Bowers & Wilkins MT-60D Home Theater Speaker System

As athletes such as Michael Vick, Kobe Bryant, and the whole New Orleans Saints defense have learned the hard way, even when you’re the best, it helps to be friendly. Big surround sound systems aren’t friendly to your décor or your pocketbook. Fortunately, in the last 2 years, we’ve seen major speaker companies put serious effort into designing compact 5.1 systems that deliver no-compromise performance. The Mini Theatre line from Bowers & Wilkins is the latest to make its way through my listening room.

The Mini Theatre line includes two systems, both of which employ five tiny M1 satellite speakers. The difference is in the subs: The $1,750 MT-50 includes the rather ordinary ASW608 8-inch subwoofer, while the $2,590 MT-60D includes the snazzier PV1D, which has two 8-inch drivers in a ball-shaped enclosure.

You can mount the satellites on a wall, place them on a stand or table, or use the stands B&W designed for them ($150 each). To keep the look clean, B&W hid the M1’s tiny, spring-loaded speaker cable binding posts inside the base. Mount ’em carefully and you may not see any wires at all.

The M1’s cast-aluminum cabinet houses two extraordinary drivers. The 1-inch tweeter uses the same Nautilus technology found in B&W’s flagship 800 Series speakers. Instead of simply sealing the back of the tweeter, B&W uses what’s essentially a tiny transmission-line enclosure. (A transmission line completely absorbs the back wave of a speaker driver so that it cannot interfere with the sound coming from the front of the driver.)

The 4-inch midrange/woofer is just as interesting. Most good midwoofs use a metal phase plug, which fills the space in the speaker’s voice coil to prevent resonances from developing. In the M1’s midwoof, the “anti-resonance plug” is made from sound-absorbing polymer foam. Instead of reflecting sound forward, as a metal plug does, this one absorbs it.

However, the M1 seems ordinary compared with the PV1D. The PV1D is an update of B&W’s original PV1, launched back in 2004. The core concept: Use a super-stiff, semi-spherical cast-aluminum enclosure; mount 8-inch woofers on opposite sides so that they cancel each other’s vibration; and power them with a 400-watt ICEPower Class D amp. To the PV1D, B&W added digital signal processing along with a front display screen and menu system. You get four room EQ presets: One is flat, one has a substantial bass boost, and the other two are said to fall in between.

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