Two-way, pro-audio style speakers with horn-loaded compression-driver tweeters are among my favorite speaker configurations. With its MT-110 bookshelf-style speakers ($675 each), Power Sound Audio takes a proven design and refines it for home use. The result is an industrial-looking speaker that is powerful, versatile, and provides compelling performance for your dollar.
Because the MT-110 is designed to be used in conjunction with a subwoofer, this review also features Power Sound Audio’s 15V 15″ vented subwoofer ($950), which is a perfect match in terms of price, capability and esthetics.
There are many choices when it comes to 2-way stand-mount speakers as well as subs, so why choose this 2.1 combo? Read on to find out.
Features and Specifications
The MT-110 is a 2-way sealed stand-mount speaker featuring a 1″ titanium compression driver, a cast-aluminum exponential horn, and a 10″ pro-style high-efficiency woofer.
It has a custom-made crossover designed by Power Sound Audio and features a specified frequency response of 70 Hz to 18 kHz. The MT-110 is an 8-ohm speaker that has a moderately high sensitivity of 95 dB/W/m, and it can handle up to 175 watts of power; that’s good for about 117 dB of output (measured at 1 meter).
The enclosure measures 17.5″ x 11″ x 14″ including the grill and weighs 35 pounds. The textured black finish is tough as nails. While it’s fairly large, and it won’t win any beauty contests, the MT-110’s tank-like construction put a smile on my face. I don’t want easily scratched wood veneer or can of gloss finishes and speakers. I prefer a speaker like this; it disappears in a dark room and resists cosmetic damage.
15V (on it’s side) on the left. On the right are the MT-110s, with and without the included cloth grill.
The 15V is a simple sub with one goal: To make more bass! It’s big: 22″ (deep) x 17.25″ (wide) x 23″ (high) and somewhat heavy at 79 pounds. Moreover, its output is notably bountiful relative to other subs I’ve heard near its price point. It’s also larger than those subs, which helps account for how efficiently it converts electricity into low-frequency sound waves. It’s a 725-watt, 15″, down-firing, ported design that’s a match in esthetics, price, and performance for the MT-110s.
If your system has built-in subwoofer EQ and bass management, or you use some sort of external EQ like miniDSP or a DSPeaker Anti-Mode (which Power Sound Audio sells as an add-on) and you crave tons of deep, powerful bass, you’ll appreciate the value this minimalist monster offers.
The primary caveat to adopting a 15V are that it is large and light on bells and whistles. That size, which results in an efficient design, is how the 15V can offer the performance it does at its price point. As far as frills go, there’s no built-in EQ, and connectivity is limited to a pair of RCA inputs—there is no line-out.
The sub does feature basic controls for phase, output level, crossover frequency and room-gain compensation. It also offers an auto-on power mode. Finally, since the 15V is down-firing, it’s child and pet-proof.
Back panel of the 15V subwoofer.
Using a Bosch GLM-35 ($70) laser measurer for accuracy, I placed the speakers in an audiophile-approved symmetrical triangular arrangement. When measured from the centers of the tweeters, the speakers were seven feet apart, four feet from the front wall, and eight feet from my ears. I put the speakers on 24″ high stands and aimed them at the main listening position.
Here’s the unboxing video for the 15V sub.
My 2-channel listening room does not have any dedicated acoustical treatments, but like many such spaces it relies on a mix of carpeting and furniture to absorb and disperse sound.
This is the first speaker system I’ve reviewed using the recently announced “AVS Forum 2-channel Speaker Review Reference System” that I discussed in detail here. It contains a Classé Sigma SSP processor ($5000) and AMP5 amplifier ($5000) that’s provides 200 watts per channel into 8 ohms and double that into 4 ohms. The MT-110s are 8-ohm speakers with 175-watt power handling, so it’s a great match.
