MUNROSONIC EGG 150 STUDIO MONITOR SYSTEM
Lay off the wisecracks, these EGG monitors are no joke.
Review: Brad Watts
I’m not afraid to try new things, apart from icky stuff. Like eating deep fried tarantulas on a stick… and sky-diving. Jumping out of a plane toward earth at 9.8m/s2 is not a pastime I’m keen to indulge. Fortunately these ‘new-things’ on my monitor stands aren’t nearly as extreme, and don’t exacerbate my arachno and aeroacrophobia. Relatively speaking however, compared with most typical nearfield monitors, the MunroSonic EGG 150 monitors are a decidedly extreme departure.
I’ll not delay the obvious any further; the MunroSonic EGG 150 monitors are shaped like eggs. Huge eggs from some giant prehistoric bird or reptile, or an instalment of the Alien movies, but eggs nonetheless. Weird? Yes. A mere gimmick? I think not.
STUDYING THOSE CURVES
Most would recall science classes during their school years where a science teacher enthusiastically compressed a chicken egg between their hands. The initial presumption was the egg would explode, leaving the good humoured educator in a mess. The preemptive sniggers died down when the egg didn’t break, because the pressure had been applied to the ends of the egg rather than the sides. It’s this intrinsic strength that is one reason behind building an egg-shaped monitor cabinet. Monitors perform better when the cabinets are rigid and unperturbed by the sound waves bouncing around inside.
However, there’s other more important reasons behind repurposing the egg design. The internal surfaces suppress internal standing waves and reflections. Because the inside surface is curved, at constantly varied angles (unlike a sphere for example), standing waves don’t have a chance of reproducing. That said, this issue can usually be addressed satisfactorily with traditional cabinet designs. More importantly, on the external side of things, the radically curved shape reduces the side effects of diffraction, namely reflections, considerably more than a square cabinet. With the egg shape, these reflections are virtually eliminated. Remarkably, there’s a lot going for the humble egg when it comes to sound reproduction.
POWER OF CONTROL
Unlike most monitors swamping the nearfield market, the EGG 150 system utilises a passive unpowered monitor design. Amplification is supplied via an entirely analogue bespoke unit featuring some interesting equalisation options; which, I’ll cover in more detail shortly. The amp itself is part of the package, and provides bi-amplification to the EGG 150’s 25mm silk-dome high frequency drivers and 165mm low frequency drivers. MunroSonic makes connection between the amp and monitors foolproof with supplied 3m-long cables utilising Speakon connectors. The amp provides 50W to each of the four drivers, and includes a completely separate headphone amplifier. Plugging headphones into the front mounted headphone jack immediately mutes the main speaker outputs. Useful for some, but perhaps annoying to others. If I’m forced to use headphones I like to bring the main monitors up a touch so I can ‘feel’ some of the bottom end in concert with the headphones. I’m told the headphone amp is MunroSonic’s own design, and uses traditional Class A topology, with power limiting via a feedback loop at 1kHz. Andy Munro, the EGG designer, tells me the headphone amp distortion is unmeasurable. Suffice to say, it sounds superb.
The amplifier also acts as a control unit, with large continuously variable volume attenuators; one for the main input source, and a secondary attenuator for an auxiliary input. These pots are smooth as silk by the way, and tactile testament to the quality of the unit. A smaller knob switches between the two input sources. Connection to the main input is via rear-mounted balanced XLRs and the auxiliary input is via RCA connections. There’s no expense spared with the amplifier design. From the dual linear power supplies, through to the high headroom 35V rails and capacitors, and the beautifully milled (in Italy no less) 10mm-thick brushed aluminium fascia, this amp exudes precision and quality.
EQ’ING FOR EDGE
What’s also interesting is MunroSonic’s inclusion of equalisation in the amplifier. A fourth three-way switch on the amp’s front panel alternates between three midrange EQ settings. The middle setting is a ‘neutral’ or ‘reference’ setting, and is where you’d normally have the amp set, of course. Flicking the switch to the minus setting reduces 2kHz by 1.5dB, and is referred to as a ‘Hi-Fi’ setting. Useful, I presume, for auditioning material as it would be played via a ‘scooped’ domestic listening environment. The plus setting I found more useful. Switching this setting into action raises 2kHz by 1.5dB, and is intended to mimic the enhanced midrange found in studio monitors such as Yamaha NS-10s and the like. MunroSonic refer to this setting as being a magnifying glass on your mix, and I solidly concur. Although subtle, the added 2kHz hit enhances midrange just enough to give you a surgical representation of midrange information, such as vocals, effects trails, hi-hats and the like. Incredibly handy for adjusting the critical ‘edges’ within a mix, then slipping quickly back to a neutral EQ curve once you’re done. I very quickly became extremely fond of this feature. Andy Munro informed me the +1.5dB boosted setting is actually closer to ‘flat’ technically, citing this as the preferred setting for pulling a mix into balance.
