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October 2009
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere

Renaissance Audio Group MLP-501 Loudspeakers
A three way floor standing loudspeaker that rocks at only $1245.

Article By Anthony Nicosia
Click here to e-mail reviewer

 

Renaissance Audio Group MLP-501 Loudspeakers  The Renaissance Audio Group, formally called Morel Acoustics USA, was formed in 1978 by its founder and president Mikhael Shabani. They produce loudspeakers for two and multi-channel operation (both floor standing and bookshelf models). They also have available a stand for use with the small loudspeakers and even their very own subwoofers. Not to stop there, the company also sells raw drivers for those DIY (do it yourself) audiophiles who might care to replace a blown driver or even to make their very own cabinets to built loudspeakers. By the way, some highly respected high-end audio manufacturers have been using Renaissance raw drivers for quite a while now with some of those drivers being made especially for them. If that is not enough diversification for you they also sell drivers, complete with grills, and crossovers for your car audio. When looking on their website I noticed my son leaning over my shoulder drooling over a tricked out car audio system found there. When my son does this it is a good sign that they are onto something quite positive.

Today's review of the Renaissance Audio MLP-501 will not center on automobile sound systems but rather the floor standing MLP-501 stereo loudspeakers for your home, priced at $1245. They have three drivers, a 1.1-inch soft dome tweeter, a 2.1-inch soft dome midrange and finally an 8.75-inch treated paper cone woofer. You might ask why did I choose these particular models from their lineup. First you should understand that I am a fan of large loudspeakers. I have in my two channel audio system a pair of Legacy Focus 20/20 and Klipsch Klipschorn loudspeakers as well as some Polk Audio SDA-SRS loudspeakers, used for the front channels of my multi-channel home theater setup located in a dedicated home theater room. Even my center channel and two rear channels are flood standing models. The Legacy, Klipsch and Polk loudspeakers weigh in at one hundred eighty pounds each and stand quite tall. So while looking at their website and deciding to do a relatively inexpensive loudspeaker review, I knew I would be more at home with their larger entry level floor standing model instead  of their bookshelf design. True I was tempted to have gone with their MLP-403.5 bookshelf model which according to Renaissance are very similar to the MLP-501 loudspeakers. Both are three way loudspeakers using identical drivers, but then one would be forced to buy their matching stands. I have no other place to put them but on the floor or in the corners on top of my Klipschorns and did not think that corner placement would make for a proper review for that loudspeaker to sound at its best.

A pair of MLP-403.5's at $1090 plus the dedicated stands for $159 brings the grand total to $1249 or four dollars more than the MLP-501's alone. Checking the manufacturers specifications on their web site I noticed the MLP-501's digging down a little deeper in the bass region while also having thirty watts more power handling capability, even though their drivers were the same. Couple this to not having to fear my wife's sisters four year old, who was staying with us, accidentally knocking the loudspeakers off the stands during the review process and I was hooked. To me they sounded like a relative bargain, both price and spec wise, as well as being placement friendly for me in my particular review environment.

 

Selection Of Amplifier Power And Placement
My next thought was to decide which of my amplifiers would pair best with the Renaissance Audio 501s. Being that they have a sensitivity rating of 90dB/W/m, I could use an amplifier that did not require enormous amounts of power. Starting out with my Dignity Audio DA08SE monoblock 300B 8-watt amplifiers seemed a good bet. Being that they each have a gain control knob on the front I was able to bypass using a preamplifier and run my CD directly into them. These tube amplifier takes thirty to forty minutes of run in time before sounding at their best. Once warmed up they will give you that clear glorious midrange magic coupled with a deep and wide soundscape that 300B amplifiers are known for. When attaching these to the MLP-501's I found that within a limited range of musical passages this 8-watt amplifier worked just fine. Give it a small acoustical ensemble, maybe some jazz performers like Diana Krall, or even a little Eric Clapton (on certain songs) and I was quite happy. These amplifiers though did not really do justice to the lower frequency capabilities of the 501s so moved to my Monarchy Audio SM-70 Pro stereo amplifier. 

