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M&K 750thx vs S85. The results..

Phil Hinton

Editor
Staff member
Following on from my thread called "upgrade complete....." this is the result of a little experiment myself and Liam (lmccauley) conducted at my cinema room on Sunday night.

Ok, tonight has been very interesting indeed.

Liam came round bang on 8pm (i had just stepped in the door myself from getting back from Scotland).

The test was a comparison between the M&K 750thx and M&K S85 front three. The 750's are the same depth and width as the S85, with almost twice the height. The 750 uses two 5" drivers and tweeter, the S85 uses one driver and tweeter.(for more on the individual specs look here: www.mksound.com

The audio chain for this little experiment was as follows

Stereo material.
Source:Rotel 951 cd player outputting analogue and digital coax.switching between the two outputs.
Preamp: Denon 3801
Amplifier: Arcam P85 2 channel.

Movies:
Pioneer 444
Denon 3801 (front L & R powered by Arcam P85)

Speaker Cable : Van Dan Hul Hybrid
Other hi quality interconnects I cant remember the makes(on loan from Sevenoaks Newcastle).

I think we started with The Corrs and Breathless, not a favorite track but is recorded very bright. The 750's were very forward with this track, but there was plenty of small details picked out and excellent imaging of the sound stage. The S85's were just as detailed but a little less forward in the presentation, more laid back if you like.
Next was Dido, a good track for sybillance(if their is anything good about sybillance). The S85's handled her voice very well with minimal sybillance, agian the 750's kept up, and to me her voice was better imaged and more forth right than the s85's, so we put the s85's on again and this time set them to Maximun, and guess what, they gave a presentation not to dis-similar to the 750's, infact it was almost Identical. And certainly not as bad as we had feared, infact very listenable.

So on to the movies and as always the 750's were brilliant in detail and scale with their presentation, and the s85's not that far behind, infact it was a dead heat as I liked both with SW:AOTC as source material. We also came to the conclusion that the 750's were louder at the same settings than the S85's which wanted more power from the Arcam.

I guess the conclusion i can make is this, the 750's are brighter than the S85, but this is not a bad thing IMHO as I could here more detail and a better dynamic performance against the S85 in Normal setting. However this sound might not be to your liking and you may prefere the laid back Normal setting for music(depending on source material) on the S85. The 750 seems to play louder at the same settings, meaning to me they need less power to get their best performance. However when pushed a little more the S85s were equal in every way.

So which was better? Well I really dont know, this was by no means a critical listening experiment, but i would have to say that I found nothing to seperate them other than the more forward presentation of the 750's on music, and could not fault either on movies as they were equal again. At no time did either miss any details in the tracks, and both are very very neutral in presentation.

The winner, both. M&K produce some sonderful speakers and the thing that keeps bowling me over is the detail, dynamics and the Imaging which is fantastic. If you are used to warm muffled speakers you will get a shock, but a good shock, and once you get used to the procise imaging and dynamics you fall in love with the music again.

I am keeping the 750's. I have listened to them for a couple of weeks now and had to try a few different things to achieve the correct sound and performance, but that is down to electronics and room acoustics, certainly not the M&K's.

I will let Liam give his thoughts when he gets the chance, i think he will agree with most of what has been said.

FAO Craig : We played the Manics "If you tolerate this.." through both speakers and the result was the same, so safe to say it is a recording fault. Maybe eric could try this track on his 2510's to see if the sybillance is as bad, which i feel it will be.


__________________
 

lmccauley

Well-known Member
Well, I pretty much agree with what Phil has written. The S85 used with "maximum output" inputs and the 750's sounded pretty similar. The S85 used with "Normal output" inputs were less forward and bright. Both sounded equally as detailed; the 750/S85(max) pushed the detail more in your face. I think the S85(normal) would be easier to listen to for an extended period of time - the 750/S85(max) could probably be quite fatiguing with music. But, in the end, it came down to personal preference rather than one speaker being "better" than the other. It would be interesting to know which was objectively the more neutral.

