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Monoprice 8247 review: Monoprice 8247

Monoprice 8247

Matthew Moskovciak Steve Guttenberg
Matthew Moskovciak Senior Associate Editor / Reviews - Home theater
Covering home audio and video, Matthew Moskovciak helps CNET readers find the best sights and sounds for their home theaters. E-mail Matthew or follow him on Twitter @cnetmoskovciak.
Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
5 min read

Monoprice 8247

The Good

The <b>Monoprice 8247</B> is one of the least expensive 5.1 speaker systems we've ever seen. The system includes four small two-way satellite speakers with swivel wall-mounts, a center channel, and a compact powered 8-inch subwoofer. Most importantly, it actually sounds pretty good, as long as you're not expecting miracles.

The Bad

The plastic speaker cabinets don't compare to the nicer finishes on more expensive systems. And if you can spend more money, the Energy Take Classic 5.1 and Pioneer SP-PK21BS are better in just about every way.

The Bottom Line

The Monoprice 8247 does the impossible by offering a competent 5.1 speaker system for less than $100, setting a new standard for ultrabudget speakers.

Monoprice is an Internet retailer that made a name for itself providing tech accessories at insanely low prices. (It is, in our opinion, the best place to buy "good enough" HDMI cables at prices far lower than you'd ever find at Best Buy.) Not content with accessories, Monoprice is now branching out into its own branded line of tech products. Even with Monoprice's reputation for bargains, we were shocked to see the Monoprice 8247: it's a 5.1 surround-sound speaker package you can buy for the seemingly impossible price of $84.10. That's less than $15 per speaker (including the subwoofer) and Monoprice doesn't chintz out with the accessories, including four swivel wall-mounts for each of the satellite speakers. The most impressive feat of all is that these ultrabudget speakers actually sound pretty good.

We won't hype the Monoprice 8247 any more than that. This isn't an audiophile experience and you shouldn't expect one. The speaker cabinets are made of plastic instead of wood, although they are surprisingly heavy, which at least creates the impression of build quality. The speaker connectors are better than what's available on many budget speakers, but they don't accept banana plugs. Still, the Monoprice system sounds much better than it has any right to at this price and it's the perfect starter 5.1 speaker system or secondary system for a smaller room.

Design and features
The Monoprice 8247 comes with four satellite speakers, a center speaker, and a powered subwoofer. The satellites are pretty small, just 6 inches high and 4.1 inches wide and deep, and each one weighs 1.8 pounds. The black plastic cabinets are finished in a sandy texture and while they don't look great, they're not offensive either. Considering Monoprice's rock-bottom pricing, the system's build quality is surprisingly decent.

Monoprice 8247 speaker connectors
The speaker connectors are decent, but don't accept banana plugs.

The push-to-open, all-metal connectors definitely provide a better, more secure connection with your speakers' wires than the more typical plastic wire clips used on most budget speakers. The Monoprice connector's holes are small, so they won't accept thick, audiophile wires. Monoprice recommends 16-gauge or thinner wires, and you can't use banana plugs or spade connectors with these speakers.

The system comes with four sturdy C-shaped wall-mount brackets that allow the satellite speakers to be aimed toward the listening position. Monoprice doesn't include a bracket for the center speaker.

Monoprice 8247 speaker brackets
Despite the budget price, Monoprice includes 4 swivel wall-mounts.

The speakers' perforated metal grilles aren't removable, but you can see Monoprice's 3-inch paper woofers and 0.5-inch dome tweeters through the grille. The center speaker is a traditional woofer/tweeter/woofer array, with the same drivers as the sats'. Don't be put off by Monoprice's use of paper woofers; they are favored by some audiophiles for their smoother sound, compared with more common plastic cones.

The subwoofer is a rather plain-looking box, with a textured finish that matches the satellites. It has a down-firing 8-inch woofer and a bass port on its front panel. The built-in 60-watt amplifier has stereo RCA- and speaker-level inputs.

The 8247 speaker system is sold directly from Monoprice with a 30-day money-back guarantee and there's no restocking fee if you return the system, although you'll get stuck paying shipping both ways. And we should note that shipping fees can be significant, depending on where you live--it costs $21 to ship to our New York location.

We used a Denon AVR-1912 receiver and an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player for all of our listening tests. Monoprice didn't recommend a subwoofer-to-satellite crossover setting, so we experimented with 150Hz and 200Hz settings. Both sounded fine, but we settled on the 200Hz setting. As with every other small sub/sat system we've reviewed, we recommend placing the subwoofer within 4 or 5 feet of any of the three front speakers to ensure the best possible sound.

Considering the price, it was hard not to have low expectations of the Monoprice 8247. So, sure, our first impressions were very positive. The tonal balance was fairly even, and the subwoofer's blend with the little speakers was very good. The speakers tweeters avoided the tinny and harsh sound we associate with cheap speakers.

Encouraged by what we were hearing, we popped in the "Master and Commander" Blu-ray and cranked up the naval battle scenes. The Monoprice system played fairly loud without overt distress, and when the cannon balls crashed through the sides of the wooden ships, the system delivered the sonic assaults with gusto. The quieter scenes' dialogue sounded natural, and the wind and surf seemed to come from all around us. The five small speakers created a fully enveloping sound field in the CNET listening room.

We next compared the Monoprice 8247 with the Monoprice 8315 sound bar system ($115). We heard big differences, and the 5.1 system trounced the sound bar system on every count. The 5.1 system had a much smoother, more natural sound balance, the sub was more powerful and went deeper into the bass, the treble range was clearer, and being a true surround system, it produced a more room-filling sound.

As the doomed FedEx plane headed for a crash landing on the "Castaway" Blu-ray, the Monoprice 8247 sounded surprisingly detailed and could play loudly, though we noted some distortion coming from the sub. Turning the volume down helped matters, and the overall sound quality improved. Our listening room is large, and in smaller, under-200-square-foot rooms the small system would have an easier time.

We were so impressed we decided to compare the Monoprice with our favorite small system, the Energy Take Classic 5.1 ($400). The Energy Take Classic was better on every count, and sounded considerably more powerful, but we can't say it sounded four times better. The Monoprice sound was definitely enjoyable in its own right, but the Energy's sound was clearer, dynamics packed a bigger punch, and the tonal balance was more accurate. Considering the price differential, our respect for what the Monoprice does well only increased. If this system retailed for double the price, we'd be just as enthusiastic about its sound quality.

That said, the Monoprice's sound on CD was significantly less impressive. The little speakers sounded small and strained on The Black Keys' raucous blues rock. Again, we have to put that in perspective; few budget home theater speaker systems excel with music, so we can't judge the Monoprice system too harshly in that regard.

If you're buying a 5.1 speaker system on a budget, our recommendation is simple. If you can spend $400, go for the Energy Take Classic 5.1 or the Pioneer SP-PK21BS. If you can't spend that much, the Monoprice 8247 is the best deal we've seen.

Monoprice 8247

Monoprice 8247

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7
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