Tekton Design is well known as a disruptive force in the world of audiophile speakers, what with their mix of distinctive design, high value, dramatic dynamics, and even exotic, custom paint jobs. The one thing missing in their very extensive lineup until recently was a mini monitor. Mini monitors are beloved in professional recording studios and with audiophiles for their ability to sonically and somewhat visually disappear into a room while presenting a truly engaging musical image to the listener. Tekton Design has now entered the fray in this tricky but important segment. It has taken Eric Alexander, chief designer and owner of Tekton Design, some time to find the right combination of patented design work and hand curated speaker parts to deliver a small audiophile speaker that can keep up with the room-filling presence his larger audiophile loudspeakers are known for. While at it, Tekton has decided to design the Matrix Monitor around the powerful output of today’s Class D switching amplifiers. Was the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor worth the wait? In a crowded market, do we really need another mini monitor? I could not open the box quickly enough to get some answers when the Tekton Designs Matrix Monitor showed up at my door.
What Makes the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor Loudspeakers So Special?
- The Matrix Monitor has the sonic impact and in-room presence of a small tower loudspeaker. One box Tekton was able to check off the list of audiophile must-haves was the ability of the Matrix Monitor loudspeaker to break out of the box that small loudspeakers lack authority.
- The unique four-tweeter array, which is made under Tekton’s acoustic patent, acts as a single driver, but is actually performs as a midrange and tweeter. Having three of the tweeters act as mid-tweeters, and one as a high frequency tweeter only, significantly lowers distortion, enhances resolution, and provides exceptional polar response that makes the Matrix Monitor throw a gigantic, three-dimensional soundstage.
- There is enough bass from the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor for some to not require a subwoofer. Its advanced ceramic cone woofer combines a state-of-the-art motor for low distortion with the ability to have long, linear excursion that helps this driver to move more air than your average five-inch woofer. The result is in-room bass that is deep enough for me, presenting the bottom end of acoustical upright basses as well as electric bass guitars with ease, while preserving the punch of the kick drums in all types of music.
- The Matrix Monitor is built like a tank. Like all Tekton Design loudspeakers, it is built by hand in the United States and has an extremely solid cabinet.
Why Should You Care About the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor Loudspeakers?It took some time for Tekton Designs to flesh out a mini monitor that would meet their strict standards of the highest performance for the lowest possible price. Simply put, the audiophile loudspeaker market is flush with options for good mini monitor speakers. So many of them are little more than throwbacks to old school designs such as the BBC’s LS3/5Aspeakers that were meant to be used in the back of a van for mobile recording, or early acoustic suspension designs. While nostalgia is good, and I agree we can never forget the clever engineering that today’s loudspeakers are built on, we are past that. The Tekton Design Matrix Monitor loudspeaker is what’s next. It is not necessarily as much of a revolution as an evolution. This evolution allows the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor loudspeaker to bring everything we love about mini monitors to the next level at an attainableprice tag for all audiophiles.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor Loudspeakers
- The Matrix Monitor is not as elegant as others in the category, physically. Loudspeaker beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I get it; however, one area Tekton Design is completely unapologetic about is the appearance of their loudspeakers. An often colorfully painted cabinet, protruding woofer (mainly for acoustic purposes), and no grills unless you want to fork over another $55 is the visual reality of the Tekton Matrix Monitor.
- The Tekton Design Matrix Monitor loudspeakers still retains some of the limitations of a physically small speaker. As advanced as the small woofer is in the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor, it still must perform some heavy lifting to keep up with Tekton’s patented tweeter array. To do so, the Matrix Monitor is more power hungry than traditional Tekton designs. Most mini monitors are not high-efficiency anyway, as it is a normal trade off for good bass from a small speaker.
- The biggest music such as full-scale orchestral music and stadium rock falls a little flat when the volume is pushed hard. This may be a nit-picky observation, since all mini monitors suffer this lack of scale; however, it is an important note required to keep this amazing speaker in perspective. Regardless of this scaling problem of small loudspeakers, resolution, soundstage, and dynamic impact were always present. It doesn’t take much more investment to get a larger Tekton speaker that can play crazy loud, but obviously (like the Pendragons I reviewed), that will be a physically larger speaker.
- If the speaker is used on a stand, the threaded inserts the feet screw into need to be plugged. When I first hooked up the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor, I was getting all sorts of weird noises every time the bass went low. I found the feet threads to be the cause. Once sealed up with some stick-on rubber nubs for close to no money from the local hardware store, the effect was gone and the solution was super-easy.
Listening to the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor Loudspeakers…
For the audition, I spent the better part of four months evaluating the AGD Productions Tempo Amplifier which is a GaN aka Gallium Nitride-powered Class D amp. I also spent a lot of time with the Amped America AMP2400 Class-D amplifier fueled by the renown Pascal amplification chip as well as a pair of tube-powered Quicksilver Audio 60-watt mono amplifiers. There are a couple of lessons learned about the Tekton Matrix Monitor Loudspeakers using this sampling of top-tier Class-D and vacuum tube power. First, I am going to assume the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor’s design point of being created with Class-D amplification in mind has less to do with special tuning, and more to do with the robustness of components since Class-D is capable of seriously high-power output. The Matrix Monitor was able to sonically reproduce dynamic passages with all the start and stop immediacy that these Class-D amplifiers could throw at them. When I put the tube amplifiers in my system with the Matrix monitor, I found the sound to retain all the window-clear presentation the Matrix Monitor had with the Class-D amplifiers, but with all the warm love of glowing tubes.
