New - 2015 Affordable Accuracy Monitor2 review. - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 1 Old 08-09-15, 06:16 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: NW Ga
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New - 2015 Affordable Accuracy Monitor2 review.

This is an evaluation of the New (2015) Affordable Accuracy Monitor2 Loudspeaker.

One thing I have learned is that the human ear (mine, at least) is incredibly sensitive for relative (or comparative) measurement, but not so good at absolute measurement. Consequently, it made sense to find an appropriate speaker for comparison. Since these are bookshelf speakers in the $200 price range, I thought the WaveCrest HVL-1 to be the logical choice.

WAVECREST HVL-1 vs Affordable Accuracy (AA) MONITOR2

WAVECREST HVL-1 on left and AA MONITOR2 on right. The silk dome tweeter of the AA MONITOR2 is mostly transparent with an open mesh of fiber.
The photo is misleading, there is 24" clearance to the right wall from the AA MONITOR2 and 20.5" clearance behind the AA MONITOR2 (which is 1.25" deeper than the WAVECREST HVL-1).

The camera flash of the previous photo is misleading. These are flat black, not shiny (and the WAVECREST HVL-1 mid-woofer does not have a light gray dust cap!). All of the lights in my room are on (as you can see from multiple shadows) and there was still good daylight in the room at 6PM in July in GA. It also looks like there is an exposed unfinished area at the upper left edge of the AA MONITOR2 woofer. This is a light reflection of the black metal mounting plate where I had positioned a flex neck light to point directly at speakers.

The WaveCrest WAVECREST HVL-1 is a favorite speaker often recommended by audio forums as a good value in the ~$200 price range. It has a 5-1/4" mid-woofer and 1" soft dome tweeter with a front firing port. I like front ported speakers because they allow more placement options. Shipping cost another $25 (I believe this is fixed for anywhere in the lower 48) for $224 total price. 12" x 7" x 9.5" and 12 pounds each.

The AA MONITOR2 is a Dayton Audio kit which has benefited from a crossover redesign by Dennis Murphy (this is a new and improved mod, not the old one posted on the Murphyblaster website). The kit runs $180 from Parts Express and uses a 6.5" mid-woof and 1-1/8" silk dome tweeter with a rear port. As I understand it, Dennis Murphy builds the crossover (with new parts), and assembles the kit. Historically, Murphy’s offerings have been great bargains because he is not trying to capture typical profit margins or grow a business. The final price of the AA MONITOR2 is $195 (seriously? Only $15 more than the bare kit?). Fedex shipping to GA was $25 for a total of $220 (but shipping cost will vary depending on your location). 14-1/4" x 8-5/8" x 11" and about 22 pounds each.

Fundamental differences. The AA MONITOR2 is a larger speaker with a larger driver. It pumps out deeper bass. Moreover, it pumps out exceptionally clean and deep bass for any 6.5" bookshelf speaker! Of course it did this for every song. I do not want to belabor this point throughout the review, and will only mention it where it really stood out.

If you will not use a sub, the AA MONITOR2 is the obvious choice between these two! The bass it produces is truly prodigious for a 6.5" bookshelf! With a sub, the choice is not so easy.

Both are budget bookshelf speakers. The WAVECREST HVL-1 is more compact with front ports, allowing more positioning options. The air space needed for the rear port and the weight of the AA MONITOR2's make them a difficult wall-mount.

The AA MONITOR2 offers better mid-range detail, and the WAVECREST HVL-1 offers better high frequency extension. Much of the following review defines how these attributes showed up in different musical content (to my ear). Hopefully, this will help people decide between these two offerings.

IMHO, neither of these speaker designs has any real design flaws, as a matter of fact, I got the sense that both were very well designed, such that their limitations were essentially defined by the drivers used. If Dave Fabricant and Dennis Murphy can get this level of performance out of these modest components, it reflects rather poorly on more mainstream speaker manufacturers.

Listening session.

