Sound is alive and well and so is their latest line of high performance
speakers, thanks to the new Danish-owned company. I recently had the pleasure
of meeting the MK Sound team at ABT Electronics in Glenview, IL
where the Dolphin Group (MK Sound US Distributor) is based. The new MK
Sound company has taken the best from the original M&K Sound and has
re-released many of the legacy designs, to the delight of loyal
M&K customers. We were given the opportunity to review the latest
950 System, which consists of a trio of LCR950 front channels, a pair
of SUR95T surrounds and the all-new MX250 subwoofer. The voice-matched
(timbre-matched) satellites and surrounds create a seamless transition
as audio moves throughout the room. The fit and finish of these new 950
speakers are impressive with build quality that is similar to the flagship S150
speakers we reviewed last year. The soft rounded edges give the speakers
a look that blends well with today's modern decor. The solid construction
keeps the cabinets from adding audible colorations to the high quality sound these
The LCR950 front speakers ($599.99 each) feature two 5.25-inch polypropylene
woofers with the new MK Sound Pro tweeter in a sealed enclosure. The MK
Sound Phase Focused crossover design delivers accurate imaging with a
flat frequency response over a wide listening area. By optimizing the
speaker performance in both the vertical and horizontal planes, the speaker
design is ideal for home theater systems where the listening environment
typically needs to be flexible and supports a larger number of seating positions.
Unlike some speaker designs that are optimized only for a narrow and
shallow sweet spot, MK Sound's proprietary Phase Focused crossover design
provides excellent imaging, while preserving dialog intelligibility.
In fact, my ideal system would include five full range LCR950 speakers, two of them in the back. The black metal mesh speaker grill is held
in place with concealed magnets within the front baffle. This design eliminates
the annoying buzz or rattle sometimes encountered with cheap plug-in covers.
LCR950 speakers work equally as well in either the horizontal or vertical position, we placed
the center channel horizontally in front, just below our 100-inch Stewart filmscreen. The rear
binding posts are fairly shallow, so if you have banana jacks that are
long, they will likely have clearance issues. We used some shorter banana
plugs that worked well with this speaker. Stripped wire will also work well. The LCR950 measures 15.7"
high, 6.7" wide and 8.7" deep and weighs about 12 pounds.
The SUR95T Tripole surround loudspeakers ($1199.99 per pair) are essentially
two independent speakers in a single sealed cabinet. The front-radiating
monopole design with its silk dome tweeter and 5.25-inch polypropylene
mid-woofer is married with a set of side-radiating drivers (3-inch mid-tweeters), which results in a compact design with surprisingly good sound quality that is timbre-matched with the LCR-950's.
The SUR95T Tripoles
are ideal for a 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 channel configuration where larger speakers
are prohibitive. These speakers have a frequency response of 87 Hz - 20
kHz ±3 dB. The SUR95T speakers measure
10.2" high, 7" wide, and 8.7" deep and weigh just over
10 pounds. I did some standalone
listening tests with the SUR95T speakers and they performed very well
on their own.
High Frequency Driver
The new MK Sound high frequency driver is designed for high power handling
and high output levels with full dynamic range. Both the LCR950 front channels
as well as the SUR95T surround speakers incorporate MK Sound's innovative
high frequency driver recently introduced in the MPS2510P and MPS1611P professional studio monitors. The cast aluminum front plate is now bolted
directly to the magnet system for
improved mechanical stability, which our early S150THX speakers lacked.
The coated silk dome design uses lightweight,
copper-clad aluminum wiring, resulting in a highly responsive, low mass tweeter with high sensitivity. The low-compression rear
chamber tubes minimize distortion
and control transient response, especially at the bottom end of the driver’s frequency range. The calibrated waveguide controls
directivity allowing for smooth integration
with the 5.25-inch mid/bass drivers.
According to MK Sound, this tweeter is designed to eliminate high frequency smearing
and phase/combing issues. The tweeter design moves away from the industry standard
of having to work around drivers with fixed impedances. Instead,
the driver impedance of the MK tweeter is designed to match specific crossover
component values to optimize the sonic quality over the entire frequency
THX Select2 Certified products are for medium sized rooms, up to 2,000 cubic feet in size, with a 10-12 foot viewing distance from the screen. The MK Sound 950 speaker system
has been awarded the THX Select2
seal of approval. THX Select2 certification is independent confirmation that the 950 System delivers
controlled directivity and a full soundstage with precise imaging for all types of audio content. In fact, the
950 system meets and exceeds THX Select2 specifications for flat on-axis frequency response, wide and
even horizontal dispersion and coverage of a large listening area with consistent tonal character.
