- Written by Jared Rachwalski
- Published on 06 September 2010
Quickly becoming one of my favorite demo Blu-Rays, the excellent concert disc by David Gilmour Remember that Night, contains many Pink Floyd gems and solo material. Guests include David Bowie, Graham Nash, and David Crosby. This disc is presented in the new HD audio formats and sounds utterly without flaw. When the opening note for Echos is played the crowd instantly recognizes the song, This sudden surge of crowd noise from the surrounds blended smoothly with the notes coming from the front stage. This is where having an identical five speaker system is appreciated. Next up, Time and the clock-chiming that opens the song. Here the multitude of high-frequency sounds can distort or fail to separate with less capable speakers. Not so with the MCS1's their sound was crisp and clear with no fatigue.
On to the SACD player, with Cowboy Junkies Whites off Earth Now Multi-channel SACD up first. This disc was recorded live with a single microphone and has some startlingly real dynamic range. There is plenty of ambient noise present, which with the MCS1's was easily heard among the vocals and guitar work. The depth of this recording was easily conveyed through these speakers. There was no audible distortion of compression at any volume. I hesitate to name a single track as I found myself listening to the entire album and no single song stood out. Rarely during my listening sessions with this well played discs does that happen. It was with this recording that I began to get a feel for the Thiels strength, detail and realism.
Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon Multi-channel SACD was next in the player. This was my first SACD purchase and first disc I ever heard in this format. For review purposes I jump straight to Us and Them and specifically the solo by Clare Torry. The speakers should be able to accurately convey the delicate power without sounding forced or strained. Which the MCS1's did with ease. On Money the opening cash-register noises bounce from one speaker to another and I found the blend to be seamless. The bass line was forceful, dynamic and at no time did I notice the SmartSub – exactly what you want a sub to do, disappear.
Movies are great, but the real test for me is how a speaker plays back music and for that I chose two completely different discs. First up was the HDCD from Tool, Lateralus. I enjoy listening to this complex album which is full of distorted guitars, strong bass-lines and intricate drum work. What makes this a great test disc is the effort that went into the sound-quality. Most heavy rock albums are overly compressed, lacking in dynamic slam and instrument separation. Not this album, the compression is kept in check and the drum track was recorded separately on 1" analog tape. The track Reflection opens with Danney Cary pounding out a drum sequence which spans his whole drum kit, which is placed by the MCS1's perfectly. You hear individual drums a different locations between and behind the speakers. This wide range of drums is then reinforced with a solid bass line, which thanks to the SS2 smart sub has serious weight and definition. Even at loud volumes the bass line kept its own space and the drum track never fell apart. Compared to my reference MartinLogan Vista speakers, there was greater dynamic range, and cleaner high frequencies at loud volumes.
Center channel speakers are primarily used to reproduce voices, and my favorite test for that is a solo female voice. Rebekah Del Rio's A cappella version of Roy Orbison's classic Crying sung in Spanish, is one of the most difficult and rewarding songs to use. Found on the Mullholland Drive Soundtrack, her voice is the only sound on the entire track. There is emotion, beauty, sorrow and power in this song. When played back in the right system it will literally raise the hair on your neck. There is one particular part near the end where the power and dynamic range of her voice can cause lesser speakers to go into thermal compression and cause audible distortion. With my reference speakers, MartinLogan Vista electrostatic speakers, there is no distortion, and her beautiful voice is clean and accurate. With the MCS1 the tone was great, the dynamic range was there and there was zero distortion at any level. When pressed to compare the two, I did find my Vistas to be a tad more musical and warm, with the MCS1's being on the ultra-detailed side.
On to movies, I put the new Guy Ritchie flick, Sherlock Holmes on Blu-ray Video. I won't comment on the movie itself, instead I focus on the shipyard fight chapter in particular. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is clean, and dynamic and has tremendous LFE content. This chapter works all speakers and is great for testing panning of your surrounds to the mains. If there is any timber-matching issues you will notice them. What I listen for here is a cohesive and immersive soundstage with no gaps as the sound pans from one speaker to the other. The MCS1 system was completely enveloping and I was unaware of the physical location of the speakers as my movie room disappeared into the shipyard. The SS2 smart sub really opened up here and provided a thundering bottom end that never ran out of steam and was so seamlessly matched to the mains that I was never aware of its presence.
One of my all time favorite stories is the classic Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. And thankfully Garth Jennings did a great job transferring the story to the screen. The Blu-ray is visually fantastic and while sometimes a tad light on the surround usage has some great LFE content. I have long turned to the Earth Destruction chapter to listen for a subwoofer's ability to handle deep bass, as there is usable content down to 10Hz in this scene. With my reference sub, a MartinLogan Descent i, the lowest notes were not hit, however it does not react badly to being fed such a low note. Unlike other cheaper subs that will either crack loudly, emit ugly sounds from the ports, or worse shut down. With the SS2 I felt all the bass and heard no ill effects from the cabinet. This is the first sub in my listening room to do justice to this chapter.