The PlatiMon Virtual Coaxial One Speakers

Listening to the gentle guitar and drum work in J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia” instantly reveals the level of resolution that the PlatiMon Virtual Coaxial One speakers can serve up. Driven by the BAT REX tube power amplifier, this is a lovely match – delivering speed, tonal saturation and a huge soundfield in all three dimensions. (Photo courtesy of MON Acoustic)

Don’t be thrown off by the pair of 5-inch woofers, these small-ish speakers, with their dual ports around back generate serious bass energy. The pair of small drivers makes for quick, detailed and resolute bass that is more than quick enough to keep up with the AMT style tweeter in the middle of the two drivers.

Switching it up to the more blistering rendition of “Magnolia” by Pat Travers and giving the volume control a firm twist confirms that these speakers rock. They deliver more than enough sound pressure (in a 24 x 36 foot room) with ease to satisfy all but the most brutal metalheads. Thanks to their 91dB/1-watt sensitivity, you won’t need a ton of power to play music as loud as you need. They do a fantastic job at filling this substantial room volume, though I’d probably suggest a pair of subs, if you’re living on a constant diet of techno, hip hop, and prog music with a lot of low frequency content way down deep. Claimed frequency response is 44Hz to 30,000Hz.

Good news – MON has a pair of bass cabinets (much like the Watt/Puppy) on the way called the VC Two, and we will have a pair to review as soon as they are available. While designer Jun Hyeog Seo travels his own path, it’s clear there are a few design influences at work with the PlatiMon speakers. (Mr. Seo has been inspired by the best examples of the speaker art.) For now, to get a feel for what that might sound like, I tried them with a pair of REL S/510 subwoofers with excellent result. So, we anxiously await the bass cabinets, which will eliminate the need for the stands as well.

Unbox and setup

Everything is straightforward. You’ll instantly notice upon unpacking how much care has gone into the construction of these speakers. The metalwork and evenness of the anodizing is as good as it gets. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that these speakers came from YG or Magico.

Starting with the speakers about ten feet from the room’s side walls and about six feet from the rear wall gives a clearer picture of the overall sound, albeit less bass reinforcement. Again, the Platimons have an ESL-like transparency with a massive sound extending well beyond the speaker boundaries. Listening to David Sylvian’s spacy Gone to Earth and Thomas Dolby’s The Flat Earth feels more like going for a swim than merely listening to music.

Because of the bass extension that these speakers provide, when moving them inside to the 12 x 18-foot living room environment, they were placed a little further in than normal on both axis. If you are living in a small to medium sized room, you should be able to make good use of room gain to get solid bass output in the sub-40hZ range with ease. In my smallest 11 x 14-foot room, the Platimon’s in a nearfield configuration had me questioning if I really need a separate headphone rig!

Unique stands

The speakers themselves are machined from aluminum, with enclosures in silver or black anodized as you see in our review samples. Matching stands of the same material are included so you achieve the optimum tweeter to floor height, and leaving nothing to chance. Byun takes speaker to stand interface a step further in that the speaker and stands each have an inverted dimple so you can use the supplied ball bearings to float the speakers on their stands, or use another material to achieve a different tonality.

Your level of audiophile inquisitiveness will determine how far you take this. (Wait for it…) Yes, I couldn’t stand it, so I tried several different things between the speakers and stands with varied properties. I even tried a set of small Super Balls from Amazon. Incidentally, this was my second favorite option.

Like all the filter choices on my dCS Vivaldi, I always end up going back to the factory settings, and the same can be said for the PlatiMon speakers. The supplied ball bearings still offered the best all-around combination of tight bass, excellent lower to mid bass transition and overall speed. Mind you, these are subtle changes, not OMG, there’s a UFO landing in the backyard changes. Those of you that love to fine tune will be in your element. This makes the fun aspect of the PlatiMons high, because the ability to fine tune is so easy.

