This week, we?re reviewing the Monitor Audio Bronze 2, Monitor Audio Silver 6 and Monitor Audio Gold 200 loudspeakers. Furthermore, we interviewed Dean Hartley, technical director at Monitor Audio, to discuss the technologies employed by their various lines of speakers.
The three speakers we tested are from the Monitor Audio Bronze, Monitor Audio Silver and Monitor Audio Gold series. The Bronze line benefits from C-CAM and Hive II technologies, as does the Silver line, with the addition of RST technology. The Gold range, which is Monitor Audio?s premium series, exclusively features a ribbon tweeter.
Monitor Audio?s Bronze, Silver, and Gold series: C-CAM technology
The Ceramic-Coated Aluminium/Magnesium (CCAM) name refers to the composition of the driver cones ? specifically, a metal and ceramic alloy ? used for all speakers in Monitor Audio?s Bronze, Silver and Gold lines. This material, which is highly resistant to mechanical warping, provides optimal conditions for an extended response in the high end of the sound spectrum (about 30 kHz) and a lower distortion rate in the restitution of low frequencies.
Monitor Audio?s Bronze, Silver, and Gold series: Hive II technology
?Hive? designates the shape of the port used for these speakers. Hive II technology enhances the performance of the bass-reflex enclosure by regulating airflow thanks to its rifled design.
Monitor Audio?s Bronze, Silver, and Gold series: RST technology
In addition to C-CAM technology, the cones of medium and bass drivers benefit from Rigid Surface Technology (RST). Dimples on each metal/ceramic cone augment their rigidity and prevent standing waves on their surface.
Monitor Audio?s Bronze, Silver, and Gold series: overview
Monitor Audio Bronze 2
This bookshelf speaker is a reference for entry-level models; it is also known for being one of the rare compact loudspeakers to be fitted with a 6.5″ driver (as opposed to the less powerful 5″ models usually used for this format). Moreover, it features a front-firing bass-reflex port, which allows you to place the speaker with its back against a wall or on a bookshelf. Despite its 6.5″ driver, the overall width of this speaker only stacks up at 18.5 cm. The tweeter is a 1″ metal dome model. Monitor Audio declares a frequency response from 42 Hz to 30 kHz, for a sensitivity of 90 dB at 1 W. These seem like optimistic numbers as it isn’t common for a 6.5″ driver to be able to deliver low frequencies all the way down to 42 Hz with no significant sound alteration, especially considering the small enclosure. The Monitor Audio Bronze 2 we tested had a natural walnut finish. The assembly of the various elements is beyond reproach, from the veneering to the workmanship applied to the the cones and surrounds. The magnetic cover is a nice touch.
The Monitor Audio Bronze 2 bookshelf speaker features a classic built, with a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms. A speaker that, in theory, should not be too difficult to power.
Monitor Audio Silver 6
This floor-standing speaker is far more sophisticated than the Bronze compact speaker. The cabinet is made of 20mm-thick MDF (18mm for the Bronze models) and is reinforced by an internal bracing system. The drivers are held in place by a bolt-through design. The electronic crossover filter is wired with silver-coated OFC copper. While the tweeter is seemingly identical, the medium-bass drivers are much different. Although these drivers are smaller (6″ instead of 6.5″), they benefit from sophisticated technologies. First of all, the lower driver is filtered in such a way that it only reproduces low-medium and bass frequencies (< 700 Hz), leaving the driver above to handle low and medium frequencies up to 2.7 kHz (treble is handled by the tweeter). The Monitor Audio Silver 6 is thus a 21/2-way model. Moreover, each bass driver is loaded separately by a double bass-reflex enclosure. The lower driver uses a Hive II front-firing port, while the top one uses a smaller, Hive II back-firing port with a higher tuning frequency. The C-CAM dome tweeter benefits from a specialized, damped rear chamber which allows it to reach higher frequencies than the model used for the Bronze series (up to 35 kHz). The frequency response ranges from 35 Hz to 35 kHz, for a 90 dB sensitivity.
Monitor Audio Gold 200
More compact than the Silver 6, the Monitor Audio Gold 200 features an additional driver, thus making it a 3-way speaker. The cabinet is made of nonparallel, 20mm-thick MDF panels with a high-gloss, piano lacquer finish. Two 5.5″ bass drivers with C-CAM RST cones, both placed in a bass-reflex enclosure with Hive II back-firing ports, cover frequencies ranging from 35 Hz to 400 Hz. The 4″ medium driver (C-CAM / RST) is placed in a sealed enclosure. Another major improvement brought by the Monitor Audio Gold 200 is the use of a ribbon tweeter (ceramic) capable of reaching very high frequencies (up to 60 kHz). This is clearly the most impressive feature of this speaker, which should, in theory, sound very different from the Bronze and Silver models. All the drivers are held in place with a bolt-through design and the cabinet is reinforced by an internal bracing system. Despite its small size (17 cm wide, 90 cm tall, 30 cm deep), the Monitor Audio Gold 200 is a sturdy model weighing in at 22 kilos.
Monitor Audio?s Bronze, Silver, and Gold series: test conditions and methodology
Installing the Monitor Audio Bronze 2 requires no specific process, while the Silver and Gold floor-standing speakers must be installed with their support base (tightening them up only takes a few minutes). Note that the base of the Monitor Audio Silver 6 is fitted with particularly sharp decoupling spikes ? purchasing protective padding may therefore be necessary to avoid poking holes in the carpet or scratching the floor. The support base of the Monitor Audio Gold 200, for its part, is fitted with rubber pads.