At 25 Class A watts per channel driven into an 8 Ohm load and immediately heard the difference. Here I was able to appreciate some of the true bass capabilities of the MLP-501's, yet still felt a little something was missing. My SM-70 pros can be switched to monoblock amplifiers, and since I had two just for that purpose, I ran them as such in order to have them generate 80 Class A watts per channel at 8 Ohms. Here is where I felt the MLP-501's to be most comfortable and with enough power behind them to believe I was getting the proper performance capability. Sure you could run an even more powerful amplifier, if you so desire, but I never did feel they needed it, at least not in my room. The review room is eighteen feet eight inches long by thirteen feet wide with a cathedral ceiling that peaks in the middle to thirteen feet in height. If you had a much larger room I might then suggest a more powerful amplifier or even a move up the product line to their larger loudspeakers.

For this review I went with a setup driving the Renaissance Audio MLP-501 speakers with 80 watts and feeling quite satisfied this would  allow them to be well represented. I placed them with their cabinets slightly toed  in with the drivers angled towards the listener. They seemed to respond better being close to the side walls, as their bass presence increased, and I put some rather large floor standing acoustic panels about two feet behind each loudspeaker as is my custom to do so. My acoustical panels of which I use three, in varying locations depending upon speaker placement, helps tame the echo in my room brought about in part by the high ceiling and very large glass window. The distance from the front panel of each loudspeaker to the rear wall was measured at four feet. The 501s do come with eight factory supplied spikes four for each loudspeaker. You can use these spikes on a carpeted surface or with audiophile style discs (not included) for use on hardwood floors so as not to leave any marks. When breaking in the loudspeakers give them a good fifty plus hours before jumping to any judgment about their merit. When I first took them out of the box I heard a very good loudspeaker with a clear midrange response, but lacking in overall bass presentation and rather limited extension in the upper frequency range. It did nothing wrong, which was good, but was lacking in areas I hoped would improve over time. Fifty hours later all was right as my initial opinion of its lack of extension in bass and treble frequencies vanished as the Renaissance Audio 501 speakers blossomed into their full glory which I will now describe to you in the following paragraphs.

 

Listening Sessions
Listening to Ella Fitzgeralds recording of "Dreamer" on the LP The Best Of Ella Fitzgerald [Pablo Records PBM 001] I found her voice to sound  effortless and smooth. I detecting no confusion when hearing the individual instruments within the band. The soundscape was wide although not extending way beyond my loudspeakers but still more than adequate. Yet when it came to replicating the illusion of height within the performance they were excellent. I must say this took me by surprise coming from such moderately sized loudspeakers. The crossover circuits worked quite well as they went undetected with music seamlessly making the transition from one speaker element to the other. There was a very good blend of music across the audio spectrum from lows to highs as everything seemed well balanced with no overemphasis on either end. Neither bass, midrange or highs seemed to overshadow each other but rather they found a nice balance between themselves. For the size of the woofer the midrange and bass response at times surprised me with its strength while the upper frequency extension of the tweeter had a nice air to it while exhibiting great detail. Moving now to The London Muddy Waters Sessions vinyl recording [Chess MCA Records CH-9298] with the song "I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town" we are treated to the pleasure of hearing Steve Winwood on organ and Carey Bell Harrington playing harmonica. Both sounded natural and true to timbre while guitars were clear and sharp displaying a proper decay of notes when called upon to. As for the bass I could feel the floor vibrate here with this piece, not with an overabundance of exaggerated flabby bass but, with instead a good tightly controlled mid bass.

Turning to my universal Samsung CD player and the DVD Audio recording of Riding With The King featuring B.B. King and Eric Clapton [Reprise 9 47612-9] I selected the song "Three O'Clock Blues". Here the drums sounded full and slow but not overly so, rather just natural as it was intended for with a song of this tempo. The notes of the organ were quick sounding yet delicate and distinct while their guitar work displayed good decay in typical blues style. I felt the speakers added a nice small club effect and would be good placed in a mid sized or even slightly larger room rather than a very large or auditorium filling environment. Once again that effect of added height made them feel larger than they should and gave one the feeling that B.B. King was right there in front of you.

