Remarkable MBL Speaker Review by Breuninger. Is the speaker as good as the review?

caesar

Well-Known Member
May 31, 2010
3,188
80
48
#1
Conrats to Peter Breuninger on a sublime review of the MBL speakers in the latest TAS. The review is very atypical. Here how most reviews go: got a package… it was heavy… I plugged it in for break-in…sounded like crap… I let it cook a bit more… it still sounded like crap…Ooops! I plugged something in wrong – I am SUCH a PUTZ! But I figured out how to plug it in the right way (I am such a cool nerd!), and Voilla!!! It now it sounds great!! … Now let’s talk about the sonic attributes…Bass.. midbass.. coherence and crossovers, image accuracy… highly resolving…But need great associated gear to tell how great this is… need those good recordings to reveal these attributes… Ahh she’s just in the room with me – how wonderful….Give these speakers an audition… expensive, but the Best I have ever heard (Pick one: in my system or in my friends studio or at the audio show). (All of you aspiring reviewers, who want to write sucky reviews, use this template.)

These reviewers are all arguing form the rational instead of the emotional space. But how much passion can one have about transparency, neutrality, better parts, or hearing a different layer of the mastering tape. Yet the products that are called “The Best” and “Product of the Year” are usually emotionally-challenged speakers. The Q5 should be relegated to the equivalent sitting in an expensive restaurant near the bathroom, with the door cracked, but because it scores so well on these individual audiophile attributes, it is revered by the audiophile press. The reviews and the speakers are equally dull. What the reviewers – be it Fremer, Valin, Harley, and pretty much most others - don’t get is: Who Cares about these audiophile attributes? They get the individual components but miss they whole. They have forgotten why we are in the hobby.

They talk of “beguiling-sounding gear” in the conclusion of the review, but talk of beguiling and exciting sound is just talk. Telling a story about great sound, on the other hand, helps us feel it.

Breuninger does it superbly. He takes off the rational/ analytical hat right away. He draws us right into his world of attending concerts. He also gets us to conceive the experience in our minds –“Imagine sitting in a concert…you easily get lost in the music within seconds… “. Powerful!

This is a brilliant appeal to the crux of the audiophile self-interest. Most of us know that our system doesn’t sound like a real show, or even realistic - save for the smallest scale stuff. But for most us, re-creating the emotions of a live show at home is the purpose of the hobby. We want to forget that we are listening to a hifi system, and our system can’t do it. But MBL can, according to Breuninger…

Once he sets the emotional context, he focuses on the analytical components. Amplifier pairing discussion is interesting and comparison to a previous version is of the speaker is invaluable, as many of us are always wondering about the next upgrade.

As great as it is, the review is not perfect. Those that don’t care about being at a live show will stop reading right away and run to buy their Q5 so they can hear more details and mastering layers. And those that are interested in the speaker would like to know how some attributes compare to similarly priced speakers that are after the same thing.

But what Breuninger does is gets to the audiophile purpose and the audiophile identity: audiophiles would really love to be able to reproduce the live show in their home. As a result, the review will live as long as MBL speakers are around.

To those who are very familiar with the MBLs, is the speaker as good as the review?
 

DEV

New Member
Oct 20, 2011
547
0
0
#2
Hi caesar,

yes reading the review it's clear that Peter really likes these speakers which is okay. I personally don't read many and when I do it's mostly for entertainment, always best you try your self.

I'm a owner of the version prior to the MK2's, I have owned allot of top notch speakers of different designs over the years and within each flavored this or that. No speaker is perfect and have their strengths and weakness, personally I have been on a seach for a speaker that would do things that no others would in one package, enter the MBL's.

I have listened to a system using the same VAC pre and amps using the MK2's and I did not hear the differences that Peter wrote, in actual fact prefer the non MK2 set-up. Now it was not in the same room, nor did it have the same cables or drive souce which all have a huge impact as a whole. What I have heard to this point I do I not feel it's worth the up-grade difference if you already own the one before unless the cost outlay is slight. There will always be a new MK? VERSION and this one is not say a gotta have it one being that different. You can pick-up non USED at arround $30K and the MK2's now cost over $70K, big difference.

Yes it truly is a unigue listening experience and they are as good if not better than Peter's review.

