Monkey Banana speakers are designed by two engineers and studio owners, in the town of Schliengen in the southwestern part of Germany, then manufactured in China. The Turbo Series is being rolled out with a 4-, 5-, 6- and 8-inch woofer (all using the same 1-inch tweeter), and a 10-inch subwoofer. The review units were two Turbo6 monitors with the optional Turbo10s subwoofer. The speakers come in red or black.
The Shape of Things
The first thing you’ll notice is the shape. The speaker box is in the shape of an elongated or “non-regular” hexagon. According to Monkey Banana, this shape is “most effective in minimizing standing waves inside the enclosure,” thus minimizing distortion. It is definitely unique and immediately identifies the brand. Monkey Banana uses MDF as its choice of material for the cabinet structure, providing an inert, low-resonant housing for the transducers and amplifiers. The interior of the cabinet is lined with blended wool to further dampen internal reflections.
Both the woofer and tweeter are slightly recessed into the cabinet, creating circular waveguides. All cabinet edges are slightly rounded, and along with the recessed transducers, give the speaker a soft appearance. The 6-inch woofer is made up of a patented high-tech mixture of polypropylene, carbon fiber and ceramics, making it lightweight yet rigid, enabling a fast transient response and quick return time.
The published frequency response of the Turbo6 is 50 Hz to 30 kHz. Another patented design, the 1-inch, rear-chambered, silk-dome-style tweeter uses a neodymium magnet structure; it’s a joy to listen to. Using “aerospace technology,” the nano-magnetic materials provide excellent heat dissipation, low distortion and a lower frequency range than conventional tweeters, reproducing a great deal of detail without being edgy. Dual onboard Class-A/B amplifiers produce 30W for the HF and 60W for the LF.
The back panel has a rear port mounted at the upper portion of the cabinet. Conspicuously absent are any heat-sink fins for heat dissipation; the air movement through the rear port is used to cool the amplifiers. Inputs are on a Neutrik XLR/TRS combo jack for +4dBu levels, an RCA jack for unbalanced -10dBv levels, and an RCA co-ax for S/PDIF digital input. A Thru connector is supplied to send the S/PDIF signal on to the next speaker. A toggle switch is provided to select the channel at the speaker if you are using the S/PDIF input along with the Thru port. Another toggle switch is included to select either analog or digital input. This is a handy feature, allowing you to have both a digital source and an analog source plugged into the speaker at the same time. Other features include a volume control and HF and LF shelf controls, offering ±6dB at 10 kHz and 100 Hz, respectively.
Enter the Sub
Sporting the now-familiar non-regular hexagonal shape, the 10-inch subwoofer weighs in at just over 49 pounds. This sub acts as a bass manager, summing the bass information of your two stereo channels below the selected crossover frequency. The crossover is continuously variable from 40 Hz to 120 Hz via a rotary control on the back panel. Frequency response for the sub is 20 Hz to 120 Hz. A healthy 300 watts powers the low end, with .08 percent distortion at the rated output. Again, there are no heat-sink fins on the back of the cabinet; like its little brothers in the midrange, the dissipation is mounted inside. One difference in design application for the sub is in the driver. The designers chose to use a paper cone instead of the PP/ceramic/carbon fiber mixture of the Turbo4, 5, 6, and 8s.
A full complement of controls on the back of the Turbo10s should make it easy to integrate into your current environment. Along with the variable crossover, a switch for reverse polarity operation is included, as well as a volume control. Inputs and outputs include XLR, TRS, RCA unbalanced and RCA digital. There is a jack for an on/off footswitch, and a Standby Mode selector for Always On, Auto and Off.
My first listening tests where without the subwoofer. Precisely matching levels with my current reference speakers, JBL LSR6328Ps, I found the Turbo6’s imaging to be remarkably three-dimensional. The soundstage is wide, and the phantom center is firmly placed between the speakers. The circular waveguides create a much wider sweet spot than I would have imagined.
Break-in time was minimal. Out of the box, the speakers seemed a bit bright (but not harsh), but after only few hours of running all styles of music through the boxes, they mellowed slightly. The integration of the tweeter and woofer is to be commended; they complement each other nicely, with a smooth transition between the drivers and no sense of separate location, as some speakers exhibit—meaning, a sense of “the highs are coming from here, and the lows and midrange from another point source.” I found myself leaving these speakers on and really enjoying the sound.
Vocals are represented as articulate and accurate. All the breathiness was there, sounding much like my reference speakers, which cost three times as much. The upper end of electronic synthesizer patches on electronica tracks was smooth, with no sense of brassiness. The little 6-inchers really hold up well when pushed—plenty of punch when listening to beat-driven dance music. The snap of the kick was there, as well as the tonal body. When listening to complex opera and orchestral productions, the little boxes did tend to lose a bit of the depth, clarity and soundstage, particularly at higher SPLs. On certain songs, some midrange ambient guitar parts receded into the background and became slightly masked when overwhelmed by crowed sonic production.
The biggest difference, sonically, was with Norwegian death metal. There was a noticeable shift in timbre in the guitars, but I have to say, I find this same trait in every speaker I test. The distorted timbre of the guitar seems be “the telling,” as it were, in how a speaker represents the midrange; there was much less variation with these speakers, at various SPLs, than with other, more expensive boxes I have reviewed. As we all know, there are going to be variations in speakers, and every single one will sound different. I was quite impressed with the accuracy presented by these transducers. But brought to tears during the “1812 Overture” by 6-inch boxes? I’d love to hear the Turbo8s.
The next round of testing involved the Turbo10s. This little sub certainly brings an added dimension and life to the setup. I set the crossover frequency relatively low (approximately 55 Hz), and the tonal qualities of the bass guitar were not only felt coming off the subwoofer, but with Turbo6’s no longer fighting to reproduce the lower octave, the speakers, and thereby instrumentation, sounded more open and accurate. I’d say yes, get the subwoofer if your production style and room demands it. Being rear-ported, it demands accurate placement within your room, not to mention the time-alignment necessary to obtain a seamless transition.
I was equally impressed when using the digital inputs. I sent an S/PDIF signal out of my Alesis Masterlink into the subwoofer, then, using the bass management system, sent the S/PDIF signal to one Turbo6, then Thru to the next speaker. Imaging was virtually identical, and the clarity of the signal was exceptional. Monkey Banana uses Cirrus Logic CS8416 D/A converters between the digital input and the amplifiers’ analog inputs.
Monkey Banana. If you can get your client to look past the unusual moniker, these speakers are definitely worthy of your consideration, especially taking into account the reasonable price, build quality and sonic integrity. By fine-tuning proven designs, Monkey Banana may well be a formidable contender in a jungle of low-cost speakers coming out of China. Give them a listen.
Bobby Frasier is an engineer, musician, educator and lover of all things Beatles.
Company: Monkey Banana
Product: Turbo6 and Turbo10s
Price: $499 and $999, respectively
Pros: Smooth tweeter response. Digital input. Punchy sound with detailed reproduction. Wide sweet spot.
Cons: No VESA mounts on back, turn on/off transients. Subwoofer is pricey. Currently limited distribution.
Don’t forget to monitor your mixes at different levels. Take some time to get to know your speakers at 20 or 30dB down from where you usually mix. Sure, crank ’em up every now and then, but take notice how the elements of the mix change at different SPLs. And then, there’s always the old “listen off-axis” test. You can really tell what’s going on in the mix from different parts of the room. Take music you know and listen to it from the side. Then see how your mix translates in this position. You can learn a lot by listening at different levels and from different positions.