Do you need a Silver package to reproduce the sound of the silver screen?
What is the Monitor Audio Silver?As part of the refinements to AVForums following our new software and new look, I’ve been asked to look at more multichannel speaker packages. This is proving intermittently successful - I’m trying to do at least one a month (about all my puny house can stand) and sometimes more. Thus far, the packages that have passed through of late - from sub sat packages all the way up to the mighty Tannoy Precision and Focal Aria packages have had one thing in common. They are multichannel speaker packages as distinct from a home cinema package. They have two pairs of stereo speakers matched to a centre and usually (but not always) a subwoofer.
This can be extremely effective - the Tannoy and Focal packs in particular are hardly lacking - but it is not always ideal. A dedicated home cinema rear speaker is something that can really open out the rear soundstage and the greater dispersion they offer can be extremely useful for those of us that can only use two rear speaker instead of four. More often than not, they can be wall mounted more easily than a conventional standmount too. The reasons for their relative rarity are understandable though. Dedicated rear speakers are doomed to be the smallest selling member of any lineup and if you are a speaker manufacturer keeping an eye on costs, it can be very tempting to rely on a speaker that can also be sold as a stereo pair to fill in for rear speaker duties.
This makes the package you see here something to celebrate. Now in its fourth iteration, the Monitor Audio Silver range has always had a foot in the stereo and multichannel camps. To this end, the 6AV12 package you see here is sold as a single package and includes, joy of joys, a dedicated rear speaker. The specific tweaks for AV don’t end there either. The hefty Silver W12 subwoofer includes a proprietary setup system to improve in-room performance. All of this comes wrapped in traditional Monitor Audio slimline cabinets- is this the perfect solution for a lounge based AV enthusiast?
Monitor Audio Silver DesignAfter the original Silver, then Silver RS and Silver RX series, Monitor Audio has reverted to calling the latest iteration of the range ‘Silver’ again which possibly reflects the lack of cool letters to put after ‘R’ but also simplifies naming a little. The new range is a big one too. There are two different standmounts, three floor standers, a centre speaker, surround speaker and effects speaker. The 6AV12 package combines the Silver 6 floorstander, Silver Centre and Silver FX surround and underpins them with the W12 subwoofer.
In terms of cohesion, the package is off to a good start. All of the speakers use the latest version of the company’s long standing C-CAM gold coated tweeter which has been a Monitor Audio trademark for many years. This version boasts improvements to the damping on the rear chamber and dome venting to improve the bandwidth. Since the Gold and Platinum ranges have moved to ribbon tweeters, this represents the ultimately expression of dome tweeters in the Monitor Audio line-up.
As well as the tweeter, all the speakers in the pack use the six version of the C-CAM mid bass driver. This is a ceramic coated metal dish that features what Monitor Audio calls the RST Cone Profile. This strengthens the drive by dimpling the surface. The dimples get smaller towards the centre of the dish giving them a rather trippy appearance and helping to give a little detail to what would otherwise be a big metal dish. In keeping with more expensive models, the drivers themselves are mounted in the company’s trademark single through bolt mounting that reduces the contact points between the driver and the cabinet. In the case of the Silver 6, the drivers are augmented by not one but two bass ports- one front and a smaller rear mounted one. The larger port is fitted with the trademark HiVe rifling which as my wife helpfully pointed out, does make it look a little like a sphincter.
The centre, surrounds and subwoofer are sealed which makes for simpler placement. The Silver Centre is relatively conventional as centre speakers go but the FX surround is more noteworthy. The cabinet is a trapezoid with the 6 inch main driver mounted at the front with a single tweeter on each side. This aids dispersion and also allows for the FX to be operated in bipole (in phase) and dipole (one tweeter switched out of phase). The speaker is supplied with keyhole mounts for placing on walls but is easy enough to place on a stand.
The whole package is built to the impeccable standards we’ve come to expect from Monitor Audio
The W12 subwoofer is also sealed and impressively compact considering it mounts a 12 inch driver and 500 watt amplifier. The driver is forward firing and to aid setup Monitor Audio has fitted it with their Automatic Positioning Correction (APC) system. This uses a supplied microphone to take measurements based on its surroundings and corrects the frequency response. This works well and was able to handle being placed in two different locations in the room without a problem. Another pleasing touch is that someone at Monitor Audio has noticed that most human beings aren’t fitted with periscopic vision and placed the volume and power controls on the top of the sub where they can be seen and easily adjusted - would almost everybody else who makes subs take note.
As well as convenient controls, the whole package is built to the impeccable standards we’ve come to expect from Monitor Audio. Everything from the easy to level spikes, to the ultra logical template for wall mounting the rear speakers is indicative that the company has put huge thought into the way that the Silver series will make a first impression. The build quality is excellent too. I’m going to go on record and say that the ‘Natural Oak’ finish of the review samples isn’t to my taste - it is too light and a bit 1990’s for me - but I cannot fault the quality of the veneering on the cabinets and as there are some rather more appealing veneers available, they would be my choice over the black or white lacquer finishes which while I’m sure are lovely, also command a price premium.
