Monitor Audio Silver 6S Loudspeaker

      Date posted: September 24, 2003

Monitor Audio Silver 6s

Sugg. Retail: $1499 pr (CAN)
Size: 33 1/2″H x 8″W x 9 1/2″D
Distributor: Monitor Audio North America,
Div. of Kevro International Inc.,
902 McKay Road, Pickering, ON L1W 3X8
(905) 428-2800 FAX 428-0004

(Reprinted from the Fall 2003 Audio Ideas Guide)

      The Monitor Audio Silver 6S has its work cut out for it. Any slim, floor standing speaker with a price hovering in the sweet spot of the mid-market (around US $1000) does. While not as cluttered as the home theatre in a box segment, this is a very crowded part of the market and a speaker had better do more than look pretty if it expects a ride home from the shop.

     On appearances alone the Silver 6S should have little trouble attracting potential suitors. An unimposing speaker of what Monitor Audio calls “compact size” the 6S is trim, but at 34″ high and almost 10″ deep, not tiny. The quality of the finish on my “warm Beech” sample pair was excellent, looking every bit like a more expensive model (the speaker can also be had in black oak and something Monitor Audio calls “Rosemah”). Another nice touch is the plinth which bolts to the bottom of the cabinet, raising the speaker a couple of inches off the floor and giving it a slightly more high tech and expensive look. Since spikes can be mounted on either the plinth or the bottom of the speaker cabinet itself it’s up to the discretion of the user to use plinths or not. Since the plinths and spacers used to separate them from the cabinet better decouple the speaker from the floor and raise the tweeters to what will be a more appropriate height for most listeners, you’re probably better with them than without (I did all my listening with the plinths on). The speaker is a bass reflex design, ported at top rear, video shielded, and provides two sets of binding posts for bi-amping/wiring.

      What will also distinguish the Silver 6S from its many competitors, and what many people will no doubt first notice about the speakers, are its metal drive units. Using a technology invented by Monitor Audio these are what the company calls “C-Cam” drivers. The 6″ cones are an alloy of magnesium and aluminum coated with 50 microns of ceramic to prevent ringing. Assuming resonance can be kept out of the audible range of the driver, the light weight and inherent stiffness of an aluminum alloy makes for a cone that not only starts and stops on a dime, but one which won’t deform under the demands of a complex waveform, and thereby distort its reproduction. In other words, they have the potential to behave more pistonically and therefore with less distortion, which is why metal drivers are finding their way into more and more speaker designs every year. Monitor Audio claims that the mid/bass drivers begin to break up (resonate) at 7.8 kHz, which is well after handing off to the tweeter at 3.1 kHz. The tweeter is also ceramic coated metal, this time gold, and is ostensibly the same tweeter common to many of Monitor Audio’s more expensive models. It is said to be stable up to 28 KHz. A 6 ohm nominal load with a sensitivity of 91 dB, the silver 6S should be an easy load to drive, something which was certainly borne out in listening tests.

     I listened to the Silver 6’s over a period of a couple months, breaking them in thoroughly for a week before putting them into active service. I drove the speakers with a trio of solid state amps over this period, alternating between my own Musical Fidelity A3CR, the Bel Canto eVo2 and the Marsh MSD A400S. The speakers took up residence in my living room in roughly the same spots my Energy Veritas 1.8s generally occupy.

     The word that comes most readily to mind to describe the sound of these speakers is “crystalline”. A testament to good driver and cabinet design, the Silver 6’s disappear sonically with uncommon ease and float a remarkably clean, open and transparent curtain of sound. Top end clarity is particularly impressive without falling into the trap of being oppressive. In other words, gobs of treble detail is available without the speaker sounding bright or analytical. Instead it’s crisp, lively and seemingly boxless until you twist the volume knob a few ticks beyond reasonable and into “full tilt boogie” territory, at which point you start to hear some subtle boxy colorations. At anything but very high listening levels, however, the speaker maintains its composure with the grace and dignity one would expect from such a svelte British thing.

