It’s important to get the name absolutely correct; it’s a Scansonic M-6 BTL, not a Scansonic M6. The problem is the company makes so many audio products sometimes names blur into one another, and while the M6 is an iDock, the M-6 BTL is a two-and-a-half way active tower loudspeaker with wired digital and aptX Bluetooth wireless audio connections.
The M-6 TTL is a slimline tower loudspeaker, for all the world like any other slimline tower at first glance, save for a little LED and an inset into the top panel of the left loudspeaker. At the rear, one speaker has a small amplifier stage built into it, while the right slaves to the left through a single speaker cable. The normal scheme with a loudspeaker of this kind of price and expectation might be to use them with a Class D amplifier design, but that’s not how Scansonic works. Instead, the master speaker sports a 2x 60W Class AB amplifier. The system also comes with a learning remote control.
Theoretically, you could use the M-6 BTL as a digital and analogue preamplifier too, as it comes with both an analogue pair of RCA phonos, plus electrical and optical S/PDIF connections. Although these might look a little odd connecting into a loudspeaker, the main goal here is probably to use the speakers with TV equipment, rather than audio electronics per se, and in that respect the rear panel is a useful addition. To some audiophiles though the next few words are a virtual declaration of war, but I suspect most music lovers will be playing through Bluetooth.
The slim, front-ported M-6 BTL has some obvious design similarities with other products in the Scansonic family, and a broad family resemblance to Raidho designs. In particular, that sealed kapton/aluminium sandwich ribbon tweeter has a lot in common with the larger versions found in some really expensive Danish loudspeakers from the same company. The pair of paper-polypropylene composite mid-bass units differ from the extremely expensive units in Raidho models, because the cost of a couple of those Raidho drivers is more than the cost of a pair of M-6 BTL.
This is the kind of product that simply wouldn’t have existed at the turn of the century, because the technology simply didn’t exist to make it work. As little as five years ago, although the technology existed, the impetus wasn’t there because audio’s old guard thought such things an abomination. Gradually, inexorably, things have changed and products like the M-6 BTL are now beginning to take their place as true ‘next gen’ audio products. We welcome the disruption such products cause, because disruptive products like this create a wider, more receptive place where audio can grow. However, that doesn’t give the Scansonic a free pass – it still has to perform as a good audio product in its own right.
There are a series of tests a ‘next gen’ product like the M-6 BTL needs to pass. The first is fairly simple – does it work? The next is more subjective – could you live with it, or could you live with yourself if you recommended this product to a close friend or family member? The next is the real acid test, though. It’s the ‘desert island’ question – if you were stranded on a desert island with only the Scansonics for your music replay, would that music become a constant companion, or a constant reminder of what you once had? I think the Scansonic system passes all these tests with great ease.
The ‘does it work’ test is fascinating, as it exposes just how much we actually lose – as opposed to how much we think we lose – when moving to Bluetooth. Running aptX from a MacBook meant we could stream lossless AAC files without a problem, and with minimal slight of hand, such tests are easy to fake, so no-one knows whether the music is playing wired or wirelessly. The change from wired to Bluetooth is noticeable, if you are listening and comparing critically – the Bluetooth system is more hard-edged and ‘shiny’ sounding – but a drink or two later, or otherwise similarly free from your intense critical scrutiny, the Bluetooth connection is ‘effectively’ transparent to source.
In fact, once you get past the ‘must investigate’ stage, these are thoroughly great speakers to live with. I went through everything from Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ [Fiedler, Boston Pops Orchestra, Living Stereo] to the post rock thrashy ‘Attack Formation’ from the album Fine Lines by The Rock of Travolta [Big Red Sky] and little phased the loudspeakers. OK, there’s an upper and a lower limit to the sound level (too little and the bass gets indistinct and the treble soft; too much and the upper midrange dominates), and throwing the full dynamic might of the orchestra at high levels shows the limits of the system fairly quickly.
