After the Dark Side of the Moon I wanted to try out another multi-channel SACD so I went with Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms 20th Anniversary Edition (Vertigo). This edition also has a stereo option so after listening to surround sounds SACD delight I decided I would give the two channel a go considering this is one of the reasons for the internal updates.... to provide a full-range like performance. This forced me, oh the pain, to listen to both versions but as much as I really enjoy two channel audio Brothers in Arms in 5.1 rocks.
In goes Stan Getz and Jo�o Gilberto featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim (Verve), a stereo SACD, to create a jazzy, bossa-nova moment and one of audible delight. Stan Getz's saxophone in O Grande Amore was just delightful and intoxicating. The M-1's handled Gilberto's guitar with ease allowing the guitar strings to come through as if your right there. Talk about superb imaging and creating a much larger soundstage for such compact loudspeakers. Astrud Gilberto's female vocals in The Girl from Impanema were vivid and lifelike. It just so happens that the song turned 50 years of age while I write this in July. Through the M-1s you can easily make out the location of the instruments. The MT-50 provided a lush sounding experience with a great soundstage and the imaging was spot on. I'm not surprised considering the lineage Bowers & Wilkins has. If you're interested in Super Audio compact discs take a look at Jerry Del Colliano's article, The 10 Best Audiophile SACDs Ever - Many Are Out Of Print, at audiophilereview.com.
Turning things over to the home theater side I was in a Sergio Leone, spaghetti western mood so I watched A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) also known as the Man with No Name Trilogy in Blu-ray starring Clint Eastwood. A classic and one of my all time favorite spaghetti westerns by Sergio Leone, the Blu-ray version is quite a treat with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, originally these movies were in 2.0 and the Blu-ray comes with this option too. Via the M-1s I was able to make out the dialogue I had missed in earlier renditions and gunshots, bullets whizzing by were life-like and provided a great movie watching experience. Listening to Ennio Morricone's score throughout the trilogy was literally music to my ears. His famous main theme in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is such a treat to hear and sounds great via the M-1s.
Now, satisfied with the rigors I've put this system through I decided to try a video game which I think can be a great test of surround sound and bass especially if you are playing a first person shooter such as Battlefield 3 (Electronic Arts) and the M-1 satellites produced an accurate and spacious surround sound 'image' throughout. You need to be able to detect where your enemies are coming from and with the Bowers & Wilkins MT-50 I could hear if someone was behind me, to right or left or even which way the bullets were coming from, something that made game play all the more fun. The subwoofer handled the explosions, grenades and heavy artillery like a ninja, never letting you know its there while being there the entire time. There's nothing better than playing a video game in surround sound and the MT-50 system proved this over and over again.
On a side note, for you soccer fans out there, I also had the opportunity to watch the UEFA's cup and with the MT-50 you feel completely immersed in the stadium action. The chants from the fans were life-like and reproduced well by the MT-50. One other thing, the Bowers & Wilkins MT-50 systems is very easy to keep clean and in black it really hides dog and cat fur. I say this because I'm a dog trainer by trade whom lives with three dogs and cat that make it really hard to keep the house and its occupants fur free.
Connection options are limited with the M-1 as you will have to use either 12 to16 gauge wire due to the speaker's smaller binding posts. I suppose it's the price you pay in order to have a clutter free look and in this case it worth the effort. Given this minor grievance, I'm having a hard time finding any faults with this system.
Aesthetically, it would be nice to have the option to remove the grills on the M-1's to show off the nice Nautilus tweeter although you are able to remove the subwoofer's. The ASW608 subwoofer is tailor made for small to medium rooms, but for those who prefer a bit more oomph Bowers & Wilkins has several other subwoofers to choose from.
Competition and Comparison
At $1,750 dollars the Bowers & Wilkins MT-50 isn't a steal, but for what you're getting I'd still consider it a real value. The Paradigm 100 CT Compact Theater, at $999 is a competitor and a true value at almost half the price, though the level of refinement for the Bowers & Wilkins MT-50 system is just a step above the Paradigm. There's also Focal's Dome 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System but at $2,595 it is 50 percent more but I'm not sure you'll get a 50 percent improvement.
For more on these systems and others like them please visit Home Theater Review's Bookshelf Speaker page.
My bias is to go with the full range, tower speakers, but the Bowers & Wilkins MT-50 at $1,750 ($2,050 with optional floor stands) puts my bias in a quandary. Bowers & Wilkins has made some worthwhile updates to the M-1 compact loudspeaker and to their Mini Theater systems in general, which is very apparent during two-channel listening. The Bowers & Wilkins MT-50 system isn't a budget buy in the conventional sense, but it's truly great at music, home theater and gaming, which, to me, makes it a Swiss Army knife of home theater systems.
There's a level of audio refinement with the new Bowers & Wilkins MT-50 system that puts it in the keeper category and one I hope to hold onto for a long time.