I've heard many two-way monitors during the years that delivered on the promise of deep bass extension; however, all but a few did so at the expense of other aspects, creating flabby bass and somewhat murky low-midrange reproduction. Those experiences led me to wonder whether, in the absence of onboard DSP or an added subwoofer, you really need three- or four-way sealed monitors to achieve transparent full-bandwidth monitoring.
But that was before I heard the M&K (Miller & Kreisel) MPS-1611P powered monitor. It offers deep bass, yet is one of the most revealing two-way monitors I've auditioned.
CLOSE TO YOU
The 20-pound MPS-1611P measures 12.625×8.375×12.125 inches (H×W×D) and is suitable for near- or mid-field use in stereo or multichannel setups, with or without a subwoofer. Two onboard amplifiers power the monitor: a 100-watt amp for the 6.5-inch, magnetically shielded polypropylene woofer and a 50W amp for the 1-inch, ferrofluid-cooled fabric-dome tweeter. An LED on the monitor's front face lights when the power is on and appears brightest to the user when the cabinet is aligned properly with his/her ears along both vertical and horizontal axes — a nice feature. The MPS-1611P is designed to be vertically oriented (with the tweeter above the woofer), but can also be used with horizontal mounting. Radiused front cabinet edges and a bezelled tweeter faceplate minimize diffractive effects.
On the rear panel, an XLR/TRS phone combo jack and RCA jack provide alternative choices for audio input. A three-way input-sensitivity switch provides two different fixed settings and one variable setting. The latter activates a continuously variable rotary control that adjusts the monitor's sensitivity over a ±6dB range.
Three rear panel features tailor the MPS-1611P's bass response for use with and without a subwoofer. A bass response switch, when activated, attenuates low frequencies when the monitor is being used with a subwoofer, and an 80Hz highpass filter switch is useful when the subwoofer doesn't provide bass management. The tapered bass port on the MDF cabinet's rear baffle has a removable plug. With the plug in place, the MPS-1611P becomes a sealed-cabinet design, producing less-prominent but tighter bass. Depending on the combination of filter switch settings used and whether the port plug is inserted or not, the MPS-1611P's 6dB down point at the bottom end is between 50 and 80 Hz, with the response extending to 22 kHz, ±3 dB.
A hinged clamp swings into place on the rear panel to keep the detachable AC cord from being inadvertently yanked out — yet another nice feature. A power switch (and associated LED), slow-blow fuse and large heatsink finish off the rear panel.
MONITORING THE SITUATION
I used a stereo pair of MPS-1611Ps to edit and mix tracks in my control room and listened to a variety of completed pop and country mixes, including my own, of which I was intimately familiar. First, I listened to the monitors alone (without a subwoofer), with all filters switched out and the port plugs removed for the widest frequency response.
With 70- to 75dB SPL (A-weighted) listening levels at the mix position, the monitors exhibited articulate high-frequency detail, crystal-clear midrange and surprisingly extended bass. Even low notes played on a Chapman Stick were clearly audible, if somewhat understated. The bass was a tad flabby, but not nearly as much as with other ported monitors I've used. Imaging and transient response were outstanding, and depth (imaging behind the speakers) was astounding. Listening at 80dB SPL and higher levels, the MPS-1611Ps sounded a little bright in the low highs.
Inserting the port plugs made bass reproduction immaculately tight but less prominent. Going a bit further, I switched in the monitors' bass response switches and then the highpass filters. Each progressively band-limited setup yielded a useful reference for checking the current mix.
Adding my Tannoy PS-88 subwoofer (a discontinued model) to the setup, I got pretty good results switching all of the MPS-1611Ps' filters in and inserting the port plugs. This yielded the highest bass roll-off (6 dB down at 80 Hz) for the MPS-1611Ps. But because my sub's inherent response is only down 3 dB at 110 Hz, there was too much mid-bass overlap for a seamless integration of sub and MPS-1611P satellites.
I got much better — make that great — results by setting up the MPS-1611Ps for the most extended bass response (filters switched out and port plug removed) and turning up my sub just enough to be a little more than barely audible. This just points out how flexible the MPS-1611P is in integrating into various setups. About the only thing missing in the MPS-1611P's feature set is a high-frequency tilt switch, which would be useful in heavily damped (e.g., carpeted) control rooms. Aside from an occasional quiet click on powering down, the MPS-1611P's switches didn't cause any electrical noise when moved.
The MPS-1611P sounds best at low SPLs (which is how I prefer to mix 97 percent of the time) and is one of the most revealing monitors I've ever heard. Considering the MPS-1611P's moderate price ($1,199 each), modest footprint and full-bandwidth response, it would be my first choice if space constraints meant I could have only one pair of monitors and no additional references (including no sub). Simply put, the MPS-1611P sounds superb.
Miller & Kreisel Professional, 818/701-7010 x124, www.mkprofessional.com.