Cheers,
Liam
 

The Nightfly

Active Member
Phil,

Intersting post. I'm currently experimenting with "normal" and "maximum" settings on the S85's. I'm going to live with them on the "maximum" setting for a week or so before changing back. I agree that the "maximum" setting isn't as bad as expected, in fact its rather good, I'd use words like crisp and clear. I was surprised at the whopping 5db difference in levels though. What an earth are M&K doing in there to loose so much output on the "normal" setting ?

I can imagine for someone who used them for a mixture of music and movie duties that the "normal" output would be preferable for music, "maximum" output for movies. For anyone in this situation, you could always wire both sets of terminals independently back to your amp and switch between the two modes by selecting the A or B speaker outputs as required.

Allan
 

chips

Member
Originally posted by Allan Probin
I'm currently experimenting with "normal" and "maximum" settings on the S85's. I'm going to live with them on the "maximum" setting for a week or so before changing back. I agree that the "maximum" setting isn't as bad as expected, in fact its rather good, I'd use words like crisp and clear. I was surprised at the whopping 5db difference in levels though. What an earth are M&K doing in there to loose so much output on the "normal" setting ?
I tried this a few weeks ago as an experiment and actually quite liked the bright sound of the front three. However, I have now reverted to normal setting as the tonal balance seems to be a better match with my SS-150 surrounds and rears. I am using an Onkyo 989 for power.
 

Matt F

Active Member
Interesting post especially as the results were a bit different to what I found when I compared the two. I used to own the 750THX front three and I borrowed some S85's to try out at home.

The reason I sold my 750's was simple - I could not get them to image properly in stereo and I tried everything - toeing in, no toe-in, I even tried swapping them around so that the tweeters pointed inwards (they point outwards naturally). No matter what I did I couldn't get a good stereo focus - they weren't bad - in fact for THX speakers they were very good, but compared to my previous Mission 752F's they were lacking. For movies I thought they were outstanding - I didn't find them at all bright but my room is fairly dead acoustically so this probably helped. They also need lots of power - dare I suggest they benefit from more power than a Denon 3801/3802 can give - the more the better.

I replaced the 750's with KEF Reference 2-2s - the imaging of those is outstanding (due to the Uni-Q tweeter no doubt) - they were brilliant in stereo and pretty good for movies but I couldn't get the KEF 100C to work well in my enclosed TV cabinet - I put this down to the rear ports on the 100C - it needs space to breathe.

Anyway - I tried out some S85's at that time - more out of interest than anything - this does mean that I wasn't doing an A/B comparison with the 750's but my memory of them was fresh enough to make a reasonable comparison. I only used the S85's in their "normal" setting.

Very, very impressed with them - they gave the KEF Refs a run for their money when partnered with my then REL Q200. They didn't image as well as the KEFs (I didn't expect them too) but they were very good nonetheless and perfactly acceptable to me in stereo. To me they were a lot smoother than the 750's but just as detailed and that, I believe, is the sign of a really classy treble performance. I wouldn't say they were necessarily better than the 750's for movies but they were just as good IMO.

My conclusions were/are - for movies the 750's are spot on but if you want to listen in stereo as well then the S85's are a better bet.

Out of interest, after my experiments with the S85's and having purchased a better subwoofer (Velodyne HGS15) I decided to go back to satellites and I have three 1510's on order. According to our favourite Uncle they surpass the S85's so they should be exactly what I am looking for - I'll post a review of them once they arrive and have had time to run in.

Matt.
 

Phil Hinton

Editor
Staff member
Originally posted by Matt F

The reason I sold my 750's was simple - I could not get them to image properly in stereo and I tried everything - toeing in, no toe-in, I even tried swapping them around so that the tweeters pointed inwards (they point outwards naturally). No matter what I did I couldn't get a good stereo focus - they weren't bad - in fact for THX speakers they were very good, but compared to my previous Mission 752F's they were lacking.