We used a NorStone W250 interconnect cable and Viard Audio Silver HD20 speaker cables. Our test amplifier was the NuPrime IDA-8, combined with a Raspberry Pi 2 computer working under the Volumio audiophile OS. We used an Audioquest Carbon USB cable to connect the Pi to the NuPrime IDA-8. Note that the Raspberry Pi is a high-quality source and its USB ports therefore behave accordingly. We listened to FLAC audio files stored on a flash drive.
Albums we listened to
Protection ? Massive Attack (FLAC 16/44), Transformer ? Lou Reed (FLAC 16/44), Little Blue Girl ? Nina Simone (FLAC 24/96), Folk Singer ? Muddy Waters (FLAC 24/192), Chet Baker Sings ? Chet Baker (FLAC 16/44), 21 ? Adele (16/44), No Time for Dreaming ? Charles Bradley (FLAC 16/44), Band of Gypsys ? Jimi Hendrix (FLAC 16/44), Origin of Symmetry ? Muse (FLAC 16/44), The Dark Knight ? Hans Zimmer (FLAC 16/44), Norma ? Maria Callas (24/96), Celebration Day ? Led Zeppelin (24/48).
Monitor Audio?s Bronze, Silver, and Gold series: listening impressions
Monitor Audio Bronze 2
Monitor Audio?s C-CAM drivers have their own sound signature that?s easily recognizable throughout the whole spectrum. No exception to the rule, the Monitor Audio Bronze 2’s deliver a clear and articulated sound from bass to treble, slightly dry in the higher end of the spectrum without ever sounding hoarse. The Bronze 2 sounds neutral and precise. The bass restitution falls a bit short (we cannot expect the expansiveness of a floor-standing speaker) but the overall balance is enjoyable. Dynamics are homogenous, with a slight peak in the medium range (1 kHz – 2 kHz) broadening the sound. The treble, kept well under control, brings additional depth to the sound stage. This is especially noticeable when listening to Led Zeppelin’s ?Kashmir? (Live at the o2 Arena, Celebration Day). The detailed restitution of the percussions results in a clear sound delivery (micro-dynamics are audible) and a deep soundstage. Another good point for this speaker: it is not necessary to pair it with a very expensive amplifier to enjoy a gratifying result.
What we liked: the neutral balance of the speaker, its discreet tweeter, the natural walnut finish and the flawless assembly of the various pieces.
We would have liked: a more extensive response in the low end of the spectrum.
Monitor Audio Silver 6
Thanks to its multiple drivers and more extensive bass, the Monitor Audio Silver 6 offers a much richer listening experience. Nothing to be surprised about as this is, after all, a floor-standing speaker. Due to the similarities between the tweeters, the sound signature in the higher end of the spectrum is identical to that of the compact model, with an electronic cutoff at 3 kHz. The Silver 6 therefore delivers a rather dry sound in the medium and treble range. The energy in the lower-medium and bass range is balanced and the sound can be considered somewhat ?comforting.? The overall balance is maintained with the volume turned up and the sound is neither forced nor tiresome. Listening to Nina Simone?s ?Feeling Good’ is enough to demonstrate this point. The artist?s voice, on the verge of distortion, is well-rendered, while the blazing brass section keeps all its depth without ever becoming too loud, thus leaving room for the piano on the right.
We recommend using the Monitor Silver 6 with a punchy amplifier in order to enjoy an exceptionally lively sound.
What we liked: the meticulous sound delivery, the balance of energy over the whole sound spectrum.
We would have liked: slightly punchier dynamics.
Monitor Audio Gold 200
Does the ribbon tweeter really change the sound that much? We would answer that question with a resounding yes. The speaker is much more musical and its neutral delivery enhanced by a warmth the Bronze and Silver models could not bring. This result seems to be directly linked to the ribbon tweeter, which significantly smoothes out the sound while adding a touch of brightness. This is all beautifully balanced out by a generous and round infra-bass. Meanwhile, this speaker can deliver very low frequencies without pushing too hard, even with the volume turned down. Despite its small, 5.5-inch drivers and single bass-reflex enclosure, the sound definition is excellent. ?Protection’ by Massive Attack is mesmerizing and the notes never drag. Charles Bradley?s ?The World is Going up in Flames?, with is vintage, sharp balance, is delivered by the Monitor Audio Gold 200 with a lot of warmth and, surprisingly, breathing room. Every sound is enjoyable, the soundstage is spacious, and the overall result is a delicate pleasure for the ears. This is clearly a great speaker, and listening to songs ordinarily deemed too basic, or heard too many times in poor conditions, is the best test to confirm this. Serge Gainsbourg?s ?Je suis venu te dire que je m?en vais? is outstanding. The whole song is a real delight. The guitar is well-placed on the left, the piano on the right and the bass in the middle. As for the artist?s voice, rarely have we heard it like this before.
This is, admittedly, the most expensive of the three speakers we tested this week. It was clear to us, however, that the Monitor Audio Gold 200 is ? by far ? a cut above the others. Choosing this speaker is a guarantee that you will no longer focus on the recording quality of the music but truly, and quite simply, enjoy it.
The Monitor Audio Gold 200 works really well with the NuPrime IDA-8 amplifier, as well as with the Hegel H80 (although not as warm). It is actually quite hard to imagine this speaker sounding less than exceptional paired with any hi-fi amplifier.
What we liked: the clear and nuanced treble, the truly extended frequency response, the design and the finish, as well as the speaker?s capacity to be powered by any amplifier.
We would have liked: an integrated espresso machine?
Monitor Audio?s Bronze, Silver, and Gold series: conclusions
The Monitor Audio Bronze 2, Monitor Audio Silver 6 and Monitor Audio Gold 200 speakers are all really good speakers. None of these models has overwhelming drawbacks and their delivery of music is always meticulous and neutral. The Gold model is greatly superior on every level and we can only regret that its ribbon tweeter cannot be found on the other models, even though the Bronze and Silver lines both feature great assets.