Miller & Kreisel 5.1 THX Powered System (S-150P/MX-350) 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Brian Kahn   
Tuesday, 01 August 2000

Miller & Kreisel (M&K) frequently used in professional audio and DVD/film scoring studios has long been known as a pioneer in the field of separate satellites and subwoofers. This type of configuration allows the satellites to be smaller and to be positioned where they will produce the best imaging without worrying about bass response. Those of us with large tower speakers have spent many hours moving them around a few inches at a time, trying to find that perfect compromise position that allows the speakers to both image well and have a smooth, extended bass response. The separate satellite and subwoofer combination as used in the M&K systems allows the satellites to be positioned for optimal imaging and the subwoofer(s) placed for optimal bass response. Of course, if it were this easy to get incredible sound, everyone would be doing it. The satellite and subwoofer configuration presents its own problems, mainly the integration between the subwoofer and the rest of the system.

The system as reviewed consisted of five S-150P THX satellites ($1,899 each) and one MX-350 THX subwoofer ($1,899). All of the speakers feature their own built-in amplifiers. That’s right, there is no need to spend any more of your home theater budget on amplifiers, it’s all included in the speakers. The S-150P THX is THX Ultra certified. THX has two levels of certification, Ultra and Select. The THX Ultra certification is normally reserved for systems that are capable of playing louder and filling a bigger room. The S-150P’s THX Ultra certification ensures that this system will be capable of playing clearly at loud volumes in all but the very largest of rooms.

Each S150P satellite has two built-in identical amplifiers, one for the tweeters, the other for the midrange. Total amplifier power is over 180 watts. The separate amplifiers eliminate the need for a passive crossover, increasing efficiency and detail as well as dynamic range. M&K utilizes a new proprietary active phase-focused crossover. This technology does more than focus on the on-axis frequency response: it also considers and optimizes off-axis frequency response, as well as the on- and off-axis phase response. The phase characteristics of the individual drivers must be carefully matched to achieve a cohesive and seamless response. The driver complement consists of two 5.25-inch midrange drivers and three one-inch tweeters. The back panel of the satellite is dominated by a large heatsink, which never heated up during the review session to the point of being uncomfortable to touch. The back panel also features both RCA and XLR inputs, as well as pass-throughs. Other back panel features include switchable level and crossover controls.

The MX-350 THX features two 12-inch-long throw drivers, powered by a 350-watt amplifier. Upon opening the MX-350, I found that it looked very similar to the MX-200 (not the current version) that I had purchased many years ago and have been using ever since. My main complaint with the MX-200 was its lack of detail. I was curious as to how the MX-350 would compare. Like the MX-200, the MX-350 utilizes M&K’s favored push-pull configuration. This configuration has one driver facing the front of the cabinet, with the second driver’s backside firing downwards. This unique configuration acts to cancel out distortion as well as increase output by 6dB. The MX-350’s back panel features dual RCA inputs and switchable crossover and level controls, which allow the continuously variable controls to be switched in or out of the system. The panel also has two position phase and EQ switches. M&K designed this unit to be utilized in higher-end systems and therefore there is no provision for speaker level inputs.

I have recently re-configured my system, placing all of the source components in a closet in the next room over from my theater room. I had previously run a great many cables through the walls, but I was not able to get my wiring guy out in time to run enough in-wall interconnects for the whole system. I ended up carrying my system into the theater room – well, at least some of it. I used my B&K Reference 20 controller, Toshiba SD-2108 DVD player, Denon DCM-460 CD changer and a Pioneer CLD-704 Laserdisc player. I placed the satellites on Vantage Point Contours speaker stands and hooked everything up with Monster Cable M550i interconnectors. I found the vertical axis dispersion to be very important. I was therefore very thankful for the Contours stands, which had enough height options to allow me to get the satellites properly positioned. The black satellites on the silver and glass stands were also visually stunning, winning praise from my female friends.

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
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?
Manufacturer Miller & Kreisel
Model 5.1 THX Powered System (S-150P/MX-350)
Reviewer Brian Kahn

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