Monitor Audio Silver 100 Speaker Review
The name might be Silver but the performance is first class
What is the Monitor Audio Silver 100?The Monitor Audio Silver 100 is the larger of two standmounts in the Silver 6G Range. As the numeric suggests, this is the sixth iteration of the Silver Series of speakers – a range that dates back to the nineties. Back then, it was a simple enough business. You had Bronze, Silver and Gold to choose from and that was your lot. These days, Monitor Audio has another complete range of speakers in the form of the Platinum range as well as whole series of custom install and lifestyle speakers.
In all of this, the role of the Silver Series hasn’t changed radically. It represents a step up from the entry level Bronze models and allows Monitor Audio to implement more of the technologies and thinking that makes for their ideal speaker. This is subtly different to a number of rivals like the KEF Q Series which now represents the entry point for the brand. Another subtle difference (and one I hope to revisit) is that the Silver 6G range is unusual in 2017 in that it includes two centre speakers and a dedicated surround design. Partnered with the company’s in ceiling models, this is one of the more affordable options for specialist multichannel.
The Silver 100 meanwhile is also an interesting object in its own right. If you were looking at the pics and thinking “that looks a bit bigger than normal” you’d be right. In a field of designs that generally use drivers between 5 and 6.5 inches in size, the Silver 100 uses an eight inch design. What are the effects on performance and usability and does this make it – as Monitor Audio claims – “a serious audiophile speaker”? At an asking price of £649 for a pair, they aren't going to break the bank either, so let's see if they offer the combination of value and performance that they appear to on paper.
SpecificationsComing as it does hot on the heels of the KEF Q350, the Silver 100 is built around a set of drivers that are in their own way, no less distinctive. The company has been advocates of metal drivers from the outset and while a few other companies have found themselves sneaking some other materials into their speakers in recent years, Monitor Audio has stuck to their guns. The Silver G6 all use the latest iteration of the company’s C-CAM (Ceramic Coated Magnesium and Aluminium) drivers. As the name suggests, these are an alloy that have come a long way from the originals while remaining true to the concept.
Take the bass driver, this is a continuous cone with no dust cap. This allows for the driver to be a single section without any perforations to weaken it. Additional strength is then added via the principle of Rigid Surface Technology (RST). This examines the driver via the process of Finite Element Analysis and adds strength where needed in the form of the dimples that start towards the centre of the cone and gradually deepen as you head to the outer edge. The result is that the driver weighs effectively no more than it would were it smooth and is considerably stiffer.
The tweeter is also a C-CAM unit but in more traditional Monitor Audio fashion is gold covered. This covering is applied to an extremely specific thickness over the top of the aluminium magnesium alloy to ensure that the behaviour of the tweeter is as consistent as possible. Monitor Audio claims an upper frequency response of 35kHz which from my suburban listening room is pretty much impossible to prove. As with so many tweeters, the critical aspect of these super high frequency responses is more that the tweeter should be entirely at home reproducing frequencies in the audible part of the spectrum. The tweeter has a fair amount to do too. It crosses over to the mid bass driver at 2.8kHz, not as low as some speakers we’ve seen of late but still giving it a fair amount to do. The Silver 100 is one of the few sub £1k speakers I have encountered recently that has the option to biwire.
Of course, the significant difference between the Silver 100 and the bulk of its rivals is that Monitor Audio has squeezed an eight inch driver into it. After the ten inch unit in the Tannoy Legacy Eaton, this doesn’t feel that significant but it’s a larger radiating area than pretty much any rival at the price. Monitor Audio gives a lower figure of 40Hz at +/-6dB and, using the same calculation on a number of similarly priced rivals, suggests that’s getting on for an extra octave. This figure is helped by the distinctive ‘HiVE’ bass port at the rear of the speaker which is designed to allow for a high flow of air from the cabinet without it become audible.
The cabinet itself is made from MDF and makes use of computer optimised bracing. By the standards of some other speakers it is fairly conventional but it does have a feature that isn’t always seen at this price point in the form of a rear bolted driver. The mid-bass driver isn’t attached to the front baffle and serves two relevant purposes. The first is that the two sections are decoupled meaning the driver behaves more like it is placed in free space. The second is less sonically critical but no less handy – there are no visible fastenings to make a mess of that front baffle.
DesignMonitor Audio has been one of the most effective companies in the market at balancing the opposing challenges of updating their models on a fairly regular basis while ensuring that they continue to look like Monitor Audio designs. The Silver 100 is very clearly an evolution of the preceding Silver 2 which in turn managed to have visual ties to the model before. It’s a little thing but it tends to create a degree of brand loyalty and give people some sense of continuity.
No less significant in the specific cast of the Silver 100 is that considering the presence of an eight inch driver Monitor Audio has done a fine job of keeping the overall dimensions of the Silver 100 in line with what you might expect. At 37cm tall, it roughly matches its rivals and while it is fractionally wider at 23cm, little visual tricks like letting the driver extend almost to the edge of the cabinet are useful at keeping the Silver 100 looking like a ‘normal’ bookshelf. Just as importantly, it will work on the same stands as anything else you might be looking at.
