Scansonic MB 3.5 review


I am writing this review because it seems as though there isn’t a lot of experiential information on the Scansonic MB series on the web or in print. I am not a reviewer, However, I have been in the high end since the 1970s. That doesn’t make me an old fart, my first system was my dad’s. A Sansui 8 receiver, Dual 1219 spinner, and an Akai reel to reel with Pioneer speakers, all purchased during a 1972 tour in Vietnam (Thailand). Boy, those were the days.

Anyway, my current system consists of a BMC CS2 integrated amp, Oppo 105 modded by EVS (a wunderkind), a Sony HAPZ-1ES, and a Project RPM3 turntable. I just bought this to get back into vinyl and am already looking to move up the chain. I had forgotten the subtlety of vinyl. My speakers were long in the tooth Snell’s. So, went around to my local audio “salon’s” and spent time listening. I heard the Scansonic MB 3.5s. Decided after a period of time to purchase these BMCs. I ran them in to about 150 hours. Well, I made a mistake; the highs were sharp, the seamless transition between frequencies and drivers WAS not there. They sounded disjointed, like the drivers were working against each other. I do not use subjective terms coined by reviewers; organic reminds me of natural cow crap used to grow organic fruits. Airy, mystical, juicy, ripe, whizzy, whimsical, and all the other descriptive words mean nothing. What makes it worse, is that so many amateur “audiophiles” parrot this stuff having no real idea what they mean.

Emotion is the key word, if I can listen to The Funeral by Ennio Moriconne, or 2 Chellos Benedictus, and it moves me to tears…then that is a special speaker. Yes, I have heard the Wilson’s, the Magico’s, and many others. I happen to be good friends with an audio salon owner and have carte blanche at his place. I have even had the pleasure and the gracious accommodation to bring the stratospheric into my home for a listen. Great speakers to be sure, but I don’t need them to be emotionally moved. One of my favorite speakers was the Gemme Audio Katana. Those babies were bargain at their price point and were phenomenal.

Ok, back to the story. I consigned the Scansonics to my kid’s system in the basement. They watch movies and play video games. One thing about the 3.5s, they can play very loud, and the kids loved them…kids being kids. Well, a few months went by of continuous use and a funny thing happened on the way to the forum (movie joke). The kids were playing music at reasonable levels and were just listening to Pharrell. The MB3.5s sounded well, wonderful, playing on a Pioneer AV Dolby Atmos unit. Ok, W. T. Fart?

I repossessed the speakers and put them back into my rig. The first thing I noticed was a greatly improved sensitivity response. I kept careful records when I ran them in. The BMC volume was noted to notch in at a volume of 42 to get the speakers to really breath and move along. Now, the volume was noted to be 34 with a corresponding SPL to the previous 42 level. The integration between drivers was silky smooth. I don’t worry about measuring drops and detents at certain frequencies, if you HEAR it then it is a problem. The bass production was tight, controlled, and prolific. Just listen to “Cheerleader” by Omi, excellent bass intertwined with trumpet. Clear, detailed, separated, just a beautiful reproduction of the trumpet combined with a bass beat that gets you moving. 2 Chellos have an emotionally charged vehicle in “Benedictus.” The strings made the hair on my skin stand up…I could feel the stroke of the cat bow against the strings. Yes, Jennifer Warnes, Norah Jones, the overused examples of soft jazz and voicing for speakers. But, there is a reason; here, the voicing was all consuming, like they were sitting in front of me having a musical conversation. I’ve always been a firm believer that appropriate cabinet resonance adds to the music, that developers account for resonance to actually make the sound better as a background flavor and not distortion. Most higher end companies ban resonance as a part of the plan for the speaker’s sound. The aluminum cabinets of the 3.5s do not resonate as a wood cabinet does, and does not offer any detractable noise or frequency projection.

The acid test. I was never a fan of AC/DC as a kid. Now, I get it. I loaded Thunderstruck into the Sony and cranked it up. At ear bleeding levels, the speakers never broke, they never whimpered and took everything the BMC could offer, or at least, what I could stand. The 3.5s presented the music the same as they would at ¼ the SPL. No break up, clear, detailed, chest pumping projection. The glare that I first heard in the upper treble was gone and the music was just pleasant, a bit “forward,” which I like. Imaging had grown to envelopment. And, now, when soft listening is required at night, the low volume levels project excellent music production without a loss to any octave.

