MOB 3 Home Theatre Speaker System

Audio & Video Lifestyle Magazine July 2003

Reviewing high fidelity loudspeakers in the year 2003 has become a somewhat more complex affair than perhaps it was 10 years ago. There was something intrinsically agreeable in reviewing a loudspeaker model on the basis of its ability to fabricate a musical performance in a satisfying manner; 2-channel sound reproduction was evaluated in a marketplace not dwarfed by home theatre. Many loudspeaker manufacturers today, even specialist companies, now recognise that home theatre applications must be at the forefront of their marketing strategies if they are to survive in an increasingly competitive market where the demanda on designers are considerable.

It is curious to note that while some very serious big name loudspeaker brands are dipping into the home theatre five-speaker package market - and unleashing a gamut of products for the value conscious shopper - some are, justifiably, cautious about which home theatre route would best serve their interests. The current oversupply of cheap and cheerfu1 5.1 integrated surround sound amplifier and speaker packages, one brand five-speaker packs and complete all-in-one DVD player/ amplifier/loudspeaker boxes makes home theatre an affordable, accessible and realistic option for many mainstream consumers, but none of it ean really be called `high-end'.

This all has a negative effect on the perception of one-brand speaker packages even from classier loudspeaker manufacturers with loftier goals and aspirations. For these loudspeaker manufacturers the dichotomy that exists between music reproduction and home theatre applications is, if anything, over-exaggerated and an obstacle that needs to be overcome. Ideally, loudspeaker designs that perform well for reproducing the boldness and indeed the excitement of modern 5.1 movie soundtracks would also be able communicators when playing music - certainly some well known and much celebrated loudspeaker models with exorbitant price tags fail to achieve this much sought after duality of ability. Audiophiles may turn their noses up at the mere suggestion that a packaged system, within the realms of affordability for the average consumer, achieves this intermingling of talents. But some loudspeaker models from some surprising sources can show some established brands a trick or two about positioning their products to a wider audience.

Dr. Rod Crawford of Legend Acoustics has released a range of locally designed loudspeaker models that may be amongst the best performers in their class for both home theatre and music reproduction. The brand Legend Acoustics has received good reviews in the hi-fi press and is a name to watch for both its superb value and range of loudspeakers on offer. The build quality, specifications and value for money of Legend speakers is not to be ignored and while they may only be available in specialist hi-fi dealers, it is well worth tracking them down. It was my delight to review this month the latest offerings from the brand which include the massively built Kurlo 3 subwoofer, Kanga 2 centre channel loudspeaker, Joey 2 rear mini monitors and Kama 3 front left and right floorstanders. All of Legend's speakers are named after different Aboriginal terms for Kangaroo - and the claim is that they too sound fast and agile, just like the physical attributes of our native marsupial. The latter two models represent the creme of the range with the Joey 2 loudspeakers tuming out to be rather special loudspeakers in their own right.

The Joey 2s are, in many ways, the highlight of the Legend Acoustics range with their tuneful and expressive sonie character that will make long-term ownership a pleasure. They are very easy to drive loudspeakers, which perform equally well with both music and movies. Small, chunky and extremely well built, like the other loudspeakers in the range, the Joey 2s do not initially look like much with their fixed grilles in place and their black cabinetry lacking a lustrous finish. But fire them up and the sound that the make will belie their mini-monitor size. With all genres of music the Joey 2s like to be driven hard and project a soundstage with the depth, level and listener engagement of much larger loudspeakers. The imaging of these local speakers is nothing short of superb with an expansive and wide ranging sound that is clear and involving.

The Joey 2s are able to handle the complexities of large scale orchestral music, as I found out when listening the Musicbank recording of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor. These speakers handle the piano very well for such diminutive boxes and are excellent communicators of the music. With female vocals the compact Legends reveal a delicate, sensitive beautifully confident midrange which soars with well-recorded music. Delt Goodrem's Innocent Eyes CD has a number of tracks that sound particuly expressive through the Joey 2s; both Born To Try and the more up-beat Lost Without You have a natural, fluent unforced elocution. This sophisticated and polished sound is without a doubt rare at this price range and class of loudspeaker. "The Joey 2s are, in many ways, the highlight of the Legend Acoustics range with their tunefui and expressive sonie character". The Joeys, with such obvions talents, could one day become classic designs.

The larger and classy-looking floorstanders, the Kama 3s, share with the Joey 2s the excellent build quality and attention to detail that their maker does so well; it used to be called craftsmanship. They share the same sweetsounding and intrinsically alluring midrange performance that makes the Joeys so enjoyable to listen to. These floorstanders like high quality partners but amplifiers of between 30 and 50 watts should be sufficient because they are easy to drive. The build quality of these loudspeakers is first-rate.

The Kamas are equally at home with music and movies and are capable of filling large rooms with sound. They were very well behaved with the smooth Denon PMA-255UK integrated amp but preferred the extra power of a Musical Fidelity A3. The Kamas have excellent projection and stereo imaging with a captivating and involving sound that will have you rediscovering your CD collection. These fine loudspeakers are insightful with commendable detail retrieval as well as being able communicators like the Joey 2s

The epic Pearl Harbor soundtrack from the wonderfully thematic Hans Zimmer is conveyed through the Kamas with the right combination of scale and detail; all the subtle nuances of the music, emotional depth and orchestral instrument separation are well handled. The digital recording of the soundtrack to Empire of the Sun is also full of rich, evocative and poignant orchestral music that intertwines subtlety with drama; once again the Kamas do not disappoint with a highly realistic and dynamic interpretation. The delicate and enchanting guitar playing of the talented Slava Grigoryan's Another Night in London is warmly reproduced by the Kama 3s with a pleasing feeling of considerable acoustic space in the soundstage. Faster tracks have speed and attack while slower, more surreal and ponderous music is given the chance to fmd its tempo without rushing

As a home theatre system, Legend’s Mob perform with cinematic-grandeur in Dolby Digital 5.1. Soundtracks have considerable power in their ability to position the audience to sympathise with certain characters, to understand the significance of motifs, to engage in a motion picture's overall narrative structure. Carefully written and selected music can be used to anchor the audience's attention when they view a movie and can fabricate exactly the atmosphere a director envisages. The Legend Acoustics loudspeakers do exactly this when they work as a creative team to produce a realistic, cinematc soundfield.

For action movies such Three Kings with explosions, gunfire desert Hummer chases, the sound is pulsating and busy; the Legends handle this amazing crossfire of so effects extremely well and put the in the middle of the soundfield. The performance continues with Alex Proyas' throbbing, sonically completely rewarding Dark City; again the Legend system creates this world convincing ensuring a totally believable journey of sound.

For these reasons, Dr Crawford is to be congratulated on `mob' of very fine loudspeakers.