Wow from MBL

At Saturday night dinner with Channel D’s Rob Robinson, his wife Claudia, and Jeff Joseph of Joseph Audio, we spoke about the number of exhibitors at audio shows who either come ill-prepared to deal with the vagaries of hotel room sound, don't know what to do about room-invoked sonic anomalies, or think any attempt at amelioration is futile. This was certainly not the case with Jeremy Bryan, President CEO of MBL North America, Inc. Faced with an air-walled room replete with bass boom, and whose ceiling was sonically divided halfway back into the listening position (with the back half of the ceiling concealing a crawl space that did not extend forward), Jeremy took immediate action. He may have been up until the wee hours, but when we arrived in his fabulous-sounding space, I had no idea that behind the rear drapes were concealed double rows of mattresses, stacked on their ends, that were absorbing errant bass. Rob and Jeff were familiar with this fix, because they had done the same in their room.

Let me tell you, folks, the fix works, at least when judiciously applied, because the sound in the MBL room via their $259,700 system (minus the cost of the WireWorld Platinum Eclipse cabling) was exceptional. That's exceptional. Instead of booming, it was totally in control, and as mellow as can be. When Jane Monheit sang something like, "The game is charming in a romantic kind of way," I thought she was singing about how I felt listening to the MBL set-up.

"Just gorgeous," I wrote in my notes. That was even before I switched to the front-padded "sweet spot" seat. Unfortunately, such a seat is only really sweet for someone with a straight back who is at least 5'10". That's not me. Once Jeremy noticed that I was sitting on the edge of the seat because it offered inadequate support for my less than great back, and my legs weren't long enough for me to sit back without looking like a kid dangling from a highchair, a host of pillows came my way to move me forward and provide additional support.

Next, because I was now too forward in the seat, my chair was moved back to compensate. At this point I was beginning to feel like Cleopatra on her barge, waiting for someone to peel her grapes. Thank god there weren't many people in the room, because I was feeling more than a bit embarrassed by all the unrequested attention. Of course I am an only child...In short, I got over it as soon as I reached the correct distance and height and everything clicked into place.

That's when I discovered what happens when you sit in the sweet spot in an MBL set-up. The sonic picture not only makes sense, but makes sense in a palpable, living, breathing way equalled by few systems I've heard. As the title says, "wow." It was fabulous.

More fun came my way when Jeremy played "Under the Sea" from the Little Mermaid soundtrack. Hilarious. Equaling it in beauty was a movement from a Mozart Flute Quartet. Size of images, breadth and depth of soundstage, and timbre of instruments was right on.

The system, MBL-wise, included the 101E Mk.II Radialstrahler (the loudspeaker reviewed by Michael Fremer in the April issue of Stereophile due to hit newsstands this week), 1621A CD transport, 1611F D/A converter, 6010D preamp, and 9011 power amp. Don't know about you, but I find the white a refreshing change from piano-gloss black. It probably looks better in homes of the dusting impaired, especially when they're inhabited both by people and pets. Anyone with a spare $259,700 times two is invited to buy one system for themselves, then share the wealth by cabling the rest to you know who. We thank you for your concern.

Stephen Scharf's picture


I don't know if you got over to the CA Audio show in Burlingame last year, but the MBL room there was also a standout for me. Very musical and natural-sounding; wonderful, in a word. And a breath of fresh air compared to the room just across from it. 

Great to see you reporting for the 'Phile again....




JasonVSerinus's picture

Hi Stephen,

Thank you, Stephen. It has been a joy to do this.

The mbl room was so crowded at the CA Audio Show that I never got a seat. Way out of line with the tweeters, I'm afraid I didn't get a full sense of what their electronics can do. Yes, fabulous.


jason stuck in the Atlanta airport due to high winds in SF