With an illustrious history that goes way back to the 1970s, Monitor Audio is probably best known for upmarket speakers in top-quality, real-wood veneers, and as a pioneer in the use of metal diaphragms drivers.
However, a change in ownership in the late 1990s brought a change in direction, with the (initial) creation of three distinct ranges, logically labelled Bronze (budget, vinyl), Silver (mid-price, real wood) and Gold (upmarket, luxury veneer).
This BR2 model is one of four stereo pairs in the latest (third) generation of Bronze models, known as Bronze Rs. The larger of two standmounts, it carries a £200 per pair price tag, which is just £20 more than the cost of the original Bronze 2, which received a Best Buy in a review way back in 2000.
The front panel has classic Monitor Audio styling cues, including the familiar gold-anodised tweeter dome. Vinyl finish is inevitable at this price, but the woodprint used here - black, walnut or cherry - does look prettier than that of its predecessors. Although the overall package looks very similar generally, the press release cites all manner of detail improvements, to crossover components, enclosure bracing, main driver motor linearity and tweeter operating bandwidth, to mention just a few.
The shielded main driver has a 165mm frame and a 120mm MMP (metal matrix polymer) cone - basically, polypropylene loaded with shiny metal particles - and is neatly rebated into the thick front panel. The tweeter has a mesh-protected 25mm anodised alloy dome; its rear-loading chamber has been re-engineered to lower the fundamental resonance and enable the crossover to be simplified. Twin terminals on the rear permit bi-wiring connection, while a port on the front augments the bass.
Like its predecessors, the BR2 works best when placed quite close to a wall. This helps to fill out the mid-bass octave nicely, though on the other hand, it also creates some unevenness further up in the midband.
As a result, the BR2 doesn't have the smoothest sound around, but it is both coherent and dynamic, and also has the characteristic agility and clean bottom end of a standmount. Indeed, it's when you go to a well aligned standmount after trying a series of floorstanders that you realise what an obvious advantage a quality standmount like this Monitor Audio has when it comes to delivering a crisp, clear, lively and informative bottom end. The BR2 gives little if anything away in terms of weight and scale, yet it punches out the bottom end with a real sense of purpose and drive, especially for the size.
The BR2 is by no means smooth or free from coloration. Irrespective of wall proximity, there's an upper midband peak here that certainly adds a slightly 'cupped hands' character to voices and especially speech, with a tendency to over-project and hype the detail here. But it's easily forgiven because of the seamlessness of the transition from main driver to tweeter.
Perhaps as a consequence of the now simplified crossover arrangements, the integration between the two drivers is quite superb, so that one is scarcely aware that more than one source is producing the sound, and certainly not conscious of the 'separate' tweeter. The net result is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining low-cost speaker, as well as one that works well when tucked back against the wall.