List Price: $649/pair Factory Direct
Second Opinion: Bill Schuchard
It’s a boy! Not unlike the probe from Star Trek IV in which they bare a remarkable resemblance, the Tekton M-lore is a mutant of simple design drilled down to near-perfect implementation to generate a sonic result that is far superior to its cheap bastard price. They are not dainty and one better prefer an industrial look to feminine features in their living room, but Eric Alexander’s “make no excuses for” design philosophy has yielded results which are fiercely completive for $649.99.
Who is this Eric Alexander guy anyway? He is the Grandson of a carpenter who has spent 25 years in loudspeaker design and his not-so-dainty resume includes Aperion Audio and numerous electro-acoustical patents. Becoming tired of being the man behind the curtain he took his extreme passion for loudspeaker design and following philosophies, and put them to use in birthing Tekton Design. Eric sought to bridge the gap between pro and home audio and believes that most home HIFI loudspeakers just do not fit the bill in the department of realistic dynamics and transient attack, while pro audio is just not refined enough for the home HIFI market. Drawing on a great deal of experience not just from an engineering perspective but getting to know the marketplace, this passionate and classy gentleman has generated a platform that is truly unique to the over saturated loudspeaker kingdom.
All this, and be affordable? That is as raspberry-worthy as Snookie for President if you ask me, but to err is to be human and it is not the first time I have made a mistake. Looking at the tall yet stocky M-lore your eyes are immediately drawn to the large eight inch woofer. A smooth medium sheen black lacquer covers the thick MDF construction on this pair, however they are available to order with just about any finish one could want (additional fees may apply). They stand 34” tall, 9 and 1/8th wide, by 10” deep, and unfortunately for some this is as visually exciting as this speaker gets. The woofer is not countersunk to align phase of the extremely simple crossover in which the woofer runs full range and the tweeter has minimal components in its path. Eric informed me he sources the woofers from Eminence to his specification and tweeters from Vifa/Tymphany. The tweeter sits below the woofer which is rather rare, however it appears it was a simple design decision to attain proper summation of the drivers and good polar response.
The M-lore is available in many finishes - this is just a sampling of what's possible, for an extra charge of course
They are a Bass Reflex type of enclosure with a port on the front of the speaker. While I often think front ports are the root of all evil in this world due to midrange leak and turbulent noise, it seems as if the M-lore has enough spacing between the port and the woofer where it matters very little. It becomes clear, very quickly, that this simple loudspeaker is not so simple in design and the host of over-complexities usually “engineered in” to eliminate issues in speakers was basically “designed out” ahead of time in painstaking detail. Please note the difference between the usage of “design” and “engineer”. While good design is built on a firm base of engineering; Engineering alone cannot always produce a good loudspeaker. I have heard many over-engineered loudspeakers that are just a mess. Attention to the small details and simplicity equals less to manufacture, and less to manufacture means you can give a customer more for their money (Mojoism #37). I do believe the drivers used are a large key to the success of the M-lore, and I do not think the M-lore could hold their price point with these drivers if the design details were not wrapped up properly.
The spikes which come with the M-lore could firmly plant the landing of any speaker doing a triple-back off an Olympic vault and the binding posts are meaty with enough finger-grip to firmly seat spades, heavy gauge raw ends, and yes you can use your bananas. I progressed to the next logical step and threw them into my normal speaker spot, hooked up my bananas from my Virtue Audio “Nirvana” speaker cables then hit play… Before I get ahead of myself I would like to note the following: One of the key features taken from the pro audio world is a 95dB efficiency rating which would mean they will work well with low wattage (less than ten watt) amps. So I figured I would start with 250 watts. It happens to be my reference and I need to put them through their paces so while counterintuitive, it sets the bar at the same level as every speaker gets. I also attained, with some negotiation, a Prima Luna Prolog II 40W integrated amp, and a 15W class “T” amp. Here are the results of my listening journey based around same three tracks and countless hours spent listening to them, from the high wattage to low, and how the M-lore proved its outstanding value.
