This isn’t a prompt for PTA readers to all shout, in unison, “How small is it?” But these MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis are soooo small. They make tiny monitors such as the Trenner & Friedl Sun or the LS3/5a look like Wilsons. At first I thought I received them by mistake–Scot Hull is the one embarking on a survey of desktop systems, and he did have a pair of Minis in his possession. When Young Byun of MonAcoustic contacted me about the status of Scot’s review–our illustrious publisher was quite impressed with this Korean speaker company when he visited their room at AXPONA 2023–I decided that I wanted to review a larger speaker from the line-up called the PlatiMon.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
I had already spent a few weeks listening to the MonAcoustic PlatiMon VC One speakers ($6,500/pr USD) when Young Byun asked me if I wanted to hear the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis ($2,000/pr USD) as well. At first I was reluctant to take on an extra speaker review so close to the end of the year, but I was informed that I would get the first review pair of the NEW 2024 SuperMon Mini. That’s a different story, I said, and I said sure.
Meanwhile, Scot sent me his pair of MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis for evaluation and suddenly I had four of these little guys in my listening room. Two things, however, convinced me to proceed with the review. First, I could compare the old versions to the new versions and describe the improvements. Second, Scot said something to me that was intended, I think, as a hint: “I’m curious to see what you think of them.”
To me, that means Scot really really liked the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis.
When the first pair arrived, the new 2024 version, the box didn’t seem especially small. It was relatively heavy as well, which wasn’t surprising since MonAcoustic uses aluminum enclosures on all three of their speaker models. (There is a flagship monitor, the SuperMon Isobarik, which retails for $25,000/pr with dedicated stands, which weighs a total of 142 lbs. per side.)
When I opened the box for the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis, I noticed that the speakers were protected by plenty of packing materials, and when I extracted the first speaker I had to laugh at their diminutive size. Are these going to work in my reference system, or am I going to have to build a desktop system like Scot in order to unlock their potential? As it turned out, I did both.
Inside the MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini
I’ll start off by answering that initial question–how small are the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis?
Well, they measure only 4.72″ by 8.27″ by 6.69″ yet they weigh a surprising 5.2 kg each. What’s even more surprising is the fact that these aren’t even two-ways–they’re an isobaric design so there’s an additional woofer hiding inside that qualifies the MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini as a 2.5-way loudspeaker. (All of the MonAcoustic models are designed by founder and chief engineer Jun Hyeog Seo, who is also a jazz guitarist.)
Despite the fact they’re so tiny, the Minis use 4″ woofers. (Yeah, that’s tiny too but I can think of a lot of speakers much larger than the Minis that use 4″ mid-woofers.) Those coated paper-cone woofers are designed by Mark Fenlon–the oneon the front baffle is called the “woofer” and the one inside is called a “harmonic driver.” They are connected by isobaric networks. In this arrangement, those 4″ drivers are capable of going down to 65 Hz–not Herculean, of course, but quite effective in a near-listening environment.
The tweeter, however, immediately got my attention. It’s another AMT tweeter, with the folded diaphragm, one of my favorite tweeters back in the ’70s and ’80s. I love the fact that AMT tweeters are making a comeback in the industry, and that I’m still impressed with their performance to this day.
The cabinet is beautifully machined from 6061 grade aluminum. This fit and finish is as impressive as any big aluminum speaker I’ve experienced. It’s easy to dismiss the potency of the MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini based on its size, but once you hold them and look closely at them and, most importantly, hear them, you’ll stop thinking about how small they are, or that they’re this small and still cost $2K/pair. This is one of those audio products where you just have to shut up before expressing your opinion.
Plus, you can get the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis with either silver or black faceplate/baffles. For an additional cost, you can choose between about a dozen color options. It’s obvious that this is more of a lifestyle product, meant to blend into smaller spaces, but in this day and age you can appeal to both your sense of personal style and your audiophile tendencies.
As you can see, I started off by plopping the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis onto the Acora Acoustics SRS-G granite stands, right into my main system. While reviewing both the Minis and the PlatiMon VC Ones, I used a pair of MonAcoustic’s Sanctus speaker cables ($2,500/pr). I had one small problem with getting the banana plugs to fit inside the binding posts, something I’ve never experienced before, but Young Byun told me they could be a little stiff at first. So I ate a bowl of Wheaties, then a can of spinach, and I used a little more elbow grease than I normally would–and it worked. From that point, the cables were easy to plug in and remove.