In 2013, the popular acapella singing group Straight No Chaser released their album Under the Influence (buy at Amazon). This album is peppered with remakes of pop songs that feature the original artists. Having the original artists onboard with these songs re-written to 10 parts of vocal harmony makes them understandable, relatable, and a real treat to listen to. The artist Seal is featured, singing his famous song “Kiss from a Rose”. This fun recording on the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor loudspeakers was splayed well beyond the speakers and none of the intricate harmonies between each and every voice was lost. The Matrix Monitors also scaled all of the singing well, making it feel as if I were at the performance. This scale also included the small dynamic punches from the background, and Seal’s raspy, powerful vocals. There was a slight recess in the very top end of the bass, almost midrange, but it was mostly unobtrusive and did not grossly affect the sound in a negative way. A tough song for a mini monitor, but the Matrix Monitor handled it with ease.
Music from the artist Macklemore is a guilty pleasure of mine. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feature Ed Sheeran on the track “Growing Up” from their album The Unruly Mess I’ve Made (buy at Amazon). The Matrix Monitor did not shy away from the hit-heavy kick drum or bass chords. I still found that slight recess to be there in the extreme upper-bass; however, it is still a $1,500 per pair mini monitor so one cannot have it all. It is also noteworthy that in my extremely large listening space, with 800 watts per channel from the Amped America 2400 at my fingertips, when pushing the Matrix Monitor near their breaking point there may have been a little port-noise. In smaller rooms like most people will listen in, I don’t see this as a likely issue. That aside, the snap, pace, and beat of the vocals was locked in through the soundstage. The instrumentation filled in all three dimensions with fine details and integrity from far left of the speakers to far right. The high frequencies were smooth and extended and when the trumpet enters, it entered locked in space with authority and the characteristic puff of air immediately before the note that great loudspeakers preserve. The Matrix Monitor had my head nodding on this track as it delivered the demanding musical message in every possible manner I could ask for.
Does the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor Loudspeaker Have Any Resale Value?
Tekton Design is quickly becoming a household name in the audiophile loudspeaker world. So much so, that at the time I am composing this article, Tekton has a backlog of work that customers are willing to wait for since Tekton Design loudspeakers are like no other. In the unlikely event it was time to sell a pair of Matrix Monitors, I can see them holding a good deal of value in the long term. My only reviewer tip here would be: if resale is always a goal for your equipment, get them finished in a sensible color. Lamborghini Fly Yellow is nice, but a little rough on resale if you go with such a flamboyant optional color. Then again, at $1,500 (plus some modest paint cost premium), you might not care because the cool factor of a custom paint color is so over the top.
Who Is the Competition for the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor Loudspeakers?
- The Polk Audio R200 Anniversary Edition loudspeakers (reviewed) are a continuing theme in my recent audiophile life. For $1,299 per pair (buy at Amazon), they are a little more cohesive than the Matrix Monitor, more attractive, and the larger woofer with Polk’s fantastic X-port technology results in a bit deeper bass. The Matrix Monitor loudspeakers have more overall resolution, better dynamics, are smaller, and throw a larger soundstage.
- The KEF LS50 Meta ($1,599 per pair buy at Amazon) have about the same physical cabinet dimensions. I think there is an 800-pound gorilla in the room around the LS50 that needs to be addressed as it relates to the Matrix Monitor. For the money, I have always found the KEF LS50 and its variants to fall flat sonically. They have low distortion, throw a decent soundstage, but lack punch, dynamics, and a surprising amount of fine resolution. The Tekton Matrix Monitor loudspeakers are a much better value due to an often-overlooked aspect of mini monitors in an audiophile system. A small loudspeaker on a stand must provide a value that cannot be had with a small tower that occupies the same footprint. The Tekton Matrix Monitors deliver on this front, but I have a hard time finding that value with the KEF LS50 Metas. So, why the LS50 as competition? They are incredibly popular in some audiophile circles, and when discussing a mini monitor in the $1,500 per pair price category, they are usually the first to come up.
- The new Bowers & Wilkins 707 S3 at $1,799 per pair (buy at Amazon) is an exercise in engineering refinement and audiophile excellence. These speakers benefit from a lot of trickle-down technology from the much more expensive Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series loudspeakers that find themselves in our publisher’s (and Bob Barrett and Greg Handy’s) reference system. If you are looking to the refinement that has made Bowers & Wilkins a staple in world renown studios for years (think: Abbey Road and Skywalker Ranch), they should be considered along with the Matrix Monitor.
Final Thoughts on the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor Loudspeakers…
When I first caught wind of the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor, I thought: The last thing the audiophile world needs is another mini monitor loudspeaker. However, I soon found out what the audiophile world did need was the Matrix Monitor loudspeaker from Tekton Design. The patented engineering chops of Eric Alexander has brought a level of dynamic capability, resolution, and top-to-bottom extension I have not heard before in a mini monitor loudspeaker. Even though they are not going to win a beauty pageant anytime soon, and they have a slight recess in the extreme upper bass, for $1,500 per pair the Tekton Design Matrix Monitor loudspeakers represent a tremendous value for listeners who are space constrained and value reproducing the realism in their music.