Some reviews are easy to put together, but others have little stumbling blocks. The Monitor Audio SIlver 300 is one such product. They languished in the office storage for a week longer than they should have done and by the time I got them home, and in situ, I realised there was a 70 hour run in and about 96 hours before we went to press on this issue. This is known as ‘just in time publishing’!
The Silver 300 is part of Monitor Audio’s new Silver 6G series. As the name suggests, this is the sixth generation of Silver models and the Silvers have been a staple of Monitor Audio’s product line-up for more years than I care to remember (I recall reviewing a pair of floorstanders back in the days when Mo Iqbal used to run the company, and that was back when years began with ‘1’). The Silver series has always combined good looks, sophisticated technology, a sound that is both good and popular, and very keen pricing. The range of finishes is always good, too; maybe not to the same extent as seen in the exotic woods seen in the Gold and Platinum II ranges, but real wood veneers and high gloss lacquers as opposed to the vinyl wraps of the entry-level Bronze range. I don’t want to go too ‘business’ about this, but Monitor Audio’s keen sense of market segmentation and its ability to reach more customers as a result has been part of what makes it one of the most successful British loudspeaker brands of today. As such, there’s a heck of a lot riding on the new Silver line, a range which includes a larger 500 and smaller 200 floorstander, Silver 50 and 100 standmounts, as well as a wall-mounted ‘FX’ model, two centre channels, and a pair of active subwoofers for home cinema systems.
What Monitor Audio does in all its ranges is punch above its weight in terms of the complete package. The level of fit and finish, from the outrigger feet to the magnetic grille, right through to the protection over the gold dome tweeter, all suggests a loudspeaker of quality and distinction. For £1,250 per pair. In the high-end, I couldn’t get arrested for £1,250 (not simply figuratively, as there’s nothing I could get caught stealing in the high-end world that only costs £1,250, except maybe a loudspeaker spike). Asking those who managed to swing by my place in the all-too-brief time I’ve spent with the Silver 300s, they all put them (on looks alone) up in the £4,000-£5,000 mark. The review pair came in a sophisticated gloss black, but gloss white, black and natural oak, and walnut veneers are also available.
With so many lines (Radius, Pro, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum II, and small sub/sat systems) development is often a case of an innovation in one series trickling up or down across all the ranges as and when they ‘refresh’. This is a very effective system of continual development, used by everyone from Apple to Zildjian and is fairly common among larger companies in the audio business. This makes finding the origin of the technologies somewhat complex, as the port might come from the Gold series, the bass driver might be derived from Bronze, and the tweeter might have been seen first in Platinum II, but was developed for a project that never saw the light of day. Factor in the maturity of the brand, and it’s often best to look at the latest iteration tabula rasa.
The Silver 300 floorstander is a rear-ported three-way, four-driver design, with two identical HiVe II flow-tuned ports for the mid and bass chambers at the rear of the cabinet. Bungs are provided for smaller rooms or close to wall placement (it’s worth experimenting with bung options here to ensure you get the best blend of bass response relative to room and position). The cabinet is critically braced (Monitor Audio visited the National Physical Laboratory to measure the cabinet’s resonant signature), with the top section (treble and midrange) sitting in its own separate chamber from the bass units.
Monitor Audio’s loudspeaker drivers benefit from its C-CAM (Ceramic-Coated Aluminium/Magnesium) technology. A three-stage stress-relieving process originally developed by the aerospace industry for jet engine components, C-CAM results in loudspeaker cones being extremely rigid, yet light enough to yield high overall efficiency. To improve on this, the drivers are given a Rigid Surface Technology (RST) finish, which is claimed to be inspired by origami but makes the surface of the cone look a bit like a golf ball… from the inside. These small, precise dimpled folds in the cone itself increase rigidity.
The Silver 300 sports two 165mm RST bass units, paired with a 100mm RST midrange unit. The tweeter is also unique to Monitor Audio, and is the company’s 25mm Gold Dome C-CAM design, which features a gold anodised process, atop an aluminium/magnesium alloy dome design. This technology was used for years in the higher-end Monitor Audio models, but has trickled down to the Silver range.
In part to give the speakers a good line from the front, but also to control the internal movement and rigidity of the drivers, the speaker cones and domes are held in place using tension rods and rear retention bolts: one per drive unit. This is possibly the sole piece of maintenance required, because an occasional tightening of that rear bolt brings the speakers back to an ‘as new’ state. The only thing to watch for is too strenuous or xtoo frequent tightening.
Installation is well-documented in a thick A5 booklet provided with the Silver 300s. That said, the booklet is multilingual and the actual section for each language is just eight pages long. Worse, if you are a specification hunter (or, say trying to write up the dimensions from the specs in the back of the book) they are written in the kind of typeface that does not work with reading glasses! The booklet describes in brief positioning relative to room size and distance from the rear wall, placement in stereo and multichannel use, the advantages of bi-wiring or bi-amping, the correct use of bungs, etc.
The feet on the outriggers are designed for use with or without spikes. The spikes are easy to fit to finger tightness, and are said to be good to carpet piercing, but removing the spikes allows the feet to work best on solid wood flooring. In reality, I found the spikes to be a little too short for the task in hand, although they do drive deep into carpet. The problem here is these are not standard spike holes and going for aftermarket models might be difficult. However, for £1,250 per pair, I might be overthinking this.
