SVSound MBS-02 Speaker ReviewI had the highest respect for the folks at SVSound... until now! After letting me review their STS-02's, they cruelly sent me a pair of MBS-02's. I had just figured out how to sell my present set of speakers to pay for the STS-02's, now, through their evil subterfuge, I have to figure out a way to get these MBS-02's. Wow!
Since I only have the two bookshelf speakers, I will focus on their ability to play music.
I first aligned them with Audyssey in my receiver. Then I let them play awhile in case they needed any break-in time. During that time I played lots of music from my Direct TV's music channels. I set the receiver to "pure audio" to eliminate any surround processing. Right from the start I could tell these are serious audiophile speakers. I first played them with the back ports open. Then again with the ports plugged using the included high density foam plugs. Although I haven't as yet looked at their CD manual, I would think for surround sound applications, one would leave the plug out, but, for music only applications, leave them in. More on that later.
FIT AND FINISH
As always, SVSound are masters at making solid, beautifully finished cabinets. These came with the Rosenut finish on the side panels, and, black on the other surfaces. The finish is perfect, expertly done. No poorly fitted seams here. The grills are fabric with invisible magnetic fasteners and, a very classy emblem centered on the bottom. These speakers would complement any decor. The boxes are almost double the size of the smaller SBS-02 cousins-very hefty.
The speaker connections are dual 5-way binding posts with the ability to bi-wire or bi- amp them. Of course, they have shorting strips to allow single wiring. There is also a small switch on the back to attenuate the tweeter by -3 dB if your room is bright sonically. I didn't need them attenuated as my HT room has lots of sound dampening. I might add they come very securely packaged.
LISTENING TESTS -MUSIC
Although the STS-02 (S-Series/02 tower) speakers I previously reviewed did an amazing job, certainly better than most if not all in their price range, these big bookshelf speakers are in a different class. I am going to try to describe something both my son and I heard after listening to some music recorded in completely separate stereo, where each channel is distinct from the other with no overlap of sound. This was done years ago, and is actually a cheesy way to record. The Beetles did this on some of their early works.
The effect we both heard was sound from the right and left channels didn't emanate from the front of each speaker, but rather from BEHIND them! You would expect that to occur on properly recorded material, but not on separate discreet recordings. I have never heard that on anything I have owned. I attribute this to the beautifully transparent tweeter, masterful crossover, and a very articulate mid-range (I was previously under the impression any driver over 4" wouldn't produce mid-range frequencies this well-I am now changing my opinion with these 7" aluminum woofers). Philip Bamberg deserves a standing ovation for his outstanding design work on the M-Series speakers.
Hopefully others will confirm my experience here, so I don't come across as delusional. I can assure you that it was noticeable, and unexpected.
Next, I want try to describe with failing words what I hear compared to live orchestral and band music. If you listen to live concerts, you will notice high notes, whether vocal or instrumental, come across with supreme airiness and clarity. You don’t typically hear any forced “tinniness”, or harshness. Live sound has no hint of coloration. That is very close to the effect I hear with the MBS-02's! I have only heard one other speaker with this kind of openness, and that was with a very expensive, properly aligned set of Vandersteen 5a's demoed in a home setting approved by Richard Vandersteen himself!
As an amateur musician, I know live sound. What I consistently hear with virtually all other speakers I have listened to, is a certain “speaker” kind of sound. But listening to some bluegrass "picking" with the SVS’s, I could discern the sound of the pick as it plucked the strings. Even the banjo's membrane was easy to pick out as it resonated! Violins seemed as real as I heard last Sunday when our church was graced with a mini concert by Kyle Dillingham. I was 10 feet away from him, so my audio memory was current. One can tell readily how well a recording was made with the MBS-02’s These speakers have definitely renewed my interest in music listening. Again, words fail me here. It was a surreal experience.
I never heard the MBS-01's, so I can't compare them with these new MBS-02's. I can say the folks at SVSound will have a hard time topping these! If the old drivers were good, these new drivers are better. The speakers are smooth, airy, open, clear, neutral, and uncolored, their presentation is palpable, and truly worthy of audiophile status. I wish I could take my listening impressions and reduce them to words which would express what I hear, such as many of the professional reviewers are able to do.
LISTENING TESTS - MOVIES
I replaced the left and right STS-02's with the MBS-02's. The rest of the 7.1 system consists of the SCS-02 center, SSS-02's side surrounds, and two SBS-01's as rear surrounds. The subwoofer is the new SB-12 NSD.
Surprisingly, the S-Series integrated quite well with the MBS-02's. The most noticeable difference by the substitution of the MBS-02's was the improved sound stage of the movies' music. There is a dimensional enlargement of the background sound track, and an obvious increase in one's ability to distinguish individual instruments. The absolute transparency of the MBS-02's is pronounced.
Although most dialog is handled by the center speaker, speech directed to the front left or right speaker tended to sound deeper into the movie creating a more realistic presentation. When the dialog pans from one side to the other, it seems to follow the actors more closely. I can imagine having the MCS-02 center speaker would faithfully recreate the sound editor's intention.
I need to mention something about the MBS-02's whether listening to music, or movies, fatigue is absent. I think the fact they are so balanced, and neutral has caused me to be more drawn to them. In other words, I love these speakers!
I mentioned the ports earlier. I purposely have not looked at the manual so as to not be prejudiced concerning whether to plug the ports, or leave them open. After listening to both options, I like them open. The bass is clean, tight, and deep down to about 35-40hz in my home theater room. I found the bass to be more subdued with the plugs installed. My guess is the ports should be plugged if the speakers are close to a wall or in a cabinet. Try it both ways in your room and go with the best sound. The foam used in the plugs is dense, but easy to install and remove.
The best word I would use to describe the MBS-02's is TRANSPARENT. They are clearly the best speakers I have ever had in my room. I suspect they would blossom to an even higher level of sophistication if fed high end equipment. However, with my humble Onkyo receiver, Kimber Kable, and off the shelf Panasonic DVD player, they are truly a joy to listen to. Whether you have basic stuff, or top notch gear, you'll be glad you didn't spend too much on some overpriced glitzy speakers that can't deliver what is paramount, which is faithful reproduction of recorded media. The MBS-02's are decorative, solidly built, adaptable, forgiving, sonically accurate, dynamic, and worthy of commanding a much higher price.
Considering their quality to price ratio, I would give them 5 stars all around.
Please use the SVSound MBS-02 Speaker Review: Discussion Thread for Questions and Comments