Not much discussion around MBL

Must not be alot of ownership by frequent posters.  They are pricey - I have  heard several models many times and have always been impressed - would love to own a pair.  Not sure I could commit.
There have been many posts about MBL. Yes pricey.

If you like MBL take a look at German Physiks or OHM. OHMs do not take a big financial commitment to try the waters.

I’ve heard MBL on several occasions once in a well designed dealer showroom and they are special indeed especially if one is able to give them a proper setup.

I also heard GErman Physiks recently for first time at Capital Audiofest and it was best sound in show for me.

I’ve also been an OHM Walsh owner for many years.

I am a fan of more omni-directional speakers obviously. Also of speakers designed to deliver coherent sound. OHMs and GPs are probably better at that than MBL. I also own more conventional monitor speakers that I enjoy a lot but on different terms.

I've done some consulting work for mbl in Germany.

I have heard just about everything out there over the almost 40 years I've been in the high-end business.

Without question, the mbl Master Reference System is the absolute best that I have ever heard.  Of course, you need a room, (properly designed to work with these) and a lot of money, but if you have both, IMHO you can't buy better.

Last time I was in Germany, I was able to tag along on the final setup of this system in a room that the owner had custom built (over $100K USD for just the room).  It was the most awesome sound I will probably ever hear in my life....BREATHTAKING.

The current retail of this system is around $550,000, (sans room).  Yes that's an astronomical amount, but again, if you have the funds...
You can take this as you wish.  In our opinion Omni's are too flawed by design to work well in most rooms.

An Omni by its very nature is directing sound 360 around the loudspeakers this does create a very realistic recreation of space, however, with that being said, unless you have the right room and right positioning what you get in many times sounds like a distortion of reality.

I would also add many large diapole speakers speakers into this mix as well.

The issue is image size and being able to create a believable yet palpable image. Most of the Omni's create an image which spreads out the performers into a mix which is larger then life.

The question is not is the sound spacious but does it mirror reality, if you enjoy listening to a recording where the lead singer sounds like he or she is eight feet tall and eight feet wide then you have a fantastic speaker.

Omni's can sound fantastic for classical where you are trying to recreate the sound of a huge orchestra but other than that you have a great tendency to create an image which is just too large or too spread out to sound like what you get from a close miked live recording or what an engineer can create when mixing for a stereo image.

When you also factor in  that for an Omni to work well you have to carefully make sure rear and side reflections don't screw up the image to begin with and you can see that Omini's can be very difficult beasts to make work in real world environments.

In terms of speed, clarity,  dynamic range and bass, the MBL are fantastic, it just depends on if you can listen around what they do or enjoy the super stereo effect.

Give me a high quality direct radiator anytime.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ
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Any Agon'ers in the NYC area with MBL speakers that would mind offering an audition to a fellow Agon'er?
I am dying to hear them.
@pops, c'mon Jerry, you can't figure this one out?

The reason you don't hear MBL owners posting on audio forum threads is because they are More Busy Listening. ;^)

Seriously though, pricey, rather limits the amount of owners available to comment.
Also, you won't find many folks who can afford big ticket items perusing through threads on used audio gear websites.


@pops I would love to own a pair of MBL speakers as well. I have my eye on the MBL starter system - $33.4k. It includes the MBL 126 Speakers/stands, C31 CD/DAC, and C51 integrated amp. I heard this system about a year and a half ago at a dealer event and thought it was very very good. I plan to go audition it again in the new year. -I also heard the Noble line mono blocks with the 101 E MKII speakers on the same day and the MBL 126  sounded pretty similar, just with the  101 E MKII providing more of the same. MBL seem to have their house sound figured out across lines.

