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Are MBL omnidirectional speakers worth the $$$?

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Pearljam5000

Pearljam5000

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How close can the Linkwitz LX521.4 speakers for example can get to the MBL sound and soundstage ?
 

Westsounds

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Perhaps we are defining imaging differently. Great imaging is normally described as something you get with a low level of especially early arriving reflections (later ones also matter, but to a less degree). Ths implies an accurate sound stage with great clarity, intelligbility and localization. Or sharp pin pointing is another way to describe it. And with an omni dispersion, that's basically the worse recipe for good imaging due to all the specular energy.

With MBLs or other omnis the sound seems to be becoming from everywhere and nowhere. Which is of course the opposite of great localization and pin pointinng. The center vocal/image is considerable smaller compared to other speakers. I've never understood the facination.
This is it. You get a solo singer in a room, they are usually singing at you with perhaps reflections from walls. The way these speakers are set up, a singer would have to have a 360 degree mouth which would sound quite peculiar in practice, especially if there was more than one.

The fascination is, like anything else, some people get it and like it. It’s worked for them in their room, and they buy into the idea. As said, they are niche, otherwise they would greatly outnumber the sales of regular directional speakers which most have.
 

Sillysilly

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Heard MBL’s at the Ascot show. They sounded fine to me, definitely not one of the highly rated brands that shocked me when they didn’t live up to expectations by a country mile. I guess their audience is such they don’t care much about about value and want something unique. With that likely comes multiple rooms, systems and speakers. Don’t see the problem if that’s your profile. I’d probably put a pair in the orangery if I had one.
 

MattHooper

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Perhaps we are defining imaging differently. Great imaging is normally described as something you get with a low level of especially early arriving reflections (later ones also matter, but to a less degree). Ths implies an accurate sound stage with great clarity, intelligbility and localization.

Yes. That's just what I got with MBLs in my room. Great clarity, intelligibility and localization. (Though precise "accuracy" in soundstaging - vs imaging - has, as I'm sure you are aware, been debated in other threads).


Or sharp pin pointing is another way to describe it.

The problem is in actually agreeing on what "pin point" imaging is, because "imaging" happens in our brains so we can only discuss our subjective impressions.
I mean if we both heard playback of a centrally panned saxophone we could both point to where it is in terms of localizing it, but knowing whether we are each perceiving precisely the same edges/boundaries of that sax image in our minds is less precise. Like is it exactly 6 inches wide, with a hard edge?....

So the best I can do is describe the type of imaging I experienced with the MBLs, dialed in to my preference in my own room.

I value soundstaging and imaging, and I've had tons of different speakers in my room, and I did not find the MBLs imaged "worse" than most. So as an example, if I put on a good jazz recording, a sax would appear right "there" just inside the left speaker boundary, 4 feet back, a stand up bass several feet behind a couple feet more towards the centre, precisely located, the drums kick and snare dead centere, cymbals and toms in more of a stereo spread, singer "out front" centered, guitar located right behind the R speaker etc. The MBLs gave if anything a more precise sense of the spatial relationships in teh soundstage than most speakers.
And with a "good" recording of drums, the apprent location of every tom drum seemed very precisely placed in space, even sometimes like inches difference in being closer or further were being distinguished. It remains for me the most convincing imaging I've heard. Singers would just appear in the most spooky way between the speakers....and since that is one of the easiest jobs for a pair of stereo speakers, to be extra impressed even with the added sense of realism was pretty cool.


With MBLs or other omnis the sound seems to be becoming from everywhere and nowhere.

All I can say is that doesn't remotely describe what I experienced. The MBLs would carve out a beautifully described surrounding acoustic, within which images were amazingly vivid with well described locations and spatial relationships.

One reason why, for me, forum discussions of this stuff only goes so far...being able to experience things yourself (and own the actual gear) can be enlightening.
 

MattHooper

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Perhaps they were just the best speakers suited to that room and the equipment, that’s all. I’ve heard it before, Shahinian owners say those speakers are the closest thing to live music ever, yet others listen to them and say they are rubbish. It’s just a different approach to sound reproduction, it’s done in technically the same way, they are not an evolution in the way sound is recreated. They come in a very posh package sure, and I’m sure they are very good speakers, just nothing revolutionary.

Sure, I get it. We aren't all impressed with the same thing.

I've heard a number of the ASR favourites and sometimes was left shrugging my shoulders somewhat. Competent, but nothing different or advanced sounding.

So I'm not going to convince you of anything just because it's how I see things.

There are probably speakers at a fraction of the cost that could do similar in a controlled, unbiased experiment.

Could be!

But there is a lack good live vs reproduced experiments, so we are left mostly speculating, and also if it's our interest, in investigating ourselves.

