Years ago I reviewed a Raidho loudspeaker designed by Michael Børresen. The only thing I did not like about them was their high price. More recently, the same Michael Børresen designed a much cheaper loudspeaker range for the Scansonic brand, from which the small floor standing model MB-2.5 has been living in my listening room the last couple of weeks.
Once you know that both Raidho and Scansonic are part of the Dantax Radio A/S company from the Danish town of Pandrup, you understand that it is not strange that this designer works for both brands. The name Scan-Sonic (with the hyphen) is used to market lower-end audio products like docking stations, DAB tuners and Bluetooth speakers, whereas the Scansonic HD name is used for a range of loudspeakers with higher aspirations. The range was designed for both stereo and multichannel applications and apart from the MB-2.5 it consists of a standmount, a centre channel and two bigger floorstanding models.
The moment I remove the protective cloth, it is immediately obvious that I am looking at Danish design in the tradition of men like Arne Jacobsen and Jacob Jensen. The cabinet has the minimalist elegance that is typical of Danish design, the rounded corners on the front not only look great but they reduce diffraction as well. The curved sides (in combination with internal bracing) have a positive effect on the sound and give the speaker an organic feel. There are some design details that remind me of Raidho models. For instance the height adjustable aluminium feet. The speakers come in a white or black silk finish. The ones in my listening room are white and although I am not a big fan of white speakers, these look very nice because of the combination with the black carbon inlay on the top of the cabinet and the black carbon-loaded front baffle. The MB-2.5 was designed without a grille and in the top half of the front baffle there are decorative black screws visible. The MB-2.5 is a traditional two-and-a-half way design with a down-firing port. For the high frequencies up to 30 kHz there is a sealed kapton/aluminium sandwich membrane ribbon tweeter. One 115mm carbon-coned mid-bass unit is used as a mid-woofer and the second 115 mm carbon-coned unit is used as a woofer for frequencies from 40 Hz to 200 Hz. Both have a overhung magnet system similar to Raidho’s own.
In my large dedicated listening room all electronics are placed far behind the imaginary line between the speakers. This has a positive effect on the soundstage, particularly on the depth of it. Most speakers that visit this room are placed about 2.5 metres apart. With the MB-2.5 this is different, like the Raidho models they love to be further apart. So I start at 2.5 metres and make the gap wider until it is approximately 4 metres, only at this point does the strong central image of Bonnie Raitt singing ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ begins to sound diffuse. Going even further would create a hole in the middle. Depending on the size and shape of the listening room, the wide spacing of the MB-2.5’s may have some consequences for the interior of the room. In most rectangular rooms most speaker brands are placed in front of the short wall with the listening position located near the opposite wall. But with these Danish speakers it might be wise to place them in front of the longer wall. As always, try before you buy. In my room, between the speakers and the electronics in the back, there are two Pass Labs X260.5 mono amplifiers, the rest of the system is detailed here (http etc!!!!)
The beautiful ribbon tweeter immediately sounds refined and captivating but I know from experience that a lot more can be gained by providing the exact toe-in required by the MB-2.5. As soon as the right angle is reached everything falls into place and it is clear that things should be left alone. I can’t stress this enough; take the time to find the ultimate position; there is no additional cost and so much to be gained. With its four Ohm nominal impedance, the MB-2.5 presents the amplifier with a reasonably benign load and the manufacturer states that a 50 Watt amplifier should be sufficient. At the same time they stress the importance of a high quality amplifier, especially because the lower frequencies have to be controlled. I agree, but at the same time I want to stress that, even though my mono amplifiers were used most of the time, this does not automatically mean that the amplifier has to be an expensive design. Any combination of quality and power will do.
With the wide spacing I described it stands to reason that the soundstage has an impressive width that stretches well beyond the speaker boundaries. At the same time there is an enormous depth, with height to match. Both speakers completely disappear. This is shown in an impressive way when I play a recent 180 gram STS Digital LP with songs by Madeline Bell. Likewise, Eva Cassidy sounds very spacious when I stream ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’, recently ripped from her latest CD Nightbird. An album I find very interesting because on it there are more than 30 live tracks, some of them previously released on her album Live at Blues Ally. When presenting a beautiful human voice like Eva’s a natural sounding midrange is of the utmost importance. In this respect the MB-2.5 performs beguilingly well. With a sound that is both liquid and very transparent, presenting all the nuances of her voice in the way I hoped to hear them. The sound of the acoustic guitar is a realistic combination of wood and string while the ribbon tweeter shines in presenting the silvery cymbal sound. When turning up the volume to listening to the drums there is no degradation of the sound. The chamber orchestra also sounds realistic when I listen to a high resolution download of the Royla Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra performing Haydn’s 44th Trauersymphonie. I am presented with the beautiful timbre of the acoustic instruments that, in comparison with my own Harbeth SHL 5 plus speakers, are a little less lush sounding. The relatively small MB-2.5 even does not have to be ashamed of itself when it presents a symphony orchestra like the BBC Philharmonic. With the Italian director Gianandrea Noseda holding the baton, all the magic of Rachmaninov’s first symphony is there. And although the larger MB-6 will no doubt take the performance a step further, the MB-2.5 is more than able to let me enjoy the concert. During the time I spent with the MB-2.5’s I listened to other styles of music as well, and every time I was drawn into the music by these fine loudspeakers.
The Scansonic HD MB-2.5 is a beautiful loudspeaker that elevates itself above the average for it’s price, in both industrial design and sound signature. In order to let it perform at it’s best, it is essential that extra attention is given to placement and that the amplifier has enough quality to make it shine. When these basic requirements are met, nothing stands in the way of enjoying this piece of Danish delight.
This review was first published in MusicEmotion magazine