M&K Sound MP-150Unlike our other two low-carb entries, this system from M&K Sound makes no effort to match flat-panel TV sets in sleekness or shininess. But its five identical satellites are only 5 1 / 2 inches deep. The MP-150 is a conventional small, black-box two-way speaker, very much in keeping with the California firm's no-nonsense, pro-audio approach to design. M&K somehow managed to cram into a wall-mountable cabinet two midrange/bass drivers and its typical three-tweeter vertical array, which controls how much of the sound "spills" to the ceiling and floor. To go with the MP-150s, the company sent its MX-700 subwoofer.
The face of the MP-150 is angled slightly so that you can aim the front left/right pair either slightly up or down according to the height of your TV. (I angled mine up since my plasma is centered a bit below the ideal center position on the wall.) The metal slide-mount wall bracket is supremely simple and effective, and it adds less than a half inch of depth - just enough to route speaker wires if they're not in the wall.
PERFORMANCE Two-channel listening revealed the MP-150 to be a straightforward performer. It sounded clear, dynamic, and slightly "dark" in the upper midrange. It also had extended, highly focused treble, but it didn't have the harshness I remember from similar M&K speakers.
You could probably use the MP-150s on their own for casual music listening, but for anything more demanding, you'll want to add a sub. When I balanced the MX-700 subwoofer with the MP-150s, the sound was rich, "fast," and full of precise dynamic shadings. In fact, the M&K offered the most focused stereo imaging of our three systems. Instruments and voices were stable and positioned exactly where the mix put them. It sounded like I was sitting in the control room listening to Costello's gorgeously recorded vocals right off the North master tapes.
Sound this intimately detailed can occasionally be a bit too "close" for stereo listening, but multichannel playback brought the Californians fully into their own. With five MP-150s arrayed around my listening room, the multichannel mix of North sounded awesome, and movie soundtracks blended seamlessly across the three front channels - every word of dialogue was clearly audible.
The MP-150s performed fine as surround speakers. If you place them high on the side walls, you can take advantage of their tilted faces to angle the cabinets up and bounce the sound off the ceiling for a more diffuse, dipole-like sound. Or you can angle them down for the more direct sound that often works best with multichannel music. And the MP-150's vertical array is an asset in the center position, where it keeps off-axis sound very even. Its image and tone both remained amazingly stable and consistent even when I moved to either end of my couch.
Small box speakers aren't always the most dynamically capable, but the M&Ks were an exception. With the MX-700 sub dialed in, this system played far louder than I'd ever ask for in real-life listening - with no signs of stress.
While the M&Ks were set up, I surfed across Biker Boyz on HBO-HD (I'll watch anything with motorcycles). The system pounded out the hip-hop soundtrack at absurd levels without breaking a sweat, and the high-winding sport bikes revved smoothly across the front trio with perfect continuity. The MX-700 sub is a compact design (though the amp's cooling fins protrude a good bit) with substantial grunt. It didn't match the Thiel sub's amazing low-bass output on stuff like the U-571 depth charges, but it wasn't all that far off - and it did it at a quarter the price and half the size. I loved the MX-700's compactness, but if you need super-loud deep bass in a big room, consider a bigger subwoofer. M&K makes several good ones.
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