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I've heard them on numerous occasions, almost always with mbl electronics (once with Jadis JA 500s). Absolutely astonishing soundstaging and transient speed, very lifelike dynamics. You can walk right into the soundstage, like with an omni-directional speaker. My main complaint about them is that, to me (and to a friend of mine who was also initially blown away by them) they seem a bit bright in the treble when listened to over time. In addition, the deepest bass always seemed to be just a slight bit slower than the rest of the drivers to me, almost a little boomy. And the price of the amps needed to drive them was off-putting, though maybe there's something out there that can drive them for a reasonable price. Still, even with the (relatively minor) faults, one of my favorite speaker systems. You might not like them if you don't like the sound of omnis, though.
The MBL may be the single most difficult loudspeaker system in the world to set up correctly. I've heard them in Vegas (where rooms are always questionable) sounding both great and mediocre. Then I heard them in Munich in a room suited for them and they were nothing short of astonishing. rcprince pointed out a 'boomy bass'. That can definitely happen, hence the great variablity in their sound. If you room will accommodate them is a real question. In and of themselves, they are wonderful, Highly Reccommended from me. Electronic choice will be critical.
MBL sometimes demos the 101s at very high volume with a very good, tho unfamiliar, electric blues recording. At the LAX show, maybe five or six years ago, it was the single most convincing recording of a small combo with electric guitar that I've ever heard. Very loud, very dynamic, and tangibly three dimensional. Nuances in tone aren't going to be front and center in that type of demo, but there was nothing distracting about those characteristics.
However, I've also heard them at a few dealers where the tonal balance has always been an issue. Especially in smaller demo rooms, the bass can be a little much and the presence region a bit forward. I was actually considering a purchase at one time, but held off because I feared that my room was probably too small to get proper bass balance. Even then, I thought hard about possibly bypassing the internal woofer box in favor of stand-alone subs. Eventually, I decided to pass.
In all, I find that the 101 is among the truly great speakers that I've ever heard, but they really need a large space to sound right in tonal balance IMO.
BTW, I found the smaller MBL floorstanders much less impressive.
They are perfect if you like walking around your room constantly when listening to music. They require nuclear power plant to get them working. I find them to sound very nice for the first 30 mins. As you sit down and get all comfy then all the little flaws start to appear. like the English would say..... "Not my cup of tea"
Dragon its true you can walk around the room while listening and things will continue to sound good just from a different perspective with radial speakers like mbl but more importantly you are not limited to a single sweet spot and can listen from anywhere in the room and still get a coherent sound stage and imaging which makes for a more realistic listening experience IMHO. The OHM Walsh speakers that are my preference work similarly and is just one reason why no other speakers seem to be able to displace those in my house.
No have never owned mbl but heard in demos on various occasions at dealers and shows.
I have owned OHM Walsh speakers for many years and these are still my go to speakers. They are radial designs that have a lot in common with mbl in regards to overall presentation but are much more affordable and designed to fit into most people’s rooms easier (closer placement to walls possible).
Most people including myself probably do not have the rooms needed to allow larger mbls to do their thing to the max. That and the cost make them a tough choice for many I would say. OHM Walsh speakers are a much more practical solution. Plus OHM is US based, has been around many years, and offer absolute top notch customer service in most every regard. TCO over time is much better with OHM I would expect, especially for US based customers.
I also suspect OHm Walsh is much easier to drive than most mbl speakers so easier to get the most out of them (which is a lot) with reasonably affordable good quality amplifiers available to most in the US.
Well they definitely do not sound like most speakers, that much is for sure.
Teh best mbl demo I have heard (at dealer, set up almost nearfield with large space both behind me and the speakers) perhaps sounded the most like real music to me of any, mostly due to the wide and deep holographic soundstage with orchestra members placed cleanly within it.. Others not set up so well (at shows) were quite mediocre at best. So like most things it would seem to depend. I heard this setup with CD, phono and RTR tape source. All were impressive but the RTR was the most lifelike by a clean margin
not sure I'd generalize to that extent.
There are smaller models that might work well in smaller rooms but distance to walls is probably almost always desirable.
I'm sure there there are much less expensive amps up to the task of driving them well. However, all demos I have heard have been with MBL amplification TTBOMK.
I don't know why bass integration would be any harder than with other speakers.
Imaging is different, perhaps unusual, but I'd say the soundstage and imaging characteristics of omni's/radials in general are what distinguishes them. Each may either take to it or not. It does take some getting used to, but I find once you do its hard to ever go back.
I have heard them numerous times at shows and in a couple showrooms. At their best, they sound VERY good. The best that I heard them sound was in quite large rooms, rooms that were closer to small auditorium than even a large living room. Also, they really sound their best at somewhat high volume and are not as lively and dynamic sounding when playing softly. The depth of image, sense of envelopment and the ability to sit off axis and still get a good image is really topnotch with these speakers; they are not quite as good at doing the extremely distinct and sharp center image.
