TAMPA, FL — The name MBL in hi-fi circles almost remains singularly atop its own category or genre of ultra-fi. No one else in the American market comes close to portraying both sonics and outright luxury as much as MBL’s single house brand. Maybe a close rival is that of Tidal electronics and loudspeakers, but even then they have more in common with conventional manufacturers of loudspeakers than they do with MBL. Safely said, MBL stands alone.
This year there is nothing new to report, it’s the exact same system employed here at Florida Audio Expo 2020 as it was in 2019 (read last year’s AH report HERE). I’m okay with this, as for many attendees the chance to visit the system is often a once in a lifetime occurrence. Here we are gifted with a bonus listen. All things being the same as they are, in all probability the listener has changed in that year. I know I have. I’ve heard more systems than I can shake a stick at, I’ve seen new products hit the show scene, but here I am finding my foundations — reference — once again with the first room I visit at the Florida show — MBL.
In some ways I am wrong to call the MBL my reference room for the weekend, as I will likely not find many systems that come close to this level of performance, but I hope that measuring from the top-down offers a better sense of gauge-symmetry than from the bottom-up. Who knows where the bottom is — all I know is, I don’t want to hear it.
One thing the rest of the pack can’t do as well as MBL is this: play the room like instruments do. Yes, an instrument (especially acoustic) is a source, but not a point source that beams its output in one direction. Musical instruments radiate in 360 degrees. Which the MBL speakers do to life-like effect.
One common misconception I’ve come across about the Radialstrahler mbl 101 E MK II, which I heard remarked again from one show attendee to another in Florida, is that its lower cabinet contains a subwoofer, making it a four-way loudspeaker. This is NOT true.
All of the active drivers of the Radialstrahler’ are visible above the white enclosure pictured. The larger woofer “lower frequency bulb-lamallae” (as I call it) vents its internal backwave energy downward into the enclosure where it is then vented (with passive delay) into the room via two large front facing tuned ports. Also located in the cabinet is the woofers eletro-magnetic motor structure, and crossover components.
All electrical force generated to drive the woofer section of the Radialstrahler rises up from the motor (magnet and coil) causing a swelling motion (and consequently bass) in the “bulb”. The upper portion of the woofer is in fact a fixed point. The woofer not being flat along the vertical plane, allows sound to radiate in an omnidirectional pattern closer to that of a sphere than true cylinder. Allowing bass waves to interact with the room more evenly and in more coherent time. The upper mid-range and tweeter operate in a more closed fashion, but not exactly and I won’t go into that here. You owe it to yourself to experience an MBL system at least once in your life, if not a few times — for good reference.
By Eric Shook