Monolith by Monoprice Audition B5 Bookshelf Speakers Review – The New Budget Speaker Recommendation!
It is very hard to trust a product that seems too inexpensive. How can something that costs so little be any good? Sometimes, you won’t really believe it until you try it for yourself. That may be the case with the Monolith by Monoprice Audition B5 bookshelf speakers. These speakers only cost $95 a piece ($75 for the smaller B4 version). The matching center only runs a bit more at $122. That means you can put together a full 5.0 system for just over $500. Surely something so inexpensive can’t be any good? Well, we are here to tell you that the Audition B5 speakers are much better than you expect and certainly worth a listen if you are on a budget. Let’s take a closer look.
Monolith Audition B5 Specs
|Color and Finish||Black PVC|
|Woofer Driver||1x 5.25″ polypropylene cone with NBR surround|
|Tweeter Driver||1x 20mm silk dome with waveguide and neodymium magnet|
|Enclosure||Vented MDF cabinet with horizontal shelf bracing|
|Frequency Response||61Hz ~ 20kHz|
|Crossover Frequencies||Low: 3.4kHz @6dB/octave|
High: 3.4kHz @12dB/octave
|Nominal Impedance||4 ohms|
|Recommended Amplifier Power||50 ~ 150 watts|
|Inputs||5‑way binding posts|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||7.1″ x 6.3″ x 13.6″ (180 x 160 x 345 mm)|
|Weight||7.3 lbs. (3.3 kg)|
The Monolith by Monoprice Audition B5 bookshelf speakers arrived encased in protective foam and wrapped in a cloth bag. The cloth bag has long been a staple of the “audiophile” crowd and is often used to denote a quality speaker. How? Why? I don’t know. What it does do is make the speaker harder to unbox (the bag slips around on the speaker) and impossible to see.
Seeing the speaker is important for unboxing the Audition B5 bookshelves as they are boxed on their side. Because of the bag, you can’t see which side has the drivers (the grille is not attached). As you instinctively grab the sides of the speaker to pull it out of the box, you have a chance of pushing on and maybe damaging the tweeter or woofer. Something to be careful of when unboxing.
The fit and finish of the Audition B5 speakers is impeccable. The woodgrain vinyl wrap is perfectly fit without any visible seams. The front of the speaker is attractive with the concave tweeter waveguide and black 5.25″ woofer. Sure, it’s a black box with some slightly beveled edges but few other stylistic aesthetics. But it is a $95 black MDF black box where the majority of the price goes into the performance and not looks.
As mentioned, the grille isn’t attached when shipping. This is typical of speakers and prevents damage. Again, Monoprice opted for the less expensive grille post connection rather than the fancy magnetic method. When you are on a budget, you really want them to cut this type of corner in order to put the most into how the speaker sounds.
The back of the speakers has all the usual accouterments. There are a pair of five-way binding posts, a couple of labels, and a rear port. The port will help with the bass extension of the speaker.
Setup and Imaging
I set up the Monolith by Monoprice Audition B5 bookshelf speakers next to my SVS Ultra bookshelf speakers. The Ultras are my reference speakers and they cost 6x’s what the Audition B5’s cost. As you’d expect, the Audition B5’s are quite a bit smaller and lighter. This makes them very easy to place though they are certainly not satellite speakers. At over 13.5″ tall, they need a little room. Their other dimensions (around 6.5″ each) do make them good candidates for placing on a TV stand flanking your display.
I played around with the toe-in of the speakers for a while before I really got them dialed in. I ended up with a fairly straight forward orientation with just a little bit of toe-in toward the listener. The toe-in really affected the width of the soundstage rather than the center image.
The phantom center image was present but fairly diffuse. Rather than the vocals of the stereo tracks I was demoing coming from one point directly between the speakers, it sounded more like the singer was sort of everywhere between the speakers. Side-to-side pans were convincing and the soundstage was as wide as any speaker I’ve heard.
Listening tests were done in my heavily treated home theater. The Monolith by Monoprice Audition B5 bookshelf speakers were placed on stands just to the left of my reference speakers. I only used sweeps and two-channel music with the AV receiver set to Direct mode with the speakers set to large. This bypassed any room correction and let the speakers play without modification or help from my dual subwoofers. Would the B5’s sound better with Audyssey correction? Without a doubt. But I wanted to test the raw performance of the speakers. When I did compare them to my SVS Ultra bookshelves, I ran the Ultras in the same fashion (Direct mode, no sub).
Extension and Linearity
I started my tests, as I always do, with some sweeps. The Monolith by Monoprice Audition B5 bookshelf speakers had fairly linear performance throughout the frequency range. Subjective tests showed bass down to around 65Hz and treble up to around 15kHz. In comparison, my much more expensive Ultras placed down to 40Hz with only a couple of kHz more extension on the top end. As there is no world where one should play these bookshelf speakers without a subwoofer, 65Hz extension is more than enough for these speakers.
There is something to be said about rolling off the top end of the speaker’s performance. Too many speakers out there (many much more expensive than the B5’s) will try to eke out every Hz on the top end. This often adds a harshness to the presentation in the name of extension. It makes more sense (especially at this price point) to roll off the very highest notes. Rather not hear a couple of Hz than risk adding distortion to the sound.
As mentioned, the center image from the Monolith Audition B5 speakers wasn’t as solid as it could have been. When listening to vocals, the presentation was more diffuse than I would have liked, but not in an unpleasant way. If I wasn’t used to better imaging, I’d probably not even notice. This does suggest that if you are considering getting these for home theater, you’ll want to match them up with a center speaker fairly quickly.
That said, the tonal quality of the B5’s was impeccable. There was no coloration or distortion of the material from what I could hear. They performed well with all the different genres that I put through them. If these were your first speaker, you’d be hard-pressed to find fault with them.
When comparing them directly to the SVS Ultra bookshelf speakers, the differences were obvious but not to the detriment of the Monoliths. Did the SVS’s have more bass? Yes. Did they sound fuller and have a more solid center image? Also, yes. But when you switched between the two, did the B5’s somehow sound “bad?” Not really. They just sounded as if there were smaller, less capable speakers. Which they are.
While the B5’s could certainly function as front speakers in a home theater system, where I think they make the most sense is as surrounds or surround backs. They have plenty of bass for crossing over into your subs and their more diffuse presentation makes them ideal for surround duties. Their linear response suggests that they should be able to timbre match fairly well to nearly any other speaker out there (especially as surrounds).
At less than $100 a pop, the Monolith by Monoprice Audition B5 bookshelf speakers should be on every shortlist for those just starting out in home theater. They have exceptionally linear performance with no noticeable coloration to the sound. These are speakers that can easily start as your fronts and then move into surround duties (where I expect they will shine). Their neutral presentation means they will play nice with most other speakers and can be a staple of your home theater system for years to come. If you are looking to start your home theater journey with a speaker that can play multiple roles, the Monolith by Monoprice Audition B5 bookshelf speakers are it. Highly recommended!