There is a touch of the hard, almost mechanical sounding edge to the initial attack of notes; whether this is a characteristic of the speaker or of the amps, it is hard to say, but in any case, characteristic is common to most high-powered tube and solid state amps. In a lot of rooms, the bass was a bit overwhelming and that probably accounts for why the bass also sound a bit disconnected or slow. Overall, a fantastic speaker if you like your music loud.
Heard them several times at the Newport Beach Audio Show.
The smaller 116s in a small room were nothing remarkable.
The 101s, however, are perhaps the best-sounding speaker I have ever heard by a long shot. They were set up in a double hotel room, driven by big mbl amps and the presence and soundstaging were nothing short of astonishing. As I changed places in the room the soundstage perspective of the performers simply changed and the soundstage did not collapse as it does virtually every other speaker I have heard. Detail and transparency was terrific.
I also heard the big Master References in a big room also driven by big mbl amps and using a digital front end. MBL was only allowing people to stay for one session, so I was sorely disappointed to hear MBL play some joker's Michael Jackson CD, but even then the sound had the most lifelike dynamics, transparency, and speed I have ever witnessed, even if the soundstage was a little diffuse. I am not a big fan of pinpoint imaging that one rarely hears live and IMO is a studio artifact anyway. Luckily some other music was played and I heard several that I then bought.
Summary: If the sound of the two big mbl systems was an A, every other system I have ever heard started at B-.
I heard the MBL "system" during one of my travels in Dubai in a store that looked more like a luxury HiFi supermarket, a few stores down from the Ferrari dealership. The demo room was acoustically optimized and the presentation was simply unreal. That was the only time in my life that I wished I had picked a different line of work, legal or illegal, and could just hand my credit over to the salesman with a shipping address... It completely ruined my ears for music. Madeleine Peyroux's voice has never sounded the same..
That’s my personal experience only of course. It is an acquired taste, not for everyone obviously. YMMV
But good radials/omnis like mbl or OHM are worth a try for those just not finding the complete answer with more conventional designs and willing to try something truly different and unique. Like conventional speakers, no two designs will sound or work exactly the same. OHM and mbl for example share a radial design but sound very different.
I mention OHM mainly becasue I am most familiar with those and they are a much more affordable and practical option for those interested in trying such things than mbl. The largest most expensive OHMs will likely still cost less than the smallest mbls so that’s a big difference. Both will respond similarly to quality amplification and source material upstream.
I think they're a very good loudspeaker. I also think they're not a good value. There are other loudspeakers I like as well if not better, for less money.
In this league, I'd encourage you to audition the big Avalon loudspeakers. You can get some of the older, Eidolon models for $12,000 or less on the used market.
What's an even better value is for you to build a Linkwitz LX521 or Orion system. Both will stand up against the MBL or Avalon systems without breaking a sweat. You can build either, with amplification, for $6000 or less. They're extreme hi-end the common man can afford. But if you feel you just have to drop $20,000, go right ahead.
Here are some comments I made in another thread a six weeks ago. I've expanded for this topic.
I most recently heard the Corona line integrated amp, CD/DAC, and their entry level speakers (approx $30k for the three pieces) and it was very lovely. Fairly close to much more expensive systems in their line up. That was compared to the Noble line amps & dac with the 101E MkII. Source was a computer playing files vs. the Corona CD player. Bass was better with the 101E MkIIs ($70k for speakers alone) but really both systems just sing. I've also heard the Extreme system several times and other systems with their mid-line speakers. So I know what they sound like. For reference, my system consists of a McIntosh integrated, Martin Logan Vantage ESLs, Shunyata Research, & Oppo 105.
I have heard one of the midline floorstanding Mbl speakers with other manufacturers amps & source. I didn't feel it was as good as the all Mbl systems I'd heard on that day or in other dealers or at the Show Newport. I think there is a special synergy with an all-Mbl system. After all, I'm sure that they are voiced with amps/sources in each respective line.
It has been over three decades since I've had a system that was totally built by one manufacturer. Mbl has definitely inspired me to think about that again. Really, it is my dream system. But at $30k it is a BIG stretch, really out of reach if I'm honest with myself.
I have used MBL 101 E speakers the last five years, and love them !
They are power hungry, hard to set up and ruthless at finding the flaws in your system. But when everything is right they just bring you to the recording venue. Good live recordings are just spooky with these speakers. I have used them in relative small rooms with success, you need a little over 1 meter of room behind them and a lot of absorbers on the side walls. They do work best with the big 9011 MBL amps, the mid bass is hard to energize with lesser amps.
I used big Krell FPB 750 amps and did not realize how much better the mid bass could get, until i got a 9011 in the system. There is a synergy between these amps and the power hungry speakers. I currently use only one amp set up for stereo. My listening levels rarely exceed 85 dB, and can not recommend levels under 75dB.