Andrew Robinson began his career as an art director in entertainment advertising in 2003, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. In 2006, he became a creative director at Crew Creative Advertising, and oversaw the agency's Television Division, where he worked for clients such as TNT, TBS, History, FX, and Bravo to name a few. He now has one of the most popular AV-related channels on YouTube.
The English have a certain way of doing things. And like most things English, their loudspeakers have a certain style or way about them. For some, it's not their cup of tea, and for others it is the epitome of perfection, not to mention sophistication. I fall (somewhat) into the latter camp, as I've always appreciated and found myself drawn to that "British" sound. Despite my love for many British-born audio companies, though, I've never once owned or personally spent time with the brand responsible for the speakers featured in this review, Monitor Audio.
Monitor Audio has been a staple in the audiophile and home theater loudspeaker space for over 40 years. I know this because I, like you, have Google and, well, it told me. The Monitor Audio Silver 300 reviewed here are relatively new as far as loudspeakers go, bowing sometime in 2017, just in time to garner a few best-of awards. The Silver 300 came to my attention shortly after CEDIA 2018, however, when Home Theater Review owner and publisher, Jerry Del Colliano, texted me a picture of the 300s in white with the simple request: "interested?"
My first impression was that the Silver 300s looked gorgeous, though I anticipated those good looks to come at a price. I replied, "maybe...how much?"
"Under two grand a pair!" he replied.
I was beyond intrigued, since I was bracing myself for a price tag of about $5,000/pair given how the Silver 300s appeared in Jerry's less than fantastic smartphone pic. A month or so went by before a pair of Silver 300s in Satin White arrived at my door, along with a matching center and subwoofer.
Before I jump too far ahead and start talking about my specific setup of the Silver 300 speakers, let me go over some of the nitty gritty. The Silver 300 retails for $999.99 each, or $1,999.98 a pair. The speaker comes in a variety of finishes, including black oak, walnut, rosenut, natural oak, piano gloss black, and satin white. Truth is, the speaker looks utterly fantastic in any of its finishes, but I asked for satin white because it best suited my decor.
The Silver 300 is a moderately large floorstanding loudspeaker that isn't too wide, measuring nearly 41 inches tall by roughly seven inches across and 14 or so inches deep. If you add its included outrigger feet into the equation (you should) then the total width of the Silver 300's footprint is nearly 10 inches. The speakers aren't too heavy, but heavy enough to not feel cheap at 44 pounds apiece.
Speaking of cheap, the Silver 300 speakers are designed by Monitor Audio in England, however they're manufactured in China, though you'd never (really) know it, as they are among the most beautiful and masterfully crafted cabinets I've ever seen come out of China.
What makes the Silver 300 so striking is its minimal or modern aesthetic, further enhanced by the absence of seams and/or hardware. Truly, all of the edges, top to bottom, front to back, and side to side are radiused with nary a visible seam in the finish. Moreover, when you eye the speaker's four drivers, no hardware is visible, making one wonder just how are they're affixed, since the Silver 300 doesn't use metal rings or decorative trim around its woofers to hide such hardware. Instead, you're treated to two six-inch, flush mount bass drivers accented by a single, four-inch midrange driver that's capped off by a one-inch gold dome tweeter. Admittedly the mid-range driver and gold dome tweeter are housed in a decorative aluminum surround--though it too lacks any visible hardware.
While the Silver 300 may have four drivers, it is a three-way design, with a reported frequency response of 32Hz to 35kHz and a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms, with a rated sensitivity of 90dB. These figures make the Silver 300 pretty much good to go with a wide variety of components, including most every modest to high-end AV receiver on the market today. Monitor Audio states that the Silver 300 will perform its best powered by an amplifier (or receiver) with 80 to 200 Watts on tap. It's worth noting, though, that the Silver 300's minimum impedance of a little under 4 Ohms may give some lesser or less expensive AV receivers a work out under stressful or spirited listening (more on this in a moment).
The Silver 300 comes with magnetic grills as standard and four user-attachable outrigger feet that feature flat floor pads or spikes to better ground the speaker itself. Around back, you'll find two smaller ports, making the Silver 300 a bass reflex cabinet design. It is also bi-wireable, as it features two pairs of five-way binding posts that can accept all types of speaker wire from bare to spade adapted.
Like I said earlier, the Silver 300s arrived shortly after CEDIA, along with a matching center, the Silver C350 ($874.99), and a Silver W-12 subwoofer ($1,649.99), all in Monitor Audio's striking Satin White finish. Unboxing the Silver 300s was easy enough, as the best way to tackle said undertaking was printed clearly right on the top of the box. The Silver 300s were neatly and competently packaged, which is to say they arrived safe and damage-free, two things that don't always go together when talking about loudspeakers making the trek from China. The only real tedious part to the Silver 300s' installation was affixing the included outrigger feet, of which there are four per speaker, each requiring two different types of screws (oh, China).
