Anyone Had Extended Listening Experience With MBL?


Has anyone had the pleasure, listening for extended periods to any of the MBL speakers? If so, how many hours, which speakers & what electronics were driving them? Speaker wires, interconnects? Your thoughts & how engaging did you find them? Thanks.
linden56
Sure.

The speaker is easier to drive than most people think (my exposure is the mbl101). 200 watts is plenty in most rooms. The speaker measures a crazy low efficiency because it is omnidirectional. Once you are back from it a little ways you find its really about 89-90 db. Not that hard to drive.

It can also be driven by tubes. Its not a hard load, but it is 4 ohms. I recommend an amplifier that employs feedback to tame the 8 ohm peak in the upper midrange, otherwise a zero feedback amp can be employed if the proper ZOBEL network is used.

I found the speaker to be musical and IMO much more musical than their amps or preamps! Proper room treatment is a good idea. The imaging is very precise and the speaker is full range. Its also quite fast so it can be really convincing.
I’ve listened to MBL 101E with a variety of components: Jeff Rowland 725 amps, McIntosh amps, and now they’re connected to PS Audio BHK 300 mono-amps. The MBL preamp was used every time I heard them.. All cables are Wireworld Platinum Series 7. The 101E’s are very detailed, open, great imaging and tonality. They can sound too detailed, almost bright at times.

@linden56

Yes, I’ve heard many of their speakers. The first time was at the Show in Newport Beach maybe four years ago. The speaker was the 111F driven by MBL Reference Line electronics including the mono blocks, ref preamp, and the DAC with transport. They almost always have a reel-to-reel as a source as well. I probably listened two hours or more that day, in about 2-3 sessions.

The next time I believe I heard the 101 E and it was all MBL gear but don’t remember which line it was from. Probably listened for an hour. Hard to leave the room.

I then heard the 101-Extremes playing with all MBL Reference electronics as well as the reel-to-reel. I’ve heard that setup two or three times and it is always sublime. Probably listened for more than an hour. It is always hard to leave the room; everything is just so right – for me at least.

I’ve heard the 101 E MkII’s several times with Noble Line electronics and the reel-to-reel.

The last time I heard the 101 E MkII’s with Noble Line electronics and a music server; Jeremy also played the entry-level Corona line with the MBL 126 speakers, C51 Integrated, and N31 CD/DAC (no server). Believe it or not, the entry level system was fairly close to the 101 E MkII’s with Noble Line electronics, just smaller in scale. I was surprised at just how close it was. I’m probably a bit biased though.

I’ve also heard the MBL 116 speakers with McIntosh electronics. I felt that the Mac gear was not a good synergistic match with MBL. Please don’t take that as a jab at Mac because I actually own Mac with Martin Logan now. Mac works well with Martin Logan, just didn’t think so with the MBL speakers.

As far as wire and any power conditioning, I don’t remember the minutiae on that. You could check with Jeremy at MBL and he can tell you because he always does the demos. He always has his systems dialed in.

I know you are wondering how I feel about MBL; was just trying to share which speakers and gear. Firstly I agree with atmosphere, except on the following: in an all-MBL system, synergy is very high and I really love the sound. So much so that I am dreaming of that entry level Corona Line system consisting of the 126 speaker/integrated/CD-DAC and it will probably be my next system if I build another. It’ll be all-MBL because I think so highly of the synergy between MBL components and speakers. I’ve never heard MBL speakers with tubes but that sounds like a proposition based on atmasphere’s observations.  To me synergy is everything and I think MBL speakers with MBL electronics is the sweet spot.


about 8 hours with a Wadia deck, CJ top line pre GAT something, and the big class A Musical Fidelity amp...a beast
cables a mix of Elrod for power and Kubala for signal

the scale was impressive, overall fantastic but as with most omnis the image out of scale and vague....

the hifi WOW was there in spades......
I’ve been a huge fan of MBL since the late 90’s, when I heard the first truly realistic rendering of drums and especially drum cymbals, at a CES show. It blew my mind how much more natural and realistic the MBLs sounded vs everything else at the show (not just spatially, but in every way).