That main system also included an Ayre V-3 power amplifier (150wpc), my reference Pureaudio Control preamplifier, the Music Hall Stealth direct drive turntable with Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, the Allnic Audio H-6500 phono pre, and that killer digital rig I’ve been testing that includes the Antipodes Oladra music server, Merason DAC-1 Mk.II and CAD 1543 DACs, and the Innuos Pulsar network streamer. Yeah, that’s a lot of firepower for a speaker that can be easily picked up with one hand.
The second, and slightly more realistic system, was a desktop system that wasn’t quite placed on a desk. It merely merged with my headphone station in the living room, where I use a big oak coffee table and a lot of different isolation devices from Fern & Roby, Les Davis Audio, IsoAcoustics and Carbide Audio. Since the Minis aren’t headphones, I used my Naim NAIT 50 integrated amplifier to drive them. Music sources included my Unison Research CDE CD player along with the Merason DAC and the Innuos network streamer.
MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini Sound–Main System
I found the MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini’s appearance in the big system quite amusing. Man, they are small. I’m not sure if the dedicated stands make them seem a little more purposeful, but the beefy solid granite Acora stands definitely made them appear tinier than they were.
WARNING: Audio Reviewer cliche ahead. I stopped being amused when I started listening. Of course I thought this was going to set up the Minis for failure. Yes, I was wrong. Here’s what happened.
First of all, 65 Hz ain’t bad for a pair of mini-mini-monitors–especially since LS3/5as only go down to 70Hz. That was sort of my guiding principle in approaching the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis–just listen to them as I would a pair of those BBC speakers I champion all the time. I needed to stay objective and stop with the baby talk while addressing the Minis.
First, I heard bass. Not deep bass, certainly, but it was tight and present and had the right internal structure. It wasn’t bloated or slightly juiced up, as you’d find on a pair of LS3/5as, but rather linear until it faded. What I heard was the bass I expect from an isobaric design–it doesn’t necessarily go deeper than a single-woofer design, but it does sound tighter and more immediate thanks to the two drivers sharing the burden of the signal.
Second, these image and soundstage like nobody’s business. I’m not talking about a scaled down version of the soundstage either, I’m talking about sound projected in a three-dimensional space that gets close to the size a much larger speaker would provide. In fact, there were a few moments where I heard sounds approach me from the flank. I don’t hear dispersion characteristics that fine and detailed from a lot of big speakers.
MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini Sound–Desktop System
Setting up the MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini on that oak table took far more time and planning than just sticking them on the Acora stands, and it took several tries to place the before I felt confident that I had removed the table from the sound equation. At first I felt the big Carbide Bases from Carbide Audio would elevate the Minis far enough above the table surface to reduce reflections, but I couldn’t get a stable interface between the two. The Carbide Bases look like they’re perfectly flat on top, but they’re not–they’re actually super-shallow cones so that the interface is confined to a single point to reduce vibrations. The Minis wouldn’t sit still on them.
I then tried the Fern & Roby Isolation feet–but I didn’t hear a big enough difference from just setting the Minis flat on the table. I’ve had tremendous success with both the Carbide Bases and the Fern & Roby feet in all other applications, but they just couldn’t solve the Mon problem to my standards. What finally worked? The Les Davis Audio Entropic Isolators. These are little blocks with layers of constrained layer damping materials, and they provided both the height to decouple the Minis from the table surface and enough damping to provide sufficient focus to the sound.
The MonAcoustics SuperMon Minis were now ready to shine in their intended habitat. Shine, they did. Together with the Naim NAIT 50, the Minis presented a sound that was evocative of their time in the big system, with plenty of space and air and stellar imaging. In this system, I started to pinpoint the more precise balance of the Minis, especially compared to my favorite desktop speaker of all time–that pesky LS3/5a. I’ve always told myself that if I built a permanent desktop system like the Big Boss in the Chicago suburbs, I’d use a pair of the BBC speakers–especially since I’ve heard it done a couple of times and the overall sound just floors me.
