We all like pleasant surprises – to have not just expectations met but to find that we’ve been treated to something really special. For my first listen to the new Sliver 6G series, I’ve focused on a model in the middle that just seems to make the most sense – the floor standing Silver 300 – “these speakers are a real breakthrough.” hey are representative of every bit of technology in the range and only give away size to the next model up. Read our full review here.
All about the new Monitor Audio Silver 6G 300 series loudspeakers at Totally Wired.
We all like pleasant surprises – to have not just expectations met but to find that we’ve been treated to something really special. And it is the nature of such events that you often don’t see them coming.
While we have seen quite a radical shift in how we listen to music, especially with digital sources, the basics of loudspeaker design have appeared (from my viewpoint) to have moved at a glacial pace and if anything gone backwards with the popularity of smaller bluetooth speaker systems. This isn’t to say that they don’t do a remarkable job given the low cost, but there is a clear difference between sounding less compromised than expected and actually being stop-you-in-your-tracks brilliant.
The British loudspeaker designing and building company Monitor Audio may have been around for the best part of 4 decades, yet in the last few years I’ve watched (and heard) them reinvent themselves to become one of the most progressive and focused providers. Step by step, they have improved and broadened their ranges. Which in itself is a necessity to survive. But above this, they have continually ramped up the rate of improvement – and this is the trick when it comes building something that you are really going to want to own – and also can afford.
The Silver series models are very much at the heart of the Monitor Audio range – above the entry level Bronze, more accessible than the Gold and flagship Platinum ranges. All of which have recently been upgraded while the Silver models served as a base to develop from. So the expectations for the new sixth generation of Silvers could be seen as daunting. If improvement is an iterative process, are we looking at a facelift or something more substantial?
The best thing I’ve found about now working from home is having the time to both listen and think more about what I’m hearing – to place myself more in your shoes. I’ve intentionally looked at the new Monitor Audio Silver 6G range from the view of someone who gets a kick out of music, yet will have a lot of things going on in their lives. If you’re going to change from existing speakers, or make the new Silvers part of a new system, then I have to present you with something both compelling in terms of sound, but also dealing with the practicalities of fitting in with aesthetics, system matching and value.
We all know the story of Goldilocks and the three bears – given the choice of too hot, too cold and just right. For my first listen to the new Sliver 6G series, rather than consuming every option, I’ve focused on a model in the middle that just seems to make the most sense – the floor standing Silver 300 which come in at NZ$3200 the pair. They are representative of every bit of technology in the range and only give away size to the next model up.
As a long time enthusiast for smaller speakers such as Sonus faber, I’ve also made a point of not letting this bias get in the way of evaluating the Monitor Audios – rather than just slotting the Silver 300s into an analogue system which has grown around the little Italians, I’ve started from scratch with a new system, new position and gone digital only. What has remained the same is the music.
To cut to the chase, I’ve quickly come to the conclusion that these speakers are a real breakthrough – yes, I had expectations but I’m scrambling to work out how they have got so much better.
If you have a tried and true recipe, you’ll know that changing it may make some things better, but often you’ll go backwards in other areas. Change one ingredient and you’ll have to compensate in others.
Monitor Audio make no secret of what has gone into the new Silver 6G series and the 300s in particular. Every part has been reviewed and refined. While there is a superficial resemblance to the previous generation, if you drill down into the detail, not one part is interchangeable.
But where the real magic seems to occur is they way in which all the refinements have suddenly coalesced into a remarkable whole. I’ve never heard a speaker at this price level that sounds anywhere near as good and so the challenge becomes explaining why this is so and how to make the most of them.
On the face of it, the design is close to conventional – an elegant 1m tall floor standing speaker with two bass drivers, midrange and tweeter. There are plenty of good reasons to build a speaker like this – you’ll get the full range of music from low bass upwards, you don’t have to worry about stands and there will be plenty of power – both in handling capacity and output. So let’s now look at the main points of difference from other designs.
