Monitor Audio Anthra W15 Subwoofer Reviewed

Price: $3,900.00

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Founded in 1972 in Cambridge, England, Monitor Audio has consistently produced well-received loudspeakers, and today offers everything from basic bookshelf models to towers with multiple woofers. (With acquisitions of turntable and electronics maker Roksan and audio furniture maker Blok, Monitor Audio can now supply a complete system and the racks to hold it.) Monitor Audio also makes subwoofers for music, for home theater, and even a sub to be buried in your garden, where the bass from its protruding output port can liven your party.

For music lovers, Monitor Audio recently released its flagship Anthra series of large subwoofers: model W10 with a 10-inch driver, W12 with a 12-inch driver, and the subject of this review, the W15 with its 15-inch driver. In the US, MSRPs are $2,600, $3,000 and $3,900 respectively. These sealed, powered subwoofers are beefy yet relatively compact, with the W15 housed in a cabinet less than 17.5 inches on each side and weighing 89 pounds. Each Anthra model comes in satin white or gloss black, and it can be configured via a small color display on its rear panel or more extensively with the MaestroUnite app on iOS and Android. Monitor Audio states that the Anthra series “[has] been engineered with a focus on musicality and control” and that “each model in this formidable range delivers devastatingly deep bass with musicality and agility.” That sounds great, but can the Anthra W15 Subwoofer deliver? Let’s find out…

Monitor Audio Anthra W15 installed in an audiophile listening room.
Monitor Audio Anthra W15 installed in an audiophile listening room.

What Makes the Monitor Audio Anthra W15 Subwoofer So Special? 

  • The Anthra W15 subwoofer goes deep. The -6 dB point is specified at 16 Hz, well below the lowest notes of the five-string bass guitar, standard piano keyboard, or kick drum. That’s territory owned by pipe organ and some synthesizers, and it also carries hall ambiance, the subliminal sound that brings out spaciousness in audio playback. A sub playing this low can help ensure the whole deep-bass range is presented with impact and aplomb.
  • The Monitor Audio Anthra W15 is powerful. Driving its 15-inch cone is a high-efficiency Class-D amplifier, rated at 2,500 watts instantaneous power and 1,400 watts short-term continuous power. That’s enough to give you floor-shaking bass (when called for) in most rooms and, being Class-D, it won’t heat up your room or run up your power bill.
  • Monitor Audio’s MaestroUnite setup app and the W15’s signal processing are topnotch. The MaestroUnite app can update the sub’s firmware, set volume and LED brightness, and configure the sub’s abundance of signal processing options. Acoustic phase can be set in one-degree increments to ensure smoothest match with the main speakers. The sub’s low-pass filter can be set anywhere between 20 Hz and 200 Hz or disabled, important when a preamp or integrated amp doesn’t have its own low-pass subwoofer output. Through MaestroUnite, you can select and configure the W15’s six parametric equalization (PEQ) presets, three factory-configured and three available for the user’s particular setup. Each of the latter has eight PEQ points with settable frequency, filter type (boost/cut, low-shelf, high-shelf, or high-pass), and other parameters, depending on filter type. Let’s get real here. Any sub can benefit from PEQ to trim room-related peaks, which often persist despite efforts at best positioning, and the Anthra EQ system is outstanding in its flexibility. This great configurability helps the Anthra W15 blend well, becoming part of the music’s flow and groove, not a special effect that sticks out.
  • The Anthra W15 is a handsome subwoofer. If you have room for a 15-inch subwoofer (or two) in your system, the Anthra W15 is an attractive, compact choice. The sub looks great with or without its magnetically attached grille. (I preferred it sans grille.)
  • The Monitor Audio Anthra W15 has both single-ended (RCA) and balanced (XLR) inputs and outputs. Why outputs on a sub? They can daisy-chain up to four Anthra subwoofers – a terrific feature as more audiophiles use multiple subs for smooth bass response across frequency and across the room. I appreciate the XLR inputs and outputs, which can reduce noise in longer cable runs and are less prone to ground loops and hum problems.
  • The Anthra subwoofers carry Monitor Audio’s five-year warranty. This is longer than many competitors offer and provides peace of mind to the audiophile owner. I wish more audio firms would offer longer warranties.
Monitor Audio Anthra W15 photographed in Mike Prager's audiophile listening room.
Monitor Audio Anthra W15 photographed in Mike Prager’s audiophile listening room.

