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Miller & Kreisel 5.1 Speaker System (S-85/S-85C/MX-105) Print E-mail
Friday, 01 August 1997
ImageWhen considering a satellite and subwoofer combo for your home theater, Miller and Kreisel should be at the forefront of your list of quality manufacturers to consider. Now in its 25th year of manufacturing home and professional electronics, the innovative M&K has largely been responsible for the now mandatory stand-alone subwoofer craze in home theater applications. Their ongoing commitment to the sub and satellite approach to home theater has lead to the production of the S-85 satellites ($695), S-85Ccenter channel ($395) and MX105 subwoofer ($995) featured in this review.

The satellites and center speaker share 5 1/4 inch drivers along with a 1 inch soft-dome tweeter and have a frequency range of 85 Hz - 20KHz + - 2dB. The MX105 sub operates from 22 Hz -125 Hz + - 3 dB and sports dual push pull 12 inch drivers moved into action by a 125 watt internal amplifier. The satellites and center channel angled baffles create a unique profile and the cabinetwork on all the speakers in this review were well finished inspiring confidence in ownership.

The Sound
Right off the bat, I really liked this package. The sound struck me as smooth, dynamic as hell while being detailed enough to keep me interested and involved with my some of my favorite flix. Partnered with the Sunfire Cinema Grand 5 channel amp, the Lexicon DC-1 digital surround sound preamp and the Pioneer Elite CLD 97 Laserdisc player, all strung together with a brew of Cardas and MIT wire, I was able to coax a level of performance out of these little guys that was truly impressive.

Kicking off the M&K surround fest was Star Trek Generations (Paramount-LD). In the opening scene, the gruff but lovable Captain Kirk is seeing off the new Enterprise and its virginal crew. Voices sounded just right, if a little light weight in the lower portion of the midrange. This slight anomaly was offset by artfully blending it with very good upper bass impact and outstanding mid band intelligibility and clarity. This mid range openness was especially appreciated in the all important center channel. For example in chapter 9, of Crimson Tide (Hollywood Pictures), a ferocious fire breaks out in the galley - the little M&K S-85C handled the huge rushing roar of the flames and the urgent background score with little compression of dynamics or flattening of the layered perspective presented by the thrilling action.

If you want to kill several sonic test birds with one stone, go to chapter 20 of the Abyss (20th Century Fox). This chapter features the collapse of a large winch in the midst of an out-at-sea hurricane. The attendant metal on metal screeching, wind blowing and water splashing mayhem are handled with satisfying openness and real dynamic finesse. These ominous sounds leap from the mini cabinets as if the boxes were possessed. Along with this dynamic agility we get a nice rendition of timbre. Throughout this carnage a horn section blurts out accents to the action. These instrumental timbres are well portrayed with a proper balance of natural blaty edge and brassy warmth.
A similar example of the systems strength is found in chapter 51 of the Abyss. In this scene the alien ship begins its ascent to the surface. As the long submerged vessel begins to rise, the soundtrack erupts with low bass rumblings, a building orchestral score and a soaring choral line. Each of these elements remains distinct, unraveled from one another and individualized in timber and space. This uncluttered presentation is probably the M&K's greatest strength and goes a long way to defining the character of this fine system.

As for the low bass handled by the MX-105 sub, I was for the most part happy with its performance. Going down to 23HZ, the lowest reaches came across a little less defined in comparison to my reference Paradigm Servo 15. Keeping in mind the Servo 15 is $500 more than the MX105, I don't hold this against the MX105. On the plus side, the crossover region was nearly seamless and the blending of the sub and satellites never really called attention to itself further enhancing the already high involvement factor offered by the M&K system.

Nit pick aside, the MX-105 sub was more than capable of moving plenty of air and on the above mentioned chapter 51 of the Abyss, any and all loose fittings in my loft rattled on cue, leaving the emotional component of the scene in tact.

The Downside
My only real criticism lay in the M&K rendition of fine high frequency detail. While warm and clean, I found the upper octaves wanting in transient snap and airiness. I was able to get more life out of the top end by using the alternate maximum energy connections on the extra set of binding posts featured on the rear panel of the satellites and center channel, but I found that alternative to make to much of a shift in the tonal balance, leaning out the mid range too much on my system. At this price, the warm smooth balance offered by the M&K system is far preferable to erring on the bright, edgy side.

I know, you've just got to upgrade from the dreary mass market speakers you've owned for way to long, and extra cash is always and issue. Well the affordable M&K S-85 satellites, S-85c center (the true star of the package) and MX-105 sub system will fill your world with all the super-clean, dynamically explosive sound that today's demanding digital cinematic soundtracks have to offer. Strongly recommended!

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