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.