Monitor Audio Silver S Full Metal Theater Loudspeaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Thomas Garcia   
Wednesday, 01 January 2003

When considering all the components of any home theater system, very few factors can affect the final outcome as much as the selection of loudspeakers. It is amazing how comparably-priced speakers from different manufacturers, which are competently designed, and have similar technologies, can sound very different from one another. This is why the auditioning of loudspeakers is such an important, and sometimes challenging process. Although recommendations can be a great starting point, it is very important for you to listen and make decisions based upon your own preferences and personal requirements. In addition, when it comes to assembling a balanced, effective and enjoyable home theater speaker system, there's a lot to be said for a consistent design among all the speakers. Although many music enthusiasts have augmented two-channel systems by selecting potentially excellent center and surround speakers from various manufacturers while creating a home theater sound system, the end result is often less than satisfying. A home theater system should do more than simply provide sound coming from various directions. Instead, it should produce a cohesive sound field that surrounds the listener in a solid and stable acoustical environment. In general, this is much easier to achieve when all of the speakers are of similar design specifications, engineering philosophies and sonic characteristics.

One of the more respected companies developing loudspeakers for both two-channel music and complete high-quality home theater sound systems is Monitor Audio of England. During the last three decades, Monitor Audio has earned a reputation for designing and developing loudspeakers of exceptional quality and refinement, offering a wide range of options from two-channel to reference quality multi-channel speaker systems. The Monitor Audio Silver Full Metal Theater system reviewed here consists of Silver S8s for the front main speakers ($1499 a pair), a single Silver S-LCR for the center channel ($599), a pair of Silver FXi Surrounds ($899 per pair) and the FB 210 subwoofer ($999).

The Silver S8 is an attractively proportioned, three-way floor-standing speaker, which displaces a relatively small floor area. Featuring Monitor Audio’s distinctive driver cosmetics, the S8 incorporates a one-inch gold (the color is for cosmetic purposes only) ceramic-coated aluminum magnesium (C-CAM) metal dome tweeter, which covers the upper octaves, extending the speaker response to a claimed 30kHz. Placed below the tweeter is a six-inch C-CAM midrange driver, followed by two six-inch C-CAM bass drivers that handle the lower frequencies. Seen up close, the S8s were smaller than I had expected them to be based on the images I had seen in various publications and websites. Reported dimensions for the Silver S8 are 36.8 inches high by 7.3 inches wide by 9.85 inches deep, with a weight of 46 pounds each. Other features include dual binding posts for bi-wiring or bi-amping if so desired, foam port plugs for tuning the low-frequency response, metal spikes for carpeted surfaces and magnetic shielding to eliminate any interference with conventional tube televisions. Finishes for the main and center channels include matched real wood veneers available in Black Oak, Rosemah (a mahogany with a rosewood stain) and Warm Beech. The overall cosmetics are topnotch, making it easy to attractively meld the Monitor Audio system into a variety of decors.

Serving as the center channel, the Silver S-LCR also uses the same one-inch C-CAM gold dome tweeter, flanked by two six-inch C-CAM drivers. With its relatively diminutive size, 6.9 inches high by 19.7 inches wide by 7.98 inches deep, the S-LCR can be easily placed above or below your main monitor. Similar to the S8s, the S-LCR features dual binding posts and magnetic shielding.

The Silver FXi Surrounds utilize the same C-CAM technology as the rest of Monitor Audio Silver Series loudspeakers. Sonically, the FXi is designed to match any of the Silver Series main speakers. Using two one-inch C-CAM metal dome tweeters and two long-throw five-inch C-CAM woofers, the FXi can be configured to operate in a bipole or dipole mode, depending on your preference and/or placement requirements. Available in black or white only, their triangulated shape measures 9.2 inches tall by 10 inches wide by six inches deep.

Anchoring the Monitor Audio Silver Full Metal system is the FB 210 subwoofer, available in a Black Oak vinyl finish only. The FB 210 employs two 10-inch Silver C-CAM drivers, one front-mounted and the other down-firing, both powered by Monitor Audio’s newly designed 250-watt MOS FET amp. Other features include a built-in continuously variable 40Hz-140Hz crossover, an output level control, and a fully adjustable 0- to 180-degree phase control to align the phase of the subwoofer with your main speakers. Monitor Audio’s published frequency response for this subwoofer is 25Hz-140Hz. Proportions for the FB 210 are 20.1 inches tall, 14.2 inches wide, by 14.2 inches deep, with a weight of 55 pounds. These relatively small dimensions made the FB 210 comparatively easy to place for maximum system integration.

Originally, I positioned the Monitor Audio Silver Metal Theater speakers in the same locations as my current set-up, which placed the front speakers approximately three feet from the back wall and eight feet between the two main speakers. With the subwoofer amplitude balanced to match the main speakers, I experienced a much warmer sound in the mid bass than my previous arrangement. Monitor Audio provides port plugs to seal the rear port and change the bass response of the S8s. Installing the port plug in the lower opening and moving the speakers out into the room an additional foot substantially smoothed out the mid-bass response. In addition, my seating location was moved forward to create a more near-field listening position. Once set up properly, the Monitor Audio Silver Metal Theater system snapped into focus, becoming seamless across the front, blending well with the surrounds, while remaining taunt and powerful through the bass.

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.

The Downside
The lack of a bypass switch for the Monitor Audio 210 subwoofer crossover creates the possibility of having two filters in the signal path when utilizing the internal crossover of a surround sound processor. Although you can adjust the MA 210 crossover to its maximum frequency, it may still have an overall effect if the two cascaded crossover points are still relatively close to each other. This is an ongoing problem with many manufacturers who are currently marketing powered subwoofers.

Additionally, during my auditioning of the Monitor Audio home Theater speaker system in both two- and multi-channel configurations, the S8’s diminutive size and lower tweeter position shifted the image height slightly lower than that of my reference system. In a multi-channel arrangement, combining the lower tweeter height with a large video monitor may create a discontinuity between the main speakers and the center channel if it is placed above the screen.

In my listening environment, the Monitor Audio Full Metal Theater System required some effort to reach its optimal potential, needing proper spacing from perimeter walls and the use of the port plugs in order to get the maximum results. However, once set up, the Monitor Audio system’s attributes and impressive engineering really began to shine through. The use of similar materials, design and technology in each of the speakers creates a synergy that is difficult to match when integrating speakers from a variety of different manufacturers. With its attractive cosmetics, high-tech design and flexible system tuning, the Monitor Audio loudspeaker system excels when delivering your favorite movie soundtracks, while at the same time meeting the most demanding audio requirements. If you are looking for a relatively modestly priced ticket into big-time Home Theater, but still want to enjoy music on the same system, give the Monitors a listen. They may demand a little TLC in setting up, but it will be worth the effort.
Manufacturer Monitor Audio
Model Silver S Full Metal Theater Loudspeaker System
Reviewer Tom Garcia

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