M&K Sound S300 Speaker System Page 2

Given the size and weight of the LCR speakers, I was afraid to use my installed OmniMount brackets because I couldn’t remember how much weight they were rated to handle. Instead, I grabbed some spare cinder blocks to position the speakers at the proper height. That done, I calibrated the volume levels with my RadioShack SPL meter. All five speakers were powered by a Parasound Halo A51, which delivers 400 watts RMS per channel with high-bias Class A/AB operation—cue Tim Allen’s grunting.

Take Me to Another World
It starts with a slamming cell door, a resigned sigh, and the desperate exhale and tears of a murderess behind bars. All you hear is the dripping of a faucet, then two in sequence, followed by the footfalls of a walking guard. Add in the drumming of fingers, and you find yourself in jail in the 1920s in Rob Marshall’s 2002 Best Picture winner Chicago.

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“Cell Block Tango” is one of the catchiest tunes in the film, and the six merry murderesses of Cook County Jail have never sounded better. The multilayered song features strong percussion, a full horn section, and of course those female vocals. The Dolby TrueHD track is a great test for speakers, and the S300 system passed with flying colors. The snare drum snapped with precision, the horns hit every note, and I could hear every step of the lovely ladies’ heels distinctly. Furthermore, when the camera bulb exploded from the rear, I jumped in my seat, as if the photographer were standing right behind me.

Given M&K’s rich history in movie production studios, it seemed only fair to audition a film that was mixed using the company’s lineage of speakers. I chose Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Yes, the Internet is full of trolls who blasted George Lucas on his prequels, but how could he possibly live up to the expectations created by one of the greatest trilogies in movie history? Regardless, as the years have passed, the prequels have grown on me (despite numerous scenes of cringe-inducing dialogue), and Sith is my favorite of these, mainly because of its plethora of lightsaber battles. There’s nothing like the sound of an energy blade swooshing through your home theater.

In chapter 24, Anakin and Obi-Wan duel it out on the lava-filled planet of Mustafar, tightroping their way above instant death. I could feel the rumblings of the volcanic planet, track the warbles of droids flying through the soundstage, and hear the hissing of steam escaping from the industrial pipes. Complementing everything was John Williams’ powerful score.

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Speaker systems not up to the task meld all this activity into a muddled mess of confusion. Not so with the S300 system. Each sound occupied its own space, but they all came together in a cohesive delivery of audio ecstasy. The immediacy and authenticity of the discretely placed audio cues put me right in the middle of the action and transported me to another world. Subtleties of the soundtrack might easily have been lost in the cacophony of the scene, but they weren’t. I could hear each detail clearly.

My ears are very accustomed to the tone of M&K speakers since I’ve owned and listened to them for over 10 years now. I love their natural sound, their crisp dynamics, and the intricate details that come out of every recording. Like my S150 system, the S300 doesn’t colorize the sound with its own signature. It presents everything as it is—flaws and all. One advantage the S300 system has over the previous generation is its deeper and more expansive midrange. Mind you, I don’t think the midrange in the S150 is weak by any means, but the S300 delivers more in this department.

This is very evident on music tracks—whether from movies, streamed FLAC files, or multichannel SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. The latter formats really shined with the S300Ts, where the speakers performed head and shoulders above my SS150s. Each of the new speakers has laser-like focus.

Two-channel listening is something I rarely do because of a busy schedule, but sitting on the couch and enjoying the S300s is definitely something I could get used to. Stereo tracks had phenomenal imaging, creating a wall of sound at the front of the room—the same property that made me lust for the S150s in that demo way back when. In fact, I had to double-check my pre/pro’s settings to see if I’d engaged Dolby Pro Logic II processing because it sounded like the center speaker was turned on! Whether I was listening to Norah Jones, Pink, the Eagles, or Green Day, it sounded like I had a front-row seat in the recording studio.

The Physics of Sound
Some audiophiles scoff at the notion of the satellite/subwoofer system model that M&K subscribes to. They want to run their speakers full range and omit the subwoofer when playing back two-channel music. But there are numerous audible benefits with a satellite system. One that M&K likes to point out is that since the satellites don’t have to reproduce deep bass, the enclosures can be smaller. This makes for enhanced structural integrity and eliminates deep bass vibrations inside the cabinet, minimizing resonances for cleaner, clearer mid and high frequencies—something I’ve personally enjoyed over the years.

At $17,700 for a 5.1-channel setup, these speakers aren’t cheap. The S300 represents a distinct improvement over my S150 setup, but the two systems really are in two different price classes. If price isn’t an issue and you seek dynamic, natural sound, the S300 system should be at or near the top of your audition list. It’s perfect for the movie lover and extremely capable and pleasing for the discerning audiophile. If I didn’t have a kid heading off to college in the fall, I’d surely be plotting my next upgrade. Highly recommended.

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COMMENTS
mnc's picture

M&K were the first speakers I ever lusted after. I remember wanting the S-100B setup when they were around $1000/each. I can't believe how expensive their speakers have gotten!

javanp's picture

Maybe there is a distinct increase in performance over the S-150s but I think M&K is making some pretty poor business/marketing decisions here... a lot like Atlantic Technology has done, but perhaps even worse so than what they did. Both companies had an iconic speaker, the 350 for AT and the S-150 for MK. However, both companies later came out with upgraded, better speakers of that model, but at a DRASTICALLY increased price. These new models really don't differentiate themselves from the old models in any substantial way, not from an aesthetic perspective at any rate. Now that doesn't mean that the actual parts and design of the speakers don't justify the cost increase. But when you're increasing your top-of-the-line speaker from $500 to $2,500 (I think that was AT's price increase from the 350s to the , people just expect it to be bigger and better.

trynberg's picture

javanp, MK Sound still sells the S-150s...this is a new higher level line.

David Vaughn's picture
You are correct. This is a higher end line for the company.
biaubill's picture

Quick question: I just finished reading the S&V article, "What Makes a Good Center Speaker." Doesn't this comb filtering issue apply to these M&K speakers since the mid-drivers and tweeters are positioned horizontal to each other, like a center speaker? And why would Styrofoam be needed between the tweeters when sitting closer to the speaker? I am seriously considering purchasing these speakers, but now I concern about comb filtering issues, especially for such expensive speakers. I hope somebody can answer my questions. Thank you!

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