Mirage MX Speaker System Page 2

Changeling is the heartbreaking true story of a woman who reunites with her missing son—only to find that the police have brought her the wrong child. The DVD’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack features a sorrowful acoustic-guitar figure that plays over string orchestra and reappears throughout the movie. This kind of musically and emotionally rich material is ideal for the Mirages, especially in later scenes, when the strings grieve more strongly and a trumpet plays over the end credits. The speakers made the most out of a charged scene with the wind haunting a desolate landscape. Their slight tendency to defocus detail made the effect realistic and unsettling.

Max Payne hurls Mark Wahlberg through a cop scenario that quickly takes on supernatural overtones. Mirage’s soft-focused but spacious soundfield was an appropriate match for the attacks of the animated creature, which sounded suitably huge yet not terribly fatiguing. It was also a good match for the movie’s gently surreal visual scheme, a combination of noirish shadows, feverishly saturated color, and in scene after scene, drifting snowflakes. As I patiently absorbed the barrages of fisticuffs, crashing bodies, and gunshots (there were even ballistic volleys over the credits), I found it all helpfully free of the bright clatter that would normally send me running for the volume control. Quieter moments of cityscape ambience were slightly more vague than they should have been, but on the whole, it was a comfortable viewing experience.

Big, Continued
With its unorthodox dispersion pattern, the MX is a little sat/sub set with ambitions to sound big. I decided to give it a mountain to climb with Procol Harum’s Grand Hotel, an LP that practically defines big: big soundstage, big drum sound, grand melodies, and comically epic lyrics by Keith Reid. He describes a world where love is disappointing, romance is decadent, sex is diseased, and even babies are mean. I played it in the Dolby Pro Logic II music mode, which took full advantage of the album’s dark-chocolate ambience. The Mirages got off to a flying start with the title track, which added an orchestra, chorus, and massed mandolins to the band’s thickly keyboard-dominated sound. They also sent Gary Brooker’s voice swimming in an Olympic-sized soundfield. The reverberating wham-pow component of B.J. Wilson’s drums emerged vigorously, the bass-drum thump inevitably less so. Still, overall, the sound was nearly as big as the album demands. The system’s slight tendency to defocus vocals only added to the grandeur by floating a female soprano, Christianne Legrand of the Swingle Singers, over the decorous closing meditation on romantic futility, “Fires (Which Burnt Brightly).”

I picked Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim’s LP of Chopin’s Sonata in G Minor and Franck’s Sonata in A out of a gutter, where it was lying in an oil-slicked puddle. The water destroyed the jacket but left the plastic-sheathed disc remarkably intact—it suffered only from some intermittent crackling inflicted by its previous owner, who clearly liked some movements but rarely played others. When I played it in stereo, the surface noise was less multidimensional and easier to take. A few seconds into the Chopin, a low note on the piano flipped the sub’s auto-on switch, which accidentally provided me with a before-and-after perspective on what the sub offered with its 120-Hz crossover. The left side of the piano keyboard, as you’d guess, benefited immediately. It became clear that the sub was enhancing the cello too. However, due to the different dispersion patterns of the sats and sub—one airy, the other constricted—the crossover point was all too easy to spot. This was a predictable disadvantage of using a crossover higher (much higher, in this case) than 80 Hz.

Members of Weather Report objected to the terms fusion and jazz-rock, so I won’t use them to describe Mysterious Traveller, an album of varied moods and serpentine melodies brought to life by Wayne Shorter’s elegant sax and Joe Zawinul’s sensitivity to the coloristic possibilities of the synthesizer. The percussive maelstrom of the first track, “Nubian Sundance,” was somewhat understated. But the sats combined with DPLII to produce a well-proportioned soundfield with a strong front orientation. They were also arguably the ideal vehicle for Zawinul’s synth. The speakers tamed the hard edge and brought out the multiple-personality changes in tone.

Mirage has been pursuing the Omnipolar strategy for many years and is pretty confident in its ability to execute it in new iterations. The MX sat/sub set brings the concept to a new level of miniaturization and accessibility. It’s hard to imagine a speaker package that’s less intimidating. You’ll get a bigger sound from the satellites than you’d ever suspect when you lay eyes on them for the first time. And although the subwoofer (wisely) makes no attempt to rattle the windows, it discreetly fills in the upper bass as needed. Although it’s pricey, this is a strong specimen in the sat/sub genre, and it will prosper especially well in problematic rooms where speaker-placement options are limited. Expect big things of the Mirage MX.