Tekton Design M-Lore loudspeaker by Tim Smith
$649 USD plus $60 shipping within the USA. Higher shipping cost to Canada, etc.
Equipment used in review: Marantz CD 5003 as transport; Apple Lossless and AIFF streamed to DAC via Apple TV / Toslink; Audiolab M-DAC; Musical Paradise D-1 DAC; Resonessence Mirus DAC (on review); Marantz SA-8003 SACD player; Pro-Ject RPM 10.1 with Dynavector 10×5 using Graham Slee Era Gold Mark V and Musical Surroundings Nova II phono preamps; Line Magnetic 518ia integrated amplifier; Wyred4Sound SX-1000 monos; Audio Research LS17 preamp; cables by DH Labs, Kimber.
The Tekton M-Lore may be the world’s most versatile sub $1000 speaker. And it is probably the best-valued floor standing speaker on the North American market. For the asking price–for quadruple the asking price–it is flawless.
About four months ago, I was jonesing for an REL subwoofer to pair with my Harbeth Compact 7s and my Magnepan 1.7s. I was just about to pull the trigger on a REL when I realized that I could have my deep bass and the high-sensitivity speaker that was missing from my system. I considered Zu Audio. Then Tekton’s low price hooked me in. Why spend $850 CAN (at the exchange rate of that time) or more on a good subwoofer when I could get a loudspeaker with deep bass for the same price? And so I called Eric Alexander of Tekton Design in Utah and ordered me a pair of Mini Lores. They arrived within a week. Custom finishes will take longer. Recently Mr. Alexander has hired more employees, cutting down wait times. In any case, these speakers are worth the wait.
Consider what you get for $649 USD plus shipping (I paid $180 in shipping and customs fees to Canada):
–95 db 1W@1m sensitivity. Virtually any amp can drive this speaker. It responds well to tubes and to solid state alike.
–8 Ohm impedance. Again, an easy load.
–Frequency reponse of 38Hz-20kHz. Close to full-range. Deep, deep bass for the size of the box. Plays well at low volumes. Throws a huge soundstage. Sounds good in a near field setting too.
–a silk soft dome tweeter. Nice and easy on the ears. No aural fatigue from these speakers.
–an eight inch woofer designed originally for bass amps. It sure does bass well.
–a small footprint of just 34 inches height and 9.1 inches width. Weight is just 35 pounds. Easy to move around. The M-Lore ships with high quality, adjustable spikes.
–made in the USA with a rock-solid warranty. High resale value. A simple crossover and a simple design. Will probably last a lifetime.
For the price, who could ask for anything more from the lovely Lore?
The M-Lore comes in basic black or other colors and special finishes for an additional fee. Grilles are available for a small surcharge. I chose to have holes made for grilles (free of charge) should I decide I want to order them in the future. This way I won’t have to ship the speakers back to Utah. Eric Alexander’s family background in carpentry is evident in the custom finishes he offers to clients.
So what do the M-Lores sound like? They don’t really have a distinct signature. They are more or less neutral. Seamless and well balanced. They can sound relaxed. They can sound energetic. They can sound warm if the source material is warm. The M-Lores image wonderfully. Given their low height, I thought I might elevate them on paving stones. There was no need. The sweet spot is large, left to right and vertically too. Room placement is not difficult. I have mine six to eight feet from rear walls and the bass output is prodigious, even with tube amps. The sound was just as good when they were closer to the walls.
The M-Lores are detailed without being bright. They are fast: the opening of the second movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G will jolt you out of your seat! Holy dynamic swings, Batman! And speaking of one notorious bat man, Calvin Broadus’ driving backbeat will glue you to your seat. This amp loves rap and reggae. Peter Tosh’s “Mystic Man” is electrifying through these speakers. From the sublime to the ridiculous, the M-Lores can do it all. They can capture Louis Lortie’s hypnotic reading of Debussy; they can bang out with Snoop D. O. Double G. Sorry, Snoop Lion.
No accounting for taste.
