Monitor Audio Silver 8 loudspeaker

I remember reading about Monitor Audio speakers as I pored over British audio mags in the 1970s, before the economy was globalized. They were among the many worthy UK brands whose cachet was amplified by their unavailability in the US. This venerable brand has survived and flourished, while many others from the 1970s have disappeared, or become mere labels under the aegis of multinational corporations. The reasons for this success seem to be that Monitor has evolved their metal-cone driver technology, kept the focus on their core market, and continued to provide high-quality construction and finishes. So I was not surprised to read, at the back of the Silver 8's multi-language owner's manual, that the speaker was "Designed and Engineered in the United Kingdom, made in China."

For all the years I have been aware of Monitor Audio, I had never had a pair of their speakers in either of my systems. Now, however, I had an ulterior motive: I've been shopping for new speakers for my weekend system, in Connecticut. They need to be three-way floorstanders (my wife hates stand-mounted boxes), not require the support of a subwoofer, be no taller than 40", and have a retail price in the vicinity of $2000/pair. Monitor's new Silver series includes three floorstanders of similar configuration. The Silver 6 ($1500/pair) is a 2½-way speaker, and the larger Silver 10 ($2500/pair) stands just under 42" tall, including its plinth and feet. But the three-way Silver 8, at just under 40" and $2000/pair, seemed just right. As soon as I read about it, I asked for a pair for review.

The Silver 8 is simply gorgeous, with a fit and finish that are probably impossible to achieve at the price without production in the Far East. My pair were in a perfect High Gloss Black Lacquer on all surfaces, including the bottom, which adds $200 to the price of a pair. A similarly finished and substantial plinth firmly bolts to the bottom and can receive spikes or soft feet, both adjustable. The four drivers are mounted with single-bolt fixtures from the rear, and are held in place by tension applied with a keyed nut on the back. The generously sized and accessible terminals made it very easy to get a firm grip on the spade lugs with only a modicum of finger pressure. No mounting fixtures mar the beauty of the front panel, and the cloth-covered grille is attached by hidden magnets.

All of the Silver 8's drive-units are made of Monitor's proprietary ceramic-coated aluminum-magnesium (C-CAM) material. The dual 6" woofers have dished diaphragms with a hard skin but are internally damped, and are loaded by separate chambers in a very rigid cabinet of MDF that's braced both across and radially. Each driver has a support brace that extends from its magnet to the rear panel. Each woofer's chamber is vented to the rear via a tapered port with a textured surface, called by Monitor Audio HiVeII, to smooth the flow of air. The 4" midrange's underhung voice-coil permits long excursions with low distortion. The tweeter has a vented diaphragm and a damped rear chamber. The outputs of the four drivers are integrated by a three-way crossover (500 and 2700Hz) with premium-grade polypropylene capacitors and wired with silver-plated, oxygen-free copper. The Silver 8's three-way design was one of the things that attracted me to it in the first place—I hoped for better midrange clarity and dispersion than is usually achieved by the 2.5-way designs that are nearly ubiquitous at or near this price.

I installed the Silver 8s in my Connecticut system, hooked up as both a stereo pair and as the front L/R speakers of my surround system, driven by a Marantz AV8801 preamplifier-processor and a Bryston 9BST or Rotel RMB-1585 power amp. Audyssey EQ was set to LR-Bypass so that, in stereo or surround, the Silver 8s were not subjected to equalization.

Talk about hopes realized! From the second the system was powered up, the Silver 8s impressed me. I heard a welcome clarity in the midrange that gave all music a natural presence—precisely why I'd wanted a three-way with a dedicated midrange driver. The Silver 8's 4" cone reproduces the upper midrange, from 2.7kHz down to 500Hz, so the integration of its output with that of the woofers (at unspecified crossover slopes) is critical for proper balance with voices and instruments whose fundamentals fall below 500Hz. I think Monitor has achieved that—I could hear no fault with the Silver 8 with voices that span the crossover frequency. My reference for this integration, mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland in her Come Away, Death, with pianist Sergei Osadchuk (free 24-bit/192kHz PCM download from SACD/CD, 2L 2L-064-SACD), had a warmth I had heretofore heard only from my Manhattan system, with its big Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamond and Bryston Middle T speakers (review of the latter underway). This high-resolution recording has always sounded deliciously fresh and sweet, but all of the recent speakers that have passed through my Connecticut system have offered a slighter rendition of Kielland's rich tones. That's not to say that the Silver 8s were artificially enhancing the lower mids—male voices didn't suffer, and didn't sound overripe in any way.