Peter is just starting to really hear them, if you go to his blog you will see what he wrote. In his room he has suspended floors, such are bad for any speaker design because they usually interact so you need to address such. He has sinse done this, not sure if this was prior or after the review. I believe possibly afterwards so he is now currently experiencing a substantial listening experience. Reading I don't agree with what he has done for isolation being ideal or not, waiting for his responce to my questions to clarify along with providing some options for him to try. He placed a pce of 2" bamboo chopping board which is on spikes so this raises the speakers by at least 3", not good.

The components including cables driving the speakers; as we all know has a huge impact on the end result of any speaker. I have owned and used many many combo's chasing the ultimate "my ultimate"

I had the complete MBL set-up and found the sound was not for me. My real preference in their line is the MBL 101E speakers and 1621a transport, have not heard the extreams.

So what have I ended up with?

I'm using VAC's Statement 450 mono blocks paired up with their Sig. MK2a pre, match made in heaven.

Some of my thought's;

- Using the 9011 amps offers taunt bass but not realistic sounding bass as the 450's do.
- floor noise is lower with 450's
- top end, no comparisions 450's rule
-mid-range, you just can't compare 450's rule
- dynamic's, find the VAC's are quicker and more precise
- 3-d image, if you have ever used tube amps no need to explan, no comparision

In the end my amp hunt is over and I'm off the merry-go-round, my speakers are truly enjoying.

If you have any specific questions let me know and I'll try to assist. :)
 
May 30, 2010
15,508
716
113
Portugal
#3
Long ago I have hosted a pair of very old MBL melons - the MBL101c, am model similar to current 101Es but that did not include the cone based subwoofer.

As expected from an omnidirectional speaker, the 101c's were the most dependent on the listening acoustics I have ever heard. It could sound miserable, glassy, thin, even harsh in a room and full bodied, holographic, sometimes with the sweetness and decay of life music in another. The presence of singers and instruments in the good room was unbelievable with synergistic recordings. The contra was that sometimes average recordings could sound very unpleasant and it needed to be played louder than average to create an enveloping sound stage.

BTW, I found that rooms with plenty of diffusion, wood panels and heavy furniture were the best for them. Many very powerful good amplifiers could not play them, but the Mark Levinson ML23.5 drove them perfectly.
 

MylesBAstor

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
11,223
5
38
New York City
#4
Long ago I have hosted a pair of very old MBL melons - the MBL101c, am model similar to current 101Es but that did not include the cone based subwoofer.

As expected from an omnidirectional speaker, the 101c's were the most dependent on the listening acoustics I have ever heard. It could sound miserable, glassy, thin, even harsh in a room and full bodied, holographic, sometimes with the sweetness and decay of life music in another. The presence of singers and instruments in the good room was unbelievable with synergistic recordings. The contra was that sometimes average recordings could sound very unpleasant and it needed to be played louder than average to create an enveloping sound stage.

BTW, I found that rooms with plenty of diffusion, wood panels and heavy furniture were the best for them. Many very powerful good amplifiers could not play them, but the Mark Levinson ML23.5 drove them perfectly.
You hit the nail on the head with a sledgehammer!!!

They [the MBLs], because of their omni-directional radiating pattern, excite everything in the room. I've heard them sound miserable (most of the time, esp. at show where I've never heard them sound good) to amazing at one time colleague and reviewer Michael Gindi's. At his place and these were the A models, the 101s had the speed of an electrostatic. The A's biggest problem, however, was a bit of hardness in the upper midrange that Gindi tamed to a certain extent with the Mpingo discs on the driver. He also used some huge wooden diffusors in the room that helped immensely. But they sounded excellent driven by the Jadis 500s and original CAT amps supplemented by the Forsell/Grasshopper and CAT Signature preamp.
 

DEV

New Member
Oct 20, 2011
547
0
0
#6
You hit the nail on the head with a sledgehammer!!!

They [the MBLs], because of their omni-directional radiating pattern, excite everything in the room. I've heard them sound miserable (most of the time, esp. at show where I've never heard them sound good) to amazing at one time colleague and reviewer Michael Gindi's. At his place and these were the A models, the 101s had the speed of an electrostatic. The A's biggest problem, however, was a bit of hardness in the upper midrange that Gindi tamed to a certain extent with the Mpingo discs on the driver. He also used some huge wooden diffusors in the room that helped immensely. But they sounded excellent driven by the Jadis 500s and original CAT amps supplemented by the Forsell/Grasshopper and CAT Signature preamp.
I never heard the MBL's at a show but have been told they play them way too loud and with MBL electronics which I'm personally not a fan of. I have never heard the 101A's so I can not comment in relation to the hardness you mentioned hearing in the midrange @ Gindi's place either but such is non exsistent in what I'm experienceing with my 101E's.
 
