Even if you consider yourself familiar with the British loudspeaker industry, the name of this one may not ring a bell. But don't think it's a garage operation. The name Monitor Audio is perfectly familiar to the competitors, several of which get their own speakers assembled in that company's factory.
Monitor Audio, founded in the mid-eighties by Mo Iqbal, quickly became known for its pioneering work in the use of metal dome tweeters. Of course early metal tweeters didn't sound especially good, and many still don't. Indeed, when we reviewed an early model, the very small R700MD in UHF No. 19, we were easily able to control our excitement. But then Monitor Audio continued its work, developing tweeter domes of metal alloys rather than pure metals, and anodizing them with gold. That is the case of the tweeter of the Silver 9, the largest of Monitor Audio's Silver series. Why gold? Not because of its conductivity, we're pretty sure, but...we'll settle for evaluating the results.
The woofers are unusual too, with cones composed of what the company calls C-CAM: an alloy of aluminum and magnesium with a ceramic coating, which (according to the literature) not only resists breakup when driven hard, but acts as a heat sink to dissipate heat from the voice coil.
This is a reflex speaker with a port at the rear, but the configuration is not quite what you'd expect. Though the larger (14 cm) drivers are identical, they are assigned to different parts of the frequency range, and Monitor Audio classes the Silver 9 as a three-way design.
All Monitor Audio speakers are finished in natural wood, and our oak Silver 9's were unusually attractive, with a satisfying glow to the hand-rubbed surfaces. We weren't certain why the sides were faced with two different veneer panels rather than one (you can see the effect in our photo), but they certainly looked good. The cloth grilles are sculpted to echo the shape of what's underneath, though audiophiles whose children are at the age of reason (around 35, let's say) may wish to leave them off.
The bottom has threaded holes for the included spikes, and there are two pairs of well-made binding posts at the rear, with flat jumpers in case you're not biwiring.
After a few dozen hours of break-in time, we connected the Silver 9's to our Omega system and did a first run with our initial selection, A Chorus Line from the Frederick Fennell Beachcomber disc (Reference Recordings RR-62CD). As in all our other speaker reviews, this first listen is merely preliminary. It is intended first of all to allow us to adjust the playback level. Unlike some other magazines, we don't match levels to the reference (we've explained why before); instead we set the volume knob to give what all of us agree is a comfortable level, just as you would probably do at home. That first listen is also intended to determine whether the speaker placement is the right one.
And we quickly determined that it was not. As always, we had done that first listen with the speakers placed exactly where our reference speakers had been. Placed that way, the Silver 9's sounded somewhat thin. We moved them back as much as we could, and the tonal balance improved a great deal. We suspect they would be at their best nearly against the wall, but that is not an option in either of our reference systems.
With the speakers now set up, we listened again and we liked what we heard. Fennell's ensemble is large and plays with power, but the speakers never allowed all those instruments to become confused. Indeed, the instruments were well separated, both spatially and in their different timbres. Rhythm was at once light and strong. There was a rich variety of detail, and both Reine and Albert used the word "finesse" in their notes.
Part of the way through this wind band piece there is a percussion passage that includes a lot of work for the tympani, and with HDCD decoding it poses a challenge to a speaker. The bottom end energy was of course no match for our reference speakers, with their twin push-pull subwoofers, but nor were the Silver 9's embarrassed by the piece. Everything hung together, and we had no problem with...
Model: Monitor Audio Silver 9
Price: C$2895, US$2000
Warranty: 2 years original owner
Dimensions: 95 x 20 x 27 cm
PARTIAL TEXT: Reproducing Extreme Lows, Acoustics for Surround Sound, Monitor Audio Silver 9, Klipsch RB-5, Coincident Triumph Signature, Mirage BPS150i, Audiomat Solfège, Gossip
FULL TEXT: The Digital Radio File, Reference 3a MM De Capo, State of the Art
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