When you get right down to it, musical realism (the kind where you temporarily suspend disbelief and allow yourself to imagine that you are in the presence of real instruments) is what we all want from good speaker systems, though it is perhaps a “holy grail” we can rarely if ever achieve. But one recording in particular, the Silver RX system came about as close as any mid-priced rig I have ever heard to achieving true, you-are-there-grade realism. The recording is Christopher Roberts’ hauntingly beautiful and stunningly well-recorded Last Cicada Singing [Cold Blue], which features Roberts performing his own compositions for a fretless Chinese string instrument called the Qin. I’ve only heard a real Qin in live performances a handful of times, but after each performance I found the instrument’s harmonically complex, evocative sound—which can entail both soaring treble lines and plunging bass lines of almost ethereal delicacy—really stuck with me.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I put on the Roberts’ recording and heard through the Silver RX system what sounded very much like a real live, no jive Qin performing right there in the midst of the Playback listening room. What made the experience feel very nearly real was not just the system’s ability to get the sound of the Qin itself right, but also its ability to capture the sense of the acoustics of the room in which the recording was made, while recreating the often elusive feel of the “air” surrounding the instrument. Granted, the sonic presentation might have had a subtly larger-than-life quality, but even so I found the overall level of realism the Silver RX system achieved to be pretty mind blowing. Let’s put it this way: I’ve heard of more costly systems that could not do as well as this one did.
Another great example of the Silver RX system’s musical capabilities came through listening the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack of the Blu-ray version of Return to Forever Returns—Live at Montreux 2008. Featuring the all-star lineup of Chick Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass, Al DiMeola on guitars, and Lenny White on drums, this concert film represents a tour de force effort in the realm of fusion-oriented jazz.
Over the course of the concert, Al DiMeola switches from a black Gibson Les Paul electric guitar (an instrument often heard on DiMeola’s earlier recordings) to a set of gorgeous Paul Reed Smith electrics—instruments whose sounds might at first seem similar, yet that each have subtle and distinct sonic personalities. What impressed me was the way the Silver RX system faithfully captured (and delineated) the characteristic timbres and voicings of the guitars, doing an especially realistic job with the unmistakably warm, round, “fat” tone of the Gibson.
Stanley Clarke, in turn, performs much of the concert on his signature Alembic 4-string electric bass—an instrument whose unusually fine onboard electronics give it a particularly deep, clear, penetrating basso profundo voice. Having played a few Alembics in my day, I’m sensitive to (and appreciative of) the voicing of the instrument, and sure enough, the Silver RX system did a fine job of reproducing the characteristic Alembic sound—including the over-the-top dynamics that result from Clarke’s sure-handed slap’n’pop playing techniques.
But maybe the biggest surprise of all came in listening to Lenny White play a swooping and elaborate fill on his drum kit, punctuating the fill with hard, sharp shot to his snare drum and a big floor-mounted tom-tom. The Silver RX system simply nailed the sound tight “skin” sounds of the snare drum head and the deep “pop” and bounce of the floor tom. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a mid-priced surround system do a more realistic rendition of the sound of live drums in action.
What my comments are meant to convey is the fact that the Silver RX system is really an exceptional performer at its price—a system that, above all, gives a surprisingly honest and accurate rendition of the timbres and dynamic qualities of real instruments.
Monitor Audio’s Silver RX system is one of finest mid-priced surround speaker systems I’ve heard, offering neutral tonal balance, potent dynamics, and more detail and resolution than one would expect for the price. I would say that it is not just a little but rather a lot better than the Silver RS system it replaces—a system that really turns sonic silver into gold.