Norah Jones - Don't Know Why (Come Away with Me)

Norah's voice is a favorite proving ground for sound reproduction. She has lots of nuances such as subtly lilting and bending notes with a soft vibrato. The ability to produce these details is a good litmus test for speakers. Both speakers do well, but the AA MONITOR2 captures more of the nuances of Norah Jones vocal style. The WAVECREST HVL-1 gives a more breathy sound, not inappropriately so, just different – it stages Norah closer to the listener. My preference would be to have both the midrange detail of the AA MONITOR2 and the breathiness of the WAVECREST HVL-1, but, if I have to choose one based on Norah's voice, the AA MONITOR2’s extra detail and openness wins. AA MONITOR2!

Ed Palermo - Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance (Album of the same title)

There is a lot going on in most Big Band Jazz ensembles! I play Baritone Sax in a big band, so know the sounds of these instruments.

Switching between speakers resulted in the following observations:

For cymbals, WAVECREST HVL-1 did a better job of capturing the presence and shine of well recorded cymbal taps (ride cymbal). This was a strong benefit of the WAVECREST HVL-1!

For a brashly played trombone, the AA MONITOR2 was slightly better at catching the raspy (edgy, saw-tooth) character of the tone. The WAVECREST HVL-1 sounded thinner, but was better at catching the brassy upper harmonics. TIE!

For kick drum I had to double check that my subs were off (even though I had the AVR on Pure Direct). This was my first realization of just how good the bass from this speaker is! I did not expect so much kick from a bookshelf alone. AA MONITOR2!

For the tenor sax solo (in this case played in a throaty style), the AA MONITOR2 did a great job of capturing the resonance, causing the sax to sound more substantial and solid. The WAVECREST HVL-1 was comparatively unconvincing, sounding a bit thin. AA MONITOR2!

Pink Floyd – Time (Dark Side of the Moon)

For the detail of clockwork preceding the alarms, the WAVECREST HVL-1 offered an extra crispness to the higher frequencies while the AA MONITOR2 had more delicate detail in the midrange. TIE!

Many times switching between speakers in this song revealed no audible differences. Then, there were times where there was an audible difference, but I would be hard pressed to declare one better than the other. TIE!

I'm not sure if it is the added presence of bass or midrange detail, but the AA MONITOR2 stood out as offering more depth of stage. AA MONITOR2!

At 4:20, the guitar sounds fuller on the AA MONITOR2. AA MONITOR2!

At 5:25, the WAVECREST HVL-1 sounded better with the male voices, offering a more breathy sound (which suits). WAVECREST HVL-1!

At 5:25, the female voices sounded more pure on the AA MONITOR2. AA MONITOR2!

At 5:25, the overall balance between the male and female vocals was better on the AA MONITOR2. AA MONITOR2!

Yes - Heart of the Sunrise (Fragile - Master Series)

The intro to this song is hard driving with bass and drums carrying the song. The AA MONITOR2 distinguished itself with great solid bass and drums, but was barely trumped by the nimble sense from the WAVECREST HVL-1's treble on the cymbals. WAVECREST HVL-1!

This song was written by bassist Chris Squire and has a lot of places where his uniquely tuned bass stands out. Amazingly, while the AA MONITOR2 was clearly more solid, the HF content of the WAVECREST HVL-1 captured enough of his unique sound to hold its own! TIE!

At 2:50, the band goes back into the same hard driving phrase as used for the intro. Surprisingly, this time, the AA MONITOR2 was a clear winner as the WAVECREST HVL-1 seemed treble heavy. This happens again at 8:35. The AA MONITOR2 is more transparent and it is easier to pick out each voice that is playing. AA MONITOR2!

Jon Anderson's voice is a tie. The closeness presented by the stronger treble from the WAVECREST HVL-1’s matched the extra richness the AA MONITOR2’s captured from his voice. TIE!

The better rendition of the cymbals on the WAVECREST HVL-1 gives it the nod and the WAVECREST HVL-1 often (but not always) sounded better overall when the ride cymbal was in play. WAVECREST HVL-1!

