Monoprice has become known for their exceptionally high-value products, often sourced from China. But while the affordability has long been the draw for many shoppers, Monoprice also has a higher-performance lined of amplifiers and speakers and headphones and so forth known Monolith. The Audition B5 bookshelf loudspeakers (B5) sit second up the ladder in the Monolith lineup, and I have some high hopes for the speaker. Early in my loudspeaker designing days, I discovered that with a little tenacity and rule bending, it was possible to get a less-than-ideal grouping of drivers with an imperfect cabinet to sound far better than one would expect. Let’s see if Monoprice has figured this recipe out in the B5, because if I use normal distribution profit margins, the B5 would have to be in your living room for a delivered manufacturing cost of $37.50 per pair. That’s not a lot of money to build a world-class speaker, but Monoprice has done it before.
What Makes Monoprice Monolith Audition B5 Loudspeakers So Special?
- The Audition B5 is built with all of the right parts. The immediate signs that the B5 had some thought behind it is the braced cabinet, full crossover electronics, a right-sized waveguided tweeter that allows for good crossover points with great dispersion, mechanical time alignment of the tweeter and mid-woofer, and sensible bass response.
- The B5 has very good, real-world power handling. For a time during evaluation, I was using the Amped America AMP 2400, whose 800 watts per channel into four Ohms should actually detonate the Monoprice B5 speakers if cranked too loudly. To their credit, I was able to fill my listening space to jamming-out levels and the B5 held it all together and never sweated the process for a mere second.
- I was surprised at the build quality of the speakers. The Audition B5 has a nice vinyl wrap, full-sized five-way binding posts, and neat-fitting low-profile grills. Monoprice made it very difficult not to like the look of the speakers.
It’s a versatile bookshelf loudspeaker. During my listening tests, the Audition B5s proved capable of serving as mains in a starter home theater, with a subwoofer of course. They would also be at home as rear speakers for a theater setup, main speakers for a small secondary system, and are unobtrusive enough to blend into the background of wherever they are. I wish the Audition B5 existed on a timeline when I was living in an apartment complex. Their performance is perfect for an apartment environment since they can be enjoyed at low levels.
Why Should You Care About the Monoprice Monolith Audition B5 Loudspeakers?
There are a good many questionable loudspeakers at the budget level. Same with electronics, and just about whatever else you can fill your Amazon.com cart with by manufacturers sporting names of Chinese Origin. However, Monoprice, at least in my experience with the Audition B5, is breaking away from this often-poor-quality mold. This bookshelf loudspeaker does something very interesting that I feel most budget loudspeakers under $500 per pair fail to do: provide the audiophile experience. That is, while listening, the B5 has the correct timbre, low distortion, large soundstage, and satisfactory resolution to understand the subtleties of the artists’ message.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Monoprice Monolith Audition B5 Loudspeakers.
- The Audition B5 does not have very deep bass extension. The low frequency cut-off is stated by Monoprice to be 65Hz. In my large listening space, where my loudspeakers sit well away from walls, I was surprised to find I did not really care they had no deep bass. It only shows in large scale music such as orchestra. Also, hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music falls a little flat due to the lack of bass extension. However, the bass that is there is high quality, and reminiscent of the 1990s mini-monitor craze where manufactures were clamoring to make the smallest speaker with the deepest bass. Since the little bass the B5 has is articulate and works well, they still sound full. My pro tip here is to add a subwoofer and you’ll be just fine.
- The Monoprice Audition B5s are not laser-focused in terms of imaging. While listening, the edges of the attack of each note is a bit rounded, and while the soundstage is very wide and deep, the individual positioning of the artists seems to lie behind a bit of a fog. This forgiving nature of the B5 can actually come in handy. More on that when we discuss listening impressions.
- While the build is as good as it gets for this budget-level, the B5s are still black boxes. If you are looking for statement loudspeakers that have been hand-rubbed with lambskin and 75 layers of eco-friendly lacquer, the B5s are not for you.
Listening to the Monoprice Monolith Audition B5 Loudspeakers…
I listened to the B5s for quite some time. I was a little taken aback how they seem to hit all the right buttons for the creation of an enjoyable, musical, audiophile experience. In reality, they did nothing spectacular like the Polk Audio R200AEs, and they were not a re-invention of the wheel like the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor (review pending), but som’bitch, the B5 was an extremely enjoyable listen! When I stopped trying to figure out the specific details of the B5 that made them enjoyable, it made me realize that the evaluation of a loudspeaker like the B5 needs to be kept big-picture. There is such a careful balance of trade-offs in a loudspeaker like the B5, the end result is all that matters.
