Introduction - what is the LX-2 MkII?
The Mission LX-2 MkII is a two way, standmount loudspeaker. As the name suggests, it is the successor to the original LX-2 which we looked at back in 2017. To say that the LX-2 was a return to form for Mission is a little like saying that superhero movies ‘picked up a little’ after Marvel got involved. The performance it offered was genuinely revelatory, especially when you consider that it launched at £160.
This new speaker has seen its price creep up to £229 but taken in context, this is still a faintly absurd price for a pair of speakers in 2020. You might read that and think “that’s an odd thing to say, we’ve had £200 speakers for years”… and that’s rather the point. £229 in 2020 (or 2018 as that’s the last set of full figures available) was £138 in 2000. It was £102 in 1990. Despite the value of the money that pays for it halving in value in thirty years, the audio industry continues to bang out £200 speakers and, to my continued astonishment, it still manages to eke out performance improvements while it does so.
Of course, the margins available to do that are tighter than ever before and the costs of everything from materials to the labour that assembles it are not constrained by the same desire to defy financial gravity. Can this new version of the LX-2 really move the game on from what came before? Time to find out.
Design and Specification
As you might expect from a device that claims that it’s a MkII version of the original, the basic pattern of the LX-2 isn’t changed significantly. What has changed since the original LX-2 broke cover is that Mission has been on something of a hot streak. Both the QX and ZX series have built on the basics and introduced some cleverness of their own together with a visual identity (more of which later). As this pool of technology, knowledge and design has accrued, it makes sense to see what can be fed into the base model.
This means that the mid bass driver is a 130mm composite fibre design that is a continuous profile cone with no dust cap or inner break. This is joined by a second, inner cone that is the fixing point for the motor assembly. As well as smartening up the looks of the speaker from the front, Mission says that the result is more efficient than this assembly working directly on the front cone. The driver itself is made of a ‘dual layer fibre formation’ that is intended to be as stiff and light as possible.
One of the biggest changes to the mid bass driver is the arrival of the ‘comb-tooth’ surround that appears on the QX and ZX series. This is designed to scatter interfering reflections before they affect the performance of the driver itself. The fact it also provides some clear visual identity for the speaker as a Mission product is, I am sure, a bonus.
It is joined by a soft dome tweeter that is a 25mm microfibre dome. This is powered by a compact neodymium magnet selected for maximum magnetic oomph relative to its size. Mission’s comments around the selection of a soft dome tweeter are interesting. The company makes it clear that the more forgiving qualities that this material can provide are something that they have actively sought out for the LX Series. It is almost certainly the case too that the very sophisticated dual section tweeters that are used in the QX and ZX series are too expensive to be employed here.
The crossover that links the drivers has also been updated in line with the improvements in performance that have been achieved. All models in the range use a 4th order Linkwitz Riley network that is designed via computer modelling. This is broadly in keeping with the sort of design practise that can be found at the price but it still reflects a considerable amount of design effort for an affordable speaker. Connection is via a single pair of speaker terminals. One Mission trademark that goes unchanged is the fitment of the mid bass driver over the tweeter. As well as giving instant brand recognition, the company has long argued that this is the easiest way of ensuring correct time alignment between the two drivers.
The cabinet is a rear ported design made from MDF. Mission goes so far as to point out that the mechanics of making a speaker at this price preclude the usual tricks that can be employed to make a cabinet inert. To this end, the LX Series uses extensive computer modelling and laser interferometry (a term that always sounds vaguely… exploitative) to work out where on the cabinet benefits from bracing and damping rather than simply filling the speaker with braces and foam and congratulating themselves on a job well done. Mission claims that the cabinets are more inert than previously without the costs increasing significantly.
There are two big changes for the MkII range though and while they aren’t specifically engineering ones, they are important nonetheless. First up, what was already a perfectly respectable range of speakers has grown in size; something that is unusual in the current climate. This MkII range adds a third standmount, a choice of centre speakers and an effects speaker to the range which should make it of immediate interest to AV users as this is not something that happens terribly often any more. Mission has clearly decided to push hard in this particular area.
At the same time, the speakers that make up the range have been tidied up as well. It’s perfectly possible to argue that the looks of a speaker don’t matter so long as it works but, in reality, it matters a great deal if they have at least a few nods to domestic acceptability (and, for the avoidance of doubt, this was never something that applied to a single gender even years ago and it certainly doesn’t now). The original LX series was effective but a little utilitarian. Key rivals like Q Acoustics were able to produce speakers that cost a little more but looked and felt smarter than it did. The new LX series manages to bridge that gap. The tidied up front panel helps it to look and feel smarter and the family resemblance to the more expensive models gives Mission a stronger brand identity as a result.
It is also a very well made speaker. The cabinet doesn’t have the ‘hewn from a solid object’ feel of more expensive designs but this still comes across as a very robust speaker for the asking price. The absence of visible fastenings, the sturdy terminals and magnetic grills are all details that help you to feel that you’ve purchased wisely. I know a few people aren’t entirely fond of the comb tooth surround and you might argue that this and the perforations around the tweeter designed to perform the same role as the comb tooth looks a little fussy but - strictly subjectively - I rather like them.
What was already a perfectly respectable range of speakers has grown in size; something that is unusual in the current climate
How was the LX-2 MkII tested?
