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.