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

Duke LeJeune

[Industry Expert]/Member Sponsor
Jul 22, 2013
189
72
28
Princeton, Texas
#81
Does anyone know or understand how the MBL speaker is able re-create that "you are there" feeling?
Hope ya'll don't mind if I take a shot. I'm not an MBL owner, so consider this just armchair quarterbacking.

Here's the measurements page from Stereophile's review:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/mbl-radialstrahler-101e-mkii-loudspeaker-measurements

At the risk of stating the obvious:

- The first-arrival ("on-axis") frequency response of the Radialstrahler is decent but not outstanding.

- The step response is decent, but clearly the system is not optimized in the time domain. Nor is the spectral decay plot especially impressive - in fact, it's rather hashy.

- The lateral dispersion plot is a freakin' monster. Yes it's a true omni in the horizontal plane, and even the vertical dispersion is remarkably smooth.

So... everything special that this speaker is doing is happening in the reverberant field. In particular:

1) The reverberant field is very well energized. The Radialstrahler puts far more energy out into the reverberant field than the vast majority of speakers on the market.

2) That reverberant field is spectrally correct. It has essentially the same spectral balance as the first-arrival sound.

3) Because the radiation pattern is so wide - 360 degrees - the reverberant field is very diffuse.

4) When set up as recommended (well away from the walls), the onset of that very rich reverberant energy happens after a significant time delay.

Okay, now let's look at ways in which the reverberant energy of a live performance in a good recital hall differs what we normally find at home:

1) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is well energized, far moreso than what most speakers do in most home listening rooms.

2) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is spectrally correct - that is, it has essentially the same spectral balance as the first-arrival sound.

3) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is quite diffuse.

4) In a good recital hall, the onset of that nice rich reverberant field happens after a considerably longer time delay than we normally get in a home listening room.

5) In a good recital hall, the reverberant energy decays more slowly than in most home listening rooms.

So... the MBL's do far better than the vast majority of speakers in mimicing the sort of soundfield we find in a good recital hall. Imo these differences matter, a lot, and that's why the MBLs stand out from the crowd.

One final comment about reflections done right (and I think we can give the Radialstrahlers credit for doing reflections right, given decent room acoustics): Floyd Toole cites studies in his book that indicate reflections done right actually increase the clarity and intelligibility of speech, and therefore presumably have the same effect on music. He theorizes that the ear/brain system is better able to decipher complex sounds when given multiple "looks" via reflections. I would say the Radialstrahlers put that theory to the test and end up validating it.

So does this speaker have weaknesses?
I've heard that they totally lose it when placed in close proximity to kyptonite.
 
Last edited:

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
63
#82
Again great read, Duke! Thanks...how much do you think the hazy first wave affects the sound...and would improving that part make it more of an ideal speaker...or make it tougher to reconcile with the second wave? Also, I have heard that some feel Mbl adds this affect to every recording...which is perfect for hall recordings. But is it possible to add a hall-ish effect to other closer miked music as well?
 

Duke LeJeune

[Industry Expert]/Member Sponsor
Jul 22, 2013
189
72
28
Princeton, Texas
#83
Again great read, Duke! Thanks...how much do you think the hazy first wave affects the sound...and would improving that part make it more of an ideal speaker...or make it tougher to reconcile with the second wave? Also, I have heard that some feel Mbl adds this affect to every recording...which is perfect for hall recordings. But is it possible to add a hall-ish effect to other closer miked music as well?
The first wave isn't hazy at all - sorry if I gave that impression! The cumulative spectral decay plot isn't bad, just not outstanding; my point is, it's what the Radialstrahler is doing in the reverberant field that is clearly outstanding.

I'm not really qualified to comment from extensive experience on how the Radialstrahlers present recordings that use various miking techniques. I did once hear an acoustic guitar solo over a pair where the image was unnaturally wide, and presumably that was close-miked. But it also sounded timbrally rich and natural.
 

caesar

Well-Known Member
May 31, 2010
3,188
80
48
#84
Hope ya'll don't mind if I take a shot. I'm not an MBL owner, so consider this just armchair quarterbacking.

Here's the measurements page from Stereophile's review:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/mbl-radialstrahler-101e-mkii-loudspeaker-measurements

At the risk of stating the obvious:

- The first-arrival ("on-axis") frequency response of the Radialstrahler is decent but not outstanding.

- The step response is decent, but clearly the system is not optimized in the time domain. Nor is the spectral decay plot especially impressive - in fact, it's rather hashy.

- The lateral dispersion plot is a freakin' monster. Yes it's a true omni in the horizontal plane, and even the vertical dispersion is remarkably smooth.

So... everything special that this speaker is doing is happening in the reverberant field. In particular:

1) The reverberant field is very well energized. The Radialstrahler puts far more energy out into the reverberant field than the vast majority of speakers on the market.