First and foremost, all the drivers are Monitor Audio’s unique metal coned units. There are many materials to use for speaker cones and each has advantages and downsides. Monitor Audio have continuously refined and improved their alloy cone technology, with every generation and range pushing forwards. Forget any assumptions you might have about the sound of metal cones – these were acknowledged and solved a long time ago. The use of consistent materials in all 4 drivers gives a coherence of sound that you’ll not find elsewhere.
The bass and mid drivers are a story in themselves. The cone itself is a multilayer, intentionally dippled, dish with no dustcap. It’s light, fast, rigid and non-resonant. Rather than being primatively glued to the voice coil like most other speakers, Monitor Audio emply their unique DCF* coupling which is far more consistent and acts as a crossover element, filtering out unwanted high frequency hash. These drivers are designed to be both highly efficient and uncoloured, dynamic and capable of exceptional power handling.
*Introduced in the Platinum II series last year.
The way in which all 4 drivers are attached to the cabinet – using a single large bolt that pulls the driver in from the rear rather than multiple little screws in the front – is so elegant and simple you wonder why everyone doesn’t do this. And when you start to understand the benefits in terms of adding to cabinet rigidity it defies belief that most speakers still rely on self tapping screws.
After this you could say the devil is in the detail – cabinet construction and bracing, crossover design and cabling, the feet, finish and cover. Which makes it sound rather more simple than it is. Every material, engineering and design choice has a cost, both in dollar and performance terms. The economies of scale, advantages of being a ‘first mover’ in metal cone technology and sunk costs of development all come into play.
Then there are the people that make the company – the idea of an ‘audio guru’ being able to produce an all conquering design is romantic but unrealistic – it’s collaboration, serious science and inspiration coming out of experience. The Monitor Audio team is young, talented and diverse – they have the heritage of 4 decades behind them but are hungry enough to keep pushing boundaries.
All these aspects have been in evidence in the speakers we introduced last year – the flagship Platinum and luxury Gold models. It would be easy for the new Silvers to simply be a watered down version of these. But what I’ve found is a speaker with a distinct character that stands on it’s own merits. The more costly models give trickle downs in terms of technology but it’s not all one way traffic and by being the newest range, the Silvers have some very particular virtues. And the 300s as a model encapsulate these rather nicely as you’ll find as you read on….
The arrival of a new pair of Silver 300s is an event in itself – two large 24kg boxes get opened upended. You can attach the feet (which have several configurations depending on floor surface and placement) then remove the covering to reveal a flawless rich walnut finish. (or white, or black oak) Flip the speaker to right way up and position relatively close to the wall – Monitor Audio suggest between 300mm and 600mm from the wall for best results – and set up in the classic equilateral triangle.
The feet are a much cleaner and better sounding arrangement than the privious wooden plinths. The wider footprint ensures compliance with the EU 14 degree stability regulation and in an earthquake prone country should also be mandatory.
If you look at the rear of the speakers you’ll see the 4 allen headed attachment bolts – it’s worth checking and tightening these at the outset and the rechecking after a month or so. There are two ports – this gives better control of airflow and allows closer to wall positioning. And two sets of binding posts for cable attachment – single or bi-wired (more about these options later)
From an aesthetic point of view, the biggest change from previous models is a new design of fascia surrounding both the midrange and tweeter. This is perforated over the tweeter dome – which provides welcome protection from small fingers – and rather than a simple round pattern, the perforations form a hexagon but then diffuse into an apparently random outline – this made me immediately think of the slot loaded resistive porting on the Sonus faber Olympica models. I initially went out on a limb and suggested that this is more than just a bit of cool visual design – I think there are real benefits in terms of opening up the soundstage while also improving the accuracy of positioning. But Jeremy from Monitor Audio now tells me it’s just a look. Whatever the case, I’m adament that the high frequency performance is a lot better than the previous silvers.
The 3 larger drivers are finished in a more subtle grey/silver than either the previous Silver or new Gold models – all share Monitor Audio’s unique dimpled metal cones – the aluminium alloy is thin and light, while the coating and dimples add strength and rigidity, improving damping and diffusion.
This is a rather handsome speaker – with no screws, or lugs for covers on the front (the black fabric grilles fit magnetically), a slim frontal aspect and deeper than they are wide, the 300s stand tall and stable. The quality of timber, finish and all parts can’t be faulted. This really is their best work yet.