The LCR950 and the SUR95T speakers both have nominal impedance ratings of 4 ohms. We measured the impedance of these speakers using our Sencore SP295 Sound Analyzer, sweeping frequencies from 20-20kHz. The LCR950 had a minimum impedance of 3.6 ohms at 200 Hz. The maximum impedance was 9.0 ohms at 1250Hz. The median value for a 1/3 octave sweep across the frequency range (20 Hz - 20 kHz) resulted in 4.8 ohms nominally. The SUR95T had a minimum impedance of 3.9 ohms at around 3 kHz to 4 kHz. The maximum impedance was 15.1 ohms at 80Hz. The median value was around 15 ohms, considerably higher than the front channels. Since many cheaper receivers have issues with driving 4 ohm speakers, we recommend using a good, high current power amplifier given the impedance characteristics of these speakers.
The new MX250 subwoofer ($1799) takes on many attributes of the original
MX250 with dual ultra high performance, long-throw 12 magnetically
shielded drivers powered by MK Sound's linear Balanced Push-Pull Dual
Drive Amplifier technology. MK Sound's proprietary Headroom Maximizer
IV circuitry is employed to prevent amplifier clipping, which can
often lead to audible artifacts. The Deep Bass sealed box enclosure
produces significantly low frequency extension with extreme high output, while providing excellent articulation, clarity and punch. The built-in
high power 250 watt RMS linear amplifier delivers clean sound with extraordinary
detail. The Push-Pull Dual Driver Configuration offers
major improvements by virtually eliminating even-order harmonic distortion
and doubling the sonic power, resulting in 6 dB of additional output level.
linear phase low-pass filter optimizes speaker performance and simplifies
set-up when combining satellite speakers. The design overlaps the acoustic
output of the satellites and the subwoofer such that the sum will provide
a seamless transition between the upper range of the subwoofer and the
lower range of the satellite speakers. This is why MK Sound satellite/subwoofer
designs work so well and sound so good.
The MX250 measures 23.5" high, 15.3" wide, and 20" deep and weighs about 70 pounds. The black satin finish looks great with modern decor. The speaker cover is similar to the earlier design with fabric covering a frame that attaches with pegs on the front. The design has worked well for us on the earlier MX350's with no buzzing or other issues.
More than half of the rear panel is occupied with a large heatsink from
the traditional and proven linear power amplifier topology used on the
MX250 design. While many of the newer subwoofers have moved to the more
power and cost efficient BASH switching amplifier, it was nice
to see the MX250 stayed with the robust linear amplifier. As a result,
the MX250 is actually about 10 pounds heavier than the more powerful MX350
due to the heavy power supply and output stages. Both line level inputs
and outputs are provided. Speaker level inputs and outputs are also available
for those who do not have line level outputs on their receiver. The removable
IEC power cord make it more convenient to move the subwoofer without requiring
an attached cord.
MX250 has a 3-position Power
switch with an Auto option that saves power when
no input signal is detected. Some users may find this mode annoying as
you have to wait for the subwoofer to turn on when music or a movie soundtrack
starts. Keeping the subwoofer on also has the potential advantage of maintaining
thermal stability for optimal audio performance.
control is used to adjust the phase (0 to 180 degrees) of the subwoofer
output. This can be very beneficial when setting up your system and the
only way to know what the best setting is to adjust it for the highest
level output. Positioning of the subwoofer as well as room dimensions
affect the desired phase setting.
Pass Filter control is used to determine
the crossover frequency for the subwoofer and satellite speakers. The THX setting on the Denon AVR-5308CI handles the low-frequency subwoofer outputs (at 80Hz with 24-dB/octave crossover characteristics), so we set the Low
Pass Filter control to bypass to minimize the effects of the low-pass
filter in the MX250. In addition, the LCR950 front channels can provide
good bass down to 80 Hz making it an ideal choice for a THX system.
Level works with the receiver of processor to set the bass level. The REF setting is the nominal level for most processors and this is the level setting we used for our testing.
For the past 9 years, our point of reference has been with the legacy M&K S150 system, which includes three S150THX front channels, a pair
of SS-250 Tripoles, and a pair of MX350THX subwoofers (one for each front channel) to handle
stereo bass and the LFE channel. More recently we reviewed the new S150 system that included
the revised S150 front channels, SS150 Tripole surrounds, and a single
950 review, the entire speaker system was replaced with the LCR950 trio
in the front with the SUR95T Tripoles in the rear. We also replaced the
two legacy MX350THX subwoofers with the new MX250 subwoofer in the corner
of the room. Our home theater and music room is treated with Echo Buster
panels and Bass Buster towers. These sound absorbers reduce unwanted
reflections in the listening environment that often blur and de-focus the
sonic image produced from the loudspeakers. We had measurable results
both before and after treating the room that showed a significant difference
with secondary reflections and RT60 times.