More listening

Going through a wide range of program material is a joyous experience. All of the choices that have gone into the final design of the PlatiMon speakers combine to offer a highly seamless musical experience. Coupling an AMT tweeter to other drivers is always a tough task, and very few manufacturers pull it off to the extent that is achieved here. Not saying this lightly, during the review these speakers were compared to the Borg 2 and Kim from FinkTeam, two pairs of MartinLogan Motion speakers and even a pair of original ESS AMT-1b speakers in my garage system.

Female vocal lovers will appreciate the smoothness of the tweeter, yet listening to male vocals gives a better example of the crossover’s ability to blend HF and LF. Johnny Cash, or Bob Dylan’s voice are a great way to hear plenty of musical output from both drivers, and if the timing is off, or there’s a huge discrepancy in power response, their voices will not have the huskiness, body, and weight they are known for. I’m sure you probably have a few of your own favorites to try this with.

The PlatiMons deliver an excellent sense of timing and musical pace. When at Chris’ house the other night listening to his setup of the new Skyanalog REF cartridge, the same thing was going on with his reference system when we listened to Kind of Blue. All of the instruments were blended as they should be, yet all occupied their own space without being buried under one another. It’s one of those deceptively simple aspects of musical reproduction that sometimes you don’t even notice until it’s wrong.

These speakers always present a lack of blur in musical transients and high frequency decay. Cymbals and percussion sound natural, along with stringed instruments. Some of the metal cabinet speakers auditioned here have exhibited a great sense of dynamic energy yet impart their own sense of tonality to the music being presented. The PlatiMon speakers do not fall victim to this. Listening to them for days on end is an exceptionally pleasant experience. So much so, that I did purchase the review samples to use as an ongoing reference.

Final thoughts

Listening started with the BAT REX power amplifier, but a number of different solid-state and tube amplifiers were auditioned in the weeks leading up to this review. With such a neutral tonal balance on tap, the PlatiMons will take you in the tonal direction of your amplification – you won’t have to worry about getting a bit too much of a good thing, regardless of what amplification you have on hand.

They also prove easy to drive, even with lower powered amplifiers. The BAT is big and dynamic, yet our reference ampsandsound Bryce monoblocks delivered the most delicate listening experience, with layer upon layer of inner detail. Should you purchase a pair of these, you will be surprised at how far you can keep upgrading equipment and still hear more musical information – these speakers are that good. The recently reviewed Enleum AMP-23R is a very close second place.

The highest compliment I can give the PlatiMon Virtual Coaxial One speakers (besides purchasing them) is that they make no missteps at all. How many products can you say that about? When listening, I never have that awful audiophile dialog running in my head, thinking “if only they did more of this,” or “if only they didn’t do that.”

My true hope for these speakers is that they can help introduce a wider range of music enthusiasts to high performance audio, unencumbered by the reputation of some of the long standing speaker companies that have completely lost their way in terms of pricing products that almost no one can afford.

They meet every requirement for one of our Exceptional Value Awards. Very enthusiastically recommended, and #toneaudioapproved as well. These are staying as a permanent reference speaker.

$6,000/pair without stands
*8,000/pair with stands included

NOTE: Because of a mishap with UPS, we received a pair of Sanctus F1 Signature speaker cables, instead of the beginning. As MON uses this wire inside the Virtual Coaxial One, they are a perfect match. The results of adding them to the system will be in issue 122 of TONE, included with this review and more photos!

The Totem Element V2 Series Fire Speakers

If you’ve ever had the chance to listen to Totem speakers, or perhaps you already own a pair, you know they pack a major punch. This Canadian company has a knack for making speakers with class-leading performance, and understated physical designs in enclosures that don’t dominate your listening environment. They always deliver more low frequency extension than you’d expect from a compact cabinet. Because this name is long, they will be referred to as the V2s going forward.

