Silver 9i speakers
Price: $1999 USD per pair
Dimensions: 39"H x 7.5"W x 10.5"D
Weight: 52 pounds each
Model: Silver Center 12i center-channel
Price: $799 USD
Dimensions: 8"H x 22"W x 8"D
Weight: 25 pounds
Model: Silver FXi surround speakers
Price: $899 USD per pair
Dimensions: 9.5"H x 10"W x 6"D
Weight: 16 pounds each
ASW 210 subwoofer
Price: $999 USD
Dimensions: 20"H x 14"W x 14"D
Weight: 55 pounds
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
- Ceramic Coated Aluminum Magnesium (C-CAM) drivers
- Real-wood veneers (mains and center)
- Magnetically shielded (mains and center)
- 1" gold-dome tweeter (mains, center, surround)
- Bi-wireable (mains, center, surround)
- 200W built-in amplifier (ASW 210)
The considerations in buying and setting up
a home-theater system are vast and confusing. How big should the speakers be? How much
output do I need? How big of a room should I have? Where should I place the subwoofer?
Does my amplifier have enough power? The list goes on and on. However, the biggest
consideration for hard-core music and film aficionados is: Do I need two
Music and video
Although most speaker designers will tell you that a good
speaker will serve equally well for music or home-theater playback, more often than not
Ive personally heard loudspeaker systems that work better for one or the other. And
too often Ive heard friends who are disappointed with their home-theater purchases
say, "I bought this expensive home-theater system, but my CDs dont sound that
good on it." As a result, people either live with the compromise or, as many
enthusiasts do, are forced to set up two systems, each optimized for music or home
theater. I actually do that in my own home -- I have the music room and then the video
room (which is also the living room).
But Monitor Audios Silver Series proves that music
and movies aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, these speakers have turned my video/living
room into my music-listening room for the past few months. The Silver Series Full Metal
Theater is quite simply the best surround system Ive had in my house because it
serves music and video equally well.
The heart of the Silver Series is in what Monitor Audio
calls their C-CAM drivers. This stands for "Ceramic Coated Aluminum Magnesium."
Its not new. In their literature Monitor Audio says they introduced it some 15 years
ago in other speaker models, but it is new to the company's home-theater lineup of
speakers. They claim many advantages to this driver technology -- notably, low distortion.
The woofers look rather sharp with a whitish-silver appearance.
There are numerous speakers in the Silver Series lineup,
all seemingly built upon the same design principles and technology but with different
sizes and numbers of woofer drivers. The woofer diameter depends on the speaker model and
they range from 5.5" to 6.5" in diameter (the subs have bigger drivers, mind
you). All speakers in this series also use a 1" C-CAM gold-dome tweeter and are
Monitor Audio sent me the biggest of the bunch: Silver 9i
speakers for mains (with dual 6.5" woofers, priced at $1999 per pair), a Silver
Center 12i (again with dual 6.5" woofers, $799), Silver FXi surrounds (5.5"
woofers, $899 per pair), and then an ASW 210 powered sub (with two 10" drivers, $999
each). The system, as configured above, is priced at $4696 and is most suitable for
medium- to large-sized rooms since it has serious output capability. If your wallet
is tighter or your room is smaller, you can look at the Silver 3i, 4i, 5i or 7i for main
speakers, a Silver Center 10i, and an ASW 110 sub. Whats nice about this lineup of
speakers is that although some models are lower in price, they appear to all have the same
level of build quality. As you go up in price, what you pay for is increased output and
bass capabilities. And since these speakers are designed similarly, mixing and matching a
system is a snap.
The main and center speakers come in black oak, rose
mahogany, and natural cherry finishes. These are real-wood veneers, and the speakers come
finished on the front, top and sides. The back is finished nicely, but painted black. The
bottom is actually a screw-on black MDF panel that finishes off the speakers nicely.
