Originally printed in the November 1982 issue of Gramophone.
Manufacturer: Mordaunt-Short Ltd., Durford Mill, Petersfield, Hampshire GU31 5AZ. Price: £89.70 per pair.
It is a reassuring characteristic of most of the smaller high-fidelity manufacturers in the UK that they do not bring out new models every few months just for the sake of drawing attention to themselves or introducing cosmetic changes. Mordaunt-Short belong to this small but reliable band, and in about 16 years of making loudspeakers they have modified their designs only two or three times as new materials or techniques have become available.
As a matter of fact, this new MS20 shares many of the features of their Carnival 3 loudspeaker (£128.80 per pair) though costing considerably less. The same two drive units are employed, namely Mordaunt-Short's own 208mm bass/mid-range unit with impregnated paper cone and long-throw synthetic roll surround and 'a 12mm synthetic dome tweeter with ferrofluid cooling and damping. The crossover frequency is set quite high at 3.5kHz, the network being mounted on a printed-circuit board and comprising ferrite-cored inductors, low-loss capacitors and a wire-wound resistor. Internal wiring uses 32-strand cable and the tweeter is fuse-protected. To ensure that only the proper type of quick-acting fuse is used as a replacement, the makers enclose a free-offer fuse application form as well as colour-coded 4mm plugs for the input connecting sockets.
The enclosure is a totally enclosed type (infinite baffle) with the front and back boards of 15mm and the sides of 12mm thick high-density chipboard. Part of the cost-saving has been achieved
Mordaunt-Short MS 20 by offering only Black Ash laminate finish with a black fabric grille. To my eyes, this finish may be economical but it is attractive and should blend inconspicuously with most environments. Construction is impeccable and panel resonances effectively kept to a minimum.
The speakers are quite small, but will benefit from being raised at least 350mm (14 inches) from the floor. Mordaunt-Short market suitable stands at £34 per pair, but if shelf mounting is to be used, would strongly recommend that the speakers be placed vertically as the stereo imaging is definitely better when the woofer and tweeter are in a vertical line.
How they performed
Mounted as described, the Mordaunt-Short MS20s gave a sharply-defined stereo spread and pleasing tonal quality. Of course the extreme bass slopes off rather steeply from systems of this size but the designers have resisted the temptation to introduce a false upper-bass hump—so characteristic of inferior loudspeakers—therefore mounting against a wall or in a corner could be tried jud ciously as a means of bass enhancement. The extreme treble does rise ever so slightly, which may be no bad thing on some audio-systems but produced a slight over-brightness and sibilance on my top-grade hi-fi set-up.
Sensitivity is unusually high for a small infinite baffle design and this is a very good selling point in the context of matching with a low-power rack system or music-centre. The makers recommend use with amplifiers rated at 10 to 80 watts, and I would say that systems having output ratings towards the bottom end of this range would nevertheless give ample sound volume in a domestic situation.
Measurements confirmed the manufacturer's ratings and revealed close matching of the speaker pair, both in terms of overall sensitivity (on pink noise) and frequency response (on third/ octave pink noise). The impedance too remained at 8 ohms or higher over all the important part of the range and would present no problems to any reasonable amplifier or receiver.
I did prefer the sound quality when fairly loud volumes were used. Orchestral sound then took on a pleasing depth as well as width. Strings and voices could occasionally appear thin and bass still lacked a certain degree of warmth and solidity. Directivity was about average, with the usual treble beaming on axis but adequate spread for most purposes. With the speakers fairly widely spaced and pointing straight ahead, I found that this degree of off-axis listening just removed the emphasis of extreme treble which has been my only criticism of this well-made loudspeaker. Considering its price, the MS20 is an attractive proposition for anyone wishing to upgrade a budget music system or install secondary speakers in another room for a smallish outlay.