Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: poised, informative stereo speakers with detail and dynamism in equal measure

Monitor Audio learned a lot with its $92K Hyphn loudspeakers – and you can hear it in this more affordable proposition

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

Looking backwards in order to move forwards is a bold and dangerous policy – but with the Studio 89, Monitor Audio has managed to combine a mildly retro aesthetic with some thoroughly modern engineering to create a speaker that both sounds great and will never be mistaken for any other speaker out there.


  • +

    Combine analysis with entertainment

  • +

    Open and nicely balanced sound

  • +

    Striking looks, flawless finish


  • -

    Some may want even more assertive sound

  • -

    Not without serious competition

  • -

    (Admittedly elegant) stands are an extra cost

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Monitor Audio Studio 89: Two minute review

Back in the day, ‘Studio’ was Monitor Audio’s most expensive, most aspirational range of loudspeakers. And now the name is back, with an ‘89’ attached for good measure, in a loudspeaker the company reckons is more ‘Formula 1’ than ‘sports car’.

It’s a distinctive looker, that’s for sure – whether or not you find the proportions attractive is one thing, but there’s no denying the gloss-black cabinet with its vertical, copper-colored driver array is dramatic. Bolt the speakers to the matching stands (if you don’t mind the extra outlay) and the look is coherent and, to me at least, striking.

Using driver and crossover technology originally developed for a loudspeaker that costs $92K / £70K per pair is pretty promising, too – and the way it’s been deployed shows similarly little inclination to compromise. Heck, even the speaker terminals on the rear of the cabinets are rhodium-plated and quite extravagantly shaped. 

How does this more affordable option stack up against the best stereo speakers on the market? Well, the star-rating above is a good start isn't it? But let's delve into the nuts and bolts of the thing – and also, of course, the sound. 

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Price and release date

  • Released July 1, 2024
  • $2,500 / £2,000 / AU$4,000

The Monitor Audio Studio 89 are available now, and in the United Kingdom they’re yours for £2,000 a pair. In the United States they go for $2,500, while in Australia the asking price is AU$4,000. 

When you consider that Monitor Audio is perhaps most-noted of late for releasing a $92K Hyphn proposition (once called the Concept 50, initially unveiled at High End Munich 2022), it's affordable territory.

That’s just for the speakers though, you understand – if you fancy the bespoke stands too (and they have a lot to recommend them beyond a harmonious aesthetic) you’re looking at an additional $625 / £500 / AU$1,000.

The majority of this test is conducted with the Studio 89 bolted to their matching stands – but not entirely. I also positioned the speakers on my reference Atacama Moseco 6 stands, where they are perfectly happy (although don’t look quite as swish). This review, then, is purely an appraisal of the loudspeakers and the loudspeakers only.  

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Features

  • MPD III tweeter; 2 x 108mm RDT III mid/bass driver
  • Rear-facing bass reflex slots
  • 48Hz - 60kHz frequency response

These are passive loudspeakers, of course, and consequently ‘features’ are fairly thin on the ground. What features the Studio 89 have, though, are thoroughly researched and thoughtfully applied.

The front baffle of the speaker, for instance, is a slice of aluminium that’s isolated from the main body of the cabinet by a dense layer of foam. The baffle and the drive units it houses are then secured using ‘through-both’ technology running from the rear of the drivers to the rear of the cabinet. The intention is to create a very rigid cabinet structure in which the drive units can operate in isolation – and consequently offer cleaner and less coloured sound. The fact that this methodology means there are no visible fixings or screw-heads doesn’t do the look of the Studio 89 any harm, either.

The drive units themselves are arranged vertically – a couple of 108mm RDT III mid/bass drivers are positioned with an MPD III tweeter between them. This ‘MTM’ (mid/tweeter/mid) arrangement, says Monitor Audio, offers the advantage of large sound dispersion thanks to its ‘vertical symmetry’.

The RDT III mid/bass drivers are the latest refinement of the ‘C-CAM’ technology Monitor Audio has been enamoured of for years now. A combination of three very thin layers of ceramic-coated aluminium/magnesium, carbon weave and Nomex honeycomb core combine to produce a light, responsive driver that’s positioned ahead of a powerful motor system that uses a magnet that’s larger than the cone itself. 

