Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Solid Monitor speakers and ceiling mount safety

DIY.

The Solid Monitor is a speaker manufactured early 90's, which makes them over 20 years old by now. They are (not that) small, solid monitor / bookshelf speakers, with decent high and mid and (for their size) quite acceptable bass.

These speakers are literally quite heavy, so you have to take some care when mounting these against the ceiling.


Atmos

I decided to set up an Atmos / Auro3D amp at home, which meant I needed ceiling mounted speakers. The ceiling downstairs is partially concrete, partially gypsum, so I could not use 'in-wall' (in-ceiling) speakers. (More about my setup and Atmos here.)

I typically don't like overly small speakers (they often sound too thin) and had been considering some JVC woodcone units when I spotted a (four piece) set of second hand Solid Monitor speakers on Marktplaats (Dutch equivalent of eBay). A little investigation on the Internet later I decided to pick them up. These weren't new (hey, 20 years!) and weren't in top condition, but still...

I actually like the sound of these small speakers, tonally they seem to match my 'vintage' (expensive word for 'old') Magnat Lambda's quite well. As one of the speakers had a damaged mount I looked for a second batch and ended up with 8 Solid Monitor speakers, all mechanically sound, drivers in good condition, with two of the eight mounts damaged but that was about it. Not a bad deal I think.

I actually got a Harman Kardon CD player and amplifier thrown in as well. Which I quickly passed along to a relative. 


Rock Solid

The Solid Monitor is also known as Rock Solid Monitor. They were designed by (the people of) B&W, and made in China and Taiwan. Originally a separate brand it seems everyone considers them a 'real' B&W product nowadays. Here's a product sheet comparing the different models.

They are actually surprisingly good. Some of the old reviews (the ones I could still find online) were very positive. The batch that I have (all 8) sound pretty good after 20-odd years. The Taiwan build units seem to have a tad better dampening (well, at least more of it 😁)and better finishing, but nothing I could hear. (I only noticed this when opening them.)

There are some other models, and sometimes the naming gets confusing. Apparently, B&W couldn't make up their minds 😅 and opportunistic sellers further muddied the waters.

Update 05.01.2022. Added some more details on identifying the different models.

The following link and two searches bring up most models / variations:



Rock Solid Sound 'Monitor' / Solid 'Monitor' / 'Solid' / B&W 'Monitor' / B&W 'Solid monitor'

75 Hz ..20 kHz 90dB 150 W

I've seen all these names in use, even in official documentation. At first, the speakers in this series were sold under the a budget brand name 'Rock Solid Sound'. In the end, B&W adopted them as their own, grouping these as the 'Solid' series. See here.

Other speaker models are often mislabeled as Solid Monitors. They're not. And sometimes the real Solid Monitors are mislabeled as Solid S100, or Solid Monitor S100. Which is, again, wrong, as the S100 is a completely different beast (scroll down for the real S100).


(Solid Monitor)


HCM1 (Solid Monitor variant)

70 Hz .. 75 kHz 150 W

The images and specs suggest these are simply a a variant of the original Solid Sound Monitor with a different looking front and 'hidden' bass reflex port. I'm not convinced two triangles will sound better than a single round hole, but these look a tad better with and without fronts, yes. They probably sound the same, or worse...

It also seems they've updated the stand, though I'm not sure that is an improvement either... The updated stand has an option to position the speakers closer to the wall, but that's about it.




(HCM1)


Team (S75)

50 Hz .. 20 kHz 100W (?!?)
80 Hz .. 20 kHz 75 W (?)

Then there's the Team model. Some people call them 'Solid Monitor' speakers. Don't let this fool you, these are different (and not that solid, period). I couldn't find specs on the B&W site, but they look like a predecessor of the HCM2. I seriously doubt the specs listed on several sites (see also the HCM2). In fact, with the Team / HCM2s being around half the price of the Monitor / HCM1s it's rather unlikely they could come even close, and the pair of Team speakers that I own certainly isn't as good as the Solid Monitors. (There's a world of difference.)

I suspect the S75 name simply derives from the 75W spec. It doesn't appear to be an official name.

The Team / HCM2 isn't bad, but not as heavy duty as the Solids. If you run a smaller amp they might be a good choice, and they do not require a stand so are a better pick when used as a bookshelf speaker. They were often sold with a matching subwoofer (of doubtful quality).

You might want to add some dampening to improve their behavior, but if your amplifier can handle it I'd again suggest to go for the Monitors. They're not that hard to find, after all.




(Team)


HCM2 (Team variant, S75)

80 Hz .. 20 kHz 75 W

The HCM2 is the smaller cousin of the HCM1, and appears to be an updated version of the Team (primarily the front).



(HCM2)


S100

95 Hz .. 20 kHz 100 W (?)

There's another speaker, the S100, sometimes wrongly called the Solid Monitor S100, which is not the same thing. I've yet to run into any of these, but their triangular shape would suggest they are easier to place in corners... and damn, are they ugly.

