|Miller & Kreisel 5.1 THX Powered System (S-150P/MX-350)|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Tuesday, 01 August 2000|
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Music and Movies
I began my review by listening to two-channel music. I utilized two different set-up configurations for two-channel music. At first, I utilized only one pair of S150Ps and connected them to the variable outputs of my CD changer. I put this compact system in my office and spent many hours listening to it just like this. Regardless of the material I played, the S150Ps were never harsh and managed decent bass response on their own. My complaint with this set-up was that the sound was somewhat thin and disembodied. I then connected the S150Ps and the MX350 to my B&K Reference 20. The difference was startling. The sound immediately was transformed, becoming much more enjoyable. There was a newfound solidity, fullness and increased detail. These speakers deserve good source equipment, as they are detailed enough to reveal the flaws in lesser equipment.
I listened to a variety of two-channel music before moving onto the 5.1 evaluation. I used only one audiophile disc, Bill Berry’s ‘For Duke,’ which is on Realtime Records, Ken Kreisel (of M&K’s) label, which I thought was appropriate. Other recordings used in my evaluation included Keb Mo’s ‘Slow Down’ (Okeh/550 Music), The Crystal Method’s ‘Vegas’ (Outpost Recordings), Eric Clapton’s ‘Unplugged’ (Reprise) and, last but not least, Janet Jackson’s ‘The Velvet Rope’ (Virgin). I found the sound of the guitars and dubrow (on ‘Slow Down’) to be accurately portrayed with lifelike clarity and detail. I almost thought that Clapton was sitting in my room when listening to "Before You Accuse Me" and "Layla." The bass response went very deep, evidenced by some loud level playing of Janet Jackson’s "Go Deep," a favorite track of mine for checking out bass response. The bass was detailed, extremely deep and blended well with the satellites. Crystal Method’s "Busy Child" has some tight, earthshaking synthesized bass that the M&K’s had no problems reproducing at any level. I was greatly impressed by the level of clarity found in the MX-350. It was much more detailed than my MX-200 and still went just as deep and played just as loud. I found the soundstage and imaging qualities to be admirable as well, which did not surprise me, as this is a main strength of a satellite/subwoofer combination. The imaging was razor sharp and solid. The soundstage extended from wall to wall. The vertical dispersion was not as great as I have witnessed on some other speakers, namely my old Von Schweikerts. I believe that the slightly reduced vertical soundstage may have something to do with the THX dispersion requirements. My only complaint was soundstage depth. While there was some discernable depth and layering, it was not as deep as I would have liked.
The lack of soundstage depth was limited to two-channel music only. In the 5.1 musical arena, Diana Krall’s ‘Love Scenes’ and Lyle Lovett’s ‘Joshua Judges Ruth’ (both on DTS) were incredible to hear. The soundstage was a seamless 360 degrees, a benefit of having five identical satellites, and the soundstage was seemingly endless. When listening to the DTS music CDs, I found myself running late to everything, as it was so hard to tear myself away from such enjoyable listening experiences.
The M&Ks’ extended dynamic range proved to be great for movies. From the jets roaring by in ‘Top Gun’ (Paramount Home Video) to the throbbing of the engines in ‘Crimson Tide’ (Hollywood Pictures), the M&Ks did not fall short. ‘The Bone Collector’ (Universal Home Video, DTS) utilized the surround channels to implement some pretty realistic sound effects that had my fellow listeners and I jumping out of our seats. As with the 5.1 music, the movie soundtracks exhibited a high degree of continuity from channel to channel, making the jet flights in ‘Top Gun’ and all of the other multi-channel effects that more effective. The system remained clear and unstrained, no matter how complex or loud the scene was.
Throughout all of the listening experiences, I found the M&K system to be fairly transparent, only rarely making itself noticeable. The sound always remained very detailed - perhaps a bit too much so. The M&K system did not "bloom" and provide as full a sound as some may like. This is a matter of personal preference, a choice between the accurate and detailed sound that some would compare to solid state electronics and the fuller, more romanticized sound of tubes. I was not able to listen to the M&Ks through a tube pre-amp, which may be the ultimate way to enjoy these speakers, providing the best of both worlds.
The downside is the cost factor. This is a $12,000 system. While the price is high, if you can afford it, I strongly recommend auditioning this system. The price tag becomes much more reasonable when you consider that it includes all the amplification, and that amplification is perfectly matched for the speakers. Sonically, my only complaint was the depth of the soundstage. Perhaps with continued repositioning, I could increase it a bit. Some may be critical of the detailed, analytical nature of the M&Ks. This is a matter of personal taste, like tubes vs. solid state. Another problem that reared its ugly head is the fact that only after a few weeks, three of the five satellite grilles had already fallen off. The velco pieces attached to the baffle came loose and the glue appeared to be some sort of silicone product that just didn’t hold up well.
M&K made my first experience with powered satellites quite enjoyable. I was startled by how much their subwoofers have improved over the past few years. While their output has always been prodigious the detail is much, much better. The system performed well on both music and movies, but its strength is 5.1, soon to be 6.1. The M&K system will be easily upgradeable to 6.1 with the simple purchase of another satellite. The satellites were extremely detailed and accurate, making them ideal to evaluate other components. The subwoofer blended well with the satellites, a tribute to M&K’s many years of subwoofer/satellite work. The system as a whole was enjoyable to listen to, never tiring and even looked great in my room without dominating it visually. If you can afford the price, I strongly recommend spending some time listening closely to this system. It is very easy to great sound out of it, and isn’t that what it is all about?