Monitor Audio's new Silver 8 floorstander is packed with go-faster goodies, and the result is a super sound, says David Price
Driven a new car lately? They’re very good, aren’t they? Even a relatively anonymous, middle priced Eurobox like a Ford Focus is now capable of safe, comfortable long distance travel, and is no slouch around country lanes. It’s economical, nippy and practical, so what’s not to like? Loudspeakers are getting this way too. Having started reviewing them in the mid-nineties, I come across fewer downright bad ones now. Perhaps it’s because we’re a bit further down the road, or up the learning curve, to know how best to design a loudspeaker. Technology has helped massively here too, from cheaper and more powerful speaker measurement systems to a profusion of synthetic materials, which are so much better at the job for which they’re intended.
Loudspeakers are getting a whole lot more sophisticated too – as the Monitor Audio Silver 8 attests. Not just in terms of its excellent cabinet finish but the different, complex cone and dome materials used in the drivers, and the choice of crossover components and wiring. In other words, things have only got better. The Silver series benefits from a range of nice goodies handed down to it from the company’s impressive Platinum and Gold series. It’s notable for being the cheapest real three-way design, as well as running two smallish bass drivers in parallel.
A good three-way speaker has an ease that no two-way, however great, can quite muster. To extend the car analogy, you can tune up a small engine but ultimately there’s no substitute for cubic capacity in the power stakes. A separate tweeter, midrange and bass unit will give an ease to a speaker that’s easy to hear, and also it takes the crossing over work out of the critical midband region where it’s all too easy to hear. That’s why Monitor Audio has made the S8 a three-way with the addition of a 100mm midrange unit, and also why it has fitted two 165mm bass units. Running them in parallel lets the speaker shift a decent amount of air and retain its narrow dimensions.
Importantly, though, the midband driver is the same – albeit slightly smaller – unit as the bass drivers. This will provide not only a good tonal match, but it should keep good phase too, and have similar dispersion characteristics. All are C-CAM RST types, a catchy acronym for Ceramic Coated Aluminium Magnesium with Rigid Surface Technology. Roughly translated, this means a thin hybrid metal cone that has been dimpled to resist bending. Metal cones are stiff and light, but can come a cropper in the distortion department because metal isn’t the least resonant material yet invented – hence the need for the RST. The tweeter uses a 25mm C-CAM dome, so again you get a tonal consistency that you’d lose if Monitor Audio had opted for, say, a silk dome. It vents internally around the outside of the magnet system into a large rear-loading chamber above the separate midband chamber.
The main part of the cabinet is the twin rear reflex-ported bass unit section. The box is 20mm MDF throughout, and sports bolt-through driver bracing, plus additional radial and cross-bracing, to stop it competing with the drive units as a sound source. It certainly feels a good deal more rigid than many at the price. Finally, the crossover uses carefully selected components, including polypropylene film capacitors, air core and laminated steel core inductors.
The Silver 8 is surprisingly unfussy. I stand it about 30cm from the rear wall, gently toed-in and it sings. It has a surprisingly clean and neutral sound – unlike some rivals that also use metal coned drivers. Indeed, if anything it is ever so slightly on the warm side, and certainly able to live with a lively sounding source or amplifier. I’d judge it to have a perfect tonal balance considering the kit it’s likely to be used with.
The Silver 8 sounds wonderfully integrated and all-of-a-piece. Thomas Dolby’s One Of Our Submarines Is Missing comes over with a combination of detail and decorum that I simply hadn’t expected at this price. This is an early eighties analogue recording, and I am able to discern the very subtle tape hiss in the background, which isn’t something all similarly priced designs do, yet above this the various instruments separate out beautifully. Bass is strong and well articulated, midband crisp yet smooth and the treble beautifully detailed.
The Silvers image superbly; they provide a broad spread of sound and you don’t need to sit exactly on-axis to get everything in all its glory. Rather than firing the sound out like a sniper rifle, they’re closer to a bank job-spec sawn-off shotgun, dispersing all over. This gives a seamless, almost electrostatic-like sound in some respects; it spreads out easily into the room and the bass, mid and treble driver integrate better than most.
Not only is the sound clean, it is fast too – yet it gets its speed from its excellent tracking of transients rather than any sort of artificial tonal edge or ‘zing’. It gives the very pleasant combination of openness and musicality, which proves infectious on Black Uhuru’s Party Next Door. The 8s serve up large tracts of bass, which is tight and well articulated, with no sense of the speakers falling over their own feet, so to speak. Further up, that midband driver kicks in at 500Hz to give an even and spacious sound until the tweeter joins the party at 2.7kHz. You don’t hear the transition and the impression the speaker gives is that you’re listening to a large point-source. It’s not quite as holographic as, say, a Tannoy Dual Concentric but it’s not far off, and far better than most price rivals in its ability to conjure up a cavernous soundstage.
Indeed, one great talent of the 8 is its ability with vocals; there’s a sense of natural ease that makes even the most challenging female voices a pleasure. The harsh, nasal tones of The Cookie Crew from Beatmasters’ Who’s In The House are surprisingly palatable with a wonderful sledgehammer bass set behind some frantic keyboard work and staccato drum machine beats. That dome tweeter really is very good, and marries so well with the midrange driver that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were hearing a far more expensive speaker.
Interestingly, the Silver 8 has no real weaknesses. Like the aforementioned modern Ford car, it doesn’t hurt, offend, frighten or intimidate – it just gets on the job, does it well, and doesn’t make a fuss. The only criticisms you can make is that it’s not quite as open, three dimensional or powerful as other, more expensive and larger designs. At its price though, to criticise would be churlish, because it’s just so darned competent at everything you can throw at it. Perhaps some would say it lacks a little character, that it doesn’t editorialise as much as some price rivals. It certainly gives a less stylised or contrived sound, but I definitely don’t find it dull.
As any good football manager knows, the easiest way to win is not to lose – and the Monitor Audio Silver 8 is an arch exponent of this. It simply doesn’t give goals away gladly; there’s little weakness on show in any respect. This is an excellent all-round loudspeaker that most will really enjoy. Those seeking a characterful sound might have less time for it, but people wanting a really capable design that gets on with the job of playing music in a subtle yet sophisticated way will love it.
LIKE: Clean, open, detailed and musical sound; finish
DISLIKE: Nothing at the price
WE SAY: Superbly competent all-round performer
PRODUCT Monitor Audio Silver 8
TYPE Three-way floorstanding loudspeaker
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 185 x 1,000 x 323mm
• 1x 25mm C-CAM dome tweeter
• 1x 100mm C-CAM midrange unit
• 2x 165mm C-CAM RST bass units
• Quoted sensitivity 90dB/1W/1m
DISTRIBUTOR Monitor Audio Ltd
TELEPHONE 01268 740580
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