Monitor Audio Silver 200
FOR Balanced presentation; agility; flexible positioning AGAINST Nothing of note
So here we are in the presence of the sixth generation of Monitor Audio’s Silver Series speakers. Granted, it’s not quite as distant as the relationship between Danny Dyer and King Edward III discovered on reality TV show Who Do You Think You Are?, but still an impressively lengthy lineage, especially when you consider how much we’ve enjoyed each previous incarnation.
This time, the focus has been on creating a family bond – a sonic character running like a bloodline through each of the nine speaker models in the series. Monitor Audio suggests its new Silver speakers become simply more powerful and dynamic the further you go up the range.
The Silver 200s are the smallest of three new floorstanding pairs from this series. The benefits of their slender form have been redoubled by Monitor Audio’s engineers, who have worked to tune the speakers so they work best around 50cm from the back wall, with only a minor variance in tonal balance when they are placed closer to the wall, or a decent way out into the room. In effect, they should be the most versatile Silvers yet.
According to Monitor Audio, the whole range has been designed for ‘modern living’, with two Hive II reflex ports positioned at the back and slim magneticheld grilles for a neat, elegant look. The Hive II ports use a straight-rifled design to accelerate airflow and reduce turbulence – effectively moving air in and out more swiftly for faster bass response.
The company also sought the help of the National Physical Laboratory, using its precision laser scanner when creating the cabinets. This, it says, identified resonances then helped position internal bracings more accurately, ensuring rigidity and minimising any colourations.
But that slimline cabinet is just the beginning when it comes to the changes. Monitor Audio has made other alterations with the aim of boosting the Silvers’ performance and honing them aesthetically too. Equally eye-catching is the speckled grille, behind which sits a new version of Monitor Audio’s iconic gold-dome tweeter, fine-tuned for clearer, smoother and distortion-free high frequencies.
The Silver 200s are a 2.5-way driver design, with a pair of 13cm CCAM (ceramic-coated aluminium/magnesium) drivers sitting directly below the tweeter – the upper functioning across midrange and bass, and the lower focusing on bass frequencies. These units have also been redesigned, aided by a dynamic coupling filter (DCF) coupling mechanism – a clever way to connect the voice coil to the cone – trickling down from the company’s flagship Platinum II Series, to lower distortion and create cleaner-sounding highs.
Finally, you should enjoy looking at your speakers as much as listening to them, so Monitor Audio offers six choices of finish: black oak, walnut, rosenut, natural oak, high gloss black or the satin white of our review sample.
We’re no superstar DJ, but we could hardly have picked a better record than LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening to begin testing the Silver 200s. The percussive intro of Dance Yrself Clean immediately shows off just how fast these speakers are.
It snaps in perfect time, with all the cleanliness it owes to the track’s title, synthesizer stabs arriving precisely on each bar’s first beat and each component of a sparse arrangement dealt with great organisation.
It’s also a good opportunity to trial that supposed versatility in positioning. We find it rings impressively true. They are perhaps at their fastest when brought into the room, but rather than lose that precision when placed nearer the wall, a slight increase of the low-end weight brings a more natural rendering of rhythm and timing.
Wherever we position the Silver 200s, though, there is a sense of fun that has perhaps been lacking in previous generations. They have power left over when it comes to driving this particular record, but also the dynamic sensibilities to do it shirt untucked, casually framing James Murphy’s effortless, almost horizontally laid-back delivery.
But don’t think Monitor Audio has forgone any sense of refinement in pursuit of excitement. This is still a very mature performance, highlighted by a penchant for rhythmic and instrumental organisation as well as a smoothly levelled balance.
Again, bass frequencies and response will be marginally affected by positioning, but never to the extent of skewing the
frequency range too much one way or the other. At the lower end, the Silver 200s reach the pulsing frequencies you feel more than hear, while there's plenty of headroom.
Waking the neighbours
Most important, though, is the richness and clarity throughout: nowhere does it sound flabby, coarse or thin. We turn our amplifier up high – as we are inclined to do by the Monitor Audios’ performance – and at no point does anything other than a potential noise complaint from the neighbours prompt us to turn it down.
Monitor Audio has taken care not to let the Silver 200s become overly bogged down in analytical detail. Having tested many pairs of speakers that favour resolution at the expense of musicality, we thinks it is potentially a wise move.
But that would be to undersell the Silvers somewhat, because there is an impressive amount of clarity and detail here: to our memories, more than ever before.
Playing Clint Mansell’s score for Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, for example, the strings of the Kronos Quartet have a texture that resonates in the bodies of their instruments and reveals the room around them. Their timbres are later juxtaposed when set against sounds that have been digitally treated.
If it’s insight you’re after, the Silver 200s certainly aren’t lacking. They deserve praise for how forgiving they are when fed lower-resolution files and coarse bedroom recordings. The Silvers treat them as pieces of music, rather than deliberately exposing their insufficiencies for the sake of quality but at the expense of enjoyment.
There may well be rivals that offer a little more in terms of detail, bass weight, or even are more attractive – as we enter Awards season we’ll surely find out – but if we were to create a tick list for what makes a great all-rounder, these new Silver floorstanders would pass every test and have a great deal of fun while doing so.
“The Silver 200s certainly don’t lack insight. They deserve praise for how forgiving they are when fed lower-resolution files and coarse recordings”
The Silver range has been designed for ‘modern living’, with the reflex ports at the back
The 200s are the smallest of three new floorstanding pairs from the Silver series Slim magneticheld grilles give the 200s a neat, elegant look