Surround Sound Speaker Systems
- Written by Kieran Coghlan
- Published on 29 January 2009
Design and Setup
MK supplied me with a 5.1 system consisting of three M-5 satellites, two M-4T tripole surround speakers, and one SB-8 powered subwoofer. All speakers were medium-gloss (â€œsatinâ€) white, except for the subwoofer which was a handsome medium-gloss black. The speakers are also available in the black finish, and both the sub and speakers are available in a high-gloss black finish. All six loudspeakers had MKâ€™s distinctive metal grilles, which were held in place magnetically and were easily removable. The M-5s and M-4Ts featured excellent gold plated 5-way binding posts.
Aesthetically, MK Sound has done a wonderful job with these speakers. The finish is beautiful, and the rounded edges are virtually flawless. At first glance, the edges and finish were so smooth, I thought these were cast plastic speaker housings, but they are indeed wood! The cabinets for all the speakers in this system are constructed of Â½-inch HDF (high density fiberboard). Almost no resonance can be heard when knocking on the cabinets of these speakers. They are solid and hefty in the hand, and unobtrusive in the living room (what most users of satellite speakers desire). Furthermore, all the speakers in this system, including the subwoofer, are magnetically shielded, for those who may need to place their speakers near CRT displays.
The M-5â€™s use a 1-inch soft-dome ferro-fluid neodymium tweeter, a magnetically shielded 4-inch coated pulp bass/mid driver with a cast basket, and MKâ€™s proprietary â€œphase focusedâ€ crossover. The tri-pole M-4T surround satellites use an identical setup for the main (direct radiating) drivers, and add two 3-inch full-range drivers in a dipole arrangement in the same cabinet. With this design, MK is attempting to get a â€œbest of both worldsâ€ solution to the eternal home theater question of what kind of speaker (direct, dipole, or bi-pole) to use for the surround channels. Both the M-5 and the M-4T speakers use a sealed enclosure design, which results in a very flat frequency response. Both models are rated from 100 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 2dB, and both models are rated at 4 Ohms impedance.
The cabinet design of the SB-8 subwoofer matches that of the M-5 and M-4T speakers both aesthetically and functionally: The SB-8 is a sealed enclosure subwoofer with an 8-inch long-throw driver. The internal amplifier is rated at 150W rms, although amplifier bandwidth, and distortion/noise values are absent from this rating. Personally, I like to see any amplifier rating include, at a minimum, a test bandwidth and a THD+N value, for the stated power output. The black-anodized brushed aluminum rear panel of the sub is populated with just about every connection one could want for a small-room subwoofer. Connection to the subwoofer can be made either at the line-level or speaker-level, with stereo inputs and outputs for both.
As with the M-5 and M-4T speakers, the speaker-level connections on the SB-8 sub are excellent quality gold-plated 5-way binding posts. There is a 180 degree phase switch, which helps in matching the sub to the rest of the surround system, no matter where in the room you place the sub. There are three power switches for the SB-8, â€œoff,â€ â€œauto,â€ and â€œonâ€. Fairly self-explanatory, the â€œautoâ€ setting leaves the sub in a low-power standby state until a signal is detected at which point it comes to full power. There are two fine-tuning knobs on the back panel as well. The adjustable low-pass filter cutoff frequency can be set anywhere from 40Hz to 200Hz, or bypassed completely. The second knob adjusts the amplifier level for the sub. My receiver has a fixed 90Hz crossover frequency for the â€œsmallâ€ speaker setting, and level adjustment built-in, so I left the SB-8â€™s low-pass filter set to â€œbypass,â€ the subâ€™s amplifier level set to â€œreference,â€ and made the appropriate settings in the receiver.
Given the very limited low-end extension of the M-5 and M-4T speakers, you definitely want to setup your SSP to treat these speakers as â€œsmallâ€. If your SSP has an adjustable crossover for small speakers, set it fairly high â€“ at least 80Hz â€“ preferably at 100Hz. My systemâ€™s crossover is fixed at 90Hz, and I didnâ€™t notice any gaps in the sound field.
I set up the MK Sound M-5 system exactly as I had my own Energy satellite system set up: Left, center & right were symmetrically placed below my 50â€ plasma TV, with about 6 feet separating the left and right speakers, and the center M-5 placed directly between L&R. My listening position is in a couch along the back wall, with the surround left and right speakers on either side of the couch, separated by about eight feet. The distance from the center speaker to the listening position is about 14 feet. The subwoofer is located near the right surround speaker, about 2 feet from the back wall.