strong separation, excellent center image
Cons: Lack of transparency, 2 dimensional sound, lack of lower octaves, fatiguing over time, impact and presence are lackluster.
Gear: See signature block.