About a year after settling into my new house, I decided to buy a pair of Monitor Audio Silver 10 floorstanding loudspeakers, which I had reviewed in 2014 for our sister publication Sound & Vision. I wound up buying three of them, with the intention of cannibalizing the drivers and crossover from one to make my own three-way center-channel speaker. But that project was long delayed, and I never got around to doing anything with the third Silver 10: It now sits in a closet as a spare. (The similar but smaller Silver 8 and its replacement, the new Silver 300, were both reviewed for Stereophile by Kal Rubinson, footnote 1.)
In any event, the Silver 10s have been my reference for the past three years, despite being superseded by the Silver 500s in Monitor Audio’s most recent Silver line. But there are usually other loudspeakers in for reviewan occupational hazard in my line of workand when that happens, the Silver 10s are set aside.
This time around, the “other loudspeaker” is the Silver 300’s big brother, the new Monitor Audio Gold 300 ($7000/pair). It’s the flagship of Monitor Audio’s Gold linenow the fifth generation of Golds, all models of which have been extensively upgraded. All of the Silver and Gold models were designed in the UK and are manufactured in China.
The Gold 300 is a three-way design employing a pair of 8″ woofers, an unusually small, 2.5″ midrange, and a 1″ folded “ribbon” tweeter that isn’t technically a ribbon: Monitor Audio calls it a “Micro Pleated Diaphragm,” or MPD. It’s a brother to the Air Motion Transformer (or AMT) invented in the early 1970s by Dr. Oscar Heil. Variations on this design, most far smaller than the original, are now widely used in commercial speakers, though it’s still far less common than conventional dome tweeters. The design’s benefits are a largely resistive load, no significant inductance (dome tweeters have an inductive voice-coil that complicates crossover design), and low mass, the latter despite a surface area that, in this case, is six times greater than that of Monitor Audio’s own 25mm gold-colored dome tweeter.
At barely an inch square, this MPD is one of the smallest tweeters of its type I’ve yet seen. That isn’t a criticism; the smaller the tweeter the wider its dispersion, though this is generally counterbalanced by a reduction in its power handling, thus a need for a higher crossover frequency. To further enhance dispersion, as well as provide a better match at the crossover point to the midrange, Monitor’s MPD tweeter is mounted in a shallow waveguide.
Located just below the tweeter is Monitor Audio’s new 2.5″ midrange driver with a C-CAM cone. C-CAM (Ceramic-Coated Aluminum) has been used in Monitor Audio’s designs for several generations. This is the smallest non-dome midrange driver I’ve ever seen on a speaker. Its claimed linear excursion is ±1.5mm, with a cone breakup two octaves above the crossover point to the tweeter.
The tweeter and midrange are spaced close together on their own aluminum sub-baffle, sealed from behind in an aluminum chamber isolating them from the back pressure of the Gold 300’s two 8″ woofers. The latter employ Monitor Audio’s RDT II (Rigid Diaphragm Technology II) cones, a sandwich construction consisting of a C-CAM front, a woven carbon-fiber back skin, and a Nomex honeycomb core. The combination is said to offer stiffness, light weight, and good dampingand so the dimples used to reduce resonances on the Silver series drivers are apparently not needed. (I sort of miss those dimples here; their golf ball texture offers a unique look that’s missing from the new Gold’s smooth cones.) Pressure behind the woofer’s cones is relieved by holes in the voice coil formerMonitor Audio’s Vented Driver Technology (VDT). The magnet structure is vented as well, and the motor assembly has been optimized with Finite Element Analysis (FEAtry to keep up with the acronyms!).
The drivers are connected via a crossover network using premium-grade polypropylene capacitors and a combination of air-core and lossless steel-core inductors. The crossover points are 650Hz and 3kHz, the slightly-higher-than-typical latter frequency made possible by the small midrange driver, which makes the tweeter’s job a bit easier. The filter orders/rolloff rates aren’t specified.
As in many Monitor Audio loudspeakers, a threaded rod is fastened to the rear of each woofer; these extend through openings on the cabinet’s rear panel, where they are secured on the outside by large, decorative nuts. This not only eliminates visible mounting hardware on the front but also provides increased bracing. Not that the latter’s in short supply: The cabinet’s 18mm MDF walls are extensively braced.
Two HiVe (high velocity) reflex ports are around back; foam plugs are provided to block them if desired (I didn’t). Two pairs of input terminals offer biwire or biamp options. For single-wire/single-amp use, the Gold’s terminal shorting links are wire rather than the usual solid metal straps. The cabinet’s sturdy outrigger feet can be used with or without spikes. As is increasingly common, the provided spikes are neither long enough nor tapered sharply enough (likely due to safety concerns) to penetrate a carpet.
While the Gold 300s are no larger than my Silver 10s (not counting the two models’ outriggers/plinths), they’re significantly heavier. They’re also available in four finishes, with tops covered in a soft black leatherette. Our samples were Piano Gloss Black, but if I were buying, I’d take a close look at the Piano Ebony (woodgrain) before deciding.
The area of my listening space is 16′ by 21′ with an oddly sloped ceiling at an (estimated) average height of 9′. But the entire right side opens into adjoining spaces, making the acoustic volume the system sees much larger than just the floor dimensions of the room itself. The room is also used in my work for Sound & Vision and is equipped with two projection screens, but they’re fully retracted when music is the main event. A flat-screen TV sits between the speakers, but it’s positioned well to the rear of the plane of the speakers, and its reflective screen is covered by a small blanket when needed. Most of the floor area is covered with large, thick, unpadded rugs. Books, CDs, and videos cover the back wall on high shelves located several feet behind the listening seat.
The system for this review included a Marantz AV8805 surround-sound processor (limited here to two channels only). This was connected to two channels of the five-channel, John Curl-designed, class-AB Parasound Halo A 52+ amplifier, rated at 180Wpc into 8 ohms with five channels driven (or, more applicable here, 350Wpc with two channels driven into the 4-ohm-specified Gold 300s). The pre-pro and source, the latter a Marantz UD7007 disc player, were connected to the mains via a Tripp Lite Isobar 6 surge suppressor; the amplifier was connected directly to the wall outlet. All of the (IEC) power cords were generic. The Marantz player was connected digitally to the Marantz pre-pro with a Kimber AGDL cable. Unbalanced, vintage Cardas Hexlink interconnects ran from the Marantz pre-pro to the amplifier.
Instead of the AudioQuest Rocket 88 speaker cables I normally use, I switched to a pair of QED Silver Anniversary XTs that haven’t seen action here in years, and even then not for long. When I first tried them way back when, in a different house and room, I found them a bit lean. But that quality balanced nicely in this room and with these speakers. The QEDs also use the tightest-fitting banana plugs I’ve ever experienced. Contrary to their name, the Silver Anniversary XTs don’t use silver wire but are simply high-purity copper. And they aren’t at all pricey; I’m not a fan of cables that cost as much as, or more than, the speakers they’re connected to. (With cables we’re talking about subtle system tuning, regardless of their price, not sound changes from another world.)
I set up the Gold 300s about 9′ apart and angled them inward to face the listening seat roughly 8.5′ away. This is about 2.5′ nearer than I’ve typically used in the past; recent experimentation, including measurements, has shown that this closer listening position resulted in more precise imaging and a smoother (but no more extended) bass response. As with all my speaker reviews, the Gold 300s were located roughly 3.5′ from the bay-shaped walls behind them. While the left speaker had a full wall about 4′ from its side, the right side of the right speaker did not; it was fully open to another large space adjoining the listening area.