On offer: A wireless stereo speaker combination with its own server to drive them.
|Sealed, twin rear-firing bass reflex ports
|1× 25 mm micro fibre dome, 1 x 130 mm composite dome fibre
||58 Hz to 20 kHz, 52 Hz extension
|60-100 watts per channel, self amplified
||305 x 200 x 250mm (HxWxD)
||6.55 kg ea.
SUPPLIED BY Balanced Audio 011-258-7850
I’ll bet you’re thinking the same thing that I was. R20k. Yowser.
Once you are over the shock you’ll be happy to know that’s more or less where the bad news ends. Because these puppies are pretty darned cool.
Mission has been around since (grand) pa fell off the bus. You don’t do that in the modern electronics age by standing still or be delivering products that are not worthy of keeping you in business and Mission has to be one of those simply iconic brands that everyone who has ever listened to anything recognises. Ubiquitous? That’s Mission in hi-fi circles personified.
Bookshelf speakers have always been one of the brand’s instantly recognisable ambassadors and perhaps it is fitting that this speaker set is a brave new step forward to de-cluttering and moving the debate from cables to compression.
Yup. They’re wireless…and whilst Bluetooth speakers are nothing new, these are somewhat different in that Mission has adopted an entirely new approach and uses uncompressed, 5.8 Ghz wireless audio signal transmission between the base receiver unit and the speakers themselves. No more speaker cables! Build quality as one would expect from the price tag is faultless and Mission has avoided the trap of using cheapening shortcuts to keep the price down. There is a sense of appreciation of longevity built in.
Sure, the fly in the ointment is that the speakers require power (which sadly still needs, yup, a cable) and because there are two of them you need two cables. But if we gloss over that and move on (you need to move on)….
The issue of course is now one of lossless digital transmission between said base receiver and speakers, which effectively removes speaker cables along with their influence from the equation entirely. Mission has kinda now opened up a whole new level of debate as to wired (and which wires) vs wireless as a means of signal transmission within the traditional hi-fi setup.
I’m not sure I want to engage in these debates about speaker cables! The new podcast series we have on the go with Sarel the Technical Seemonster are revealing in setting up a level playing field for referencing what it is that our ears hear, and to be honest it opens one’s mind to possibilities that perhaps we haven’t fully considered. And certainly there are fantastical levels of fundamental physics that we’re covering that in my mind serves to reinforce the wonder that we’re able to hear anything at all.
But the LX setup dispels any myth of what we are able to hear pretty quickly. Mission has long held the inverted driver arrangement (tweeter below bass driver), and as far as I am concerned I can’t fault it. I ran the system feeding it direct lossless from USB and PC, and I ran it feeding Tidal via Bluetooth to the receiver. Yes, I realise the irony of compression losses as this operates as a streamer when connected to a lossless source, but not when not.
The differences I have to report are far less than expected. A/B’ing between the two is really the only way you can pick them up and whilst the direct connection is more detailed and open than the Bluetoothed option via my mobile, the convenience tradeoff is considerable. The Mission receiver is also doing some correction on its own with the Bluetooth connection, but to be honest I had to trawl a bit to discover that Audiolab tech is in play here and the Sabre based DAC can handle 32/384 kHz (the unit is also Roon certified which means it will integrate with Roon systems seamlessly).
This translates into some interesting listening sessions of which I had quite a few. The wireless range is 20 m, which is quite a long power cord but if you choose to move the speakers from the base receiver 20 m is actually a long way (walls not withstanding as these had an effect). Certainly the sound quality however was seemingly not affected by distance – the speakers didn’t devolve into radio tuning type crackle but shut off with a ‘signal lost’ abruptness.
You can alternate left from right with a switch – you can set both speakers to operate as left or right if you want to run unusual/multiple setups and you can reduce or boost bass by +/- 6 dB on each speaker. A balance sync button allows you to tune balance up and down by 3 dB across each speaker when setting up (but I never used it). There is considerable effort that has gone into the thinking behind the design of the system and its revealed when listening.
The LXs impressed primarily because they sound exactly like what one would expect to hear from a quality set of bookshelf speakers. In other words, the incredible levels of sophistication that have gone into them to replace the speaker cables (and let us not forget, amplifier) have not detracted or got in the way of the sonic performance.
That’s what I enjoyed most from these speakers. Technically there is a lot of ground that can be covered here and there is myriad detail that lies in the detail if you drive down into it. For the propeller heads in white lab coats that play in the realms of the digital arena the LX will keep them entertained for hours on end. But for a consumer or hapless jaded journalistic hack who just wants to listen to music as best as possible for the outlay, the LX don’t need understanding. They are able to deliver music every bit as well as their counterparts wired and connected and mounted in what we know as the ‘conventional’ setups.
The quoted sensitivity is interesting. The LXs can play louder than you might expect from what are tots in the speaker world. Sure there is obvious tightening up and some protest from the drivers when you’re flat out, but listen up sunshine: You’re doing it wrong. These are classy speakers and if you feed them the classy sort of source that they are capable of dealing with via the receiver, I found the LXs inherently musical. They have a sense of pace and timing with a richness and fullness to the tonal spectrum that is easy on the ear, and allows one to slip into effortless listening even at modest levels. Sure the bass doesn’t extend to those chest thumping frequencies you can’t hear but it covers enough of the low end of the spectrum to leaving you from wanting to seek out more.
Mission has always had a reputation for having a detail, focused sonic signature and whilst I won’t dispute this – I will add that I was singing along to my PC music far more than I have with any other system. As the world’s greatest undiscovered vocal talent perhaps Mission should have invented these earlier so that Simon Cowell would not have to fire so many of his current lineup to make space. But as they say, timing often has a lot to do with success in life.
Certainly, timing of the release of this digital product aimed at the beating heart of where many of us began our hi-fi careers, with a set of Mission bookshelves and a NAD or Rotel doing duty as amp or source I think has struck exactly the mark. I hope that many people take a listen to the LX and better yet, buy it, and consequently become addicted to this hi-fi drug.
What a fabulous thing to spread the universal language with.