I was pretty obsessed with the 101Ds (at the time) and heard them in various set-ups, including at Absolute Sound reviewer Michael Gindi’s place (he was one of their first cheerleaders). Properly set up, there still isn’t anything that beats an MBL 101 (now in E version) in many respects for realism, IMO. Though MBLs are known for incredible imaging, which I love about them, I’m actually a "truth of instrumental timbre" guy first and foremost. My main disappointment with high end audio is that I can not find a sound system that doesn’t homogenize instruments and voices. But when an MBL speaker is carefully set up (in the right room, and avoiding electronics that emphasize any possible steeliness), to my ears they produce a believable rainbow of timbral colors better than anything else. I have long been in agreement with TAS’s Jonathan Valin that the MBL tweeter is among the best, if not the best, sounding tweeters in the world. The mids and highs of the MBL have the most effortless resolution I personally have heard.

As the MBL 101s are beyond my means, I ended up with a pair of smaller MBL 121 monitors, which share the same omni midrange and tweeter as the big models. So I get to enjoy that special MBL quality whenever I want.

I currently use bigger Thiel 3.7 speakers much of the time and they are resolution and coherency monsters. But whenever I put the MBLs in the system, they show the Thiels their place. The resolution is so fine and natural, the tweeter so unmechanical and believable, and the MBLs portray a range of timbral colors even the Thiels can’t match - the way wood sounds like wood, steel like steal, and they are the only speaker I’ve heard that can outdo the Thiels in soundstaging believability.

As for amplification, given how low their sensitivity is, and the fact you always see MBLs being driven by huge, massively powerful MBL amplifiers, I did worry somewhat about how the 121s would sound with my Conrad Johnson Premier 12 140w/side tube monoblocks. It turns out they are a fantastic match. They drive them beautifully, giving me the things I love about the MBLS, and the things I love about the CJ amps.
(I use a CJ Premier 16LS2 preamp). My room is only 13’ by 15’ and I don’t listen really loud normally, so I don’t need tons of power.

In fact, on of my biggest discoveries was hooking the MBLs up to my classic old Eico HF-81 integrated tube amp, a mere 14W per side! The MBLs sound utterly glorious with that amp, sounding even bigger and lusher than with the CJs. It might actually be my favorite amp/speaker pairing.

Though I may have various floor standing speakers continue to pass through my house, I can’t see ever letting go of the MBLs. They are just too original and do things I’d never get again.

So that’s what I can give you as an owner. (Sorry, no cables mentioned because I don’t do high end cables).

Which MBL speakers are you interested in, linden56?




Rocked my world, prof. Your comments bare heed.

Unfortunately, the only time I heard MBL's was at a RMAF and some guy decked in bling was listening to ZZ Top on the all-MBL system. I sensed he had stupid money, so this was allowed to continue too long. I love ZZ Top and all, but...

Dave



dlcockrum,

Talking about "stupid money.."

I once had a chance to bid for a once-in-a-lifetime priced MBL 101Ds (I think on audiogon).  I was in a bidding war and put in my last bid, way leaping over the other guy, in the last 10 seconds or so.  A software or connection glitch meant the connection timed out and my last bid didn't go through, letting the other guy get it.  I was unbelievably pissed and it's haunted me since.

I actually managed to get in touch with the member who won that auction and it turned out he mostly "liked the way they looked" and put them in his gym to listen to background music while he worked out.

Life ain't fair...


A tragically sad story indeed, prof.

My personal story of material tragedy is the rich kid that bought my mint, numbers-matching 69 Z28 with the ultra-rare (500 produced) GM Penske/Donahue crossram racing intake, two Holly 585 no-choke double pumpers and professionally built, balanced-and-blueprinted 302 motor and then pulled and traded that motor for a POS big block, completely ruining the collectability of the car. $175k => $30k in the blink of an eye. Broke my heart.

Dave

LOL, I had absolutely no idea what you were talking about until I finally saw the word "car" at the end.  I'm not a car guy.  But whatever that meant, you have my sympathies :-)
Ha! A reminder of how the outside world must puzzle at what is written in the audio forums. lol 

Trust me, prof, collector car enthusiasts are every bit as fanatical as audiophiles.

Dave
The MBL preamp was used every time I heard them.. All cables are Wireworld Platinum Series 7. The 101E’s are very detailed, open, great imaging and tonality. They can sound too detailed, almost bright at times.
I would not blame the speakers for brightness. I got to spend some time with the mbl line stage and that seemed to be bright; when we changed it out for a tube preamp (our MP-1) the mbl101s took on a much more natural sound and lost the brightness. They seem to be pretty neutral.