Equalisation options don’t end there. Out the back of the amp are further EQ options for tailoring the monitors to suit particular environments. The high frequency trimpots will adjust +1/-5dB at 10kHz, with a 0.5dB amount for each 45° turn, while the low-frequency trim can pull a maximum cut of 10dB at 63Hz. This is adjustable for both left and right channels. Of course you should have a solid handle on what you’re doing when adjusting these to suit particular rooms and positioning.
When it does come to positioning the monitors, a unique feature is the blue LED situated above each high frequency driver. This isn’t simply eye-candy. The LED has an extremely narrow beam width. When the LEDs show at their brightest at your mix position while aligning the monitors, the time alignment is considered to be optimal. Once done, the LEDs can be turned off via a switch on the rear of the amplifier. I must admit to being a little sceptical of this, but a short burst of experimental positioning did bring better imaging results using this method. Once positioned, turn those LEDs off – the fewer little blue lights in my life the better.
The monitors themselves stand approximately 460mm high, with the internal capacity at around 14 litres. While not exceedingly large, they pack a punch comparable to much larger monitors. To keep the EGGs upright and stable, a stand is integrated into the design. The stand also allows the monitors to be tilted forward should they be sitting too high. The front ports are situated beneath the low end driver, and are tuned to 50Hz. Crossover point is 2kHz and the high-end drivers are protected via a thermal cut-out and reset system.
Oh the detail! I’ve not heard such a consolidated stereo image from monitors in this price range (or from many more expensive models for that matter). They really are astonishing. The image honestly ‘hangs’ in space, with flipping to mono smacking the image straight to dead centre. The image is very much like that experienced with a soffit-mounted system. Such systems theoretically eliminate the effects of diffraction by creating a linear surface where waves produced by the drivers don’t meet a sharp edge and cause reflections. The EGG design, similarly aids diffraction, allowing sound waves to leave the driver surface unhindered, thus reducing reflection anomalies considerably. Top-end reproduction is extremely smooth courtesy of the soft dome divers and the low-end drive combined with front faced porting provide a very solid, yet refreshingly under-hyped low end. These aspects produce an extremely coherent stereo image with depth you can dive into. The EGGs are ultimately an extraordinary revealing monitor, yet they are satisfyingly pleasant to listen to for hours on end.
Recommended positioning is to place the monitors one to 1.5 metres apart, with a typical equilateral triangle point as listening position, and it’s in this configuration the monitors truly shine. I found the EGGs to function well both on my monitor bridge, and placed closer on my acoustically-treated work desktop. The front porting is also a plus point. I’m not a great fan of rear porting as I’m not convinced of the validity of turning your studio walls into resonators. Front porting helps with this.
HISTORY GOES ROUND
Andy Munro has a long and meritorious career in monitor design. He’s responsible for the design of many monitors from the Dynaudio stable, and is a revered acoustician throughout Europe. His clients include the BBC, Air Studios, Coldplay, U2, and Massive Attack, amongst many others; along with countless clients in broadcast, post production, and cinema. I should note the EGG 150 system is the evolution of a similar system designed by Andy as a joint venture between Munro and microphone manufacturer, SE Electronics. I can’t make comparisons with the SE monitors as I’ve never heard a set. I can, however, infer the EGG 150 system to be a superior arrangement simply because of its evolutionary status. Plus, what I hear from the EGG 150 system doesn’t leave me wishing for a prequel design. Unlike the SE Electronics foray, the EGG 150 systems are now manufactured in the UK, which leaves me feeling more confident of the quality.
Refreshingly, the EGG 150 system isn’t prohibitively expensive. With the inclusion of amplification and the sublime imaging properties, I was expecting the system to be priced well into the ‘pro’ arena. This is not the case. At around $3799 Australian, this level of reproduction is relatively inexpensive. Equated with the US pricing of $3499 I’m sensing quite a bargain in this country. One could spend (and I have) much more money for far lesser results. Bear in mind, a smaller system is in the works, the EGG 100 system, to be available soon at $2799 AUD. I’m led to believe a surround solution is also on the drawing board. With luck I can relate my experience with the smaller system sooner rather than later. As far as the EGG 150 rig is concerned, I for one am undeniably impressed with such an extreme departure from traditional monitor designs. The results are fantastic.
So before I sign off, I should point out that no ‘egg’ puns, quips, witticisms, or entendres were used (or harmed) in the making of this review. Not only did I decide the limitless opportunity of doing so somewhat insulting to you, dear reader, I also considered it a discredit to a monitoring system that, while funny looking, is certainly no joke. Audition the EGG 150s immediately.