The Mission has been used with a Rega Io, taking a feed from a Chord Mojo and Poly running as a Roon Endpoint and also with a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo. It has then seen a more absolute test of its abilities with a Cambridge Audio Edge A running connected to a Roon Nucleus via USB. Material used has included FLAC, AIFF and DSD, Tidal and Qobuz as well as some vinyl.
More: Audio Formats
Any and all comments that follow on the LX 2 MkII have to be taken with a degree of context. There was very little wrong with the original LX-2 and listening to it nearly four years after release is still a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Given that the speaker was already working well, there hasn’t been a fortune available to improve it and there are no radical changes to the design, I want to make it clear that the differences between these two speakers is not night and day. Physics doesn’t work like that.
With this proviso out of the way though, there is also an argument that these speakers represent a superb demonstration of what can be achieved by taking something that works well and carefully and fastidiously working through the details. There was a moment testing the Mission where, connected to the Rega and the Pro-Ject for a total system cost of £1,047, it pulled the same trick that its predecessor did. Listening to the Blue Note pressing of Gregory Porter’s All Rise, there was a sustained period where I simply couldn’t reconcile what I was hearing with the price that the system cost. Given that the Mission was the most reasonably priced part of a fairly priced system, that’s no small feat.
As before, this is not achieved by shock and awe. What the LX-2 MkII does so effectively is take what it is fed and ensure that it sounds believable. It does this by ensuring that the tonal realism is consistently good, delivering enough bass to convince and then presenting it in a space that makes sense to the listener. There’s no magic to any of it but the work that has gone into the Mission is enough to make sure it puts up more of a fight than you might expect.
The tonality in particular is fantastic. The Mission delivers Porter’s magnificent vocal turn with a flair that makes it sound unambiguously real. Across a wide selection of material under test, the Mission has never had a moment where it wasn’t sounding like a convincing facsimile of the music being played. This is helped in no small way by the two drivers working together as a single, cohesive whole. Mission lists the crossover point as being 3.2kHz and that’s the only way I know it as there’s no audible cues to its existence otherwise.
The bass response also works well. With a claimed +/- 3dB roll off of 55Hz, this is not and never will be a truly seismic speaker but it manages to convey weight where weight is needed. The bass on offer is well integrated with frequencies above it and it’s detailed and tuneful. Even with the heavyweight stomp of Marie Davidson’s Renegade Breakdown, the Mission holds its own. Placed on a decent pair of speaker stands and given more than 15 watts, the Mission gives away nothing to the competition.
Where it makes ground over them is the sheer propulsive energy it can call upon when required. This was a feature of the original and nothing that Mission has done has affected it. Regardless of the time signature you’re asking from it, the Mission is able to deliver the music with enough of the infectious snap of a speaker that has the measure of what it is being asked to do. More than anything else, this is the Mission DNA and it is something that is integral to all the great speakers they’ve made over their history. There was a time during IAG’s ownership that this had taken a back seat and the LX-2 was the first speaker where I felt it had unambiguously returned. Further speakers and now its successor shows that it’s very much here to stay.
It is the last of the three areas, soundstage, where the Mission finally has to cough to being an affordable speaker. I think that some gains have been made to the performance over the original and I feel it is competitive with anything at the price but it’s here that the absolute assurance with which it does things wavers fractionally. Push the LX-2 MkII with My Own Soul’s Warning by The Killers and the Mission finally gives a hint that there’s a cabinet there and a small cabinet with it. Where the larger and more ornate speakers can open this furious wall of sound out a little, then Mission beams it at you. If we’re pointing out the limitations, it is also only fair to point out that the LX-2 MkII seems to have been set up to deliver what it does once a fairly price comparative level of equipment is used. Connecting them to the Edge A doesn’t really find an extra level of performance but, if your actual plan for a system is to attach a £220 pair of speakers to a £4,500 amp, I’d recommend you reconsider your budget allocation anyway.
A skill that the Mission does have and one I feel it very worthwhile is that it manages to take hot and poor recordings and work with them in such a way that none of their energy is lost but they rarely sound anything other than pretty good. I have conducted a fun week with the Missions on hand and they’ve never rendered anything in a way that I can’t listen to them. This has been balanced with the ability to take a great recording, such as the Porter vinyl, and get much of that greatness across. For all its forgiving qualities, this is a speaker that can convincingly create a high fidelity reproduction of it.
Across a wide selection of material under test, the Mission has never had a moment where it wasn’t sounding like a convincing facsimile of the music being played.
- Simply excellent sound for the money
- Look nicer than before
- Very well made for the asking price
- Can sound a little constrained when pushed
- Competition is stiff
- Some may find elements of the styling fussy
Mission LX-2 MkII Speaker Review
As hinted to earlier, there is no ‘re-writing the rule book’ here. The original LX-2 was (and still is) a great speaker and nothing that its successor does makes what came before obsolete. That is not how things go. What has happened is that Mission has kept the pressure on rivals to push as hard as it has. The LX-2 MkII looks smarter, sounds a little better and still costs a very reasonable sum while it does it. There is now an even broader range of speakers to which it belongs too. Given that the original was a Best Buy and this is a better speaker, it only makes sense to say that this talented and invigorating speaker is cut from the same cloth. Well done Mission.
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