MBL Reference System at T.H.E. Show

Even though hotel rooms are not the best environment to show off high-end audio products, some companies managed to achieve a mighty impressive sound at T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach, CA. Among them was MBL, which set up two systems in adjoining rooms. My first stop was the room with the flagship Reference system, including two 101E MkII speakers ($70,500/pair, profiled here) and two 9011 monoblock power amps, which generate 750 watts per channel and cost a staggering $53,000 each.

Driving the speakers and amps was the 1621A CD transport and 1611F DAC ($28,000 and $28,700, respectively, profiled here) on a shelf above a 6010D preamp ($26,500). Unlike many companies, MBL also used a music server (a Linux-based Sonore from Simple Design) to play files originally recorded digitally by Jürgen Reis, the wunderkind who designs all MBL products, from speakers to electronics.

The most beautiful sound I heard was a solo-piano piece played on an unlacquered Steinway, recorded at 88.2kHz/24-bit and saved in the lossless FLAC format. The sense of space was extraordinary with exceptional clarity throughout the sonic spectrum. Take 6's a cappella version of "Away in a Manger" (44.1kHz/16 bits) was also gorgeous, but I heard a low-mid/upper-bass bump that was caused by a 10dB room peak at 125Hz, which I could clearly see on the real-time analyzer wielded by an MBL rep. I don't know why I didn't notice it with the piano track, but it was pretty obvious with male vocals. Still, this was one of the best-sounding systems I heard at the show.

aopu.mohsin's picture


Yes, indeed it was a very good show, and some informative seminars.

What day(s) did you go there? I was hoping to meet you in person. But didn't see you on Sat (Jun 4) when I was there.

Well, hope to meet you someday in some Audio shows like this.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I was there only on Friday; sorry I missed you! Hopefully we'll meet at another show...
NoStrings's picture

There is no question that MBL, although expensive, has their act together. I've heard top-of-the-line speakers from Martin Logan, Wilson Audio, Apogee, B&W, Quad, etc., and none can capture the transparent soundstage like MBL. You don't have to keep your head in a vice either, as the images hold up while moving around the room.

Leave it to the German's for excellence in engineering.

Derek McCarty's picture

That was a great sound indeed, fantastic and room filling in a way I've rarely heard. I believe I sat next to you as you took these pictures and listened to those selections. I also believe your affiliations helped keep them going despite the fact that the show had officially ended for the day, and I appreciated it! Until we meet again, take care.

uavK.Reid's picture

When I went to the AXPONA show in Atlanta, I met Jeremy Bryan (President and CEO) of MBL - a class act indeed and passionate about his company. Let me tell you, the suite he had was quite challenging acoustically but nevertheless the room was rock'in with some good music. When I arrived they had club music playing and the room was packed full of people.

The 101E MkII speakers sounded incredible with room filling sound and very clear not congested even at the high volumes they were playing. It was awesome.