Form Following Function: mbl 101 X-treme Speaker System
Stunning or strange? One of these words is likely to come to mind when you first lay eyes on the 101 X-treme speaker system, the flagship of MBL’s Reference Line. And what a system it is, handmade to order in Germany and comprising a pair of approximately 6-foot-tall towers, each of which supports two utterly unconventional driver arrays in an open frame, and two subwoofer towers, each comprised of six 12-inch woofers, a crossover, and an amplifier broken into three ported birch and aluminum boxes that can be stacked or laid side by side as needed. (No lows left behind.) What’s described as a positively huge, enveloping soundstage is created by mirror-image complements of MBL’s signature spheroid Radialstahler (omnidirectional) drivers. Each array uses one large midbass driver made of silicone, aluminum, and magnesium, and two small carbon-fiber drivers for mids and highs, supported by an armature of acrylic, steel, and wood. The cherry on top is an ambiance dome tweeter hidden in the top of each tower. Total weight for the whole shebang is a staggering 3,600 pounds, just 400 pounds shy of 2 tons. (No flimsy floors, please.)
When you feed an audio signal to the 101 X-tremes, their 12 pulsating spheres radiate equal amounts of energy at all frequencies through a three-dimensional soundfield, which means the character of the sound is the same whether you’re listening in front of, beside, or behind the speakers. But what about those nasty room reflections that can turn perfectly natural sound into mush? No worries. In their never-ending quest for perfection, MBL engineers designed the 101 X-tremes to effectively take the room out of the equation. The spherical drivers energize reflective surfaces uniformly at all frequencies, rather than at specific frequencies as with conventional speakers. Add to that the psychoacoustic phenomenon known as the Precedence Effect, whereby an acoustic sound arriving first at our ears suppresses our ability to hear other sounds (including echoes and reverberations), and sonic destruction is avoided. The cost of such X-treme audiophile indulgence? $263,000, or about 10 grand less than a 2012 Aston Martin DBS. If the 101 X-tremes sound half as stunning as they look, the experience they deliver just might be the closest you can get to “being there” without leaving your living room.
MBL North America • (212) 724-4870 • mbl-northamerica.com