Monitor Audio Silver RS6
I consider audio an inclusive hobby. Sure, there are myths
-- often propagated and perpetuated by audiophiles themselves -- about the price of
admission to the world of the high end, but rest assured: if such prices exist,
theyre probably not as high as many believe. True, $500 probably wont go too
far toward assembling a complete high-end system, but as readers of GoodSound! are
aware, you dont need to make a doctors salary to afford a high-quality stereo
system. A growing number of companies are building products that can give you more than a
taste of what the very best products have to offer for a fraction of the price. One
example is Monitor Audios Silver RS6 loudspeaker ($999/pair USD).
Like Bowers & Wilkins (B&W), Monitor Audio is a
brand synonymous with the British loudspeaker industry. Founded in 1972, Monitor made its
mark with the R852MD, the first speaker to use a metal-dome tweeter composed of an alloy
rather than a single elemental metal. Since that time, Monitor has been a firm proponent
of metal-based drivers. Today, that technology finds its place in their Ceramic Coated
Aluminum Magnesium (C-CAM) drivers, first introduced in the Silver S series. The tweeter
used throughout the newer RS line is based on the C-CAM Gold Dome used in the
companys more upscale Gold series.
The floorstanding RS6 is a ported, bass-reflex design with
two 6" C-CAM drivers for the bass and midrange reproduction. The 6" cones
cast-polymer chassis help damp the residual energy produced by the movement of the
drivers. In this two-and-a-half-way design, both 6" drivers contribute to the bass,
but only the upper one extends into the midrange; it crosses over to the tweeter at 3kHz.
The ports, one each on front and rear, help increase the weight of the low end. Should
that bass weight prove too much, port plugs are included -- a nice touch that allows the
user to fine-tune the speakers sound to the room. I used them, as youll see
Monitor claims the Silver RS6s frequency response to
be 38Hz-30kHz, its sensitivity an efficient 91dB, and its nominal impedance 6 ohms -- it
should be relatively easy for an amplifier to drive. Monitor also says that the RS6 can
handle up to 120W RMS of amplification, and suggests using an amp that can output at least
The cabinet itself measures just 33 7/16"H x
7 1/4"W x 9 13/16"D; attaching the plinth adds an inch of height and
expands the RS6s footprint to 10"W by 12"D. Each speaker weighs about 35
pounds. Included are four sturdy, adjustable levelers that screw into the bottom of the
plinth to couple the speaker to the floor.
The RS6 comes in a Video Silver finish, as well as a choice
of real-wood veneers -- black oak, natural oak, rosenut, walnut, cherry -- of a quality
not commonly offered at this price point. The review pair were finished in walnut and
looked very sharp. In fact, seeing them for the first time, my girlfriend was especially
impressed by their rich appearance. She loves music and appreciates good sound, but in the
past has harshly criticized the appearance of some of the components that have taken up
residence in my listening room. That she immediately liked the RS6 speaks well for its
design, and is good news for other audiophiles who might need to consult their partners
before investing in new equipment. The RS6 looks as if it costs much more than it does.
System and setup
For this review I used a Simaudio Moon CD5.3 CD player, my
NAD C372 integrated amplifier, AudioQuest Copperhead interconnects, and Nirvana Audio
Royale speaker cables, terminated in spades.
At first, I thought the Monitor Silver RS6 sounded too
aggressive, with far too much emphasis in the bass. Although it sounded big and the highs
were crystal clear, the bass was muddled, and the presentation lacked depth. As usual, I
experimented with placement and found that in order to eliminate the overpowering bass and
hear convincing three-dimensional sound, I needed to position the speakers farther from
the room boundaries. They ended up 32" from the front wall -- considerably more than
the 8" Monitor suggests starting with. I then plugged the rear port of each speaker
and left both front ports open. These changes significantly improved the bass balance.
One of the first discs I popped into the CD tray was Erlend
Øyes DJ-Kicks [CD, Studio !K7 !K7161CD], specifically Øyes very cool
version of The Smiths "There Is a Light that Never Goes Out." Through the
RS6 the bass on this track played with authority and control, easily filling my room
without ever becoming loose or bloated. Øyes voice was well delineated among the
various elements of the musical backdrop, seeming to almost float above everything else.
I was amazed that such a relatively small speaker could
sound so big. This factor alone will likely sway some listeners toward the RS6 -- after
all, many of us lack the space for huge speaker cabinets, or might live with someone who
views them as eyesores. This should be less of an issue with the svelte RS6; while fairly
compact, it manages to move a huge amount of air.
Aside from my surprise at the weight of its low frequencies
and the overall large scale of its sound, what impressed me most about the RS6 were its
reproduction of highs -- they soared effortlessly from those C-CAM tweeters -- and its
exceptionally clean sound. When I listened to Neil Youngs latest album, Live at
Massey Hall 1971 [CD, Reprise CDW43327], Youngs detailed voice projected from
his seat to give a clear sense of the acoustic of Massey Hall. With this recording and
others, the RS6s managed to pull voices forward more than any speaker Ive
encountered, to make the space around voices and instruments more open and natural. The
same spaciousness was equally evident on Alice in Chains Unplugged [CD,
Columbia 67703], where the band was spread across a deep, wide stage that extended beyond
the outer edges of both speakers as they played one of their last shows, in the Majestic
Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The only other time Id heard a Monitor Audio speaker
was in a dealers showroom, with entirely unfamiliar ancillary components -- so I
couldnt judge the speakers themselves. The Silver RS6 was thus the first Monitor
Id ever seriously listened to, and by this point I was surprised and impressed with
its performance, and found myself digging out album after album. I inserted Martin
Sextons Black Sheep [CD, Kitchen Table KTR-003] and pressed Play. The title
track begins with an acoustic guitar whose strings sounded crisp and clear through the
RS6. The guitar was simply "there," and so was I. When Sextons voice
entered, I couldnt help but be drawn into the sonic illusion that there were
musicians actually performing there in front of me. However, as good as "Black
Sheep" sounded, I was even more impressed when I heard the next tune, "Glory
Bound." Again, it was Sextons voice and the RS6s lucid midrange
presentation that absorbed me in what I has hearing. As his falsetto soared, the
reverberation of his voice made the space around him sound immense -- but more remarkable
was how he managed to fill it.