     The speakers were more than revealing enough to highlight the differences in each amp as I switched among the three. The superb articulation and delineation of the Bel Canto, the fantastic deep bass of the Marsh, and the punch and spark of the Musical Fidelity all came through in spades. Most importantly, the Sliver 6’s were musical and involving with all the amps I paired them with.

     Also telling was the fact that after switching from my much larger and more expensive reference speakers, I didn’t feel like I was giving much up, sonically speaking. The Silver 6’s don’t have the authority in the deep bass or quite the level of top end refinement of the Energy’s, but they left me wanting for very little else.

     Even without revealing the deepest depths, bass from these speakers is well damped, making for fast and punchy bottom end and a feeling that the speaker is light on its feet. Even with the Marsh amp, which tends towards the plush side with its rich bottom octaves, the speakers delivered clean, taut bass without becoming lugubrious or slow sounding. In the mids crystalline clarity was again the dominant personality trait, the Silver 6’s delivering sometimes startlingly transparent vocals and strings in huge, airy soundstages which spread far outside the speakers.

     After many years of seeing it advertised by audiophile record labels I finally picked up a CD copy of Muddy Waters’ Folk Singer not too long ago. It became immediately apparent through the Monitor Audio speakers why this disc has become such an Audiophile favorite. The “in the room” immediacy of Muddy and his band, which included a young Buddy Guy on guitar, is thrilling on a good system, and was certainly so through the Silver 6’s. If this clarity comes at any kind of price, however, it’s a tonal balance a little on the cool and lean side, something you can see in the dip between 1 and 5 kHz in the measurements. When I switched back to my Veritas 1.8’s they definitely sounded a little warmer, and as such slightly thicker and veiled by comparison. At the same time, however, the big Energys benefited from more textural and timbral detail in the mids. If your room and your front end equipment already tend toward the lean and cool side of the tonal spectrum the Silver 6’s might not be the speaker for you.

     In the treble the Monitor Audio speakers are hard to fault. The company’s time and energy developing their proprietary gold tweeters for their flagship speakers has been very well spent and through the trickle down effect allows the Silver 6s to benefit from this technology in a manner disproportionate to its price. In other words, you’re getting a lot of tweeter for the money here, and you can certainly hear it. Smooth, detailed, extended. Not a lot more to ask for than those three things. The Silver 6’s pure, grain-free top end resolution is a big reason they soundstage and image so well.

     If transparency, soundstaging, imaging and startling clarity are among your top priorities when choosing speakers the Silver 6s is definitely a speaker you should hear for yourself. If you’re willing to pony up a little more dough I suspect you could have deeper bass and better macro-dynamics added to the package by choosing one of the Silver 6’s bigger brothers, the Silver 8 or 10. Easy to drive, easy to place, easy to make disappear, and easy to like, the Silver 6s is also easy to recommend.

Aaron Marshall

Andrew Marshall Comments on the Measurements:

Monitor Audio Silver Six S Frequency Response

     I can understand Aaron’s comments about the crispness of the Monitor Audio Silver 6s, with an on-axis presence in the 8 kHz region, though its overall response tends to slope a dB or two into the treble. Dispersion is very well controlled, to the extent that at 60o off axis, response is well down above 6 kHz, which is probably a good thing because it controls room reflections. The Pink Noise Sweep reponse (PNS) can be seen to extend smoothly above 10 kHz, leading to an airy treble.

Monitor Audio Silver Six S Impedance

      Some midrange overlapping in the axial curves indicates lobing between drivers, but this is not all that serious, with response well maintained over a 30 degree axis. At the bottom end of the spectrum, the Silver 6s roll off smoothly, untypical of ported speakers, down only 4 dB at 40 Hz, and 7 dB at 30 Hz. Very respectable for a slim tower floorstander. There is further bass available with careful placement, though this might tend to elevate that in the 100-Hz region. Play with placement, especially with respect to the rear wall. Impedance never drops below 5 ohms, and the phase angle through crossover is not too bad at +/-30o, which should make these Monitor Audio models fairly easy to drive. In other words, the choice of electronics should not be critical.

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