Tekton Design M-Lore Loudspeaker Reviewed

Tekton_M-Lore_floorsatanding_speaker_review_yellow.jpgChances are that unless you spend a lot of time perusing some of the smaller audio forums or scour the deepest pages of Audiogon looking for your next audiophile “deal,” you’ve probably never heard of Tekton Design. However, while you may not be familiar with Tekton Design, its President and founder, Eric Alexander, has worked for some of the biggest names in the audiophile and home theater industry – brands such as Kimber Kable and Aperion Audio to name two. Eric served as one of Aperion Audio’s chief designers during his tenure there, meaning he knows a thing or two about producing high performance, high value loudspeakers. As wonderful as Aperion Audio loudspeakers tend to be in terms of value they can’t hold a candle to Eric’s latest endeavor, Tekton Design.

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a subwoofer to pair with the M-Lore loudspeaker in our Subwoofer Review section.
• Explore source components in our Source Components Review section.

I stumbled across Tekton Design while doing research into high efficiency, full-range loudspeakers to pair with my Decware single ended triode amp. After learning what I could via the usual audiophile forums and user groups, I ventured over to Tekton’s website where I discovered a bevy of loudspeaker designs, all priced well within the realm of reason – in fact, the most expensive pair on the site was listed at $5,000 a pair. It wasn’t Tekton’s flagship loudspeaker that interested me; it was the eight other models that were priced from $475 a pair to $1,500 that piqued my curiosity. I sent an email to Tekton and within 24 hours received a response from Eric himself. Soon after, Eric and I had a few phone conversations and before I knew it, a pair of Tekton’s mid-level loudspeakers, the M-Lore, were on their way to my humble abode for review.

The M-Lore or “Mini” Lore loudspeaker is Tekton Design’s mid level loudspeaker, which retails for $649 a pair direct plus shipping. The M-Lore, according to Eric, is designed to be a jumping off point for newcomers to the Tekton family, possessing most of the magic found in other Tekton designs but at a more advantageous price. That last part made me laugh, for the loudspeaker the M-Lore seeks to “undercut” is the Model Lore, which retails for $999 a pair.

The M-Lore is a high sensitivity, low profile floorstanding loudspeaker measuring 34 inches tall by nine inches wide and 10 inches deep. The standard M-Lore comes in Tekton’s Premium Black Satin finish, which is applied overtop its solid MDF cabinet. In terms of build quality the M-Lore appears first rate with no visible seams, blemishes or imperfections visible on my review pair. Tekton also offers high-end, real wood veneer options as well as premium gloss paints (think Ferrari red or Apple white) starting at $200 a pair. There are a few examples of Tekton loudspeakers in some of the above mentioned finishes on their website, which do dress up the otherwise unassuming loudspeakers considerably. The M-Lore employs a single eight-inch Eminence transducer mated to a one-inch Vifa tweeter. The eight-inch driver sits close to the top of the M-Lore cabinet with the one-inch tweeter resting just below. There is a forward firing port about two-thirds the way down the face of the M-Lore. The M-Lore ships without any speaker grills, though grills can be ordered for an additional $75. Around back the M-Lore utilizes a single pair of five-way binding posts with a five sixteenth diameter shaft. Cardas binding posts can be ordered and installed; however the upgrade will incur a $65 up charge.

According to Tekton, the M-Lore has a reported frequency response of 38Hz to 20kHz with an efficiency of 95dB into a stable eight-Ohm load. To put it another way, the M-Lore is one easy-to-drive, super efficient loudspeaker that is well suited for virtually any system regardless of power or budget. Speaking of power, Tekton recommends anywhere between 100 and 250 Watts of total power in order to power the M-Lore “properly.” Truthfully, you don’t need anywhere near that much unless of course you’re trying to recreate concert-like volume levels, in which case you’ll want that much power on tap. However, due to their size and construction, Tekton recommends that the M-Lore loudspeakers be used in small to medium sized rooms. For larger rooms you’ll probably want to step up to the Model Lore or perhaps Tekton’s new flagship, the Pendragon – but I’ll get into that later.