Next up was something quite different, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem In D Minor K.626 Unfinished [BMG 82876 58705 2] SACD recording. Mozart died before completing this piece so others had to later finished it for us. With this CD the Renaissance Audio 501 speakers presented a very good open "hall" effect as the choir sang adding great depth to the performance. They were also were able to add a nice sense of realism to the orchestra as horn, drum and string sections seemed to rise up. It was as if music was coming up from the orchestra pit to the delight of the patrons sitting in their seats. While not reproducing music on a grand scale as my Legacy's or Klipschorn's might they did display excellent qualities considering their relatively modest pricing structure and size. Not to be one to overlook one of my all time favorite CDs, by Yo-Yo-Ma & Friends Songs Of Joy And Peace [Sony Classical 88697-24414-2] I heard great detail with the cello in the opening number of "Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace)". Midrange, midbass and highs all had very good extension here as the 501's exhibited an ability to present us with intricate details. As the bow moved across the cello, I could feel its strings as well and the inside of the cello resonating with music. With "Here Comes The Sun" my heart soared with exuberance as Yo-Yo-Ma's  performance was spectacular as the loudspeakers opened up allowing not only musical instruments but also James Taylor's voice to extend well above the 501's, filling in the soundscape before me.

With Jackson Browne's Solo Acoustic Vol. 1 CD [Inside Recordings INR5205-2] I was treated to some excellent virtually solo performances with occasional accompaniment from a piano. Here on "These Days" Jackson Brown's voice filled the center stage nicely as the MLP-501 again exhibited  good depth front to back with a three dimensional quality to guitar and vocals that added a wonderful "live" feeling to the song. The loudspeakers exhibited a nice intimate overall presentation to the performance. It felt as if I was sitting center stage just slightly more forward than normal although not to any exaggerated extent.

With the two CD set Body + Soul Love Serenade [Time Life R794-01 A2 33972] I found songs that extracted some pretty good bass response. On the second disc "Can You Stop The Rain" the opening bass notes can be felt deep down in your gut as it commanded authority. The loudspeakers once again exhibited a smooth, powerful upper midrange bass upon hearing Peabo Bryson sing "Can You Stop The Rain" from the same disc. His voice here was smooth and full, having a  very romantic texture to it, helping the music live up to its billing as a collection of  "twenty-four sensual grooves". Background singers were heard clearly placed behind Peabo Bryson, spaced apart with appropriate distance between their voices, so each could easily and distinctly be heard. Wrapping up this disc with, "Shake You Down", a selection with Gregory Abbott, which I played at high volume, the performance seemed ever so large as music expanded beyond the loudspeakers to the left and right of them as well as retaining that added headroom (height) that I mentioned previously.

Before wrapping this review up I just had to hear the sound of the Fairfield Four from the CD Standing In The Safety Zone [Warner Bros. 9 26945-2] singing "My G-d Called Me This Morning". The tenor voice of Walter Settles, as he sang lead vocal, was ever so smooth. As for the background singing which was a mixture of baritone and bass vocals the speakers got those lower notes just right. A riveting display that sounded smooth and powerful is how I would describe the 501s when companioned with the Fairfield Four. They made for quite a good combination if you ask me.

 

Summation
I guess you can tell by now that my overall response to the Renaissance Audio Group MLP-501 loudspeaker  was very positive. They had the ability to present me with a wide open soundscape and never did fail to impress me with any aspect of their performance. Their greatest strength though seemed to lay in the way they made music seem much grander than other loudspeakers of similar physical dimensions. While not large, standing at only 33-inch tall and weighing 42 lbs., they sounded much bigger then their actual size and were able to compete with larger loudspeakers in this regards. When pushed hard enough to exceed sound levels that I cared to listen to they still sounded quite clear without a collapsing of soundstage  I was able to get the woofer to show some pumping action but only at a volume level where I felt uncomfortable and therefore would not listen at anyway. For placement I would try to keep them away form the rear walls but not too far from the sidewalls, angling them in slightly towards the listener. Remember if you move them too far back near to the rear wall you gain extra bass but you loose spaciousness and depth with the soundscape. That spacious sound presentation was some of the loudspeakers stronger points and I would not want to trade that for a tad lower bass response.

