M&K Sound S300 Series Bookshelf Speakers Reviewed

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M&K Sound S300 Series Bookshelf Speakers Reviewed

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MK-S300-thumb.jpgWhen I was asked if I'd be interested in reviewing M&K Sound's new THX Ultra2-certified S300 Series loudspeakers, I jumped at the chance. I was curious about the current status of this well-established, high-quality brand since it went through a change in ownership. The highly respected U.S. company Miller & Kreisel Sound that was founded 40 years ago by audio retailer Jonas Miller and engineering genius Ken Kreisel fell on hard times and was forced to close its doors in early 2007. Soon after, a group of Danish investors swooped in to purchase the company name, logo, intellectual property, and all remaining assets. They moved the manufacture of M&K Sound speakers back to Denmark, home to many well-known speaker brands, including Bang & Olufsen, DALI, and Dynaudio. More recently M&K Sound established a U.S. marketing office in Los Angeles to sell its products.

The S300 Series speakers are the newest reference monitors from M&K Sound, taking over the top spot from the venerable S150, introduced back in 1995. That's a long run for any loudspeaker. According to the company, the S300 Series doubles the "performance, quality and price" of the brand's previous top-end series and is the first new model to carry the name Miller & Kreisel since the company changed ownership. While this review focuses on the S300 monitors ($3,500 each) and S300T surrounds ($4,000/pair), these speakers are meant to be paired with a subwoofer. To that end, M&K Sound included a review sample of the flagship X12 subwoofer ($3,200), along with the three S300 monitors and two S300T surround speakers for a complete 5.1 system. The M&K Sound X12 subwoofer will be the subject of a separate upcoming review. Except where noted, my evaluation included the use of the X12 sub along with the S300 Series speakers.

The Hookup
While unboxing the S300 Series speakers and X12 sub, the first thing I noticed was the quality of the packaging. All of the speakers are safely cocooned within draw-stringed cloth bags, then surrounded by thick foam and double-boxed to help prevent any damage in case the delivery guy decides to log-roll them. M&K Sound thoughtfully includes a pair of white cotton gloves to avoid any fingerprints when positioning the speakers. The second thing I noticed was that the S300 monitor was heavier than I expected for a speaker of its size. I found this was due to the presence of multiple driver arrays and a complex "box within a box" cabinet design. The new 40-pound reference monitor features a larger sealed design enclosure (15.5 x 13.4 x 13 inches) than its predecessor, the S150, with 9mm inner MDF panels laminated to 12mm outer panels with a 3mm damping layer of tar to minimize cabinet vibration.

Like the front-baffle layout of the famous S150, each S300 has a triple-tweeter array connected in parallel alongside a dual mid/woofer driver array. According to M&K, with the multiple tweeter array design, "the power load on each tweeter is reduced to one third...resulting in significantly reduced distortion." In addition, M&K claims the design allows a lower crossover point to be employed for better integration with the mid/woofers and a larger sweet spot. All drivers are made by Scan Speak of Denmark, recognized as the gold standard of transducers by audiophiles and loudspeaker manufacturers alike. Also like the S150, a stereo pair of the new reference S300s creates a mirror image in terms of the driver array, for optimal imaging. However, M&K Sound has advanced the S300 design technology by rear mounting both the tweeters and mid/woofers into separate, specially designed brackets that are then rear mounted to the front baffle, which creates a very clean aesthetic with no visible screws or reflective edges near the drivers. It also mechanically isolates the drivers from the cabinet. According to M&K, this design eliminates a major source of coloration found in more conventional loudspeaker designs. The speaker baffle is covered by a black cloth grill held in place by rare-earth magnets, and all cabinet edges are rounded, resulting in a more polished look.

I was anxious to get the system set up. My dedicated media room is on the second floor, though, and moving the complete 5.1 M&K system, with the 80-pound X12 subwoofer and very heavy speaker stands, up the stairs made for quite a workout. First I disconnected and removed my reference Aerial Acoustics speakers and JL Audio subs to make room for the M&K system. I positioned the left and right speakers and accompanying stands in the same positions my reference floorstander speakers had occupied.  I placed the S300 center channel, which is identical to the right front speaker in its driver orientation, on the Sound Anchor stand I use for my reference Aerial Acoustics center-channel speaker. Using three identical speakers for the front channels makes a lot of sense, as it ensures a totally seamless wall of sound. Once the front three speakers were in place, I easily reconnected my reference WireWorld speaker cables to the single set of high-end binding posts on the L/C/R channels.

MK-S300T.jpgThe S300T tripole speakers come with heavy-gauge integrated metal brackets intended for on-wall mounting either to the side or behind the listening position, or both in the case of a 7.1-channel installation. Instead of drilling holes for a temporary installation, I decided to place the S300T surrounds on tall stands close to the rear wall to simulate M&K Sound's wall-mount approach while still being able to position them for optimal surround service. The front baffle of the S300T surround speaker sports the same tweeter and mid/woofer array as the S300. Using the same drivers provides a more seamless integration of sound between the surround speakers and the front monitors. Each of the two angled sides of the S300T tripole speaker has two four-inch drivers, resulting in better dispersion of surround effects. I ran Transparent Audio cables along the walls between my amplifier and the single set of binding posts on the S300T surrounds, which are identical to those used on the S300 monitors.

Finally, I positioned the X12 sub where the JL Audio sub had been and connected it using the same WireWorld balanced interconnect I use with my reference system. Once everything was positioned and connected, I adjusted the subwoofer to the THX reference settings according to the X12 owner's manual (I'll provide more details about these settings in the upcoming X12 sub review).  I then played three songs of 5.1-channel music to get a baseline of the sound before applying any room-correction processing. Next I ran the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 room correction software on my Marantz AV8801 preamp/processor to calibrate the new speaker system for my room. I then listened to the same music selections again and found that I preferred the sound with the room correction applied, as I felt it provided a much better balance of sound between the monitors and sub. I've found from past experience that my preference for listening with room correction applied or not is entirely dependent on the particular speakers in use.


Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...

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