The Silver series of Monitor Audio has long been a favorite with Brits who build a home cinema. Now that this award-winning series is being refreshed and the brand is in full swing in the Benelux, we are happy to test a Silver surround setup. The setup consists of the following loudspeakers;
- Monitor Audio Silver 50: € 399 euro / piece
- Monitor Audio Silver 200: € 475 euro / piece
- Monitor Audio Silver C150: € 575 euro / piece
- Monitor Audio W12: € 1,500 euro / piece
Monitor Audio Silver series
Locating the Silver series with Monitor Audio is not that difficult. You have Radius, who bet more on design, and then the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum series. The Bronze speakers are surprisingly good and inexpensive, the Silver speakers are slightly higher priced than Bronze and come with a more elegant finish and improved drivers. That recipe still applies to the new Silver 6G (which stands for ‘sixth generation’) that was presented at High End Munchen in May. However, the new speakers have only been available since the autumn. In this test we look at important members of the Silver series: the Silver 200, Silver 50, Silver C150 and Silver W12 sub.
In the latter, however, a side note: due to circumstances the W12 only reached us when the Silver speakers had already left. So we used a Bowers & Wilkins DB2D during our LFE channel tests on the Silver surround setup, we tested the Silver W12 separately and combined it with other speakers (coincidentally from … Bowers & Wilkins, oh, irony!). The Silver 100s were also visiting us, but we only tested these sturdy bookshelf speakers or tripod speakers in a stereo setup.
A big family
Monitor Audio aims with its loudspeaker families both on the stereo enthusiast and on lazy people who want to build a surround setup. That’s why the Silver family is also very large: eight loudspeakers and a subwoofer. So if you build a home cinema, you can choose from different models to build an ideal setup.
Specifically for home cinema purposes, one scion is very interesting. The Silver FX is a speaker designed to hang on the wall and let you switch between di- and bi-pole. Place two FXs behind your seat and the pair can set up a larger soundstage with a 5.1 setup. This is possible because this speaker has a special trapezoidal shape, with a central woofer and a tweeter on each slanted side. One of these tweeters is deliberately disconnected from phase, just to get a larger sound. In some rooms, the FX speaker is an interesting option, especially if you have difficulty placing the surround channels (which should basically stand next to your seat).
In addition to the Silver FX, the Silver family includes three floor uprights (200, 300 and 500), two bookshelf speakers (50 and 100) and two center speakers (C150 and C350). These eight have been completely renewed. Monitor Audio shows in the middle whether the Silver W12 is new, but this subwoofer has changed very little compared to the past.
A slim surround setup
If you look at the above list of Silver models, you will notice that we have brought in the most compact Silver speakers for this test. That was very conscious, because with the Silver 50, Silver 200 and Silver C150 you can build a surround setup that does not occupy much space. Handy, because you might smuggle a real 5.1 setup into the living room – without your partner starting to complain about it. The many finishes may also help. You can choose from no less than six finishes, where we are personally most impressed by Satin White, High Gloss Black and Natural Oak. The latter finish looks much better than the previous Silver generation and now fits perfectly with interiors that are strongly Scandinavian inspired. High Gloss Black is also very clever, but costs extra (80 to 220 euros more, depending on the Silver model).
In a short demo at High End Munich we already noticed that the Silver 200 came out of the corner despite its compact dimensions. That is punishment, because Monitor Audio has made this speaker 2 cm narrower than the Silver 6 that he follows. Two centimeters does not look like much, but it transforms the 2½-way speaker into a graceful floor stand of 88.5 x 16.5 x 26.9 cm. With these dimensions it will soon find a place in living rooms where gigantic speakers are less welcome. Reducing is dangerous: the smaller the box, the more difficult it becomes to combat resonance and produce a deeper layer.
