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The Tekton Design M-Lore Loudspeaker

Or Just what IS designer Eric Alexander smoking?!! (PS- You want some!)

 

 August, 2012

 




    



Plate Tekton-ics
It usually takes me longer than three seconds. Usually but not when the component under review causes a Tekton-ic shift in my sunny pleasure dome.
Within the last couple years, many (audio) products have been UPS’d my way. Some have even given me a goose (bump) or two, or even, in some cases, dashed off a rather nice Bob Ross-ian caricature of a great musician in a great venue.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-EXC1qJbMkE0/T0AZai5mIFI/AAAAAAAACJs/6QieCaNbBuA/s1600/bob+ross.jpg
(Painter of happy little trees, Bob Ross)

A proud few went above and beyond. For instance, before embarking on its world-wide “Hear Me Now” tour, in which non-reviewers (i.e. normal people) are sent the Burson headphone amp and a great pair of Audeze headphones and asked to pen their sonic impressions of the pairing, the Burson Audio HA-160D, jetted in from New Zealand/(China?) and showed me verily the “Joy of Painting” — thrilling me with tonal color, PRaT, ballsy sonics, happy little trees and down home joie d’ vivre, the likes of which had not been my purview before.

From an engineering standpoint, don’t think it’s easy to nail “Joie d’ vivre.” They don’t teach that kinda shit at MIT; at least not at the levels I made it to (Okay — so I only visited the campus once ‘cause a girl I liked went there. Same difference).

Well, after refusing the Burson right-of-return to Crocodile Dundeeville, I was pleased with myself. For - we have an understanding, the Burson HA-160D and I. It’s serial monogamy at its finest… until it isn’t. This is audio after all.

I thought it’d be years before I’d get to experience that “connection” again — that love-at-first listen; the vibrant, reciprocating touch of another… component.

I didn’t want it. I didn’t need it… and yet — it was there in the…

Shades of M-Lore
They are 95db efficient. They can mortally wound you with a watt. They are an 8 ohm load. They are spec’d at 38Hz to 20Khz. They are an 8-inch pro guitar amp driver (WTF!!!??) and a textile dome tweeter in the (deceptively?) simplest kind of box — the kind you build right after you finish reading “How to Make Loudspeakers” by Eggbert G. Samuelson, B.S. or someone equivalently droll, and order the wood. Heh heh, wood. They are finished better than your DIY versions will be. They have a single front port.

And perhaps most importantly, since no one else whom has written about these things seems to have the first foggy clue what makes these speakers so ineffably, un-f?&%$ -ably(!!) great, they are hand signed by their author Eric Alexander on the bottom of each speaker; noticed it when I was unpacking them and stopped for a second — smiled reverently. Twice. He may well have written “To David with love, Eric Alexander.” Couldn’t make it out cause the light was too dim in my apartment and didn’t want to discover he did not write that — so I didn’t more closely inspect.

Out of the box, they are incredibly “alive” sounding. Mr. Alexander says they need maybe 10 hours of break-in and anything that needs a hell of a lot more than that probably isn’t breaking in — it’s just plain broken.

Set up a bit wider apart than many boxes — say 7.5 to 8.5 feet center to center, two or so feet out from the front wall, and with 15 to 30 degrees of toe in, after relatively minimal break in (the man was right), the piano comes in during the first movement of the Dvorak piano quintet #2 and you get scared. Well, I’m kind of weakly constitutioned, so I did.

The strings get bowed on the great Aeolian Quartet performance of the Haydn quartets in glorious 24/96 and you are free. Satisfied and awed. You can feel the glow and vibrancy — the energy surrounding the sound, and the secondary lines — the little bow pressure variations and underpinnings you missed before through your ‘better’ speakers. Yeah — the ‘better’ ones you used to use. (You know — ‘cause these Tektons were gonna go in your Hamptons home, or with your daughter to college — before you heard them and went all Charlton Heston on them, like I did. From my cold dead hands indeed! Buy the bumper sticker on Amazon, cross out the gun pic and sketch a speaker; that’s what I did.)

And you will go all Charlton Heston. You will. For via the M-Lores — dynamics bust into the room and drums snap and punch. And with 10 or 20 or 30 watts; the Dayens amp (under review) and the lil’ cheap engine that could (and does) Emotiva mini-x a-100 amp were both blissfully matched with the M-Lores.