All Tekton Design loudspeakers, including the M-Lore come with a standard 30-day risk free trial period that allows you to demo any Tekton product in your own home. If you don’t like what you hear you can always send them back, less shipping and a 15 percent restocking fee, which on the M-Lores would be under $100. Of course if you order your Tekton loudspeakers custom out of the gate there is no trial period. Along with their risk free trial all Tekton loudspeakers are hand made using largely US sourced parts right here in the United States.

Tekton_M-Lore_floorsatanding_speaker_review_pair.jpgThe Hookup
The M-Lores arrived via Fed-Ex in two unassuming little boxes. I say unassuming because unlike a lot of audiophile packaging, the M-Lore boxes did little if anything to announce their presence – no brand label, speaker model number, nothing. Unpacking the M-Lores is a job for one person and involves carefully cutting around the box’s center and removing the top half from the bottom. Once the top is removed, removing the four side foam pieces is a snap, allowing the consumer their first glimpse at the M-Lore in the flesh. It’s tiny. Thanks to its diminutive size and weight, removing the M-Lores from their boxes and moving them about a room is a relative breeze in comparison to other loudspeakers. Tekton includes some pretty hefty floor spikes to be used with the M-Lore, which simply screw into pre-drilled holes along the bottom of the M-Lore itself.

Once unboxed and with the floor spikes installed, I positioned the M-Lores in my room where my reference Bowers & Wilkins 800 Diamonds once sat. To say there was a bit of a visual “gap” between the two loudspeakers is an understatement, for it was about as wide as the void that separated the two speakers in price – $649 a pair versus $24,000. Still, the location proved to be ideal for the M-Lores, so I left them and allowed them to break in for 72 straight hours before sitting down for my first listen. Something else worth mentioning is that my reference room is 17 feet wide by 23 feet long with nine foot ceilings, which sits right at the edge of the M-Lore’s comfort range in terms of room size. Tekton recommends using the M-Lores in rooms smaller than mine in order to experience better bass response; however since I was going to augment the M-Lore’s bottom end with two JL Audio Fathom f110 subwoofers, Tekton president, Eric Alexander, didn’t see the need to belabor the issue.

I should point out that for the duration of this review I powered the M-Lores using my current reference amplifier, the Parasound 5250 v.2, which churns out a healthy 250-Watts per channel into eight Ohms, more than enough to make the M-Lores sing. I used my Integra DHC 80.2 AV preamp as my preamp for both music and movies. As for sources I utilized my Sony universal Blu-ray player, Dish Network HD DVR and AppleTV/ Cambridge Audio DAC Magic combo. Cabling was courtesy of Transparent Cable and their high performance but affordable Link interconnects ($85/meter) and Wave speaker cables ($200/eight foot pair). As for rear speakers, I went ahead and left my Noble Fidelity L-85 LCRS in-ceiling loudspeakers connected during my home theater demos.

Lastly, I experimented with using the Integra’s Audyssey room correction software. I felt it robbed the M-Lores of their essence a bit so I set it to off and instead set the distances, levels, crossover points and such manually. I should also mention that my room is treated with a full compliment of GIK Acoustic products giving my room a fairly balanced sound without having to rely on auto or digital EQs.

The first thing you have to do when sitting down to listen to a pair of high-efficiency loudspeaker like the M-Lore is forget everything you know about traditional or typical loudspeaker sound. Throw it away, for you won’t be needing it anymore. Traditional loudspeaker designs, no matter how well designed or manufactured, will sound somewhat veiled in comparison, thanks to all of the “parts” needed to get them to play in a coherent fashion. Years ago, all loudspeakers were high efficiency, meaning we never needed more than a few Watts to reach audio nirvana – a methodology that served us all well for decades. Hell, we look back upon this time period as a “golden age.” Well, the M-Lore’s sound harkens back to that simpler time and manages to sound nothing like what you’re used to hearing from today’s modern loudspeaker. And what sound is that? Try effortless. Simply effortless.

Read more about the Tekton M-Lore’s performance on Page 2.

