Note: measurements taken in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council can be found through this link.
Monitor Audio has been on a roll lately, if the number of its product launches offers any evidence to support such a cliché. In 2018, I reviewed a pair of the smallest floorstanders from the UK company’s sixth-generation Silver Series, and I wrote about the fifth-generation Gold 200 floorstanders in 2020. Recently, Monitor Audio updated the Silvers again, and I received a pair of the largest tower in the series, the Silver 500 7G ($3200, all prices in USD), for review.
Monitor Audio’s seventh-generation Silver Series is the latest iteration of a product portfolio that continues to impress the heck out of me. I’ve reviewed enough of this company’s speakers during the past 15 years that I probably shouldn’t be excited when I’m asked to review another one—yet I am. The company consistently makes products whose build quality, aesthetics, and—most importantly—sound often establish benchmarks at their respective price points. Since hearing the Gold 200s, I’ve wanted to spend time with their bigger siblings, the Gold 300s, to find out how they’d sound in the larger listening space I now enjoy. The Silver 500 7G is less expensive than the Gold 300, but promises a huge sound nonetheless.
Like the Gold 300, the Silver 500 7G is a three-way design boasting a pair of 8″ woofers. Given the similar driver configuration, I thought the Silver 500 might sound similar to its more upscale sibling, so I was eager to unbox the pair and set them up. However, I was disappointed to find that my review pair was finished in the company’s Black Oak wood veneer. I know, woe is me, right? You can’t imagine my hardships. Still, I’ve been steadfast in my distaste for black speakers, although I’ll grant that some are more interesting than others. To my eyes, however, that isn’t the case for the 500 7G; it looks to me as if it’s designed for someone who would rather not have a pair of towers sitting prominently in his or her room (if such a thought is even possible). Of course, the newest edition of the Silver Series is available in other finishes: Natural Walnut or Ash real-wood veneers, and Satin White or High Gloss Black. From what I’ve seen online, I’d lean toward the Natural Walnut, but to each their own.
Although I wasn’t enamored with the Black Oak cabinet, there was no denying the high quality of the fit and finish, which boasts clean lines and a classic boxy appearance. In this case, the term “classic” only describes the profile since the absence of screws or grille pegs on the front baffle gives it an uncluttered appearance in keeping with contemporary speaker design. Much like the KEF R11 I use as a reference, the Monitor Audio favors 90-degree angles over rounded edges, giving it an exterior that will still look good in 20 years. I’ve come to expect Monitor Audio speakers to look more expensive than their prices suggest, and the Silver 500 7G didn’t disappoint. Measuring 41″H × 9″W × 13″D (excluding the outrigger feet) and weighing just a shade less than 50 pounds each, the large towers felt reassuringly solid when I rapped my knuckles on their cabinet walls before moving them into place.
A three-way design, the 500 7G features a 1″ tweeter, a 3″ midrange, and the aforementioned dual 8″ woofers. For at least three decades now, Monitor Audio has been experimenting with metallurgy when building its driver diaphragms, and, unsurprisingly, the company didn’t shy away from exotica with the 500 7G. For example, the diaphragm of the C-CAM Gold Dome high-frequency transducer is a ceramic-coated aluminum-magnesium alloy. While the magnet structure and rear chamber have been redesigned, what visually distinguishes the tweeter in this model from its predecessor’s is that it’s mounted inside what the company calls its Uniform Dispersion Waveguide II.
Waveguides have become commonplace in tweeter design. A waveguide gives more even sound dispersion and helps time-align the drivers by positioning the wavefront of the tweeter closer to that of the vertical plane of the midrange and woofer(s). Furthermore, a waveguide improves efficiency and permits a lower crossover point for better directivity matching. In the 500 7G, the tweeter is crossed over to the midrange at 2.7kHz. The 500 7G’s waveguide features a compression ring above the surround and dome that increases its sensitivity above 10kHz, thereby reducing distortion and producing a flatter frequency response.
In its sixth generation, the Silver 500 employed a 4″ C-CAM midrange, but the 3″ midrange in the latest incarnation aims to improve directivity to allow a smooth transition to the tweeter. To increase the cone’s stiffness, the driver features what Monitor Audio calls Rigid Surface Technology (RST) II. RST II was originally developed for the flagship Platinum II series, and can be seen as a pattern of hexagonal dimples across the C-CAM’s surface.
