Alexandria Audio The Monitor | REVIEW

alexandria audio

How do I choose which two-way monitors I want to review? Most of the time I’m already familiar with the product. I’ve heard it once or twice, or I have experience with the brand or, in very rare cases, someone asks me to review it out of the blue and I do some research and then say yes if I like the story behind the product. The Alexandria Audio The Monitor, which comes from Bali in Indonesia, is an interesting member of that latter group.

I didn’t realize the real potential of The Monitor until half-way into the review process, but more on that later. Initially I said yes to the review because Alexandria Audio also provided a link to their latest review, a rave from someone I know and trust–Edgar Kramer of Soundstage! Australia. Edgar is one of those reviewers whose tastes and sensibilities align with mine. Readers of hi-fi publications should always find reviewers who have the same priorities as they do, instead of blindly accepting a review at face value. That’s what I’ve always done–and still do.

Words and Photos by Marc Phillips

I met Edgar when I visited Sydney back in 2015, and I even traveled to his house in the Blue Mountains to hear his system–which featured Wilson Audio speakers and the big Parasound Halo monoblocks. It sounded terrific, and his house was gorgeous and we had a great time. (I was in Australia, after all!) So I pulled up that email from Alexandria Audio once again, clicked on the link,  and read Edgar’s review beginning to end. It’s clear he really enjoyed them–this wasn’t one of those reviews where you try to come up with nice things to say and everyone knows you’re trying to come up with nice things to say–especially the manufacturer.

Perhaps I shouldn’t suggest that another reviewer influences what I think about high-end audio, but Edgar knows his stuff. Along with the fact that these speakers come from Indonesia, and that I’ve been aware of a couple of driver manufacturers due to my own experience with importing and distribution, I like the story of The Monitor. So I said yes to the review, and the Alexandria Audio Monitors made it from Bali to the Oregon coast in a very short period of time.

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Inside the Alexandria Audio The Monitor

Like me, you may not have heard of Alexandria Audio until now. The company was founded in 2019 by Kenneth Lin and Henry Kristanto, described as “two veteran hi-fi manufacturers met and realized their commonality in audio’s philosophy and goals.” The duo cites legendary brands such as Altec Lansing, JBL, Shindo Labs and Kondo Audio as their inspiration for these designs, which right now is limited to The Monitor, their first product. I recognize that’s a scary yet common scenario for a high-end audio manufacturer because the road ahead is so long, but the Alexandria Audio The Monitor showed tremendous promise and a unique personality on their very first day in my system, which is sometimes all you need for success.

Alexandria Audio ships The Monitor in wooden crates, which is always ideal for loudspeakers. On the shipment notifications from DHL, I noticed something that seemed wrong–each crate was listed at 26 pounds. Shoot, I said, the crates alone should weigh 26 pounds–did they mean kilos? Or maybe they’re really tiny, I thought, just like those MonAcoustic SuperMon Minis I just reviewed. But when I drove down to the local hardware store in town to pick them up–that’s how I roll these days–I was surprised at two fairly large crates that looked kind of heavy, and I immediately regretted leaving my hand truck back at the house.

I walked over to one of the crates, tested its weight with my foot, and it turned out to be pretty light. Not 26 pounds light, but not 26 kilos either. I took the crates home, opened up them up and found myself staring at a pretty large two-way monitor that was, of course, also surprisingly light. It’s a strange feeling to pick up The Monitor, expecting something you may or may not get up on the stand on the first try, and then realizing you could probably chuck them across the room if you were foolish enough. So right out of the box, the Alexandria Audio loudspeakers seemed different from most of the premium two-ways I’ve been reviewing lately.

Hmmm. A slightly larger than average two-way speaker that doesn’t weigh very much? That sounds like something the BBC might install in one of their studios. That suspicion was confirmed when I checked out the specifications of The Monitor and noted that when it came to the actual enclosure, the word “tuned” was mentioned. That sounds like something Alan Shaw might say.

Alexandria Audio, however, will be first to tell you that The Monitor starts with the woofer design. It’s a proprietary 8″ paper cone driver that features “extended bandwidth tuned to give natural and excellent bass transient response and chamfered baffle shape to minimize diffraction.” On closer inspection it’s not a fancy-looking woofer, but it’s willing to go down to 35Hz in an honest and natural way.

back panel connections

Now here’s the part where The Monitor from Alexandria Audio starts getting interesting–at least to me–and it’s centered around the tweeter:

“Followed by the excellent neodymium Tweeter with high sensitivity, high power handling and mated with short waveguide to control dispersion. The Monitor features controlled directivity design to present precision stable imaging and separation, and so you will hear a lively presentation, the linear impedance will keep balanced sound with any amplifiers, further it can be driven by our favourite Single Ended Triode Tubes Amplifier.”