2) That reverberant field is spectrally correct. It has essentially the same spectral balance as the first-arrival sound.

3) Because the radiation pattern is so wide - 360 degrees - the reverberant field is very diffuse.

4) When set up as recommended (well away from the walls), the onset of that very rich reverberant energy happens after a significant time delay.

Okay, now let's look at ways in which the reverberant energy of a live performance in a good recital hall differs what we normally find at home:

1) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is well energized, far moreso than what most speakers do in most home listening rooms.

2) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is spectrally correct - that is, it has essentially the same spectral balance as the first-arrival sound.

3) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is quite diffuse.

4) In a good recital hall, the onset of that nice rich reverberant field happens after a considerably longer time delay than we normally get in a home listening room.

5) In a good recital hall, the reverberant energy decays more slowly than in most home listening rooms.

So... the MBL's do far better than the vast majority of speakers in mimicing the sort of soundfield we find in a good recital hall. Imo these differences matter, a lot, and that's why the MBLs stand out from the crowd.

One final comment about reflections done right (and I think we can give the Radialstrahlers credit for doing reflections right, given decent room acoustics): Floyd Toole cites studies in his book that indicate reflections done right actually increase the clarity and intelligibility of speech, and therefore presumably have the same effect on music. He theorizes that the ear/brain system is better able to decipher complex sounds when given multiple "looks" via reflections. I would say the Radialstrahlers put that theory to the test and end up validating it.



I've heard that they totally lose it when placed in close proximity to kyptonite.
Thanks, Duke! That is one brilliant analysis!!!!

Other than mimicking the spacial reality you describe above, another thing that has struck me about MBL systems is that dynamic "jump"/ bite/ slam that real instruments have - at least in the systems I have heard them in. What is ironic is that these speakers are highly inefficient. Do you have a sense of how that "real" dynamic jump/ bite/ slam was engineered, or is it just a matter of throwing powerful amps at the speakers?

P.S. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on this site. Every thread you contributed to shines brightly.
 

Duke LeJeune

[Industry Expert]/Member Sponsor
Jul 22, 2013
189
72
28
Princeton, Texas
#85
Thanks, Duke! That is one brilliant analysis!!!!

Other than mimicking the spacial reality you describe above, another thing that has struck me about MBL systems is that dynamic "jump"/ bite/ slam that real instruments have - at least in the systems I have heard them in. What is ironic is that these speakers are highly inefficient. Do you have a sense of how that "real" dynamic jump/ bite/ slam was engineered, or is it just a matter of throwing powerful amps at the speakers?
All hail, Caesar! And thanks for the thumbs-up!

Here is my best guess on the legendary dynamics of the big MBLs: Their "effective" efficiency is a lot higher than their 82 dB rating suggests. The normal way to measure SPL ignores off-axis energy, and the Radialstrahlers are putting out maybe 6 dB more total off-axis energy than most speakers are (that's a guess). So their effective efficiency may be in the upper 80's, let's guesstimate 87 dB. In other words, back at the listening position, I'm speculating that the Radialstrahlers may produce a loudness level comparable to what one might expect from 87 dB efficient conventional speakers. My ballpark rule of thumb is that speakers generally have negligible thermal compression at 1/10th their rated power. The Radialstrahlers are rated at 500 watts, and at 1/10th that they'd be hitting 104 dB. Uncompressed up to 104 dB is quite good.

And, what if the Radialstrahler's 500 watts is a conservative rating (which wouldn't surprise me from a German company), or a rating based on mechanical limitations rather than thermal ones (maybe the giant pulsating football can only go so far in the direction of basketball and/or zeppelin)? In either case, the Radialstrahlers may be able to hit peaks well north of 104 dB with negligible thermal compression.

I do begrudge the MBLs their success, just so you know. The uberspeaker manufacturer I'm associated with is SoundLab, and I very seldom have a SoundLab customer commit the unpardonable sin and switch over to another speaker. The Radialstrahler is one of the few that I've had a customer switch to. I take cold comfort in the fact that the Radialstrahlers cost more. They both cost as much as a car, the Radialstrahlers just cost as much as a nicer car.

All hail.
 

cjfrbw

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,402
172
63
Pleasanton, CA
#86
Hope ya'll don't mind if I take a shot. I'm not an MBL owner, so consider this just armchair quarterbacking.

Here's the measurements page from Stereophile's review:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/mbl-radialstrahler-101e-mkii-loudspeaker-measurements

At the risk of stating the obvious:

- The first-arrival ("on-axis") frequency response of the Radialstrahler is decent but not outstanding.

- The step response is decent, but clearly the system is not optimized in the time domain. Nor is the spectral decay plot especially impressive - in fact, it's rather hashy.

