MBL

MBL has had some changes in its North American distribution the past couple of years, but now has its own US subsidiary run by the affable Jeremy Bryan, an industry veteran. I have always loved the treble quality of the Berlin-based company's omnidirectional high-frequency "RadialStrahler" drive-units, and the Mk.2 version of the 101E speaker was sounding excellent at SSI, driven by two gigantic 9011 monoblock amplifiers (about to be reviewed by Michael Fremer), a 6010D preamp, a 1621A CD transport, and a 1611F D/A converter. Cabling was all Wireworld Eclipse.

But we weren't listening to CDs at SSI. Instead Jeremy was feeding the 1611's USB input from his laptop and playing hi-rez files. He selected a 24-bit/88.2kHz FLAC file that had been recorded by MBL's long-time chief engineer Jürgen Reis, "Walchensee, Mondnacht," a piece for solo piano performed by Martin Vatter, from the album Klangbilder, that starts with "prepared piano" effects before Vatter plays conventionally. My jaw dropped. One thing that conventional speakers never get right with recorded piano sound is the size of the instrument, even when the tonal quality and the dynamic range are accurately presented. The MBL 101E Mk.2s got closer to the piano's actual size than any other speakers I have heard!

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