Monitor Audio Silver 10 Speaker System Page 2

The Silver 10s do appear to be balanced a bit on the bright side, and they can be unforgiving on bright source material played back at high levels. But on well-recorded material (both music and movies—I never felt the need for the Integra’s THX Re-Eq on the latter), their sound was open and detailed, with an appealingly real sparkle and liveliness. At times, I sensed a little less air at the very top than I prefer, but then other music would come along to make me question that observation.

The all-important midrange was also a treat. There was no obvious coloration. Closely miked vocals sounded as immediate as they should; more distantly recorded performers were laid-back where they belong. Image depth (if present in the recording) was good, and lateral imaging precise. The latter was no surprise. Most speakers in my room, including the Silver 10s, produce a center image so convincing that you’d swear the center speaker is working when it isn’t.

At one point in the most challenging bass on “Hell’s Bells” from The Apocalypse Now Sessions, even with the 80-Hz high-pass filter engaged, I heard a loud buzz from a rear port in one of the Silver 10s. I suspected a misplaced wire striking the rear of a woofer cone. Monitor sent us a second pair of speakers. I unpacked one of the cabinets, and both it and the other sample of the first pair worked fine on the same cut at the same volume. Because the first pair was by now fully broken in, however, and since the buzzing was limited to this single piece of music and heard on nothing else, I elected to continue to use the first pair for the review.

The W-12 is clearly an audiophile-quality subwoofer, and more than satisfying on music. But movies are more demanding. In the latter situation, the single W-12 emitted audible signs of driver distress in either Music or Movie mode long before I reached my preferred movie playback levels. These levels were hardly tame, but rarely higher than 5 dB below reference—much lower than the earplug-demanding levels heard in my local IMAX theater.

Because of this, I ultimately disconnected the W-12 and chose to use my reference subwoofer, the larger Hsu VTF-15H, for the remainder of the review. To be fair to the W-12, however, when Dean Hardscrabble (voiced by Helen Mirren) makes her first appearance in Monsters University, there’s a bass flourish that flustered even the Hsu—at 10 dB below reference!

As with all other two-way, woofer-tweeter-woofer, horizontally configured center speakers, the Silver Centre was compromised for off-axis listening. When I measured it in the customary horizontal configuration, there was a dip of approximately 7 dB at just over 2 kHz—the woofers-to-tweeter crossover region—as I moved from the center to roughly 20 degrees to the side. It was also clearly audible. The solution: I turned the Silver Centre so it sat vertically on my center stand. This required that I raise my projection screen by about a foot (higher than I like) but produced a much more uniform sonic balance across the front from left to right. Another option I tried briefly was using one of the two-way Silver 2s, positioned upright, as a center. This worked better than the horizontal Silver Centre but not quite as well as the latter turned vertical. In either arrangement, I reduced the Integra’s center-channel bass control by a few steps; my low stand often results in slightly bloated male dialogue on many center speakers, including but not limited to the Silver.

With the vertical Silver Centre and the larger Hsu subwoofer, the Silver system came alive on movies. One of my favorite Blu-rays of the past year, for both its picture and its soundtrack, is Oblivion. The film opens with a laid-back, expository narration, but when the title comes up, the score virtually explodes. In a later scene where the crash survivor reveals her story to Jack (Tom Cruise), the soft, subtle sound mix rolls over you. And the final 20 minutes, beginning in chapter 17 just after the attack on the underground hideaway, is a master class in how to build a great soundtrack, from the subtlest sounds to thrilling but not ear-splitting crescendos of music and effects. In conveying the movie’s extreme dynamics, natural dialogue, precise scene-to-scene ambience, and (most notably) astonishing score, the Silvers left nothing on the table. Honestly, I couldn’t have wished for more from any system.

Monsters University isn’t among Pixar’s better movies, but like many other animated films, it has a superb soundtrack. The film’s music grabs you first on the Silvers, ranging from a jazz-flavored underscore to rousing marching-band themes as our heroes’ “fraternity” gets down to business. And in the scene where the student body assembles and sings the MU alma mater, the sound was so enveloping that it nearly took me out of the room and into the school’s open-air arena. Then there’s the rousing, action-filled climax, which the Silvers handled without breaking a sweat.

Even on quieter films, the Silvers left a positive vibe. Anonymous, a vastly underrated movie from 2011, consists mainly of clean dialogue punctuated by a sweet score that sneaks up on you. On the Silvers, it reminded me once again that a good surround system isn’t just for action-drenched potboilers from Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich. Of course, the fact that Anonymous was directed by Emmerich himself may scramble your synapses a bit—as it did mine!

I can’t recommend using just one Silver W-12 subwoofer unless your room is much smaller than mine, or your taste in movies is relatively subdued. Perhaps multiples might work. Alternatively, Monitor does make larger (though more expensive) subs.

I also wish that the company had included a three-way center speaker in the Silver line, as they do for their Gold and Platinum series. If they had, I might now be pondering buying the review system, sans sub, as my new, affordable reference.

My recommendation may be tempered by the above, but not everyone will share these reservations. If the Silvers meet your own needs and preferences, they definitely belong on your must-audition list. You just might be as immensely impressed by what Monitor Audio has accomplished here as I was.

Monitor Audio
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Johan81's picture

Why didn't you at least compared the bi-/dipole speakers in this series? I think they are far better for movie experiences than the direct radiators. I have the RXFX from the former edition of the silvers and it has been a welcome change to my direct radiating speakers.