Three-way, fourdriver, bass reflex floorstanding loudspeaker. Drive units: one 1 (25mm) tweeter with waveguide; one 3 (76.2mm) midrange driver, two 8 (203.2mm) bass drivers. All driver membranes are ceramiccoated aluminum/magnesium alloy. Crossover frequencies: 800Hz, 2.7kHz. Frequency response: 27Hz–35kHz -6dB. Sensitivity: 90.5dB/2.83V/m. Impedance: 8 ohms nominal, 4.1 ohms minimum (at 150Hz). Power handling: 250W RMS. Recommended amplification: 80–250W.
Dimensions 43.1 (1095mm) H × 12.6 (319mm) W × 15.3 (389mm) D. Weight: 49lb (22.5kg) each.
Finishes Black Oak, Natural Walnut, Satin White, Ash, High Gloss Black.
Serial numbers of units reviewed 100002 (both). Designed and engineered in Rayleigh, Essex, UK, and manufactured with proprietary components in China.
Price $3200/pair. Approximate number of US dealers: 95. Warranty: 5 years.
Manufacturer Monitor Audio, 24 Brook Rd., Rayleigh, Essex SS6 7XJ, England, UK. Web: monitoraudio.com. US distributor: Kevro Int., 902 McKay Rd., Suite 4, Pickering, ON L1W 3X8, Canada. Web: kevro.com.
When I learned that I was to review the new seventh generation of Monitor Audio’s Silver 500 loud-speaker ($3200/pair), descendants of the original Silver-series products launched in 1999, I thought back on what I knew about the company and then refreshed my memory. Monitor Audio was founded, in 1972, in Teversham, England, a town bordered by farmland located some three miles from the epicenter of its more famous neighbor, Cambridge. The founder was businessman/sound engineer Mo Iqbal; Iqbal was assisted by Martin Colloms (before that venerable critic turned to writing about hi-fi) and Michael Bean. In 1997, Mo sold the company to a group of audiophiles, one of whom—Andrew Flatt— stays on today as the company’s sole owner.
In 1976, Monitor Audio moved its operations to Essex, home to Rega Research. Not long after that, they relocated again to larger digs in nearby Rayleigh (also in Essex). Today, Monitor Audio employs 100 people at that location, keeping the business running and designing and developing new products. The manufacture of Monitor Audio speakers was moved to China over a period of several years; Silver-series manufacture was moved to China in 2004—about which, more later.
I remembered reading a couple of favorable Stereophile reviews of Monitor Audio speakers, written by Kal Rubinson. I looked them up: Kal reviewed the $2000/pair Silver 8 speaker in 2014 and the similarly priced Silver 300 in 2018.1
In 2018, Monitor Audio bought Roksan, the British company behind 1985’s legendary Xerxes turntable; I’d lost track of the company rather quickly after. I mention this not because it’s directly relevant to this review but because I remember it fondly. Monitor + Roksan seemed like an auspicious marriage. It felt earthy, rootsy, principled.
“Phenomenal audio is more than the sum of its parts.” These words greet visitors to the “About” page on the Monitor Audio website. “Yes, it’s about the finest metals and craftsmanship, but it’s also about the warmth: the flesh and blood of the listener. The connection. That’s why, at Monitor Audio, our mission is to make audio human.”
Nuts and bolts and other parts
Over the course of this review, I had several exchanges with Charles Minett, Monitor Audio’s product design director, and Michael Hedges, the company’s technical director. Both insist that the best cones are made of metal and metal composite—that such drivers have the greatest potential for lifelike sound. When I asked if Monitor Audio ever considered using paper or plastic as a substitute, the idea was dismissed out of hand.2
“There are generally two types of cones,” Hedges said. “Soft, well-damped ones and hard, less well-damped ones. The design aim for a soft well-damped one is to accept that the material will ripple and cause distortion in the passband and work with that. In the case of a harder material, like metal, the idea is to create a cone rigid enough so that the audible effects of cone-rippling occur outside the passband so that the frequency response sounds very smooth. We’ve become very good at achieving this.”
Monitor Audio uses Multiphysics simulation software—Hedges wrote a conference paper on the software a dozen years ago—to perform complex simulations that start at the electrical input and end at its acoustical output, allowing the company to test in silico a multitude of crossover/cabinet/driver scenarios. The most promising virtual designs are pursued outside ex silico, in real life. “The simulator gets us in the vicinity of very good sound, but listening tests are still critical when it comes to fine-tuning a design to sound its best,” Hedges said.
The three-way, four-driver, bass-reflex Silver 500 7G is top dog in the company’s Silver series. Like its smaller siblings, the 500 incorporates proprietary features in its cones, most notably the C-CAM (ceramic-coated aluminum/magnesium) material, said by the company to be “extremely rigid, yet light enough to yield high overall efficiency,” and Rigid Surface Technology (RST), now in version II, which refers to the cones’ shape and the dimpled hex pattern across the surface, said to “allow the radiating surface to resist mechanical bending forces, which can twist the shape of conventional driver cones to produce distorted sound. The RST patterns also help to displace standing waves that can collect on the cone’s surface.”
I asked Hedges to name the biggest differences between the 6G and 7G versions. “These are hard questions to answer,” he cautioned, “because we design a speaker as a system, so it’s less about a better tweeter or midrange and more about how changes in these areas bring greater improvements in other areas. I would say though that the biggest changes are in the all-new tweeter and its waveguide, and the midrange driver, which is now smaller”—it’s 3—“and uses a neodymium magnet. These changes allowed us to build a better crossover, which is really where we got the biggest benefit, specifically when it comes to the 7G’s tonal balance.”
Imeasured the Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G’s farfield behavior with DRA Labs’ MLSSA system, an Earthworks microphone preamplifier, and a calibrated DPA 4006 microphone. I used an Earthworks QTC-40 mike, with its small 1/4-diameter capsule, to measure the nearfield responses of the loudspeaker drive units and ports.
The Silver 500 7G’s sensitivity is specified as a high 90.5dB/2.83V/m, which was confirmed by my estimate. Monitor Audio specifies the Silver 500 7G’s impedance as 8 ohms, with a minimum magnitude of 4.1 ohms at 150Hz. Measured with Dayton Audio’s DATS V2 system, the impedance magnitude (fig.1, solid trace) remained above 4 ohms for the entire audio band, with a minimum value of 4.23 ohms at 153Hz. The EPDR1 drops below 3 ohms between 81Hz and 135Hz, a region where music can have high levels of energy, with a minimum value of 2.12 ohms at 102Hz. The Silver 500 7G should be used with amplifiers that are comfortable with 4 ohm loads, but any drive difficulty will be ameliorated by the speaker’s high sensitivity.
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