Microdynamics — oft spoken of but rarely heard in Hi-Fi, little fortes, pianissimos and diminuendos, become important and obvious. Your feet tap madly along to… to… well… to pretty much everything! Using my fave Audirvana Plus software in glorious pure Direct mode (via Mac Mini) as the ‘preamp’ (dithered relatively lossless volume control), and the Emotiva as the amp, you get pace aplenty and robustness. The combo of el cheapo Emotiva and also pretty el cheapo Tektons was anything but sonically el cheapo- just sparkling clarity and fun. I should tell you, it helps if you run the Emotiva amp with no attenuation (i.e. max out the volume) and use a DAC with a volume control like the Burson’s to limit the output volume such that the volume control of your software doesn’t have to attenuate more than about 12dB. I believe less than 6dB attenuation on the digital volume controls is even better at ensuring no bits are lost to attenuation.

The Dayens Ampino (integrated version with volume pot and amp version without) adds a bit of refinement and ‘depth’ to the proceedings, all the while maintaining the Emotiva’s drive and joy. Jonas Kaufman’s phenomenal recording of Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin song cycle delights over the M-Lores with either amp and the tonality and purity of the sound is nigh on perfect — like a great set of headphones. As a matter of fact — that’s exactly what a well set pair of M-Lores driven by fine amplification sound like — a really pure pair of relatively efficient headphones driven by a game-changing headphone amp like the Burson HA-160D. Sometimes, with certain recordings, switching from ‘open’ M-Lore listening to listening via the super accurate Shure SRH840’s/Burson combo, produced, well… not much sonic change at all! And this is with no room correction in a fair to okay room!

And regardless of the amplifying engine, it’s all so open — so box-less. You gotta go to stats or the Emerald Physics CS3’s for a wide sky like this — or move to Montana. Unless you’re already there.

The CS3’s (haven’t heard the very latest versions) do have even more dynamic punch, are about as fast and will certainly fill a large room better and go deeper (with paired sub) — but the imaging on the M-Lores is surprisingly almost as good — which is saying a lot! And I actually preferred the tonal purity of the M-Lores; not just to the CS3’s — to pretty much every other speaker I’ve ever heard. They are just crystalline.

As a matter of fact I’ve never ever heard a box speaker of any ilk sound so utterly wide open and unbounded and coherent as the M-Lores do. Maybe that’s the reason you can separate them more widely than many speakers and still get a rock solid center image with great staging.

Via the M-Lores, it’s relatively trivial to pick out differences in cables and connectors and vibration isolators etc. I believe that’s not only due to the detail on offer, but also due the generally moving way in which the M-Lores present music. Thus — a change in something for the ‘worse’ quickly causes you to feel there is somehow slightly less involvement in the music making, and you might go back to reading your magazine on the couch. A change for the better though — and you drop Better Homes and Gardens (okay, so what do YOU read?) on the coffee table and put your feet up. You have to.

We Murder to Dissect
And that’s what I love about the M-Lores. They don’t. Dissect I mean. Sure the bass is wonderfully taught and not as deep as your Sasha’s with the dual Fathom Hammer of the Son of Prometheus’ Step-son subs, but I’ve not heard another speaker that’s M-Lore sized come close to bass this taught and speedy and integrated. Similarly, the ‘highs’ as such are a natural outgrowth of everything below them, there simply are no discontinuities to speak of. How could there be? You’re essentially dealing (mostly) with a single excellent 8 inch driver. The tweeter? Feh. Probably just for show. Maybe it helps with the dishes some nights?

During their stay with me, the M-Lores worked and played well with every amp in my stable from the more tube like Red Wine Audio LFP-V 30.2, to the energetic Emotiva, to the refined and energetic Dayens Ampino. The M-Lores love all musical genres equally well, (though I like to imagine they are especially partial to opera and chamber music).

In this sense, they are the Mother Theresa of small-box loudspeakers. (Hey — this is my world. You just get to look at it through the window once in a while).

You know, look at it this way; with Eric Alexander, you get thirty days. Give your (signed) M-Lores oh, 5 or 10 hours of break-in and tweak the set-up a bit. See if I’m a liar. Mine are not going back, they’re my new references.

Special note to designer Eric Alexander:

Dear Eric,
Thanks for signing my speakers.
You are my hero. Keep on tokin’ brah!!!!

Love (but not in that way),
David


As always, I bid (all of) you peace.