Bowers and Wilkins has refreshed its Mini Theatre speaker systems with two updated 5.1 packages and Pocket-lint was on hand to try out the higher specified set-up at the company's headquarters in Worthing. The MT-60D differs from the MT-50 by swapping out the ASW608 subwoofer with an all-new version of its PV1, the PV1D and from our listening experiences, it really matters.
We're well versed in Bowers & Wilkins home cinema packages, having enjoyed the audio performance of the now discontinued MT-30 system for the best part of three years. And while the company's best-selling package is still an awesome 5.1 system, the MT-60D improves on the experience in almost every single way.
It features M-1 satellites that have been redesigned both aesthetically and technically, and while the former is more subtle, the latter makes a pronounced difference to performance. For starters, the drive unit is completely new.
The proprietary tweeter has a tube-loaded design, which was first created for the company's extraordinary Nautilus speaker, while the bass/mid-range driver includes Bowers & Wilkins' Anti-Resonance Plug. It soaks up resonance "like a sponge" and reduces cone break up, offering greater detail than on the similarly named former models. The speaker also has a greater control over bass than ever before, allowing it to function as equally well in a stereo 2.0 configuration as a 5.1.
Each M-1 in the system comes with both a wall bracket and a matching desktop stand, and you can buy optional floor stands too. The company has even made them easier to swivel horizontally too, for use as a centre channel, and although the lead designer Tom O'Brien told us that it works best in portrait mode, there's very little difference.
The PV1D is also a ground-up redesign on its hugely successful forebear. There are so many new elements to the updated subwoofer, including an OLED readout panel on the front and sleeker external design, but its the fact that Bowers & Wilkins has adopted the digital platform found in its £3k DB1 that perhaps makes the most difference.
This allows for more precision over the former model, and greater control over amplification. Although the PV1D has a power output of 400W, less than the PV1's 500W, its digital talents more than compensate, offering better grunt regardless.
There is also a new set of set-up modes and pre-sets, with four equalisation options on offer. Plus, the PV1D comes with the manufacturer's custom SubApp PC software, allowing you to delve into even more advanced set-ups. It also comes with a longer throw than before, offering better performance in larger spaces.
Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and from our initial listening tests, it's a very palatable one indeed. We heard the entire system in a 5.1 configuration with a series of tricky scenes from popular action Blu-rays. The beginning Joker heist sequence of The Dark Knight offers some massive opportunities for bass and clarity testing, and the MT-60D coped more than admirably.
Bullet shots and crashes not only filled the room, but didn't drown out other ambience or speech. Too often an overzealous sub will provide the heart of a soundtrack, but at the expense of the spacing. Not so here.
The mountain raid scene in Inception was perhaps an even better test, with the explosion and bullet-heavy soundtrack offering up some surprising additional effects we'd genuinely not heard before. Not on a system of at price point, anyway.
Kung Fu Panda was up next, and we focused on the Tai Lung escape sequence. It calls for deft control over all satellites, including the rears, as arrows and spears zip around your head. The MT-60D gave as good as it got, without any straining at the bit.
And finally, Talking Heads' Life During Wartime, played via a DTS-HD sampler Blu-ray, gave us a brief idea of the musicality of the system, albeit in surround rather than stereo.
From all of these initial tests, the best thing we can say about the Bowers & Wilkins MT-60D is that it disappears - aurally and, in many respects, visually too. Whereas many rival similarly priced speaker packages offer great home cinema experiences, and will have you nodding in appreciation at each of their satellites' talents, the MT-60D plunges you head first into the content, allowing you to concentrate solely on enjoyment rather than having to concern yourself with the technicalities. There is no higher honour than that.
The Bowers & Wilkins MT-60D is available now for £1,950. The M1 satellites can also be bought individually for £150 each, while the PV1D is also available for £1,200. Optional floor stands are available for £100 each.
Its smaller cousin system, the MT-50 comes with the same five M1 satellites, but swaps out the sub for the ASW680. Both systems are available in either matte black or matte white.