|Monitor Audio Silver S Full Metal Theater Loudspeaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Wednesday, 01 January 2003|
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My evaluation of the Monitor Audio system began by using two recently released, computer-generated adventure movies from competing studios, "Monsters, Inc." (Pixar/Disney) and "Shrek" (Dreamworks/Universal). Evaluating the technology and creative efforts that both studios put forth in developing these animated feature films was an interesting exercise.
"Monsters, Inc." is a very playful feature film that puts a creative spin on the underworld of monsters, sharing the mischief and havoc that they’re instructed to wreak upon human civilization. Gary Rydstrom, with supporting musical efforts provided by Randy Newman, created the very good Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Rydstrom’s use of the main front speakers and surrounds to deliver room-filling special effects throughout this movie was extremely engaging and enjoyable. The Silver Metal Theater system delivered all the micro and macro soundtrack minutiae with ease, making my listening environment one with the movie. Vocals were clear, articulate and intelligible, translating from space to space seamlessly. This is in part due to the excellent high-frequency extension of the tweeter, neutral midrange, and synergistic sonic characteristics of the Monitor Audio Silver Metal Theater system’s matched drivers. This movie also provided a few excerpts that displayed exceptional low-end bass that was tastefully limited and appropriate, relative to Hollywood blockbusters of late. All in all, the Monitor Audio system provided a wealth of entertainment that really enhanced the enjoyment of the film.
The second animated feature movie used to evaluate the broad range of the Monitor Audio system’s capabilities was “Shrek” (DreamWorks SKG/Universal), the film adaptation of William Steig's flip on conventional fairy tales, which made for a very fun and enjoyable story. It stars Mike Myers voicing title character Shrek, a likable yet gruff ogre, Eddie Murphy as Shrek’s noble steed Donkey, and Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona. From the sweeping orchestral passages, through the clear dialogue and the dynamic action sequences, the Monitor Audio system handled the entire soundtrack with grace and power. Individual voices were presented in a very realistic manner, both in size and localization. The Monitor Audio system was once again convincing through its frequency extremes, never seeming compressed, even when listening at loud, satisfying levels. The surrounds were set in dipole mode for this feature, and were excellent in providing ambient information. The scenes in the open country and forest, as well as crowd scenes, wrapped the soundstage completely around me, making the sound very involving, realistic and relaxing. Similar to "Monsters, Inc.," this 5.1 soundtrack was balanced in its dynamic extension, never sounding weak or going over the top with the music or sound effects. Both of these features may be a bit of a disappointment to individuals who want every movie to exploit the sheer force of their sound system, but it was a welcome reprieve for me, and the Monitor Audio Silver system never left me wanting for more.
To audition music on the Monitor Audio Full Metal Theater system, I reached for the well-produced and recorded music DVD-Audio, Alan Parson’s On Air (DTS). In the mastering of this multi-channel recording, the sound engineers treat the surround loudspeakers as direct sources, incorporating a substantial amount of information in the surrounds, rivaling that of the main and center channels. Parsons' engineers fully utilized the surrounds while making this multi-channel recording that complemented the wide variety of musical moods and styles on this complex DTS CD. The Monitor Audio ensemble really displayed its system integration during the powerful track “Cloudbreak,” filling the room with swirling sound, seamlessly transitioning from speaker to speaker. This cut is an exhilarating instrumental with great guitar licks from long-time Parsons cohort Ian Bainson. Parsons constructed a mix that takes full advantage of stereo panning, background arrangements, and clever sound effects to make for a very engaging musical experience. In general, monopole surrounds are preferable for this type of mix, while dipole/bipole surrounds are better suited for more diffuse, ambient surround information. Despite the Monitors' bipole or dipole configuration, they acquitted themselves quite well here, not sounding rolled off or lacking in detail. Once again, the exceptionally neutral response of the Monitor Audio system provided a wide, solid and weighty sound, without being overblown in the bass.
In 1999, former Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters began touring after taking more than a decade hiatus from live performances. The resulting adrenaline-infused DVD “In The Flesh” (Sony/Columbia) offers a collage of some of Water’s best works. The emotionally-charged concert was filmed at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon in July of 2000. The sound on the DVD is tremendous, and the Monitor Audio system absolutely rocked the house, keeping me riveted to my seat from the beginning. Using one of Pink Floyd’s all-time theme songs, “Comfortably Numb,” I was able to really put the Monitor Audio Full Metal Theater system to the test. Sung by Doyle Braham II, this song utterly exploded when playing back in 5.1, turning my living room into a live concert venue. Capturing the full electricity of the crowd through the surrounds, the mains, center, and subwoofer paint such a solid image up front that you are transported straight to the stage.
Using Train’s 2001 release Drops Of Jupiter (Sony), I was able to assess the abilities of the Monitor Audio S8s as a two-channel-only playback system. This CD offers many brilliant arrangements and a broad use of various instruments including mandolin, saxophone, trumpet and acoustic guitar, all providing a wide array of musical melodies to allow evaluation of the S8s. On their own, the S8s displayed the rich orchestral backdrop of Train’s title track, blending together both lyrics and accompanying instruments seamlessly, while capturing the exceptional dynamics of this song. The S8s did presented the soundstage a bit lower than I have become accustomed to, though this was mostly noticeable while I was nomadic during parts of the evaluation process. Music enthusiasts on a budget may want to consider the Monitor Audio S8s as a starting point, adding the remaining Full Metal Theater components at a later date to assemble an excellent home theater and music system. Overall, the Monitor Audio S8s perform exceptionally well and are a noticeable improvement over their predecessor.