The Silver 50 is a small 2-way loudspeaker of 27 x 16.5 x 26.9 cm. That is small enough to place on compact uprights next to your seat. As is often the case with small bookshelf speakers, it has a low sensitivity: 87 dB. That makes it the hardest speaker of the three to drive. The Silver 200 taps at 89 dB, the C150 at 90 dB. These are values in line with most competitors, not particularly low. But if you like to consume your films loudly, a powerful AV receiver will be a good idea.
The Silver C150 is also a 2½-way speaker with a closed case. This makes it possible to place this center speaker without too many problems against a wall or in a TV cabinet. Almost all Silver speakers allow bi-amping / wiring. But we think that specifically for these models that makes less sense.
The eye-catcher of the new Silver series is the new tweeter. As if a gold-colored cone was not yet sufficient to attract attention, Monitor Audio placed another grid that was perforated artistically. View the photos. Although it is only a detail, it is visually a direct hit.
Monitor Audio makes better and better speakers, but the Bronze and the former Silver could not be accused of being very exciting. Fortunately, the new Silvers have more character and identity, partly because of that tweeter grid. That’s how we like it. In some models, the metal plate of the tweeter also includes the midrange driver. Personally, we find that less beautiful than when only the tweeter is trapped in a circular grid. But that is purely an aesthetic consideration, you may have a different opinion about it.
In terms of drivers, the Silver family got totally new speakers, all based on C-CAM. Since this ceramic coating on an aluminum-magnesium cone has been the technological signboard of Monitor Audio for years, it does not really surprise us. The C-CAM technology is also used in the new Gold Dome tweeter, which according to the manufacturer has a lower distortion than its predecessor.
The drivers with the new Silvers are also hung differently. They now hang in a bracket that holds the driver in place with a single bolt. The interesting thing about this approach (compared to bolts at the front) is twofold: it is more aesthetic and decouples the driver better from the front of the housing.
The Silver 200 can be so slim because the housing is internally very effectively reinforced. This minimizes vibration problems that you expect with a small housing. Compared to the Silver 6, the front is also much better, because the bass port is moved from the front to the rear. It makes the speaker more sensitive to the distance to the wall behind it than its predecessor. Placing completely against a wall is never optimal, although Monitor Audio does provide plugs that you can put into the bassport to dampen the airflow.
Because the Silver 200’s are high but not so wide and deep, additional feet are needed. Monitor Audio delivers them in the box, along with a grille. Mount the feet but that increases the stability considerably. Especially in living rooms where children walk around it is a good idea. The legs also only slightly protrude, not like the big foot on the Gold 300 speakers that we tested last year.
Powerful sub with more
The Silver W12 that Monitor Audio pushes forward as the subwoofer for the Silver family is of a different caliber than the Silver speakers we see here. Price-wise, especially because with a cost of around 1,600 euros this sub with its single 12-inch woofer with long stroke is quite premium – and not exactly compact. On the other hand, we are convinced that the subwoofer is truly a crucial part of a surround setup. More power than strictly necessary, we do not mind. As long as the precision and speed is there.
The Silver W12 is powered by a 500-watt Hypex amplifier. That already promises a lot of air displacement. Even more interesting is that Monitor Audio built in a DSP shutter with room correction. After the Bowers & Wilkins DB2D and ELAC Sub 2070 – which enable room measurements via an app on your phone – the measurement procedure of the W12 is somewhat old-fashioned. Unfair, because you measure with a supplied microphone, so the built-in Automatic Position Correction function can identify so-called room modes. These are the problem frequencies that resonate due to the shape and size of the room. You will notice this by low sounds that suddenly sound very powerful, a so-called ‘booming’ or woolly bass. Soon we will go deeper into subwoofers and the accompanying acoustic problems in a background piece.
