Product Review (August 2010) - MK Sound
LCR950 Front, SUR95T Tripole Surrounds
\
and MX250 Subwoofer

By Kevin Nakano


MK Sound 950 SystemMK 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 speakers produce.

MK Sound LCR950LCR950
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.

Since the 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.


MK Sound SUR95TSUR95T Tripole Surround
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.


MK Sound Pro TweeterNew 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.

New MK Sound Pro Tweeter DesignThe 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 range.


THX Certification
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.

950 Speaker System Impedances

950 Impedance
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.


MK Sound MX250MX250 Subwoofer
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. The 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.

MK Sound MX250 SubwooferRear Panel
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.

The 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.

The Phase 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.

The Low 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.

The Bass 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.


System Configuration
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 MX350 subwoofer.

For the 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.

Our main 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 in BlurayBlu-ray
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.

Blueman Group - The ComplexDVD-Audio
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.

Performance
Movie 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.


Conclusion
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.

The complete 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.

After spending 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.

- Kevin Nakano






OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

Projector: Anthem LTX-500v Full 1080p High-Definition LCoS Projector
Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: DISH Network ViP® 922 SlingLoaded™ DVR
Blu-ray Player: OPPO BDP-83SE (Special Edition) Blu-ray Player
HD-DVD Player: Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player with HDMI
Media Server: Sonos ZonePlayer ZP80
Remote Control: Remote Technologies Inc. T3-V Controller
HDMI Cable: Accell UltraRun 45-meter 1080p Cable
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables


Review at a glance


MK Sound LCR950 Speaker Specifications

  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohm
  • Frequency Response: 80 Hz - 20 kHz ±3 dB
  • HF Driver: One - 1” silk dome ferrofluid double ferrite magnet tweeter
  • LF Drivers: Two - 5.25” polypropylene with rubber butyl surround
  • Finish: Black Satin with black metal mesh grille
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 16.1" x 7" x 8.8” (40,8 x 17,8 x 22,3 cm)
  • Weight: 15.25 lb - 6,9 kg
Spec Sheet

MSRP: $599.99 (each)


MK Sound SUR95T Tripole Surround Speaker Specifications

  • Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohm
  • Frequency Response: 87 Hz - 20 kHz ±3 dB
  • HF Driver: One - 1” silk dome ferrofluid double ferrite magnet tweeter
  • LF Drivers: One - 5.25” polypropylene with rubber butyl surround
  • Side Drivers: Two - 3” coated paper (side-mounted)
  • Finish: Black Satin with black metal mesh grille
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 10.2" x 7" x 8.7” (25,9 x 17,8 x 22,1 cm)
  • Weight: 10.25 lb - 4,7 kg
Spec Sheet

MSRP: $1199.99 (per pair)


MX250 Subwoofer Specifications

  • Rated Power: 250 Watts
  • Bass Driver: Two 12-inch, long-throw woofers in Balanced Push-Pull Configuration
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 200 Hz ±3dB
  • Low Pass Filter: Variable 40 Hz - 200 Hz or Bypass
  • Finish: Black Satin
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 23.5" x 15.3" x 20" (59,6 x 38,8 x 50,8 cm)
  • Weight: 70 lb (31,9 kg)
Spec Sheet

Warranty: Amplifier - 2 Years, Rest of Speaker - 5 Years
MSRP: $1799


Company Information
MK Sound ApS · Denmark
Phone (International): +45 8619 8733
Email: sales@thedolphingroup.org

In the USA
The Dolphin Group
Phone: 866-290-2673
Fax: 847-544-2043
Email: service@thedolphingroup.org
Website: http://www.mksoundsystem.com
Source: Manufacture Supplied


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