I plugged the M-lores in and hit “play” backed by 250 watts of juice. Esperanza Spalding’s “Little Fly” from the album Chamber Music Society came through and immediately grabbed me. There was a musicality and honesty often forgot in these days of over-resolved and detail focused loudspeaker design. There was some change in the sound as I sat up straight, or slouched. Seems subtle and obsessive I know, however it can drive me crazy. I found with modest toe-in, a slight tilt back on the spikes, and placement slightly larger than an equilateral triangle, the proper setup made them disappear and all of the weirdness was easily eliminated. Recently, our fearless leader Jim Darby made a great reference in his coverage of the RMAF. Some systems are like looking at an x-ray of a beautiful girl. You can see all the bones, organs, and sinew but it is not what you fall in love with at first sight. Then there is the normal picture of that beautiful girl. This picture seems to evoke emotion and an appreciation for what is truly recognizable, in the case of the M-lores it is the music. The M-lores capture all aspects in equal measure, without missing a beat. No really, these things are quick! The bass response is phenomenal in both quantity and resolution which easily keeps pace with the snappy midrange and gentile yet extended highs. Esperanza’s voice soon follows the gently placed strings, realistic bass, and dynamic yet dissonant plucks which snap with a wonderful sense of attack. When her voice emerged, it was placed in dimension where it should be perhaps a little less focused than I am use to, but it was absolutely pure in musical quality. While I pulled this track specifically to demo female vocal wrapped around difficult strings to reproduce I found myself recently forgetting about reviewing the M-lores and just listening to song, then the next, soon the whole album and my wife is yelling at me because I am late to emerge from my dungeon for dinner.
Aaron Copeland’s well known and often overdone “Fanfare for the Common Man” was the next to take stage. I chose the particular recoding from the Reference Recording label off the Copeland 100 album. I find this recording to be extremely honest without the emphasis so many engineers put on the tymphany and bass drums. They are there in speaker-bending proportion, but so is everything else. It quickly became apparent the M-lore does not produce sub-bass as the deep compression of the drum hits were just not there. They did not miss the attack however, and were extremely full with strong impact. The gong, oh the joyous gong did not sound as if a metal cookie-sheet was struck with a metal spoon but rather sounded off with distinct presence and gentile decay. The trumpet snapped in with incredible dynamic range and a realistic sense of the hall this famous masterpiece was recorded in. The low brass which soon follows had ample body and a ballsy, robust feel that could fill you like a stew. Overall dynamic range of these speakers is truly impressive for their price and size. They played as loud as I ever desired and then some never showing signs of distress or losing their composure. I have made small towers cry with this track, the M-lores wanted more. “Good Times, Bad Times” off Led Zepplin’s Mothership will fill the remaining void since the mediocre re-master of an already shameful recording is hard on most speakers. Within the first two quarter notes of the song it is easy to tell if you are going to rock, or wreck. The M-lores, rock. Respectfully too, just enough detail to pick up the nuances of John Bohnam’s triplets and masterful syncopation on the drums while delivering Plant’s vocals dead center with enough weight and tonality to be realistic. Page’s Guitar came across with the sharp-edged British blues rock that truly defined early Zepplin.
Amp change, on to a Prima Luna Prolouge II. 40 Watts of Golden Lion KT88 tube defines this little integrated amp in which I give high regards. The front end of this integrated is buffered by 12AX and 12AU flavor driver tubes, both Mullard re-issues. A close friend of mine who holds the title “The Tube Guy” wanted to upgrade the Solen bypass caps with Auricaps so a little negation on my part leveraging my technical prowess landed it in my lap for this review. Esperanza’s “Little Fly” was very similar as on the high powered solid state. For the extremely minor amount of attack that was lost, the sound stage was deeper and wider. The difference seemed to be more or less what one would see between solid state and tube vs. anything strange going on with the M-lores. I was impressed there was little difference in drive as I expected more of an impact on the sound than there was. It seemed out of the gate the stated 95dB efficiency was weighing in the M-lores favor. “Fanefare for the Common Man” had a similar presence and drive. Perhaps not as much decay on the heavy bass drum hits, but still huge dynamics and fat brass. The subtle differences I was picking up in the terms of better dimension, imaging, and round edges on every note still was in the realm of tube vs. solid state. The fact that I have to keep pulling myself back to the fact that I am reviewing the M-lores and not the amps was a good sign that these speakers were doing their job and behaving with less power. Zeppelin was roughly the same in both presence and berth. I wished to hear a larger difference between the big solid state and tube, however it was more of a question of balancing spices in a recipe than two different dishes all together. I have to say though, this is where it got interesting.
For around $21 from www.partsexpress.com you can obtain a tiny Tripath amp out of “P.R.O.C” called the Lepai “500w”. It is rated at fifteen watts per channel into four ohms. It comes with a wall wart, bass and treble controls, and a large volume knob which is grossly over illuminated to the point of concern. I am unsure what over-exposure to blue wavelength spectrum can do, but it cannot be healthy when the light is so belligerent one would swear it makes a high-pitch squeal. The M-lores are stated as an eight ohm speaker, so assuming the tripath halves it’s wattage with double the resistance as Mr. Ohm has taught us we will call it seven and one half. The stuffy spring clips on the back of this little amp does not allow for connection of spades or bananas, so in attempt to hold the M-lore to its ability to be driven by small systems with docked i-pods, memory sticks, and phones I whipped out two pieces of sixteen gauge stranded speaker wire with raw ends that I had lying around. Now that I essentially removed most of the high end from the front end of the system save the Eastern Electric MiniMax, let’s see what these do when driven by a true flea-watt amp, and regular off the shelf lamp cord to transmit the signal. When “Little Fly” took the stage the sound was finally a significantly different flavor. It was very laid back, super quiet background with a huge soundstage. Dynamics were taught, and lively. Everything seemed to float in the soundstage verses being etched. It was gentile, and kind.