FYI - I've heard a number of their speakers including the 116, 111, 101 E MKII, and the 101 x-treme. To me, they are all fantastic. I've also heard all three lines of electronics and I like all-MBL systems very much. YMMV but I'd highly recommend you find an audition. -I've heard MBL many times and I always walk away very much enjoying the quality of the sound and they are on my short list when I build a new system. Also, they are usually, for me, in the top 1-4 at audio shows and have been number 1 for me a few times. Just a fabulous sound.
I have heard MBLs on numerous occasions. Always among the best I've ever heard with the exception of a two audio shows where they produced too much bass because they were played too loudly in a room that could not handle them. A truly great company in all respects.
@jmcgrogan2 John 😂.  Good point - you got me there but I do still  see some fans of big buck speaks like Magico.   Newer on the scene I guess.  
MBL is OVERPRICED German gear made for the STATUS conscious bling crowd. NOT AFFORDABLE by the average hi-fi enthusiast - hence few posts! Best bang-for-the-buck omni speakers have always been the OHM Walsh's (made in Brooklyn, NY)!
Good point - you got me there but I do still  see some fans of big buck speaks like Magico.   Newer on the scene I guess.  

Possibly because Magico are newer to the scene. However, I think that is more likely because Magico is manufactured in the USA.

You will find more discussions on these forums around ARC, VAC, D'Agostino, Rowland products than you will see regarding Goldmund, FM Acoustics, Vitus, Jadis, MBL, etc.

Some call it regioncy bias. I'm sure that German Audio Forums have more discussions about MBL speakers than Magico or Rockport speakers.

Happy Thanksgiving!!
Gobble, Gobble!!   Love the design and the pair I heard sounded great but after I watched this vid I wonder about the use of foam in transducer elements since my findings are this type of foam degrades after about 10-15 years and becomes gummy.
Dont like the lamela design. These things are designed to flex which is bad news. There must be all kinds of parasitic vibrational modes in those blades.
Shadorne who knew parasitic vibrational modes could sound so good! 😉

Those on a budget who cant afford or deal with mbl owe it to themselves to set up a pair of ohm walsh well and give that a try. Much more practical for most rooms and used you might pick a pair up for the cost of just a few audiophile fuses. What do you have to lose?  I recommend 100w/ch or higher Class D amps to drive them. Made in Broklyn. Usa and save on your power bill too!
I have an MBL dealer near me so I have seen quite a lot of them over the years.  Always enjoyable!

A little new blood around here would not hurt!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
When I heard them they sounded very colored...... a wwII German tank

Maybe you should have your hearing checked.  
I had the displeasure to in an exhibit at CES that was located right next door to the MBL room. Thump, thump, thump, thump!!
Well, if you want some talk on’s a bunch :)

I own MBL speakers. (As well as currently owning Thiel 3.7 and 2.7 speakers, Spendor, Waveform, Hales...and like many here I’ve owned plenty of different speaker types and brands).

The first time I heard MBLs, as I remember, was at a CES show, around 2000 or so, so it was the 101Ds at the time.

I remember walking past various rooms and coming from one room was the sound of what actually seemed like a live band, playing jazz. Once inside I saw the MBL 101s and, as cool as they looked, the sound blew my mind. It wasn’t simply the spacious quality. It was the sound quality.
I’d heard every design under the sun playing at that show, and all sounded like hi-fi systems. This was the first time I’ve ever heard drums actually sound like live drums. The cymbals in particular. They weren’t that reduced, diminished "coming from a tweeter" sound exhibited by almost all the other speakers - so many hi-fi systems seem to make higher frequency sounds tinier than they are. They actually sounded like big, round, full cymbals - to the point breaking it into hi-fi speak didn’t make sense - they just sounded like real drum cymbals (and snare, etc).
And many of the other instruments had a similar tonal and dynamic realism.

So I think my initial interest in MBL started there. I later heard the MBLs at Absolute Sound reviewer Michael Gindi’s place, in a hilariously small but well treated room. Again: the most astonishingly realistic sound I’ve ever heard from a sound system. And since I’m a "timbre-first" guy, not a soundstaging-first guy, it’s not the spaciousness that got me so much as the sheer timbral realism and presence.

I’ve heard the MBLs sound not-great in some shows. But various auditions and other encounters in good set ups continued to give me the impression they are damned special.

I lost out on an auction of the 101Ds (or was it Es?) years ago. But happened upon a good bargain for the smaller stand mounted 121 speakers, which I’ve owned now for several years. They have the mid and tweeters of the big units and have the same MBL "voice" and attributes.