Spec wise, these seem to be another variant on the Team / HCM2.


(S100)


Colors

The Solid Monitor came in different colors and color combinations. I've seen black ones, white ones, there may have been gray ones. Inserts I've seen in black, white, pink and green.


(Solid Monitor - Alternative Color Schemes)


You might run into more colors on the Internet, but many are likely to be 'aftermarket paint jobs' 😄

The full white ones look best. Mine are all black. (Two have been white but a previous owner painted them black.)


Specs

From the original folder. Click to enlarge.


90 dB for 2.83V / 1W in 9 ohms, 75 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 3 dB, 150W max... That should do.

I guess the 75 Hz might be a bit of a stretch. Audyssey sets the cross over frequencies to 120 Hz, though I tried some bass test tones and without Audyssey I could definitely hear some bass below 100 Hz, not abyss deep but still enjoyable.

Then again, they are not that small 😏.


Mounting

Mounting speakers on a ceiling can be a problem. In this case, I wanted to create a hybrid Atmos / Auro3D setup, and four (actually five, but I get back to that) are located in places where people walk or sit below them. So it's a good idea to mount them properly, and make sure they won't drop on somebody's head.

When examining the mount you can see a single nut keeping the whole 'T' shaped mount together. This nut might get loose over time. Also the aluminum 'knob' may break (two of the eight speakers I obtained had that part broken).


In the past some kind of safety cable could be bought as an option. I tried to obtain more information about this option but could never find anything, so I had to cook up my own solution.


Inside

Unable to find a small steel cable or other solution, I decided to use a special kind of 'nylon' cord (sorry, I don't know the exact name of the material). I needed some way to fix this to the speaker as well as to the ceiling.

The casing material is a thick, sturdy kind of plastic but it isn't thick enough to hold screws directly, so after opening up the speakers I glued small wood blocks inside.




I then used a round head screw, driven from the outside into the wooden block on the inside, and attached the nylon cable, of course with some knots.

The cable loops over the horizontal part of the original ceiling / wall mount (there's a little space there right at the center of the 'T').


Now if, for whatever reason, the mount breaks or the nut gets loose, and subsequently the speaker would drop then it won't fall down all the way but will be stopped by the cable.

Or so I hope.

I did test though, just to make sure...


Safety first.


Acoustic impact: 0.02% bass reflex frequency

Well, with these speakers being nearly 20 years old I wouldn't have to worry too much about warranty 😁

Ad for the impact on sound quality: adding a cubic centimeter of wood is reducing the internal volume with a cubic centimeter. Well... That's a 0.02% change in volume thus bass reflex frequency. I think I can live with that. ..


Taking the fifth...

I modified all eight speakers to have some spares. Here's my production line 😏 You also can see the different kinds of dampening, compare the 'Made in China' (6x) and 'Made in Taiwan (2x) versions. (You can also spot the ones that were originally white.)


I mounted four thus far, but I plan to install number five directly above the listening position for the VOG 'Voice of God' channel in Auro3D. I guess I'll find little material to ever test it, and I'll need an additional amp to use it, but why not. Safety is even more mandatory in that position, I guess 😇

The fifth VOG speaker will require a different kind of mount as it is going to be mounted directly against the ceiling. Unfortunately my SR7011 in 7.4.1 has some amp channels left but doesn't allow me to route VOG to an amp, so I have to add one more box... sigh.

Will be continued...


Artsy

Completely unrelated, but I have never seen a speaker repainted as much as these monitors. Weird... though probably inspired by some factory color combinations. (I know there have been some different color combos but I could never find out which ones were official.)







19 comments:

  1. Nice reading about your Solids. What further enhances the quality of the bigger Solids, is to put a brace between the side-walls. No need to do some 'precision engineering' or even permanent solution here. Wedge a piece of wood in between dead center, which are held in place by patches of thick fabric on both sides. Then do the knock-knock test on the casing. You'd be surprised. GOne is the slightly hollow sound. Which is good.

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  2. Good idea. Currently my Solid's are all mounted against the ceiling, but I was thinking about using a pair as my desktop monitors (I do have a few spare), so I'll give it a go.

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  3. How are higher tones on these speakers? I have the Team version where tweeter and bass reflex are at bottom, and their higher tones are not so clear, but I plan on buying a pair of these in pictures (together with their woofer) and am wondering will higher tones be muffled as well?

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  4. I have one pair of the 'Team' version in the attic, gathering dust. I thought I bought 6 'Solid' Montior speakers, but it turned out to be 4 'Solids' and 2 'Teams'.

    As for the sound: I prefer the 'Solid'. I found the 'Team' units to sound a little tinny, and seriously lacking bass. I'm not sure if they sport the same innards, though I suspect they don't. Drop me a line what your experience has been!

