Monitor Audio Radius R90HT1 review

Taking aim at the high-end sub/sat market, Monitor Audio has revamped its much-loved Radius line

Monitor Audio’s Radius range has already proved a firm favourite thanks to its living room-friendly looks and spine-tingling sound quality. Yet the British brand isn’t resting on its laurels, recently updating the product stable with a crop of new designs.

This 5.1 package brings together some of these new additions, including a reboot of the Radius 90 compact speaker (here on front and surround duties) and the brand-new Radius 200 centre speaker. Providing the low-end grunt is the Radius 390, the pricier of two freshly-minted subwoofers.

Monitor Audio has styled every speaker in this system with effortless panache. The gleaming gloss-white finish that adorns our sample is pure disco, but the swanky black version is equally dapper. 

Each speaker is a solid, impenetrable box with no joins or seams aside from the grooved HiVe II port on the back, which appears for the first time on the Radius range. This, says Monitor Audio, accelerates the flow of air and reduces turbulence for a more dynamic bass response, having the same effect on airflow as a gun barrel on a bullet.

Sub/sat royalty

Pick up the Radius 90 and its heft is satisfying. You'll feel like you’ve got your money’s worth before you’ve even listened to it – important, as this array's £1,500 ticket is at the upper limit of most people's sub/sat budget. Lending extra stability from the inside is a single through-bolt driver fixing that braces the cabinet. The Radius 90 stands just shy of 20cm tall, making it a small, unobtrusive addition to your room. It can be mounted on Monitor Audio’s optional stands or on your wall using single-point fixing. For tabletop placement there are adhesive pads in the box.

The drivers are a new 4in C-CAM (ceramic-coated aluminium/magnesium) bass driver – filtered down from the brand's Platinum and Gold GX ranges – and a 1in rear-vented tweeter, which is made from C-CAM for the first time. The Radius 200 centre channel uses a pair of bass drivers, sandwiching a tweeter. 

Design-wise, the Radius 390 subwoofer is probably the best of the bunch. A neat cube of burly, internally-braced MDF, it's quite compact (making placement easier) and both its side-firing 10in C-CAM drivers – one active, one auxiliary bass radiator – match the finish. It's powered by a 200W Class D amplifier, and on the back is an array controls to get it singing in harmony with the speakers – a low-pass filter switch for LFE or stereo input selection, 
a phase switch and dials to adjust the volume and crossover frequency. A 12V trigger input allows system automation.

There’s also a switch allowing you to choose between three different bass modes – Music, Movie and Impact. Movie provides a flat response down to 35Hz; Music mode dips further to 30Hz at -2dB lower; while Impact mode delves down to 40Hz but offers a +3dB boost.

Let loose with the brutal action of Pacific Rim on Blu-ray, the R90HT1 proves very accomplished. With towering Jaegers and Kaiju stomping through cities and oceans, this is a movie that demands impact and scale – something this system achieves without batting an eyelid. Quite a feat for speakers barely as tall as my AV receiver. 

The Monitor Audios take great delight in driving the thunderous battle sequences into the room. When Crimson Typhoon squares up to Otachi and Leatherback, the clatter of the robot’s metal armour and the beast’s rasping roars boast remarkable attack and aggression, without sounding bright or synthetic.Furthermore, these little speakers display the sort of slam and dynamism you’d expect from larger designs, hitting that sweet spot between excitement and refinement that leaves you feeling entertained but not violated. 

The subwoofer plays a part here, of course; it pummels the room with authoritative bass notes delivered with supreme depth and grip. So when the lobster-like Onibaba lumbers through Tokyo, the footsteps evoke terror. It rumbles away happily during quieter scenes too, lending subtle atmosphere and warmth to voices and background music. I found it most impressive in ‘Movie’ mode. ‘Impact’ mode does what it says on the tin but pushes low frequencies too hard. With the former, the 390 forms a tight union with the satellites, resulting in a cohesive soundfield, and one backed up by the sort of snappy steering that Sebastian Vettel would be proud of. 

Away from barnstorming action, the Radius system has a sideline in poise and insight. Pacific Rim's shots of crowded streets in Hong Kong’s Bone Slums are alive with the sounds of hissing rain, beeping rickshaws and chattering voices, delicately scattered around the spacious soundstage like audio confetti. Idris Elba's nonsense dialogue, meanwhile, is imbued with an almost life-like presence by the Radius 200, with the dual midbass drivers underpinning his gruff English tones. 

And with music material, it's equally good. Whether pounding out the funky basslines of an Earth Wind and Fire track or teasing the darkly mellifluous tones of Gretchen Parlato’s Henya, the R90HT1 demonstrates outstanding timing, agility and detail retrieval. One of the best compact 5.1 systems money can buy? Certainly. 


Monitor Audio R90HT1
£1,500 Approx
Highs: Seamless, coherent soundstage; wonderful detail reproduction; superb bass grip and slam; stunning design
Lows: Subwoofer Impact mode too imposing; cheaper sub/sat packages are available

Performance: 5/5
Design: 4.5/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5


Radius 90 standmount

Drive units: 1 x 4in C-CAM bass/mid driver; 1 x 1in C-CAM gold dome tweeter
Enclosure: Bass reflex, rear-ported
Frequency response: 80Hz-35kHz
Sensitivity: 83dB
Power handling: 75W
Dimensions: 125(w) x 198(h) x 140(d)mm
Weight: 2.1kg

Radius 200 centre

Drive units: 2 x 4in C-CAM bass/mid drivers; 1 x 1in C-CAM gold dome tweeter
Enclosure: Bass reflex, rear-ported
Frequency response: 60Hz-35kHz
Sensitivity: 86dB
Power handling: 100W
Dimensions: 330(w) x 125(h) x 140(d)mm
Weight: 3.6kg

Radius 390 subwoofer

Drive units: 1 x 10in C-CAM long-throw cone driver; 1 x 10in auxiliary bass radiator
Enclosure: Sealed
Frequency response: 30Hz-120Hz
On board power: 200W
Remote control: No
Dimensions: 330(w) x 348(h) x 345(d)mm
Weight: 13.76kg
Connections: Stereo phono inputs; LFE input; 12V trigger in