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
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 LX2S 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 LX2S buck that trend.
Working the old magic
The LX2S 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 LX2S 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 LX2S 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 DM40DAB 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 LX2S 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 LX2S’ 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 LX2S 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