Monitor Audio sent my review set in natural cherry, and I was very impressed by the fit,
finish and appearance. Theyre elegant speakers, and the main speakers tall and
narrow appearance compliment a room nicely. Like almost all center-channel speakers, the
Silver Center 12i rests on its side on top of your TV. With or without the grilles, the
speakers get high marks for aesthetics.
The surround speakers are a dipole or bipole design,
depending on how you wire them at the terminals, finished in what Monitor calls
"black silk." Essentially this is a handsome matte-black finish that allows the
surround speakers to "disappear" to the back sides.
The odd-man out is the ASW 210 sub. Unlike the other
speakers, it is finished in a fake-wood, vinyl veneer. Quality is good, but it simply
doesnt have the elegance of appearance that the other speakers have. This
doesnt detract from its performance, mind you, and you can easily cross it over low
and tuck it to the side. It boasts two 10" woofers, one front and the other on the
bottom, with a 200W internal amp. Monitor Audio says the ASW 210 is rated down to 25Hz and
will output 115dB! Suffice it to say that it is far more than sufficient in terms of its
output capabilities for my mid-sized room.
My first encounter hearing the Silver Series came at HI-FI
99 in Chicago. Overall, I found the sound exquisitely detailed, full range, but a
bit bright and brash-sounding in that setup. After living with this system for some time I
would suspect that at that venue Monitor Audio was pushing the speakers beyond their
limits because this system is anything but bright and brash. The top end is smooth, sweet
and as wonderfully extended as that of any high-quality speaker Ive heard. The rest
of the frequency range has that character too.
For me, the key to the outstanding quality of this system
lies in the sound quality of the front speakers. When I first connected the system, I
listened to two-channel music. From the start, the startling clarity and detail that the
Silver 9i produces blew me away. Forget the fact that Monitor Audio puts these in what
they term their "theater" system. In its price range it is as good a music
speaker as Ive heard. As a result, in the months that followed, I listened to plenty
of music on this system.
The midrange sound of the 9i is neutral and exceedingly
clean. There is a level of purity and transparency that is almost uncanny. The speakers
dont seem to "bump up" anything for a perceived increase in presence, nor
do they "recess" anywhere to make them sound polite. From the bass to the
pristine highs they are even and balanced. Male voice is never bloated or chesty.
Sibilance, which usually shows up on female vocals, is non-existent. Instruments like the
sax show outstanding texture, but are never harsh or raspy. The speaker can show extreme
detail, but at the same time does not exhibit any type of excessive high-frequency bite or
tizziness. Its possible that people who enjoy a very warm or voluminous sound,
perhaps accompanied by an extreme richness in the midrange, may find the 9i a little lean.
But I find its balance spot-on and exceedingly neutral.
With excellent dynamic prowess, the speakers were suitable
for anything from folk to jazz to rock. Bass is tight and well-controlled (Monitor Audio
rates them down 3dB at 30Hz), and I never really found myself yearning to use the sub for
music. Bass freaks might disagree with me, but I suggest trying it out with this or
another system, just to see how it sounds. Marc Mickelson told me that he listened to
Thiels MCS1 surround system without a subwoofer and was more than impressed with
what it could do, despite the fact that it wasnt hitting the lowest of the low.
Bass, if uncontrolled, can muck up the sound in a room, so experimentation to achieve what
sounds best, not necessarily what goes lowest, is important.
In stereo, the ability to cast a huge and precise
soundstage is excellent. I recently purchased Enyas A Day Without Rain
[Warner Brothers 47426]. Like all of Enyas work, there is a huge sense of space and
excellent portrayal of depth. Even with the speaker set up some 9" apart and no
center channel enabled, the stage is enormous and precise with excellent center fill.
Depth and resolution of space are top-notch, on par with some of the best Ive heard
in my room, a collection that includes the likes of Waveforms Mach MC, Mirages
MRM-1, and the wee but mighty NSM Model 5. Is this all due to the C-CAM drivers? It could
well be, but frankly I dont know. Like any good speaker its probably a result
of materials, technology and good engineering.