The MPD III tweeter, meanwhile, uses its low-mass diaphragm pleats a bit like an accordion for smooth and rapid high-frequency response. Its square radiating area is designed for equal directivity both horizontally and vertically. Its carefully designed waveguide contributes to its directivity and soundstaging abilities, too – and the fact that it looks quite dramatic doesn’t do any harm, either.

Underpinning this driver array, sonically speaking, are a couple of narrow velocity ports positioned at the top and the bottom of the rear of each cabinet. The relatively large port area keeps both internal pressure and airflow within the cabinet balanced, and reduces turbulences – with the result, says Monitor Audio, that airflow is smooth and bass response is significant.

Elsewhere, the crossover that delivers the electrical signals to the drivers is a careful new design that uses polypropylene and polyester capacitors. Along with air-core and low-loss laminated steel-core inductors, the design is intended for optimal signal transfer and minimal distortion. Chunky rhodium-plated, precision-machined speaker terminals complete the impression of some thoroughly uncompromised engineering.      

Features score: 5/5

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Sound quality

  • Poised and informative sound
  • Detail and dynamism in equal measure
  • Express rhythms expertly

There are plenty of loudspeakers that can peer deep into a mix and return with every scrap of information that’s in there. There are plenty of loudspeakers that can entertain with the vigorous nature of their presentation. Loudspeaker that can do both, though, are in rather more short supply. So it’s nice to be able to add the Studio 89 to the list.

What’s perhaps most immediately enjoyable about the way the Monitor Audio sound is how much they seem to be enjoying themselves. When playing an uncomplicatedly good-time recording like You! Me! Dancing! By Los Campesinos! there’s proper energy and vitality to the presentation, a sense of engagement that’s by no means a given no matter how much you spend on your speakers.

But this is not at the expense of insight. The Studio 89 create a large, well-organised soundstage that allows even a rather compressed and hazy mix like this one to stretch out and give each individual element a bt of space in which to operate. Detail levels are high at every turn, and the Monitor Audio manage to put even the most fleeting, transient occurrences into convincing context. Without making any part of the recording sound remote or estranged, the Studio 89 makes it easy to identify individual stands - yet the unity and togetherness of its presentation gives a genuine sensation of ‘performance’.

Something a bit less headrush-y and a bit more considered – Bad Kingdom by Moderat, say – allows the Studio 89 to demonstrate a nicely neutral tonal balance and extremely smooth integration of the frequency range. The handover between drivers is imperceptible, and no part of the frequency range is unduly underplayed or overstated. Low frequencies are deep, properly varied and textured, and controlled to the extent that rhythmic expression is never in doubt and momentum levels are always high. The opposite end of the scale is bright and substantial, so treble sounds shine without veering anywhere near hardness. And in between, the midrange is open and eloquent to the point that vocalists of all types, all techniques, all characters and all emotional states, are able to communicate fully.

Dynamic headroom is considerable, so big shifts in volume and/or intensity are tracked faithfully. And the less obvious, but no less crucial, dynamics of harmonic variation are given just the right amount of emphasis too. No matter how spare or how complex a recording, the Monitor Audio exercise authority over it.

About the only area in which the Syudio 89 might conceivably be described as ‘deficient’ is where simple attack is concerned. There’s nothing matter-of-fact about the way these speakers deliver a recording, you understand – but there are some alternative designs that have greater bite and assertiveness. But the more I think about it, the more I’d describe this as a ‘trait’ rather than a ‘deficiency’. If you’re one of those listeners who likes maximum drive and attack, you may find the judicious and balanced nature of the presentation here to be just slightly on the tentative side. The rest of us, though, will just admire what a thoroughly convincing sound is available.   

Sound quality score: 5/5

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Design

  • Gloss black finish
  • 340 x 157 x 361mm (HxWxD)
  • 7.6kg (each)

There’s a disproportionately tall, thin elephant in the room where the design of the Monitor Audio Studio 89 is concerned – so I may as well get right to it. At 340 x 157 x 361mm (HxWxD) these are, without doubt, quite strangely proportioned loudspeakers. Seen from dead ahead they look quite tall and thin, because they are. But move around them and you realise they’re even deeper than they are tall. It’s an unusual effect, and it makes the bespoke stands Monitor Audio has developed for use with these speakers seem more like an essential than an option.