Furthermore, the midrange’s cone is made from a new aluminum alloy with greater tensile strength, and its magnet has been upgraded from ferrite to neodymium, making it smaller and more powerful. Additionally, the geometry of the cone and surround has been modified to provide better driver damping. This, too, has an acronym: DCM or Damped Concentric Mode technology.
At this point it seems safe to assume there’s no dearth of patents in Monitor Audio’s portfolio. Perhaps most telling is that the company claims an incredible 12dB reduction of distortion in this midrange unit relative to its sixth-generation predecessor. Presumably, it’s the combination of all these modifications that has led to this improvement, which speaks to a company with a highly active R&D department constantly seeking solutions to improve upon its own designs.
Like the midrange, the 8″ woofers are also constructed with C-CAM and benefit from trickle-down RST II technology. The woofers are crossed over to the midrange at 800Hz. A bass-reflex speaker, the Silver 500 7G boasts a pair of HiVe (high velocity) II ports on its backside that are designed to minimize noise by accelerating airflow. Interesting, in-room frequency response is rated at 27Hz–35kHz (-6dB), which reaches 3Hz lower than the latest Gold 300 tower.
Nominal impedance is specified as 8 ohms, with a dip to 4.1 ohms at 150Hz. Sensitivity is a healthy 90.5dB/W/m and amps rated 80–250Wpc are recommended. This seems reasonable; I had no trouble driving the 500 7Gs to louder volumes than I can tolerate using my Bryston B135 SST2 integrated amplifier, which is rated at 135Wpc. As usual, watts aren’t the whole story; it’s more important to use an amplifier comfortable with a 4-ohm load. Dual binding posts give the option of biamping or biwiring; of course, one can simply use the supplied jumpers to run a single pair of cables, as I did.
I used a NAD C 565BEE CD player feeding a Bryston BDA-2 DAC via an i2 Digital X-60 coaxial cable as the music source for my listening. Lossless digital content was sent wirelessly from Apple Music on an iMac desktop computer to a Bluesound Node 2i streamer. The Node was connected to the BDA-2 through an AudioQuest Forest TosLink optical cable. The DAC sent analog signals to the B135 SST2 through Nordost Quattro Fil RCA cables. Vinyl playback was provided by a Thorens TD 160 HD turntable featuring a modified Rega Research RB250 tonearm mounted with a low-output Sumiko Songbird moving-coil cartridge. The TD 160 HD was connected to a Lehmannaudio Black Cube phono preamplifier, which in turn fed my Bryston integrated, both connections using generic RCA cables. Ultralink speaker cables terminated in banana plugs connected the Monitor Audios to the B135 SST2. All electronics were plugged into an ExactPower EP15A power conditioner.
Initially, I positioned the 500 7Gs where my KEF R11 towers stood. However, images weren’t as precise as I’d have liked in that location, so I experimented and found I preferred keeping them somewhat closer together than I position the KEFs. With their tweeters about 7′ apart and their front baffles about 4′ from the front wall, I found that images were well focused in front of me where I sat, 10′ away.
Satisfied that the speakers were set up properly for my room, it was time to relax and listen. One of the first discs that went into the CD tray was Loreena McKennitt’s Nights from the Alhambra (CD, Quinlan Road QRCDDVD2-110-N). What immediately stood out was the drumming that opens “Marco Polo.” It was taut and clear, appearing to come from behind the right speaker. The song soon swells and I was greeted with a lively assortment of percussion and stringed instruments spread across a broad soundstage. The sense of depth was remarkable, with the musicians seemingly arranged between the front baffles of the speakers and the wall behind them. There’s a lot happening in this live performance at the Palace of Charles V, in Granada, Spain, and the clean character of the 500 7Gs teased it apart discernibly. In particular, the strings were crisp and incisive, lending the music a vibrant character. The infectious energy of the musicians was evident as the intensity builds throughout, and they are really rocking out by the end of the song. At its conclusion, explosive applause, whistles, and shouts erupt from the appreciative audience.