Reminding myself that I now had a floorstanding speaker in
my room capable of exploring a few two-digit frequencies my own bookshelf speakers
cant reach, I listened to DJ Shadows exceptional Endtroducing [CD,
MoWax/A&M 540 007-2]. On "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt," the
RS6 played with excellent speed and control. Furthermore, its tight bass was very punchy,
vitalizing the music and making it move. On "The Number Song," this intensifies
as the music takes a decidedly more uptempo turn and demands that the volume be
turned up -- so I did. The RS6s easily handled it. They played loud -- I know that I never
approached their limit. Thats good news for those who try to play music at
Surprisingly, despite how low and how loudly it could play,
the RS6 also had an uncanny ability to allow me to listen deeper into the minute details
of recordings, to hear things that would otherwise be sunk beneath the noise floor. For
example, the voices heard during the opening of "Kings Crossing," from
Elliot Smiths From a Basement on a Hill [CD, Anti- 86741], were
audible earlier in the track through the Monitor Audios than Id ever heard them
before. I loved how easy it was to "see" into the music with the RS6s.
I compared the Monitor Silver RS6 to PSBs Platinum M2
($1999/pair), the latter companys flagship bookshelf model and my own reference.
Some may think the comparison unfair, given the disparity in price. However, the
differences in performance between the RS6 and M2 werent as great as the price gap
might suggest, and in a few areas I could easily imagine some listeners preferring the
less expensive Monitor.
The lone 6.5" mid/bass driver of the two-way M2 was
unable to compete with the RS6s low-frequency output, even with one of the
latters ports plugged -- the PSB was no match for the Monitors sheer weight
and impact. One example was the War Dance, from Eiji Oue and the Minnesota
Orchestras recording of the Suite from Respighis Belkis, Queen of Sheba
[CD, Reference RR-95CD]. Through the M2, the fierce cacophony of the war drums was very
fast and highly detailed. Switching to the RS6, the speed and tautness of the drums
remained, but the added weight made the experience much more visceral, as the pounding
rhythm and drive propelled the dance forward. The dual 6" drivers and larger cabinet
volume of the RS6 not only resulted in meatier, more chest-thumping bass, but also made
the Monitors sound more dynamic with some of the electronic and classical music I love.
The two speakers mids, too, were different, though in
this regard I give the nod to the PSB M2. On "Twilight," from Elliot
Smiths Basement, the RS6 gave more warmth to Smiths acoustic
guitar, making the body of the instrument seem bigger, but less precise and immediate. In
contrast, the M2 was clearer, and revealed more details of resonance of the
instruments wooden body, making the guitar sound more natural and realistic.
Although the M2 didnt convey the degree of overall weight and scale that the RS6
did, it maintained a firm grip on the music, sounding tight and precise.
As for the highs, the Monitors 1" C-CAM tweeter
was a close match for the 1" aluminum dome of the twice-the-price PSB. I preferred
aspects of both. Although the RS6s tweeter lacked the complete ease and velvety
smoothness of the PSBs, the Monitors top end had an energy and a clarity that
brought to life much of the music I asked it to reproduce. In contrast, when I switched
back to the PSB, it sounded almost dull by comparison.
Overall, there were important differences in the voicings
of these speakers. Whereas the PSB M2 sounded very neutral, almost bland by comparison,
the Monitor RS6 had a more forward, more room-filling presentation from the bass all the
way through the robust mids and the energetic highs. Ultimately, I prefer the M2s
more restrained sound, but I did find the RS6s bass thrilling. I know that some
listeners will prefer the more forward, room-filling Monitor, which bodes well for its
value, given that it costs only half as much.
My belief that audio is an inclusive hobby is reaffirmed
when I encounter a product such as Monitor Audios Silver RS6 -- a relatively
inexpensive, exceptionally well-built floorstanding speaker that provides considerable
insight into what the best has to offer. Obviously, when it can compete well against a
speaker costing twice its price, it must be considered an excellent value.
The RS6 proved to be a good speaker -- a really good
speaker. Its sound was distinctive, its presence readily felt. It played big and bold as
it approached the peaks of crescendos, softly and delicately as it traced the decays of
piano notes. Its reproduction of all types of music was superb, and its command of
everything played through it was almost beyond reproach.
The marketplace for speakers costing under $1000/pair is
fiercely competitive, and each year seems to raise the bar for what one should expect for
less than a grand. The Silver RS6 costs a mere $1 under that, but if youre in the
market for a new floorstander, youd be cheating yourself if you didnt at least
audition Monitor Audios Silver RS series, and particularly the RS6. It could be the
last speaker you buy for a very long time.
Price of equipment reviewed