For the next experiment, I auditioned some lossless 5.1 concert music by dusting off an old Dolby TrueHD demo disc from CES. While listening to Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds sing "Crash Into Me," I noted that the Monitor speakers displayed strong imaging and, especially given their price point, were markedly transparent. The system had pretty remarkable coherence and, again, had no problem filling a large room. Moving on to The Police and "Message in a Bottle," it was the subwoofer's time to shine as it blended seamlessly with the other speakers while still providing deep, taut bass. Sting's vocals were rendered accurately, conveying all of his rasp and texture with aplomb. I also noted the wide and convincing soundstage. Crowd noise was rendered with realism, helping to create that elusive you-are-there experience. For music and film soundtracks with heavy surround encoding, the Silver 50s didn't draw attention to themselves but complemented the rest of the Monitor system brilliantly. The coherence of the system is no surprise, given the fact that all of the speakers possess the same tweeter and, in various sizes, the same woofer.
For the next round, I connected the Silver 100s directly to my Sony HAP-S1 music player for a bit of hi-res two-channel freshness, with just the Silver 100s. I began with an old standby, the DSD recording of The Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" from Time Out (Columbia/Legacy). Put simply, I was stunned by the midrange and mid-bass prowess of the Silver 100s. It's easy, with eyes closed, to mistake them for a pair of modestly sized floorstanders, in regards to the size of the soundstage they produce and their bass performance. Despite their size, the Silver 100s don't back down when the volume is cranked, and they image exceedingly well, especially with hi-res material. The highest praise one can bestow upon a speaker is to say that it's transparent, although finding one (without spending a fortune) that's also lively and engaging is difficult--as it's a delicate balance for a loudspeaker. So I'll make this pronouncement, knowing it's a bold statement: when properly system-matched and with proper placement and some well recorded music, these are some of the best-sounding stand-mount speakers I've heard at this price point and beyond. They absolutely smoked my admittedly smaller and much less expensive B&W 686 stand-mounts across the board--in their bass extension, midrange articulation, vocals, etc.
For the last session, I threw some vinyl at the Silver 100s in the form of The Black Key's "Fever" from their album Turn Blue (Nonesuch Records). It was here that I found the limit of the Silver 100s while getting nutty with the volume, as I pushed them to the point that the bass bottomed out and they lost coherence. But, at human volume levels, I was again impressed by their midrange resolution and overall low-end prowess. Again, their transparency was apparent, reflecting the general darker character of vinyl music.
No matter how solid and impressive the engineering may be, a pair of stand-mount speakers is never going to be the sonic equal to floorstanders. As such, for those people who have larger rooms and/or those wanting to glean every last detail from their source material, you might want to consider the Silver 200 floorstanding speakers. Obviously, this would also make an already versatile 5.1 system even more so, at least in terms of two-channel listening.
Competition and Comparison
For well under five grand, you're not going to find too many systems that stack up well against the Monitor Audio Silver Series. That said, I've had solid hands-on experience with systems from GoldenEar; if you mix and match properly, you could put together something quite nice for roughly the same amount of money. For instance, if you mated the Triton Five towers with the SuperCenter XL and a pair of AON 3s as surrounds, you'd be looking at a formidable system that could, conceivably, be used sans subwoofer for a total system cost of $3,800. If you wanted to bring a sub to the party, that would push your cost another $700, if you went with their ForceField 4. However, given the bass produced by the Tritons, I'd suggest trying them without a sub first.
If your budget can go north a bit, you might look at another manufacturer that's been hitting it out of the park for years: Dynaudio. The comparable line would be the Excite line, specifically the X18 stand-mounts ($1,800/pair) and X24 center channel ($849). You can explore the full Excite line here.
Conversely, if spending just over $4,000 for a 5.1 system is beyond your reach, you might take a look at the Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series. Start with the $650/pair 685 S2 stand-mounts and then system match accordingly within the series.
All I can say is wow. This Silver Series 5.1 system is well engineered, aesthetically pleasing, and well priced, based on its price-to-performance ratio. Beyond the system's sonic prowess, I'd say its second most righteous virtue would be its versatility--particularly with regard to how well the Silver 100s function as standalone speakers in a two-channel music setup. Pair them with well-recorded music, and you won't believe that you're listening to $1,000 stand-mount speakers and not $3,000 floorstanders--they're that good. I've been reading about Monitor Audio speakers for many moons, but to finally experience them in my listening room, with my reference equipment, was a true pleasure. I highly recommend this system to anyone with discerning taste and roughly four grand to spare.
• Visit the Monitor Audio website for more product information.
• Check out our Bookshelf Speaker Reviews page to read similar reviews.
• Monitor Audio Debuts the Studio Bookshelf Speaker at HomeTheaterReview.com.
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