Monitor Audio Silver 300

The Right Stuff

Equipment report
Monitor Audio Silver 300
Monitor Audio Silver 300

I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the Silver 300 in my new short-term listening room. My wife and I are building a house with a dedicated listening room, but until that home is finished we’re living in a rental. Fortunately, in the interim I have a good-sized room (20' x 28') just for listening. Electronics driving the Silver 300 included the $4995 AVM CS2.2 all-in-one unit that outputs 110Wpc into 8 ohms, and 165Wpc into 4 ohms (see my review this issue), and the $13,000 Esoteric F-03A 30Wpc Class A integrated amplifier.

The Silver 300 has a big, bold, and robust sound that is in sharp contrast with the lighter weight and more laid-back sound of similarly priced two-way stand-mount speakers. This is a full-range speaker capable of extended bass reproduction and wide dynamic contrasts. In fact, the Silver 300’s most salient attribute is its outstanding portrayal of dynamics—quick, powerful, and full of verve. Transient signals such as drums have real power, impact, and drive. Subtle, but musically important low-level transient information is equally well-served. The track “Stella on the Stairs” from saxophonist Gary Meek’s terrific album Originals begins with an unaccompanied piano introduction, and then drummer Terri Lyne Carrington comes in with a very unusual and intricate rhythmic pattern played gently behind the melody. The Silver 300 beautifully rendered these aspects of her playing. The Silver 300 also conveyed the percussive component of piano, adding to the lively character that I appreciated listening to Herbie Hancock on River: The Joni Letters. I also liked the fact that the Silver 300 exhibited this transient speed even at low listening levels; you don’t have to push the speaker hard to feel music’s rhythmic expression. I listened to countless hours of background music through the Silver 300 while working at my computer and greatly enjoyed these qualities.

The Silver 300’s overall balance was slightly upfront and immediate through the midrange and treble. This isn’t a speaker that creates a sense of depth through a recessed midband. Soundstage depth was good, although the Silver 300 tended to project images in front of the speaker. Image precision was razor-sharp and clearly defined. Centrally positioned vocalists were rock-solid both in their placement and tangibility of image. Commendably, this solidity didn’t collapse when I was sitting slightly off the centerline.

I was surprised by the Silver 300’s refinement and resolution through the midrange, as well as by its inner detailing. Instruments toward the back of the hall, or the back of the mix, were clearly resolved and delineated rather than disappearing into the murk. Check out Joe Sample’s piano playing behind B.B. King’s guitar solo on “Three O’Clock Blues” from Riding with the King. Every note was clearly articulated and spatially distinct from the rest of the mix. Most speakers at this price lack this ability to resolve individual instruments and portray such inner detailing. I also heard this quality on Keith Johnson’s recording of The Rite of Spring; the very quiet woodwinds in the back of the orchestra were fully fleshed out with textural detail and imaged distinctly in space instead of just sounding like undifferentiated noise.

The Silver 300’s bottom end is remarkable in extension and articulation. This speaker plays much bigger than its size and delivers a satisfyingly solid bottom end. I was shocked that a $2000-per-pair speaker could sound so clean, fast, and defined in the bass and midbass. On the opening track of the aforementioned Originals, Brian Bromberg tears off a solo on standup bass that would put any speaker to the test. The Silver 300 deftly conveyed every aspect of that large resonant wooden instrument, from harmonic texture to pitch definition to dynamic expression. I had the distinct impression of hearing those aspects thanks to the Silver 300’s resolution of timbre and density of textural detail. The bass was not accompanied by bloat, overhang, thickness, or slowness. The entire range the acoustic bass spans was also remarkably continuous and free from discontinuities as the instrument traversed different registers. Throughout my entire time with the Silver 300 I also heard this smoothness and lack of artifacts on left-hand piano lines. The dynamic agility of this speaker through the bass regions, both in the way notes start and stop, is off-the-charts great.

Given the Silver 300’s stunning overall performance for the asking price, I feel a bit churlish pointing out specific shortcomings. But that’s my job, and you should take these comments in the context of the rest of this review. The lower treble tends to be on the dry side with a bit of hardness. The Silver 300 is not a lush, sweet, and forgiving speaker that makes everything sound “beautiful.” Rather, it leans toward an upfront and lively treble balance, though I wouldn’t call the treble bright. Second, when pushed hard, the bass can get a bit congealed and lose some of the fabulous pitch definition I heard at normal to fairly loud listening levels. Again, these criticisms should be considered in the context of a $2000-per-pair speaker.

I have hundreds of enjoyable listening hours on the Silver 300 and consider these shortcomings minor in light of the overall sound quality. A hard and bright treble would have been a disqualifier for me, no matter how good the rest of the sound. That certainly wasn’t the case with the Silver 300 but you should know that this speaker isn’t a shrinking violet.