After several days of casual use and overnight mid-volume TV sound, I started out with full-range stereo music auditions and found the S-150THXs to sound much as I remembered: clean, tight, and free of either midrange or top-octave colorations. They also displayed modest bass extension and a precise but not very deep stereo soundstage. (That said, aural memory is notorious, so you may take these recollections for what they're worth: nada.)
I quickly confirmed that the S-150s do indeed require careful setup. Without toe-in or uptilt, the sound was smooth, balanced, and midrange-accurate, but also a noticeable shade dull and dynamically polite. Careful aiming and tilting transformed things surprisingly, with material like the massed strings and percussive brass attacks of Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 (an HDtracks 96/24 download) now yielding a high-impact presentation: crisp, snappy, tightly imaged, and, given plenty of power, thrillingly dynamic.
Vocals were almost perfectly free of coloration, with just the barest touch of (pleasing) warmth added to the male-vocal octaves.
MK Sound’s new/old S-150THX breaks several “rules” of modern speaker design: Its baffle is nearly as wide as it is tall, risking ragged top-octave response from diffraction, while its three-tweeter array (on paper at least) is prone to “lobing” response bumps in its lower octaves. Yet with careful setup, the S-150s sounded terrific. Perhaps this proves the effectiveness of MK Sound’s engineering countermeasures (anti-diffraction foam between the tweeters; “Phase Focused” crossover design). Or perhaps it confirms my suspicion that even in our computer-aided era, good ol’ amplitudedomain frequency response — and thus the ancient art of by-ear loudspeaker balancing — still trumps all.
Either way, the S-150s’ very precise stereo imaging yielded a fine example of what I call “control-room sound,” displaying the kind of clarity and detail that encourage the listener to pick out whatever sonic aspects catch the ear at any moment. The flip side of this is a relative paucity of some “audiophile” characteristics: comparatively little illusion of depth on stereo playback, virtually no imaging outboard of the physical speakers themselves, and no sexing up of top-octave “air” or sparkle. From an objective goal of pure accuracy, these qualities aren't negatives (particularly for multichannel playback, where “space” and “air” are provided by the surround mix), but they may not match some expectations of what “high-end” speakers should sound like.
On to the movies. No Harry Potter film could be complete without its scene of “quittage” or “cribbage” or whatever that airborne broomstick game is called, and Half-Blood Prince is no exception. These sequences are matchless tests of surround cohesiveness and effects-panning integrity. On the MK system, the whooshings of the players swooping around were just about perfectly seamless and tonally unwavering from full-left to full-right, center, front, back, and everywhere between. Its performance in this regard was truly impressive. The centerchannel S-150THX performed as perfectly as a center speaker can. It didn’t sound exactly identical to its flankers in situ — the reflective surface of an adjacent big screen always sees to that — but it came as close as you’re going to get and delivered effortlessly intelligible, well-integrated dialogue.
Out back, the SS-150THX surrounds were a valuable adjunct. Relative to typical two-way THX dipoles, MK Sound’s tripole array didn't sound terribly different to my ear. This is good if you prefer natural, hard-to-localize surround spatiality and diffuse rearward effects. Given their abilities, the MK Sound surrounds are amazingly compact: No more than half the size of my everyday big Snell surrounds, they seemed to give up little other than extended sub-80-Hz capabilities.
The MX-350THX sub continued to impress me throughout its residence, delivering the effortlessly powerful and limitlessly extended, yet light-touched and detail-friendly, deep bass that’s characteristic of big, “overbuilt” woofers. And it didn’t take big explosions to demonstrate this: The sliding crypt door from the opening moments of the original Stargate was a third-octave or so more ominous than my everyday compact, sealed 12-inch sub manages.
Taken as a whole, this is one system that'll play loud as hell. The 150THX layout absorbed every joule of my 5 x 150-watts-per-channel power amp, a seriously current-rich unit, without any audible shortcoming. During torture tests (well north of actual reference level), I sensed amp clipping before I heard anything unseemly originating in a speaker.
To those prepared to accommodate its setup needs and seating and layout demands, MK Sound’s 150THX speaker suite can bring no-bull, no-frills, no-lie reference-theater sound. This MK grouping may be unlikely to appear in an Architectural Digest spread any time soon, but when the lights are out and the projector’s on, who’s gonna care?
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