A miniDSP DDRC-88A ($1000) running the BM plugin ($99) handled Dirac Live room correction as well bass management. For this review, I used an 80 Hz crossover with a 24 dB slope to integrate the 15V with the MT-110s.
The 15V subwoofer fit quite nicely in the corner behind the front right speaker. It’s a good spot to get the most bass out of it, with the help of some EQ.
System response without room correction in green (Room Size set to large on 15V) and with Dirac Live in red. This is the front left speaker plus the subwoofer using an 80 Hz crossover
I performed the Dirac Live calibration using the software’s single-seat option, which is optimized for the main listening position. The other two options are to optimize for a couch, or auditorium style seating.
I used the full 9-position clustered measurement, which provides a good insight into the native response of the speakers and I made sure the mic was centered and at an equal distance from each speaker—and consequently centered—to within 1/8″ accuracy.
Dirac Live offers the option of restricting the frequency range upon which its correction is applied. During my listening, I switched between a preset that corrects the entire audible spectrum, and a preset that restricts the correction to below the room’s Schroeder frequency, which is around 350-400 Hz. (The Schroeder frequency is the point below which the room becomes a dominant factor in a speaker system’s frequency response). I preferred full correction and performed my listening evaluations with that setting.
A Bluesound Node 2 ($500) acted as the primary source for music playback. Measurements were performed with a Windows 10 laptop running REW (room EQ wizard).
All music used in the evaluation was either uncompressed CD-quality or MQA hi-res. I streamed the tracks using Tidal through the Node 2.
This Power Sound Audio 2.1 system is an express ticket to sonic satisfaction. Period. The MT-110 and 15V both benefit tremendously from a no-nonsense approach to achieving high fidelity: Take a good compression-driver tweeter, mounted on a good horn, and design a crossover that blends it well with a quality woofer. Add a sub that can belt out tons of clean bass plus play below 20 Hz and you are good to go.
By leveraging tried and true technologies that come from the world of pro audio, this 2.1 system delivers performance that will strike the critical listener as being remarkably akin to live music, but with the precision imaging and enveloping soundfield that is the stock-in-trade of great 2-channel stereo recordings.
First, let’s discuss the 15V sub. I love it because it offers exactly what I look for in a subwoofer. It’s powerful, tight and able to play below 20 Hz with room-shaking output.
Before calibrating the sub with Dirac, I took a measurement from the sweet spot and used the Room Size and gain controls to integrate the sub as best possible without getting into using EQ, which turned out far better than I had expected. The Room Size control let me dial in flat bass response from 16 Hz up to the crossover point of 80 Hz.
REW confirmed the 15V’s was flat and free of any obvious dips or peaks from room effects. Additional measurements with a switch to a 150 Hz crossover, and then speaker-only full-range. These confirmed that the peaks and dips up to 400 Hz are related to room modes, which I use Dirac Live to counteract.
A key point here is that, at least in my room, the sub behaves well from the lowest frequency it can reproduce, right on up to the most commonly used crossover point of 80 Hz. In many cases, I expect the Room Size control and a measurement mic, plus REW to take measurements, is all you need to get a great sub/satellite integration.
Great-sounding speakers I’ve reviewed in the past (like PSB’s T3 towers) behaved and measured similarly to the MT-110s in this room, except that the compression-driver tweeter rolls off a bit early when compared to a dome or a ribbon—Power Sound Audio acknowledges this with its utterly accurate 18,000 Hz treble response spec. Fwiw, at 20,000 Hz response is down -10 dB, which is still something. With Dirac handling EQ, the MT-110s offered commendably flat response through the audible spectrum.
Notably, calibrating the same system using an Audyssey-equipped AVR (Denon’s AVR-X4300H) produced a similar end result, at least it did once I turned off MultEQ’s unnecessary midrange compensation feature using the new editor app., give or take a dB here and there. The reference system has more power and a lower noise floor than the AVR, but both are essentially transparent when compared to the speakers and the room.