I switch around my speakers but every time I play the MBLs they still blow my mind. Yes, the soundstaging, disappearing act, imaging and 3D sound are almost second to none, but it’s also the qualities of timbre and resolution that make them so special in my experience. They have just about the most effortless super-resolution I’ve heard - where for instance fingers plucking a classical guitar aren’t just "wow listen to that tweeter, I can hear the fingers on the strings" in a sort of pushed-resolution way. Rather, fingers simply *become* a natural fleshy presence plucking the string, like when I play my guitar.

And, again, in my obsession with vocal and instrumental timbre: the one aspect of hi-fi that has most disappointed me is how reproduced sound becomes homogenized. The really specific tonal colors and differences between metal, plastic, wood, brass etc just aren’t totally there even with the most expensive systems I’ve heard (or, very rarely). To my ears, the MBLs create a wider rainbow of instrumental timbre than just about any speaker I’ve encountered. A cymbal, or a drum rim, really does sound metallic, wood like wood, plastic like plastic etc. Unlike most speaker systems where, once I’ve listened for a little while I can predict how drums, sax etc will sound, I actually get a continued sense of "surprise"
with the MBLs, when new instruments enter the mix, or from one track to another.

I’ve been auditioning plenty of excellent speakers again, recently, from Audio Physic, Magico, Rhaido, Audio Note and various others, and they are terrific. But to my ears, I still find some aspects of the MBL more impressive, particularly the chameleon believability of the sound.  I recently owned Harbeth SuperHL5Plus speakers,  Harbeth speakers being renowned for natural vocal reproduction.  They were indeed pretty special for vocals.  But not in the league with the MBLs which can sound spooky-real with voices.

Also, unrealistically sized imaging - e.g. the "superwide singer" effect Audio Doctor speaks of, isn’t mirrored by my experience with the larger MBLs over the years, or with my pair. Of course you can set up many speakers to produce spreading of the imaging. But MBLs can be set up to image quite realistically. If they had imaged unrealistically I’d never have thought the sound realistic in the first place. Vocalists, or other instruments on my MBLs, are no more unrealistically large than on my Thiel speakers, and the Thiels as good as they are, and as great as their reputation for resolution and precision, can not produce the realism I can hear on the MBLs.

I have some bad news. I was in the room next to the MBLs in 2000, the same year you heard them. Not only did I have to put up with the loud thumping for two days but I went next door to see what all the fuss was about. The sound in the MBL was was quite tedious and loud. I trust they sounded better at your home. I was with John Curl and Bob Crump that year, and in the system was their Bar B Que amp and Blowtorch preamp and Number Cruncher DAC. Now, THAT was a good sounding system! No offense.

Sorry about your "bad news," geoffkait.   I don't like how loud MBL tends to do their demos; I don't think this helps the sound.

I can't be sure it was CES 2000, or the year before or after (or THE SHOW) as I attended a couple around those years. 

I understand everyone has different reactions to sound systems and the MBLs seem to be fairly polarizing.  (And part of this I think can be from MBL's tendency to blare such loud levels, and perhaps the trickier interaction of the omnis with different rooms).

The more holistic picture of the MBL sound came, for me, through successive encounters in better controlled conditions.


Of course these are subjective opinions.  But that's audio for you.

I've been comparing live vs reproduced sound for a long time. I had many speakers pass through my room and had live recordings I'd made of familiar sounds, my acoustic guitar, my sons playing sax, trombone, my wife's voice etc.  I used to play them through a new pair of speakers and compare them directly to the real thing, just to get a sense of what the system was or wasn't doing.

Nothing has reproduced those recordings with the realism of the MBLs.
They certainly pass the "other room" test with flying colors.   If I play the recording of my son practicing saxophone through the MBLs, at realistic levels, from outside the room it just sounds uncannily like someone is playing a real sax in there.  Same with my guitar recordings.  I've fooled a couple people that my son was playing sax in the next room when it was the MBLs.  It's not just the spaciousness or the way they energize a room, but the reproduction of instrumental timbre can be startling.

