Monitor Audio Silver S2 loudspeaker Page 2
Perhaps it's down to that larger-than-usual woofer, but the Silver S2's strong suit was its dynamics. Toward the end of the review period, music editor Robert Baird lent me Led Zeppelin's How the West Was Won live album (Atlantic 83587-2). Like Robert, I have long thought that it was John Bonham's sticksmanship that propelled the Zeppelin to greatness; it has similarly long concerned me that someone who could so catastrophically fail as a human being could produce such sublimely intelligent, well-crafted drumming. Putting on his Moby Dick solo, I kept reaching for the volume control, at first to restore some of the missing air, but then because, the louder I played the track, the better the Monitor Audios seemed to like it.
And even at ear-bending levels, the speakers didn't blur similarly pitched drums. Bonzo's low toms are not tuned much higher than his big ol' kick drum, yet even as he thundered flams from the kit, the tonal differentiation between those low-pitched drums was preserved, something that is quite rare in inexpensive small speakers. The double bass on Mambo Sinuendo had good weight without sounding too boomy.
Stereo imaging was stable and well-defined, with good depth apparent. Peculiarly, there was more depth than I am used to on my own recordings, the Monitor Audios pushing orchestral images further behind Hyperion Knight's piano on my Gershwin CD (Rhapsody, Stereophile STPH010-2) than they had been in reality.
During the final auditioning session, I listened to some 24-bit/88.2kHz test mixes of a new recording I had made in May of Minnesotan male-voice choir Cantus in the superbly supportive acoustic of the fairly new Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. To cover my bets, I had used six mikes: near and distant pairs of spaced omnis and a central pair of cardioids. Over the Monitor Audios I kept going for a drier mix, with more of the cardioid feed apparent, than I did with the Dynaudio Confidence C4s I reviewed back in March. What sounded right on the S2s lacked enough envelopment over the more neutrally balanced Dynaudios, or even over the Spendor S3/5ses that Art Dudley reviewed in July and that had briefly paid a visit to my listening room.
As I have commented before, the trick for the designer of an inexpensive speaker to pull off is to balance the tradeoffs so that, while his design will have some faults compared with cost-no-object models, none of these will be severe enough to interfere with the listening experience. Monitor Audio's designer appears to have done this with the Silver S2. While the speaker does have an identifiable character, being balanced on the warm, mellow side, this is probably a good thing, given inexpensive electronics' tendency to have glary trebles. While I had some criticisms—that hooty cabinet bothered me perhaps the most—the Silver S2 never gave less than enjoyable results, and is very well-finished considering its affordable price. Well worth a listen.