Min­istry of Sound Au­dio M Plus/au­dio L Plus

FOR Lots of bass weight and punch; fea­tures for dance fans AGAINST Lacks some de­tail; lim­ited dy­namic reach

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Multi-room Speakers -

Min­istry of Sound Au­dio M Plus £200

The ‘Plus’ here ef­fec­tively means wi-fi has been added to the Blue­tooth and 3.5mm jack con­nec­tions of the orig­i­nal Au­dio M, wel­com­ing it to Min­istry of Sound’s new multi-room fam­ily along­side the larger Au­dio L Plus and more diminu­tive Au­dio S Plus.

Touch-pad con­trols

Oth­er­wise, it is dif­fi­cult to spot many dif­fer­ences; both have the same sturdy R2d2-like shell con­ceal­ing a ver­ti­cally aligned tweeter and woofer, with touch pad to con­trol your mu­sic via a se­ries of taps and swipes on its head.

Both also have a claimed bat­tery life of six hours at half vol­ume (four hours at 70 per cent vol­ume) and both come with a pair of com­pli­men­tary tick­ets to Min­istry of Sound’s Lon­don club, ac­cess to Min­istry of Sound ra­dio and the ‘Live from the Club’ feed.

Given our re­spect for the orig­i­nal, our spir­its are stoked by the sim­i­lar­i­ties in their tech spec. And they are fur­ther height­ened when we play Huarache Lights from Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense? al­bum, to find that same in­fec­tious sense of punch to the rhythm.

Other sim­i­larly priced speak­ers tend to time a lit­tle bet­ter but, in terms of drums in par­tic­u­lar, few have so much kick. It’s de­signed by the same en­gi­neers re­spon­si­ble for the night­club’s sound sys­tem and, as we fight the urge to fid­get, it is clear that Min­istry of Sound un­der­stands what makes peo­ple want to move.

On the same plane

It also brings to the fore Alexis Tay­lor’s vo­cal, buoy­ing it against be­ing drowned out by the force of the kick de­spite his voice’s slight fragility.

It doesn’t skew the bal­ance an aw­ful lot – this isn’t the most spa­cious sound, al­though there is a de­cent ver­ti­cal spread – it is just a for­ward pre­sen­ta­tion with a lot of kick. You could ar­gue it’s a very wel­come char­ac­ter­is­tic for a speaker re­pro­duc­ing dance mu­sic.

That char­ac­ter re­mains true through­out the record, but chang­ing tack some­what as we play God­speed You! Black Em­peror’s Asun­der, Sweet and Other Dis­tress, this al­bum bet­ter high­lights some of the Au­dio M Plus’s short­com­ings.

There is still ben­e­fit from the for­ward pre­sen­ta­tion, but there’s a lack of depth to the de­tail. Drones in Lambs’ Breath are with­out tex­ture, if au­di­ble at all. We aren’t of course re­quest­ing hi-fi lev­els of de­tail, but we would usu­ally ex­pect more from a speaker at this price.

That lack of in­sight and anal­y­sis isn’t helped by some­what flat dy­nam­ics. A more sub­tle dy­namic sense would aid en­joy­ment of dance mu­sic as it would larger-scale post-rock. There is a lack of ex­pres­sion here com­pared with other speak­ers with more rounded skill-sets.

All-singing, all-danc­ing

Es­sen­tially, it comes as lit­tle sur­prise that the Au­dio M Plus is no de­par­ture from the sonic blue­print of Min­istry of Sound’s other wire­less speak­ers.

While not want­ing to lose what makes the speaker great for the money – its con­ta­gious sense of beats and solid midrange – we’d ap­pre­ci­ate more sub­tlety that would al­low us to en­joy a wider range of mu­sic. Still, if you want multi-room and you want to dance, this is a de­cent so­lu­tion.

Min­istry of Sound Au­dio L Plus £300

Alas, it is not a suave kitchen ap­pli­ance but a wire­less speaker, the grown-up mem­ber of the com­pany’s multi-room fam­ily. Cer­tainly its ar­moury is quite suf­fi­cient to fill its role.

Be­hind its curv­ing grille are two 2.5cm tweet­ers, a pair of 11.5cm woofers and a re­flex port for added oomph in the low end. It is suit­ably con­nected, as well: wi-fi, Blue­tooth with NFC pair­ing, DLNA, 3.5mm aux­il­iary jack and Spo­tify Con­nect, as well as ac­cess to Min­istry of Sound Ra­dio and its Live From The Club feed.

