Mordaunt-Short Performance Home Theater Speaker System Reviewed

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I purchased James Cameron's "Avatar" (20th Century Fox) on Blu-ray just prior to these speakers' arrival and had the chance to hear it on my reference rig and it is an awesome demo disc. The video is top notch, as is the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, so I cued it up to see how the Performance system would handle all the powerful bass and subtle details of the film. In Chapter 5: First Awakening, the bass starts out as a rumble and intensifies as Jake sinks into the link pod for the first time, but as the door closes and the light rises the sound was impressive swinging around the room and shaking the walls. During Jake's run down the camp, the crunching of branches and thud of his steps were well positioned and perfectly controlled. His cheers stayed lively and clear and the background music filled the room.

Moving up to Chapter 17: First Flight, the surround of the music again filled the room, while the depth of the drums and the beating of wings of the Banshees was palpable. The immense use of low frequencies in this film will surely make it a demo hit for years to come and the Mordaunt-Short system did a great job in all areas, from clear dialog to intense explosions and spacious music, all combined seamlessly. After the attack on home tree, the subtle crackling of the fire in the aftermath was lifelike and again the excellent use of background music filled the room with an eerie feel.

I next watched "Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian" (20th Century Fox) on Blu-ray. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack gave great space to the presentation, while voices were well placed and clear. The Performance line is slightly forward of neutral with a lively and punchy timber that makes voices stand out just slightly and makes for an enthusiastic presentation of films. The ability to handle the depth of the large drums as they get to Washington while keeping the horns and reeds lively was impressive.

I sat down with my laptop and streamed a bunch of files from my main computer in totally lossless AIFF coding through the EMM Labs DAC to see try a wide variety of music. I spun up Anthrax, I'm the Man (Fontana Island) and the Performance 6's easily handled the variety of music from frank noise to the quiet background of the title track, and even at high volumes continued to output solid, deep bass. The highs did become more apparent at these levels. The ATT tweeter is pretty smooth with just a little sizzle to it but that sizzle can become more apparent at very high volumes. On the cover of Black Sabbath's "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath", the opening drums were crisp and cymbals lively while the famed guitar riff stayed distinct. The midrange was my favorite part of these speakers as it was very smooth and detailed yet never in your face. The Mordaunt-Short Performance 6's throw a pretty wide soundstage that doesn't jump out at you; instead it brings you into the music. I also found integrating the Performance 9 subwoofer into the two channel mix took the bass to a whole new level and really brought the system to reference level bass reproduction.

I moved to something a little more mellow and spun up B.B. King's Blues Summit (MCA). The opening of the duo with John Lee Hooker, "You Shook Me" did just that, with the opening guitar riff and drums that jumping right into my room. The Performance 6 was able to keep both these blues men's voices clear, smooth and distinct while the separation between the two different guitars and styles was outstanding. The bass lines continued through the song and these speakers never let you forget it. At higher volumes again I found the tweeter to be a bit hot, but this didn't happen until very high levels of around 100 dB's. The duo with Albert Collins, "Call it Stormy Monday" kept me involved with its lush bottom end with the silky smooth midrange. The piano is subtle in most of this song but every note was clearly articulated with good attack.

The Downside
These speakers look very different than many more conventional designs. I personally think they look really cool but aesthetics are subjective and you or yours might find they don't suit your d�cor. In the United States, the importer only brings in granite which looks very good to my eye. Silver and black are special orders if desired.

I like the fact that they can be multi- wired or amplified, but the binding posts are way too big and close together, and really close to the bottom of the speaker as well, so if you plan to exploit this feature you likely need banana plugs to get all the wire to the speaker cleanly. I also wonder why they made the 2's and 6's with four spikes. Three points define a plane and make for easy and stable contact; with the rear spikes so close I would have liked to see only a single rear spike. I guess this is more an issue with the 6's as they are floor-standing speakers, while the 2's are designed to be stand mounted so are less likely to use the spikes at all. Sonically they are a very coherent system with just the slightest edge to the treble that was a little off at high-level music listening but a real pleasure during film and television use.


The Mordaunt Short Performance speaker system is an excellent system offering an open and inviting sound with a smooth midrange, excellent bass extension and amazing detail and separation. The treble is clean and clear. The general tone of this system is very balanced, other than the slight accentuation in the treble at very high volumes; otherwise the system did exceptionally well, even handling torture test bass without getting boomy.

The speakers transition seamlessly and blend in with the subwoofer perfectly. The included room correction CD and decibel meter for the subwoofer can help tame room problems, making it easier to place and sound better no matter where it ends up, and significantly improved my bass performance after setting the notch filter. The Performance 2's and 6's offer excellent separation and detail, and don't throwing music at you, rather draw you into it, making for really enjoyable listening sessions with either of them while the 6's clearly made for a more full range system.

I love the look of these speakers, and the fit and finish of them was top notch. Many things, including the binding posts, are a bit overbuilt making them cramped and difficult to use, especially if you were to tri-wire the Performance 6's. While $19,000 isn't cheap for a 5.1 system, this system really performs at an audiophile level at an obtainable price and offers looks beyond your wildest dreams and performance besting more expensive systems.

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