A lot of people don't really care about the live vs reproduced question. I do. I've been fascinated by live vs reproduced sound for as long as I can remember. When I hear live unamplified music I almost always take a moment to close my eyes and interrogate the characteristics it seems to have, why does it sound "real?" I'm doing this all the time even just with every day sounds, pots or pans being moved by my wife or son in the kitchen, I close my eyes and listen to people's voices. At audio shows I close my eyes and compare the sound of real people talking to a vocal coming through the speakers. I used to record instruments I own, and my family's voices, to do live vs reproduced comparisons with speakers I'd have in my home, and also I'd sometimes use those recordings as part of my reference tracks when auditioning loudspeakers at stores.

It was always interesting to me that some systems could sound to me highly detailed, yet not for a moment remind me of the real thing. Yet others somehow did remind me more of the real thing. So to check this out, for instance, I had a recording of my acoustic guitar being played in my home, and when I had different speakers in, I'd have my friend play my guitar behind and between the speakers and compare that to the recording. (Eyes closed for each). This was not a scientific experiment. I couldn't manage that. It was simply to see to what degree a loudspeaker captured the general character of real instruments played in real space.

The MBLs did this better than any speaker I've heard. They had the clarity of reproduction to match the real thing very closely, they had the timbral character down super close, and their spatial presentation was more like "what the real guitar sounded like being played in the room" than any other speaker. So...I have my own conclusions from my own little investigations, as provisional as they are.

(FWIW, probably the next best speaker for reproducing the sense of live instruments were my Thiel 3.7 speakers, which I no longer own as they were too large aesthetically for my room).
 

NIN

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In a concert situation the sound comes from "every where". 20% direct 80% reflection.

That is a logical fallacy. The speakers in the room should reproduce the recorded sound and not act as a instrument creating new sound*. The recorded music already having the direct and reflecting sound from the live music (if done good). The speaker task** is to reproduce the music close to the recorded music.

*Unless one wants that kind of sound, off course.
*Again, one can have other goals with ones hifi-system, thats cool.
 
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Curvature

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I would add one more point from the mixing perspective: the imaging effects are unpredictable and room-dependent. For this reason alone I would avoid them.
 

fpitas

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How close can the Linkwitz LX521.4 speakers for example can get to the MBL sound and soundstage ?
I have to think the room and placement get super critical with any of these omni-esque speakers. So, if you spent a bunch of effort, you might get them to sound as good.
 

Anton D

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I can't afford a pair.

If they were 5 grand or under, I'd buy them in a split second.

They are completely pleasant sounding and offer a nice experience. Likely not for someone who requires A/B/X testing to judge sound, they are simply nice, speaking subjectively, and only for myself.

I'd need a great amp to drive them...by that I mean able to feed them plenty of power, not meaning that snob-like.

We had a member of our local Hi Fi Club who had a very well set up pair using Halcro amps and they imaged plenty nice. The barking dogs on "Amused to Death" got people to gaze stage right, for sure. They had good dynamic range presentation, good detail, nice center fill, good vocal verisimilitude ...no complaints.

Disclaimer: I have never measured a pair, just subjective listening, so YMMV!
 

fpitas

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I would add one more point from the mixing perspective: the imaging effects are unpredictable and room-dependent. For this reason alone I would avoid them.
I agree, you'll probably get different results than the recording engineer intended. If you just like the spatial effects of omni, maybe you won't care though.
 

MattHooper

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I'd need a great amp to drive them...by that I mean able to feed them plenty of power, not meaning that snob-like.

They have the reputation as being monsters to drive. But with serendipity, I actually found that probably my favourite pairing with my MBLs was a little
old 14W/side Eico HF81 tube integrated! On paper probably the worst pairing. Subjectively...wonderful IMO. (My room isn't big, and I tended not to play them very loud).
 

ahofer

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Curvature

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I agree, you'll probably get different results than the recording engineer intended. If you just like the spatial effects of omni, maybe you won't care though.
Yes, exactly. I would find it hard to trust mixing decisions too if I used them as monitors.
 

pablolie

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I'd be curious about how they measure. A German friend of mine has them and swears by them. My impressions are just that they work just fine, but don't expect anything that'll totally change your world and anything you ever heard before, There are a lot of competing approaches to achieve the same goal, and if implemented competently, they all work fine. For my personal listening patterns, the whole omni-directional stuff is lost on me - I sit in front of my speakers to get a stereo image, as God told Moses in the clay tablet the latter dropped on his walk down the mountain... :)
 

Martin

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You can set them up to have good image specificity. Perhaps not as laser tight as the most narrow dispersion speakers depending on what you are going for. But very good. I found them quite comparable to my regular box speakers for imaging. I remember a guest was truly shocked by the impression that a vocalist had simply "appeared" in the room, focused between the MBLs....

My Von Schweikerts have a rear ambiance tweeter that provide some airiness. They do throw a nice ball of sound but it is centered between the speakers. I'd love to hear MBLs setup to provide good imaging. Like I said, at all the shows where I have heard them the rooms just seem to be full of sound coming from everywhere. They do seem to have a nice smooth full range frequency response.