Every time I've heard then at shows though they've sounded bright; but that was with the mbl electronics as well. IMO the speaker is not a good match with their electronics as it gets too bright and sterile, although their amps IMO are better than their preamps in that regard. 
Also, the WireWorld Platinum Starlight cables can be very bright with certain components/systems as well. A very fast cable that demands careful matching IME. Don’t recommend matching them to a system already on the edge...

Dave
I guess the OP got lost?
The OP has posted only 5 times in the last 7 years, started 4 threads with a perfect record of asking a question and then disappearing.

Wish I checked before bothering to answer.  Boo!
Ralph, they want to create a classical German sound, and it appears that they succeed. What may be bright to most of us is not bright for those who prefer that. I am not saying that there is no other kind of German sound, there is.
Question for Inna: classical German orchestras have a rich, dark sound. Are German electronics typically bright and analytical? My main experience with Deutcshe gear has been he Lector CD players - and they're not bright. I will say the MBL integrated amps and CD players or gorgeous

I would love the hear the MBL101Es. 
German electronics is in fact very diverse, just like Germans themselves. Not familiar with MBL but was surprised with Ralph's comments, I never read anything like that about MBL. It is obvious that their speakers should sound different with tube preamp and amp. So what?
@rackon Lector is in fact an Italian company but I'm not sure I'd like to draw any conclusion based only on country of origin. I used to love my old CDP7t, great for tube rolling
Of course not, but there are always cultural influences that might be more articulated at the highest performance level. I would not expect Gryphon to sound like Ypsilon or FM Acoustics or Jadis or Lamm, and not only because of different engineering approaches.
The 101 at high spl is the most convincing rock n roll loudspeaker I've ever heard.  The spatial presentation is just amazing.  The company demos them VERY LOUD at hi-fi shows, so that's one way to check them out for yourself.  Dealers - provided they have a large enough demo space (not all do) - are better.

Caveat: Both system match (enough output into load) and room match (large) are critical, IMO.
Nice gear, but show demos were excessively LOUD.
Anyone have a sense of how MBL speakers would go with VAC electronics (e.g. Phi 200 amplifiers)
peter s,

I'm sure it depends on which MBL speakers you are talking about - though all are very low sensitivity I *think* they tend to not have crazy impedance.  Given my experience using Conrad Johnson amps on my MBLs I'd guess that VAC amps, especially the Phi 200 or similar, would sound great.
I I've only heard the big MBL's at shows. During those less than extended listening experiences, I found them to be perhaps the best speakers I've ever heard. The individual imagining of recorded performers might not have been as dense as on other speakers, but the soundstage was glorious in an oh so organic way. My biggest concern was a detached, lagging bass that could not be ignored. I can't help but wonder if sealed box bass modules wouldn't be better suited? Still from that point up, perhaps the best I've ever heard. Do wish they would lower the volume levels at shows occasionally. Sure, it's nice to know that they're capable of that, but it can be fatigueing over time.
To me MBL is a love/hate thing. I have over the years heard them sound terrific as well as sounding awful.

An omni-directional speaker is not for everyone in terms of how they paint a sound field, as well as how they can work,or not work well in a room.

An omni-directional louspeaker needs a lot of room away from boundary walls and reflective surfaces or the image can sound very disembodied or just too large.

A direct radiating loudspeaker is much less room dependendant because you are dealing with limited amounts of energy bouncing around, and off of areas of the room you don’t want excited there are also computer programs and modeling that can give you predicatable results. 

The sound of MBL can be thrilling, and they do play loud, at shows they are usually played too loud which can make them sound shrill on the top end.

The issue may be that with the low sensitivity 83db or so, many similarily inefficent loudspeakers can sound dynamically restricted at lower volumes, which is the converse of horn systems which sound thrilling at generally all volumes, I am less enamoured with horns due to the copious amounts of horn "throat" colorations that most of the horn system exhibit.

With that being said, MBL is a very fascinating product that if you have your heart set on them, and you can afford good amplification, and you have the right sized room, and or are willing to play around with acoustic treatments, they can be great.

With that being said as a long term dealer and audiophile I feel that those are a lot of ifs that many competitive high performance loudspeakers don’t require.

I have heard a pair of Vivid g1 sound crazy reall and dynamic and that is a speaker that can work in most rooms without having to go crazy.

We sell the Paradigm Persona which can sound crazy realistic and again with room correction it is an easy to use and live with product, same with Legacy.

