Few loudspeakers are as instantly recognizable as German brand MBL’s Radialstrahlers. “At every international hi-fi show their appearance draws crowds while the all-encompassing sound keeps visitors rooted to their seats,” writes Hi-Fi News editor Paul Miller. MBL has finally reached UK shores via specialist retailer Stranger High Fidelity, and Miller can’t wait to explore its wares “inside and out, Hi-Fi News style”. “It was worth the wait,” he finds.
“The speaker with no sweet spot arrives on our shores, offering a sound that’s as distinctive as its aesthetics,” announces Hi-Fi News in its June 2021 issue.
It’s taken a while to get here. Originally conceived by the company’s founders, Meletzky, Bieneke and Lehnardt (hence MBL) in 1979, the Radialstrahler design has since evolved under chief engineer Jürgen Reis. Reis, who was recently inducted into The Absolute Sound’s High-End Hall of Fame, is also interviewed in Hi-Fi News alongside the review.
MBL is justifiably famous for its uniquely pioneering omnidirectional loudspeakers. Their spherical, 360°, pulsating sound wave design is currently offered as a collection of six models, from the ‘126’ bookshelf to the radical one-tonne, four-tower flagship ‘101 X-treme’. The 101E MkII reviewed here is one down from the top model.
“Most loudspeakers are omnidirectional at low frequencies, becoming progressively less so at higher octaves,” notes Miller, “but the Radialstrahlers are as close to full-range omnidirectional as currently exist, and all achieved without myriad drivers, reflectors or directivity-guiding DSP.” There’s plenty of detail in the review as to what does go into these designs to create the desired effect.
“The Radialstrahlers reveal the musical event differently. There’s certainly a ‘sound’ here, not only with respect to tonal colour but also in the speaker’s ability to drive the room and create a truly huge but meticulously crafted soundscape… They have a way of expressing music rather than simply projecting sound. Like I say, these speakers are different…”
“Whether you park yourself in a typical hot seat position or off to the left or right, the 101E MkIIs are not physically evident in the aural landscape – close your eyes and as those alien shapes disappear, so does any clue to the origin of the sound.”
“Nearly a decade after first seeing and hearing these loudspeakers… I was not disappointed. The Radialstrahler 101E MkIIs offer a musical soundscape that’s as distinctive as their appearance is startling; to listen to them is never less than an experience.”
Read the full review in the June 2021 issue of Hi-Fi News.
Cameron Jenkins, the man behind Stranger, is an award-winning producer, engineer and record label owner. Jenkins says, “These omniphonic loudspeakers are the most natural sounding I’ve come across. The sound isn’t radiated on one plane, but over a sphere encompassing 360 degrees, filling the room with a natural balance of direct and reflected sounds. Chief designer Jürgen Reis is one of the very best, and his electronics are beautifully designed and engineered.”