Home Theater Review

 

Tekton Design M-Lore Loudspeaker Reviewed

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
4.5 Stars
Value
5 Stars
Overall
5 Stars

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Tekton_M-Lore_floorsatanding_speaker_review_pair_angled.jpgI started my evaluation of the M-Lore with an old favorite "I Love You" by Barenaked Ladies from their first studio album Gordon (Sire). Because of the M-Lore's effortless nature they are deceptively loud - by that I mean where normal loudspeakers are happy in terms of volume, the M-Lores will blast you out of your listening chair. Not that the M-Lore's sound at high levels (peaks of 110dB) is horrible, it's just a lot more "live" sounding than you'll find from traditional loudspeakers. There's a good reason for this, for the M-Lore uses pro sourced drivers - drivers you're more likely to find in a guitar or PA speaker than a traditional audiophile loudspeaker. Thankfully, the album Gordon is a largely "naked," aka acoustic affair that suited the M-Lore just fine. Vocals had a presence about them that put them square in the room with me, projecting forward of the left and right speaker plane by several feet. Despite their low profile, the M-Lores didn't confine the music to an area just above my floor or worse, trap it in an area no bigger than my HDTV. Instead the performance was life-like in size, scale and weight. There was coherence across the entire frequency range that reminded me of my old MartinLogan CLS IIzs. However the M-Lore possessed more weight throughout and dynamic prowess, which anyone who's owned CLS' before will tell you are its Achilles heel. Speaking of dynamics - the M-Lore's dynamic prowess is startling and its speed blistering. Every pluck, every hit was rendered in such a way as to convince you that you were listening to the real thing. Was I fooled into thinking I was listening to a live event? No, but rarely will you hear a studio recording recreated via a traditional speaker with such clear emphasis.

While I found myself getting wrapped up in the M-Lore's performance there were a few items that did begin to stick out for me. First, the M-Lore's soundstage isn't a cavernous, air filled experience - instead it's more of a wall of sound, albeit a well defined one. I don't want to suggest that the M-Lore's soundstage is two-dimensional and lacking air, it's just more indicative of, you guessed it, a live event, where instruments can and often encroach upon one another. The M-Lore's soundstage isn't sloppy, for I was always acutely aware of each and every musical instrument; they just existed in the same space versus somehow being magically separated. Another thing I noticed, at least with the track "I Love You," was the fact that the M-Lores didn't fully disappear from my aural view. It wasn't that the sound was strictly confined to the speakers (it wasn't) but it didn't appear to come from around the speakers either.

Moving on, I cued up "Becoming One of the People..." from the Avatar soundtrack by James Horner (Atlantic). Giving the M-Lore a bit more volume, not to mention musical complexity, I sat back and eagerly awaited what was about to unfold. What I got was astonishing. I've used this track as well as ones like it; tracks such as "Seville" from the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack (Hollywood Records) and "Far Above the Clouds" from Tubular Bells 3 (Warner UK), all orchestral and all with moments that, when properly reproduced should shock and awe. The M-Lores, despite their modest size, served up all the shock and awe this reviewer could've hoped for and while I did have to use a subwoofer (or two) to augment the M-Lore's low end, that doesn't mean any aspect of the M-Lore's performance is the lesser for it. I was able to hear further into the recordings and discern the minutest of details with ease in ways few speakers, regardless of price, have managed to match - at least in my room. There was an organic quality to all three performances that came across as nothing short of natural. High frequencies were crisp and sharp but not fatiguing, with air appropriate to my listening environment. The midrange was again beautifully textured with an in-room presence that only barely managed to overshadow what was a terrific bass performance. The soundstage again wasn't cavernous, though the M-Lore does project more than conventional speakers meaning that more of the soundstage existed between the speakers themselves versus behind them. The most remarkable thing about the M-Lore's orchestral performance was its ability to be both laid back and forward, depending upon the music. The opening of "Becoming" is rather laid back and a bit subdued; however after a few minutes things begin to build and with it the M-Lore.