What the LS3/5a has to offer in this system configuration is a natural tonality that’s simply breathtaking. It sounds real, down to earth, and with sufficient warmth to remind me I’m hearing a vaunted BBC monitor design. The MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini took a complete different road by providing an incredible amount of detail to go with that superb imaging and soundstaging. With the Minis, I could hear deep into the recordings, which seemed somehow appropriate while dwelling in the headphone rig space. In fact, I felt compelled–on more than one occasion–to quickly switch back to the headphone rig to compare the two different but not totally different presentations.
That wasn’t practical, of course, considering I’d have to switch a lot of cables around, but that impression of a headphone rig persisted. I felt that the SuperMon Minis did an excellent job of surrounding my head with a clear, precise and open sound. While it wasn’t the same sleep-inducing sound I expect from my headphone rig, it was an effective tool for digging deep into the music and hearing new things.
I won’t go into too much detail about my listening sessions in the main system–that period was relatively brief when compared to the time it spent in the “desktop” configuration. But I will recount one experience that revolved around a little ditty known as “Chocolate Chip Trip.” (Yes, I’m still planning to retire that listening test forever. Just not yet.)
In the big system, the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis failed to replicate the slam of Danny Carey’s phenomenal drumming to the point where I could clearly “see” him just a few feet away from my listening position. On the desktop system, with its reduced sense of scale, I actually felt that the Minis were doing a comfortable job of hitting all the marks. CCT is, first and foremost, an imaging extravaganza, and the Minis were able to dig into every single little sound on the track and throw it into the air where it would land in the proper locations. And while I didn’t hear the main drum solo hit me in the chest with the same force, I still smiled like a goof for the track’s four-plus minutes.
I keep gravitating back to one of my favorite demo CDs from recent years–Kane Mathis‘ Geminus. This is a dense, exciting mix of world instruments, and few systems can sort out all the speed and craziness. But the Minis were able to hold on and deliver a stunning three-dimensional sphere of the performance, and had a firm grip on the sudden changes in time signatures to the point where you easily detected the exact moments when they happen, as opposed to being a couple of beats behind with a quizzical look on your face.
As time passed, I thought about Scot Hull and his request for my opinion on this remarkable little monitors. That, of course, reminded me that I still had to listen to the differences between the new Minis and the old Minis, which Scot had. The two models look identical–I had to remain organized so that I wouldn’t mix them up and foul up the results.
Young Byun gave me his summary of the difference between the two models:
“The new 2024 version has more linear bass response and the high frequencies are not as exaggerated as the current version. The exaggerated highs made the Mini sound little more forward sounding. The overall sound stage is more behind the drivers. The midrange of the 2nd version more subdued and musical. Less strain to the ears at high volume. It seems its hungry for more power. Less fatigued.”
The sonic differences are not obvious at first, but over time I felt that the 2024 MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini was a little more focused and clear in its presentation than the older model. The bass may have also been a little firmer and a little deeper in the later version. Still, the differences between the two models were small enough for me to say that Scot probably enjoyed the sound of these little wonders for the same reasons I did.
Now I’m curious to hear his opinion!
MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini Conclusions
At first I thought the MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini speakers had to be a tough sell. They’re far too small to be taken seriously by the average audiophile, and they’re too pricy to be considered by the music-loving masses. So who’s going to buy these?
After reviewing them, I think the answer is much clearer. Someone like Scot Hull, who is an audiophile and wants to drag excellent sound into his workspace, is going to love what these speakers can do in a small space. I’m also very keen on knowing what many music lovers want from a lifestyle system–great sound without taking up room. That always brings me back to the idea of a big city audiophile in a high-rise who wants great sound without cheesing off the neighbors. The MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini checks all of those boxes.
Do I need a desktop system like Scot’s? I toy with the idea periodically, and it seems like I have enough gear sitting around so that I could experiment if I want. But the combination of the Naim NAIT 50 integrated and the MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis was a compelling one. If you consider a killer desktop system, in the home or in the office or in the home office, to be a compelling idea, here’s a great endgame desktop speaker just for you.