Monitor Audio Silver RX Series Speaker System

In Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, where I live, “naked” is all the rage. That’s not just because the Valley is the world capital of adult video production. It’s also because the SFV is home to several of America’s leading speaker reviewers. Don’t worry — as far as I know, the reviewers are keeping their clothes on. But many of the speakers they review are not.

Today’s trend in speaker design is to let it all hang out — to cast off the grilles and put the woofers, midranges, and tweeters on bold display. We’re even seeing this trend in in-wall speakers and soundbars.

The latest “naked” speakers to enter my home are Monitor Audio’s Silver RX series, which were clearly designed to be used without grilles. Many past Monitor Audio designs sported dolled-up drivers that look good exposed, but most of the speakers’ faces were marred with unsightly rubber grommets needed to hold the grilles in place. In the new Silver RX series speakers, Monitor Audio has replaced those grommets with magnets hidden under the wood veneer. Just touch the grille to the front and the concealed magnets almost magically grab hold. But like the robes that the Valley’s more risqué on-screen performers wear between takes, the grilles are there only as a courtesy — the idea is that you’ll use the speakers with no adornment at all.

There’s a side benefit to the naked design concept: Speakers usually sound better with their grilles off. That’s why some manufacturers of exotic high-end speakers don’t even offer grilles as an option.

Beyond the cosmetics, the Silver RX series follows the usual Monitor Audio script. To cut distortion, the company’s proprietary Ceramic-Coated Aluminum/Magnesium (C-CAM) material stiffens the diaphragms in its woofers, midranges, and tweeters. The speaker cabinets are compact, which you might expect given that they were designed in Britain by people who live in 500-square-foot row houses built in the 18th century.

The system that Monitor Audio’s North American distributor supplied me for review consists of two RX6 tower speakers, an RX Centre, two RXFX surround speakers, and an RXW-12 subwoofer. All except the subwoofer employ the same 1-inch tweeter and 6-inch midrange/woofer in various combinations. The RX6 adds a 6-inch woofer that lacks the polished phase plug at the center of the midwoofer’s cone. A switch lets you run the RXFX’s dual tweeters in bipolar (in-phase) mode for a more directional sound or in dipolar (reverse-phase) mode for a more diffused sound. The sub has a 12-inch C-CAM woofer and an internal amp rated at 500 watts continuous.

All models are available in four wood finishes, or in black or white lacquer for an additional cost. Sadly, the subwoofer and the surround speaker don’t conform to the “naked” theme — their front baffles bear the usual rubber grille grommets.

SETUP

The Silver FX series’ conservative design could be considered either well grounded in tradition or same-old, same-old. But there’s no denying that the straightforward design makes setup easy. Except for the necessity of attaching a plinth to the bottom of each RX6, you basically pull the speakers out of the boxes and plop them in place. Large thumbwheels make it convenient to adjust the leveling spikes on the bottom of the RX6 and the RXW-12.

Each RX6 is supplied with what the manual awkwardly refers to as a “port bung,” a foam cylinder that stuffs into the front bass port to reduce low-frequency response. The manual recommends using it in small rooms. In my large home theater, it wasn’t necessary.

The RXFX has a rear-mounted bipole/dipole switch, which is difficult to access when the speaker is hung on the wall, although most people set this switch once and never touch it again. After a bit of experimentation, I set it to bipole, but that’s just a personal preference.

The RXW-12 has a convenient top-mounted volume control, as well as pushbuttons that let you select two equalization curves. EQ 1 selects a flat frequency response, while EQ 2 adds a 4-dB boost at 21 Hz — a feature intended to give action movies a little more kick.

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