Just when we thought satellite/subwoofer systems couldn't get any smaller, along comes the ultracompact Mirage MX 5.1 retailing for $1,200. (Mirage calls it a "Home Theater System," but it's really just a surround speaker package that requires a separate AV receiver/amplifier.) Just how small is it? Each MX satellite speaker stands just a hair over 4 inches high without its dome grille, but the palm-size speaker actually projects sound in a 360-degree radiation pattern. Surprisingly, the system's five incredibly tiny satellites create a huge, room-filling sound. Small speakers are one thing, but remarkably enough, the MX subwoofer is a miniature, 8-inch cube. While that's considered tiny as far as subwoofers go, the little cube seamlessly blends with the miniature satellites. The Mirage MX not only impressed us with its solid audio performance but its innovative engineering as well. You've never heard a 5.1 system this small sound so good.
Design and features
The Mirage MX 5.1 system comes with five identical speakers and the aforementioned adorable baby subwoofer. While the MX system doesn't come with a dedicated center channel speaker, the system is more likely to produce a better surround experience than a system with different types of speakers.
Conventional box speakers have drivers mounted on their front baffles and project sound forward. With the Mirage MX, the satellites' 2.5-inch aluminum mid-bass driver and 0.63-inch pure titanium hybrid dome tweeter are mounted on the speaker's angled top baffle. Top mounting isn't the only factor responsible for the MX's omnidirectional dispersion--the drivers are also mounted under an Omniguide module which has two deflectors. One tiny curved deflector is positioned over the speaker's tweeter, and the tweeter itself is mounted atop the mid-bass driver's deflector, which is suspended over the mid-bass driver. The deflectors project sound directly toward the listener, all while creating a 360-degree radiation pattern that reflects sound off your room's walls, ceilings, and other surfaces. This indirect radiation is in large part responsible for the Mirage MX's big soundstage.
The MX satellites dome-shaped, perforated plastic grille is covered in black cloth. The grille assembly pops up with some light force and easily snaps back into place thanks to its four magnetic contacts. The MX's molded polycarbonate cabinet doesn't feel as inert as some higher-end speakers, but it's well made. Its curvy rear-end doesn't have any visible connectors, just two clamped holes marked "-" and "+" which is where your speaker wires enter. These speakers can only accept bare wire or wires terminated with pin-type connectors (not bananas or spades).
Wall mount options are plentiful. You can simply drive a screw into the wall and hang the MX off it or you can purchase adjustable brackets available from Sanus (the HTB7 or the HTB3) or OmniMount's ELO bracket. If you choose to mount the MX higher than 6 feet off the floor, make sure you mount it upside down. That way it will project sound down and out. For the home theater buff looking to expand the system in the 6.1 and 7.1 realm, extra MX satellite speakers are available for $150 each.
Moving along to the mini subwoofer: the MM-6 has drivers on three panels: a front-mounted, 6.5 concave aluminum woofer and a 6.5-inch concave aluminum "passive radiator" on each side of the cabinet. In other words, the front woofer is directly powered by the MM-6's built-in 800-watt amplifier while the passive radiators are not. They move in reaction to air pressure changes created by the front woofer's in and out movements. The front woofer is covered by a removable black cloth grille exposing the passive radiators. Seven coats of hand-sanded polyurethane high gloss black paint cover the MM-6's medium-density fiberboard cabinet. On the rear of the subwoofer, connectivity is limited to a pair of very high quality RCA connectors. There's also a jack marked "WA Port," which is provided for some to-be-determined future use. The 8-inch cube subwoofer weighs 10.1 pounds and extra MM-6 subwoofers are available for $600 each.
System setup proceeded without a hitch, but we'd recommend a receiver with an adjustable "subwoofer crossover" setting to get the best possible sound from the MX system. We set our Denon AVR 3808CI crossover to 150 Hertz, though 120 Hz worked as well.
The five Mirage MX satellites together produced a remarkably coherent, room-filling sound. The sound coming from the front and rear satellites was unusually seamless. In fact, with the lights turned down, we lost track of the location of the speakers all together.
The MX system handled "The Rocker" Blu-ray with sure-footed control, even as drummer Robert "Fish" Fishman (Rainn Wilson) pummels his kit with everything he had. Dynamic range wasn't inhibited by the system's size, and during an early scene where his band plays a high school prom, the MX speakers put us on the gym stage along with the band.
Moving up to the "Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Radio City" Blu-ray, we were struck by the sound of the guitars. Big and rich, far beyond what we would have expected from speakers as tiny as these. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was simply gorgeous.
Next up was Bruce Springsteen's new CD, "Working on a Dream." Even in stereo, two MX satellites sounded big--resulting in a sound both deep and wide. We did note one problem, however: the phantom center image carrying Bruce's vocals was hard to localize. Stereo imaging-wise, Springsteen's vocal was rather diffused and vague. We easily fixed that situation by listening in Dolby Pro Logic IIx, which placed the Boss' vocals in the center MX speaker channel. The orchestral strings that accompany Springsteen on a number of tunes sounded clear and natural.
As we played a variety of CDs we were amazed by the MM-6 subwoofer. Small subwoofers too often sound muddy and bloated, but the tiny Mirage was clean and clear.
We didn't have the Energy RC-Micro on hand to put that system head to head with the MX 5.1. But that package, along with Mirage's own Nanosat series, are the only other supertiny speakers that we'd consider in the same league as the MX 5.1--and the MX speakers are smaller than both.
Summing up, the Mirage MX 5.1 Home Theater System offers top-notch performance from the smallest satellite speakers and sub we've ever tested. With that said, don't expect any miracles. The little system won't truly fill a large room with high volume sound as it's best suited to accommodate a small or midsize rooms (less than 300 square feet).