The MP-4512, Miller & Kreisel's five-in-one speaker, is ideal for buyers who don't have room for a multichannel speaker array or don't want to deal with the hassles of stringing wires to a bunch of speakers. The so-called superspeaker was originally developed for the company's Professional Line, but after some tweaking, M&K has turned it into a more consumer-friendly home-theater product with an MSRP of $650. Considering that the M&K MP-4512 houses five speakers, it has a surprisingly compact design. Measuring just 18.25 inches wide, 4.5 inches high, and 5.5 inches deep, the speaker weighs 12 pounds and feels rock solid. The front baffle is canted back, so the three front-firing speakers are angled up--an advantageous feature for users who want to wall-mount their MP-4512 under a plasma TV (the MP-4512 is compatible with OmniMount's Model # 20-ST wall-mount bracket). If you need to place it on the top of a TV, turn the speaker upside-down so that its drivers are angled down, toward the listening position.
The front baffle is fitted with a removable black or silver cloth grille, while the side drivers are protected with black metal grilles. Those side-firing speakers must remain unobstructed, so forget about placing the MP-4512 inside an entertainment center or a cabinet. Textured black paint is the only available finish.The MP-4512 features individual speakers for the left, center, and right channels, as well as two side-mounted speakers--they're 3-inch, full-range drivers--that are configured to project left and right surround effects. The left, center, and right speakers are essentially identical to M&K's Xenon LCR-25 satellite speaker; each one features a 1-inch fabric-dome tweeter and a high-output, 3.25-inch, polypropylene woofer. The front speakers are each fitted to an acoustically isolated enclosure.
Connectivity is rather unusual. First, the rear end houses six pairs of heavy-duty binding posts, but the MP-4512 contains five speakers. The center speaker has two sets of posts, and you can use either one, but not both (that speaker cannot be biwired). Strange.
Since the MP-4512 doesn't produce much bass on its own, using it with a subwoofer is a must. M&K offers a wide range of models and recommends pairing its K-9, K-10, V-76, V-1250 THX, V-850, MX-700, V-125, or MX-150 THX subwoofers with the MP-4512. M&K also suggests partnering the MP-4512 with an A/V-receiver with an adjustable crossover (for "small" speakers), or one that provides a 100Hz crossover. Check your owner's manual to be sure. Actually, higher crossover points, such as 120Hz or even 150Hz, may be preferable for users who like to crank up the volume. For our tests, we used a Denon AVR 2805 receiver, with the crossover set to 120Hz, and achieved excellent results.
On a side note, M&K's 10-year parts-and-labor warranty is double the length of most warranties.For the MP-4512's auditions, we relied on M&K's V-76 12-inch subwoofer to supply deep bass. The dynamic duo punched out one hell of a sound when we played the Kill Bill, Volume 1 DVD. This system can play seriously loud; the kinetic fight scenes sounded like they were coming from a much larger system.
The Standing in the Shadows of Motown documentary/concert DVD came alive over the MP-4512. Since the drivers are crammed in right next to each other, channel separation was minimal. But the side speakers generated the illusion of space and depth. The sound didn't mimic a conventional five-speaker array, and we certainly didn't hear any sound projected to the rear of our home theater, but the side speakers pushed the sound laterally out to the left and right. So the sound "cues" fooled the ear into believing the sound wasn't coming from a single speaker.
This isn't the first five-in-one design we've tested for CNET. Niro has several superspeaker offerings, but they're generally sold as part of complete systems that rely on a Niro receiver's proprietary signal processing to work their surround magic. In contrast, M&K's five-in-one model is a true universal design, usable with any A/V receiver. Niro's top model, the Reference, is capable of reproducing a true 180-degree arc of wraparound sound, far exceeding the M&K's prowess; but the MP-4512 offers superior sound quality for music and can play louder without distress. Also in the running: Mirage's integrated left-center-right, all-in-one speaker, the $999 Uni-Theater and Yamaha's $1500 YSP-1. Mirage didn't proclaim bona fide surround status for this gorgeous lifestyle-friendly design, but we think it certainly sounds a good deal more open than most box speakers, including the MP-4512. The Yamaha, meanwhile, garnered quite a few fans at January's Consumer Electronics Show; we're looking forward to auditioning it later in 2005.