From new, this is a very good sounding speaker by any standards. But they get a lot better as the running in process progresses – bass in particular improves, gaining in tone and depth. The really striking aspect is the coming together of the parts – at the outset I was aware that this was a 3 way system – and so, unconsciously or not, I was breaking music up into 3 parts and associating different threads of the music with the individual drivers.
Within a few hours, I was finding a whole was forming – the transition between drivers became much smoother and by about 20 hours the character of this speaker was becoming clear.
There are competing claims made by designers about the virtues of 2 and 3 way speakers. On one side, a 2 way design is simpler, with only one transition between drivers. So the crossover is less complex, cabinet design is more straight forward and you might expect this to lead to better quality.
On the other, a 3 way speaker tends to allow greater range – especially in the bass which is the foundation of music and the load is spread over several drivers all operating in their optimal range rather than have to stretch to meet in the middle.
With the new Silver 300s it seems to me that Monitor Audio have adeptly managed the possible trade offs of the complexity of a 3 way design, and produced a remarkably coherent sounding speaker. By this I mean that from low bass right through to the highest treble we can hear, the character of sound is completely consistent.
Conventional opinion suggests a 3 way design may be less transparent than a simpler 2 way – but in practice with the 300s this is not the case – I’m hearing things on recordings I know like the back of my hand that were previously obscured. Smaller speakers often claim to ‘disappear’ – in other words the sound appears to come from an area around the speakers rather than being in a box. Again the 300s bust through this stereotype and do a brilliant job of projecting sound out into the room.
When we first became Shahinian converts, part of the magic of these speakers was that they could fill space like no other design could at the time. Music would carry, not just to the appropriately positioned listener, but out into the room and beyond. The Silver 300s do this in no uncertain terms – as I sit in my office writing this, the speakers are playing out in the living room yet the sound I’m hearing is carrying right through, clear and balanced. In fact it can be a little un-nerving as new parts to the music suddenly grab my attention and interrupt any workflow.
Vocals are uncanny – it really sounds like someone is talking in real life in the next room. More than once I’ve got up to see who is calling through the door.
I attribute this to the consistency of materials used for all the drivers – Monitor Audio call this C-CAM – ‘Ceramic-Coated Aluminium/Magnesium is a material originally developed by the aerospace industry for jet engine components. Its properties are ideal for loudspeaker cones being extremely rigid, yet light enough to yield high overall efficiency. In manufacture, aluminium/magnesium alloy undergoes a three-stage stress-relieving process to remove surface deformation and molecular weakness. Once formed, the alloy cone is subjected to a high temperature anodic coating process in which a layer of pure ceramic alumina is depleted onto its surfaces to a depth of 50 microns, producing a completely rigid sandwich of alloy and heat-dissipating ceramic material.
Conventional cones are liable to flex or twist in operation, producing a significant level of audible distortion. C-CAM cones have a much higher resistance to bending stress and therefore exhibit much greater fidelity over their entire operating range. C-CAM tweeters and woofers share an audible consistency producing a smooth transition of frequencies and a sense of realism and cohesion in the soundstage.’
The 4 drivers of the Silver 300s deliver on this promise from Monitor Audio in a way I’ve not heard from any other model.
While in specification and practice the ribbon tweeters used in the more costly Gold and Platinum models do more – they’re faster, more precise and revealing – I’ve always seen them as a defining characteristic of the speakers and it seemed you could very much hear what they could do while the mid and bass drivers had their separate parts to play.
The voicing of the Silver 300s is distinct from that of the similarly sized Golds and Platinums – although the cone tweeter goes up to 35kHz which may seem like a compromise when compared to the Gold ribbon at 60k and the Platinums at 100k, my thoughts are that this makes the integration with the midrange driver rather easier and more seamless – the operating principle of the drivers is consistent.
I also suspect that this has made the crossover design simpler and more transparent (despite the lower cost) . And there are quite probably more similarities than differences in terms of impedance and efficiency. These degrees of freedom have allowed Monitor Audio to achieve something quite special with the new Silvers.