Why Should You Care About the Monitor Audio Anthra W15 Subwoofer?

This is not an entry-level sub – though any audiophile, even a beginning one, would be fortunate to have an Anthra W15. From my testing, this is a destination sub, one that will complement the highest level of audio gear. The potential owner of an Anthra W15 is the audiophile who wants to hear the whole musical picture, top to bottom. If possible, that owner should be willing to move the W15 around the listening area to find the best sonic spot. Even if they can’t find the absolute best spot for the sub – or maybe are limited to one spot for a sub, like our publisher – they can take advantage of the sub’s excellent EQ to get the smoothest bass, ideally by using a measurement mic and software to help judge the results. Audiophiles less inclined to tweaking can ask their dealer to make installation part of the sale or hire another audio professional for setup. 

Let me emphasize: the W15 is not especially fussy and all subwoofers will benefit from care in installation. It’s just that the Monitor Audio W15’s abilities are topnotch, and a good setup will get you everything it’s capable of: deep bass, ambiance and a lot of fun. So, if you’re an audiophile looking for a sub that’s among the best, the Anthra W15 subwoofer may be for you.

The rear of the  Monitor Audio Anthra W15 subwoofer
The rear of the Monitor Audio Anthra W15 subwoofer

Some Things You Might Not Like About the Monitor Audio Anthra W15 Subwoofer

  • The Monitor Audio Anthra W15 does not include a speaker-level input. For some audiophiles using integrated amps or other gear without a dedicated subwoofer output, an adapter may be needed for setup success. Most electronics in this price category should have a sub output, but if not, I would suggest checking with Monitor Audio for advice.
  • Monitor Audio’s subwoofer app doesn’t allow backing up settings to external storage. Like other subwoofer apps I’ve used, MaestroUnite offers no way to back up and restore the sub’s settings to (or from) files on a tablet or phone. This is a big wish-list item for me for all sub manufacturers, not just Monitor Audio.

Listening to the Monitor Audio Anthra W15 Subwoofer… 

Together with my friend Nathan, a subwoofer enthusiast, I moved the W15 around my basement listening room to find a spot that gave the smoothest frequency response. This process was helped by the QuickMeasure feature of my Anthem STR stereo preamp (read the review), and by using Teflon furniture sliders to move the sub more easily. Once the W15 was placed, I used the MaestroUnite app to trim the largest room-induced peaks measured at the listening seat. Downloading and using the app was easy and free of glitches. If only all audio apps were so trouble-free!

Most listening was done with my reference system, which includes a fan-less computer running Roon ROCK, an Auralic G1 stream transport, the Anthem STR preamp mentioned, Apollon Class-D amplifiers, and Janszen Valentina P8 speakers with electrostatic midrange and highs and dynamic (cone) woofers. I disconnected my own subwoofers for the review. During the review, I received a pair of Magnepan MG2.7i planar speakers (read the review), and I am glad to say that the W15 blended as well with them as it did with the Janszens. 

Possibly the most classic reggae album is Bob Marley’s Legend. It’s now available as a high-resolution (96 kHz, 24 bit) release through Qobuz, which I think sounds a little cleaner than the CD. Playing “One Love/People Get Ready” without the Anthra W15, the music sounded great, but with the W15 in the circuit, it was great squared: the soundstage opened up with more ambiance, and the stronger, more extended bass complimented Marley’s unmistakable vocals and the percussive ringing of the steel drums. The result was more than the sum of its parts. I turned it up, and up again, and to my listening notes, I added one more word: “FUN!”  

“One Love/People Get Ready” from Bob Marley

If you’re interested in jazz, you may be looking for the middle ground between abstract free jazz and the bland inoffensiveness of some smooth jazz. A great example of that middle ground is the album Crescent by Tony Overwater and Atzko Kohashi. Besides the sensitive playing, this audiophile recording, made in a church early in the COVID-19 pandemic, is great for showing how gorgeous an audio system can sound. On the track “Nightfall,” the Anthra W15 opened up the already entrancing ambiance and brought out the lower notes of Overwater’s bass, while keeping their natural plucked quality. The bass line of Kohashi’s piano just had more “there” there, and I felt that I was there in the church, listening. This release shows that not just big music improves with a great sub. A simple bass-piano duo can become more realistic, too. 