Monitor Audio Silver SetupThe Monitor Audio pack was connected to my Cambridge Audio 751R and 752BD combo with additional media supplied by a Sky HD box and the Netflix and iPlayer aps built into the TV. Music testing was carried out using the 752BD as a streamer with lossless and high res FLAC as well as the NAD DAC 2 being used to transfer Spotify and Grooveshark. The APC setup on the sub was tested by using the W12 with and without the setup engaged and in comparison to the Audessey setup on the 751R.
Monitor Audio Silver Sound QualityThe review samples appeared to be absolutely brand new so were left to normal TV duties for a day or so before any serious listening was undertaken. From the off however, the Silver 6AV12 showed a characteristic that I’ve not always experienced with Monitor Audio products. As a brand, I haven’t always got on with Essex’s finest. I’ve long admired the design and attention to detail that went into them but have been less infatuated by the performance which often wound up being powerful and detailed but rather bright and unforgiving. It didn’t take very long with the 6AV12 to realise that things have changed.
The top end of the latest Silver range is extremely impressive. The detail that Monitor Audio specialises in is still present in spades but there is a smoothness to how it presents material that I haven’t really experienced before. Even when pushed to high volume levels, the Monitor Audios are utterly unflappable and free of aggression. I get the feeling that if you partnered them a very bright amplifier you might still be able to coax a little brightness out of them but for the most part, this is still an impressively civilised pack of speakers.
This is not to say that they can’t hit hard. The Expendables is still a plot vacuum of the first order but the Monitors manage to create a sense of order and cohesion in the combat sequences that is vital to making sense of events. Even as levels climb, they stay controlled, detailed and very engrossing. A factor that helps the performance is that the main C-CAM driver used across all the speakers has enough impact to mean that the subwoofer is augmenting them rather than having to work above its comfort zone. Gunfire has real punch and impact and the dialogue (such as it is) is still clear and easy to follow.
This leaves the Silver W12 to get on with the business of sub bass and this is something it does extremely effectively. The engineering demands of wrapping such a comparatively small, sealed cabinet around a 12 inch driver and then ensuring it remains inert and silent are considerable. The W12 manages to carry this off admirably. Bass extension is deep, clean and extremely potent. Furthermore, the APC system does genuinely work to avoid resonance or room spikes and does so more effectively than the (admittedly fairly crude) 2EQ system of the 751R. The sealed enclosure of the W12 makes it fairly agile but given that the Silver 6 floorstander manages to have more than reasonable bass extension, I still would advocate switching it out of the system for music - it is far from poor but isn’t really required.
The performance of the AV12 is an interesting counterpoint to the Focal Aria system which is a similar price (less the subwoofer) to the Monitor Audios. The AV12 cannot live with the scale and soundstage that the Focal pack can generate and both systems are roughly equally capable in terms of detail retrieval. Where the Monitor Audio hits back is thanks to that well integrated sub, it manages to pack a punch that the Focal would only be able to manage with the addition of a sub (therefore raising the price further) and furthermore it can do it via more compact (and real wood coated) cabinets.
The diffusion of sound effectively creates the impression of there being more than two sources for it
The final piece of the puzzle is the dedicated surrounds. When watching the cheerful insanity of Troll Hunter, the way that the FX opens out the Norwegian forest is excellent. The diffusion of sound effectively creates the impression of there being more than two sources for it and the out of phase dipole setting in particular is extremely effective. The standard caveat that effects speakers are less suited to multichannel music needs to be trotted out but a quick blast the of the live LCD Soundsystem concert Shut up and play the hits suggests that any such disc that uses the rear channels to create a sense of space should not be in any way affected.
In terms of stereo performance, the Silver 6 is effective and usually entertaining. I did find that compared to the larger (and more expensive) Focal 826 and Tannoy Precision 6.2, the midrange is slightly recessed and there is slightly less fine detail to the bass but for a compact and sensibly priced speaker, this is more than up to the business of working in two channel. Given that the vast amount of energy is radiated from the front port, it is worth noting that the Silver 6 still performs best a little distance from wall but 20-25 centimetres is fine.
- Exciting yet refined sound
- Lovely build and finish
- Clever subwoofer software
- Needs thoughtful matching
- Front speakers need to be some distance from walls
- Lacquer finish at a premium
Monitor Audio Silver 6AV12 ReviewThere are many references on the forums to the ‘Wife Acceptance Factor’ and many of them are derogatory - as if owning equipment that doesn’t look like it was made by blind men in a shed is some sort of cop out. In reality, many of us have front rooms that must fulfil a variety of tasks other than home cinema and speakers that are placed in this space will need to be attractive as furniture rather than just transducers. Monitor Audio has always balanced these requirements well and the latest Silver series is no exception to this tradition.
What makes this more exciting still is that while it looks excellent, this is a package that delivers sonically too. The performance is exciting but easy to live with and the dedicated surround speakers and clever subwoofer setup software give these speakers a cinematic performance that is unfailingly enjoyable. If you want a speaker package that delivers on sound and aesthetics, this is a great place to start looking.
Value For Money8
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