The speaker I find this one most comparable to is
Revels high-tech Performa M20, an excellent bookshelf-sized speaker that just
arrived for review. Priced roughly the same, these speakers share some strong
similarities. The 9i goes deeper in the bass than the Revel, but the Revel also has some
tricks up its sleeve that differentiate it too. Whats key about both these designs,
though, is how their exceptionally neutral response allows them to swing through music and
movies. From their pristine midranges to the highly extended top end, there is no
exaggeration apparent anywhere -- they are wholly natural. As well, unlike some speakers
that bloat the bass to give a warmer, more fleshed-out sound, these two are rock-solid,
and thats why I suspect they work so well for music too.
Whats heard in two-channel listening translates
precisely when listening to surround. All the speakers have the identical tonality of the
Silver 9i. As a result, movie soundtracks are incredibly precise, wonderfully detailed,
and thoroughly enveloping. Dialogue has extremely good detail through the Silver Center
12i, and with the high level of detail the surround effects become all the more apparent
and realistic. When movie tracks rely heavily on music, Magnolia and Boogie
Nights for example, the Silver Series sounds stunning.
Some soundtracks are mixed with an exceedingly sharp or
brash top end. While the Silver Series certainly wont tame that down if it's in the
recording, the fact that the upper registers are rendered without any extra bite or sizzle
of their own means that any of these problems in the recording wont be exaggerated.
I watched movies, listened intently, and came away with nary a criticism. As a system, it
works splendidly and will easily satisfy even the most discriminating audiophile tastes.
Ive heard some systems offer this level of detail and
finesse, but at the expense of all-out power and attack. This system is not one of them.
The Silver Series has high output capabilities and can really slam it home when
need be. High volumes and low-end frequency extension are achieved without a hint of
strain (except, perhaps, the personal strain of relationships with your neighbors who may
not appreciate your systems ability to play so loudly). Like I mentioned, the ASW
210 is way more than me or my room can handle and much of the time, with the
excellent bass extension that the 9is are capable of, I never really need to subwoof.
Thats right, much of the time, even when watching movies, I just let the 9i speakers
do their thing and that was wholly sufficient to me. However, admittedly there are some
who are hungrier for bass and will want to exploit the bottom end as much as possible.
Whatever your flavor for listening, one thing I cannot criticize is the cohesiveness
Silver Series has as a whole. This is truly a loudspeaker system.
I give nothing but the highest marks to Monitor
Audios Silver Series. The system I reviewed is suitable for a medium- to large-sized
rooms. The only caveat is that the system could overload a room that's too small. If this
applies to you, you should definitely look into the smaller speakers in this series since
its important to match the speakers to the room itself. For my own room (which
measures about 14' by 18') even though these speakers worked fine, I would even consider
scaling down to the Silver 7i main speakers, the Silver Center 10i, and the ASW 110 since
I didnt come close to taxing its overall output capability. Why not save some money?
Then again, at under $5000, you may not care to save more because whats included
here represents tremendous value.
Whether its the build, sound, or appearance there is
little to criticize and plenty to praise. In the end, though, what I cant stress too
much, and its really the crux of why I am so enthusiastic about this system, is its
ability to play music and movies. Whether I am watching Planet of the Apes or
listening to the latest from Sade, I never felt myself lacking in the least. Time and time
again I was impressed by the quality with which this speaker system serves both. If
youre in the market for a first-rate music and film system at what is, in my
estimation, a very reasonable price given its level of performance, the Silver
Series Full Metal Theater gets nothing but an enthusiastic recommendation.
|Amplifier - Simadio HT-5
- Nakamich AV-10 (only used as a processor)
|Source - Kenwood DVS700 DVD
player, Redgum RGCD5 CD player
- DH Labs, Nordost, Blue Circle Audio
|Monitor - Sony Trinitron