Lift­ing it from its box, the Au­dio L Plus is true to the qual­ity we recog­nise from

”As we fight the urge to fid­get, it is clear that Min­istry of Sound un­der­stands what makes peo­ple want to move”

Min­istry of Sound: a rea­son­ably solid plas­tic cas­ing, metal grille and a touch-sen­si­tive tap-and-swipe con­trol cen­tre on its crown, which doesn’t al­ways ben­e­fit our clumsy fin­gers but feels be­fit­ting of a fairly high-ticket wire­less speaker.

Hav­ing ac­quainted it with our net­work via the free con­trol app, we are ready to play within five min­utes.

Driv­ing with con­vic­tion

If you’ve heard a sim­i­lar Min­istry of Sound speaker be­fore, you’ll prob­a­bly find the Au­dio L Plus en­tirely fa­mil­iar, and quite right too. It’s the mark of some­one who knows their au­di­ence.

We be­gin by play­ing Pub­lic Ser­vice Broad­cast­ing’s The Race For Space, and are greeted with a smooth but bold midrange, throw­ing for­ward John F Kennedy’s speech that opens the al­bum as an in­di­ca­tor of its pri­or­ity for high­light­ing melody and hooks. While that em­pha­sis con­tin­ues, it isn’t re­ally un­til third track Ga­garin that we get our first proper taste of that sinewy punch.

The track’s en­ergy plays straight into the Au­dio L Plus’s hands, al­low­ing it to throw its weight around and drive on with con­vic­tion. It isn’t quite the dance mu­sic you may as­so­ciate with Min­istry of Sound, but high­lights par­tic­u­larly well the im­pe­tus their prod­ucts are so of­ten able to of­fer a groove.

Bass for your taste

There is a lot of bruis­ing bass weight here, but Min­istry of Sound ap­pears to have been care­ful in not let­ting it be­come in­ces­sant. It is al­ways at hand to keep more placid tracks such as The Other Side awake, but is able to rein in its en­thu­si­asm a lit­tle so as not to mis­in­ter­pret the char­ac­ter of the mu­sic.

It isn’t all rosy, how­ever. While the throw­ing for­ward of the midrange brings melody to the fore, the rest of the Au­dio L Plus’s sound­stage lacks in­sight. There is rel­a­tively lit­tle de­tail be­neath the main tune – that, cou­pled with a short­age of dy­namic ex­pres­sion, leaves the over­all sound (though it’s rather ex­cit­ing) feel­ing just a lit­tle cold.

Even the more en­er­getic tracks we play – by a range of artists from Beck to Blind Faith – are well driven, but not par­tic­u­larly ex­pres­sive.

Wel­come to the club

We un­der­stand why Min­istry of Sound’s fo­cus is what it is – the two free tick­ets to its Lon­don club are a give­away as to its tar­get au­di­ence here – but, pit­ted against com­peti­tors who are more bal­anced all-rounders, it loses some ground.

Given the Au­dio L Plus’s strengths, some ex­tra care with de­tail and dy­nam­ics could make for an ex­tremely en­gag­ing, elec­tric lis­ten. But even though it lacks th­ese char­ac­ter­is­tics, this re­mains a worth­while in­vest­ment for those who want a multi-room sys­tem with added kick.

Multi-room ver­dict

What­ever your view on Min­istry of Sound’s sonic blue­print, the uni­for­mity across wire­less speak­ers makes for a co­he­sive multi-room sys­tem.

Func­tion­al­ity is un­com­pli­cated. You have to add each speaker to the net­work in­di­vid­u­ally, but are walked through the process. Sim­i­larly, there are no is­sues when group­ing or play­ing dif­fer­ent tracks through sep­a­rate speak­ers, and they work fine in tan­dem for stereo.

As for multi-room, it’s a sim­ple set-up, no dropouts and a set of wire­less speak­ers which act as a per­fect foil for each other. If you are a fan of Min­istry of Sound’s trade­mark acous­tics, you will like what is an in­tu­itive and well­bal­anced multi-room sys­tem.

Not a suave kitchen

ap­pli­ance, the MOS

Au­dio L Plus is the

grown up of its

multi-room fam­ily

With weight on

drums and bass,

the Au­dio M Plus

fol­lows the MOS

sonic blue­print

says

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