Once I had the feet installed (all eight of 'em), I placed a Silver 300 on either side of my low-slung entertainment center, which put the speakers roughly seven feet apart (tweeter to tweeter) with about 18 or so inches between the back of the speakers themselves and my front wall. I placed the C350 atop my entertainment center, directly below my reference OLED UltraHD display, the LG C8. As for the W-12 subwoofer, I integrated that a week or so later, since I really wanted to get a feel for how the Silver 300s performed on their own as a largely stereo pair. Eventually, the subwoofer would find its home to the right of the right speaker along my front wall.
The speakers were driven by a host of electronics, ranging from tubes to solid state, but the bulk of the listening was done via my Marantz NR1509 AV receiver , with the left and right main speakers being powered (via the Marantz's stereo preamp outputs) by a Crown XLS 1002 DriveCore 2 Series amplifier, which is good for 215 Watts per channel at 8 Ohms and 350 Watts at 4. The center channel was powered by my Marantz receiver, and I used the receiver's internal setup menus, specifically the speaker level adjustments, to properly balance their levels so that the front three speakers matched in terms of SPL regardless of what was being used to drive them. Source components included my DuneHD Blu-ray player/media streamer, a Roku Ultra, and a U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus turntable in conjunction with a Kaskode One phono preamplifier from Austin-based Band-width Audio (review pending). I subbed in Band-width Audio's 288 Monaural tube amplifiers for some of my listening tests, which I'll call out later in this review.
Everything was wired using interconnects and whatnot from Monoprice.com, and the speaker cables were a mashup of some old The Wave speaker cables from Transparent that I still have banging around in my system. While I don't believe in break-in or any of that nonsense, I didn't get a chance to sit down and critically listen to the new Silver 300 speakers for a few days due to scheduling conflicts.
A loudspeaker, a good loudspeaker, should replicate the sound being fed it without editorializing the artists' intent. That's pretty much an audiophile truism How does one know the artists' true intent, though? We don't, unless of course you have the artist or artists with you at the time of your listening and can turn to them and say, "is this what you had in mind?" Suffice to say, that likely doesn't happen much, and as a result, speakers are "voiced" either to be neutral on paper (e.g. Harman) or are tuned to their creator's liking (e.g. Wilson... RIP Dave). There is no denying that there is such a thing as a European, and more specifically British, sound. What that sound is, exactly, can be described in myriad of ways. To me, British-born loudspeakers tend to be very nuanced, textural, and natural in their midrange and upper frequencies, and rather subdued or dare I say polite in the bass and dynamics department. I also find British-engineered loudspeakers on the whole to be a little more demanding of your associated equipment, not to mention requiring a bit more power in order to come to life. I like the British sound, and in all my years in this hobby have called more European or British manufactured speakers my reference than any other. So, where does the Monitor Audio Silver 300 fit in this equation?
Beginning with Nirvana's Unplugged (Geffen) on 180-gram vinyl, the Silver 300, when mated with a pair of 60-Watt monaural tube amps, sounded positively smooth. The kind of smooth that one might come to crave after a long hard day at the office. The speakers themselves were audibly transparent, in that when I gazed directly at them it was virtually impossible for my brain to discern that sound was actually coming directly out of them. The center image was among the best I've heard, locking firmly in space with nearly zero wiggle room as I moved my head side-to-side. The dispersion, while good, didn't seem to extend much beyond the speakers' outermost edges, giving the Silver 300 a soundstage that, while well nuanced, balanced and intricately spaced, seemed on the smaller side when compared to other speakers I've enjoyed via this album. Still, vocals were natural in their timbre, and the Silver 300's upper mid-range and tweeter are inflection kings, rendering every breath and subtle harmony possessed within the recording. It was all very... nice. Pleasant, even.
Realizing I threw the Silver 300 a bit of underhanded pitch to kick things off, I moved on to Panic! At The Disco's hugely popular album, Death Of A Bachelor (Urielectric Studios), again on vinyl. With the volume turned up a bit, the 300s retained their natural, composed demeanor, only this time added a bit of dynamic punch to the mix. The overall sound wasn't laid back or passive, but it was far from aggressive. Dynamics scaled appropriately with every increase in volume, resulting in a sound that simply grew louder rather than one that grew shouty.