In addition, the MLP-501's midbass presence never failed to grab my attention. There were times though, with certain music, that I felt them to be a little bass shy but only in contrast to my own loudspeakers with twelve and fifteen inch woofers capable of producing thunderous bass. It was then that I reminded myself  this is a loudspeaker selling for only $1245 and at that price point you can not expect to get it all. Being this is the companies lower end floor standing model, you could always t move up and audition their Prelude ($2595) or Maestro ($3600) loudspeakers to see what they have to offer. Or maybe you might throw their Phantom Active subwoofer (featuring one 12-inch aluminum die-cast subwoofer and one 15-inch passive radiator) at them and see what happens. I for one would be more than happy to have the MLP-501s in my two channel system placed in a medium sized room or maybe even used for front loudspeakers in my home theater setup. Overall a good well rounded loudspeaker that benefits from matching with other quality components.

 

The Listening Environment
The review room is eighteen feet eight inches long by thirteen feet wide with the loudspeakers and equipment kept on the short wall. The cathedral ceiling starts at eight feet and sloops upwards to thirteen feet at its peak in the middle spanning across the short length of the room for the full thirteen feet height. The hardwood floor has a nine by six foot oriental rug lying down the long ways facing toward the system placed dead center in between, yet not under, the listener and the review equipment The room has no doors but there are two openings. One opening is in front of the right Legacy Focus 20/20 loudspeaker to gives access to the hallway while the other is behind the listening position and opens to a formal dinning area. The room is treated with three floor standing acoustical panels, one behind each loudspeaker and one in between both of them (although I have been known to move them), while all audio equipment is located in a Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack against and in the middle of the short wall. I have two power conditioners which plug into a PS Audio Power Port receptacle located behind the audio rack. I also use two Blue Circle Audio MKIII Power Line Pillows one on each of two outlets on the long walls next to and behind each loudspeaker. The Legacy's are located about six feet seven inches from the rear wall to their front panel and twenty one inches from the rooms side walls to the middle of each loudspeakers. The loudspeakers are placed twelve feet apart forming a triangle with the listening position that is also angled at twelve feet from loudspeaker to listener. In the corner of each short wall behind the Legacy Focus 20/20 loudspeakers are a pair of Klipsch Klipschorn loudspeakers which are also sometimes used when reviewing audio gear. If the Klipsch loudspeakers are used I then reposition the three acoustical panels to slightly behind the listening position one to the left, the other to the right with the third being placed in the opening leading to the hallway just  right of the right loudspeaker. For speaker reviews the Legacy loudspeakers and acoustical panels are moved out of the way if necessary.

 

Review Equipment
Monarchy Audio SM-70 Pro amplifiers (two run in monoblock operation)
Monarchy Audio M24 Preamplifier/DAC combo (used as a DAC for Redbook CD's)
Samsung HD-841 CD/SACD/DVD Audio universal player
Oracle Delphi MK 1 turntable (with custom made phono interconnects)
Grace 707 tonearm
Denon-301 MKII Moving Coil cartridge
Whest PhonoStage.20+MsU.20 power supply
PS Audio power port receptacle
Acoustic Revive RTP-2 and RTP-4 Series power conditioners
Two Blue Circle Audio Mk III power line conditioners
Interconnects: Audience Conductor e
Loudspeaker cables: Audience Conductor e
Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack

 

My Ratings
Please take into consideration that the equipment under review is being measured in my room, with my equipment and heard through my ears. As always you should be the final judge as to what works for you in your environment and measured against what traits you value most. The following was how I rated the equipment based on a rating system that does not take in to consideration the cost of the product, until the very last question, "Value For The Money". Before that all products are rated against others in its category, regardless of financial considerations.

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear  
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Three-way full range floorstanding loudspeaker
Tweeter 1.1-inch silk dome
Midrange 2.1-inch soft dome
Woofer: 8.75-inch treated paper cone with 3-inch voice coil
Frequency Response: 36 Hz to 22kHz (+/- 3dB)
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Sensitivity: 90dB/W/m
Power Handling: 180 watts RMS
Dimensions: 33 x 10.25 x 12 (HxWxD in inches)
Cabinet: Sealed MDF construction, handcrafted with real wood veneer
Weight 42 lbs.
Price: MLP-403.5 is $1090 per pair, add $159 for dedicated stands

 

Company Information
Renaissance Audio Group
414 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446

Voice: (617) 277-6663
Fax: (617) 277-2415
E- mail: info@renaudio.com
Website: www.renaudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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