Matt.
Very strange, as they image the same as the S85 in my room. They were spaced 6.5ft apart facing forwards with the tweeters pointing out 4% as they should, and 1.5ft out from the screen wall (this made all the difference in initial installation.) The only difference was the forward presentation of the 750's,and that the S85's needed more power from the Arcam amp, to achieve the same volume. This was with a quick swap back and forward with Both sets of speakers with the same audio chain and volume levels.
The M&K's are definetly a different character to other speaker manufacturers models, with no forced voicing or tonal edges,and certainly take a few hours of listening to get used to.

I look forward to your views on the 1510's, which were out of my budget at the time of buying, and i couldnt wait another 3 months with no sound in my room.

I will upgrade my Amplification and processor before looking again at the speakers as I am more than happy with the 750's and cannot justify the extra out lay for such a samll gain in percieved quality, Infact upgrading the electronics and room acoustical measures will proberly give me more gain than swapping to the S85/1510 for the time being.
 

The Nightfly

Active Member
I have now reverted to normal setting as the tonal balance seems to be a better match with my SS-150 surrounds and rears.
Chips,

I'm also using SS150 tripoles as surrounds and I find that the brighter setting on the S85's is the closest match. Then again, I've got the S85s in an acoustically treated part of the room (Profoam panels) and the SS150's are out there on bare plaster walls.

Allan
 

dts_boy

Well-known Member
i too am using ss150 and s125 for the front three - these are basically the s85 with an extra midrange driver in a larger cabinet. for those who are after a warmer more musical sound, these are defintely worth a listen, i compared them to cdm9nt and monitor audio gold 60 when demming. they were all very good but both the floorstanders couldn't get close to the dynamic and open/neutral sound the m&k produce. make sure you match with a good sub (ook at the powerbuy section) and you will not be dissapointed. BTW, you should get a discount with a bit of haggling, despite the efforts of those at Lizard inc!
 

chips

Member
Originally posted by Allan Probin
I'm going to live with them on the "maximum" setting for a week or so before changing back.
Alan, three weeks have passed, what was your final decision?
 

The Nightfly

Active Member
Chips,

Since I re-configured the S85's to Maximim output about three weeks ago I havn't got round to going back to the Normal setting. I actually quite like the Maximum setting, very open and clear. Only on a couple of disks have I been concious of it sounding bright ("This is Spinal Tap" and "K-19"), otherwise it's sounding very natural.

I've got my parents stopping over at the moment and fancied watching a film after they'd gone to bed. I listened to the film using the Dolby Headphone output on my Denon KAVC-A1SE using a decent set of Senheisser headphones. I know it's not the best way of making comparisons, but good headphones are as close as you'll get to a flat response, free of room interactions, and I was amazed at how uncannilly similar the tonal response was to my speaker setup. In fact a couple of times when the film first started I had to take the headphones off just to confirm that there really was no sound coming from the speakers. It was really spooky.

I've got a long christmas break coming up so I'll probably switch back then for curiosities sake but so far, preference is for the Maximum setting. Bear in mind though that the front two-thirds of my dedicated home cinema room is acoustically treated with RPG Profoam panels and probably more closely resembles the acoustics of a studio monitoring room than that of a typical living room.

Allan
 

chips

Member
Originally posted by Allan Probin
Since I re-configured the S85's to Maximim output about three weeks ago I havn't got round to going back to the Normal setting. I actually quite like the Maximum setting, very open and clear. Only on a couple of disks have I been concious of it sounding bright ("This is Spinal Tap" and "K-19"), otherwise it's sounding very natural.
Alan,
Strange you should say that, I watched K-19 last night and thought it sounded a bit bright in places and mine are in "normal mode".:rolleyes: Haven't watched "Spinal Tap" since I got the S85s, will give it a go.:)
 

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