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Philips MCi900 - Performance and Audio Quality

By Hugo Jobling

Reviewed:

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  • Recommended by TR
Philips MCi900

Summary

Our Score:

9

The MCi900's speakers are, if nothing else, certainly a bit contributor to the systems overall visual appeal. The main design feature of these speakers is immediately obvious, but the choice to mount the 1-inch tweeter on a solid aluminium arm isn't just aesthetic. By freeing the driver from the main enclosure, Philips says, the speaker is also freed from the effects of any standing waves and vibration in the main body; and the positioning also improves projection.

The 1.8-inch thick aluminium cabinet doesn't do any harm for the rigidity of the speakers either. And as well as looking interesting, the angled design of the cabinets purportedly improves projection of the 5in woofer's output into a room. Whatever voodoo Philips put into figuring out this speaker design, it's worked. The MCi900 sounds absolutely fantastic. Music jumps out of the speakers in a way that's almost disconcerting realistic thanks to the excellent sense of space they create.

We had a little giggle in the office when we heard the MCi900 described as "sharp" on the BBC's Something for the Weekend, but having spent some time with the system we have to concede that it's not a bad one-word summation. The isolated placement of the tweeter definitely seems to have had the desired effect as high-end notes have a great sparkle.

Female vocals particularly benefit, as proved by a run through Paramore's brand new eyes. Whether you like their particular brand of angst-ridden pop punk or not, there's no denying that Hayley Williams can sing - we defy you to listen to the stripped-back tracks The Only Exception and Misguided Ghosts and disagree. But we digress, the point is this: the high-end clarity exhibited by the MCi900 really works - the sound of fingers sliding down strings for a chord change is enough to send a shiver down your spine.

A play or three of Bowers & Wilkins' London symphony Orchestra compilation showed the MCi900 has no problem handling big, complex renditions either. There's a real sense of depth to the system's output, and while you're not quite able to close your eyes and imagine you're 'really there' you will feel like you know what it would have sounded like were you present.

It's worth noting, too, that the Philips MCi900 does a cracking good job of handling almost dangerously loud volumes. You'll be annoying neighbouring counties, rather than neighbours, before the audio starts to get a little muddied and crowded. To top it all off, although MCi900 is heard at its best in the speakers' sweet spot, it does a commendable job of filling a room and still sounds pretty good off-axis.

Paul 7

August 12, 2010, 4:20 pm

How about comparing some second hand high-end gear with the same-priced new stuff? I can't be the only person who reads reviews of equipment like this and the Onkyo and Teufel kit and wonders whether I'd be better off spending the same on a Naim pre/power, or some older Linn/Rega kit. You 'd hope newer transistors etc. would mean cheaper equipment could match the quality of more expensive older stuff by now.

CSMR

August 12, 2010, 10:34 pm

I think you've been conned here. At least this article doesn't have the information that makes for an informative audio review. I'd take this on board because TR has really high standards usually.





There are no measurements. Nothing about frequency response, distortion, noise floor. Just subjective opinions. Therefore the idea that by using a stylish and unconventional design, obviously chosen for visual appeal, they have a better approach to audio engineering than standard ones is not supported. The subjective claim that they sound good, without objective backing, could as easily reflect the price tag or the design as actual fidelity of sound.





There is also no recognition that sources and speakers are separate and should be treated separately. Here there is a source/amplifier combination that does some nice things and no doubt a good choice for some people. And some unusual speakers. Imagine if instead of desktop PC reviews and monitor reviews sites only treated whole systems: the usefulness of the information would be much lower. Same here.





For this price you can get excellent systems. I would generally recommend professional active speakers. Easy to find good ones for any budget between 200GBP and 3000GBP. The consumer and audiophile markets are filled with snake oil, marketing, placebo effects, and reviews like this one.

smodd

August 12, 2010, 11:51 pm

The design remembers me the MirageSpeakers...


http://www.miragespeakers.com/...

Andy Vandervell

August 13, 2010, 2:08 am

@CSMR: Please bear in mind we are not a high-end audio review site. We try to keep things accessible, while also offering a depth of insight into the quality of the product. Could you get better quality out of a separates system, most probably, but that's not what everyone wants. Likewise, we could spend 10 pages exploring the frequency response scientifically, and measuring using pro-equipment, but not a lot of people want to actually read that.

stranded

August 13, 2010, 10:12 am

@CSMR


I agree, nothing really good in consumer and "audiophile" (big laughs) section.


This is a design for 10/10? Philips design? More suitable for 5/10.


As Andy Vandervell said, TR is a CEs site. Many people like to read such reviews.

Hugo

August 13, 2010, 3:28 pm

CSMR - I'm at a complete loss as to understanding what your point is. I suppose all of your food is bought based purely based on its price versus its nutritional value? Perish the thought that anything so subjective as personal preference should colour the decision.





Reviews are inherently subjective; there is no such thing as an objective opinion. And of course, assuming you've never heard this system yourself, you're dismissal is based on an even greater lack of objectivity.





stranded - Philips has plenty of well-designed products. For instance just about every TV made by the company in the last 5 years.

CSMR

August 13, 2010, 10:23 pm

@Andy Vandervell:


I'm not advocating anything more physically separate, just separating speakers and source in reviews. I'm not suggesting extra boxes. Or spending more money; you can certainly get a very good system at under half this budget.


You don't need 10 pages to do a technical review. A frequency response graph, a distortion figure at a couple of power levels and a noise floor measurement are enough. Good manufacturers will provide these measurements or they will be available on forums where people in audio production discuss these things.


If you don't want to do this, I'd recommend you stay within the scope of your expertise and not make judgments about say audio quality or technical design without some backing (if not measurements then expert opinion found somewhere else). Otherwise you will just get mislead by marketing.





@Hugo


Certainly how good the speakers look is subjective. It's the sound reproduction that is not. I did not dismiss these speakers, although passive designs are not ideal (they save a couple of power cables though).

Ilse05

August 15, 2011, 3:16 pm

I was wondering if it would be possible to replace the speakers with the bose acoustimass 5 (subwoof + 2 double speakers). I prefer the sound of Bose but I like the system with harddisk like MCI900 of Philips, however I can't find anything on using other speakers with this.

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