I promised to put up pictures of my M1tlm speakers once they were installed. I have had them a week now and they are stunning. Here are the pictures and a review which I penned over the weekend.
My review -
These speakers differ from most offerings in that they are sold as a box of parts in kit format that have to be assembled and wired up before use. Most people with the right equipment and space can put them together or, for an additional fee, they can be assembled by a third party. I opted to have them assembled for me by a recommended speaker builder and it is evident that both men know how to design and build speakers. Their astonishing performance is in no small part down to Ivan at IPL Acoustics and Anthony, a speaker builder who lives in Burnley which is conveniently nearby.
The one thing I did not want to do in this review was to bore the reader by giving an account of the engineering design principles and how they were configured, for even though I am an engineer myself this information is available on Ivan’s website and much is said about these speakers, including the transmission line principles, elsewhere.
I suppose the best place to start is to say this: there is an absolute sense of clarity and even-handedness that I haven’t heard from speakers below, say, the £2000-mark. Every part of the spectrum is faithfully reproduced without any distortion, colouration, phase disturbance or smearing and this is quite remarkable for a pair of speakers costing just a fraction under £700 for the kit and their construction. Their rhythm and timing are superb, and are a good match with Naim equipment.
The complete absence of any kind of colouration is simply astonishing, with no hint of forwardness in the presentation; each instrument and pluck of the string revealed a sense of the musician sitting directly in front of you with no veiling or corruption of the musical message they are trying to convey.
One way to describe the absence of colouration is to consider the reproduction of the bass notes. Given that these are transmission-line speakers, they go deep - and I mean very deep. Lesser speakers often give bass in abundance yet what you hear is not what was recorded, but an artefact, created by the resonance of the speakers having been tuned to emphasise these portions of the spectrum (often at the expense of others). These speakers are different in that the bass you hear is the bass that was recorded. The result is powerful enough to make the windows rattle, but only if the musician or the recording engineer intended it to be that way and that is exactly how a speaker should reproduce these lower octaves. It can sound less fulsome than some, but the bass is definitely there when needed, and it is a tight, powerful bass with no sense of bloom - or what I call “a wallowing bottom”.
An example of what I mean by this is perfectly demonstrated by listening to Falty DL’s CD “Hardcourage”. Although an electronic House/Garage/Techno creation, the bass is an integral part of the aural landscape that Mr DL wanted to create. In fact it underpins the entire work and, through these speakers, this album is deeply satisfying to listen to - not only because of the bass, but also because it is an excellent album in itself.
I was also interested in hearing one particularly badly recorded track from Hybrid’s “I Choose Noise” CD - “Until Tomorrow” as it is especially difficult to reproduce. It is poorly recorded with, what appears to me, a constrained dynamic range to the extent that the resulting mix sounds like a sonic lump. These speakers made a good job of separating the various tracks and strands to create a meaningful presentation even if the result still fell short of expectations. That said, that was the fault of the recording and not of the speakers themselves. They do say that you can’t create something out of nothing, yet these speakers made the track more easier to follow without the limitations of less capable speakers.
Mahler’s 7th Symphony, by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Shoichiro Hokazono on the Supraphon Label was evaluated via Tidal, streamed as a 16-bit FLAC file. What was immediately evident was the razor-sharp stereo imaging that left me in no doubt where the musicians were sitting in relation to the microphones, adding a magic to an already magical performance on one of my favourite recordings of Mahler’s works.
As the input quality improves, so these speakers shine even more. A 24-bit “Hi-Res” recording of Andrew Smith’s Requiem performed by Nidarosdomens jentekor & TrondheimSolistene. The stunning beauty of the girls’ voices and the amazing saxophone was simply stunning as I felt drawn into the music with the organ as a foundation, in a way that rendered me breathless!
I could go on, of course. I listened to vinyl played through my Thorens TD165 with Shure V15 MkIII pickup with similarly breathtaking results, DVD Audio, SACD and BBC Radio in HD format. Nothing I heard disappointed, as long as it was decently recorded.
These speakers have been heavily used in the week I’ve had them. No doubt they are still running in and they sound much better than they did upon installation, at which point they still sounded pretty good. Over the next month I expect they will settle in further but one thing is for certain - over the many years I’ve been into hi-fi sound related to my love of music, I’ve never heard speakers as remarkable as these. As I go into retirement, I take comfort that, at last, I’ve found speakers that work well with my Naim system and that they will give me many, many years of listening pleasure. I recommend them wholeheartedly.