Monitor Audio Silver 500 Surround Speaker Package Review
As far as Monitor Audio is concerned, size matters
What is the Monitor Audio Silver 500 Speaker Package?The Monitor Audio Silver 500 package is the largest of the ‘suggested’ packs you can make from the Monitor Audio Silver speaker range (although as each component is sold separately, you can notionally make a much larger one if you were minded to do so). This means that you get floorstanding front speakers, a large centre, a hefty sub and – something of a rarity in this day and age, a dedicated rear effects speaker.
This is something of a trademark for Monitor Audio. The company has long been determined to do a bit more than the bare minimum for AV customers. In the last decade, dedicated AV speakers have become rarer than they once were. Some brands have even abandoned centre speakers and diffused rear speakers have become a rear rarity. I don’t pretend to be especially prolific with regards to reviewing AV speakers but this is the only pack I have looked at in 2017 that has them. At the same time, compared to the KEF Q Series pack that passed through before this one, there is no obvious Atmos option available for the Silver series. Of course, we can play speaker top trumps all day but ultimately, hours of arguing won’t beat a good listening session so how does the Silver 500 package stand up?
SpecificationsAs we have already reviewed the Silver 100 and covered many of the technical points of the range there, for brevity we will cover the areas where this package differs and you can look at the basic hardware that makes up the range there. The Silver 500 floorstander is the largest member of the range and makes use of the same eight inch driver that Monitor Audio has skilfully shoehorned into the Silver 100. In this case there are two of them being used exclusively for bass duties. The larger of the three floorstanders in the range are equipped with a dedicated four inch midrange driver which is given the critical frequency band of 625Hz to 3.1kHz before handing over to the C-CAM gold dome tweeter that sees use in the entire range.
The use of an eight inch driver in this context has some benefits but some drawbacks too. The performance figures given for the Silver 500 quote a low end frequency response of 30Hz at -6dB and it must be said that in room this feels both achievable and potentially an understatement. Furthermore, the use of a larger driver grants the Silver 500 very benign impedance and sensitivity figures while it does so. The latter is quoted at 90dB/w (which again feels attainable) and while the minimum impedance is quoted as 3.1 ohms, nothing about the Silver 500’s performance in room suggests this is a tricky speaker to drive.
The catch comes when viewing the pack in a wider context. There are four different drivers at work in this package and critically, one of these changes is made between the left and right and the centre channel. The Silver C350 is a pretty large centre speaker but even so, it can’t make use of the eight inch driver in the main unit so instead uses a 6 inch version of the same driver. The handover issues are slightly alleviated by the use of the same midrange and tweeter ‘module’ you see in the floorstander which should give it identical performance to the left and right channels in the critical part of the frequency response.
The Silver FX at the rear of the pack follows a pattern we’ve seen on a number of Monitor Audio Surround speakers. A single six inch mid bass driver fires forwards on the front on the speaker and this is joined by a pair of C-CAM tweeters on either leading edge of the cabinet. These handover from the main driver at 2.5kHz and produce a more diffuse soundstage. A switch on the rear panel allows you to select between dipole (in phase) and bipole (out of phase) for the speakers which will help with refraction in corners and the like. The FX has been setup for wall mounting and comes supplied with a template to make this practical.
The last member of the family is the Silver W-12 subwoofer. As befits a package with front speakers that can reach 30Hz unaided, this is a fairly hefty piece of kit in its own right. It is built around a twelve inch driver- again constructed in a manner similar to the other drivers in the pack albeit less the strengthening dimples seen on the smaller versions. This is powered by a 500 watt class D amplifier which gives the W-12 extension down to a claimed 20Hz. This is partnered with the conventional selection of controls and then augmented with an interesting extra in the form of a trio of preset EQ functions titled ‘Music’, ‘Movie’ and ‘Impact.’ These alter the behaviour and response of the sub along pre-ordained lines.
These lines are pre-ordained because as well as these modes, the W-12 has auto calibration software that will take into account room modes and alter the output of the sub to suit. This does mean that while their often be a slight hole in the arguments you can make for selecting a non-specialist manufacturer sub beyond it looking nice, the W-12 has some genuinely useful functionality attached to it.
DesignThe Silver 500 pack is ultimately fractionally larger than the Q Series set that went through before it and also extremely black but thanks to some detailing on the part of Monitor Audio, the effect of them in the same room is very different. The Silver Series speakers manage to look and feel less monolithic in terms of how they sit in a room. The greater use of a second colour (in this case the silver of the drivers and the splash panel around the midrange and tweeter helps to break up the size of the speakers. It has to be said that in the context of the Silver 500 and the Silver 350C in particular, these are big speakers. The Silver 500 has additionally been fitted with a set of outrigger feet that makes it even larger and more space consuming. The proportions of the Silver 500 go a long way to helping make the speaker work well in a normal room though.
Aesthetically, these speakers all differ from the Silver 100 and indeed each other but they sit together well as a set and there are enough finishes beyond the piano black you see here to ensure that there are some options to work well in a variety of spaces. The Silver C350 is a little unusual looking – once you see that it looks strangely reminiscent of Reggie the Koala in American Dad, you can’t easily unsee it – but there is a grill for it. The Silver FX isn’t the most beautiful speaker going either but it is compact and easy to get up on a wall.