A pair of 6" woofers does not suggest stygian bass, even if Monitor specifies the Silver 8's lower limit as 32Hz, unqualified by any rolloff spec. At low levels, the speaker's low end was in good balance, as suggested above, and the louder I pushed them, the more power and impact the Silver 8s delivered, without boom. Even Gustav Stenz and the Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra's warmly powerful cycle of Mahler symphony recordings was just fine without my having to send in the subs. Try the last movement of Symphony 6 (SACD/CD, Oehms OC-651), with its weighty "hammer blows" and its truly devastating, anguished final chord. I found an abiding source of pleasure in how the Silver 8 was never caught out by the bass information in any recording; my cursory examinations of in-room frequency responses suggested that it was less affected by room modes and placement than are my resident Paradigm Studio/60v3s. John Atkinson's measurements will tell us the real numbers, but I found the Silver 8's bass remarkably solid and satisfying. I think some of that success was probably due to the critical damping of the drivers in their individual enclosures, which may have made possible the 8's well-controlled bass extension to its reasonable lower limit. Of course, adding a subwoofer or two further endowed the Monitors' sound with prodigious bass, but that was significant with only a minority of recordings.

There's little to say about the Silver 8's treble. Although it was detailed and extended, it was also smooth and untiring. Indeed, as with the best speakers—those costing far more than the Silver 8's $2000/pair—the high frequencies, almost all overtones, were unobtrusively integral to the music, not distinct from the midrange fundamentals. I greatly appreciated this with recordings of both small and large ensembles. For the former, I listened to the latest release from the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, The Year Before Yesterday (BDA/CD, Sono Luminos DSL-92180). Particularly with percussion pioneer William Kraft's Fore!, the Silver 8s provided, from the CD, a precise spatial delineation, as in a good chamber-music performance, coupled with remarkable impact and presence from each instrument. For a large ensemble, I immersed myself in the world of Robert Kyr via his The Cloud of Unknowing and Songs of the Soul, performed by the wonderful vocal ensemble Conspirare with the support of the Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra, under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson (SACD/CD, Harmonia Mundi HMU 807577). What a marvelous way to take flight to a world of beauty from the reality of a rainy day! While the harmonies may be complex, the perception is of effortless flow, even in two channels. One can succumb happily or listen analytically, but either way, one does so with the feeling that nothing separates one from the music and the musicians.

Of course, both of these recordings benefit immensely from multichannel playback, but I can't say that listening in stereo via the Silver 8s was anything less than delightful. Their soundstage was deep and, if I wanted to focus on instrument placements instead of the music, there was a wealth of stable detail to appreciate. Soundstages weren't much wider than the space defined by the speakers' outer edges, but this might be the only tiny fly in the Silver 8's ointment. If so, it's one I'd gladly accept in return for the speakers' well-defined stereo presentation and almost ideal tonal balance.

All of the above notes reflect my current listening interests. However, the Monitor Silver 8s were also great with more wide-ranging music. I popped in Sara K.'s Hell or High Water (SACD/CD, Stockfisch SFR 357.4039.2), B.B. King and Eric Clapton's Riding with the King (DVD-A, Duck/Reprise 45024-2), and Oscar Peterson Meets Roy Hargrove and Ralph Moore (CD, Telarc CD-83399). My, did the Silver 8s deliver. I pulled out Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 (2 BDs, Rhino 525668) and played through both discs, randomly switching between stereo and multichannel. Regardless of track or changes in players, it all sounded more alive and engaging than I remembered.

Sure, much more exalted and expensive designs—perhaps even its own sibling, the Silver 10—can produce greater power, bass extension, and ultimate resolution. But compared with my admittedly older and discontinued Paradigm Studio/60v3s ($1699/pair when last available), the Silver 8s were strikingly cleaner in the lower midrange, more open in the upper midrange, and had a subtler treble—though the Studio 60s do have more heft at the bottom. The pricier and even more beautiful Sonus Faber Venere 2.5 ($2498/pair) had an equally spacious upper end, but I give the palm to the Silver 8 for its midbass smoothness. The KEF Q900 ($1598.98/pair) also gives the Silver 8 a run for the money at the upper end, but has a notably lighter balance and is not so handsomely finished.

This review is so brief because I'm at a loss to point to any way in which, for its size and price, the Monitor Audio Silver 8 disappointed. I've been looking at speakers for $3000/pair or less for a while, and have not heard any that I would prefer to the Monitor Audio Silver 8.

