I love to fantasize about exotic, ultra-expensive audio gear. Who doesn’t? But what I love more is when I have to opportunity to review components and speakers I can actually afford—and more importantly, that my peers can afford. Most of my friends are in their late twenties—I’m twenty-seven, full disclosure—so showing off components that cost more than a year’s worth of rent is equivalent to taking them for a ride in a Ferrari. Yes, they revel in the sound, but it’s unattainable sound in their current financial circumstances. When I received the three-way floorstanding Monitor Audio Silver 10s for review, I was really excited—and worried—about evaluating a $2500 speaker. Would they perform well enough to remind my friends that high-quality sound is attainable, even on their tight budgets, or would the sound fall short and discourage them? Fortunately, the Silver 10s are more than adequate; they are one of the best $2500-and-under full-range floorstanders I’ve heard since the Revel F12.
Don’t Worry, It’s High End
When I first started playing in the audiophile world, I couldn’t help but compare my system to the components in The Absolute Sound, which I’ve been reading since I was thirteen. Even though by all standards I had one of the best systems of anyone my age, I worried about how much aural information I was missing. “If only I could afford more” was what I usually thought. It took me a while to realize that careful evaluation, setup, and matching weren’t compromises—they were the high-end path to sonic glory. I stress this because it’s easy to see a price and make assumptions about a product’s quality. Trust me, the Monitor Audio Silver 10s are high-performance loudspeakers, and $2500 isn’t a compromise.
Setup was rather easy. After attaching the bottom plinth to the speakers, into which adjustable feet are threaded, I set the speakers in the same spot in which I’d placed the Endeavor Audio E-3s (reviewed in our last issue). I don’t know if it’s because the Silver 10s are dual-ported bass-reflex designs, but they overloaded my room when placed close to the rear walls. One port is found in the typical location of most bass-reflex speakers—a couple inches above the binding posts—and the other is found halfway up the cabinet. This meant pulling the speakers almost five feet from the rear wall before they calmed down enough to maintain tight bass. I listen to a lot of jazz, so I’m rather picky about upright bass reproduction, and a speaker’s ability to keep the low frequencies from reverberating or becoming muddled and boomy. If your main listening space limits how far you can move a speaker from the rear wall, make sure you have at least three feet of breathing room for the Silver 10s, or a room with a cubic volume above 3500 to allow the bass to dissipate. If you have a small room and can’t keep these away from the rear wall, you’re going to have too much low end.
But I said setup was easy, right? It was. After I moved the Silver 10s away from the rear wall and set them 9.5 feet apart, I toed them in about 10 degrees and adjusted the feet...and that’s it. I played around with a few other setups, but the more I tweaked, the more I wanted to go back to the first setting. Maybe it was just blind luck, but I think it has more to do with Monitor Audio’s design philosophy, which seems to be a set-it-and-forget-it mentality (all of its speakers are also part of multichannel lines, so the home-theater enthusiast is kept in mind). The sweet spot was sufficiently wide to sound uniform whether I sat forward or back, leaned left or right in my chair. Having to remain in a single position to ensure that imaging doesn’t shift can be very tedious, and I loved that the Silver 10s were forgiving.
My friends and I like all kinds of music, so a full-range loudspeaker is a natural choice. This is where the Silver 10s competent low-end extension was a major plus. Whether classical or rap, jazz or rock, or anything in between, the Silver 10s provided plenty of respectably controlled bass. They were really impressive when listening to Rebecca Pidgeon’s rendition of “Ain’t No Sunshine” on Chesky Records’ 96/24 The World’s Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings. The upright bass stayed taut and punchy, just to the left of Pidgeon’s voice, and sounded eerily like a real bass in the room. My college roommate played upright bass professionally, and many nights were spent playing along with our favorite jazz recordings.
I had an urge to play Nils Lofgren’s live version of “Keith Don’t Go,” which has unfortunately become one of those overplayed audio-show staples, but is a really good top-end tester. Those high harmonics and the rapid plucking can be rather fatiguing with some speakers that lean to the bright side, and while the Silver 10s skew slightly bright, I listened to this song on repeat for almost 45 minutes after a day of listening to other music and my ears were never fatigued. Next came Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood,” which is another song that can be plenty fatiguing; even after the Lofgren torture test, SRV was as pleasing as can be. But, if you have components that already emphasize the highs, you will want to listen to these speakers at home to make sure they won’t be too bright.