Monitor Audio Silver RX8 Speaker System Page 2

I generally avoid equalization in speaker reviews. However, in this case, I used the equalization from the Audyssey system in my Integra surround processor. It compensated for the RX system’s midbass emphasis in my room, with or without the sub. Monitor provides foam plugs to block the front ports, but in my room, that made matters a little worse. However, many surround processors offer crossover settings that you can adjust separately for each full-range channel, plus the subwoofer. I chose a 120-Hz high pass for the main front speakers and an 80-Hz low pass for the subwoofer. The midbass problem was still present, but its level was significantly reduced.

Despite the RX8s’ midbass peak in my room, I spent many enjoyable hours listening to two-channel music with them, without the subwoofer. The bass from these speakers, au naturel, was sometimes overly ripe. Organ could sound a little smeared, and bass transients were a bit soft. But the ear adjusts, and on most program sources, the RX8’s bottom end was impressively powerful and, dare I say, majestic. It may not extend super deep under measurement, and I definitely recommend a sub for full home theater chores. Still, with most bass-heavy music, the ear says that it goes further down, with more power, than any speaker of its size with two 6-inch bass drivers has a right to. As a bonus, the pressure from the front ports will ruffle your trousers.

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At the time of this writing, our audio tech editor hadn’t con- ducted the tests for the HT Labs Measures sidebar. That will tell you how the RX8’s bass measures when it’s free of room influences. I switched on the sub in my room, configured it as described above, and level-set it for the best balance with a wide range of bass-rich music. In this setup, the RX8 and RXW-12 really came into their own. Bass lines tightened up dra- matically. True awesomeness on sub-basement organ frequencies and maximum impact on the most powerful soundtracks is still the province of much larger super-subs. Still, the bass from the Monitor system was as impressive as any I’ve heard in my listening room.

There’s more to music playback than bass, and the RX8 is also a champ elsewhere. Depth is good if it’s present in the program source. Imaging is precise, including the locked-in center images that are a consistent characteristic of my room and setup. The RX8’s neutral midrange lacks any identifiable coloration, and its high end sparkles with detail. It’s a lively, arresting sound, with no false emphasis anywhere.

Close in, my on-axis in-room measurements indicate that the RX8’s response increases progressively at the top end, beginning at about 6 kHz. However, from my listening position, the response through the midrange and highs was admirably smooth to at least 10 kHz, with a gentle rolloff above that point. The speakers still sounded a little too enthusiastic in the treble with bright recordings at high (but not unreasonable) playback levels. The speaker isn’t a shrinking violet, and it won’t hide the flaws of substandard amps, sources, or program material. But with good recordings, the speaker’s clean, open sound knocked me out. Listening to Movies—and More

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Funny thing about symphonic music. Most speakers, including the RX8, don’t do as well with this type of source material in two-channel playback as they do with smaller instrumental ensembles. But with the Silver RX speakers and sub firing on all cylinders, orchestral soundtrack scores sounded spectacular. The system produces a big, generous soundstage on big, generous film scores, including Randy Newman’s Coplandesque music for The Natural, John Powell’s quirky work on Horton Hears a Who! (don’t miss the spectacular “We Are Here” demo-worthy sequence in chapter 28), and Howard Shore’s monumental effort for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Silver RX system also left little to be desired with smaller-scale multichannel concert video discs. Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis: Showcase is a beautifully recorded and varied recording of small-scale ensembles. From vocals to drum kit to piano and instrumental shadings of all varieties in between, the sound through the Monitor system was luscious.

If I have any issue with the system, it’s with the RX Centre. Like all horizontally arrayed woofer-tweeter-woofer centers, its off-axis performance can be uneven. True, the speaker was no worse than average in this respect, and the problem isn’t likely to bother most listeners. But I wish that Monitor—and more than a few other high-end speaker makers—would offer more three-way center designs. That is, center speakers with two woofers flanking a vertically oriented mid/tweeter array. A fully horizontal array of drivers is always a compromise.

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When I turned the RX Centre 90 degrees so that it sat vertically, the whole system snapped into better focus. In particular, dialogue reproduction was more consistent. But you’ll need to make certain that the fuller-range woofer in this 2.5-way design is nearest to the screen. (Hint: As you face the front of the speaker in its usual horizontal orienta- tion, it’s the driver on the left.) I know—a vertical arrangement is awkward. But it’s easier to arrange in today’s flat-panel world than it was in the era of RPTV behemoths.

Once I solved my center- channel concerns and optimized the subwoofer and main-channel response as I described earlier, the Silver RX setup really came together. No single piece of material I auditioned blew me away more than the opening 15 minutes of Star Trek (2009). Music, effects, dialogue, and bass all came together in a spectacular way. Even at the highest playback level I could stand, the sound was highly detailed and never grating.

Conclusions
I spent many long listening sessions with the Silver RX8 system, both with and without the RXW-12 sub. I always found it difficult to shut it off and drag myself back to the word processor—or off to bed. On more than one occasion, I went into the listening room intending to sample a little music and then move on to movies, but I ended up spending the entire session with music—either with the sub or without. When movie time came, I had the same can’t-drag-myself-away experience. I won’t say that the Silver RX system will kill sales of the glorious Monitor Audio Platinum setup I reviewed last year. But I can say that for less than half the price of a pair of PL300s alone, this Silver RX system is a very special value—and an incredible ride.

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