For what is basically a relatively small-scale tower system, the M-6 BTL throws out a really big soundstage, with plenty of depth and width, but not much height. These is an excellent sense of scale, too; this system doesn’t increase or decrease that scale depending on the music played, and it tends to make everything just seem big, but on the other hand, that does make music sound impressive, something few similar systems manage! In fairness, the Naim Mu-so has a similarly impressive sound, but the M-6 BTL is more conventionally impressive, and produces a far more realistic sense of soundstage. In fact, the level of precision within that soundstage shows the quality of this system in absolute terms. You could replicate the same performance with individual boxes, but I doubt you would be able to do the same for anything like the M-6 BTL’s asking price.
You quickly realise that the limitations of the system are more to do with the basic physical constraints of a loudspeaker of the size and price of the M-6 BTL rather than some intrinsic property of the Bluetooth system. Wretch 32’s grime hit ‘Traktor’ from Black And White [Ministry of Sound] shows where the Scansonics sing, and where they hit their limits. The normally sat on lyrics are clear and distinct, but the drone bass gets a little too unrelenting. On the other hand, aggressively compressed tracks like ‘Invincible’ by Muse [Black Holes & Revelations, Warner] are softened slightly and become more listenable in the process.
‘Giorgio by Moroder’ from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories [Columbia] shows how good the speakers are at voices. Too many systems just make his voice sound like Arnold Schwartzenegger, but this retains the high frequency component, making him seem more like Giorgio Moroder. And perhaps more importantly, the M-6 BTL makes that rhythm deeply infectious – your foot will tap, no matter how often you might have heard the recording beforehand.
Yes, there is some slight lead-footedness to the bass at times. A fine example of this was the double-tracked bass on ‘New Birds’ by Arab Strap [Philophobia, Matador], which has slight over emphasis, pushing the vocals into dry, distinct, and forward territory. A better system – one that perhaps separates the components into their individual form – would undoubtedly play this track with less obvious emphasis.
But this is missing the point almost entirely. This is what tomorrow’s everyman system should be like; room filling, dynamic, entertaining, affordable, and unassuming. These loudspeakers don’t entrance the listener in quite the same way the Raidho models can (in part because the M-6 BTL doesn’t have the same natural rhythm), but they are great sounding and especially great for the money. Would I sell this to my grandmother? That might be difficult because I’m fresh out of grandmothers, but I’d happily give this system to a loved one. And, unless they were already an audio enthusiast with their own preconceived notions of what is and what isn’t good, they’d love it too! In fact, my biggest criticism of this system is my typing: I keep writing ‘BLT’ instead of ‘BTL’ and it’s making me hungry!
I guess the point here is my first draft of this review discussed ‘the loudspeakers’ and it quickly turned into ‘the system’, because that’s what the Scansonic M-6 BTL is; it’s a complete system, just add phone or laptop! And it’s a very real, very credible system, too; not simply something that is good in spite of using Bluetooth. The audio world is undergoing great change and products like this spearhead that change.
Type: 2.5 way active loudspeaker with audio connections
Inputs: 2.4GHz aptX, one Toslink optical inputs, two RCA PCM inputs
Amplification: 60 W Class A-B
Drive units: 1 sealed ribbon tweeter with kapton/aluminium sandwich membrane, two paper-polypropylene coned 114mm bass/mid driver with underhung magnet system
Enclosure: Heavily braced, ventilated box design with front loaded port
Freq. response: 50 Hz–30 kHz
Impedance: > 4 ohm
Crossover: 3.5 KHz – 2. order acoustic slope 300 Hz – 1. order
Finish: Black-piano or White-piano
Size (W×H×D): 15 × 90 × 20cm
Weight: 17.8 kg
Price: £1,199 per pair
Manufactured by: Scansonic
Distributed in the UK by: Decent Audio
Tel: +44(0)5602 054669
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