There is another often overlooked and, I think critical, aspect to this part of the design. Monitor Audio suggest that one of the improvements made between this new range of Silvers and the previous is the impedance – ie the load which the amplifier sees – is higher and hence more benign. At the same time efficiency (the ease of converting wattage going in to decibels coming out) is improved as is overall frequency response – both the spread and linearity. Add all this together and suddenly the task of your amplifier becomes much easier – it is able to deliver higher performance than would otherwise be possible.
The new Silvers really make sense in the real world – they appear to be designed to make your amplifier (and system as a whole) sound much better. A speaker can be technically brilliant but if it forces your amplifier into contortions just to make it go, the end result is strained and unsatisfying. Which is great for the designers of expensive amplifiers as you’ll be hooked into a series of sequential upgrades, chasing something that the speakers promise but the electronics can’t quite match up to.
Any company that makes both electronics and speakers will tend to match the properties of one with the other and while there is something to be said for this approach, it assumes they get everything right. Given the wide divergence in end sound from different such designers its clear that this approach has limitations.
This is where Monitor Audio’s specialisation comes in – as a dedicated speaker designer and manufacturer, they understand that their speakers will be used with a broad range of electronics. While it is a safe assumption that the more costly ranges are developed with a similar level of electronics in mind, the new Silvers are aimed at what I’ll call real world listeners. That’s you.
Because of both the benign load and high efficiency the Silver 300s will deliver an impressive performance with even the most modest entry level amplifier – think little Rotel, Cambridge or NuForce models. Also many big brand AVRs – these home theatre amplifiers are expected to run multiple speakers and the difference between an ordinary speaker and the new Monitor Audio is magnified.
This is only the start of what is possible with the new Silver 300s. While very easy to drive, they are also capable of high power handling, and if you desire so, are capable of startlingly high sound levels, dynamics and floor shaking bass. Yet I’ve found with most of my listening, the richness of sound, balance and clarity allowed me to happily listen at quite reasonable and partner friendly levels. Many speakers only really come together when you push them – with the Silver 300s there is a real ease in the presentation. This has also allowed me to make much better judgements about the performance of the partnering electronics.
For initial listening I selected the entry level NuPrime separates – the DAC-9 (which incorporates a capable preamp section) running directly into the compact STA-9 120 watt stereo amplifier. Like the speakers, the NuPrime was new out of the box and so there was an additional run in to consider but it was clear that, based in experience, the improvements produced by this process were greater for the speakers. Once the system was settling in nicely, I added NuPrime’s sublime little analogue preamplifier – the HPA-9. This had immediate benefits, providing more depth, an expansion of soundstage and improved dynamics – all of which the Monitor Audio’s made abundantly apparent.
From the outset we employed the Questyle QP1-R as the source – with high resolution and an optical output into the DAC-9. Connections are the entry level KLEI models – AC, analogue interconnect and speaker cables. So overall, this is by no means an expensive system, the speakers being by far the most significant part of the assemblage. Our room setting is unusual – a very long open plan space with floor to ceiling glass behind the speakers and a polished concrete floor. The Silvers had no problems at all with this – they sparkle where appropriate, yet never became harsh or sibilant. Although we have noted the ability of the Silver 300s to float sound out into the room and beyond, there is still a lot to be said for listening in an ideal position.
Seated on a couch in front of the speakers, the remarkable coherence of sound between all the drivers becomes much more obvious. Midrange is especially expressive with vocals clear and natural. Sound-staging is as good as with any system I’ve heard. As the system warms up (and we’re still well short of full run in) the sound has gained balance and poise.
From being a firm believer in smaller 2 way speaker systems, I’m finding I really enjoy this floor standing speaker – all the qualities I value in my Sonus fabers are there, but I’m getting more – the solidity and definition in the bass (but with no lag or boominess), an unarguable improvement in vocal and midrange clarity. With optimal close to wall placement, the speakers are less physically dominant in the room. The dark walnut will be the most popular finish but I can see both the black and white options being not far behind as people look for speakers that fit into more varied lifestyles.