The V2s continue this tradition of excellence. The new V2 we have on hand has Totem’s latest Torrent drivers installed, consisting of a 7-inch woofer and 1-inch titanium dome tweeter. They weigh slightly more than 37 pounds each sport relatively small cabinets. 8.81” x 16.6” x 11.7” to be exact. You can read the full specification list here:

It is worth noting that while sensitivity is listed at 88db/1-watt, Totem claims an “easy 8-ohm impedance,” which lead to dragging a pair of Bottlehead 300B amplifiers out of the closet, along with my R&B skeletons. Going straight for the bass heavy tracks to get these babies breaking in, (Totem suggests about 200 hours) Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra gets the nod, with his World of Funk album that you can find on your favorite streaming service with ease.


Using the bass line in Jennifer Warne’s “Ballad of the Runaway Horse,” to lock in the bass and the bass to mid transition, takes the V2s from great to exceptional. Most of my listening for the context of this review comes from the borrowed (from our publisher) PrimaLuna EVO400 tube amplifier and the Pass INT-25 solid state amplifier. Both are equally impressive yet show off different aspects of the speaker – with the Pass amp slightly grippier, and the PrimaLuna somewhat more swimming in midrange magic. I could live happily ever after with either.

Because the V2s go deep (claimed down to 30hz) avoid tight corner placement if you can. Better yet if you can get the Totems about two feet from the back wall and about twice that away from the side walls, I think you will be really excited at just how large a sound field these speakers can produce.

Much like the Focal speakers with metal dome tweeters, careful fine adjustment of the rake angle removes the last bit of edge from the highest frequencies, without losing any of the resolution the speakers provide.

When you have it wrong, the V2s sound harsh, when you dial them in just right, they sound smooth and resolving. A solid hour or two with the help of a friend will get you there. Double that if you must ­do all the work yourself. While you’re at it, get stands that are as massive as you can deal with, somewhere between 20 and 24 inches tall, depending on your listening position. My main room is about 18 x 24 feet and while the Totems will deliver great sound either way, if you can access the wider wall, you will be rewarded with maximum image width and depth.

Bigger bottom

If you’re one of those people that always needs more bass (I’m saying this from an “it takes one to know one” perspective) Totem makes several great subwoofers that will mate perfectly with your Fires. Serendipitously, our publisher happens to have the Totem Tribe Solution in for review, so borrowing it for a long weekend was incredibly easy.

Available in satin black or white, this compact subwoofer is only 13” x 24” x 4.5” allowing it to fit nearly anywhere. Hence the name. As a single guy, I can enjoy having a Marshall stack on one end of my living room and a lot of gear everywhere. But for those of you with a smaller room, and a partner that you might have to convince the additional bulk of a sub is ok, the Tribe Solution is perfect. Even if you don’t stand it upright in the middle of the room and enjoy it’s pair of 8” woofer cones pulsating to the music at hand.

Commendable as the V2s are, an extra 500 watts on tap rocks even harder. With my favorite 90s electronica tracks, the ability to crank it up even further (than is reasonable and prudent) is always welcome. To be clear, the Fires are not small speakers with no bass, (Tune Tots, cough, cough) and you don’t need a sub to enjoy them. However, it is nice to know Totem makes a solution that’s a perfect fit should you want to increase your system’s capability. Personally, I like products that go together easily. Watch for our review on this one.  

Bigger everywhere

One of my least favorite audiophile cliches is “the XXX speaker defies the laws of physics.” Nothing defies the laws of physics. However, what Totem does do, is carefully optimize mechanical and electrical parameters, to give their products exceptional performance. I’ll take science over magic any day. Their crossovers are carefully constructed, delivering speakers that are easy to drive. The amount of signal that gets from the binding posts (and in this case, the V2s have exquisite binding posts) to the drivers can get lost in a complex crossover. One thing you might do to get just a little bit more upper midrange clarity from the V2s is to swap the factory jumpers for jumpers made from whatever speaker cable you currently use. This is not a Totem specific thing, we do this with every speaker we use that has jumpers. It’s not a “this one goes to 11” improvement, but a 10.7 to 11. It just depends on how OCD you are!

These speakers use a 2-way design with the woofer running full range, and no high or low pass filter in the circuit, resulting in an 88db/1-watt speaker that you can drive with anything. That’s part of that punchiness that Totems are famous for. While the cabinet looks deceptively simple, there are no parallel surfaces in it’s design. That’s about ten times harder (and more expensive to build) than a standard design. This attention to detail results in a compact speaker delivering a wonderful, open midrange and upper bass free of cloudiness.

