The Mordaunt-Short 908 Loudspeaker
|The Mordaunt-Short 908 Loudspeaker|
Outstanding Value from the UK
22 November 2002
Frequency Response: 35 Hz - 22 kHz
Sensitivity: 90 db for a 1 Watt input
Impedance (nominal): 8 Ohms
Power Rating: 15W - 150W rms
1 - 10" Long throw woofer
2 - 5.25 " Aluminum alloy mid / bass
1 - 1" Aluminum tweeter
Crossover: 3-way with first order mid and HF with DVP
Connection: Biwire capable, gold plated 5-way binding posts
Dimensions: 37.4" H × 7" W × 13.7" D
Weight: 41.75 pounds each
Marantz America, Inc.
1100 Maplewood Drive
Itasca, IL 60143
It seems every time you look, you find another speaker company in the marketplace. In fact, there are easily over eleven hundred different brands of speakers currently available, and many more doubtlessly on the way to market as you read this review. Even with the multitude of brands and styles available, there seem to be few that have set the world afire with their performance and fewer still that have done so at a price that many can afford.
Mordaunt Short was founded in 1967, with the purpose of combining a love of music with the ability to accurately reproduce music as it was meant to be heard. Over the next 20 plus years, they grew in leaps and bounds until they finally had become one of England's largest exporters of speakers, earning them the coveted Queen's Award for Export Achievement in 1990, the UK's top awards for business.
The 1990s were not as kind to Mordaunt Short as the preceding two decades had been. By 1997, TLC, who had been the importer of the product line, ceased distribution virtually removing the speakers from the US marketplace. The company struggled until it was eventually acquired by Audio Partnership Plc in 1999.
Once the acquisition was completed, Marantz agreed to become the sole distributor for the Mordaunt Short speaker line in the US. Their strategy is one of using their existing dealer network to sell these speakers at a price that many people can afford. Unfortunately the only problem is that with this approach, they haven't done a great job of advertising, instead relying on word of mouth and dealer recommendation to sell the product line.
The truth is, had I not almost tripped over the model Mordaunt-Short 908 at the Home Entertainment Show in New York last summer, I might have never noticed these speakers. They were being used by Philips to demonstrate and spotlight the SACD-1000. Even there at the show, in the worst of spaces, I could tell they were worth further evaluation. Luckily, with some legwork and research, I was able to get a pair to review in a more controlled and comfortable surrounding than the floor of a suite at the Hilton Hotel.
Early August brought two large boxes to my doorstep, each containing one 908. Carrying them upstairs to the room I use to evaluate equipment was not too difficult, as these speakers in their packaging don't weigh much more than fifty pounds. Uncrating them and setting them up was done fairly quickly. It is important to note that unlike many speakers, you will need a screwdriver to affix the feet to the bottom of the cabinets.
Once they were set up in the room, I discovered the first interesting thing about them. While they come equipped to handle single or biwire configurations, the thickness of the 5-way binding post might cause you some problems. I had to make a trip to the local stereo store for banana jacks, as the spades that I use on my MIT speaker wire were too narrow. Once that issue was resolved, I left the speakers to burn in for one hundred hours before starting my real evaluation.
The Fun Begins
Once the speakers had completed their break in period, I was set to put them through their paces. The first thing I noted was their ability to perform quite well without their having to be placed at "exactly" the right spot. The "sweet spot" was easily larger than many speakers that I am familiar with, making them perfect for both smaller and larger rooms. According to the manufacturer, they use formed, liquid-cooled aluminum tweeters in a manner proprietary to Mordaunt-Short to achieve the off axis and horizontal dispersion that I found so appealing. Whatever the method, I found that I could position the speakers in a wide range of positions and still achieve the same sonic performance.
I started off by listening to "Mephisto Waltz #1" by Liszt on Mephisto & Co. [Reference Recordings RR-82CD]. This masterpiece is a great test of a speaker's ability to resolve treble associated with the strings and cymbals. The speakers were able to breathe life into the upper ranges. There was a definite richness to their presentation which was uncolored by the familiar forwardness many speakers tend to offer.
The more I listened to this particular piece, the more taken I became with the speaker's ability to reproduce a believable and concrete soundstage. One thing I have noted with this piece in particular is that with the sonic demands of the full orchestra can often come a narrowing of the soundstage. The 908 did not seem to suffer from this shortcoming. While I won't claim they have the depth of some far more expensive speakers, they certainly hold their own within the sub two-thousand dollar price point.
Switching from the rigors of a full orchestra, the next piece I used to evaluate the 908s was "Contrapunctus I," from The Art of Fugue by J.S. Bach [Red Rose Music RRM-05]. For those who are not familiar with this organ piece by Bach, his last composed before his death, you should note that it is one of his most involved and difficult works to perform. The seemingly limitless recursions, known as fugues, make it not only difficult to perform, but also to reproduce. The unique demands it places on equipment are not always met with savvy and poise, even by some outstanding speakers. That said, it was interesting to see how the 908s handled the task.
As with the "Mephisto Waltz," the piece places a great deal of pressure on the tweeter's ability to reproduce high frequencies. However, the organ in this piece also places a great demand on the midrange drivers as well. While I would give these speakers high marks, it only took a short while to determine that one of their shortcomings was the reproduction of midrange. Here the music sounded somewhat boxy and lacked the lifelike quality that could be heard with other pieces. In all fairness, there are few speakers that can do a great job reproducing this piece.
Before moving to more mainstream music, an area in which I felt the speakers would likely excel, I decided to try one further torture track. I used "Rauk Part 1" on Ruak by the Global Percussion Network [Opus 3 CD-22011], not to see how well they would handle the huge booms that many soundtracks offer, but rather, how they handled the subtle bass that makes music more complete. I was not disappointed with the 908s in this respect. Not only did the two 5.25" Aluminum midrange drivers do a supreme job of fixing the instruments to the correct locations in the performance, but also with the addition of the side firing 10-inch long-throw woofers, they were amazing. The well-articulated bass only served to further the listening experience rather then to rob from it.
Speakers can be good at a great many things, but unless they will sound great with the music you listen to, so what? Luckily, the Mordaunt-Short 908s are great at what I like to listen to. Starting with the newly released "Under My Thumb," from After-math UK, by The Rolling Stones [Abkco Records 94772], which I happen to think sounds amazing, the 908's performed wonderfully, adding just the right amount of bass without overpowering the songs that made the Stones famous.
In fact, one thing I found particularly appealing about them was their ability to allow the feeling of actually being in the studio with the Rolling Stones. They are apt at recreating the inner detail and clarity of the recording without becoming too analytical or harsh sounding. This all combined to make listening to this new album a real treat, even having heard it many times before.
Over the weeks that I auditioned the 908s, I played many other albums, both mainstream and esoteric, all with similar results. While I won't say they are the best speakers I have ever had the chance to listen too, they are easily the best ones I have heard at under two thousand dollars. I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone looking for a great example of a dynamic driver speaker that sounds amazing and doesn't cost an arm and leg.
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