Whether played at low volumes or high, the signature sound of the Silver 300 is retained, which is good. The Silver 300's center image and vocal prowess were again utterly fantastic, though like my experience with Nirvana's Unplugged, the soundstage still didn't fully break free of the speakers' outer edges. What existed between the speakers was pure, unadulterated magic, though. The front to back definition within the 300's soundstage was well defined, with terrific scale and dimension, giving the speaker, on the whole, a presentation that I wouldn't classify as upfront, but somewhere just a touch dark of neutral. The bass was one area where, via a pair of 60-Watt tube amps, things felt a little light in the impact department. Sure, it plunged deep enough for this reviewer's tastes, but it lacked a bit of snap--a snap I knew had to be there, somewhere.
I swapped out the tubes for some raw Class D power courtesy of Crown Audio, and whoa baby. With a solid 200-plus Watts on tap, the Silver 300s' bass shaped up considerably, extending easily an extra half-octave lower, while adding all-new levels of grunt and grip to the equation. Likewise, the speaker's dynamics also improved, though at no time did the house sound of the 300 dramatically change. No, with more power came slightly more focus and immediacy throughout, though never at the expense of composure. That's the thing: no matter what I threw at the Silver 300s, they never became fatiguing or harsh. They never fell apart, and when they did reach their limits, they gently rolled off or stepped back from the edge rather than hurl themselves off it.
I played music of every ilk through the Silver 300s, on vinyl, MP3s, uncompressed WAV files, and everything in between. The Silver 300, no matter what the source, always sounded pleasant and true to genre, whether that genre was hard rock, pop, or smooth jazz.
Time and time again the Silver 300 proved to be a speaker that was well versed and well-mannered. The only caveat, really, is that for its sound to scale while retaining all of its textural and dynamic capability, one should really consider driving the Silver 300 with a dedicated amp or receiver with a solid 100 Watts of power on tap. Sure, they sounded smooth as silk through those tubes, but I did prefer their sound when given a bit of power to feast on.
Moving on to movies, I cued up a favorite demo sequence of mine, the "Thunderstruck" sequence from the truly campy (and horrible) action flick, Battleship (Universal Pictures). With the Silver 300's matching center and subwoofer now in place, I set the volume to stun, and holy shit! Grinning like an idiot, I jotted down these exact words: BIG, BOLD, COMPOSED. That pretty much sums it up. The Silver 300, as a home theater speaker, proved to be as adept at movies as I found them to be with music. Take 'em to eleven and they don't disappoint nor fall to pieces. What I did find surprising was that via the film's DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and in the absence of surround channels, the soundstage was HUGE, obliterating the physical boundaries of my room. The Silver 300's sudden discovery of a vast lateral soundstage was something I hadn't experienced in any of my two-channel tests.
Dialogue through the C350 center speaker was focused and natural in its timbre. I felt like there was a bit more weight and maybe a touch more scale to the characters' vocals through the Silver 300s themselves (when listening with the center turned off), but that is to be expected, for we are talking about quite a difference in cabinet volume and construction between the 300 towers and the C350. Still, within the C350's wheelhouse, it was fantastic, and editorialized not in the slightest. The last thing I will say about the C350 is this: it is the ideal center to mate with the Silver 300s, though it is on the larger side, so those who like to shoehorn their center speakers into cabinets, consider yourself warned.
The W-12 subwoofer was equally impressive and up to the standard set by the Silver 300. It's a trick piece of kit in all honesty, one that I think may warrant its own full review, what with all its automated room EQ features and whatnot. In small- to medium-sized rooms I don't think a multi-channel setup consisting of a pair of Silver 300s, a C350 and perhaps Silver FX speakers for surrounds would be in need of a sub as capable (or as expensive) as the W-12, but for those who want the very best bass to accompany said setup, except no substitute. Because when it comes to the W-12... damn. Moreover, taking a bit off the Silver 300's plate in terms of bass (crossing the system over at the customary 80Hz), seemed to tighten everything up that much more, and extract that last ounce or so of punch throughout that, with movies, goes a long way in bridging the gap between home and a commercial cinema.
I ended my evaluation of the Silver 300 with the musical Burlesque (Screen Gems) starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. During the performance sequence featuring the original song "Express," the Silver 300s were an absolute delight. The mix during this particular sequence has a few moments where some judicious compression was used, which through lesser or less forgiving loudspeakers can be a bit jarring and abrasive. Not the case with the 300s. While the crunchiness in the high frequencies was still present through the Silver 300, it wasn't as offensive as say through my Tekton Lore loudspeakers, which can be a bit brutal to lesser recordings.