For what it’s worth, I subjectively preferred the sound of the full-range calibration versus the system’s native response.
Once I was satisfied that the system was behaving well, I used brief test tones to measured the maximum SPL I could generate with the 15V at various frequencies, as measured from the main listening position. That’s when I knew the sub meant business, it consistently topped 100 dB from 20 Hz on up.
The sub had output to offer at 16 Hz, which peaked around 100 dB as measured at the MLP. At that level, you could hear distortion as well, the driver is working hard. This sub does 16 Hz, but not at peak output. At 20 Hz, I could wring 105 or 106 dB out of it, again measured at the MLP (which is nine feet away from the sub). Higher frequencies yielded even more output.
I did not perform lab measurements of the sub, but Power Sound Audio publishes CEA-2010 ratings, and it has sent subs to data-bass.com for (brutal) third-party validation of the performance of its designs in the past. This is a sub that comes from a company that’s not afraid of accurate measurements, and it shows.
I know there are folks out there who consider this sort of performance to be mere bikes with training wheels to their top-fuel dragsters, but not everyone can find a place for multiple 18″ subwoofers in their lives or their homes. For most humans, this 15V is pretty serious stuff.
Once it’s properly configured, this 2.1 system from Power Sound Audio delivers a bracing and exhilarating listening experience.
While lower volume levels, there is little to differentiate it from various high-quality 6.5″ 2-way cone-and-dome bookshelf speakers from other brands, at higher volume levels it’s a whole different story. Now, don’t take that sentiment the wrong way, it’s purely a compliment. Modern bookshelf speakers do many things right—they measure well and provide great soundstage plus imaging while minimizing cabinet-related issues. But, typically such speakers are limited in terms of dynamic range and cannot deliver live performance output levels, at least not without strain and dynamic compression.
With the MT-110s, when you start to nudge the volume up, you start to hear the sonic benefits of the efficient 10″ woofer, the large and sturdy enclosure, and the compression-driver tweeter. Namely, there’s more dynamic range on tap. Lots more.
The greatest mistake you could make is to look at the MT-110s and make assumptions about how they sound based on looks. It may be safer for sensitive audiophiles to use the speaker grills while checking out delicate recordings like folk and some classical, lest there be too much cognitive dissonance between the system’s industrial looks and its ability to render acoustical recordings with lifelike fidelity.
From Duke Ellington to Diana Krall, you can listen to audiophile favorites and get a great experience from this system. If you feed them a tough track like “Disc Wars” from the Tron Legacy soundtrack, they can unpack all the layers that are within, letting you hear both Daft Punk and the London Symphony.
“Disc Wars” is my go-to track for deep, continuous electronic bass mixed with immaculately recorded orchestral music, and the 15V got both the impact and the texture just right. The MT-110s made sure the London Symphony sounded open and vibrant, while allowing Daft Punk’s synth arpeggios to coexist with the powerful strings and timpani. This is a very tough track to play loud and well, and this system handled it adeptly.
Simply put, the sub seals the deal!
Felix Laband’s “Red Handed” from Dark Days Exit offers clean, precise production style that makes its dubby, psychedelic, downtempo electronic excursions a pleasure to listen to through a great system. I first heard the artist at AXPONA 2017 playing through $35,000/pair over-the-top horn-loaded speakers, and can honestly say this Power Sound Audio rig rendered it almost as well. I’m reminded that proper setup and a great recording go a long way to creating sonic bliss.
I’ve enjoyed listening to Jon Kennedy a lot lately, and I got a kick out of the MT-110s and 15V’s take on the drummer’s 2005 album, Useless Wooden Toys. I love a system that begs you to find your ideal volume level and then lets you listen as long as you want with no fatigue, which is what I got from this outfit.
“You, You, and You” has a ton of great sounds in it, flutes and a crunchy synth bass that warbles just right, plus plenty of catchy keys and percussion and Mr. Kennedy’s expert funky drumming. Cranked to 105 dB (at the MLP), the system hummed along, still in its comfort zone, but certainly with a fair amount of movement coming from the woofers and the sub driver.