Nights from the Alhambra is a favorite of mine. I’m a longtime admirer of Loreena McKennitt’s music, but this recording is particularly well made and does a nice job conveying the intimate ambiance of the concert. For example, on “Dante’s Prayer” there is a stillness in the surroundings that one can feel, but it takes a capable set of speakers to reproduce it. The 500 7Gs were incredibly resolving, and had little trouble capturing this moment and many others across this two-disc set. The evenly balanced personality of the Monitor Audios made it easy to enjoy the music rather than focus on the sound.
Moving from an outdoor concert in the courtyard of a 16th-century Spanish palace to the chapel of the 15th-century papal residence in the Vatican City, the large acoustic space of the Sistine Chapel was well served by the Monitor Audio towers. I listened to the Sistine Chapel Choir, featuring mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, performing Pérotin’s “Beata viscera Mariae Virginis” from Veni Domine: Advent & Christmas at the Sistine Chapel (16-bit/44.1kHz ALAC, Deutsche Grammophon/Apple Music). The resonance of Bartoli’s voice off the ceiling and walls gave this piece an otherworldly, ethereal quality as the 500 7Gs did a magnificent job capturing the sizable and mostly vacant space of the chapel. The highs were extended and detailed, and once again, the outstanding resolution of the speakers communicated the volume of the room. For those listeners who enjoy early choral music, this piece is sublime.
Moving on, I placed Tom Waits’s Mule Variations (CD, Anti-/Epitaph Records 86547-2) into the CD tray. The crystalline lucidity of the 500 7Gs was ably demonstrated on “Hold On.” The bass was full-bodied, while the acoustic guitar was sharp and precise. Meanwhile, the strings of the electric guitar were appropriately scratchy and coarse, and Waits’s voice hung suspended between the speakers, appearing larger than life. There was an immediacy to this tune that was undeniable; more a function of the recording than the speakers, but engaging, nonetheless.
“Be Your Husband” from Jeff Buckley’s incredible Live at Sin-é (CD, Columbia Records C2K 89202) features plenty of reverb that accentuates the atmosphere of the New York City café. Everything from the chatter of the audience and their clapping to the clinking of utensils, plates, and glassware elevated the scene to a level of amazing realism through the 500 7Gs. Clichéd as it sounds, the Sin-é venue comes to life on this album, and all was convincingly revealed by the Monitor Audios. Buckley’s unaccompanied voice was rendered with detail and space on this track. Live at Sin-é is one of the better-sounding albums in my collection, and although I hadn’t heard it in some time, the Silver 500 7Gs proved to be the perfect tools for revisiting it.
I compared the 500 7G with another British speaker: KEF’s R11 tower ($5999.98 per pair). At just over 41″ tall, the Monitor Audio is of average height for the floorstanding models I’ve reviewed, but standing alongside the flagship tower from KEF’s venerable R series, it looked stout. At 49″ tall, the KEF is one of the tallest speakers I’ve ever had in my room, and its substantial height is needed to accommodate a total of four 6.5″ woofers. Furthermore, the R11 boasts the latest version of the company’s Uni-Q driver, a coaxial design that positions a 1″ tweeter at the center of a 5″ midrange driver. Additionally, the KEF weighs 83 pounds, or over 60% more than the Monitor Audio. While they might share basic DNA in that both are bass-reflex designs, there are more than a few factors that differentiate these speakers.
For my first comparison, I chose the final movement of Haydn’s Quartet in D Major, Op.76, No. 5 by Norwegian string quartet Engegårdkvartetten from 2L Sampler 2009 (CD, 2L Recordings). The superb transient response and precision of the Monitor Audios made for an engaging listen on this highly energetic, up-tempo piece of music. Again, the clear character of the 500 7Gs made it easy to discern the violins and viola at the front of the room, each instrument occupying a sharp outline between the speakers. Meanwhile, the cello’s arco passages had a rich tone, and the instrument generally sounded full. Swapping speakers, I found the KEFs were every bit as transparent as the Monitor Audios, as they also delivered plenty of detail from the attacks on the strings. However, the R11s succeeded in producing a touch more space around each of the musicians, and created an even wider, more open soundstage than the 500 7Gs. Tonally, both sets of speakers were similar, but the KEFs distinguished themselves by their presentation of space.