A/V unit is the Denon
AVR-5308CI receiver, which is primarily used for the front-end electronics and is responsible for audio decoding and the D/A conversion.
This THX-Ultra2 rated receiver sounds amazingly good for an all-in-one unit.
Rather than use the built-in amplifiers, which by the way are THX Ultra2
rated, we used our five channel HCA-2205AT Parasound amplifier. This five-channel Parasound amplifier has no problem driving 4 ohm loads. We used
our OPPO BDP-83SE (Special Edition) blu-ray player to provide a variety of source material
from various disc formats. This player has excellent audio and video performance and supports
Blu-ray, DVD-Audio, multi-channel SACD as well as most other formats.
Avatar was by far one of the most anticipated movies to be released on Bluray, so we found it appropriate to use it in this review. The soundtrack is excellent and it pushes the envelope as most of James Cameron's movies do. The superbly encoded DTS-HD Master Audio
soundtrack was decoded with our Denon AVR-5308CI receiver, delivering unprecedented
resolution and dynamic range. The scenes where Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) encounters various hostile creatures in the forest of Pandora provided great material with high impact and deep bass response, completely exercising the system. The later scenes where he walks through the dark forest on his own after losing his crew and meets Neytiri, revealed amazing subtle detail. Throughout the movie dialogue was clear and intelligible, making it easy to follow the movie. Often times, dialogue is difficult to hear especially with the wide dynamic range of many of these high performance systems. As sound moved through the room there was a seamless transition thanks to the timbre-matched speakers. The satellite speakers and the subwoofer integrated well without any noticeable gaps in the frequency response. This is what a good home theater speaker system should sound like.
One of our favorite DVD-Audio discs is the Blue Man Group's The Complex. This recording is excellent and provide good vocals with high energy percussion that can reveal limitations in a speaker system. Track 8 - White Rabbit has the sound of an airpole whipping through the air and makes good use of the surrounds. This track demonstrated how well the front and rear channels were timbre-matched. The MX250 bass reproduction was deep, tight and articulate
and this studio recording made for an impressive demonstration of the 950's capabilities. The
LCR950 front channels produced a nice stereo image with some of our favorite two-channel SACDs such as Rebecca Pigeon's The Raven (SACD205) from Chesky Records. Female vocals such as Bonnie Raitt's Road Tested in DTS 5.1 proved how well this speaker can reproduce music at higher volume levels without fatigue and with consistent tonal character.
soundtracks are just as important to us as music reproduction, so having one without the other is unacceptable. Some speaker systems work better with movies while others may be better for music reproduction. It has been our experience that higher-end speaker systems work well with both situations and this is what we look for in a multi-channel speaker system.
Fortunately, the MK Sound 950 System does well in both categories. We had a very engaging experience when watching movies without any significant distractions and also enjoyed listening to our favorite audio discs with this system. Even at significantly high volume levels the 950 system performed well without breaking up. The MX250 subwoofer provided deep sound reproduction without sounding uncontrolled or muddy. Unfortunately, so many cheaper systems cannot handle high levels without fatiguing the listeners.
The MK Sound 950 speakers combine the elements that make a great
sounding system with few compromises. The timbre-matched main and surround
speakers provide a seamless movement of audio throughout the listening
space. The solid construction, contemporary look, relatively small footprint,
and excellent sound quality makes this system an easy recommendation in
its price category. Those looking for an upper mid-priced 5.1 speaker
system that can deliver impressive sound quality owe it to themselves
to audition the new MK Sound 950 Speaker System. The long slender
cabinet design of the LCR950 and the smaller sized SUR95T surrounds allow
them to fit into your living space with minimal impact. The MX250 subwoofer
might cause your spouse to give you that look, but once they hear it they
will likely change their tune.
MK Sound 950 System retails for just under $4,800 for a full 5.1
system. This includes three LCR950 front speakers ($599 each), two SUR95T
Tripoles Surrounds ( $1,199 per pair) and one MX250 subwoofer ($1,799).
MK Sound products are distributed by The
Dolphin Group (in the USA) and sold through dealers around the country.
many months with the MK Sound 950 speaker system watching movies and listening
to music, it is easy for me to recommend this system to others looking
for a powerful home theater and multi-channel music system. The sonic
quality offered by the 950 system is impressive to say the least. When compared
to the S150THX system I have used for years, they have a more distinct
high frequency character that might be described as more forward or detailed. The crystal clear dialogue
we heard from these speakers was memorable and kept us engaged at all times.