UPDATE – Since writing most of this review, I’ve continued to listen to the Silver 300s and change the system around them. Introducing analogue into the mix with the new Well Tempered Simplex 2 bought me back into the record playing fold – while it always takes more to set up and tune a good turntable, this just showed me that nothing is quite like vinyl and the Silvers made this more rewarding.
We jumped up to the flagship NuPrime IDA-16 integrated amplifier – it’s a more accurate, controlled and powerful option than the 9 series separates and this allowed the 300s to both dig deeper in the bass and really open out in the top. Yet there was never a hint of harshness or siblence. I still don’t feel like we’ve pushed the Silvers and although the IDA-16 has 200 serious watts on tap, the room was filling with sound at comparatively low volume settings.
Dropping down to the entry level IDA-8 integrated was far easier than I imagined – with other speakers that are harder to driver or control, going from 200 to 100 watts can often be a difficult transition. It’s a testament to the Silver 300s that we were still listening happily to digital sources on 25 to 35 out of 100. If anything it made me respect the abilities of this amplifier even more and I was asking myself that why would I want anything more than the IDA-8 and a pair of Silver 300s playing music via Airport Express or Bluetooth.
Given how much we’ve liked the 300s, should we have started with the bigger Silver 500s? – these employ larger bass drivers and have greater cabinet capacity which enable both higher efficiency and greater bass extension. Certainly if you’ve got a larger room or want to push things along then the bigger model is ideal and given the relatively small difference in price, the advantages are compelling. Even in a smaller room, there are benefits in choosing the larger speaker – the overall warmth and efficiency gain mean you’ll get more from more modest amplifiers – and with the optional foam port plugs it’s possible to fine tune response no matter how close to the wall the speakers have to be.
With the previous Silver series the larger model had a downside in that it would sound overblown with either inadequate electronics or a smaller room – this time around Monitor Audio have made a much better job of things, opening out the top end and keeping the impedance up as well as tightening bass control – all of which allow you to get more out of these speakers. So, in answer to my initial question, yes, if you are happy with the slightly larger frontal profile of the 500s and can afford the little extra, you’ll never look back.
The smaller model – the Silver 6G 200 – is the replacement for what is quite probably the biggest selling Monitor Audio model – the Silver 6 – the classic 2.5 way design has a lot of fans. The latest version is already the subject of a glowing review here. And been awared best speaker for 2017 at this level by What HiFi.
‘Monitor Audio has taken care not to let the Silver 200s become preoccupied by analytical detail. Having tested many pairs of speakers that favour resolution at the expense of musicality, we think it a wise move.
But that would be to undersell the Silvers somewhat, because there is an impressive amount of clarity and detail here – more, to the best of our recollection, than ever before.’
That said, if they listened to the 300s (as I’m sure they will), the performance of the full 3 way system should provide a better context.
And while we’re on reviews of the Silvers, here’s one just in from the Absolute Sound. –The Monitor Audio Silver 300 is an extremely accomplished product that offers a level of sound quality unexpected at this price. I was especially impressed by the fact that the overall design is so well balanced and complete. The speaker doesn’t excel in just one or two areas, but performs admirably across the board. Some similarly priced mini-monitors may have a lusher midband or silkier treble, but they won’t begin to match the Silver 300 in bass articulation, low-frequency extension, and dynamic contrasts. Moreover, the Silver 300 plays far bigger than its cabinet size, driver complement, and price would suggest, with robust dynamic authority.
The Silver 300 may look like its predecessor, but this latest version has been completely redesigned with new drivers, crossovers, and enclosure. A three-way, four-driver speaker (dual 6″ woofers, 4″ midrange, 1″ tweeter) housed in a cabinet that looks far too nice for this price point, the Silver 300 offers a compelling array of musical virtues. Chief among these are its terrific speed on transients, effortless reproduction of dynamics, and overall sense of musical coherence. Bass is detailed and resolved, providing a clear sense of pitch. These qualities infuse music with a life and vitality that are particularly apparent on rock, pop, and jazz. This is one very well designed loudspeaker, built with an economy of scale that allows this level of performance to be offered at a reasonable price. For its combination of sound quality and value, the Monitor Audio Silver 300 is our first choice for Floorstanding Speaker of the Year.
Read the full review here.