Reminiscent of an SET amp. It captured a midrange truth I did not hear with the other amps and Esperanza’s voice was melting. The M-lore truly was able to be driven by a low wattage amp and deliver. Before I get too involved with how much music these portrayed, I do have to say that resolution was lacking overall. The sound never was anemic in extension from top to bottom, yet if you desire high resolution and are willing to sacrifice just about everything else to get it, the M-lore may not be for you. Do you like pepper, or salt? Perhaps a little of both? That is the M-lore’s gravy train. They seem to have the right balance to fit and exceed the expectation of what a $649/pr. speaker can do. I do digress however and since we all love forward progress I will offer this pro tip: Make sure your three year old does not have her fingers on the woofer when starting “Fanfare For The Common Man”. While I thought it was humorous, all of the progress toward making her a music lover took a good step back. At reasonable in-room levels peaking around 85dB on my SPL meter the M-lore still had impact and panache. They did not sound quite as big as before so I was tempted and cranked up the little tripath quite a bit. As feared it did begin to get a glare and somewhat obnoxious. After lowering the volume back to a realistic level, I was still very satisfied with the presentation and enjoyed the delicate touch the small amp had. “Good Times, Bad Times”, which was Led Zeppelins’ first song to ever air in the US was great at in-room volumes. It seemed the euphoric representation the seven and one half watts was speaking through the M-lore. The guitar and lower range of Robert Plant’s voice had a full and mellow representation. I soon found myself testing the Tripath again, unable to resist the urge to rock as I pushed the volume I was somewhat disappointed again as the glare returned and the soundstage flattened out. Though not an out-of-the-park hit with the Lepai, the M-lore was delivering with this little amp and at no point did I ever feel Tekton exaggerated its capability. I would consider it a true high efficient speaker, though just the entry of this designation. At the cheap bastard price of $649 this speaker is truly the one to beat. It strikes the perfect balance between music and capability. I cannot think of a speaker that offers more flexibility while sacrificing so little at such a low price. What a value!
“But Wait, there’s more!” The science in me still wants to see what these do under the knife. I never like to measure until I finish listening as I do not want my ears to believe what I see. This is a rudimentary fundamental to avoid dangerous pre dispositions of what is thought to be heard vs. what is influenced by a response chart ahead of time. I remember someone introducing a pair of speakers at an even getting heckled because some prophet could “hear” a response anomaly. The catch was: The anomaly was removed well before the show and the designer did not update their website. Certainly gave me pause! So let’s see if we can find out why these perform so well in the numbers.
First up is the frequency response at 0,15, and 30 degrees off axis at 1m, 1/24th octave smoothing.
Overall, it is very self explanatory. Ripples around 200Hz and below are room related. Smooth over the entire bandwidth save an anomaly 4Khz. This was of no concern audibly. I did feel the need to inquire about it an in Speaking with Eric it is most certainly purposeful. Some will call it a modified “BBC Dip”. The benefits of phase alignment far outweigh the effect this small anomaly has. There is a slight rise from 50-100Hz as well which is likely the reason for just how full these sound. It is also very impressive just how smooth the response stays as you move off axis, which is a key sign of good phase alignment and even polar response. Let’s take a look at distortion.
Distortion is extremely low. There are no apparent issues through the entire functional range of the speaker, and at the point where it seems the tweeter takes over there is a large drop in total distortion (blue trace). Also, the distortion through our most sensitive range of hearing which is about 1Khz to 5Khz , 2nd order distortion is dominant (red trace). Second order distortion is much more acceptable to our ears than 3rd order (magenta trace), the Fran Dresher of the loudspeaker kingdom. Lastly, the impedance trace.
The impedance curve shows average impedance through the pass-band of the woofer to be about 7.5 ohms. An 8 ohm anything should not have any issue driving these as the electrical phase is also well controlled. There is an apparent bump at 200Hz which seems to be the woofer reacting with something in the cabinet, or electrically. 33.5 inches (which happens to be extremely close the height of the speaker) is one-half the wavelength of 200Hz which may explain what we are seeing there. There should be no worries since it does not show up in the distortion or frequency measurements and it certainly has no apparent audible effect.
