Good speakers can be had from £200 upwards. Elac’s Debut B5.2 for example. For this review we’ve gone a couple of rungs up the ladder, looking at not one but two sets of speakers. The first are floorstanders, the second standmounts. Both are from Monitor Audio. Both cost around £600.
Like for like, floorstanders cost more than standmounts (bigger cabinets etc). To hit the same price we’ve therefore chosen the Bronze 200 floorstander from Monitor Audio’s entry-level range. Pitched against the Silver 50 7G standmount from its next range up. Yes you’ll need stands for the Silver 50 7G, that doesn’t skew the comparison too much.
The choice of models was suggested by Woolacotts, whose Cornwall HiFi Show we attended recently. They have a dedicated audio showroom in their Wadebridge store and they know their HiFi onions. My host for the day, Jamie, was very knowledgeable and clearly an audio enthusiast.
The review took place in the Wadebridge store. As discussed, for some reviews HiFi Starters is keen to mirror the way people actually buy equipment. And what’s more normal than going into a store for a demonstration? Yes we invaded the showroom for the best part of a day, a luxury for sure. The experience was useful though, leading to a conclusion (of sorts). And a next step to undertake had we actually been buying (we may take it anyway.)
The only downside was the plethora of kit in the showroom, the temptation to keep trying different options. That we had a very specific question in mind – do we prefer the Monitor Audio floorstander or the standmount – really helped. Something to bear in mind when arranging a demo.
What are they?
The Silver 50 7G is a classic 2-way standmount, mating a 1” tweeter to a 5.25” mid-bass driver. It’s very small, under 12” tall and just over 6” wide. And its 86dB sensitivity is slightly below average so avoid very low powered amplifiers. It’s also rear-ported – there’s a hole in the back of the speaker to extend bass – which can cause problems when speakers are used close to a wall (bass reflects off the wall, muddying the sound). Monitor Audio says that’s not the case here, that the Silver 50G 7G has been designed to be used that way.
Bass is specified as -6dB at 47Hz, which isn’t very low despite Monitor Audio’s claims otherwise. That’s not a problem per se though, there are many more expensive speakers that cover a similar frequency range (the BBC LS3/5A for example).
The Silver 50G comes in five finishes; Black Oak, Ash, Satin White, High Gloss Black and the Natural Walnut of the demo speakers. Which looked fabulous, these are very nicely made speakers. Oh and the dimpling on the big driver is to stiffen it up.
The Bronze 200 is a good looking slim floorstander with outrigger feet to aid stability (spikes and rubber feet provided). It’s a 2.5-way design, in this case a 1” tweeter together with two 5.5” mid-bass drivers. One of which handles mid and bass frequencies, the other just bass. Hence 2.5-way.
At 36” high and 9” wide the cabinet is a lot bigger than the Silver 50 7G. As the photos show, allowing for stands the Bronze 200 doesn’t take up much more space though. Hence, to me, the attraction of floorstanders. Cables are hidden and there’s no stand to mess up the looks. All for the same footprint.
The Bronze 200 has two rear-facing ports. You might need to experiment with positioning. In theory its bass goes quite a bit lower than the Silver 50 (35Hz in-room at -6dB). Choose from four finishes; Urban Grey, White, Walnut and the Black of the demo pair. Fit and finish are fine, if not quite up to the standard of the Silver 50 7G. Sensitivity is 88dB, 2dB more than the standmount (a bigger difference than it sounds). The Bronze 200 shouldn’t need too beefy an amplifier then.
Both sets of speakers come with grills but were used without as they sounded better that way. Partnering equipment, suggested by Woolacotts, comprised a Musical Fidelity M2si integrated amplifier (£699) and a Yamaha WXC-50 streamer (£300). Lossless music streamed from Tidal. And cables were price appropriate; 2m of QED XT25 speaker cable (£69.99) and a QED Performance Audio Graphite (£29.99) between amplifier and streamer. Speaker stands were from Hi-Fi Racks.
When planning the review Jamie suggested the Silver 50 7G would major on clarity. Versus a less refined but bassier sound from the Bronze 200. He preferred the standmount, others might opt for the stronger low-end of the floorstander. He was right on the differences. And I too ultimately preferred the Silver 50 7G. It was close though, very close. The two sets of speakers sound so similar that a short listen would probably conclude they’re no different.
Even after a longer listen I initially gave the Bronze 200 the nod for its slightly richer sound. That was with both speakers positioned well into the room. When I moved the Silver 50 7G closer to the back wall – about 30 cm away – their sound filled out just enough to swing my preference to them.