“Nightfall” from Crescent by Tony Overwater and Atzko Kohashi

Phish bassist Mike Gordon and acoustic string wizard Leo Kottke have recorded several albums together, starting with 2002’s Clone, and every review I’ve read has loved them like I do. Who could complain about humor, virtuoso playing, imagination, and catchy vocals? Their song “Car Carrier Blues” tells a tale many of us have been in: driving behind a car-carrier truck and seeing those cars wobbling just a little too much for comfort. Adding the Anthra W15 during playback amped up the realism of Gordon’s bass, which then sounded more extended and fuller, while keeping its fat, plucked quality. 

I also played some pipe organ releases to see how the Anthra W15 did with them. While it’s not my everyday fare, J.S. Bach is one of my heroes, and organ is an ideal way to give any subwoofer a workout. I wasn’t surprised that the W15 made the music sound bigger, more realistic, more alive, and more exciting. The floor actually did shake a few times.

Will the Monitor Audio Anthra W15 Subwoofer Hold Its Value?

The Anthra W15 is too new to have much used-sales history. As a rule, an audiophile selling a heavy or bulky used item will have a slower sale and realize a lower fraction of MSRP than one selling a physically lighter piece of gear. Still, among used large subwoofers, a topnotch product like the Anthra W15 should sell faster and bring a higher percentage of original cost than many, especially with Monitor Audio’s established reputation and wide distribution network. 

The Monitor Audio Anthra W15 comes in both a black and white finish.
The Monitor Audio Anthra W15 comes in both a black and white finish.

What is the Competition for the Monitor Audio Anthra W15 Subwoofer?

The many choices in sealed subwoofers near the Anthra W-15’s price range reflect different balances of convenience, configurability, bass performance, and warranty coverage. The following contenders offer both RCA and XLR inputs (but not speaker-level inputs), except as noted.

The SVS SB16-Ultra, SVS’s flagship sealed sub (buy at Crutchfield), offers a lot of value for its MRSP of $2,299.99 in gloss black. Sporting a 16-inch driver, it also features Class-D power (1,500 watts continuous, 5,000+ watts short-term). Its app gives you three EQ points per profile, rather than the eight of the Anthra W15. At 122 pounds, it is considerably heavier and larger than the W15, and it carries a five-year warranty.

At the other end of the price spectrum, JL Audio’s largest single-driver subwoofer, the 13.5-inch Fathom f113v2, has MSRP of $6,000 in gloss black. JL’s Fathom subwoofers include the 18-band DARO system for automatic room equalization. The sub is heavy (133 pounds) and larger in two dimensions than the Anthra W15. There is no app to configure the sub from your chair, and you must remove the grille to access the sub’s controls, two design choices that irked me when I owned JL Audio subs (though I never complained about the sound). The warranty period is three years.

Taking a different design direction, the Bowers & Wilkins DB3D subwoofer (buy at Crutchfield)($3,499) uses two opposed eight-inch woofers and a 1,000-watt (peak) Class-D amplifier. A control app provides automatic equalization on iOS and some Android phones (Android microphone permitting) and manual five-band (20, 28, 40, 56, 80 Hz) equalization. Phase can be set manually in 90-degree increments. This sub is a few inches smaller than the Anthra W15 and weighs considerably less, 55.1 pounds. It carries a two-year warranty.

Another large sub with English heritage is the REL Acoustic Carbon Special Subwoofer ($4,499), which features a 12-inch driver and a 12-inch passive radiator, driven by an 800-watt (RMS) Class-D amplifier. As usual for REL, a speaker-level input (on Neutrik SpeakON connector) is provided, along with RCA and XLR inputs. This model allows adjusting low-pass frequency (20 to 120 Hz) and phase (only to zero degrees or 180 degrees), and has no provision for equalizing the sub to counteract room effects. It’s a few inches larger than the Anthra W15 and weighs about the same. The warranty period is three years.

Final Thoughts on the Monitor Audio Anthra W15 Subwoofer…

The Monitor Anthra W15 ($3,900) is a strong contender for anyone wanting to add a large subwoofer to their music system. This is a sub that goes deep, has plenty of power, and is as configurable as any sub I’ve found. It carries the Monitor Audio five-year warranty. In blending seamlessly with each of the notoriously revealing speakers I tried, the W15 reinforced bass and ambiance without calling attention to itself. (The W15 was behind my listening chair, and its low bass always seemed part of the soundstage in front of me.) To my way of thinking, the Anthra W15 has an excellent blend of features, looks, value, and clean bass power. What’s more – to use a word I’ve written twice already – it’s a lot of fun…

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