Are these Mis­sions the best sub-£200 speak­ers?

FOR Verve and in­sight; strong dy­nam­ics; good build and fin­ish KEY FEA­TURES AGAINST Need care in part­ner­ing

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Want a list of the best speak­ers at less than £200? For most of this year it would have been a shortlist com­pris­ing just a sin­gle name: the Q Acous­tics 3020. Noth­ing we’ve heard has come close to knock­ing these tal­ented speak­ers off their perch, un­til now. Yes, Mis­sion’s LXŠ2S are good enough to give the Qs a fat lip – and we don't mind ad­mit­ting it’s some­thing of a sur­prise.

A decade or so ago it wouldn’t have been. Back then, Mis­sion dom­i­nated our group tests and Awards, par­tic­u­larly at the more af­ford­able end of the mar­ket. But the brand hasn’t de­liv­ered over re­cent years, turn­ing out de­cent but hardly class-lead­ing boxes. The LXŠ2S buck that trend.

Work­ing the old magic

The LXŠ2S are a prod­uct of a re­think at IAG, Mis­sion’s par­ent com­pany. IAG also owns speaker brands Wharfedale, Quad and Cas­tle (re­mem­ber them?), and Mis­sion hasn’t thrived in such an en­vi­ron­ment. IAG de­cided the brand needed a ded­i­cated de­sign team, and hired peo­ple who had worked with Mis­sion in the past in the hope that some of the old magic could be res­ur­rected.

These speak­ers even look a lit­tle like Mis­sions of old, most ob­vi­ously with the use of the brand’s tra­di­tional tweeter-be­low-the-mid/bass con­fig­u­ra­tion. Mis­sion claims this ar­range­ment aids the time align­ment be­tween the driv­ers – the sound from each unit ar­rives at the lis­tener bet­ter syn­chro­nised – so help­ing in­te­gra­tion. It helps also that this up­side-down ar­range­ment makes these stand­moun­ters stand out from the com­pe­ti­tion too.

That tweeter is a 25mm mi­crofi­bre dome. It’s cou­pled to the 13cm fi­bre com­pos­ite mid/bass through a sin­gle-wire cross­over. The cross­over is a fourth-order de­sign, care­fully cal­i­brated to op­ti­mise off-axis per­for­mance while keep­ing the on-axis sound bal­anced. The Mis­sion de­sign team spent a great deal of ef­fort try­ing dif­fer­ent com­po­nents to op­ti­mise the re­sults.

The sin­gle-wire route makes sense, par­tic­u­larly at bud­get price lev­els. It al­lows funds to be con­cen­trated on a good qual­ity run of speaker cable rather than split­ting it be­tween two cheaper al­ter­na­tives.

Back to basics

Nei­ther drive unit looks par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing on pa­per, but they’re care­fully de­vel­oped to de­liver sound with low dis­tor­tion and an even re­sponse. A great deal of care has been taken to en­sure con­sis­tency be­tween sam­ples, which is not al­ways the case at bud­get lev­els. The cabi­net has been care­fully de­signed too. Bud­get con­straints mean there’s no place for hi-tech ma­te­ri­als or ex­trav­a­gant en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tions to con­trol­ling cabi­net res­o­nances, so the de­sign­ers have gone back to basics and come up with a wooden box that pro­vides a solid plat­form for the drive units to work off.

The cabi­net is well built. Its small size – the LXŠ2S stand just over 30cm tall – en­sures a de­gree of rigid­ity that’s hard to get from larger en­clo­sures. Fin­ish is neat, and up to the stan­dards we ex­pect at the price. We like the un­der­stated vis­ual de­sign touches that make the speak­ers look rather classy.

Po­si­tion­ing is easy, just as it should be for speak­ers that are as likely to find them­selves parked on a crowded book­shelf as on top of a

“The LX-2S de­liver a huge slice of fun that few ri­vals come close to. Part­ner care­fully and they’ll turn in a per­for­mance that’s sure to get a smile on your face”

pair of ded­i­cated stands. Ide­ally, you should put them on the stands as they sound much bet­ter that way. In our test room we get the most bal­anced pre­sen­ta­tion with the LXŠ2S placed close to a rear wall, but not right up against it. The speaker’s rear-fir­ing port needs space be­hind to work prop­erly.

Speak­ers at this price are as likely to be driven by a mi­cro sys­tem such as the Denon DMŠ40DAB as they are ded­i­cated sep­a­rates kit from the likes of Onkyo or Marantz. This means in an ideal world they will be easy to drive and un­fussy about part­ner­ing kit while still hav­ing enough trans­parency to al­low bet­ter-sound­ing sep­a­rates kit to shine.

That’s a dif­fi­cult balanc­ing act that few man­age well. The Mis­sions do a fair job in this re­spect, but we think their Q Acous­tics ri­vals are more for­giv­ing thanks to greater re­fine­ment at high fre­quen­cies and a richer, sweeter pre­sen­ta­tion. But don’t let that put you off. Part­ner these Mis­sions with a bit of care and they’re as en­ter­tain­ing a bud­get box as we’ve heard in years.

Worth the wait

They get right to the heart of the mu­sic, as if the Mis­sions have a di­rect line to the stu­dio. That’s a rare qual­ity re­gard­less of price. Play alt-j’s Left Hand Free and the LXŠ2S get straight in the groove. They’re fast, pack a se­ri­ous punch and de­liver deep bass with pre­ci­sion and author­ity. Best of all, they de­liver the song’s hard-charg­ing rhythm track with skill and en­thu­si­asm. These speak­ers time well, com­mu­ni­cat­ing changes in mo­men­tum con­vinc­ingly.

Through it all they don’t for­get the sub­tleties. The group’s vo­cals are clear, easy to fol­low and packed with en­ergy. Nu­ances are ren­dered with fi­nesse and the mass of in­stru­men­ta­tion and voices is or­gan­ised well. At no point do they sound like they’ve taken on more than they can han­dle.

John Wil­liams’s Juras­sic Park shows off the LXŠ2S’ pleas­ing large-scale dy­nam­ics. Their com­po­sure im­presses too, as they refuse to sound con­fused even when pushed to rel­a­tively high lev­els.

Ton­ally, they’re well bal­anced, but there’s just a touch of edge through the up­per mid/lower tre­ble area that can be pro­voked by less-than per­fect record­ings or ag­gres­sive-sound­ing part­ner­ing kit. It’s some­thing to watch out for rather than damn­ing crit­i­cism.

Stereo imag­ing is good too, with a pleas­ing sta­bil­ity to the pre­sen­ta­tion. We like the even spread of sound and the fact the pre­sen­ta­tion re­mains con­sis­tent from a wide range of lis­ten­ing po­si­tions.

It has been a few years since we could re­ally get be­hind a Mis­sion prod­uct. The LXŠ2S were orig­i­nally in­tended to sell at £200: for that price we would still have praised their per­for­mance and rec­om­mended them highly.

At the re­vised price of £160, of course, they’re an even big­ger bar­gain and de­liver a huge slice of fun that few ri­vals can get close to. Take just a lit­tle care in part­ner­ing equip­ment and they’ll turn in a per­for­mance that’s sure to get a smile on your face. Well done, Mis­sion. These are worth the wait.

The sin­gle-wired route makes sense at this bud­get. It al­lows funds to be con­cen­trated on good-qual­ity cable

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