Esteemed sound-monger Monitor Audio last graced the pages of HCC with the Radius HD system, a classy sub-sat package that brings the company's prowess to an affordable price. But those with bigger living rooms and bigger budgets might be tempted by the latest package from the company's midrange Silver series, the RX6 AV12.
The good news is that the Silver RX series is equipped with tech from the monolithic Platinum and Gold speakers, and builds on the very capable Silver RS series.
The package consists of a pair of RX6s floorstanders up front with the RX-Centre nestled in between, plus a pair of RX-FXs taking care of rear-channel duties. It's anchored by the RX-W-12 subwoofer, which contributes 500W of muscle. Another package, the £1,800 RX1 AV12, substitutes the RX6s for the bookshelf RX1s.
Build quality is exquisite. Elegant to the eye but tough and robust within – think Vinnie Jones trapped in Darcey Bussell's body.
Key to the design are the slim cabinets, made possible by the compact C-CAM drivers that form the heart of each speaker, as well as the sumptuous high-gloss black finish. A choice of four real wood veneers offers a classy alternative.
The clumsy base plinths are the only aesthetic mis-step. The RX6s might be stumpier than many floorstanders at just 850mm high, but they're deceptively heavy – you get the sense that there's tons of technology inside just bursting to make itself heard.
And indeed there is. Key to the Silver RX range is Monitor Audio's Ceramic-Coated Aluminium Magnesium (C-CAM) metal alloy driver cones, which offer delicacy and dynamism in equally, while Rigid Surface Technology (RST) aims to reduce cone break-up and improve midrange clarity.
Also inside is a new wider bandwidth, 25mm C-CAM gold dome tweeter pushing high frequency reproduction to over 35kHz, crucial for squeezing out the extra detail in Blu-ray and SACD/DVD-Audio discs. It teams up with the 6in C-C-CAM bass and bass/mid drivers to form a two-and-a-half way system.
Critical dialogue duties fall on the shoulders of the RX-Centre, which uses the same driver line-up as the RX6s to ensure tonal matching across the front. Usefully, the RX-FX rears can be configured as bi-pole or di-pole speakers depending on where they're placed and whether you like your effects direct or diffuse – make your choice using the switch on the back.
They're designed to be mounted flush on the wall, and doing so garners the best results. Sound radiates along the walls to create a seamlessly enveloping rear soundstage. As with the rest of the system, the RXW-12 sample has the same super-sexy gloss black finish and weighs a ton, despite its compact size.
Inside the sealed 25mm MDF enclosure, a 500W Class D amplifier drives a newly designed 12in C-CAM cone, equipped with a two-magnet motor system and 3in voice coil. A small bank of controls is placed on top, and includes a volume dial and buttons for toggling between two EQ presets.
The default EQ 1 setting provides the best overall performance, particularly for music playback, but EQ 2 should be selected when you require a bit of extra bass kick for movies, injecting an extra 4dB at 21Hz.
On the back panel is a dial for selecting the crossover (between 40-120Hz), which should be set to 40-60Hz to integrate with the rest of this system. But if your AV receiver governs the LFE output, then the Low Pass Filter switch can be used to bypass crossover control.
Also on the rear is a switch to flip the phase 180°, left/right phono line-level inputs and outputs for daisy chaining other subs.
End may be nigh
To test the Monitor Audio's mettle I loaded up 2012 on Blu-ray – and its reproduction of the DTS-HD MA soundtrack was gobsmacking. Driven by an Onkyo TX-NR906 and Oppo BDP-31 Blu-ray deck, the RX6s and rears deliver an open and immersive listening experience.
This movie demands suspension of disbelief, but that's not hard when sonics are presented with such purpose and conviction – it might just make you think the world is ending. Each speaker simply spoils you with detail.
I could make out the subtlest sounds in every scene, from the faint creaking and rustling of falling debris as the Sistine Chapel caves in, to the gentle background chatter inside important-looking command centres. If the devil is in the detail, then this system is Satan himself.
So it aces the intricate stuff then, but the system also has real clout when called for, thanks mainly to the RXW-12 sub. The rumble of advancing tidal waves is deep and weighty, while the massive lumps of burning rock that rain down in Chapter 7 hit the ground with taut, focused blasts of bass.
When earthquakes crack the ground open, the impact is appropriately seismic. Activating the EQ 2 mode injects added punch into the low-end effects but I found the standard EQ 1 meaty enough.
But the RXW-12 is about much more than roof-shaking bangs and booms. It adds subtle depth to gentle background murmuring and infuses gushing film scores with heart-melting warmth. It's the glue that holds it all together. The relaying of the movie's pseudo-scientific claptrap is carried out with emphatic clarity by the centre speaker.
Speech is clean and sibilance-free, and easily deals with the unfolding apocalypse. But no matter how raucous the action is, the system stays firmly in control, even at rock concert volumes.
High frequencies never sound harsh or bright, midrange is full of body and the sub doesn't know the meaning of the word flabby. Timing's tighter than a team of synchronised swimmers and the interplay between channels is bewitching. I'm sold.
But this brilliance is by no means confined to movies. It also relishes the challenge of a decent SACD like Roxy Music's Avalon, bringing its spacey, atmospheric sounds to life with spine-tingling results. I followed this up with demo-room favourite They Can't Take That Away From Me by Jane Monheit and John Pizzarelli and the purity of Monheit's voice sends shivers down the spine.
All this makes the Silver RX series a formidable proposition. Granted, it can't match the microscopic insight and neutrality of Monitor Audio's pricier systems, but its boundless energy and sheer listenability makes it hard to beat in its price class.
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