Like with music, the Silver 300s allow you to enjoy your favorite films the way you want to, even if that means that some of them are less than Oscar-worthy. I was also, again, impressed with the sheer scale the Silver 300 multi-channel system was able to convey given their modest size. While not small, the 300 Series of loudspeakers are far from the largest in their class. Dialogue and vocals in general are the Silver 300's bread and butter, which is to say that its midrange is infectious. Not to be outdone, the gold dome tweeter is equally sweet, though like Bowers & Wilkins tweeters of memory, it does trade a bit of top-end air and extension for not being fatiguing at its limits, which I prefer.
All-in-all, the Silver 300 is just an enjoyable loudspeaker, one that doesn't seek to wow you with what it can do, but rather one that begs you to enjoy it however you see fit.
As good and gorgeous as I believe the Silver 300 to be, it's not a perfect speaker. For starters, fans of wide, expansive, boundary-defying soundstages will likely be a little let down by the Silver 300. Not that its soundstage is poor or lacking in the definition department, just that its lateral dispersion isn't as wide as some with certain source material, which is in keeping with my findings stemming from other British-born loudspeakers. I for one prefer a soundstage that is accurate and well-delineated, even if it does fall (largely) within the confines of speakers' physical boundaries, over that of a speaker that simply "throws" sound about your room all willy-nilly like.
The Silver 300 is a loudspeaker that sounds good on a wide variety of equipment, so one should not fear if they're setup is high-end enough to warrant a speaker such as this. But if you're an enthusiast currently rocking a modest AV receiver or the like, and were to buy a pair of Silver 300 loudspeakers, know that as you grow your system the 300s will reward you--making them a good investment long term.
The downside to this is, you'll likely wonder from the start what you're missing in terms of their performance, as they do sound their best with a solid 100 plus Watts being fed to them (even better if you can up it to 200 Watts). To extract the absolute most from the Silver 300 speaker, especially in terms of bass control and response, you're going to want to bring the juice. While I absolutely adored the midrange and high frequency performance of the Silver 300s via 60 Watts of tube power, it wasn't until I used my Crown XLS DriveCore 2 amps that they fully blossomed down low. Thankfully, an XLS DriveCore amplifier isn't that expensive, and while there are more audiophile approved options out there (some of which do sound better), it is possible to get gobs of power to the Silver 300s for pennies on the dollar.
For absolute full-range playback in large rooms, the Silver 300 loudspeaker deserves to be mated to a qualified subwoofer. The matching subwoofer, the W-12, is utterly brilliant and every bit as gorgeous as the rest of the line, but it costs nearly as much as a pair of 300s themselves, which does add to the overall cost of ownership if you're a bit of bass head like me.
Comparison and Competition
It's natural to compare the Silver 300 to the usual suspects, such as Bowers & Wilkins, Paradigm, and possibly even Focal, but I didn't have any of those three options on hand during my time with the 300, so I won't. Suffice to say that in my time spent reviewing loudspeakers, the Silver 300s likely have more in common with Bowers & Wilkins' or even Focal's house sound compared to Paradigm, which is going to seem decidedly more forward by comparison.
I compared the Silver 300 against an all-American brand, Tekton Design, and their newly released Lore Be. The Lore Be as of this writing does not yet have an official retail price, though I suspect it will hover somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 for a pair. What it does have is a decidedly different sonic signature, one that comes off as more coherent or like a single driver loudspeaker than a three-way design like the Silver 300. That isn't to say the 300 isn't coherent, it's just that you don't really begin to appreciate coherence until you start taking away drivers and crossovers, which is what the Lore Be does. That being said, I'm not certain if I prefer one over the other, and long term I think the 300 would be more suitable for a wider range of source materials (and decors) when compared to the Lore Be.
Yes, the Lore Be is a bit more dynamic and easier to drive, but damn is it ruthless to your signal chain, demanding you possess the very best in order not to hear the weak links in one's setup. It is a brutally honest loudspeaker, whereas the 300 is neutral but not to a fault, as it can still allow you to enjoy music played back via Spotify or Google Music, whereas the Lore Be, not so much--although your mileage may vary.
On the other hand, the Silver 300 had a lot more in common with my Davone Studio loudspeakers in terms of style and sound. This is high praise, since the Davone Studios aren't cheap, nor are they easy to drive. When comparing the two, the Silver 300 simply sounded like larger Studios, which I loved. The Davones do have a slightly better soundstage, though they don't plunge quite as deep or with the same authority as the 300. Needless to say, any time you can honestly compare a sub $2,000 loudspeaker to one costing nearly twice as much (not including the cost of stands) and call it a toss-up is a win in my book.