I appreciate the further details. I do also appreciate they are subjective, but I do sense we probably like many of the same finer points of the MBL gear and certainly that includes the timbrel texture and realism, it just makes them sing so convincingly. I've never been in an MBL room I wanted to leave, some better than others, yes, but always that MBL siren-song calling you to listen just a little longer.
I've heard the big MBL loudspeakers a number of times and have always enjoyed them.  They remind me a lot of the Linkwitz LX521, which you can build for about $3000/pair.
(...backing up to audiotroys' comments...)

Well...yes, omnis Do Require some careful consideration and care when setting them up in any space.  One way to view it is to consider how one might build a stage for performances in a given space for a live a nightclub.  But one of the concerns is that you're not going to be able to have 'active re-enforcement' (think 'PA stacks') due to some arcane city regulation....noise, volume, etc.

So you have to consider 'reflections' and make them work for you.

Agreed, an oversized soundstage is to be avoided.  The old "901 20ft. wide pianos" were amusing only because we were trying to blast the plaster off the wall in the process...

As for the speakers under discussion....

MBL = Ferrari; if you can afford them, you'd better know how to drive them...and don't complain about the cost of tires, maintenance, etc.

You don't see a lot of Ferraris' on the freeways as a general rule, either.

Car or speaker, I admire and appreciate the technology and the craftsmanship....from afar....where I don't miss it...;)
I've only heard them at a few different shows, where each time they played them too loudly. Only once did I think they might have been placed too far apart; with soundstage and imaging somewhat out of proportion and vague. Imaging might not be quite as specific as some, but is still very convincing. The bass region which to my ears consistently didn't sound coherently attached, but rather lagging the rest of the spectrum. But that rest of the spectrum is as good, if not better than anything else I've ever heard. Transients and decay appear and disappear with extreme delicacy that reminds me of the way a really fine balsamic dances on one's tongue.

I'd also add, as I believe I've mentioned before on the forum:

Understandably, especially given the very low sensitivity of the MBL speakers, they are regularly paired with huge current heavy SS amps.

But a number of folks have found success with tubes.  Best I ever heard the MBLs were at Michael Gindi's with tube amps (CAT if I remember).
Some have had success with VAC too, I believe.

In my case my CJ Premier 12s at 140w side have actually driven the MBL 121s splendidly.  (Though I don't listen at concert levels).

But I actually found one of the most magical combinations to be the 121s driven by my classic Eico HF-81, from the 60's, a mere 14W side of integrated amp tube glory.  The midrange, warmth and sparkle of the sound is mesmerizing, and the bass, while not quite as tight, goes deeper and the impression I get is the 121s becoming a sonically even larger speaker.

It's always fun to experiment.
Here's my two cents worth of my MBL experience.
From the first time I heard the Oscar Heil AMT 1's some 35+ years ago for my ears I have always been fond of electrostatic sound, fast, clear & articulate, and thats primarily what my systems have been built around.
Over that timeframe I have purchased & auditioned many rivals since my purchase of the AMT's and just could not match the spead and clarity of the AMT's until more recent years, the last 15 maybe.

A dealer in my area, United Home Audio (Greg Berone) had a new version of an AMT made by a French Company (PrecideSA) and they produced a pretty good speaker that was a lot more affordable under 10k,  while is was there UHA had a room setup with some MBL gear 126,111,101e's at that time,  also running all MBL source gear,  for my experience I dont think i have ever heard any audio system that came close to reproducing sound/music like the MBL system has.
My brotherin-law who also attended with me is a drummer in a band for more than 40 years now and was extremely impressed with the music being produced by the MBL's, as you know drummers don't bankroll a whole lot but he always mentions MBL everytime we talk about our systems and wants to own them when funding allows.
I have been fortunate enough to purchase a pair of MBL 116's and they sang for me amazingly, they reproduce effortlessly with a very wide open soundstage like I had never experienced in my dedicated room before until I came across Legacy Whispers about 8 years ago and now Whisper XD's which are more in my budget area,  I used Mcintosh 1201 monoblocs to push the 116's with no problems but my experience has been if you really want the best MBL can produce it will be with all MBL gear, they have a synergy that is unmatched.
I still have my my 116's to this day but are having great results with Legacy using the Zilica to control room affects, this is the only reason I have stuck with Legacy , and now they will soon release a new technology next year that will take the Whispers to yet another level, sorry I digressed to Legacy.