Listening to “Angel,” from Massive Attack’s Mezzanine (CD, Virgin Records 8 45599 2), proved interesting. The 500 7Gs sounded holographic. There is a knocking sound in “Angel” that resonated between the speakers as it seemingly emerged from beyond the front wall of my room. In other words, the Monitor Audios conveyed excellent depth. The bass, while not overbearing, had palpable heft and provided a solid foundation for the track. I’ve heard this song sound murky through lesser speakers as the low end can get overpowering. This wasn’t a problem for the 500 7Gs, whose 8″ drivers were far too exacting and disciplined to produce anything but a tight, agile low end. By keeping things clean in the low frequencies, they made it a cinch to hear everything going on higher up. In my listening room, the Monitor Audios couldn’t deliver all of the bass on this song, and while moving them closer to the room’s boundaries would have improved the low end, it would have detracted from their outstanding image placement and three-dimensional soundstage. That’s a trade-off I wasn’t willing to make.
Through the R11s, the bass on “Angel” had more weight and the sound was fuller compared to the 500 7Gs. It’s likely this was at least partly due to each of the KEF towers employing a quartet of 6.5″ woofers and being more than 30 pounds heavier than their Monitor Audio counterparts. In the top end, there is what sounds like a quick, percussive rhythm played on a cymbal on “Angel” that stood out more on the 500 7Gs than it did on the R11s. This surprised me, given the KEFs’ own high degree of clarity. Through the Monitor Audios, this sound had a shinier, more metallic quality—as though it were imbued with more energy. Because it wasn’t over-bright or irritating, I actually preferred its more vibrant, lively character through the 500 7Gs.
Someone with a budget of up to $6000 to spend on a new pair of speakers would be remiss not to check out the offerings from both of these legendary British speaker brands. But with respect to price, a fairer comparison would have been with KEF’s R5 floorstander, which lists for $3299.98 per pair. I’ve not heard the R5 but it’s difficult to imagine its dual 5.25″ woofers being able to deliver the same output as the Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G. The fact that the Monitor Audios nearly matched the performance of the higher-end KEF R11s says a lot about the value they offer. If I had just over $3k to buy a new pair of speakers today, I’d order a pair of the Silver 500 7Gs and never look back. Their value proposition is irrefutable.
Of course, not everyone is willing to spend $3K on speakers—most people I know are not. My next words will be incomprehensible for those folks, but at $3200 per pair, Monitor Audio’s Silver 500 7G is a bargain. The Silver 500 7G has benefited from years of trickle-down technology from Monitor Audio’s upper-echelon models and incorporates features found in the company’s flagship speakers. Still, at this price point there’s no lack of competition for your money, and you’d be missing out if you didn’t look for and listen to some options.
Monitor Audio’s Silver 500 7G is a speaker that I think most listeners will greatly appreciate. This near-universal appeal is why I think it belongs on your shortlist of speakers to check out if you’re looking at this price point, or even considerably higher. Absolutely recommended.
. . . Philip Beaudette
- Speakers: KEF R11.
- Integrated amplifier: Bryston B135 SST2.
- Digital sources: NAD C 565BEE CD player, Bryston BDA-2 DAC, Bluesound Node 2i streamer, Apple iMac streaming Apple Music.
- Analog source: Thorens TD 160 HD turntable, Rega Research RB250 tonearm, Sumiko Songbird MC cartridge.
- Phono stage: Lehmannaudio Black Cube.
- Speaker cables: Ultralink.
- Interconnects: Nordost Quattro Fil (RCA).
- Digital links: AudioQuest Forest (TosLink optical), i2 Digital X-60 (coaxial).
- Power conditioner: ExactPower EP15A.
Monitor Audio Silver 500 7G Loudspeakers
Price: $3200 per pair.
Warranty: Five years, parts and labor.
Monitor Audio Ltd.
24 Brook Road
Rayleigh, Essex SS6 7XL
Phone: +44 1268-740580
Fax: +44 1268-740589
North American distributor:
902 McKay Road #4
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3X8
Phone: (800) 667-6065, (905) 428-2800
Fax: (905) 428-0004