Rather gawky proportions aside, though, these are beautifully finished and quite good-looking speakers. The driver arrangement in the aluminium front baffle somehow makes them look rather startled, but the gloss black finish (your only option) is lustrous and deep – and it contrasts nicely with the copper/bronze color of the mid/bass drivers. The little badges that wrap around the bottom of each speaker, with their none-more-80s Ford Sierra typeface, are nicely judged too.

Design score: 4.5/5

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Value

The usual caveats apply here, of course – you should really only consider the Studio 89 if you’re going to use them in a similarly expensive and capable system, and you are almost certain to have to find the money for the matching stands. But as long as you can live with these Ts & Cs, there’s no denying the value for money these speakers represent both as objects and, most importantly, where the sound they make is concerned.

Value score: 5/5 

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Should you buy them?

Buy them if...

You enjoy balanced, informative and confident sound
The Studio 89 manage to combine significant powers of resolution with a winningly entertaining presentation that covers pretty much every base. 

You enjoy a bit of visual, as well as sonic, drama
It’s difficult to make a loudspeaker look striking and individual, but there’s no denying that’s what has happened here

You admire carefully considered engineering
Monitor Audio has been refining and finessing some of the technologies here for many years - and it certainly sounds like it

Don't buy them if...

The rest of your system isn’t similarly capable
There are more ruthless loudspeakers around, sure, but nevertheless the Studio 89 respond well to being on the end of a properly capable system.

You want this to be the end of your spending
You may have good speaker stands already. But when you see the Studio 89 on their bespoke supports, you’re going to want them…

You like a sound with its eyes out on stalks
They’re an assertive listen without doubt, but it’s equally true to say that some alternative designs will attack a recording even more readily. 

Monitor Audio Studio 89 in a hi-fi listening room

(Image credit: Future)

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: Also consider

You have a lot of choice, from a lot of very well-regarded manufacturers, if you have this sort of money to spend on a pair of compact passive loudspeakers. 

The R3 Meta by KEF, for instance, are maybe $120 cheaper than the Studio 89 – and while they don’t look as dramatic, they certainly have plenty to recommend them where sound quality is concerned. 

Or you may decide to chuck even more money at it and check out the 705 S3 by Bowers & Wilkins – there’s nothing retro about they way they look, and the stands will cost you even more money than the Monitor Audio equivalent – but if you’ve the readies, these speakers are among the most rewarding around. 

(And if you've not? It's perhaps worth giving the B&W 600 Series a look). 

Monitor Audio Studio 89 review: How I tested

  • Using the extra-cost stands – and using my stands
  • Connected to a Naim Uniti Nova, listening to Qobuz and Tidal tracks
  • Also hooked up a Rega Apollo for CDs; Cambridge Audio/Clearaudio for vinyl

My time listening to the Monitor Audio Studio 89 was split pretty much 50/50 between their being bolted to their bespoke, quite expensive, stands and sitting on more affordable (but eminently capable) Atacama Moseco 6 alternatives. 

They were powered by a Naim Uniti Nova streamer/amplifier capable of twisting out 70 watts of power per channel. As it’s a streamer as well as an amplifier, I used the Naim for listening to Qobuz and TIDAL. 

I used a Rega Apollo for listening to compact discs, and both Cambridge Audio Alva TT v2 and Clearaudio Concept turntables for vinyl listening. 

The speakers stayed in my listening space for the entirety of the test – the space is nothing esoteric, it’s fairly ordinary (although not especially reflective) room that works very well for my purposes. And I listened to a great many different recordings via these different sources, of a great many genres and from a wide range of eras.  

Simon Lucas

Simon Lucas is a senior editorial professional with deep experience of print/digital publishing and the consumer electronics landscape. Based in Brighton, Simon worked at TechRadar's sister site What HiFi? for a number of years, as both a features editor and a digital editor, before embarking on a career in freelance consultancy, content creation, and journalism for some of the biggest brands and publications in the world. 

With enormous expertise in all things home entertainment, Simon reviews everything from turntables to soundbars for TechRadar, and also likes to dip his toes into longform features and buying guides. His bylines include GQ, The Guardian, Hi-Fi+, Metro, The Observer, Pocket Lint, Shortlist, Stuff T3, Tom's Guide, Trusted Reviews, and more.