The M-Lores are not particularly warm like my Harbeths, but they are not sterile like so many inexpensive floor standers. I can find no fault with the M-Lores. They are coherent from top to bottom. They pack bass slam but the bottom end is well proportioned. There’s no boom in my room. In Peter Tosh’s “Pick Myself Up,” I can hear the silly, faint electronic birdsong easily even with the deep bass. I have never heard a sub $1000 speaker reproduce the lowest octave of the piano with such authority. Tympani literally shake my floor. Cymbals sparkle in a realistic way; brush strokes on drums are not smeared. They are detailed and nuanced, as they are on Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s fabulous CD, “Inner Voyage.”
And the M-Lore is easy to drive: a Musical Paradise MP-301 MK2 decked out with Tung-Sol 5881 or NOS RCA 6L6GB power tubes will put out no more than 5 to 6 watts. This is more than enough to rock the house with the Tekton M-Lores. I currently own Magnepan 1.7s and I have owned two pairs of MMGs. The MMG is the only other speaker I have experienced in this price range that has truly amazed me. Of course Magnepan MMGs need big, heavy amps—no $399 amp will do it justice–and their bass output is limited. The Tekton M-Lores are great all-arounders, but they excel with techno and other synthesizer-heavy music. The beat is…Tektonic.
Left: Her beat was Technotronic. Right: Tektons are no small pushover.
Unlike the MMG, the M-Lores have no obvious limitations. They work with my 22 watt 845 tube-based amp and they work with 1100 watt Class D muscle amps. The M-Lore sounded very fine with my sadly departed Class A/B Odyssey Audio Khartago SE Extreme monos. These Tektons tackle all genres I have tried over the past four months: baroque, classical, bluegrass, rap (including Gangstagrass), techno, rock and jazz. I love the way the M-Lores reproduce church organ. The M-Lores are not the speaker for guitar tone freaks but they ain’t no slouch in this regard either. This tone freak could live with them.
These small speakers are a bass-head’s dream. They are fast and rhythmic. Even with a single-ended tube amp putting out 5 watts, they have floor-rattling bass. They handle Steve Swallow’s electric bass with aplomb; Brian Ritchie’s bass on “Please Do Not Go” (Violent Femmes, self-titled LP, Slash Records) has never sounded so taut, so dry, so textured, so nuanced, so visceral. I listened through the Audio Research LS17 and Wyred4Sound SX-1000 monos. It was breathtaking, among the very best recorded sound I have heard–anywhere, anytime. I had the same reaction when I listened to The Jimmy Giuffre 4’s LP “Quasar.” This is an eclectic, electric, spacy, funkadelic jazz recording that has languished in obscurity for too long. It deserves to be seen on par with Herbie Hancock’s classics “Mwandishi” and “Sextant.”
These three discs contain electronic sounds that run the full gamut of the waveform. Like a great, sweet but acidic Sauternes or vintage Madeira, they pull you in all directions. My Harbeths cannot convey the otherworldliness of these recordings the way the Tektons can. (My Maggies come close.)
The M-Lores are so good, I almost sold my Harbeth Compact 7s. The 7s, including their dedicated Skylan stands, cost more than four times as much as the M-Lores. In some ways (bass, the ability to play loud, dynamic swings), the M-Lores are better; in most ways, it’s a tie. For a good month after receiving my Lores, I was under the spell of Tektonite for many a night, and my Harbeths stood lonely in the corner of my man cave. I keep the Harbeths because they nail vocals and the sweet tone of a guitar like no other speaker I know.
Three cheers for Tekton Design for bringing a slice of the high end within reach of the majority of the population. As other reviewers have noted, the cost of the parts that go into this speaker, were they purchased straight off the shelf, would total over one-half the retail price. Not only are you avoiding lining the pockets of middlemen when you buy straight from Tekton Design; you are not being fleeced by the owner/designer either. These are fair prices. There cannot be much mark-up here. For this reason, and due to its addictive musicality, the M-Lore is surely one of the best buys in audio. Highly recommended.