Where does this leave the journey of the M-lore? I have grown slightly attached to these for their enduing quality and just how much fun they are to listen to which is not something I can say about many products. I also am going to pursue reviewing one of Tekton’s higher end models anticipating they will represent the same level of value as the Mlore. All things in perspective and understanding the restraints at this price point, there is little these cannot do at $649/pr. There are bigger speakers, louder, higher resolution, definitely prettier, and many speakers that have a single greatest strength one may be forced to cherry pick but the M-lore’s greatest strength is the balance of it all. They never lose their ability to be driven with just about anything with satisfying timbre and to satisfying volumes. Go ahead and meander over to the big box store if you dare, you will easily pay twice as much for a speaker half as good.
When a reviewer says "You need to come hear this. Tell me I'm not crazy", there are only three possible outcomes. 1) He's reviewing something that's just an amazing deal that seems too good to me true. 2) He's reviewing something that he doesn't like and wants a second opinion. 3) He's gone completely off his rocker and an a painful truth needs to be spoken.
The M-Lore easily falls into category 1) "An amazing deal that seems to good to be true". I honestly had a hard time breaking myself away from them. They have a natural presentation like one might find with a full range speaker yet are void of the usual colorations one might find. The midwoofer seems to be handling the critical range from 1-5Khz where perfectly balanced tweeter takes over. The tweeter's task is light, allowing it to reproduct air just shy of what you'd find from a ribbon tweeter. It gets better.
There is a sense of effortless ease about the Tekton M-Lore, with quick transient attacks at both low and high volumes. I could hear a slight dip in the midrange but it seems broad and shallow similar to what some would call a BBC dip. With a live recording, for instance, it puts you a few rows further back than you might be used to. Is this a bad thing? I suggest it is not given the complete void of any listener fatigue. I could and would enjoy listening to the M-Lores all day. Wait... It gets better still.
I suspect that the measurements will show that the response stays pretty constant as I was able to move my head all around, stand up, move over, etc, without the sound changing all that much. This should translate into a speaker that is easy to position. And... It gets even better.
The bass from the M-Lore was nearly perfect with a quality far beyond the $650 price would imply. It seemed flat "in room" except for what seemed like a lump around 30Hz hiding, quite conveniently, the lack of seriously deep bass. It was taught, fast, full, powerful, seeminlgy deep, and tuneful. It was just right getting the drums and bass to both play at their appropriate levels as recorded with neither masking out the other. It really was just downright lustful. It was so good I stuck a camera in through the port to look around to see what sort of fanzy "wizard-like" engineering had been used to produce such fine bass. The result? It revealed nothing out of the ordindary. In fact... It was just plain "old school" design with dampening immediately around the driver, one minimalist brace, and the rest of the box had nothing but space. The simplistic port wasn't even flared. Old school for sure. How the slightly resonant cabinet walls did not adversely affect the sound was equally impressive. Ok.. Now it gets worse.
So what's the bad side? So far we have a speaker that's super smooth, balanced, natural, efficient, dynamic, and has amazing bass. It's got to give somewhere as there's always a tradeoff. In this case this isn't the most resolving speaker. But... You don't seem to even care when listening because it carries the tune so well. The texture of a guitar's body resonanating is more or less missing but the pluck of the strings with the correct attack and timbre is not. So many speakers get the latter part wrong yet these do it so very well and for a "song" if you'll pardon the pun. They really do capture the emotion of a performance and do it without being in your face.
The only other downside is that one might want to consider the optional grills. I didn't have the optional grills handy to discern what sonic impact it might have but the 8" woofer was not very attractive to look at. That's all I'll say but a woman present just commented; "yuck". I said "What if there was a grill?". The response? "Oh, then it would be fine". And there you have it.
These speakers seem to take over where the Decware Mini leaves off. There is far better bass extension, better level matching of the tweeter, an easier speaker to position, and a more convincing musical experience overall. I'm voting "Maximum Mojo Award" for the Tekton M-Lore.
First and foremost the Tekton M-lore deserves a Maximum Mojo Award. Combing through the sea of affordable audio for Cheap Bastards there are few diamonds in the rough, but that is exactly what we are here to find. The M-lore is more "diamond" and less "rough" and will easily find itself at home in any small to medium sized room in an affordable system with modest power. This is a very large, key consideration when assembling a system knowing that a good deal of affordable “HI-FI” gear may only have 30-60 watts. While I wish I had a more specific recommendation, the M-lore but is so diverse and represents such a great value, I believe there is little in this speaker that would not make everyone looking in this range and significantly above happy for a very long time.
8” Tranducer/ 1” Tweeter
100 watts/250 RMS
Based on the extreme value to price ratio, the Tekton M-lore is enthusiastically granted our
Congratulations Eric Alexander!
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