- The lateral dispersion plot is a freakin' monster. Yes it's a true omni in the horizontal plane, and even the vertical dispersion is remarkably smooth.

So... everything special that this speaker is doing is happening in the reverberant field. In particular:

1) The reverberant field is very well energized. The Radialstrahler puts far more energy out into the reverberant field than the vast majority of speakers on the market.

2) That reverberant field is spectrally correct. It has essentially the same spectral balance as the first-arrival sound.

3) Because the radiation pattern is so wide - 360 degrees - the reverberant field is very diffuse.

4) When set up as recommended (well away from the walls), the onset of that very rich reverberant energy happens after a significant time delay.

Okay, now let's look at ways in which the reverberant energy of a live performance in a good recital hall differs what we normally find at home:

1) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is well energized, far moreso than what most speakers do in most home listening rooms.

2) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is spectrally correct - that is, it has essentially the same spectral balance as the first-arrival sound.

3) In a good recital hall, the reverberant field is quite diffuse.

4) In a good recital hall, the onset of that nice rich reverberant field happens after a considerably longer time delay than we normally get in a home listening room.

5) In a good recital hall, the reverberant energy decays more slowly than in most home listening rooms.

So... the MBL's do far better than the vast majority of speakers in mimicing the sort of soundfield we find in a good recital hall. Imo these differences matter, a lot, and that's why the MBLs stand out from the crowd.

One final comment about reflections done right (and I think we can give the Radialstrahlers credit for doing reflections right, given decent room acoustics): Floyd Toole cites studies in his book that indicate reflections done right actually increase the clarity and intelligibility of speech, and therefore presumably have the same effect on music. He theorizes that the ear/brain system is better able to decipher complex sounds when given multiple "looks" via reflections. I would say the Radialstrahlers put that theory to the test and end up validating it.



I've heard that they totally lose it when placed in close proximity to kyptonite.
You've pretty much explained why I have used digital surround for 35 years. An MBL system I heard at CAS 2011 was the closest I have heard to the general quality of my playback system, though my system is quite different in implementation. I like mine better, though, because the tonality and richness are more to my taste.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
63
#87
Thanks, Duke! That is one brilliant analysis!!!!

...Do you have a sense of how that "real" dynamic jump/ bite/ slam was engineered, or is it just a matter of throwing powerful amps at the speakers?...

P.S. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on this site. Every thread you contributed to shines brightly.
+100!
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
63
#88
...I do begrudge the MBLs their success, just so you know. The uberspeaker manufacturer I'm associated with is SoundLab, and I very seldom have a SoundLab customer commit the unpardonable sin and switch over to another speaker. The Radialstrahler is one of the few that I've had a customer switch to. I take cold comfort in the fact that the Radialstrahlers cost more. They both cost as much as a car, the Radialstrahlers just cost as much as a nicer car.

All hail.
You have no doubt seen this more than most...some just change equipment because they want a change...its quite different if you think they felt for substantive reasons that the MBLs were materially ahead of the Soundlabs.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
63
#89
All hail, Caesar! And thanks for the thumbs-up!

Here is my best guess on the legendary dynamics of the big MBLs: Their "effective" efficiency is a lot higher than their 82 dB rating suggests. The normal way to measure SPL ignores off-axis energy, and the Radialstrahlers are putting out maybe 6 dB more total off-axis energy than most speakers are (that's a guess). So their effective efficiency may be in the upper 80's, let's guesstimate 87 dB. In other words, back at the listening position, I'm speculating that the Radialstrahlers may produce a loudness level comparable to what one might expect from 87 dB efficient conventional speakers. My ballpark rule of thumb is that speakers generally have negligible thermal compression at 1/10th their rated power. The Radialstrahlers are rated at 500 watts, and at 1/10th that they'd be hitting 104 dB. Uncompressed up to 104 dB is quite good.

And, what if the Radialstrahler's 500 watts is a conservative rating (which wouldn't surprise me from a German company), or a rating based on mechanical limitations rather than thermal ones (maybe the giant pulsating football can only go so far in the direction of basketball and/or zeppelin)? In either case, the Radialstrahlers may be able to hit peaks well north of 104 dB with negligible thermal compression...

All hail.
Another great post...thanks for taking the to teach...loving the constructive and succinct posts and all the learning.
 

caesar

Well-Known Member
May 31, 2010
3,188
80
48
#90
My system is not worthy... but here's a shot from my iPhone few months ago...

View attachment 5868
Hi Ki,

You have nothing to be ashamed of!!!!!!!!!! Breathtaking!
Do you keep those grills on all the time, or do you take them off for serous listening? Also, what do you think of the MBL 9008 amp vs. the Bryston 28B SST ^ 2? I think there is a social consensus among MBL fans and owners that other than 9011, the Bryston 28B SST^2 is the go-to SS amp for MBL. (Per Peter B., the AVM SS amp seems to be a match made in heaven, but I am not sure if anyone other than Peter has heard the AVM.) What do you like about the MBL 9008 vs. the Bryston?
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
11,352
296
83
Manila, Philippines
#91
Duke,

Your objectivity and honesty has gained you another admirer, me.

