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.
Then came Ludovico Einaudi’s “Experience,” and analysis of the soundstage width, depth, and imaging. Imaging was tight and detailed, though images were a little too aligned down the center. Changing toe-in solved this issue somewhat, yet image detail started to fade away a tiny bit. Since I’m more interested in image detail versus soundstage separation and width, I left the Silver 10s with the original ten-degree toe-in.
The Silver 10s are really great speakers, especially for the price, but there will be necessary compromises between ultra-wide soundstaging and imaging that might be a little stacked up in the center. They did, however, produce a surprisingly deep soundstage that reached far into the music. The harp that is so often shrouded by violins on the Einaudi track remained audible, and there were no issues with instruments sliding across the soundstage. The piano stayed positioned to the right, with the notes flowing toward my listening position, rather than toward the floor. This “image sliding” is a curious phenomenon that seems to affect some speakers, but not others. I’ve heard sliding on all types of speakers, even the ultra-expensive. You’ve probably heard this yourself. Instruments seem to move across the soundstage, generally dipping toward the floor, and then return to their original position. Over the years, I’ve come to prefer speakers that do not exhibit this effect of an instrument moving in a spatially unnatural way, back and forth across the soundstage as if they were sliding a few feet, and then snapping back into place. This could probably be called a type of smear, though it is more of a time or phase issue than an imaging distortion. The Monitor Audio Silver 10s were surprisingly accurate in this regard.
Monitor Audio recommends 80–200W for amplification, but most of my listening occurred in the 20–50W range. The Silver 10s can be driven to 105dB SPL with about 40W. My recommendation would be 50W or more, with a minimum of 25W for tube fans. If you like to rock out at really high SPLs, the Silver 10s can handle a lot of juice.
Overall, the Silver 10s are a lot better than their “typical box” look would suggest: great voicing, solid bass when properly distanced from the rear walls, an engaging soundstage, and an ability to sound great with a wide range of music. Really, what more could you want from an affordable speaker? And while $2500 isn’t pocket change, it’s an attainable goal for most everyone serious about audio, including my cash-strapped friends. This is great, because the Monitor Audio Silver 10s have renewed their faith in high-end audio, and mine as well. I see a new speaker purchase in their sonic future.
SPECS & PRICING
Driver compliment: Dual C-CAM RST long-throw 8″ woofers, one C-CAM 4″ midrange, one C-CAM gold dome tweeter
Frequency response: 30Hz–35kHz
Sensitivity: 90dB 1W/1m
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms
Max SPL: 117.8dB
Recommended power: 80–200W
Bass alignment: Bass-reflex, twin port
Crossover: 550Hz, 2.7kHz
Dimensions: 41″ x 9″ x 14″
Weight: 57 lbs.
902 McKay Rd., Suite #4
Pickering, Ontario, Canada
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