Last edited:

DEV

New Member
Oct 20, 2011
547
0
0
#7
Long ago I have hosted a pair of very old MBL melons - the MBL101c, am model similar to current 101Es but that did not include the cone based subwoofer.

As expected from an omnidirectional speaker, the 101c's were the most dependent on the listening acoustics I have ever heard. It could sound miserable, glassy, thin, even harsh in a room and full bodied, holographic, sometimes with the sweetness and decay of life music in another. The presence of singers and instruments in the good room was unbelievable with synergistic recordings. The contra was that sometimes average recordings could sound very unpleasant and it needed to be played louder than average to create an enveloping sound stage.

BTW, I found that rooms with plenty of diffusion, wood panels and heavy furniture were the best for them. Many very powerful good amplifiers could not play them, but the Mark Levinson ML23.5 drove them perfectly.
I never heard the 101C's so I can not comment but non of your negative remarks reflect what my personal experience is with my 101E's and I don't have to play mine loud to create a sound stage.
 
May 30, 2010
15,508
716
113
Portugal
#8
I never heard the 101C's so I can not comment but non of your negative remarks reflect what my personal experience is with my 101E's and I don't have to play mine loud to create a sound stage.
You are lucky - IMHO this means that the 101E is better than the 101c (as we could expect) and your room is a good match to them. What electronics are you using with them?
 

DEV

New Member
Oct 20, 2011
547
0
0
#9
You are lucky - IMHO this means that the 101E is better than the 101c (as we could expect) and your room is a good match to them. What electronics are you using with them?
I have heard three different set-ups "being either 101E's or MK2's" and all the systems did not demonstrate what you mentioned which is a good thing, suppose they must have made some corrections.

I'm using;

- Vac Sig MK2a pre w/phono
- Vac Statement 450 mono blocks
- TW Acustic Black Knight table with various arms and carts
- various other electronics

These Vac's paired up with them is a match made in heaven! :):):)

I use to own CAT JL3 Sig MK2's and these two tube based pces the Vac's make them sound broken in my set-up.
 

fas42

Addicted To Best
Jan 8, 2011
3,973
0
0
NSW Australia
#10
Long ago I have hosted a pair of very old MBL melons - the MBL101c, am model similar to current 101Es but that did not include the cone based subwoofer.

As expected from an omnidirectional speaker, the 101c's were the most dependent on the listening acoustics I have ever heard. It could sound miserable, glassy, thin, even harsh in a room and full bodied, holographic, sometimes with the sweetness and decay of life music in another. The presence of singers and instruments in the good room was unbelievable with synergistic recordings. The contra was that sometimes average recordings could sound very unpleasant and it needed to be played louder than average to create an enveloping sound stage.

BTW, I found that rooms with plenty of diffusion, wood panels and heavy furniture were the best for them. Many very powerful good amplifiers could not play them, but the Mark Levinson ML23.5 drove them perfectly.
A perfect description of what a system at the cusp of coming together correctly sounds like. Yes, it was listening to the "melons" at a show that got me going again in the hifi game, I thought, yes, there is equipment out there that is working correctly, or close enough to it, to inspire one to go the next step.

The good: "presence of singers and instruments in the good room was unbelievable with synergistic recordings."
The bad: "could sound miserable, glassy, thin, even harsh ... average recordings could sound very unpleasant"

That's exactly what one gets, what I get, when the system is 98% there; it's knocking over the last 2% of the problems that can be very difficult, very exasperating, but also extremely rewarding ...

Frank
 

Ki Choi

Member Sponsor
May 13, 2010
754
7
18
Seattle WA area
#11
I know Ki has a new pair of MBL's. Hopefully he will chime in on his experience.
The MBL 101E Mk IIs brought me the closest to live mic feed playback realism than any other speakers I used to own in my less than ideal room. Furthermore playing well recorded DSD 5.6Mhz music files or tunes from master dub tapes like The Tape Project's Arnold Overtures, I feel I have reached the contemplative audio life.

Thus to answer Caesar’s question, it is a big YES.