Here is what I know now. The break in time for the MB 3.5s is over 500 hours. Period. Remember, you do not break in the electronics, those components break in at about 100 hours. You don’t break in the cones; it is the spiders that must be broken in. And like the Raidho, it takes forever, must be that Nordic resin or pine sap they use to coat the spiders. The loudspeakers must be placed at nine feet apart or a bit more, at least 4 feet from the side walls, and 4 feet from the front wall. The side firing woofers need room, and any closer the walls will compress and muddy up (danger, danger, subjective word!) the bass sound. These require a better amplifier; the Marantz is not a small investment, but did not produce sound like the BMCs. The sound was more “open,” and imaging was far better. And, the Marantz just did not produce an esoteric emotional reaction.

I think that many may give up on these speakers too soon to really hear their potential. Scansonic should break in time and pay attention to placement in the literature. This is my experience and opinions of this post may run the gamut.    


roguemodel
Great review. I've come close to upgrading from 2.5 to 3.5 several times. May give it another look. This review seems to be in line with what I've been told about the 3.5 as well. Enjoy!
Very nice review indeed. Also, great point in the lesson that when it comes to speakers, aside from placement, just the time it takes to break them in can be a chore. I've read too many ads here on A'gon where someone has a "like new" speaker for sale and have always wondered if they gave them time to fully break in.

Something else that might help is to try out a test CD. Ayre's Irrational but Efficacious CD did wonders for my system. Assorted white, pink and brown noise, in and out of phase as well as in mono along with short and long glide tones really woke up my system. It's said to remove magnetic and static build up in gear but I think it especially works the drivers in a speaker.

Music cannot cover the full frequencies for the durations needed to fully break in all that a speaker is capable of. What your kids probably did, with all the gaming and their music, was to approximate the various noise and levels needed that a good test CD can do. Just my take.

After playing the test CD, it removed any doubts or reservations I had about my speakers, and I thought they were broken in some time ago.

All the best,
Nonoise


Nice review,I couldnt agree more with setup and break in..I was running tubes with mine and like it a lot..Bought a new Plinius integrated/200 watts I think and the level of owner appreciation increased with the Scansonics.After years of buying,trading,trying,listening at shows as well as dealer show rooms these speakers bring a whole new light to affordable quality,IMO.
Nice review. I just got a MB 3.5 today. It is a store demo run for about 200 hrs but at low volume.
I have the Hegel h 360 as the amplifier which gives out a prodigious 250 W RMS into 8 ohms. i bought it from the same dealer as the MB3.5
I noticed that when i turned on the volume of the hegel to about 75 ( out of a max of 99) the woofer units on the side of the MB3.5 started to give a rattling sound. i checked out with the dealer who told me not to play the MB 3.5 beyond the 65 mark and that he had always played it below the 60 level mark. i noticed in one of the audio forums that this rattling of the side  woofers is part of the break in of the speaker.
any comments on my experience with the MB 3.5 or similar are highly welcome


Nice review, thanks Rogue. I also suspect new owners not allowing enough break-in time. I was able to get a pair of 2.5's in June at nearly 50% off and when installed in my system they were just awful. Pit in the stomach awful. Set them up in the basement for 3 straight weeks using a pink noise cd and they really opened up and have good bass control. Positioning and toe-in took some time to get right in my room, but now approaching 1000 hours they sound amazing! 

I probably would never have done the 500 hours break-in had I not read through the AVS Scansonic forum. Positioning guidance helped as well. Thank goodness for audio communities!

I did notice a significant improvement recently when I installed a Bridge II card in my PS Audio PerfectWave II DAC. Control of the bass as well as depth and width to the soundstage increased. Really surprised me how much an improvement even on 16bit files the bridge gave to the 2.5's. 24/192 sound even better!
Hi guys,
Happy new year .
Am eager for some positioning tips on MB 3.5 / MB 2.5

i have a couple of things which worked for me on MB 3.5
- I have marble flooring in the house so was getting rattling sound from the MB 3.5 and also the entire cabinet was vibrating a lot when i raised the volume - high but not very loud.
Two things worked for me
1) Raising the speakers using the height adjustment of at the feet.
2) placing spike washers at the 8 spikes.
3) Placing the woofers of the speakers inside rather than outside.
This really helped in the bass becoming less boomy and imaging becoming better.

Please let me know of positioning tips on these speakers.
Just wanted to ask a question to the thread starter. Currently I have Gemme Audio Tantos, and I love them. But I have been using them for a while and now feeling the need to upgrade.  My current listening area is 15.5' X 9.5', but the room extends into the dining area, so the actual room dimension is 15.5 X 16.  What in your opinion are some speakers that will give me an upgrade over the Tantos, without losing what they offer (dynamics, low volume openness and bass).