Monitor Audio, Ltd.
US distributor: Kevro International
902 McKay Road, Suite 4
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3X8, Canada
(905) 428-2800

spacehound's picture

Excellent? Yes. Whether you liked the speakers or not is irrelevant. I like your reviewing style, it does not contain the so often seen 'flowery and pretentious nonsense' (You would be hopeless as a wine tester.)

I also liked your 'label collecting' comment. Some once superb British names (and not only speakers) have been 'collected' like this, as you say, and are a sad caricature of what they once were and all sound much the same, how the Chinese think they should sound, even if they have a 'token' UK person in nominal charge of what's going on. Better they were left in peace.

And you said the speakers WERE good. Very good in fact. Further evidence that if you exclude the very low priced rubbish, in loudspeakers there is no connection whatsoever between price and sound quality.

This is demonstrated by the Vienna Acoustics speakers also reviewed, don't come off quite so well at three times the price, admittedly by a different reviewer. So price isn't relevant as it is all subjective. If ANY speakers you came across were truly bad you and the presumably equally honest other guy would say so or not review them at all.

It is also true that some of the totally crazy priced speakers you have reviewed sometimes don't come out too well.

Me, I would be happy with either.

But in fact I bought the Focal Arias, also reviewed here recently. They looked good, sounded fine, and I could take them away from the (local) dealers premises there and then.

The speakers themselves?

The fact that the mid-range speaker is a different size than the bass units is always a clue that the designer knows what he is doing and that the manufacturer is willing to put in the required additional effort.

The finish? The 'wood' ones are very good, using real veneers. They also do vinyl wrapped lower priced 'Bronze' ones very well. I suspect that otherwise they might be fairly similar I have had a Monitor Audio 'Bronze' center speaker for 'AV' for three years and didn't notice this until it was pointed out in a review.

You also reviewed the 'correct' ones. The higher priced Gold and Platinum ones with ribbon tweeters can be a bit piercing! They do this to attract attention in a showroom, a common failing of British designed speakers.

I hope you don't mind my being so long-winded :)

Kal Rubinson's picture

Thank you for your comments. I generally do take the same approach to wine tasting, not testing. ;-)

Ajani's picture

Nice review Kal. Monitor Audio and Revel have been my favourite speaker brands for quite some time. So having read your Revel reviews I was interested to see if you would find Monitor Audio as appealing.

P.S. You might want to check out the just released Revel Concerta2 line, specifically the F36 Tower ($2000 per pair). It would be interesting to see how it compares to the Monitor Audio Silver 8.

Kal Rubinson's picture

I saw the new Concerta2 line and had a brief demo. They sounded nice, looked good and are very well-priced. However, I was disappointed that they are now 2.5 way speakers and not 3 ways.

Kal (somewhere over Wisconsin and on my way home)

geekonstereo's picture

Thank you for the informative review.
Did you or anyone else at Stereophile by any chance test the Silver 6 as well?
The Monitor Audio RX6 received a very favorable review on Stereophile, so am wondering what you think about the model that replaced it.
Additionally, would a 45 Watt RMS at 8 ohm amp be able to drive the Silver 8, you think?
Thanks, again.

geekonstereo's picture

In case anyone stumbles upon this and was wondering...
I did get a chance to audition the two speakers last weekend. The Silver 8 represents a significant step up from the Silver 6. But this doesn't mean the Silver 6 isn't any good.
The Silver 6 sounds excellent for the money, but if you can stretch your budget a little more, the Silver 8 is better deal.
This is all my opinion, of course. It would be best for anyone interested in these speakers to audition both themselves before making a decision.

w1000i's picture

I hope stereophile review the new monitor audio Gold 300 :)

freeextreme's picture

I hope so too :)

Robertas's picture

Anybody can advice:how MA8 sounds with Creek 100A? or anybody can advice speakers for Creek 100 A the same price range? Thank you

RanC's picture

After reading a lot of interviews, I am getting the feeling that these are the speakers I want as the crown jewel in my 7.4.4 setup. I want these primarily for stereo music listening, was thinking of running them with dual B&W ASW610 in stereo to take off some of the load below 100hz (probably an overkill, but hoping it will improve the quality of mid-range a bit without detoriating the low-end).

My main question is, for movies, would these speakers sound disturbingly different from JBL 280 towers which would be acting as the surround speakers? I am obviously looking for better sound as these will replace the 280's as front speakers, but am I wrong in thinking they would blend well enough with the 280's as surround speakers? The elements are almost of identical dimensions, dual 6" woofers vs dual 6.5" woofers, both have 4" mids and 1" tweeter. I do like it when the surround speakers make themself noticed somewhat, but not too much if you understand what I mean.