And like pretty much everything I’ve ever tested from Monitor Audio, it is beautifully built. The Rosenut veneer is well applied and has an excellent grain to it. The driver mountings, speaker terminals and all the points of visual interest have been built to an exacting standard. The Silver 100 doesn’t feel like an ‘artisan’ product. It feels very much like the result of a series of exacting production processes – which of course it probably is.
At the same time, some aspects of this newest version don’t have quite as much visual appeal as I’d like. The new tweeter cover and surround is overly fussy – certainly compared to its immediate predecessor – and while I admire the use of consistent visual cues, one that no longer works for me is the curved edge grille which doesn’t look entirely right when in placed on the speaker. On a wider level though, this is one of the better looking speakers available at the price point and there are enough colour finishes available that it should work in a variety of environments.
Of course, the significant difference between the Silver 100 and the bulk of its rivals is that Monitor Audio has squeezed an eight inch driver into it
How was the Silver 100 tested?The Silver 100 was used with a Naim Supernait2 Integrated amp connected to a Naim ND5XS streamer with XP5 XS power supply. Some additional testing was carried out with a Rega Planar 6 using a Dynavector DV20X cartridge running into a Cyrus Phono signature. All equipment was connected to an IsoTek Evo 3 Sigmas Mains Conditioner. Test material has included lossless and high res FLAC and AIFF, DSD, vinyl as well as some Tidal and Spotify.
Sound QualityThe Monitor Audio arrived in a run-in condition meaning that it was possible to get them up and running in quick order. Placement hasn’t proved to be a problem – as long as the Silver 100 has around 30 centimetres to the back wall and a few degrees of toe-in it has proved to be impressively benign. From the outset, and with the KEF Q350 in recent memory, the Silver 100 doesn’t demonstrate quite the same quality of soundstage. Playing There is no love in Fluorescent Light by Stars, the Monitor Audio produces a cohesive and believable sense of the musicians but there isn’t the exceptional sense of three dimensionality that the KEF offers as a trademark.
Where the Silver 100 hits back – quite literally – is with its bass response. That eight inch driver lends the Monitor Audio an ability with bass material that is pretty much unprecedented in a standmount at this price. What is interesting (for me anyway) is that this doesn’t really manifest itself as having more bass – there’s honestly not that much between it and the KEF – but the manner in which it generates its bass is rather different. There is an effortlessness to the way that the Silver 100 handles information that makes it sound altogether more refined. The impression is that the bass driver is doing the bulk of the work and that very little energy relates to the port – of course, this might also be a consequence of the HiVE technology at work.
What this means is that when you listen to the album version of Tori Amos’ Crucify, the single struck drum that underpins the piece is reproduced with a body and presence that are impressive for any speaker at the price, let alone a standmount. Scale is often the basis of reality with some music and the Silver 100 has a priceless advantage in this regard. No less useful is that this bass extension is very well integrated into the rest of the frequency response – a logical extension of the midrange and not a freak blip after it finishes.
Across the entire frequency response, the basic presentation of the Silver 100 is refined but informative. It digs information out of Fink’s Sunday Night Blues Club that can sometimes disappear in the mix but it doesn’t force this information into your perception, just makes it available. The refinement on offer is also considerable. In the dim and distant past, this was a weak point for the brand but the Silver 100 has shades of its very big brother the Platinum 100 II in the way it handles high frequencies. When you combine this with benign impedance and sensitivity, you have a speaker that will deliver much of what it is capable of with a wide selection of electronics.
Above all, the Silver 100 is good fun. Listening to Amadou & Mariam’s La Confusion, the Silver 100 does a fine job with this infectiously groovy piece of music. More than anything else, this is a speaker that can latch onto a rhythm and deliver a performance that engages you on an emotional level. Usefully, this doesn’t seem to come at the expense of the accuracy required to sound believable. The Silver 100 probably won’t be classified as a true monitor but it’s accurate enough. Returning to a consistent test piece; Regina Spektor’s Consequence of Sounds, the Silver 100 delivers this pared back recording exactly as you should expect it to sound – not always a given at this price point.
More than anything else, this is a speaker that can latch onto a rhythm and deliver a performance that engages you on an emotional level
- Big, spacious and engaging performance
- Easy to drive and position
- Extremely well made
- Quite large
- Some fussy cosmetic details
- Slightly constrained soundstage
Monitor Audio Silver 100 Speaker ReviewThis is an interesting time for speaker ranges in the £400-1,200 price point. KEF is already out the blocks with the Q Series, the new Bowers & Wilkins 700 models are imminent and there are existing strong candidates from Wharfedale, Dali and a number of other brands. Across these ranges, particular speakers will stand out while others will merely be solid rather than great. It is the nature of things that imperious strength in depth is hard to come by.
After a few weeks in their company though, the Silver 100 is an outstanding speaker. The decision to go with a bigger driver has resulted in a speaker that has scale, weight and presence that can elude many rivals – it simply ‘does’ bass in a way that most rivals cannot match. Combine this with benign behaviour in terms of positioning and partnering, the excellent build and the simple sense of joy that it has and the Monitor Audio is unquestionably the pick of the pack at this price point and a natural Best Buy.
Ease of Use9
Value for Money10
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