At right at two grand per pair, the Monitor Audio Silver 300 floorstanding loudspeakers are a great budget to mid-level loudspeaker that I argue could be an enthusiast's entry point and final destination when shopping for a loudspeaker. The Silver 300 does nothing egregiously wrong, while managing to be rather pleasant top to bottom no matter what music or movies you fancy. They are, in my humble opinion, gorgeous--especially in satin white--and are among the best-constructed loudspeakers I've ever seen to come out of China. No doubt, their British pedigree has a lot to do with the attention to detail, which is more than apparent when looking at them from your favorite chair. Their sound may be decidedly British, as well, but I found it to be unique to a degree when compared to memories of Bowers & Wilkins past, which is a good thing. No, it's a great thing. What the Silver 300 is, is a terrifically well-constructed and composed speaker that doesn't cost a king's ransom and yet can serve as the centerpiece in any level of setup, be it entry or high-end. They are good enough to be enjoyed as the rest of your system evolves, and their elegant lines and sublime construction give them a timeless appearance.
• Visit the Monitor Audio website for more product information.
• Check out our Floorstanding Speaker Reviews page to read similar reviews.
• Monitor Audio Silver 100 Speaker System Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.
I am very fortunate at present, I have a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 300, which I have owned for a while, also a pair of Q Acoustics Concept 500's. The Q Acoustics are bigger and retail at over 3x the cost of the Silver 300's. Yesterday I did a comparison test, listening to many of my favorite songs via Quobuz via a Cambridge Audio CXN V2 streamer. My amplifier is a PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium with upgraded tubes. Unbelievably, the Silver 300's are VERY close to the Q Acoustic's, and I prefer the treble on the Silver 300's, which seems a little more rounded off. I found on some tracks the treble on the Concept 500's could be just a little bit too harsh, too 'zingy'.I have received some new tubes for my amp today, some Tung-Sol KT120's, so I plan to revisit my test and see if the new tubes change my opinion. Overall, the Concept 500's are exceptional speakers, and every reviewer, even AR, rave about them. That the Silver 300 can stand up against a speaker costing 3x more, and one that is often compared to speakers costing twice as much, is sensational.
Oh c'mon...woofer surrounds and even higher frequency drivers' materials stretch into a longstanding plateau of "normalcy" after a break-in period. That you needed to push a 90dB sensitivity raw speaker with extra wattage (or amperage) kinda hints that the woofers weren't sufficiently softened up. That burn-in periods are a marketing ploy isn't borne out by reality.
Indeed. However, as a science geek, I know just enough to believe that the materials used in our home a/v gear changes audibly over time with heat, pressure, and other cycles. I'm one of those silly OCD folks: many speakers over many years = not psychosomatic. I am VERY skeptical EVERYTHING. it takes a lot of proof, evidence, data to convince me of things, so no cable risers, brass discs, nor shamanistic rituals before engaging the Sweet Spot . . . YET, you have planted a seed! DARN YOU!!! I must now convince my wife that have to purchase more gear to prove to you that I am right. [Thanks ;-) ]
Speaker designers and builders can attest that driver parameters are measurably different after some initial workout. The soft parts' mechanical properties change with flexure, not unlike musical instruments. 24-72 hours at double digit percentages of max displacement/power is generally considered adequate, but most audiophiles listen far below that and most co-habitants would consider that tortuous levels. Wet capacitors also change parameters with applied voltage; Aluminum caps in particular are always slowly breaking down or forming. Dielectrics in general, including FR4 circuit boards, also exhibit evolving non-linear dissipation factor and dielectric absorbtion with time constants from milliseconds to hours. That said, ears do account for >90% of claimed burn-in. Human cognition is highly biased in favor of new information, so every little distortion, frequency bobble and phase shift of a new system will result in "Something we never heard before in the recording", but this does not prove an improvement, just a shift in masking such that your neurons take time to re-program.
How do you know it wasn't you who was just "breaking in" to the speaker's sound. That is to say, you didn't adjust to it? When does a speaker know to stop "breaking in?" When does anything? If anything, a speaker is in a perpetual state of breaking...down. It's just aging and wearing out from the moment you press play that first time, so how does it or when does it know to stop doing that and be perfect? I'm not trying to pick a fight, but these are the questions I ask to enthusiasts and manufacturers when they say their speaker or product requires hours if not weeks of "break-in".
my 2-cents: break in is real. i HAVE experienced it.
Very well said! I've always insisted that huge burn-in times are just to get the purchaser past the return period, because the companies know that it takes some time for the brain to acclimate to the new sound signature. Otherwise there would be too many premature returns.