So the question I would pose is are a set of MBL’s worth what you have to go throught to make them really work vs any of today’s fantastic conventional speakers from Wilson, Rockport, Magico, Paradigm, Legacy, Focal etc?

Too many people are just willing to comment on yes great speakers but do not take into consideration all the points that any omni directional loudspeaker can bring up and another gentleman said you can run MBL with anything, that isn’t really true, MBL makes giant high powered amplifiers for a good reason, MBL loudspeakers do like lots of power in order for them to approach realistic non-dynamically compressed listening levels.

Again, we like MBL it is an ideosyncratic product, just weigh all the pros and cons carefully.

Dave
Audio Doctor NJ



I'm sure it depends on which MBLs.  I have the 121 monitors and have found them very easy to place in my room (13' x 15') for great sound.  But then, I have a good sounding room.
I'm just happy to read some 'omni love' here....*S*

One for dlcockrum, in the 'automotive' sense...

Long ago, far away, I chanced upon a pristine Lotus Elite in a driveway.  An OMG moment...I lingered, but refrained from leaving fingerprints on it or noseprints on the glass....

It disappeared for awhile.

The next time I saw it outside, it had been hacked up into a 'drag car'....like seeing your old high school sweetheart outside of a methadone clinic.

I was really tempted to bang a door and inquire WTF would make one visit such a travesty on what is now a pricey classic.  But I also didn't feel like getting a knuckle sandwich for my outrage.

I know of a soul who's attempting a DIY MBL.  I can admire the attempt, as he's doing a stellar job of it....

There are levels to our 'passions' that surpass mere 'interest' and the search for our personal goal of the 'right sound' or the quest for 'perfection', such as it may be for one.  I have mine....y'all have yours.

Let us continue....;)
Beautiful response & sorry for taking so long to get back. I heard MBL's at the CAF back in 2016. Pierre Spey of Mapleshade Audio was showing them. Can't confirm the model of MBL & they were paired with other speakers.  Do remember the MBL's being driven by tube amps & the realism was definitely there for 3D imaging & proper timbre, which blew me away. Unfortunately, that venue was at the Silver Spring Hilton & the vendors didn't have the best rooms to show in (size & people roaming) plus most rooms were hot & this room was one  of the most unbearable. But the MBL's shined & left a permanent impact on me as no other speaker (None out of many shows) has ever done. I was a musician many years back & felt as if I was in a studio, being in the presence of MBL's.
prof: the only ones I could reach for would be the 120RC's. Wishful thinking that I could possibly own the 101's. I admire avsjerry's friend, going for the DIY approach. How did they ever turn out?
AVSJerry, ever get the chance to hear your friend's generic Radialstrahlers?
I am using full MBL ref line, except the DAC and speaker. from my childhood i grown up with front firing speaker. though i choose mbl after impressed by MBL 121 speaker. BUT my experience with 101, 111f lead me to ditch their speaker line. Now i am driving 9008A with Gryphon Pantheon, bit bass heavy but focusing detail and timber is good for my taste than MBL radial speakers. my cables are Siltech Royal Sig. except the speaker cable is VALHALLA. i found Siltech Prince is not good enough with MBL- Gryphon combo. transparent does good job but the choking feeling you cant hide, yet best Soun-staging produced by Transparent cables. if you like transparent then you r saved but i wish i know Nordot before, than all my cables would be Nordost. however the SILTECH IC, DIGITAL cables and AC power cords are good compare with NORDOST valhalla line. BUT Speaker cable is where SILTECH IS killed brutally in the hand of VALHALLA ( yup i am talking about valhalla 1, i dare not to try V2).   
Hi, I had the astonishing experience to listen to the MBL101E MkII (as well as to the 101 Extreme, but this is definitely out of range and not fitting by any means to my hearing room) on the High End 2019 fair in Munich. I have to say that I was flashed by the performance.
In the next weeks I will try to visit the local dealer here to find out whether the more affordable models (116, 111) are a big compromise.

At the same time, I am wondering which amplifier can drive the MBL speakers, especially when considering some budget constraints. I am aware that you probably need quite a lot of power and especially current capabilities. Has anyone of you had the chance to hear or test the MBLs with Musical Fidelity amps? I think about either the M8 models (M8 700m or M8 500s) or even their integrated Nuvista amps (Nu-Vista 800 or 600).
Best regards,
Harald