The Absolute Sound write of the Monitor Audio Gold 300s by Julie Mullins is also very much worth your time. It’s informative, especially in giving the full run down of partnering equipment and music played and covers many of the attributes I’ve found in the new Silver 300s – the two models are very similar in size and configuration – the obvious difference being the ribbon tweeter in the Golds. Read the full review here.
Let’s not forget the Platinums to complete the 300 trifecta – ‘Until Monitor Audio’s Platinum PL300 II. This is one I won’t let get away. As I write this, it occurs to me that the PL300 II combines some of the best aspects of my previous reference speakers: the Quad’s relative lack of “speaker sound,” the Dunlavys’ precise imaging, the Avantgarde’s dynamics. The PL300 II is also, by a considerable margin, the most physically beautiful of all of these speakers, with the highest decorator acceptance factor. It can be driven effectively by tubed or solid-state amplifiers, and will reveal, without exaggerating, the sonic characteristics of those amplifiers and of other system components. Monitor Audio has always been known for the solid quality and value of their speakers; with the Platinum PL300 II, they’ve hit one out of the park. It’s my new reference.’ Stereophile.
Being a new range and wanting to have an in depth look at a single model rather than doing a once over lightly on all the models, I’m not going to go too much into the Silver 6G shelf models at this stage. But it’s worth noting that Monitor Audio have made it a particular feature of the consistent sound and voicing of all the models in the series. Quite often you get marked changes in character when going from shelf mount to floor standing, from 2 way to 3 way. While it is obvious that you won’t get the same lower bass and volume levels with a compact speaker, near wall placement will enhance bass and like the larger models, the porting is at the rear but well controlled and designed to work in this placement.
The new Silver 50 looks to be directly derived from the wonderful Gold 50 – very similar bass driver, slightly smaller cabinet than the older Silver 1. The new drivers, revised crossover and reduced cabinet resonance can only be good things.
The Silver 100 is considerably larger and sports an 8″ bass driver – this is the mid sized shelf or stand-mount speaker for larger rooms or where you want a bit more go.
In both cases the porting is at the rear of the speaker presenting a much cleaner appearance and making them more suitable for shelf mount than before.
Finish Choices. In New Zealand we’ve always had a thing about wood finishes. I chose the walnut for our first pair of the new Silver 6Gs but having now seen the new satin white finish in the flesh, I can understand why this has become the best selling option ever for Monitor Audio – it’s much more modern and fresh. Unlike the earlier gloss options, the white ‘works’ with many more room settings and doesn’t show dust and marks. Have a think about this before you default to wood.
With all the improvements made by Monitor Audio, it is becoming obvious that these speakers will literally last you a lifetime. While I’ve been writing this I’ve been talking with several clients who have older NZ made speakers – in one case with 25 years service – but they are at the point of needing replacement due to failure or raised expectations. Not only will the new Silver 6Gs be a huge upgrade in terms of performance and finish – the build quality is so vastly better that we can expect the new speakers to never require replacement. Given the dollar price (with no adjustment for inflation over time) is effectively the same, you can see that the new Monitor Audio Silver 6G range may be the best value for money and performance ever.
Bearing this in mind, it’s worth looking to the best model you can – in the first instance you’ll get much better sound. But it will also allow you to make the most of both your existing system and any component changes you may make in the future – there is still plenty of development to come in the digital space.
With the higher standards set by the new range, the quantitative differences between models have become greater – yes, there is a consistency of voicing and treble quality as all models share the same high frequency driver. But the improvements attributable to more and larger drivers, more advanced crossovers and greater cabinet volume and bracing, are more obvious and compelling than ever before.
Monitor Audio have also managed to harness the economies of scale while delivering a genuine leap forward with the new Silver 6G range – with each iteration over the six generations we have seen subtle but worthwhile refinement. This time round however I’ve been floored by how much better they are – the term ‘high end’ can be legitimately applied to the performance.
Are these your new speakers?
Monitor Audio Silver 6G 300s NZ$3200 the pair
Other models in the Silver 6G range
Silver 50 NZ$1200
Silver 100 NZ$1600
Silver 200 NZ$2500
Silver 500 NZ$3700
Download the new product catalogue here.