For tom drums, the AA MONITOR2 dominates with a greater solidness. AA MONITOR2!

For snare, the WAVECREST HVL-1 offers greater presence. WAVECREST HVL-1!

Emilie-Claire Barlow – C’est Si Bon (the very thought of you)

In contrast to Norah Jones' voice, the midrange detail offered by the AA MONITOR2 on Emilie's voice was not sufficient to beat the closeness and breathiness the WAVECREST HVL-1 offered! This makes sense because Emilie’s voice is a higher pitch and not quite as rich as Norah’s. WAVECREST HVL-1!

In this piece, the sax is played with a thinner tone (likely to better match Emilie’s) and in contrast to the Ed Palermo song above, the WAVECREST HVL-1 was a more natural presentation of this sound. WAVECREST HVL-1!

Steely Dan - I Got the News (Aja)

The deep and accurate bass of the AA MONITOR2 stands out as the clearly dominant difference throughout this song. AA MONITOR2!

The ride cymbal has more shine on the WAVECREST HVL-1, as a matter of fact; it was exceptional for any soft dome tweeter. I don’t know if this speaker has a bit more emphasis on the upper frequencies or actually has extension beyond other (including more expensive) soft domes, but either way, to my ear, it sounds more like a live cymbal tap. WAVECREST HVL-1!

For cymbal crashes, the WAVECREST HVL-1 lost a bit of control. The AA MONITOR2 was not as strong with the cymbals, but maintained control (clarity). AA MONITOR2!

Chet Atkins – Sunrise (Stay Tuned)

It was a surprise, but the triangle was a match between these two speakers. I expected the WAVECREST HVL-1 to present more shine, but I didn't hear it! TIE!

Much of this song presents lots of guitar picking and fretwork. The AA MONITOR2 exhibited more detail in the midrange, but the brassy sound of the guitar strings presented in the top end by the WAVECREST HVL-1 was nicer and the WAVECREST HVL-1 held its own. TIE!

There is some electric bass that gets nicely aggressive (but still playing under melody) in this tune with some slap notes. The AA MONITOR2 nicely presented this bass performance which were lost on the WAVECREST HVL-1 (you can hear them if you listened for them, but probably would never notice them in casual listening). AA MONITOR2!

Herbie Hancock – River (River – the Joni letters)

Corriane Bailey's voice played well with the breathiness and shine of the WAVECREST HVL-1, but also thrived on the AA MONITOR2's ability to produce a fuller resonance. I could not pick a favorite. This surprised me as I really expected this to be a similar situation to Emilie Claire Barlow’s voice and WAVECREST HVL-1 to dominate (see above). TIE!

There is a lot of brush work from the drummer. The sounds of the brushes on the drums as produced by the WAVECREST HVL-1’s came across a simple, but strong shhhh. It is not as strong on the AA MONITOR2, but that is neither better nor worse; however, the AA MONITOR2 captures more of the resonance of the drum skin, and that is better! AA MONITOR2!

Katy Perry - I Kissed a Girl (MTV unplugged)

I use this song partly because it opens with a good strong upright acoustic bass line. The AA MONITOR2 presented this with amazing depth! Since when does a 6.5" bookshelf under $500/pair put out this type of bass? AA MONITOR2!

The detail of the AA MONITOR2 wins out by better replicating the richness and strength of her voice. AA MONITOR2!

The AA MONITOR2 was clearly advantaged for this song. Throughout, it portrayed more substance and a deeper soundstage. AA MONITOR2!

Eagles - Hotel California (Hell Freezes Over)

As with Katy Perry, the bass in this song capitalizes on the AA MONITOR2's strengths in a way that often dominated the sound quality. AA MONITOR2!

For the guitar work, while I must point out there were places (higher notes) where the WAVECREST HVL-1's made the sound border on that of a banjo, the WAVECREST HVL-1's ability to capture the brass in the strings gave it the advantage to my ear. WAVECREST HVL-1!