I used the Monitor Audio floorstanders predominantly with the Hegel H90, which turns out to be a fine match both sonically and in terms of price matching. I also tried it with a Naim SuperUniti, which was better still. The 70 hour run-in is more than just a nice idea because right out of the box, the Silver 300 are a little wayward. So, I ran a QED optical cable from TV to amplifier and let it be the sound of TV for a while. Voices in particular have a strange stridency and top-end brashness, but that quickly fades. in fact, using voices is a fine arbiter of the status of these loudspeakers. As soon as voices lose their strident, slightly nasal quality, you are about half-way there, and when you can begin to tell the difference between Beyer, Sennheiser, and EV microphones on outside broadcasts, you know it’s on good form.
Run in aside, these are a true joy to behold and use. They are incredibly unfussy as to position and partners, they are both insightful and yet forgiving of content, they are expressive, dynamic, and most of all, fun. The fun factor is perhaps the most pivotal part of this: a lot of audio equipement seems to have had its fun gland removed somewhere along the way, making music some kind of spiritual exercise for the benefit of mankind. The Silver 300 never does that, as it is too busy enjoying whatever music you feed it. I found myself really wigging out to ‘Take California’ by the Propellerheads from their lone, but excellent Decksanddrumsandrockandroll album [Wall of Sound]. This is going back some – almost 20 years in fact – but it’s still a great Big Beat track, deserving to be played loud and fun. Those 19 years dissolved in seconds and I was dancing round like a loon to the track. Unfortunately, those 19 years didn’t dissolve from my body as fast as I’d like and I spent two days swallowing antiinflammatories to get over the pain, but it gives an idea – albeit a painful one – of how much fun these speakers are.
That fun definitely comes from the dynamic range, which is – for the money – unbelieveably good. Yes, you can be a little po-faced about how it’s mostly macrodynamics and how the microdynamic shading on the guitar strings is not as sublime as it should be, but I see your microdynamics and raise you Beyoncé singing ‘Sandcastles’ [Lemonade, Columbia… and that’s my street cred shot to bits]. If that doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up through the Silver 300, you are either very sad or very, very bald.
Of course, dynamic range is as nothing without two vital elements that the Monitor Audio Silver 300’s nail almost perfectly. They are fast, I mean really, really fast. Not quite Raidho fast or Eclipse fast, but they are a lot cheaper than both. Transients and plosives from speech have that sense of immediacy that is hard to find and reassuring to hear, making the speaker sound less like a loudspeaker and more like a direct-injected microphone into an electrostatic or planar magnetic driver. Normally, this comes with some overanalytical sense of ‘crispiness’ as if you are listening to people from inside their own mouths, but here it’s just fast without the spitchiness or pops.
Then next is timing. They ‘time’ well. This is the one aspect of placement that has a modicum of ‘fussy’; around half a metre from the rear wall and both the bass and the rhythmic qualities of the speaker work together beautifully, closer and the rhythm gets a bit overstated and much farther and the bass gets a touch recessed. In the sweet spot, however, and you are rewarded with a sound that’s as tight as a gnat’s chuff, and with the right kind of bass.
For all this fun, it could be easy to dismiss the Silver 300 as just hedonistic, with no ‘meat’ on the bones. In fact, this can be a subtle and refined performer as well. I played Daniel Barenboim playing Mozart Piano Concerto No 21 [Warner Masters] and the deftness of his playing and the sense of grace portrayed by the late 1960s English Chamber Orchestra was sublime and as elegant as you would ever need from a loudspeaker.
Most of all, this recording brings out the top-to-bottom coherence of the Silver 300. This is a loudspeaker that is competing with models that are peaky, brash, harsh, or excessively bass-heavy and the Monitor Audio Silver 300 is none of those things. It does have a character of its own, and that is one common to many Monitor Audio loudspeakers; it’s forward and presenting a sound that delivers the goods in a breezy manner that’s just the right side of light and bright, but this has been part of the Monitor Audio success for decades, and although those who think the musical world began and ended with the BBC LS3/5a might not like it, the rest of the world clearly does.
This is a high-end magazine, and I am used to handling loudspeakers with speaker terminals that cost less than the Monitor Audio Silver 300. And yet, this is every inch a high-end loudspeaker. It is more set to the entertainment-delivery end of the high-end world (rather than the overly cerebral), but the point of high-end shouldn’t just be about the price tag or how heavy the loudspeaker is. It should be about the sound, and it’s in the sound quality department where the Silver 300 scores so highly.
There are always thoughts running through the head of a reviewer in terms of placing a speaker in context. Is it good value for money? Would I sell a pair to my grandmother (difficult considering she’s been dead for several decades)? Could I live with them if the reviews dried up? The answer to all these is a highly recommended ‘yes’!
- Type: Three-way, rear ported floorstanding loudspeaker
- Drive unit complement: 1× 25mm gold dome C-CAM tweeter, 1× 100mm RST midrange, 2× 165mm RST bass driver
- Frequency response: 32Hz–35kHz
- Crossover frequencies: 570Hz, 3.5kHz
- Sensitivity: 90dB SPL (2.83V/1m)
- Nominal Impedance: 8Ω
- Minimum Impedance: 3.5Ω at 146Hz
- Maximum SPL: 116dBA (pair)
- Amplifier power handling: 80–200W
- Finish: White, Gloss Black, Black Oak, Natural Oak, Rosenut, Walnut
- Dimensions (H×W×D): 100 × 18.5 × 30cm
- Weight: 20kg each
- Price: £1,250 per pair
Manufactured by: Monitor Audio
Tel: +44(0)1268 740580
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