Walking around T.H.E. Show Newport this year was certainly a trek, and it definitely requires more than one day to see a good chunk of exhibitors. While the Atrium hotel didn’t have exhibits spread out on 10 floors like the Hilton, there were hidden nooks and crannies of audio fun waiting to be discovered all over.
One room that proved to always be full was MBL of Germany. Their unique Radialstrahler speaker is usually a hit at hifi audio shows, and this time was no exception. I brought a Bill Frisell CD along (Gone, Just Like a Train), and asked if I might hear a track through the MBL system. The gentleman representing MBL obliged, but only after he told me that it must be demagnetized first. I smiled, and apologized for bringing stray magnetic fields into his room. After the cheesy audiophile banter, I sat front center and took off into the recording. The depth and width of the soundstage was exquisite. Not only could I localize all musicians, but the space around them was natural and not exaggerated. From top to bottom I heard all of Frisell’s stereo guitars, the thunderous deep bass of Victor Krauss, and Jim Keltner playing the drums in just the right space.
While these speakers sounded thrilling, the reproduction of sound was something of a fantasy- dispersing sound in 360 degrees while bass is fired below- this creates some low mid mud that is minor, but discernible.
The MBL audio experience is a must for any visitor to a hifi show. I have never heard a grand piano sound so convincingly real than when they play one over the MBL full range systems. This is the kind of excitement and realism that fools the ears into believing a live music performance is actually taking place! Involving, fun, fun, fun for millionaires!
Although the MBL audio systems are extremely expensive, it’s always fun to walk in and hear a demo! I must say that the smaller version of this speaker did not impress very much. It was my experience that the large floorstanding Radialstrahler has much better depth and evenness in frequency response than the stand mounted MBL speaker. Here is a pic from last year’s show in Newport.
Photos taken by Vahan Baladouni