Connections and configurations.
Monitor Audio are strong proponents of both bi-wiring and bi-amping* and there is no doubt that these are worthwhile upgrades, especially with the 3 floor standing models. But I’ve also been carefully listening to different grades of speaker cables in a simple single wire configuration and trying to work out which is the better strategy.
With bi-wiring you need two full sets of speaker cables and connections. With bi-amping, two power amplifiers (or a matched integrated and power amp), two pairs of interconnects and two sets of speaker cables.
If we take a real world example with the same NuPrime STA-9 amplifiers I’ve used to audition the Silver 300s, the total cost of upgrade from the single amp up to bi-amping comes in at just over $1900 when using the entry level KLEI cables (both interconnect and speaker connections). In this case, yes – the results are both quantitatively and qualitatively better – deeper lower bass, greater dynamics afforded by a doubling in power. But also a perceptibly broader soundstage that steps forward a good metre, smoother more detailed treble and midrange.
Yet if I look at another configuration using NuPrime’s high end integrated amplifier – the IDA-16, the gain made by going from KLEI’s entry level speaker cable to the ultimate Purity speaker cables mimics the experience of a client from last year who choose the MA Gold 300s – his e mail to me was a simple ‘WTF’ which I’ll take as a compliment to the improvement made. A simple but very effective solution.
And finally my experience with the no-holds barred NuPrime bi-amping solution – the 8 channel MCH-K38 bridged to 4 channels then connected via multiple cables – this might be where we finally stretch the Monitor Audios – at this point the all front end electronics and cables are a little over twice the cost of the speakers but this is by no means out of proportion. This is very much a system suited to the Silver 500s – there is awesome control and depth with quite frightening sound pressure levels possible.
It was with this system that I found Monitor Audio’s penultimate Platinum II to really come together in the way that I’d wanted – but with the new Silvers, I’ve been more than happy with more modest amplifiers so the question is really are the better electronics warranted. In a word, yes. For a fraction of the price of the Platinum IIs with entry level electronics, the new Silver 300s (and even more so the 500s) take you to a similar level. If anything the ease of driving, makes for a better listening experience – you don’t have to much things and there is no hankering for something more costly.
If you were looking for a one size fits all answer, obviously there isn’t one. But what it does tell you is that we have multiple routes to fantastic sound and I’m taking the time to see what will work best for your own requirements.
*The Effects of Bi-Wiring and Bi-Amping.
Fundamentally a loudspeaker crossover varies the impedance seen by the speaker and by the power amplifier. The situation is such that when the full range musical signal is applied to the terminals of a full-range speaker system, the bass driver(s) will only receive low frequency signals, the mid driver receives the mid band frequency signals and the tweeter only gets sent high frequency signals.
This means that if separate speaker cables are connected to the low and high frequency terminals, not only have the drive units had the frequency’s directed and divided for them, but the two separate speaker cables will now also carry different signals, the bass cable mostly the lows, and the tweeter cable mostly the highs.
Once the high and low frequencies have been separated in this fashion, the strong current pulses and surges, demanded by bass drivers when reproducing bass or drums, will not interact with the delicate sounds of a flute or cymbal.
In a single wired system, unwanted mechanical and electrical resonances manifest as distortion at both sets of speaker terminals. Due to the impedance of the speaker cables, these distortions will not be entirely cancelled by the amplifier. Instead, they modulate between the two crossovers, and degrade sound quality.
When bi-wiring, this interaction is minimised as signal distortion is ‘seen’ at the amplifier’s output where it can be more effectively cancelled. Bi-wiring/ bi-amping therefore presents a ‘cleaner’ signal at both the low frequency and high frequency speaker terminals, and because the high and low frequencies have already been separated, each has a minimal effect on the other – in essence the bass does not overpower delicate treble.
In terms of the audible benefit, bi-wiring/ bi-amping, provides more clarity and detail to the midrange and high frequencies. Often the bass will become faster and tighter. Focus and staging will improve as well. In all, this is a very effective and desirable improvement and is highly recommended by Monitor Audio.
Ngā Mihi, John Ransley