Review: Acoustic Technologies MK100A
A self-powered compact loudspeaker that spreads the word.
Review:/ Christopher Holder
Upon first inspection the MK100A looks like a very well constructed, sturdy, compact, neatly designed… speed camera or display spot.
I guess what I’m saying is, Acoustic Technologies’ newest self-powered compact installation loudspeaker doesn’t look like anything else on the market. In fact, looks can be deceptive. What with the (included) 360° mount, it’s easy to assume the MK100A is the audio equivalent of a spotlight – aim carefully and fire a beam of highly directional sound like a fire hose. Not so. Perhaps the biggest selling point of this unit is its ultra-wide dispersion. Rather than using the more conventional (and traditionally more efficient) speaker cone, the MK100A employs a flat, 100mm honey-combed aluminium transducer to provide 120° dispersion right up to 7kHz.
Tucked neatly inside the compact enclosure is a 150W (at 6Ω) Class D amp and around the back you’ll find an XLR input, XLR link output, power switch and IEC power socket.
As soon as I sparked up the MK100A I was struck by a detailed, accurate sound. Crank the speaker up and you can squeeze a surprising amount of level out of the tiny four-inch driver (104dB @ 1m, is the spec). The device has a quoted frequency range of 90Hz–19kHz, and in practice you would certainly want to protect the MK100A from sub frequencies (the long-suffering four-inch driver starts flapping about if you expect too much low-end out of it).
Sound quality aside, where the MK100A really comes into its own is in its dispersion. The sound is extremely uniform across a very wide area. Although it has a specified dispersion of 120° up to 7kHz, in practice the sound is highly intelligible right out to 180° (and beyond even!).
To hear how the MK100A performed in a hostile acoustic environment I set one up in the foyer of my church. As a former Gas & Fuel Corporation depot, it’s a large space with concrete floors, 6m-high ceiling and metal walls – hundreds of cubic metres of acoustic purgatory. Spoken word was conveyed with excellent clarity. Thanks to the coherency of the sound, intelligibility remained very high, even with the multiple reflections. And because of the ultra-wide dispersion, the MK100A managed to provide a credible one-speaker solution for the huge volume of the space – the fewer speakers the better in such a hostile acoustic environment.
The ease with which the MK100A deals with the spoken word will naturally lend itself to use in other acoustically hostile environments. Acoustic Technologies has peppered these pages over the years with news of its column speakers being used in parliaments, law courts and cathedrals, and I’m sure the MK100A will find itself similarly employed. Boardrooms and open office environments (for sound masking) are also obvious applications.
Where high fidelity music replay is important – such as in hospitality and retail environments – the MK100A will provide a real alternative to in-ceiling speakers. Just don’t expect them to kick you in the diaphragm with trouser-flapping bass (get hold of a MKB150A sub unit for that), but the detail and clarity really does shine through across a wide listening area. But unlike an in-ceiling speaker, it won’t sound like the audio is coming from the roof like a fire sprinkler. And, in all likelihood, it’ll sound quite a bit better than your average in-ceiling speaker.
I’LL TAKE A DOZEN… IN DUCK-EGG BLUE
The MK100A is neat little problem solver. The highly uniform, coherent sound will greatly assist intelligibility and reduce feedback problems in reverberant spaces. The speaker – because of its lack of directionality – seems to just fill the space with an even, diffuse sound. The detail and clarity of the aluminium planar driver makes listening to music a pleasure. I like the look of the extruded aluminium package and Acoustic Technologies is happy to colour-match from its Brisbane manufacturing plant – making you popular with the architect/designer. Already the MK100A has been employed by the hundreds in larger public institutions and it’s easy to see why. Is the MK100A suitable for every public address/background music application? No. But, if clarity and high fidelity are important to a job, then it’s time to organise an audition.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ACOUSTIC TECHNOLOGIES’ MD
AV speaks to Acoustic Technologies Managing Director, Harry Lloyd-Williams.
AV: Are there plans for a passive and/or a 100V line version of the MK100A?
Harry Lloyd-Williams: We have a passive version: the MK100. Also we have been working on a 100V line version. We don’t like 100V line systems, because of the overall sound quality. However, we have managed to develop a massive toroidal multitapped transformer, which has enabled us to as-good-as-emulate the sound of the passive and active versions. We are very, very happy with the result. Sounds great.
AV: Was there any debate about using XLR I/O?
HL-W: This was chosen mainly because of consultant and customer requirements, especially in the AV field where they would set up portable systems. For instance, in a G20-like summit, or some big conference where pristine audio is required. Having said that, a Phoenix system is available as an input.
AV: Why the aluminium planar driver?
HL-W: Flat speakers are well known for their low distortion but traditionally low sensitivity has been a killer (they’ve been too heavy). New techniques and lightweight materials have allowed a whole new family of transducers to be created. The efficiencies are still not quite up to the cone-type speaker, but the fidelity and the amazing even/wide dispersion without any anomalous frequency hot spots, have made this a superior sounding device.
AV: How have you made the MK100A installer-friendly?
HL-W: We’re developing an installer’s ‘cookbook’ with suggestions, schematics etc. We also have a ceiling/wall plate, which has a mains outlet and signal outlet for ease of installation and overall neatness. The small IEC lead we pack with the MK100A is ideal for this. A typical scenario would be that you have a multi-room function area with a digital speaker management system that could control limitless zones of the MK100A with the MKB150A sub unit, allowing complete audio management. We also have EASE data and other associated design tools to assist in premium design.