In this spirit, I found the speakers to rock when listing to less-than-perfect recordings of good music like U2’s “Mysterious Ways” off of Achtung Baby (buy at Amazon on CD). The forgiving nature of the B5 helped with the overly compressed recording, while cleverly resolving Bono’s vocals in its smooth, but well-defined manner. I also enjoyed the punchy beat and danceable bass line the B5s were able to preserve. Instruments and imaging in the soundstage were placed well, even if not completely anchored in space. I was very satisfied with the B5s’ performance with “Mysterious Ways,” because I have heard more expensive loudspeakers fail to paint the picture an artist is trying to create. The overall picture painted by the was that of falling hard for an irresistible dancer across a hazy, nightclub room. A very audiophile capability for the B5 that is not very audiophile priced.
Stepping up to a better recording, The Zac Brown Band released The Comeback in 2021 (buy at Amazon.com). Five tracks in you will find “Same Boat,” which is a song about how we are all connected. The plucky Guitar, Zac Brown’s forward vocals, and the Caribbean style back-beat all jump to life on the B5s. Some of the harmonics smeared together instead of being distinctly separated as experienced on more expensive loudspeakers, but they held the integrity of the music better than expected on this dynamic track. I never felt like the tweeter lacked enough extension, though I was left wishing I had a subwoofer to pair with the B5s. The bass was certainly there and as punchy as it comes with a five-inch woofer in a cabinet this small, but the deep fortification of a larger loudspeaker was missed. A desire for more low-end got me thinking about what the larger Monolith Audition T5 tower loudspeakers would sound like since they would be a similar footprint to the B5 bookshelf loudspeakers on a stand. Regardless of my racy thoughts, the good-natured timbre, punchy bass, and enveloping soundstage of the B5s never made me want to kick them out of my system.
Does the Monoprice Monolith Audition B5 Loudspeakers Have Any Resale Value?
Due to their budget-level pricing, the B5 will not be worth much long-term, but who cares? At these prices and with this performance, if you can’t absorb a couple hundred bucks of value before it’s time to move on, then you might not be trying hard enough.
Who Is the Competition for Monoprice Monolith Audition B5 Loudspeakers?
There are so many speakers in the small bookshelf market. There are Chi-Fi options. There are affordable options. There are speakers from the world’s most lauded speaker brands. Your options are nearly endless.
- I was absolutely blown away by what Polk Audio is doing with their Reserve R200 Anniversary Edition speakers at $1,299 (buy at Amazon) in that the sound was so smooth and resolute with imaging to die for paired with punchy (if not really deep) bass. For $299 per pair, you get a lot of the sound from the Polk R200s in a lesser priced Polk Monitor XT20 ($299 per pair – buy at Amazon). Again, I can’t state the level of amazement that I’ve had with the fit and finish of today’s Polk speakers, but the sound is the draw. Don’t rely on what you think Polk speakers sound like from the 1980s and 1990s, as they sound far better today.
- The SVS Prime Bookshelf Speaker ($599 per pair buy at Amazon) is another competitor that is nearly double the price but comes with a lot of audiophile credibility, is easy to drive, and looks great. Their metal tweeters are very accurate, but they aren’t for those looking for an ultra-smooth or soft sound. The Prime Bookshelf can play loudly for audiophile purposes and when paired with one of the company’s small, powered subwoofers represent a really strong value proposition. SVS’ customer service is second to none and their 45-day, no-questions-asked return policy sweetens the pot even more.
- The Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 at $999 per pair are just re-launched as a new version (series 3). These speakers benefit from a lot of trickle-down technology from the much-more-expensive 700 and 800 Series speakers but deliver a comparable sound for pennies on the dollars. If you want a taste of what the engineers and producers at Abbey Road Studio or Skywalker Ranch hear, for $999 you can have that sound.
Final Thoughts on the Monoprice Monolith Audition B5 Loudspeakers…
The Monoprice Audition B5 inspired me to actually reevaluate what budget audio means. For $249 per pair, the B5 is the first sub-$500 per pair loudspeaker I have heard that provides an enjoyable truly audiophile listening experience. No, they do not resolve the finest details to the point of hearing the undergarments of your favorite jazz singer rustle as they move about the soundstage, but they certainly will make the artist’s musical message clearly understandable. Monoprice defiantly backs up their message of high-quality audio at affordable prices. Color me impressed with the B5.