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Monoprice 13773 review: Ultrabudget surround speakers trade subtlety for thrills

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The Good The Monoprice 13773 5.1 speaker system has an open sound that brings excitement to most movie soundtracks. The satellites never sound boxy or draw attention to themselves sonically. For the asking price there's nothing save Monoprice's own products that compete with it.

The Bad The system has zero musical refinement, with an overly brassy sound. The model the 13773 replaces was simply better.

The Bottom Line The Monoprice 13773 surround speakers offer home cinema thrills on a tight budget, but they're not suited to listening to music.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Sound 6
  • Value 8

Setting up a home theater system can be expensive, but the most costly parts are usually the TV (or projector) and the speakers themselves. This can be quite daunting for beginners, but happily there are bargains to be had. For a time one, of the greatest values came in the form of the Monoprice 9774 , a set of 5.1 speakers -- two fronts, a center channel, two rear surrounds and subwoofer -- which sold for just $250 from the online accessory retailer.

While they sounded amazing for the money, they were basically unauthorized clones of the Energy Take Classics -- rated 5 stars by CNET, and still a budget favorite. A subsequent lawsuit from Klipsch, Energy's parent company, saw the 9774 models removed from the market. Undeterred, Monoprice swiftly replaced these with the retooled 10565 which sounded even better to our ears, and was seemingly different enough to stay further legal action.

Flash forward to two years later, and Monoprice has replaced the 10565 system with the 13773. (Apparently, Monoprice's low-price philosophy means there's no marketing investment in snappy model names beyond random four- or five-digit numbers.) The design differs from the former 10565 with paper drivers instead of polypropylene -- and an even more homely look. Performance is geared towards home cinema use with a very exciting sound, but music takes a hit as a result.

While it's not as good as the original 9774, at the cheaper price of $200, the new model is the new lion its field: at that kind of money, it has no natural predators. If you want more refinement and better musical sound, your next best option is to stump up $350 for the aforementioned Energys -- which are still available, and still excellent.

Design and features

Sarah Tew/CNET

While the 10565 featured four satellite speakers and a wider center channel, the 13773 has opted for five identical satellites instead. The benefits are that it both keeps the costs down and ensures consistent voicing across the soundstage. The satellites are roughly the same size as the former models at 6 inches tall and 4 inches square. They include a gray vinyl wrap that's better finished than the more expensive Onkyo SKS-HT594 speakers, which left some exposed fiberboard. The Monoprice speakers feature a 3-inch paper driver and a 0.5-inch polymer tweeter which are protected by a removable grill. The connections at the rear are spring clips, and while it lacks a bracket for wall mounting there is a threaded mount on the rear.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The subwoofer is similar to the previous design and it features an 8-inch paper driver with 100 watts of power. It's also covered in the same grey vinyl as the satellites and measures 15 by 10 by 13 inches.

The sub features a ported design and is capable of reaching down to a claimed 40Hz low-end frequency. Monoprice includes typical controls such as a variable crossover and volume/phase controls. It also includes both speaker terminals and LFO/stereo RCA connections.

Performance

We used the Monoprice with two different but comparably priced receivers: the Denon AVR-S500BT and the Yamaha RX-V479. We used the speakers with and without the onboard calibration and generally preferred the calibrated sound. While we didn't have the Monoprice 10565 speakers on hand, we were able to compare to the original 9774 system -- and those sound so similar to the Energy Take 5.1 that they're almost interchangeable.

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