M&K S-150 THX surround loudspeaker system Page 5

I'll tell you one thing: If you value bass impact and extension, you'd be hard-pressed to find a rival for the M&K system. Kreisel had brought along some demonstration material and we settled down to savor it. Early on in Broken Arrow, a B-1 bomber, flying at extremely low levels, blasts past a Forest Ranger, and the shock wave and shock value knock her on her keister. It darn near knocked me off my sofa. Similarly, the torpedo-launches and near-misses—not to mention the direct hit—in Crimson Tide were almost physically hard to take when played back at THX reference level. I may have heard the MX-150's equal at preserving the transient impact of low-frequency sound, but I have certainly never heard their superior.

The 150 front-channel speakers are superb. They sound, for the most part, extremely natural and uncolored. I qualify that statement because they can lean toward hardness and sibilance—or could it be that they are accurately reflecting the bright and unforgiving nature of most soundtracks themselves. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but the Marantz/Chiro electronics I auditioned them with do not exacerbate these qualities—those using equipment that emphasizes the brightness region should listen to these speakers with their own gear before committing to a purchase.

That said, I heard details in films that had previously passed un-noticed. Of course, once you pass a certain quality level, who's to say whether newly uncovered information isn't merely the result of hearing it for the fifth time? What really impressed me about the 150 front channels, though, was how effortlessly they reported what was on the soundtrack. Even if you played the speakers really loud, you couldn't make them strain.

Angels and Insects is a quiet film—not a car chase or explosion in the whole thing—yet the 150s unraveled layer upon layer of quiet country life, down to the ripple of the slowly moving river in several scenes. Or, for that matter, the wing-buzz of the stinging flies that break up a cream tea on the lawn.

One reason for that effortless focus—as well as the 150's ability to reveal differing acoustics within films—may have to do with the success of Kreisel's vertically directional design. I certainly heard less interaction with the room's boundaries than with any other speaker I've had in my listening room. This, in fact, may be the biggest difference between the M&K and the Aerial systems. Due to their size and design, the Aerials "bloom" in the room and couple to it. The M&Ks do not, or do so minimally, resulting in a leaner, lighter sound—a sound that shares a lot with that of a mixing stage.

As to the Tripole surrounds, they worked as promised in my relatively small home theater. In that room, the rear wall can be dominant with dipoles, so the "even illumination" of the Tripole seemed an improvement. That's from my regular couch-potato position smack dab in the sweet spot, however. Taking Ken Kreisel's point about the fallacy of assuming only one row of listeners, I tried moving around in the room. Sure enough, the Tripole did not change its character when I sat forward or farther back. For many people, this could be a significant surround option.

Every disc is a Wow! disc
I had my head turned by the natural, dynamic, and uncolored sound of this THX surround-speaker system. The individual speakers are built to a very high standard and M&K has incorporated a wide range of user-friendly options and accessories. It is competitive with the very finest surround systems I've heard, and in some areas—specifically deep bass extension and impact—is second to none.

In my heart of hearts, I prefer the Aerial Acoustics system, but the M&K S-150THX makes me wonder if some of that beguiling bloom I'm so wild about doesn't sacrifice a certain degree of accuracy. Anyway, you can buy the entire M&K system, including stands, brackets, pipes, and two subwoofers, for just a few hundred dollars more than the Aerial 10Ts alone—making the S-150s a bargain. If you could settle for just one subwoofer, as most people with normal-size rooms surely could, you'd knock another $1200 off the system price.

That's one heck of a bargain. If you can find a better one, buy it on the spot. Until then, the M&K S-150THX surround-speaker system sets the performance standard for the $5000 region.