It all adds up to a small speaker that sounds like a big speaker, and a speaker that delivers excellent performance no matter what you drive it with. Running the V2s in with a perennial favorite, the vintage Marantz 2215 (a sweet sounding 15 wpc solid-state receiver) is enough to bring serious insight to what the Totems are capable of, yet hooking them up to the PrimaLuna EVO 400 amp and a vintage Levinson preamplifier (with a Technics SP-10 table bringing up the analog) feels like watching a movie in Technicolor on one of those big, wide, curved screens from back in the day.

From the smallest acoustic music, to griding metal, the V2s can play as loud as the situation demands, yet they are very engaging at low volumes as well. Again, this is another example of great crossover design and driver optimization. It’s way tougher for a speaker that can wrap you up in the experience at low levels than one that can just play loud. (I’m coughing some more)

Another winner

Our publisher agrees the Totem Element Fire V2s are more than worth one of our Exceptional Value awards. On top of delivering so much sound for the price, they are built to an exacting level, and will deliver maximum performance with anything you connect them to. You’ll have to buy some pretty spendy gear before you consider trading your speaker in, and that’s what makes them worth every penny.


The Vanguard Scout Speakers – From VeraFi

The new, compact Scout speakers are a triumph of engineering and good taste at $299 a pair.

Considering Vera Fi uses a manufacturer direct model eliminating distributor and dealer mark up, they really compete with something from the likes of KEF or B&W at the $1,000 price point. Yet they exceed both of these industry titans by concentrating on what matters most – sheer musicality.

Designing a $299 pair of speakers requires a tremendous amount of insight, discipline, and execution, because every 50 cents affects the bottom line. It’s easy to lose your way, and this is why so many budget speakers either outright suuuuuck, or concentrate too much on one aspect of the musical spectrum.

These small bass reflex speakers feature a robust cabinet, a 5.25-inch treated paper woofer and a 25mm silk dome speaker, with much higher quality crossover components than you will ever see in a thousand dollar pair of mini monitors elsewhere. You can read more about the crossover design here, on the VeraFi site:

To get the most out of the Scouts, procure stands that allow you to fill with sand to achieve maximum mass and couple with a bit of blu-tack or other suitably sticky stuff. This will give you the most bass extension you can get – and every couple of Hz count with small speakers! Their wide dispersion makes them easy to set up in your room, and if you do have a small-ish room, capitalize on room gain for even better bass.

They provide an easy load to drive with solid-state or tube amplifiers, and will surprise you in a good way, even connected to fairly fancy electronics. The Scouts sacrifice a bit of extension on top and exaggerated bass on the bottom to deliver a speaker that nails the musical fundamentals. This will leave you satisfied no matter what kind of music you enjoy most, yet it is worth emphasizing how natural they sound with vocals and acoustic instruments. They also manage to play pretty loud without distortion.

Whether you are looking for an additional pair of speakers to build another system with, or a new enthusiast at the beginning of the journey, the Vanguard Scout speakers present excellent value and will hold your interest for a long time. Highly recommended. Should you be interested, there is a more in-depth review here….


2024 Products of the Year

Say, who says we have to hand out awards at the end of the year? We’ve always tried to be a little bit different so here goes. The Audiophile Apartment section of our magazine and site has always tried to concentrate on audio gear with a smaller form factor that doesn’t give anything up in performance. While some audio enthusiasts are downsizing, others are just starting out in their first place, and need suggestions for a less dominant audio system.

Here are our favorites from the past year.

OVERALL – SVS Prime Wireless Pro


Sometimes you don’t have any room for an amplifier, or any other components, but you still want great sound from your TV and streamer (or phone). And we all know how much soundbars suuuuuck.