Martin
 

MattHooper

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My Von Schweikerts have a rear ambiance tweeter that provide some airiness. They do throw a nice ball of sound but it is centered between the speakers. I'd love to hear MBLs setup to provide good imaging. Like I said, at all the shows where I have heard them the rooms just seem to be full of sound coming from everywhere. They do seem to have a nice smooth full range frequency response.

Martin

Cool!

I had the VR 4 Gen II speakers years ago, which also had the rear "ambience" tweeter. I'd owned Quad ESL 63s but wanted to move on to a dynamic speaker. The problem is after owning panel speakers most box speakers sound like...box speakers. I finally found the VRs which disappeared and imaged like mad, but also had a big lush sound. I haven't heard a single VR speaker model since owning those and I've always wanted to hear what they are doing now.

I always found dialing the ambience tweeter was finding the right compromise. Turning it up increased the sense of airy spaciousness, but also started to affect the tone of the sound, sort of "whitening" it, less nuanced.

Do you find a similar trade off? How high do you dial the ambience tweeter?
 

Westsounds

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Sure, I get it. We aren't all impressed with the same thing.

I've heard a number of the ASR favourites and sometimes was left shrugging my shoulders somewhat. Competent, but nothing different or advanced sounding.

So I'm not going to convince you of anything just because it's how I see things.



Could be!

But there is a lack good live vs reproduced experiments, so we are left mostly speculating, and also if it's our interest, in investigating ourselves.

A lot of people don't really care about the live vs reproduced question. I do. I've been fascinated by live vs reproduced sound for as long as I can remember. When I hear live unamplified music I almost always take a moment to close my eyes and interrogate the characteristics it seems to have, why does it sound "real?" I'm doing this all the time even just with every day sounds, pots or pans being moved by my wife or son in the kitchen, I close my eyes and listen to people's voices. At audio shows I close my eyes and compare the sound of real people talking to a vocal coming through the speakers. I used to record instruments I own, and my family's voices, to do live vs reproduced comparisons with speakers I'd have in my home, and also I'd sometimes use those recordings as part of my reference tracks when auditioning loudspeakers at stores.

It was always interesting to me that some systems could sound to me highly detailed, yet not for a moment remind me of the real thing. Yet others somehow did remind me more of the real thing. So to check this out, for instance, I had a recording of my acoustic guitar being played in my home, and when I had different speakers in, I'd have my friend play my guitar behind and between the speakers and compare that to the recording. (Eyes closed for each). This was not a scientific experiment. I couldn't manage that. It was simply to see to what degree a loudspeaker captured the general character of real instruments played in real space.

The MBLs did this better than any speaker I've heard. They had the clarity of reproduction to match the real thing very closely, they had the timbral character down super close, and their spatial presentation was more like "what the real guitar sounded like being played in the room" than any other speaker. So...I have my own conclusions from my own little investigations, as provisional as they are.

(FWIW, probably the next best speaker for reproducing the sense of live instruments were my Thiel 3.7 speakers, which I no longer own as they were too large aesthetically for my room).
Interesting reading. Quite right as well to say, not convincing someone of something because it’s how you see it. I’m similar to you and like the ‘realistic’ sound production as well, I play music myself and have played live so I kind of have some experience of live production. The thing is, many times when I’ve played live with others, most of the time the equipment used has been way less than anything like class leading audiophile gear. And as for making instruments sound real from a hi-fi I don’t really think it takes a lot. Even a relatively modest hi-fi with decent but not expensive speakers can do it well if it's covering most of the frequency range of that instrument, is amplified sufficiently and balanced with the other equipment (or eq’d right). Guitars, drums, bass, horns, woodwind whatever can sound convincingly real, plus with what the ears and brain are often making up as we listen it’s often achievable. What I find struggles more than anything is human voice, there’s something about it which even though easily captured by the frequency range of most speakers never quite has the organic feel of the real deal. Probably one of the better ones to do it for me though is still a 50-year-old design, the LS3/5A.
 
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Purité Audio

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Bang&Olufsen state in their Beolab 90 white paper that ‘omni’ ( the 90’s have three modes , ‘narrow’, ‘wide’ and ‘omni’) is suitable for non-critical listening and parties.
Narrow offers the best image, which it does but it really is narrow just one person ‘wide’ is for ‘sofa’ width, image is noticeably less pin point , omni obviously no image at all just sound pumped around the room but a similar response and level everywhere within the room.
Keith
 

Westsounds

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Those B&Os remind me of the standing magic carpet from Disneys Alddin :D




Screenshot 2023-11-14 at 11-48-18 Bang & Olufsen Beolab 90.png



Screenshot 2023-11-14 at 11-51-32 angry magic carpet aladdin - Google Search.png
 
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Pearljam5000

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Do you need more room treatment with the MBLs than with "normal " speakers?
 
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