MK Sound 950 Speaker System
Rikki Don’t Lose This Number
It’s a tragic tale with a happy ending—or maybe happy sequel is more accurate since the saga isn’t over yet. Read on because this is the story of a speaker company that helped shape home theater (and even music recording) into what it is today. Along the way, there’s a sad crash and (spoiler alert) a welcome resurrection.
For those of you who are relatively new to the home theater world (and by relatively I mean within the last 20 years), you probably take the idea of a satellite/subwoofer system for granted. What could be more ubiquitous than the sat/sub system with all the bazillions of HTIBs based on that concept in people’s homes? Very few of us would consider a home theater to be serious if it didn’t include a subwoofer (or multiple subwoofers) placed in the ideal spot for best bass performance. It took someone to be the first to popularize the idea that the requirements for reproducing the best bass response (both cabinet size and room location) are different than that needed for getting the best mid- and high-frequency performance. That someone was Ken Kreisel.
Now for some quick history. Back in 1973, Walter Becker of Steely Dan approached high-end audio salesperson/budding recording engineer/speaker designer Kreisel about making a speaker system for the band to use in mixing their album, Pretzel Logic. Kreisel decided that the only way to do the system right was to use small speakers optimized for mid- and high-frequency performance along with a separate speaker designed specifically for the bass. Out of this work arose what MK Sound claims was the world’s first satellite/subwoofer configuration, which used a subwoofer that they called the Bottom End. The sub was so popular that, in 1974, Kreisel and Jonas Miller formed M&K Sound in order to start selling a version of the subwoofer to the general public. Two years later, they started selling the famous David and Goliath satellite/subwoofer combination—the first sub/sat system marketed to the general public. It didn’t take long before M&K introduced the world’s first self-powered subwoofer (in 1977). And the list goes on.
Another long list is the incredible number of mixing studios that have used M&K speakers to create the soundtracks for movies that have gone on to be nominated for and often win Academy Awards for sound, including The Lord of the Rings (all three), Black Hawk Down, Star Wars: Episode One, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Finding Nemo. Dolby Labs used M&K speakers for the research and development work and first demos of Dolby AC-3 (which went on to be called Dolby Digital); and, later, the very first Surround EX soundtracks were mixed using M&K speakers.
Fast-forward to early 2007 and the tragic part of the story, as M&K Sound is forced to close its doors, leaving many of its loyal fans (including me), devastated. (OK, I wasn’t devastated as in I couldn’t eat or sleep, but I was saddened by the news.) However, the sequel begins as many of the key people associated with M&K restart the company as MK Sound with the intent of continuing the legacy rather than prostituting the brand as might have happened.
Last year, the folks at Abt Electronics—MK Sound’s flagship dealer—invited me to visit their gorgeous and enormous (gorgeormous?) store in Glenview, Illinois, for an in-depth look at the new/old MK Sound speakers. Many of the models had been carried over, including one of my favorite speakers of the last decade, the S-150THX satellite, and the involuntary-bowel-movement-inducing MX350 THX subwoofer. Once I’d listened to enough models to tell that MK Sound was a serious continuation of the old M&K, I started asking about reviewing a system—specifically the 950 Series system, as these were some of the first new models that the MK Sound team had introduced.
Three-Fifths of Awesome Still Has Plenty of Awe
The MK Sound 950 system includes a trio of THX Select2-approved LCR950 satellite speakers, a pair of THX Select2-approved SUR95T tripole surround speakers, and an MX250 subwoofer. The LCR950 is threefifths of the MK S-150THX, the perennial favorite I mentioned earlier. Although it includes a pair of 5.25-inch midbass drivers, the LCR950 has only one 1-inch silkdome tweeter (rather than the S-150THX’s three). Whereas the older speaker is cube-shaped and has an angled front baffle, the LCR950 is rectangular (16.1 inches high by 7 inches wide) with a straight-on front baffle. In keeping with MK’s design philosophy of keeping the front baffle as small as it can be in order to manipulate baffle-related diffraction that can affect the sound of the speaker, the LCR950 is just a bit wider than the midbass drivers themselves. The tweeter is a new one developed for a couple of MK’s pro monitors, and it includes some advances over the original S-150THX’s tweeter.