The Silver W12 has three separate sound modes: cinema, music and impact. You switch between the three by pressing a button. Unfortunately there is no way to do this via a remote control. You do the measurement yourself once when setting up the subwoofer (or if you move it). Insert the supplied microphone at the listening position, after which the sub performs a frequency sweep. You then repeat this at a position left and right. Because only low frequencies are measured here that are not as directional as higher, absolute accuracy, such as a full room measurement, is not really necessary. In our test, the W12 did something about the room problems and also showed a particularly powerful sub. We were more impressed with the Bowers & Wilkins DB2S with its double woofer and app control – but it also costs more than twice as much …
How does the Monitor Audio Silver series sound?
The main receiver in our test was the Onkyo TX-RZ1100, tested here recently. In addition, we have listened to the Silvers extensively with the Arcam AVR550, in the context of testing the Dirac measuring system.and the Arcam receiver itself. As always, we first calibrate the speakers with the built-in measuring system and check / fine-tune with some familiar test discs from Dolby and DTS. At that moment we try to determine whether the speaker models are tuned to one another in terms of tuning. This is especially important at the front, so that sound effects that move over the left-center-right speakers do not differ from tonality. That would reduce the realism content and make the ‘movement’ of the effect (for example a car driving across the screen) less fluid. Very soon we notice that the Silver 200 and C150 are perfectly matched. Place this three as it should and you will be served a very coherent sound field. We are now talking about performance with the more accessible Onkyo receiver, with the Arcam AVR550 it sounds better but also different. The Dirac system corrects much more room effects, but also corrects the speakers themselves.
Our stereo test of the Silver 200 concluded that these slim speakers sounded great for their price and size. When listening to music, they have a relatively good low reproduction that goes nicely into a rich middle. They perform well. Nevertheless, in a surround setup you do need a good subwoofer, because in a LFE channel with a movie there is a lot more energy than with music. Although it depends on the film and on the music, of course.
When we watched the new Ultra HD Blu-ray version of ‘Blade Runner’ we were extremely impressed with the combination Arcam-Monitor Audio Silver. You can put that on this high-end receiver of 3,500 euros, perhaps rightly so. But also with the Onkyo we get something very nice to hear. There are a lot of scenes in which Harrison Ford flies over LA in his futuristic car, accompanied by all sorts of urban sounds (such as fire thrusts, because in the city of the future apparently flare …) and the spectacular music of Vangelis. The Monitor Audio Silver’s put us in the middle of the scene, which is possible because they sound very homogeneous. A very good result, especially because we only listen to 5.1 here, and still experience a comprehensive sound field. In some other test films, such as ‘Fast & Furious 8’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell’, we are again convinced that for higher volumes the sub in this combination is just a bit more crucial.
We have spoken very little about the Silver 50s so far, which is probably the fate of the back channels. After all, you can hardly test rears with other content than surround sound, where you can also judge the front speakers with music. The size of the Silver 50 is in any case very nice. They are very small, so you can easily place them in the room. This can be done at stands, but even on a bookshelf or windowsill. This 2-way speaker does have a bassport at the back. To be honest, that does not matter very much anyway, but when you are placed against a wall you can get a theoretical booming. If that is the case, then you can apply the included bass plugs. The same is true for the Silver 200’s, if they were too woolly in the low. Experimenting is the message here.
Apart from this, we occasionally found the Silver 50 the weakest link in our surround story. They do not perform badly and there is a lot to say for the small size, but something bigger would produce a bigger sound, we suspect. However, the Silver 100s are oversized speakers and therefore not a real alternative.
The Silver series was already good, with the new update the Silver 6G scores even higher. Monitor Audio delivers very good all-rounders that do not emphasize very much, but are very homogeneous. That is a plus when building a home cinema. We are impressed by the performance of the compact Silver models that we test here. The Silver 200, C150 and Silver 50 make it possible to build a beautiful surround setup that delivers convincing performance. And that with speakers that are not too big. We have also recently heard the Silver 500, which offers a fuller sound but is much larger. Also in terms of music, the Silver 200 scores well, although we continue to find Monitor Audio’s Gold series really superior.