One of the significant sonic characteristics of 101E that I don't remember reading in the review was its wide sweet spot for family listening. I no longer use a head position stabilizer to maintain imaging and my wife sitting next to me gets pretty similar quality sonic experience as me hogging the best seat. The other issue I don't agree is that it was the plain CD sound that got me sold on the speakers instead of esoteric audiophile recordings. So even the badly recorded CDs sound pretty good - extracting all the small details from the recordings that would have been lost from other loudspeakers, to my ears.
 
Last edited:
May 30, 2010
15,508
716
113
Portugal
#12
Ki,

Can you give us some details on the whole system, including cables?
 

Ki Choi

Member Sponsor
May 13, 2010
754
7
18
Seattle WA area
#13
Ki,

Can you give us some details on the whole system, including cables?
As of today…
for the analog sources:
1. A token LP playback system from Oracle Delhi Mk IV/SME309/Denon 103R to Pass Xono to play my teenage years music mostly top 40 tunes with ticks and pops and all.
2. One of many master recorders from the herd but mostly the Nagra T Audio direct head wired out to the Marantz 7(thanks to Dr. Phillip)/Manley Tape Head Tube pre(thanks to Mike L)/KingCello .75 (for IEC EQ tapes, thanks to Charles King) and

for the digital sources:
1. Korg MR-2000S, eMM Labs CDSD (an early Christmas gift from Puget Sound Studios and Blue Light Audio, thanks again to Bruce and Jonathan!) feeding the April Music DP-1 24/192 DAC (very good – as good or better than the old dCS DAC I once had…at $3K killer price)
feeding music to Manley Reference Tube Preamp (2009 reissue model - one of 32 in the world!)

then it goes to the most recently added MBL 9008A mono amps (did consider their big brother 9011s that Stereophile is probably in the process of reviewing - based on conversation I overheard from Jeremy Bryan of MBL-North America and John Atkinson at the RMAF…but I backed off since I would probably need another back surgery sooner than deserved.)

As for cables, my handicap has always been my early schooling I had received in North Carolina as an Electrical Engineer that keeps me from appreciating the sonic improvements from the fine cables and keeping me away from buying them. Although I use a pair of shotgunned Nordost SPM 1.5M speaker cables that came in a solid walnut wood case with locking keys along with other Nordost and Analysis Plus interconnect cables in between the sources and amps, they were all gifts from other audio friends who have better ears and found better cables fortunately for me. ;--) I do have very stiff AC power cables that came with my old Pass amps that worked double duty as furnaces for rainy winter days in Seattle…and other relatively fancy AC cables I have on currently for the power amps but can’t remember their brand. Other IC cables in the system are homemade Belden variety that follow basic engineering principles looking ugly but with nice Neutrik RCA connectors at their ends.
 

cjfrbw

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,402
172
63
Pleasanton, CA
#14
At the California Audio Show, I thought the MBL 101 speak and solid state amp were the only set up that came even close to getting the bass and lower midrange foundation.

I thought the best sound overall came from the Wilson/Spectral system in another large room, but the MBL was the system that sounded closest to my own home system.

That is kind of strange, since my system is radically different in configuration. I use active crossovers and a distributed speaker array with surround sound and active subwoofers, maybe the surround emulates the MBL radial effect.
 

Peter Breuninger

[Industry Expert] Member Sponsor
Jul 20, 2010
1,231
0
0
#15
(Just found this thread)

Thanks to the OP for the very kind pat on the back. Reviews are not easy to do and write and get the real point across. I attempt to write "emotion impact" into my reviews. When I submitted the Lamm ML3 review to Robert Harley in 0'10 he was really surprised saying I had a high "engagement" factor. I'm not sure what he meant but I took it as a compliment.

Thanks again Caeser, you'll see this level of reviewing and higher with my video reviews. BTW, AVShowrooms has brought in two new team members; Adam Sankin, as Managing Director/set up guru/business manager/pt. time reviewer and Atul Madahar as a Managing Director/Business and Investment Manager/reviewer. Adam's got 30 years in the business (he's set up systems for the rich and famous, knows pro sound and was a key member of the Soundex team back in the day) and Atul is a multi-national business expert and Martin Logan nut.

Adam and I shot the first series of equipment reviews last week (Bob Carver's new amps) and I was amazed at how well we work together and the power of the video review. Bob Grossman's got a whole loom of exotic cables coming in for his Maggie/Krell system- the video should be fantastic. AVShowrooms (Adam and I) will do an addendum to my MBL TAS review and explore the next frontier... your floors. Say what? Yup. Floors, zzzzzz, think again, they really matter.

