Moving toward something with a lot more edge as well as some low-end oomph, Linkin Park’s Road to Revolution Blu-ray concert shows that the Towers maintain their composure with less-refined source material, not lacking detail in the raspy vocals but also masking some of the live recording’s deficiencies with a slight roll-off at the very top of the frequency spectrum. The low-end in a concert like this is, however, somewhat lost. The Towers don’t lose composure or become bloated, they just smoothly fade away. If bass-heavy music isn’t your forte, you could easily let the Towers do the job without any assistance. If you like your music with a full low-end, the ELT525s should blend easily with a subwoofer crossed over around 60Hz.
That ease of subwoofer integration may be what makes this package so well balanced. The Towers know their limitations and don’t try to exceed them, instead letting the more-than-capable MFW-15 pick up where they leave off. And boy does it ever pick up the LFE slack. Whether in explosion-heavy sequences from Iron Man on Blu-ray, or the Piano Smasher segment of Blue Man Group’s How to be a Megastar Live!, the MFW-15 digs deep while responding with speed and accuracy.
The published specs list 18Hz anechoic F3 and 15-17hz typical in-room response, and my quick sweeps confirm the latter prediction within the realm of likelihood, with my own response (1/3 front wall placement) reaching ~16Hz. That extension also maintains impact into the 110dB range. What’s most impressive is the composure with which it does so. Up to ~80hz, the large 15” driver maintains its poise and integrates well with even the smaller Monitors in a THX crossover configuration.
Anyone who decides to pick up the ELT525 speaker package would be crazy to not add the MFW-15 for only $300.
Surrounds & Center
While the small footprint of the ELT525 Towers is appreciated, especially given its balanced musical capabilities, the scaled-down-size theme may be carried a bit far with the Center and Monitors. The center maintains a drive set identical to the towers, but the vast difference in volume makes for an uneven match near the likely 80Hz crossover embodied by the rear snap of low midbass in center. A 100Hz crossover for the center can take this strain away, but detrimentally impacts horizontal pans in the same frequency range (think rumble of a muscle car or low hum of a space ship). If your AVR has fine enough crossover control to facilitate a 90Hz setting, that may be a good compromise, but pans still suffer.
The other complaint I have surrounding the center is the rear-port configuration, which limits placement possibilities. In a compact system, a cabinet or shelf position is fairly likely but can wreak havoc when the speaker can’t breathe in the back. This is a disturbing trend I’m seeing in center speakers, especially compact models that could benefit greatly from a front port or sealed arrangement due to more-than-likely compromises in placement.
The Monitors’ small size can also be a detriment, but in practice only if you try to use them as main speakers. Their lack of enclosure volume really limits their efficiency and a lot of power would be required to drive these near-reference levels up front. As surrounds, however, this qualm is mostly negated. Front-rear pans are mostly seamless with an 80hz crossover and the Monitors, oddly, don’t exhibit the same loss of control as the center speaker. They do, however, share the same rear-ported design that all but eliminates wall-mounting without compromising the control exhibited around the likely 80hz crossover point. While the Towers can do well very close to a rear-boundary, the Center and Monitors really do need some space to breath.
While the Towers lack in low-end oomph, they maintain smooth mid and high frequency reproduction and exceptional detail with just a hint of roll-off in the highest audible frequencies. The Center may be the system’s weak link, never really blending convincingly with the Towers in panning scenes, while not drawing too much attention to itself in center-screen dialog. The Monitors serve sufficiently well in surround duty, but their limited range and notable inefficiency would make them a poor choice as main speakers in most systems.
The MFW-15 is surprisingly confident in both musical and theater reproduction, maintaining accuracy and control even when digging into the subsonic region. If I were reviewing the MFW-15 by itself I would be impressed, though not shocked, with what it can do for the $699 MSRP. What is shocking is how they can shoe-horn it into a $999 5.1 package with so few compromises.
At around 60% off the Internet MSRP, which IS the actual price these sell for about 75% of the time, the $999 cherry package may be as good as it gets for anyone as interested in 2-channel music listening as high-action home theater. If you butter your bread with Miles Davis as often as Jerry Bruckheimer, the AV123 ELT525 package should be high on your list, so long as the $999 - $1,299 package price holds.
Follow Electronic House
Stephen Hopkins is chief technology editor for EH Publishing. He writes product reviews, features, and focuses heavily on 3D TV, iPhone and iPad apps, and digital content.