Love your insights.

Jack
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
10,935
143
63
#93
I lust for a set of Extremes...
Hi Christian...do you know how similar these are to the big German Physiks Lorleys? For some reason, I got the impression somewhere that they had similar sounds in terms of that unique 3-dimensionality. Just curious.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
6,675
1,068
113
Beverly Hills, CA
#94
I encountered at T.H.E. Show this weekend the MBL 101E Mk. II -- a speaker materially more dynamic and realistic than anything I have ever heard before. Somewhat embarrassingly I spent over 4 hours listening to them over the three days of the show. Discovering these speakers was a fascinating and unsettling experience. (My first thought was: "I have been listening to the wrong speakers for the last 28 years?")

After the initial first couple of hours of shock and disbelief about the tangibility of the music and the holographic venue recreated by the speakers my power of rationality and analysis slowly came back into operation. I began contemplating seriously how I could rearrange my dedicated Martin-Logan / VTL listening room to put the the MBL speakers on my long wall.

By the third hour of auditioning I could no longer ignore the fact that I find the speakers bright-sounding. The tweeter simply produces too much treble energy for me to enjoy these speakers on a prolonged basis. I know from the measurements section of Michael Fremer's review of the 101E Mk. ii that there is no significant spike in the treble region, but there simply is too much treble energy there for me.

Yesterday and today I have been walking around my listening room trying to figure out how much damping material I could put everywhere to try to tame the tweeter. I know about the natural vs. smooth crossover wire switching on the speaker, but, unfortunately, what I need is a simple attenuator which lets me reduce the output of the tweeter by a couple of dB. Many "statement" speakers (e.g., Genesis Technologies 1.2, Evolution Acoustics MM7, Wilson XLF) have such output adjustments to match the tweeter output to the listening room and to the owner's subjective preference.

I wonder if Jurgen, the designer at MBL, would be willing to insert a resistor or two or three in the signal path of the tweeter to calm down what I believe even Peter Brueninger described in his review of the 101E Mk. ii as a "[still] hot tweeter"?

This weekend I had a thrilling, brief, hot affair with a passionate German. But in the cold light of Monday morning, I am not divorcing my Martin-Logans.
 

Ronm1

Member Sponsor
Feb 21, 2011
1,746
0
0
wtOMitMutb NH
#95
Interesting Ron. Somewhat follows my own take on a fair amount of Hi-end h/w, especially speakers. Nice place to visit, at times, but I wouldn't want to live there.
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
6,135
133
63
La Jolla, Calif USA
#96
Ron, your impressions of the MBL's pretty much follow my own. When I first heard them years ago, I was pretty impressed. However, after some extensive listening, I realized that they were NOT a speaker I could live with for any length of time. The hard and 'bright' top end is over powering after some exposure. Plus, the electronics do nothing to tame that at all.
I'm probably going to be taken to task for this...so I have put my flame suit on....BUT to me any system that is not 'warm' is NOT that musical. It doesn't have to be over the top 'warm' BUT it does have to have an element of warmth. I do NOT believe that real instruments are "steely" or "bright" or "analytical" or unpleasant in any way. I 'get it' that warmth in our systems is the current 'no- no' , BUT I do think we are NOT listening correctly to 'acoustic' instruments in a 'live/unamplified" setting IF we do not value their warmth. IMHO.
 

Joe Whip

Active Member
Feb 8, 2014
1,128
18
38
Wayne, PA
#97
I agree with RonR. I have heard the MBLs at shows and in a person's home and always found them to be overly bright. For me, what Ron describes happens far too often in high end or shall we call it High Performance audio? You sit down in a showroom and are initially impressed but after 10 minutes listening to familiar music, you realize how bright in in your face the system is. I don't know how anyone could sit around and listen to MBLs as their speakers of choice. They are NOT for me.
 
Aug 6, 2012
1,470
30
48
Milford, Michigan
#98
I have to disagree with the last few posts. I find MBL's in general produce the most accurate and best high's in the audio marketplace.
 

DEV

New Member
Oct 20, 2011
547
0
0
I lust for a set of Extremes...
Me too! I actually sold my MBL's and MM3's to assist in my purchase of a used pair recently. What happened was sad because I was mislead in the condition, due to the cost I decided to book a flight along with other arrangements to see in person and had shipping and blah! blah! all arranged to only find out that they were more like 5-6 condition when I was told MINT. Oh well that's life - just lucky in the end I didn't get screwed.
 

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