Tekton_M-Lore_floorsatanding_speaker_review_pair_angled.jpgI started my evaluation of the M-Lore with an old favorite “I Love You” by Barenaked Ladies from their first studio album Gordon (Sire). Because of the M-Lore’s effortless nature they are deceptively loud – by that I mean where normal loudspeakers are happy in terms of volume, the M-Lores will blast you out of your listening chair. Not that the M-Lore’s sound at high levels (peaks of 110dB) is horrible, it’s just a lot more “live” sounding than you’ll find from traditional loudspeakers. There’s a good reason for this, for the M-Lore uses pro sourced drivers – drivers you’re more likely to find in a guitar or PA speaker than a traditional audiophile loudspeaker. Thankfully, the album Gordon is a largely “naked,” aka acoustic affair that suited the M-Lore just fine. Vocals had a presence about them that put them square in the room with me, projecting forward of the left and right speaker plane by several feet. Despite their low profile, the M-Lores didn’t confine the music to an area just above my floor or worse, trap it in an area no bigger than my HDTV. Instead the performance was life-like in size, scale and weight. There was coherence across the entire frequency range that reminded me of my old MartinLogan CLS IIzs. However the M-Lore possessed more weight throughout and dynamic prowess, which anyone who’s owned CLS’ before will tell you are its Achilles heel. Speaking of dynamics – the M-Lore’s dynamic prowess is startling and its speed blistering. Every pluck, every hit was rendered in such a way as to convince you that you were listening to the real thing. Was I fooled into thinking I was listening to a live event? No, but rarely will you hear a studio recording recreated via a traditional speaker with such clear emphasis.

While I found myself getting wrapped up in the M-Lore’s performance there were a few items that did begin to stick out for me. First, the M-Lore’s soundstage isn’t a cavernous, air filled experience – instead it’s more of a wall of sound, albeit a well defined one. I don’t want to suggest that the M-Lore’s soundstage is two-dimensional and lacking air, it’s just more indicative of, you guessed it, a live event, where instruments can and often encroach upon one another. The M-Lore’s soundstage isn’t sloppy, for I was always acutely aware of each and every musical instrument; they just existed in the same space versus somehow being magically separated. Another thing I noticed, at least with the track “I Love You,” was the fact that the M-Lores didn’t fully disappear from my aural view. It wasn’t that the sound was strictly confined to the speakers (it wasn’t) but it didn’t appear to come from around the speakers either.

Moving on, I cued up “Becoming One of the People…” from the Avatar soundtrack by James Horner (Atlantic). Giving the M-Lore a bit more volume, not to mention musical complexity, I sat back and eagerly awaited what was about to unfold. What I got was astonishing. I’ve used this track as well as ones like it; tracks such as “Seville” from the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack (Hollywood Records) and “Far Above the Clouds” from Tubular Bells 3 (Warner UK), all orchestral and all with moments that, when properly reproduced should shock and awe. The M-Lores, despite their modest size, served up all the shock and awe this reviewer could’ve hoped for and while I did have to use a subwoofer (or two) to augment the M-Lore’s low end, that doesn’t mean any aspect of the M-Lore’s performance is the lesser for it. I was able to hear further into the recordings and discern the minutest of details with ease in ways few speakers, regardless of price, have managed to match – at least in my room. There was an organic quality to all three performances that came across as nothing short of natural. High frequencies were crisp and sharp but not fatiguing, with air appropriate to my listening environment. The midrange was again beautifully textured with an in-room presence that only barely managed to overshadow what was a terrific bass performance. The soundstage again wasn’t cavernous, though the M-Lore does project more than conventional speakers meaning that more of the soundstage existed between the speakers themselves versus behind them. The most remarkable thing about the M-Lore’s orchestral performance was its ability to be both laid back and forward, depending upon the music. The opening of “Becoming” is rather laid back and a bit subdued; however after a few minutes things begin to build and with it the M-Lore.