Not being able to resist, I cued up No Doubt's "Hella Good" from their album Rock Steady (Interscope). The snare drum hits were sharp, bordering on violent, and before you run off and label this as a bad thing, think about what a snare drum sounds like when struck hard and when standing beside it. That's what a snare drum sounds like through the M-Lores with the volume set to stun. Even at these extreme levels the M-Lore's drivers failed to compress - I'm talking about peaks reaching as high as 110dB. Vocals were again crisp and clear with terrific weight and scale and thanks to the M-Lore's ability to project, vocals stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the musical elements unfolding behind and to the sides. The M-Lore's bass was surprising, though in my room required a sub to be truly full range. The lower midrange had so much power, speed and finesse that it blended beautifully with my JL Audio Fathom f110 subwoofers.

I ended my evaluation of the M-Lore with Peter Cincotti's Live in New York on DVD (Monster Music). This brilliantly recorded album, complete with wonderful HD captured video (it's not on Blu-ray) can be a real torture test for loudspeakers with its various brass instruments and punchy, live sound - not so for the M-Lore. I played the saxophone and over the years have owned several and I must admit I don't believe I've heard a loudspeaker reproduce a tenor saxophone with such aplomb as the M-Lore. It was eerily close to sounding like the real thing. Because of how Monster chose to mic and mix Live in New York, the immediacy of the M-Lore's performance was taken to eleven, and it was incredible to behold. In other words this is where I stopped taking notes and simply sat back and enjoyed the performance.

I know what you're thinking: wow, the perfect speaker and it doesn't cost a fortune - who knew? Well, for many the M-Lore will represent loudspeaker perfection, for it doesn't get in the way of your favorite music nor does it set out to change it, two things all loudspeakers should aspire to. However, some will no doubt view the M-Lore as brash or revealing for when your loudspeaker hasn't been voiced to sound like anything other than the live event, certain recordings, especially studio recordings, can sound a bit off. Not necessarily bad, just different. If you're more likely to listen to jazz, orchestral or well recorded rock, the M-Lore may just be the ideal speaker for you. If your tastes lean more towards Billboard's current Top 10, you may want to look elsewhere, for the M-Lore will not be doing you or your music any favors. The better the recording, the better your experience is bound to be with the M-Lore. That's not to say you can't enjoy all types of music with them, you'll just quickly find out which of your albums cut the mustard and which ones don't. Also, the M-Lore really is designed to be placed in a smaller room and while they can play in excess of 100dB with ease, their butter zone appears to really be in the realm of 60 to 90dB, which in my room isn't a "live" level but still wholly enjoyable. For those of you with rooms similar to mine or larger, Tekton offers other designs better suited to your needs while still managing to be affordable too.

Tekton_M-Lore_floorsatanding_speaker_review_black.jpgThe Downside
The M-Lore is a special loudspeaker, without a doubt one of my new favorites, however it does have its share of drawbacks starting with its size. Because the M-Lore is a diminutive 34-inches tall, it's not necessarily at the ideal height for all listening positions. Thankfully, my couch is modern, meaning low, which worked well with the M-Lores. Should your listening chair be higher than mine you'll want to invest in platforms of some type to raise the M-Lores up a bit so that the center of their eight-inch driver rests at approximately ear level. I recommend using either Auralex's SubDude HD platforms or maple platforms from Mapleshade.

Also, thanks to the M-Lore's height, those of you with large dogs or small children will need to take extra precaution to ensure heavy tails or curious fingers don't damage the speaker's drivers. You can order your M-Lores with the optional grills but special care should still be taken.

Currently, the M-Lores utilize some pretty "beefy" binding posts, which can accommodate all types of speaker wire though their center posts are a bit too thick for most spade lugs. I've spoken with Eric about this "issue" and he assures me that he's looking into it and plans on having a more universal solution figured out very soon. Of course you can always order your pair of M-Lores with Cardas binding posts, which does add a bit to the cost but should be more spade lug friendly. Those of you using bare wire or banana adapted speaker cables should disregard this criticism.