So here I am, hooking up The Monitor for the first listening session, and at the very same time I was wondering to myself how I was going to find a speaker that would match up with the incoming Allnic Audio T-1500 Mk. 2 integrated amplifier, which uses 300B tubes and only has ten watts per channel. The answer, strangely enough, was right in front of me. Right on the back panel of The Monitor, above the binding posts, are the words “Monitor – 90 dB – 150 watts.”

90 dB? That might be enough for a 300B, right? (Plus, the dome tweeter alone has a sensitivity of 94 dB.) Alexandria Audio certainly thinks so, as they come right out and suggest SETs for The Monitor. It was a weird moment of synchronicity, me trying to figure out how to get a high-efficiency speaker in before the Allnic arrived, and The Monitor jumping up and down in front of me, waving its arms.

Alexandria Audio considers efficiency as a design priority, as they state on their website:

“We believe that one of the ways to get best musical performance from playback system is through a high sensitivity speakers. A high sensitivity speakers usually either big or horn-loaded, or having both big and horn-loaded. We understand that big speakers are not always welcome in a domestic setting, it can be intimidating or simply have no space for it.”

I love two-way monitors, and I love high-efficiency loudspeakers, but there are few transducers that combine both while truly appealing to my sonic preferences. The Monitor is the right speaker at the right time, at least for me and my Allnic.

marc phillips system


I really dig the stand that Alexandria Audio shows in all their photos of The Monitor, one of those open barstool designs, but those weren’t included in the package from Bali. Instead, I used the trusty Acora Acoustics SRS-G stands. I usually hesitate to use the Acoras with larger two-way monitors because they are 28″ tall, but the new listening room is large enough so that I can simple open up the space between the seating position and the speakers. My only challenge with the Acoras and The Monitor was making sure these relatively light enclosures stayed in place on these heavy, heavy stands–I noticed a tendency for the speakers to slide around somewhat. Blu-tack would be ideal here.

After that, my time with The Monitor from Alexandria Audio was spent with a trio of amplifiers, all with less than 30 watts per channel: the Audio Note UK Cobra integrated amplifier/DAC, the Naim NAIT 50 and yes, the Allnic Audio T-1500 Mk. II integrated. Speaker cables included the Ansuz D2, ArgentPur and the Stealth from MonAcoustics. The first two amplifiers were strong and satisfying matches, but the Allnic, as I predicted, formed an extraordinary partnership with The Monitor that I might remember for a long time.

Speaker placement was straightforward. The Monitor didn’t wind up far from my default spots and I found they weren’t too picky about placement. Since I was able to pull the speakers about five feet from the back walls of my room, walls that also feature big windows, I avoided reflections that appear whenever I push speakers closer to the room boundaries in an effort to extract a bit more bass. Since I didn’t consider the Alexandria Audio speakers to be bass-shy at any point during the review period, I knew I could remain close to that default where I often put large floor-standers and still have a sound that was fluid from top to bottom.

marc phillips system

Alexandria Audio The Monitor Sound

With the Audio Note UK Cobra and the Naim NAIT 50 integrated amplifiers, The Monitor from Alexandria Audio had a very smooth balance while providing a combination of big soundstaging and relatively deep bass. In fact, The Monitor sounded very similar to the LSA Statement 100 monitors I’ve been enjoying over roughly the same time period, which may not have been an ideal situation for the Alexandria Audio–the LSAs are only $3,000 per pair and The Monitor retails for $6,500 per pair. After a couple of weeks, I had gravitated toward the conclusion that the LSAs were an excellent speaker for the money, and maybe The Monitor was a more typical entry in the two-way monitor sweepstakes at its price point.

Once the Allnic Audio T-1500 arrived, however, The Monitor dusted its sequined lapels, stood up straight and yelled, “It’s showtime!” This simple two-way monitor transformed into a very different type of transducer, one that quickly scanned the room and collected all of the textures and inner detail that might have been missing with the Naim and the Audio Note UK. This isn’t to say that the Allnic was far superior to the other two integrated amplifiers in any definitive way, but that the T-1500 and The Monitor had an incredible, undeniable synergy that changed my original perception of these Alexandria Audio speakers. (It shouldn’t be a surprise, therefore, that the less sensitive LSA Statement 100s didn’t hit it off with the Allnic–they sounded a little undernourished in comparison, and a little too glossy.)