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  5. I ended up buying them month or so ago, well, Solids' higher tones definitely sound better, can definitely say that as someone without trained ear for these things.
    In spec sheet of Team, it says 50hz is lower hz range (though they don't specify is it for team subwoofer or monitors), while Solid ones have around 75hz lower range, so by those numbers Team monitors should have more noticable bass.

    Currently using both with their respective subwoofers in theater, without active subwoofer (did not plan to make theater at first), and a placeholder active cheap center, (have a waiting HCM1 for center when i buy av receiver), as atm i use pc's motherboard audio out jacks for this with 1 amp 1 miniline, with realtek's lower frequencies crossover off.

    TwinBass sub is below monitor's table, Team Bass sub is below bed (yes, does sound a bit boomy, even when not below bed lol), but so far for someone new to theater, experimenting and enjoying every try is fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, the spec sheets suggest the Teams go lower, but I doubt it. Maybe they do, but at what sound level?

      In real life, my experience has been the opposite, TBH.

      Delete
  6. Anonymous20/1/22 17:55

    I enjoyed reading through your blog. I had purchased two solid monitor (150W) speakers in 2018 to run as mid-surround when I upgraded my Home Theater from 51. to 7.1. The other speakers in my HT comprise of B&W 602/S3, 601/S3 and a massive SVS PB12+2 sub (now discontinued). These speakers blended right in. I was so impressed by their sound that I recently picked up another pair to create a small music only system paired with a small Jamo SUB. While I love how they sound, I have been wondering if I should move these to Rear-Surround in my HT and use the DM601s for music. How has your experience been with these as rear surrounds?
    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. They worked fine. I tried that for a while. However... :-) I have a pair of full-sized Magnat Vector 4 as back surrounds, and the Solids couldn't beat that :-)

      However, if I would have had no space for full surrounds, I guess I would have put some Solids there as well. It's really a good, decent all-purpose surround speaker.

      Delete
  7. Anonymous20/1/22 17:57

    BTW, in addition to my earlier comment, the latest pair of Solid Monitors (150W) that I bought are Made in Japan (not China or Taiwan).

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    Replies
    1. Interesting, I didn't know any were made in Japan. Are these the ones with the different fronts?

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    2. Anonymous26/4/22 20:49

      No, same as my other speakers that I believe were from Taiwan and similar to the ones in your blog. These are black.

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    3. Anonymous26/4/22 21:04

      (Not sure if my previous response comment went through so posting again). No they are same as the ones in your blog with a circular grill and crows feet in black. My previous pair is white and made in Taiwan.

      Delete
    4. Re, missing posts... Yeah, I switched on moderation for all posts, sorry about that. The blog doesn't have many visitors (I mostly maintain it for myself) and the majority of guest messages were spam :-)

      Anyway, interesting that they were also made in Japan. B&W couldn't make up their mind, it seems :-)

      Delete
  8. Anonymous14/9/22 14:39

    As I'm also installing four Solids for Atmos/Aur3D, I'm interested about your experiences about the inside damping. The thin one layer of fabric seems a bit insufficient to me. I plan to experiment with sheepwool and BAF, 1/4 or 1/3 of the volume. Btw, I'll hang them on the ceiling and turned them by removing the six screws and rotating the front.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I experimented with a pair that I use as desktop monitors / bookshelf speakers. Adding some BAF (about 1/2 of the volume) had some audible effect, but I couldn't say I found it a big improvement.

      I doubt you will notice it with the units placed against the ceiling. In Atmos those speakers are mostly for effect, and they're already much better than your average Atmos home setup :-)

      On top of that, if you have Audyssey or something similar then that will take care of the rest.

      Anyway, please share your results, and if you have it an image or two. I'm interested!

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    2. I assume you rotate the fronts to get the tweeter on top? Do you think that would make a difference?

      One additional note. You have to play a bit with the angle for the best effect if you want to use them for Atmos, Auro and DTS-X. At first I had them at the corners and pointing towards the listener, but later I angled them a little further down. Not straight down like Atmos ceiling speakers, but pointing at four spots surrounding the listener (in my case the angle must be around 30 degrees or so). That highly improved the 'dimensionality' of the sound. It seems the ears want some indirect reflections to be properly 'misled'.

      Delete
  9. I have a pair of the green, blue and red ones! They sound pretty good and thick, though I know I'm missing some serious bass from 60 down

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    Replies
    1. Great to hear. Happy with them? Share an image if you can.

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    2. Anonymous2/1/23 02:08

      I bought mine new in the late 90s in Europe and they have followed me in 9 different addresses, 2 continents and are still with me.

      I have the apres ski colors (neon yellow, purple, red/orange) with a black passive twin bass. Apres ski was an original color design.

      They still look and sound great.

      Delete