Rikki Lee Jones - Western Slopes

This song has a lot of space and I expected it to highlight the AA MONITOR2's depth of stage advantage; however, they matched on this count. The content is largely austere, so I might guess neither speaker was challenged. TIE

RLJ's voice favors the added presence offered by the upper register of the WAVECREST HVL-1. WAVECREST HVL-1!

Again, the slap notes of the bass called attention to the solid bass of the AA MONITOR2. AA MONITOR2!

Eric Clapton - Tears from Heaven (unplugged)

As in the Chet Atkins song, not enough difference in the presentation of the triangle to pick a favorite. TIE!

Sir Clapton's voice was fuller on the AA MONITOR2's. AA MONITOR2.

While the AA MONITOR2 consistently offers better depth of stage, for this song, I found the pin-point imaging of Clapton's voice on the WAVECREST HVL-1's to be exceptional. WAVECREST HVL-1!

Lyle Lovett - She's No Lady (Pontiac)

Lyle's voice carries lots of nuanced details and not much breathiness or other HF content, so the AA MONITOR2 wins with a richer, fuller sound. AA MONITOR2!


As mentioned earlier, the bass reproduction of the AA MONITOR2 clearly outclasses the WAVECREST HVL-1 (and many 6-1/2" speakers!). The bass output of the WAVECREST HVL-1 is entirely competent for a 5-1/4" bookshelf speaker, it simply does not have the displacement to compete with the larger driver. Using a sub would do a lot to level the playing field on this count. It bears repeating that the bass of this bookshelf is exceptional for its price-point (and many more expensive 6.5” monitors). This is the greatest and most obvious difference and makes the AA MONITOR2 a stand-out value if you are looking for a full range speaker in this price range.

The AA MONITOR2 consistently provided a deeper soundstage, but on at least one song (Eric Clapton), this was countered by exceptional imaging from the WAVECREST HVL-1.

The AA MONITOR2 offers better midrange detail resulting in a very clean and transparent sound. Because of this it was consistently the more accurate speaker.

The WAVECREST HVL-1 offers more shine and presence through the upper harmonics of the music. There were a few places where the WAVECREST HVL-1 seemed to be overloaded while trying to present these higher frequencies resulting in some low level distortion (which would have never been noticed if I wasn't listening critically and switching between speakers). Based on what I heard with the balance between male and female voices in the Pink Floyd song; the upper range of this tweeter probably has a slight touch of over-emphasis, but I have to say it plays nice to my ear. Overall, the appeal of the shine and presence (and the details revealed thereby) of the WAVECREST HVL-1 was a positive addition.

One thing that became apparent was that most manufacturers in this price range do not invest the talent in speaker design that these two speakers offer. I have not heard a B&M "off the shelf" speaker under $500/pair to compete with the likes of these for overall smoothness and balance. With both of these speakers, I felt like the drivers were essentially the limiting factor. The larger mid-bass driver of the AA MONITOR2 was clearly the biggest difference between these speakers. After that comes a close contest (as reflected in the review) between the AA MONITOR2's midrange accuracy/detail/transparency and the shine/presence of the WAVECREST HVL-1's. If the bass differences are ignored, it is a hard call!

My biggest take-away is that it is a good time to be buying speakers on a tight budget! These are both very nice speakers at budget prices, and if you intend to use a sub to cover the bass, it gets down to size, placement concerns, and individual preference for mid-range detail vs HF presence. Please understand that the WAVECREST HVL-1 does not sound blurred, nor does the AA MONITOR2 sound dull. These are both well-rounded speakers and I would recommend either, depending on the situation. I hope describing my subjective experience of both speakers assists prospective buyers in getting the best value and enjoyment out of their speaker budget.

Last edited by FidelitySeeker; 08-09-15 at 07:50 PM.
FidelitySeeker is offline  


2015 , accuracy , affordable , monitor2 , review

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