In absolute terms both speakers are really good for the price. As shown by the first entry on the Silver 50 7G in my review notebook. “Do you need to spend more than this?” Quickly followed by “bass light but what’s there is lovely”. Then several comments highlighting the big soundstage, a characteristic shared with the Bronze 200.
“Pristine” is the other word that came up a lot, both speakers presenting a very clean sound. With the Silver 50 7G positioned out into the room it was slightly too clean, almost crystalline. I was starting to listen to the HiFi, not the music. Issues that disappeared when I moved them closer to the wall. A shame I couldn’t try them even closer – 15 to 20 cm – but the showroom layout wouldn’t allow it.
Tracks with ‘scale’ sounded really good thanks to the impressive soundstaging. “Drop Drop Slow Tears” from Voces8 (After Silence) is sparse acapella music that’s really well recorded. The Silver 50 7G captured the expansive acoustic admirably, the spiritual heart of the music conveyed beautifully.
Switching up to the Interstellar film soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, “The Cornfield Chase” makes fantastic use of a pipe organ to convey ‘galactic’ scale. Despite their lack of low bass the Silver 50 7G sounded majestic. And “Bliss on Mushrooms” from Infected Mushroom was its usual riotous self, despite the bass being taught rather than seismic.
On the other hand the walking bass line in the much simpler “Talk To Your Daughter” from Theessink & Evans did get rather lost, robbing the music of momentum. A slightly richer midrange would also have been good. “Twin Rocks Oregon” (from Soul’s Core) had Shawn Mullins sounding lighter than I’m used to. So no, the Silver 50 7G standmount isn’t the weightiest speaker you’ve heard, purity and transparency more its thing. It does those impressively well though.
Switching to the Bronze 200 I was expecting that second bass driver to fill in the gaps in the standmount’s repertoire. Well yes, what I heard was a fuller sound, the bass reaching lower. Not by much though. It certainly didn’t sound anywhere near its -6dB at 35Hz specification.
Overall the surprise was how similar it sounded to the standmount. The Bronze 200 was still a nimble speaker rather than a hefty one. It’s clarity was impressive, as was its soundstage. The upper reaches were just a little less refined than the Silver 50G. As if sweetened with sugar rather than honey. In both cases, moving the speakers to 30 cm from the rear wall filled out the sound a touch. In both cases that was beneficial. Nor did the soundstage shrink, as can often happen with proximity to boundaries.
The subwoofer option, or….
So neither the Silver 50 7G or the Bronze 200 plumb the depths. No problem per se, many more expensive speakers are the same (and sound great). The Monitor Audio’s don’t need a subwoofer. They would benefit from one though; slightly different.
But how good a sub is needed? Pretty good it turns out. Woolacotts recommended the £699 REL T/5x, the Silver 50G and Bronze 200 meriting better than the lower cost Tzero Mk III (we only discussed RELs, other subs are available).
The trouble is, adding a REL T/5x to either main speaker brings the combined price up to around £1,300, which is a lot. Particularly as for £799 – only £200 more than the speakers we’ve been listening to – you can get the Monitor Audio Silver 100 7G. It’s a bigger standmount, the next one up from the Silver 50 7G, with apparently much stronger bass. Darko looked at them recently . He titled his review “No Subwoofer Required”. Enough said. I think I’d check them out before parting with any cash.
So, the Silver 50 7G just pipped the floorstanders on sound quality. They’re a tad sweeter, slightly more polished. And they give little away in bass, despite the difference in specifications. I can see some preferring the Bronze 200 for their fuller bass though – they’re not far behind at all on refinement. Whichever, both speakers sound good for their price.
Aside from the sonics, if you need to run the speakers very close to a wall, or maybe on a bookshelf, then go for the Silver 50 7G. If you’re not constrained on space the cleaner looks of the floorstander may sway it for you. The amplifier matters too. We used an £800 amplifier for the demo. What differences we heard would have been smaller with a lesser amplifier. And warmer amps are more likely to suit the Monitor Audio speakers. Those with a lighter tone – like our Marantz PM6006 – may be just too pristine.
Forced to choose now I’d personally opt for the Silver 50 7G. But, I’d definitely listen to the next model up – the Silver 100 7G – before parting with my money. It may be £200 more but could end up saving you money in the long run; bye bye subwoofer upgrade.
So, as we said, a conclusion of sorts, and a suggested action. We’ll try to snag a pair of Silver 100 7G standmounts to see how they compare. Which just leaves me to say a huge thank you to Jamie and colleagues at Woolacotts for their hospitality and access to the facilities. Links to the two sets of speakers on their website are here and here (they’re not affiliate links).