It is also worth noting that the build quality of the speakers as a set is extremely good too. The cabinets feel solid and well assembled and the absence of visible fastenings anywhere is a nice touch. I still don’t really like the effect of the tweeter surround and I can envisage some people finding the speakers a little fussy but on balance, I think that Monitor Audio has done a good job with the range. It is also worth pointing out that as there are two centre speakers in the range, you can assemble a considerably smaller pack than this one if you wanted to which is not an option open to KEF Q Series owners.
The Silver Series speakers manage to look and feel less monolithic in terms of how they sit in a room
How was the Silver 500 pack tested?The Monitor Audios were used in a 5.1.4 configuration with a Yamaha RX-A3040 AV Receiver. Source equipment included a Cambridge Audio 752BD Blu Ray player, Sky HD, an Amazon Fire TV stick and all displaying via a Panasonic GT60 Plasma all connected to an IsoTek Evo3 Corvus mains block. A Yamaha WX-AD10 was used for testing Tidal and streamed audio content. Material used has included Blu Ray, broadcast and on-demand video, lossless and high res FLAC and AIFF as well as Tidal and Spotify.
Sound QualityHaving got the Monitor Audios in and running – and as ever with review samples from them, this set had been extensively run before turning up – they do a number of things right from the outset. First up, these are a genuinely sensitive pack of speakers. For reasons I will come to, I don’t recommend scrimping on the amplification you use with them but you really don’t need excessive amounts of power to go impressively loud.
As a pack, the performance of the Silvers is about space and scale. Watching the final fight sequences of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol II, the prodigious size of the conflict is handled beautifully. With every speaker capable of meaningful extension in its own right (even the Silver FX will reach 60Hz), there is a really impressive sense of proportion to the whole soundtrack. Each speaker can be relied upon to convey a decent amount of the soundtrack in its own right before handing off to the subwoofer. You don’t need a film soundtrack to be relentless action for this to be useful. Something as simple as traffic moving around in Tinker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy just sounds more convincing than it does with just 100Hz and up.
The tonality of the speakers is also very good. Voices and ‘known’ effects (by which I mean the sound of an engine versus the sound of a spaceship for example) sounds consistently convincing. This has to be balanced against this being a fractionally brighter than neutral set of speakers. In normal use on the end of the Yamaha, this hasn’t been an issue but on the end of a thinner and brighter sounding AV Receiver, this might become an issue. What I find interesting about this is that the Silver 100 didn’t really demonstrate this as a stereo speaker and I find myself wondering if the midrange driver used across the front speakers is the culprit. Pay a little attention to system matching though and you should be fine.
With this done, the balance of what the Monitor Audios can do across film, broadcast and music is consistently good. Their sensitivity and decent extension also makes for an excellent set of speakers to use at lower volume levels because you still get a very convincing sense of that all important space and scale. It might sound a bit perverse using such large speakers in this way but for speakers for in constant use, it is a vital skill. This is further helped by the Silver W-12 sub being a supremely well sorted device too. As you might expect, it has prodigious low end extension but the EQ features really help to dial it into the room and are especially useful if (like me) you don’t naturally run EQ on your main speakers.
Do I miss Atmos? It isn’t something I habitually run but I did enjoy the extra information that the KEFs could bring to suitable mixes with their upward firing speaker and the dedicated surrounds of the Silver Series doesn’t completely offset that. If you aren’t worried about going into your ceiling for object based surround though, Monitor Audio does make an (excellent) in ceiling Silver speaker which will get the job done nicely and other upward firing designs would work too.
In terms of their two channel performance, the Silver 500 is strong but not perfect. There is a sense with material with plenty of low end that you can have a bit too much of a good thing and even with the ports bunged, the bass can be a little overpowering. With the position tweaked to have them further out into a room than I would really like for AV speaker, this can be improved further but when you have the W-12 at your disposal, I found myself taking the unusual step of running them as a 2.1 with the sub handling the frequencies below 80Hz as the bass control is better in this room. That same effortless sense of scale and tonal accuracy remains however and this is something you become fond of very quickly.
The balance of what the Monitor Audios can do across film, broadcast and music is consistently good
- Outstandingly spacious sound
- Superbly even performance at high and low levels
- Excellent build quality
- Fairly large
- Can be fractionally bright
- No upward firing option
Monitor Audio Silver 500 Surround Speaker Package ReviewNot for the first time in reviewing speakers, I am reminded of the effects of personal perception of their appearance and performance can shape the final judgement. In pure performance terms, the KEF Q Series multichannel package more than keeps the Monitor Audio Silver 500 honest. KEF’s clever drivers, object based surround support and the sheer integration from speaker to speaker are sensational and there are times where they feel clearly superior.
The thing is that equally there are then times where the Silver 500 pack feels in a different league. It looks better, sounds bigger and, thanks to eight inch drivers and a very, very talented sub, it frequently leaves the KEF sounding constrained and lacking impact. No less importantly for those of us who use our lounges for AV, this is a much nicer looking set of speakers to accommodate and live with. Neither pack ever delivers a truly knockout blow to the other one and I would understand your reasons for choosing either but given how close it is between them, it seems only fair to note that the Silver 500 – if for slightly different reasons – comes enthusiastically recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £3,575.00
Value For Money8
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