With the Allnic and Alexandria Audio combination, I was instantly reminded of the sound you get with the finest SETs paired with the finest high-efficiency loudspeakers–the same sound that convinced me to head down that road a couple of decades ago. First of all, the tonality was so intoxicating, so warm and enveloping, that whenever I wandered into the sweet spot I could feel the tension start to leave my body. I could hear each instrument, each sound, stand alone in its beauty while integrating into a supremely coherent whole, with a sprawling, densely packed soundstage that still painted a singular and focused vision of the music.

The second thing I usually notice with SETs and high-efficiency speakers is a stunning and lifelike midrange, one that’s often described by people like me as floating in the air and almost eerie. With The Monitor from Alexandria Audio, however, I was first distracted by the quality of the lowest octaves. One of the main shortcomings of the SET sound, in general, is a slightly soft and indistinct bass, but The Monitor had far more control than most of the high-efficiency speakers I’ve used. I think I’d have to go back to the Stenheim Alumine 2 speakers, which retail for around $14,000 per pair, before I’d find this same winning combination of high efficiency and excellent low frequency performance in a two-way bookshelf monitor.

I did start thinking about that unusual cabinet size and weight, especially as I focused on how The Monitor did sound, at times, just like a British monitor. (Knock on the outside of the enclosure and you’ll hear the thin walls, like a Harbeth.) I felt this kinship to the BBC designs when these speakers were paired with the Naim and the Audio Note UK amps, that feeling of refinement, the glorious lifelike delivery of the midband with bass that was tight and well-defined. With the Allnic, however, the Alexandria Audio speakers shifted into its more suitable role as a high-efficiency speaker (I know, some of you think 90dB is only relatively sensitive) and this meeting of like-minded products resulted in a system that was an utterly convincing argument for needing just ten watts per channel to be happy.

alexandria audio

Listening Sessions

As I mentioned, I was instantly impressed with the bass performance of these Alexandria Audio monitors. That meant I started off with a few of my regular tests for low frequency oomph–the Yulunga Test, the soft and deep synthesizer beats from the title track of Radiohead’s Kid A, and even Ray Brown’s punchy bass on my FIM copy of Happy Coat, which feels like Ray has asked you to come closer and put your hand on the body of the bass so that you can feel the energy of his music in a clearer and more logical manner, sort of an in-joke between the two of you.

The Monitor from Alexandria Audio was superb at preserving low frequency information and all of the musical cues that surround a simple, isolated deep note–the physical effort from a human being to make this sound, and the materials used in the instrument that provides those distinct timbres. Going back to the Yulunga Test, The Monitor put a smile on my face once I heard that all-important soft bass drum strike on this Dead Can Dance track–it didn’t rattle the foundation like the big speakers out there, but it still translated so much of the telltale sounds that accompany the mallet, the drum head and the original recording space. It’s not about Hz, it’s about all those delightful little sounds you’d hear during the original recording that resulted from big shifts of air.

On the Benjamin Gisli Trio’s superb and haunting Line of Thought LP, The Monitor from Alexandria Audio offered clear evidence that a simple jazz piano trio can display incredible size and power, even when the tempos are leisurely and the spaces between the performers are vast. Much of this power is created by the lower registers of Gisli’s piano, which sound rich and melodious despite the pensive themes behind the compositions. Thanks to the coherence between the woofer and the exquisite and far-reaching tweeter, I was able to sort the sometimes conflicting moods of this music with a clear head and only a sliver of intuition.

alexandria audio

Alexandria Audio The Monitor–Conclusions

The Monitor from Alexandria Audio is a two-way monitor that cares deeply about the amplifier with which it’s paired, which means you may have to hunt around for the perfect match before you commit to a long-term relationship. While three amplifiers is probably too small of a sample size to support this conclusion beyond question, I can’t ignore the sheer beauty of the Alexandria and Allnic combination, and that it’s one of the most engaging sounds I’ve heard from my system in this new space of mine.

Even without the Allnic’s able and somewhat preternatural assistance, The Monitor is still a top entry in its price class. I consider it as the proverbial icing on the cake that this stellar high-efficiency performance comes from a two-way bookshelf monitor, and a gorgeous one at that. Highly recommended, especially if you have a 300B amplifier.

pta reviewers choice

marc phillips system

allnic audio t-1500

alexandria audio


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