For less than a soundbar, you can have real audiophile sound with the Prime Wireless Pros. Thanks to each speaker having a pair of 50-watt amplifiers, digital crossover networks, a 24/192 DAC and connectivity to all things wired and wireless, you’ve got an unbeatable combination. Now all you need to decide is white or black.  The sound quality is out of this world good, and the Prime Wireless Pro’s fit anywhere.  When you’ve got more space and a few extra bucks, add a killer SVS sub for more oomph.

The Rest:

Vera-Fi’s Vanguard Scout Speakers

These days a couple of albumswill set you back more than three hundred bucks, and nearly all the speakers at the mass market stores, or online are really awful. The Vanguards come packed in a very nice cabinet with real drivers and some serious engineering chops behind them.

Whether you need a small system for an office, or extra room, or starting from scratch, you won’t find better sound anywhere for $299/pair. To make these speakers more incredible, add Vera-Fi’s Vera-Link wireless amplifiers. They Velcro on the back and link right to your tablet or mobile phone’s Bluetooth connection. Great sound was never so accessible.

Iso-Tek V5 Corus (w/Initium C13 power cord) Power Conditioner


Even smaller rooms need clean power, and if you happen to be in an apartment or condo complex, chances are your power is even worse. Not to mention, extra outlets are always a great thing.

The Corvus utilizes a lot of technology from Iso-Tek’s larger products, so if you don’t have a huge system with massive current demands, this will do a great job at making your system sound better.

Totem Acoustics Bison Monitor

Totem is famous for making small speakers that sound like much bigger speakers, and they’ve outdone themselves with the Bisons. Their 5.25-inch woofers have a 3-inch voice coil, so they deliver fantastic bass, and will play loud enough to have your lease shredded. They play great with any kind of amplification, and are not terribly critical of room placement, though they deliver enough resolution to reward you further if you can fuss over placement.

They are available in three colors (White Oak, Black Ash, and Satin White) to match every décor, and can be paired with a TOTEM subwoofer if you need more low frequency output. We suggest their TRIBE Solution Sub.

Dynaudio Focus 10 Speakers


The Dynaudios are the most expensive thing on our list, but they also offer the highest performance. We’ve used several Dynaudio speakers over the years, and our publisher currently uses a pair of (wired) Dynaudio Confidence 20s as one of his reference speakers. Dynaudio’s last set of Focus speakers were very good, but the new Focus series is amazing. These are the first wireless speakers we’ve used that don’t sound like “wireless” speakers.

Just to mess with a few of our know it all audiophile friends, when the Focus 10s were on stands next to the Confidence 20s, they were all amazed at how close these small monitors with a 5.5-inch Esotec+ woofer driven by its own 280 watt amplifier, and a 1.1-inch Cerotar tweeter, powered by a 110 watt amplifier. They can be optimized to your room with three built in settings, or Dirac Live, whatever you choose.

Needless to say, these small Danish marvels provide room-filling sound, even in a substantial room. You’ll be able to take these babies out to the burbs when you move out of an apartment.

PrimaLuna EVO100 Tube Integrated Amp

If the idea of the romantic glow of a tube amplifier appeals to you, the EVO 100 is the perfect place to start your journey. Should you take it a step further and want to add a turntable for even more analog-y goodness, an extra $200 gets you a damn good built in MM phono stage.

We’ve been using PrimaLuna components since the day they hit the market, and can vouch for their build quality, and reliability. Removing the bottom cover reveals execution unrivaled at any price and a bevy of top quality parts.

And the sound? Bitchin’.  It’s an inside joke, but if you know, you know. One of our all time favorites. Upscale is even offering a mega discount on a spare set of power tubes. It doesn’t get any better!

Wireworld Electra and Stratus Shielded Mini Power Conditioning cords

$60 – $90 Stratus™

$160 – $240 Electra™

(price dependent on length, both cables)

With so many power cords costing more than a new car these days, it’s refreshing to see a manufacturer bring a lot of their tech to reasonably priced cables, and for gear that almost no one else even offers an updated cable for.

And, with more entry level gear going to those two pronged power cords, these really are one of the best values in audio today. I love em!