For true low-end oomph you'll want to pair the M-Lore with a subwoofer, though it needs to be one that is as fast and articulate as the M-Lore itself. My JL Audio Fathom f110 fit the bill nicely though at $2,100 retail is considerably more than the M-Lore itself. Tekton has a few pictures on their blog of custom subwoofers so it might be worth a call or email to inquire about having a matching M-Lore sub built to augment the M-Lore's bottom octaves. Of course, setting the M-Lores up in a smaller room will also aide in their low-end response.

Competition and Comparison
Truth be told, there aren't a lot of loudspeakers at or near the M-Lore's price that can do what the M-Lore can do. Most mainstream manufacturers charge $650 for a pair of bookshelf speakers let alone floorstanding ones. That being said there are a few other loudspeakers worth considering if you're leaning towards buying a loudspeaker like the M-Lore.

Zu Audio's OMEN loudspeaker is one such speaker, though despite looking eerily similar to the M-Lore, the OMEN misses, for it costs double what the M-Lore does without providing twice the performance. Even if you customized your M-Lore to match the wood finish of the OMEN, you'd still be saving money. That, and in my opinion the M-Lore sounds a bit better. Granted, Zu Audio has a bit more "brand presence" but where it matters, sound quality, the M-Lore sounds a bit more mature, not to mention its tweeter doesn't turn violent at high volumes.

Another option to consider would have to be Aperion Audio Intimus 4T Tower Speaker, which at $650 a pair is evenly match, in terms of price, with the M-Lore. While the 4Ts are good (really good actually), they don't possess the same coherence and effortless nature that the M-Lore does. That and the M-Lore's largely uncolored sound throughout its frequency band is a real treat once you've grown accustomed to it, making the 4T sound a bit veiled and slow in comparison. Still, the 4Ts take up less space, don't require additional platforms or stands and are far more forgiving of source material and components than the M-Lore.

Lastly, there's Magnepan's MMG loudspeaker, which for many is the reigning king of affordable loudspeakers. There's no denying the MMG's inherent value proposition at $599 a pair - they're stellar, which is why I own a pair and have for some time. Still, you couldn't ask for two different approaches to speaker design when comparing the MMG to the M-Lore, for the M-Lore is far more focused and agile in comparison, though the MMG is more lush compared to the M-Lore. Still, the power it takes to make the MMGs truly sing is enough to make the M-Lore explode, which does add to the MMG's bottom line. For me, I like them both, though consider them to be competitors in price only, for their approach to the music couldn't be more different.

For more on floorstanding loudspeakers including the latest news and reviews please visit Home Theater Review's Floorstanding Loudspeaker page.

Conclusion
I'm going to cut right to the chase: Tekton Design's M-Lore loudspeaker at $649 a pair is stupid good and is flat out capable of embarrassing the competition near, at and even above its modest asking price. True the M-Lore isn't perfect, no speaker is, however when fed the proper source material through the right associated equipment, the aural experience the M-Lore is capable of providing borders on otherworldly - especially for a sub-$1,000 a pair loudspeaker. While I'm sure some will find the M-Lore's revealing nature and 'live' sound a bit too much, those looking for such a loudspeaker may in fact be purchasing the last loudspeaker they'll ever truly need. Yeah I said it - just because a loudspeaker like the M-Lore is cheap doesn't mean that it can't represent or be all the loudspeaker one truly needs.

As for me, I'm not buying, not because I don't feel the M-Lore is worth it - it absolutely is, but because if Tekton can do this much with so little, it boggles the mind to think what their $2,500 flagship Pendragon loudspeaker can do.

I aim to find out. Stay tuned...

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a subwoofer to pair with the M-Lore loudspeaker in our Subwoofer Review section.
• Explore source components in our Source Components Review section.

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