10 September, 2010

Review: Airtight MSM-1 Bonsai loudspeakers

Review: Airtight MSM-1 Bonsai loudspeakers

阻抗:4 歐姆
尺寸:165×140×245 mm

Info on U-Audio (Chinese)
hifihivi 高傳真視聽 group test (Chinese)

Thanks to
Danz' loan I was able to enjoy this tiny pair of speakers. Suffice to say, its performance quite surprised me.

A true high-efficiency speaker
I am not really a fan of
Airtight. While I think they make decent products that are very well finished, I have heard many of their products, including the 211 amp, and the sound for my taste usually veers a little too much towards the overly warm. Their push-pull products are not too accomplished, and their SET products are definitely better. This MSM-1 Bonsai was definitely developed to partner their low-powered SET amps. The 4" driver is claimed to be an original design.

While I have always liked full-range speakers, I have grave reservations on small drivers (like ALR Jordan) in small cabinets. Physics dictates that these have very lean bass, if usable at all. You have to have at least the cabinet volume of
Loth-X BS-1/Amaze or Reference 3A to have a meaningful balance between transparency and weight.

At first I frowned upon its small size and ultra-light weight. 2 kg, is this a joke? the packaging is quite luxurious, the finish good, but the speaker terminal is not of high quality.

I placed them high up, on top of my big Tannoys. Equipment used:

Sony R1 combo or Revox C-221
: Nagra PL-P or EAR 912
ICL 300B

As a good full-range should, the sound immediately enthralled me by its
speed and coherence. At least, this is for once a real pair of efficient speakers suitable for SET use, more so than its 89 db rating suggests. On jazz and chamber music, detail retrieval in the treble and mid-range is first-rate, actually yielding to none. Thanks to its full-range nature, instrumental timber always ring true. Image size is quite reasonable, not tiny.

Commendably, playing it real loud did not cause it undue stress, and I was able to play my big classical pieces. of course, for big orchestrals the bottom is found wanting, which also makes the high a little over-etched. I'd say its 70 Hz rating is reasonably true.

Enters the subwoofer
This is where the
subwoofer comes in. I mated it with an old JBL paper-cone, and the result literally floored me. The cheap sub did not allow for precise crossover; I estimate I used around 100 Hz. The marriage was highly successful. I was able to play my Mahler to my satisfaction. And I detected no incoherence. I doubt one shall have trouble with most subwoofers.

My conclusion is that this is a pair of very worthwhile full-range speaker. Personally I'd definitely mate it with a subwoofer. For a SET lover with space constraints, it's truly a blessing.

p.s. How does it compare to the Pioneer 酒桶仔? I think it's better, in almost all departments, and certainly friendlier to SET.

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