If you want to hear what the ultimate possibilities are with MBL IMHO the Buggatti of audio and you are considering spending this kind of money, I would strongly suggest you contact Greg and kick the tires, believe me,  its an experience you won't forget.
UHA (Greg) has sence set up a exclusive, dedicated room with MBL ONLY gear, you will have to schedule an appointment to audition this system.
Av showrooms recorded an audition on YouTube with UHA/Greg that is worth reviewing and even on a video recording this sound was different from most recordings you hear.

Hopefully this helps you get closer to the elusive quest?

You said " I used Mcintosh 1201 monoblocs to push the 116's with no problems but my experience has been if you really want the best MBL can produce it will be with all MBL gear, they have a synergy that is unmatched". I'd have to agree with you wholeheartedly. That is the way they've always sounded best to me. I've heard the MBL 116 with McIntosh too and it just was not as good as an all-MBL system; and I do own McIntosh myself. But I also do aspire to own MBL in the future.
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What do you like about the sound of the MBL's?

Sounds Real Audio
Maybe I should pick up the line.
Jim I like the utter openness and transparent picture the mbl 's produce.  The best example I can remember hearing was at the capital audio fest a couple of years ago.  Led Zepplin II was blasting away and for the first time hearing that album I got the real sense of a 3 piece band performing on stage.  

Mbl electronics and UHA reel to reel was driving them.  I have only heard mbl speakers with mbl electronics.

Another example was at United Home Audio's store.  The small ones, I believe 121's playing "wish you were here" by PF and the presentation was eerie it was so real.   It is tattooed on my brain to this day!  That system was also mbl electronics and a mid level clearaudio table.

it was those types of examples that took me from stereo and music lover to audiophilia some 30 years ago.  MBL is on my bucket list.  

Although the MBLs are mainly known for their spectacularly realistic 3D imaging and soundstaging, that isn't the first thing that attracted me to them.  It was actually the tone and timbral realism (to my ears).

They sound open and realistic, and just seem to be able to re-create the different timbral qualities - from the solidity, and metallic quality of a struck chime or bell, or drum cymbal, to the brassiness of a horn, reediness of a sax, plastic/gut string of classical guitars, the golden sparkle of a regular acoustic guitar, etc.   Sounds are just more varied - and closer to the real thing - through the MBLs, in my experience.  And their resolution is second to none.  There is a relaxed, completely effortless level of resolution - the type that makes sounds actually more organic than the type that says "wow, listen to that tweeter!"  that makes regular speakers sound like they are "trying."  

Add that to the utter lack of box sound and the most realistic dimensional imaging around, and they are just more realistic sounding than just about any speaker I've encountered.  They make other speakers sound like "tweeters and cones in a box" by comparison, and they have a solidity to the sound that is more like a dynamic speaker rather than the thinner ghostly quality of most panel speakers.  They are the whole package.

Whenever I listen to the MBLs and go back to my box speakers, it takes a while to adjust back to tweeters 'n cones in a box.

That said, of course nothing is perfect and I have various other speakers for a reason.  Speakers sound different and I like those differences.

The MBLs, if not in the proper room and on the right electronics can get a bit "icey" in the top end.  But when controlled, that goes away leaving the rainbow of timbral colors.

Pops and Prof

Totally agree regarding transparency. I think it is more then that. Prof hit it on the head they sound " Right " singers who we have heard sound like they are supposed to sound, ditto for instruments, everything sounds right. 

I heard the large ones, not sure which model, at the RMAF 6 years ago, The highs were very fast clean and all the good stuff. I have a problem with the lower end and the integration to the bass and even the mid bass. They go from a super fast high end to basically a sub in a box, and that did't work for me. I would probably like a monitor more then the larger ones.