Monoprice 10565 review: Superb-sounding speakers that are a little short on style

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The Good The Monoprice 10565 5.1 speaker system sounds even better than our longtime favorite compact speakers, the Energy Take Classic 5.1. The speakers are small, yet sound exceptional for their size, especially with movies. The $249 retail price is significantly lower than what you pay for most speakers that sound this good.

The Bad The matte-black finish isn't as stylish as the Energy system's. While the retail price is significantly lower than the Energy's, shipping costs and frequent discounts mitigate much of the savings. And the one-year warranty is significantly shorter than what you get with the Energy speakers.

The Bottom Line The Monoprice 10565 speaker system tops our longtime favorite Energy Take Classic speakers in sound quality, but they lack their stylish look.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Sound 9
  • Value 9

Monoprice's last home theater speaker system was literally too good to be true: a near clone of the outstanding Energy Take Classic 5.1 speakers ($350 street) for a fraction of the cost. The copycat 9774 speakers ended up as the subject of a lawsuit from Energy's parent company, Klipsch. The proceedings were settled out of court, and the 9774 speakers were discontinued.

Now the company is back with the 10565 speaker system ($249), with the same price, but a different look. The new speakers still share many of the same specs as the Energy speakers, but there are just enough differences that the two systems don't feel identical. Unfortunately, those cosmetic differences make the Monoprice speakers less stylish, looking more like the budget speakers than they actually are.

On the other hand, the 10565 system surprised us by actually sounding better (to our ears) than the Energy speakers. That's no easy feat, as the Energy Take Classic has long been a standout in sound quality when it comes to compact speaker systems under $500. The other surprise is that despite the retail prices, both systems are pretty similar in real-world cost, once you factor in Monoprice's shipping costs and the Energy system's frequent discounts.

Ultimately the choice between the two systems comes down to your preferences: the Monoprice speakers sound a little better, but the Energy speakers look a little better and have a better warranty. Either way you go, you're getting an outstanding budget speaker system.

Design: The same, but different
When you put the Monoprice 9774 speakers next to the Energy Take Classic, it was hard not to think of the word "knockoff." They were the same in almost every detail, including very similar performance, which almost certainly contributed to Monoprice's legal settlement with Energy.

Monoprice (left), Energy (right) Sarah Tew/CNET

The 10565 speaker system doesn't have the same knockoff feel. The speakers are obviously inspired by the Energy speakers, but they don't feel as if they're trying to pass as the same system. The biggest reason for that is the 10565's matte gray finish, giving a much more staid impression than the Energy's high-gloss look, although the Monoprice speakers do a better job of hiding fingerprint smudges and dust. (The difference in finishes is also much more apparent in person than in photos.)

Energy Sarah Tew/CNET

There are plenty of other differences, too. Despite the listed dimensions being the same, the Monoprice satellite speakers are slightly taller, wider, and longer than the Energy counterparts. Pulling off the speaker grille, the drivers look similar, but definitely not the same. On the backside, the positioning of the speaker connectors and the port is swapped, plus the Energy speakers sport a keyhole bracket, whereas the Monoprice speakers have a screw hole.

But listing all the incongruities overstates the differences between these two systems. The systems have satellite speakers and center channels with identically sized woofers and tweeters, and both have 200-watt subwoofers with an 8-inch down-firing woofer. I'm not aware of any two other sets of speakers from two separate companies that are so similar.

Monoprice (left), Energy (right) Sarah Tew/CNET

The real knock against the 10565 speakers, style-wise, is they have a generic feel to them. The prominent "Monoprice" label on the front doesn't help. Holding the speakers in your hand, the Monoprice satellite speakers feel a little hollower and more like "cheap" speakers. The best way to put it is that the Energy system does a better job of creating the illusion that they're more expensive speakers; the 10565 speakers look and feel more like what they cost.

Setup: Straightforward and simple
There's nothing unusual about the setup requirements of this 5.1 channel system, except for one thing: Monoprice recommends using a 110Hz subwoofer-to-satellite crossover setting. We used that with our Marantz NR1403 receiver and the sound was fine, but since some receivers don't offer a 110Hz option in their bass management menus, we also tried 100Hz, which worked just as well.

Sarah Tew/CNET

After that it's mostly a matter of setting the sub's volume level to achieve a smooth, seamless blend with the satellite speakers. We found the 10565 unfussy in this regard; we were perfectly satisfied with leaving the volume knob around 12 o'clock, nudging it up or a down a little over the course of the review. As always, you'll get the best sound by keeping the sub close to the front speakers; anything within 5 or 6 feet will do the trick.

Sound quality: A little better than the best
There was really only one way to test the Monoprice 10565 system and that was to set it up directly next to the Energy Take Classic speakers. We used the Marantz NR1403 to power both systems and, at best, we expected the 10565 system to equal the performance of the Energy speakers like the old 9774 system did. What really surprised us is that we ended up preferring the Monoprice system.

Sarah Tew/CNET