First Listen: Monitor Audio Silver RX Surround Speaker System

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First Listen: Monitor Audio Silver RX Surround Speaker System

At CEDIA 2009, one of my most enjoyable booth visits involved a meeting with Monitor Audio Technical Director Dean Hartley to discuss his firm’s new Silver RX line of loudspeakers. Monitor Audio, as you may know, names most of its product families after precious metals, starting with Bronze range and progressing upwards in price and performance through the Silver, Gold, and Platinum ranges. By tradition, and as a matter of savvy pricing, the Silver models are essentially Monitor’s “bread and butter” product line.

In the past, I have reviewed (and also have overseen writers who have reviewed) Monitor’s previous-generation Silver models and have come away with generally favorable yet also somewhat mixed reactions. On one hand, the old Silver models undeniably offered a lot of value for money, especially for listeners who enjoyed a full-bodied and highly dynamic sound—albeit with occasional sonic rough spots in a few places. On the other hand, I couldn’t quite escape the sense that the old Silver speaker represented a sonic case of “so close yet so far.” In my mind’s eye, I pictured the old Silver models as needing just a few clicks worth of added refinement and smoothness in order to make the leap up from “pretty good for the money” to a much higher standard.

Interestingly, that’s not too far off from the way Hartley and his team would themselves have assessed the old Silver line, so that their mission profile in designing the new Silver RX range was to add those desired touches of refinement, etc., while preserving the down-to-earth prices for which the Silver family is known. To this end, Hartley and company sought first to create better computer-aided design tools. Hartley explained that he and his team members have been working with FEA (finite element analysis) design software for several years now, but that initial results, while helpful to a degree, were ultimately disappointing in the sense that there remained a divergence between what the computers said would sound good vs. what actually sounded good. Tackling this problem head-on, Hartley and his team worked to troubleshoot, modify, and revise their FEA design software with an eye toward pulling together computer-driven speaker design models that tracked much more closely with perceived speaker performance in the real world. According to Hartley, the team has made very significant amounts of progress in this area over the last two years, and the new Silver RX speakers are the first models to benefit from Monitor’s now substantially improved FEA design tools.

Accordingly, the new Silver RX designs have found affordable ways to incorporate several technologies previously seen only in Monitor’s more expensive Gold-series models. Among those technologies are:

  • *  C-CAM gold dome tweeters that are almost directly derived from the tweeters used the previous generation Gold-series models.
  • *  C-CAM midrange and mid/bass drivers with distinctive, dimpled RST cone surfaces and shapes that were extensively computer-modeled with the objective of reducing cone breakup modes for “purer, more natural midrange clarity.”
  • *  Drivers featuring “rigid, non-magnetic cast polymer chassis“ designed to improve cooling, “reduce internal pressures,” and to enable the speakers to play “louder and cleaner.”
  • *  Tension rods that firmly cinch drivers into the speaker enclosures, helping to make the enclosure more rigid and vibration resistant.
  • *  Extensively computer-modeled enclosures—some equipped with HiVe II ports—said to help provide “clean powerful bass and superior transient response.”

In short, the new Silver RX models promise near Gold-series levels of performance, but at a much lower and therefore more accessible prices. Our test system consists of the following:

  • *  Two flagship Silver RX8 three-way floorstanders ($1750/pair)
  • *  A Silver RX Centre speaker (price to be confirmed with Monitor)
  • *  Two Silver RX-FX bipole/dipole surround speakers ($750/pair)
  • *  A Silver RXW-12 subwoofer ($1500)

How does the package sound? Well, I’m still in the “getting to know you” phase of the review process, but my first impressions are very favorable. Compared to previous Monitor Silver-series speakers I’ve heard, the new Silver RX models offer greater openness and detail (especially in the upper midrange and treble regions), a noticeably smoother and more relaxed (but certainly not dull or reticent) presentation overall, and tighter yet also more deeply extended bass. It will be interesting see how these initial impressions hold up (and/or evolve) as listening time accumulates. But based on a first listen, I think the Monitor Silver RX will be one of the strongest competitors in the hotly contested mid-priced surround speaker marketplace.

Watch for our upcoming review on AVguide.com. 

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