Monitor Audio Silver 8i Loudspeaker

      Date posted: April 24, 2001

Monitor Audio Silver 8i

Sugg. Retail: $2300 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 Spring 2001 Audio Ideas Guide)

      Since coming under new ownership and management in recent years, Monitor Audio has embarked upon an extensive program of research that has resulted in redesign of all of their speaker models. The newest in the Silver series is the 8i, which pretty much sums up their design brief, which was outlined in a recent white paper: “to combine knockout dynamics, loudness capability and power handling with superb subtlety and finesse.”

      Using “three 5 1/2″ C-Cam (Ceramic Coated Aluminium Magnesium) alloy units - two bass, one mid-range - and Monitor Audio’s signature gold dome tweeter”, the 8i “delivers high standards of resolution, control and transient performance. The C-CAM cones are the lightest and most rigid used in speaker design today. Bass and mid-range sections are independent - completely separate enclosures tuned to different frequencies via the two rear-firing ports. The lower bass section utilizes two bass drivers and is tuned to 38 Hz. A single bass/mid driver is housed in the upper cavity which is tuned to 62 Hz.”

      “The bass-only units have a 400Hz ceiling. The upper cavity bass/mid driver operates up to 3.2kHz, where it crosses over with the tweeter. The design keeps good off-axis response and accurate phase response, in both vertical and horizontal axes.” The 8i can be bi-wired or bi-amped. The cabinets are of 3/4″ MDF, and braced not only by the separate bass and midrange cavity walls, but at “three critical resonance nodes.” Available finishes are Rose Mahogany, Black Oak, and the lustrous Natural Cherry of our review samples. One thing that hasn’t changed in the Monitor line is the high quality of finish.

      And, as a further note about the driver engineering, I’ll quote again from the white paper: “C-CAM is an innovative alloy of aluminium and magnesium originally developed by the aerospace industry for use as blades in jet engines. As a material from which to make speaker cones, it is close to ideal, being extremely rigid, yet light enough to yield high overall efficiency. It is made into a cone shape by a two-stage high pressure forming technique, undergoing stress-relief throughout to avoid surface deformation and molecular weakness. Then a high temperature anodic coating process deposits a layer of pure ceramic (alumina) onto the surfaces, to give a completely rigid exterior.” Ortofon does something similar in making the bodies for their more expensive MC cartridges, baking or sintering them until the aluminum molecular structure becomes ceramic in nature, the goal here to prevent resonant behaviour.

      The measurements of the Silver 8i are generally excellent, the Pink Noise Sweep (PNS, the squigglier one at top) one of the flattest I’ve measured in recent times, +/-1.5 dB or better across the range from 60 to beyond 10 kHz; the midrange smoothness is particularly good. The PNS also shows the excellent tuning of the bass drivers for an optimum balance of bass smoothness and extension: perfectly flat to 60 Hz, the 2 lower woofers are down 5 dB at 40 Hz, and about 8 dB at 30. Of course, the rear ports give you the opportunity to increase deep bass by moving the speakers closer to the rear wall or corners.

Monitor Audio Silver 8i Frequency Response

      Underneath, the on-axis quasi-anechoic curve shows a bit of a bump between 1 and 2 kHz, and a sharp dip at 7 kHz, which shouldn’t be all that audible for reasons related to the axial measurements at bottom. By the way, my guess is that this dip and the 30o bump are direct results of lobing caused by the spacing between midrange and tweeter.

      In the 4 axial curves, measured at 0, 15, 30 and 60 degrees, the 8i is flattest at 15 degrees (suggesting the speakers be faced directly forward rather than angled in at the listener), while at 30 degrees we see a bump in the upper midrange, with a lower midrange dip appearing at 60 degrees (which may help minimize side wall reflections).

      That 30 degree bump does tend to fill in the on-axis 7 kHz dip, and may widen the soundstage with wall reflections. Otherwise, off-axis energy is well controlled, down at least 6 dB through most of the lower treble. When we add the axial curves together we get the summed response (SAR) at top overlaying the PNS, with its little zig (or is it a zag; our gated measurements are spliced to the PNS at this point because of room resolution frequency limits) at 1.2 kHz showing the lower off-axis level. The differences seen in the treble again reflect the controlled directivity of the 8i. Monitor Audio Silver 8i Imepedence CurveWhat you’ll hear at the listening position is better characterized in the flatter PNS curve.

      What I heard was great clarity, dynamics, and depth of image, all conveyed with lightning speed. The driver engineering at Monitor Audio has paid off big time, these speakers sounding bigger, faster, and more powerful than most small tower types I’ve heard. With choral music I heard a very natural balance, with just a little extra midband energy on solo female voices. There was no excess of sibilants, but they were crisp and quick.

      At low frequencies I heard superb articulation and tunefulness, the woofers matching the tweeters in speed in their own range. As set up for listening, the 8i pair provided a very solid foundation to below 30 Hz that again belied their size. I’d say the subwoofer here is optional, except for home theatre use.

      Orchestra textures and nuances were well rendered, with a sweet string sound, and good cello and bass weight. Percussion and brass had plenty of bite, making for exciting listening. Piano sound was very well integrated, too, and our baroque cello had its full weight and harmonic structure in the Bach Suites.

      Chuck Israels‘ jazz bass also was very well reproduced by the 8i, having both accurate pitch and power, while revealing the subtlety of his left hand fingering on the neck. And I couldn’t help but get rhythm with the full use of the drum kit by Donald Bailey (of all my recordings, these, AI-CD-011 & 13, are the ones I come back to most often when evaluating really good loudspeakers).

      Overall, the Silver 8i is a very well balanced speaker system, offering true high end resolution and dynamics, and well worth its price. The nice veneer finish and handsome styling are bonuses, and if you want to integrate them into a home theatre, there are timbre-matched companions available, the Silver Centre 10i, and the bookshelf Silver 3i for use as rears. And then there’s the ASW 210 subwoofer that you might not need. Both 3i and 10i use the same drivers and are available in identical veneer finishes. There is no question in my mind that Monitor Audio really has it together with the Silver series, starting with the exceptionally musical 8i.

Andrew Marshall

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