The British loudspeaker maker Monitor Audio enjoys a reputation for being one of the first and most ardent pioneers in the development of drivers whose diaphragms (or cones) are made of metal (in order to exploit the light, stiff, responsive characteristics they afford). But perhaps more importantly, Monitor is also known for its unshakeable commitment to value, its determination to build products that, in terms of look, feel, and sound, leave prospective buyers thinking, “Wow, that’s a lot of speaker for the money.” Now more than ever, Monitor’s determination to offer audio products that deliver high-tech engineering at a fair price is especially welcome, and there is no better example of this than the firm’s newly released Silver RX series of loudspeakers, which are our review subjects here.
Monitor has, by tradition, named most of its speaker families after precious metals, starting with the Bronze range and progressing upwards through the Silver, Gold, and Platinum ranges. But of these four families it would be fair to say that the Silver range is Monitor’s “bread and butter” product line—a line sophisticated enough to offer many of the firm’s more advanced technologies, yet affordable enough to be accessible to a broad range of customers. Having reviewed some of the earlier-generation Silver models, I can attest to the fact that they showed real flashes of promise, offering lively dynamics, near full-range frequency response, and a generally clean and expressive sound. But that said, I would also say that they exhibited a certain “so close and yet so far” quality, meaning that despite acknowledged strengths the old Silver models occasionally allowed some unwanted sonic rough edges to mar their overall sound.
Well aware of this problem, Monitor’s engineering team, led by Technical Director Dean Hartley, began work on the Silver RX range with the thought that, this time around, they would raise the Silver line’s performance bar in substantial and not merely incremental ways. To this end, the engineering team spent a full two years refining and reworking its FEA (finite element analysis) design tools in order to develop computer models that could more accurately and precisely predict real-world speaker performance. In a CEDIA conversation, Hartley told me that Monitor’s old FEA tools, though instructive in some respects, were not very useful in terms of creating full-fledged speaker designs that worked as intended. The revised FEA tools, Hartley said, are an entirely different story; they allow Monitor to create speaker prototypes that behave much the way the computer models say they will. But in the case of the Silver RX line the new tools allowed Hartley and team to do something even more radical than that, which is, figuratively speaking, to turn sonic Silver into Gold.
Playback’s Monitor Audio review system consists of two Silver RX8 3-way, four-driver floorstanders ($1750/pair), a Silver RX-Centre 2 ½-way, three-driver center channel speaker ($675), two Silver RX-FX 2-way, three-driver , bipole/dipole surround speakers ($750), and a Silver RXW-12 500-watt subwoofer ($1300). I will describe technical highlights of these models under the “Features” section, below. Is this system capable of sonic alchemy? The short answer is, “yes” as I’ll explain in more detail in this review.
Consider this system if: you want a sub-$4500 speaker system whose sound is competitive with that of far more costly systems (we’re talking serious value here). Look at this system, in particular, if you like the idea of mid-priced speakers that probe the limits of sonic resolution and detail in ways that will remind you of much higher-end speakers. Expect an accurate, lively, dynamic, and well-defined sound and you’ve got the general idea. Finally, consider the Silver RX system for its sensible size and overall build quality; the Silver RX speakers are compact enough not to dominate a room, yet they’ll treat you to lovely woodwork and drivers too beautiful to hide behind grilles (unless you must, to keep children’s fingers from poking at them).
Look further if: you favor a sound that is slightly warmer, richer, or darker than is strictly accurate—the Silver RX system is very neutral in its tonal balance, but some listeners might interpret its sound as being slightly bright and lean. Be aware, too, that the Silver system is very revealing (conveying what some might consider “too much information,” so that you’ll need and want to use good associated equipment for best results. Frankly, the system can and does expose the sonic “warts” of good but not great source components, electronics, and program material. In short, this absolutely is not one of those warm, cuddly, forgiving British speaker systems you may have read about.