Ki, yes I overlooked the wide sweetspot thang, sorry, I though that was understood, I guess I'm too close/spoiled/familiar with the radialstrathler.

They are everything I say and more. Thanks for reading the review :)

Peter B.
 

Ki Choi

Member Sponsor
May 13, 2010
754
7
18
Seattle WA area
#16
Hi Peter:

Thanks for your comment. We look forward to reading your addendum to the TAS MBL review.

Although I generally agree with your assessment in the review on how the 101Es are working well with various amp choices, I was taken by the tremendous synergy the system had created when I fed music through a pair of MBL 9008As in monos in comparison to other amps I had tried recently. I believe you used bigger 9011s for your review, and it was a little odd to me that you didn’t comment on the huge differences I am hearing from MBL 101Es mated with MBL amps instead of other good amps such as Brytsons. I have never tried big enough tube power amps with the 101Es so I can't comment on the setup.

The other reason why I like the 101E MkIIs is that it’s the most forgiving transducers for normal untreated room in my opinion. My room has the dreaded 8’ ceiling with huge ~50Hz region suck out for all the other speakers that had come and gone, but I am getting ample bass at 50Hz regions from the 101Es in the same room.

Ki
 

DEV

New Member
Oct 20, 2011
547
0
0
#17
Hi Ki Choi,

congrats on your speakers, they truely are marvelous!

in my journey of owning and auditioning endless amps and pre combo's one being the Bryston 28 Squared mono blocks. I had on hand a pair of 9008's and 9011's on hand and recommended to a couple others whom I communicate with that they should try a pair of the Bryston's as I prefered such, they did and sold the MBL's.

I agree the MBL's can sing allot easier in a less treated room then others.

The Cat JL3 Sig MK2 mono blocks were nice but had reliability issues that I did not want to be dealing with, a year of such was enought for me.

The VAC Sig. pre MK2 paired up with the Vac Statement 450 mono blocks, there is no pre and amp combo's that come close period that I have heard and/or tried with my MBL 101E's and I have tried allot.

-MBL 9008's
-MBL 9011's
-Bolder 2050's
-Karan 1200's
-Pass numerous
-Bryston 28 Squared
-Cat JL3's
-Mac
and the list goes on ....

I realize this is a bold statement being made by me but it's well deserving, if you have read my prior posting for years I do not make SUCH statements so the combo has to be pretty SPECIAL!, I'm mostly active on another site "A" and if you read my past postings on such for years you will see.

Enjoy! :):):)
 

fas42

Addicted To Best
Jan 8, 2011
3,973
0
0
NSW Australia
#18
One of the significant sonic characteristics of 101E that I don't remember reading in the review was its wide sweet spot for family listening. I no longer use a head position stabilizer to maintain imaging and my wife sitting next to me gets pretty similar quality sonic experience as me hogging the best seat. The other issue I don't agree is that it was the plain CD sound that got me sold on the speakers instead of esoteric audiophile recordings. So even the badly recorded CDs sound pretty good - extracting all the small details from the recordings that would have been lost from other loudspeakers, to my ears.
Hmmm.... where have I heard that sort of talk before -- must have been the wind ... :b:b

(Note: two bob post ...)

Frank
 
May 30, 2010
15,508
716
113
Portugal
#19
(...) The other issue I don't agree is that it was the plain CD sound that got me sold on the speakers instead of esoteric audiophile recordings. So even the badly recorded CDs sound pretty good - extracting all the small details from the recordings that would have been lost from other loudspeakers, to my ears.
Ki,

We should not forget that my experience and humble opinion were about the old 101c that was very different from your model. Curiously the best of the good sounding recordings I was referring to were from Deutsche Grammophon, not exactly an audiophile label.
.
Thanks for sharing your system - I found it really interesting. How far are your 101E from the side wall?
 

Ki Choi

Member Sponsor
May 13, 2010
754
7
18
Seattle WA area
#20
Ki,

We should not forget that my experience and humble opinion were about the old 101c that was very different from your model. Curiously the best of the good sounding recordings I was referring to were from Deutsche Grammophon, not exactly an audiophile label.
.
Thanks for sharing your system - I found it really interesting. How far are your 101E from the side wall?
The 101Es are positioned 4' away from the side walls and 9' away from their back wall with me sitting at almost perfect triangle - 3' away from the windows behind me.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio convertors (DACS), turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing