Mission LX Connect Wireless Speaker System Review

Going to get myself connected

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

23

Highly Recommended
Mission LX Connect Wireless Speaker System Review
SRP: £999.00
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Mission LX Connect Wireless Speaker System Review

The LX Connect is a comprehensively specified and very well implemented wireless adaptation of Mission's budget standmount that becomes a very credible soundbar alternative.

Pros

  • Lively, entertaining and detailed sound quality
  • Well made and well implemented
  • Good connectivity

Cons

  • Hardens up a little at higher levels
  • Faces stiff competition from more conventional powered speakers
  • A fairly big cost jump over the passive LX2 MkII

Introduction - What Is the Mission LX Connect?

The Mission LX Connect is a self-contained wireless speaker system. This seems to be an area that a number of manufacturers are focusing on at the moment and there are logical reasons as to why this might be the case… and a few minor notes of caution too. This is one of those categories that could easily be numerous enough to host a group test in a year’s time or one of the odd evolutionary footnotes we see from time to time. Don’t worry, I’ll justify (or at least attempt to justify) my statements in due course.

The omens that Mission will deliver a good result are pretty positive though. The company has been releasing some absolutely brilliant passive speakers of late that manage the neat trick of being recognisably from Mission in terms of their design and sonic signature but able to do things that their rorty ancestors couldn’t possibly achieve. As part of the IAG group of companies, they have access to some very clever souls indeed to assist with the electronics side of the design too. Then, when the time comes to actually build the thing, IAG’s track record in that area is pretty peerless too.

On paper promise and real world greatness are not the same thing though. The last piece of equipment designed to this pattern that we tested was the Q Acoustics Active 200 and it is pretty good… but not quite the absolute knock out that we often experience from the brand. Can Mission make good on the promise of the concept and deliver a winner? Time to find out.

Specification and Design

Mission LX Connect
The speakers closely resemble the passive versions

As the name suggests, the LX Connect is conceptually similar to the LX MkII speakers in the range (of which the LX-2 MkII has passed through and garnered an Editor’s Choice award while it did so). The conversion process that Mission has undertaken on this speaker is significant but the core of the Connect is the same as the LX2 MkII. Each speaker features a 130mm composite fibre cone that makes use of second inner cone to act as the interface between the mechanical components and the actual diaphragm itself. It is supported by a 25mm microfibre tweeter that is placed underneath the mid bass driver to aid with time alignment (and, no less importantly, help it look like a Mission).

In the Connect version, the terminals are dispensed with and, in their place comes a 60 watt Class D amplifier. As the information supplied with the Connect makes reference to the same crossover arrangements as fitted to the passive version, the suggestion is that the Connect is a powered rather than an active design, with the amp acting on the crossover rather than being governed by a powered crossover arrangement.

Even so, there are differences with the way that this crossover works in the Connect. On the rear panel of each speaker is a +/- (with neutral position) bass adjustment switch. This is intended to allow for greater flexibility as to where you place this more ‘lifestyle orientated’ device than the more conventional speaker. Additionally, each speaker can be told if it is left or right (or both can be set to receive a mono signal) which helps to ensure that both speakers can be positioned completely independently of where the Hub thinks they are.

Mission LX Connect
Around the back, the differences are more apparent

The Hub (capitalised as that is what Mission has named it as well as what it is) is the means of collating inputs and transmitting them to the speakers. Here, Mission has been usefully ambitious in the scope of the connections on offer. You get an analogue (with provisos to be made shortly) input, an optical, coaxial and USB input that is joined by an HDMI ARC connection too. The scope to consider the Mission as a soundbar alternative is a pretty compelling one. Rounding off the connections is Bluetooth v5.0 with the full suite of aptX standards and AAC.

Dig a little deeper and the effort that has been put into the Hub continues to impress. Mission makes no secret that the expertise (and in the case of the remote if nothing else parts bin) of sister brand Audiolab has been borrowed to help with the development of the Hub. The internal decoding is handled by an ESS Sabre ES9018K2M DAC chip which sits in a circuit that makes use of Audiolab’s own design-thinking to employ best use of the jitter reduction circuitry. The Hub can handle 32/384kHz and DSD256 via the USB input and Mission has secured Roon certification for the Hub too so, if you connect it to a Roon Core, it knows exactly what the Hub can and can’t handle. More intriguing still is that the Hub can be used as a headphone amp and connected to an actual power amp via RCA preamp too giving it a ‘stretch’ that is unusual for a system of this nature.

Communication with the speakers themselves is via a bespoke wireless system that has two operating frequencies on other side of the general use 5.6GHz frequency. This is capable of transmitting at up to 32/192 (that is to say, information sent to the USB input above this sample rate will be converted down to this and anything sent via the analogue input won’t remain analogue throughout the playback process). As noted, the Hub doesn’t need to be positioned relative to the speakers to send left and right channels where they need to go and Mission claims a range of up to 20 metres which, as you will appreciate, I have no means whatsoever of testing because that is more than double the length of any outer wall of my house.


Mission LX Connect
The Hub is compact but well finished

The result is something that boasts an impressive specification for its asking price but is subject to some of the same issues that I raised with the Q Acoustics Active 200. Connection to the speakers is wireless and it has been unconditionally stable under test. Not once has it stuttered, suffered from interference or not started correctly from standby. As each speaker requires an IEC mains connection to be made to it though, it’s still not really the case that the Mission gives you free choice in where you put it and it is ‘wireless’ only to a point.

My other critique is that the LX- Connect manages to be at once good value and a slightly intriguing one. Taken as a complete system for £999, it’s impressive. The specification is flexible and comprehensive and compares favourably to rivals. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore that the passive speaker on which it is derived is available for £230. This powered development is a good deal more sophisticated but it’s still related to the more affordable passive model and, even with the comprehensive and flexible Hub added to the calculation, it feels like a significant jump in cost from passive to powered.

IAG is better equipped than many companies to style this out though. As everything that the company makes is superbly finished, the LX Connect feels worth the money. Points of contact are well engineered and implemented and there is a slickness to how the whole setup operates that can often be lacking when speaker manufacturers have a stab at complete systems. I do think that the decision not to make the Hub a UPnP device is the correct one too. Even if your audio source becomes Spotify routed back down the HDMI ARC from your TV, it lends the Mission a flexibility to receive audio in the manner you wish rather than adapting your requirements to fit.

Mission LX Connect
The LX Connect offers an impressive collection of functionality

Dig a little deeper and the effort that has been put into the Hub continues to impress

How Was the LX Connect Tested?

The Mission has been installed taking power from an IsoTek Evo3 Corvus, receiving an audio signal via USB from a Roon Nucleus and an LG 55B7 OLED TV over optical (again, your periodic reminder that HDMI ARC is regrettably defunct on the B7 so cannot be used for testing). An Oppo Find X2 Neo Android phone has been used to test the Bluetooth. Material used has been FLAC, AIFF, DSD, Tidal, Qobuz, on demand and broadcast TV and a small amount of YouTube.

More: Audio Formats

Performance

Mission LX Connect
Connectivity on the hub is usefully comprehensive

With the speakers set up, the Mission manages the neat (and important) trick of sounding in keeping with its passive relation. It does this by leveraging the same set of positive attributes as the passive LX-2 MkII. Voices and instruments sound as they should and there’s an effortless space and proportion to the performance. The cleverest aspect of Mission’s evolution over the last few years is that it has kept the excitement and immediacy its speakers have always excelled at but managed to create a level of civility that makes them easier to enjoy long term without the fatigue that could creep in when the boundless energy of some older designs got the better of you.

What’s more, the Connect has some new tricks too. The tying in of decoding and amplification have not significantly altered the basic balance of the speakers but they have served to fill out the bottom end and increase the perceived soundstage of the two speakers when placed in the same location as their passive counterparts. It’s always hard to work out where ‘beneficial electronics’ and ‘actual DSP’ begin and end in this situation but the Connect feels extremely homogeneous.

This is most apparent when using the Mission with TV material. Buried in the settings on the Hub is ‘movie mode’ and it is well worth engaging. As with so many of the ‘stereo alternatives to soundbars’, there’s no processing at work to push information above or behind you, it simply immerses you with effortless stereo width and before you even consciously become aware of it, even with something big and complex like Foundation, you are centred in the events on screen.

Mission LX Connect
A white version is also available

Music is also well handled. Using the Connect as a Roon Endpoint and enjoying the eponymously titled album from The Olympians, the effect is the same spacious, tonally accurate and extremely composed listening experience that has just the right amount of snap and drive to it. Being subjective for a moment, If I had the choice of a pair of passive LX2 MkII’s and something like a Rega Io, with the balance to spend on decoding, I could find myself tempted but the idea of the Connect is that it arrives in a box and just works in contrast to the business of selecting source equipment (particularly if you want HDMI ARC) that would complement the amp and the passive speakers.

There are some issues here though and how much they matter to you will vary depending on your use patterns. I’ve found that, while the Connect is extremely composed at what I would describe as normal, room filling levels (up to roughly 73-75dB) at the listening position, if you push beyond this it does tend to harden up and lose some of that cohesion. It is possible that in a larger room, being driven, some of this strain might be more apparent at lower levels too.

The other issue isn’t performative so much as a competitive. The LX Connect arrived hot on the heels of the Q Acoustics M20. Now, I do not want to be misconstrued here. The Mission is more flexible, better specified and can outperform the M20 but it is more than twice the price of the M20, needs three times as many plugs and ultimately works with much the same size speaker drivers and cabinet, so the overall ability to fill a room with sound is not night and day different. The issue is not so much that the LX Connect is anything other than strong value for its asking price, simply that the M20 is absurd value for £400.

Where the Mission does more to convince me is that there’s the same seamless user experience that the more high specification all in one designs can manage and that’s a significant factor in people’s purchasing decisions. The Mission can be set to work with a screen in a way that means that less committed members of the household don’t need to learn anything or change behaviour, it just works for them, and it wouldn’t be hard to ensure it did the same with audio too. Everyone reading this will have a different price they put on this capability but, based on the devices I’ve tested, the Mission falls towards the more affordable end of this slickness.

Mission LX Connect
The workstation of a person with neither cats nor children

The cleverest aspect of Mission’s evolution over the last few years is that it has kept the excitement and immediacy its speakers have always excelled at but managed to create a level of civility that makes them easier to enjoy long term without the fatigue that could creep in when the boundless energy of some older designs got the better of you

Conclusion

Mission LX Connect Wireless Speaker System Review

The LX Connect is a fascinating device and I largely mean that in a positive manner too. Mission has taken an outstanding budget speaker and evolved it into something rather different. This is a variation on the theme seen with the Q Acoustics Active 200 but some decisions taken with the functionality and engineering here (as well as being £500 cheaper) leave the Mission feeling more compelling than the Active 200. It’s less wilfully odd, has better connectivity and sounds as good, and in some cases better. I think that the presence of a TV in your plans is the make or break element for the LX Connect; with just USB, the qualities of the cheaper M20 are too significant to ignore but, if you are looking for that musical soundbar alternative, the LX Connect is a great balance of features and performance and comes Highly Recommended.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Ease of Use

.
9

Features

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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