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Athens 2014: The eyeball magnet, aka, MBL

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hes-2014If you like visiting audio shows (and since you are reading this chances are you like it as much as I do) then you must have noticed that on every show the German high-end company MBL presents their system visitors flock in like crazy.

There are several reasons why this happens. The first to pop in mind is the price tag. Many show visitors are curious to listen to the most expensive system of the show, and the big MBL ones can be really expensive. Then it has to do with the looks, nothing departs from the standard speaker design like say a pair of Radialstrahler mbl 101 E MK II with the omnidirectional tweeter and midrange. The MBL electronics are also quite something, power amplifiers like the 9008 A should be used as examples in the dictionary under the voice “massive” with 440Watts/8Ω in mono and 60 kgr of weight per piece. Even the 6010D pre-amplifier is humongous, way bigger than the typical pre-amp you have in mind and probably bigger than most high-end integrated amplifiers in the market. If size matters then this should explain the crowd in MBL’s installations.

There is one last thing that differentiates MBL from the others, all of them. The soundstage. The Radialstrahlers are beacons of sound with omnidirectional tweeters, mid tweeters and midrange drivers unique to MBL plus a 12” woofer to fill in the lower octaves. There are two distinct problems in this design, first you need big rooms and preferably should place the speaker away from walls. The second problem is the sensitivity of these proprietary units, around 80dB without taking into consideration the reflected waves but MBL has you covered with the in-house amplifiers, which were designed to drive such difficult speakers on the first place.

During the show Acoustic Signature’s top of the line Ascona turntable with SME V tonearm and Kuzma Car-40 MC cartridge provided the vinyl pleasure while a MBL1621A CD player and 1611 DAC took care of the digital front end. All cables were Shunyata Research, Anaconda series.

In Jacintha’s “The Look of Love” from Here’s to Ben (LP, vocal tribute to Ben Webster) I witnessed the most silent hall of the show, people stopped chatting; they were left speechless and focused on the music. Jacintha appeared high above our seats and her sensual voice filled the room, sensational! Then for a classic of the jazz world, “Satchmo plays King” we had a live concert of Louis Armstrong and friends. We were no longer sitting in front of the stage, we were inside.

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2 Comments on Athens 2014: The eyeball magnet, aka, MBL

  1. In all the ultra high end, MBL appears to be the only OEM able to assemble and all-MBL system (sans analog source). At CES, at least twice, my experience matched the author’s. Show attendee mouths open and they appear stunned at the experience, unlike anything else.

    The larger MBL systems have a unique combination of image density (like a horn) + spatial qualities (unlike anything else) + electrostatic-level of transparency + gut-shaking dynamics + bass that moves the foundation. At 2014 RMAF was a non-MBL omni-pole circa $50k/pr. It had a lot of the MBL’s qualities, but lacked the above described mix.

    Like Wilson Audio owns a unique position in all loudspeakers, MBL seems to have the omin-pole segment wrapped up tight.

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