Bowers & Wilkins MT30
- Sounds great, original design, fantastic subwoofer.
- Heavy, slightly clunky wiring setup.
Rich sound and an inventive design ensure the MT30 is a winner.
Price$ 3,894.00 (AUD)
When it comes to home theatre speakers they don't get much better than B&W's Mini Theatre range. Three packages are available, each using the same set of five satellite speakers, but coming with a different subwoofer. We took a look at the MT30, the top of the range system which comes with the novel PV1 subwoofer, and were extremely impressed with its performance.
The PV1 (short for pressure vessel) is no ordinary subwoofer. Spherical in shape and weighing in at over 20kg, it's more akin to an oversize bowling ball than a speaker. With dual 200mm drivers, one on each side, this is like no subwoofer we have ever seen. Normally we like to tuck subwoofers out of sight, as they hardly blend with the aesthetic of the average living room, but with the PV1 you'll have no such concerns. The striking system will appeal to the avant-garde and minimalist alike.
The sound was very impressive, with beautiful clarity across the whole spectrum. The PV1 was especially noteworthy, proving that subwoofers can do a lot more than churn out the odd boom. The level of detail present in the lower frequencies was some of the best we have heard from a home theatre system. Dramatic cinematic scores and action scenes alike are greatly enhanced by the use of a high quality subwoofer and we really felt the difference. The PV1 is no slouch when it comes to volume either; with a whopping 500W of power, it has more than enough punch to shake foundations.
Moving on to music we were similarly impressed. Usually we find that home theatre systems aren't quite up to the challenge of realistically presenting music, and there's usually an obvious gap in the mid-range sounds. With the MT30 we really couldn't tell we were using satellites and a sub; the audio blended perfectly to present a beautifully immersive sound. The smooth, mellow tones of Coldplay's X&Y album sounded as good as we've ever heard it.
Moving on to the bizarre hip-hopping sound of the Gorillaz, things were a little more mixed. The stand out track on the Demon Days album, Feel Good Inc., sounded spot on, with warm bass, rich vocals and great balance. When we switched to Last Living Souls we were a little disappointed. It still sounded quite good, but this track is extremely hard for a satellite and subwoofer system to accurately reproduce: a combination of high vocals and pounding bass leaves very few mid frequency tones to combine the two together. Still, only one track sounding a little off out of dozens is no mean feat, and we were still extremely impressed overall.
Our first impressions of the system's design were that it was a bit heavy. This isn't unexpected with large speaker setups, but the relatively small speakers in the MT30 certainly belie their weight. Each of the five satellites is finished in attractive gloss sheen with a matte top. Our unit came in a charcoal colour, but the MT30 is also available in silver. A rubber foot slips off to reveal the speaker connections, and also a pair of Allen keys. These are used to unscrew various parts of the stand. Each of the five speakers contains the keys, which is handy for those with a tendency to lose things.
Setting things up proved to be a bit more of a chore than we are accustomed to with speakers, partly due to those Allen keys. Each of the terminals on the speakers has to be manually unscrewed to insert the wires, then resealed. A small cut out in the base of the speakers is supposed to let the wires trail through and hide out of sight, though we found this was far too small for our chunky cables. Seeing no alternative, we had to let the speakers perch precariously on the wires, somewhat spoiling the fancy look. No matter, this could be fixed later.
The subwoofer, being a bit more advanced than the usual, required some manual tweaking. This is verging into audiophile territory and makes a welcome addition to the system. Adorning the side of the PV1 is a set of small recessed dials, which can only be operated using a coin. This sounds a bit retrograde but actually helps enhance the looks while ensuring the dials can't be knocked accidentally. These give access to power, volume, EQ modes, phase and low-pass frequency control. The most important of these is obviously volume, and it's always nice to be able to adjust this on the subwoofer itself rather than relying on a DVD player or AV receiver.
With a fairly hefty price tag it's clear the MT30 isn't aimed at the cost conscious shopper. If you've got money to spare and want a home theatre system that stands out from the crowd, you can't go far wrong with the MT30. In fact, the excellent PV1 subwoofer alone makes the system worthwhile.
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