Coil is a now-deceased band that were early innovators of industrial music and its album Love’s Secret Domain is a genre classic that needs to be heard on an excellent system to appreciate. Key tracks like “Things Happen” and “The Snow” still had that special energy that makes them a compelling listen. Coil went the extra mile and recorded the accompaniments with the collaboration of many other artists, this is not some simplistic pastiche of samples, it’s art. The final track, the eponymous “Love’s Secret Domain” is at one ominous and seductive. When reproduced correctly, the opening drum hits shake the room, and when the track gets going, listen to how many layers the album packs in—those insidious synths! This is pre loudness wars-era music from an iconoclastic group, so if you decide to check it out, don’t be shy about turning up the volume to get the full effect.
Best I can tell, the MT-110s can perform all the audiophile tricks in the book. They disappear, they put performers in your living room, they make pianos sound like pianos and guitars sound like guitars, they avoid dynamic compression and coloration, yada yada etc. The only catch is that you really, truly do need a subwoofer (or two) to get the magic and it had better be a sub that can keep up. These speakers deliberately focus on acting as “perfect” satellites when used with an 80 Hz crossover and they succeed spectacularly.
It’s reasonable to think that the 15V can serve as the foundation of a surround system, not just a 2.1 rig. I watched Star Wars: Rogue One through the system and found that, even with 2.1 stereo, there was much to enjoy. Sure, I’d rather have a full Atmos rig. But, bottomless bass and superb clarity—plus a capacity to render explosions with visceral impact—go a long way toward making a movie sound great.
Just to be extra sure that the MT-110s are as awesome as I suspected they are for home theater duty, I put them in my upstairs surround sound AVS Forum review rig. I substituted them for a pair of Klipsch RP-280FA towers, placed a pair of RP-14SA Atmos modules on top, ran Audyssey, and 20 minutes later had them integrated in the otherwise Klipsch-based 7.1.4 system. I even lugged the 15V up two flights of stairs and popped it into the system as a fifth sub. Based on what I heard, I have no qualms recommending both the 15V and the MT-110s for home theater duty. That the gear is also great for music a bonus, IMO.
Based on what I heard and measured, the 15V is arguably the best-performing sub-$1000 subwoofer I have reviewed. Meanwhile, the MT-110 speakers deliver clarity and dynamics that are a reminder that 2-way speakers with horn-loaded tweeters and pro-style woofers are a proven design that can deliver the sonic goods with neutrality and finesse.
AV enthusiasts concerned with performance will find much to love in a 2.1 system featuring the 15V sub and MT-110 speakers. Music lovers are sure to be thrilled with the performance, you will not find a pair of tower speakers that have similar capabilities at anywhere near this price point.
If you care about music, seek extreme performance, and are concerned about getting maximum bang for your buck from a 2.1 speaker system, then Power Sound Audio is a company you need to check out. For one thing, it publishes very accurate specs, so you can make purchase decisions based on numbers instead of purple prose. You simply do not find this sort of capability in the prettier, smaller, but ultimately less capable mainstream products of larger brands.
Long story short, if you are into 2-channel listening and like to crank tunes when you listen, this combo of the Power Sound Audio 15V sub and MT-110 speakers will not let you down. And, if you decide to build out a surround system, it’s a tremendously solid foundation upon which to do so. And keep in mind that this gear represents the entry level for Power Sound Audio; the company has options for folks who want more powerful speakers and subs that dig deeper. Oh, and did I mention it’s made in the USA by an independent company? What more do you want… great performance, fair price, honest specs, and it’s made in America by entrepreneurs.
Thanks to its impressive performance that puts performance first, the MT-110 and 15V 2.1 speaker system from Power Sound Audio earns an ‘AVS Forum Approved’ nod from me.
Click here to read more about the review system.