Not being able to resist, I cued up No Doubt’s “Hella Good” from their album Rock Steady (Interscope). The snare drum hits were sharp, bordering on violent, and before you run off and label this as a bad thing, think about what a snare drum sounds like when struck hard and when standing beside it. That’s what a snare drum sounds like through the M-Lores with the volume set to stun. Even at these extreme levels the M-Lore’s drivers failed to compress – I’m talking about peaks reaching as high as 110dB. Vocals were again crisp and clear with terrific weight and scale and thanks to the M-Lore’s ability to project, vocals stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the musical elements unfolding behind and to the sides. The M-Lore’s bass was surprising, though in my room required a sub to be truly full range. The lower midrange had so much power, speed and finesse that it blended beautifully with my JL Audio Fathom f110 subwoofers.

I ended my evaluation of the M-Lore with Peter Cincotti’s Live in New York on DVD (Monster Music). This brilliantly recorded album, complete with wonderful HD captured video (it’s not on Blu-ray) can be a real torture test for loudspeakers with its various brass instruments and punchy, live sound – not so for the M-Lore. I played the saxophone and over the years have owned several and I must admit I don’t believe I’ve heard a loudspeaker reproduce a tenor saxophone with such aplomb as the M-Lore. It was eerily close to sounding like the real thing. Because of how Monster chose to mic and mix Live in New York, the immediacy of the M-Lore’s performance was taken to eleven, and it was incredible to behold. In other words this is where I stopped taking notes and simply sat back and enjoyed the performance.

I know what you’re thinking: wow, the perfect speaker and it doesn’t cost a fortune – who knew? Well, for many the M-Lore will represent loudspeaker perfection, for it doesn’t get in the way of your favorite music nor does it set out to change it, two things all loudspeakers should aspire to. However, some will no doubt view the M-Lore as brash or revealing for when your loudspeaker hasn’t been voiced to sound like anything other than the live event, certain recordings, especially studio recordings, can sound a bit off. Not necessarily bad, just different. If you’re more likely to listen to jazz, orchestral or well recorded rock, the M-Lore may just be the ideal speaker for you. If your tastes lean more towards Billboard’s current Top 10, you may want to look elsewhere, for the M-Lore will not be doing you or your music any favors. The better the recording, the better your experience is bound to be with the M-Lore. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy all types of music with them, you’ll just quickly find out which of your albums cut the mustard and which ones don’t. Also, the M-Lore really is designed to be placed in a smaller room and while they can play in excess of 100dB with ease, their butter zone appears to really be in the realm of 60 to 90dB, which in my room isn’t a “live” level but still wholly enjoyable. For those of you with rooms similar to mine or larger, Tekton offers other designs better suited to your needs while still managing to be affordable too.

Tekton_M-Lore_floorsatanding_speaker_review_black.jpgThe Downside
The M-Lore is a special loudspeaker, without a doubt one of my new favorites, however it does have its share of drawbacks starting with its size. Because the M-Lore is a diminutive 34-inches tall, it’s not necessarily at the ideal height for all listening positions. Thankfully, my couch is modern, meaning low, which worked well with the M-Lores. Should your listening chair be higher than mine you’ll want to invest in platforms of some type to raise the M-Lores up a bit so that the center of their eight-inch driver rests at approximately ear level. I recommend using either Auralex’s SubDude HD platforms or maple platforms from Mapleshade.

Also, thanks to the M-Lore’s height, those of you with large dogs or small children will need to take extra precaution to ensure heavy tails or curious fingers don’t damage the speaker’s drivers. You can order your M-Lores with the optional grills but special care should still be taken.

Currently, the M-Lores utilize some pretty “beefy” binding posts, which can accommodate all types of speaker wire though their center posts are a bit too thick for most spade lugs. I’ve spoken with Eric about this “issue” and he assures me that he’s looking into it and plans on having a more universal solution figured out very soon. Of course you can always order your pair of M-Lores with Cardas binding posts, which does add a bit to the cost but should be more spade lug friendly. Those of you using bare wire or banana adapted speaker cables should disregard this criticism.

For true low-end oomph you’ll want to pair the M-Lore with a subwoofer, though it needs to be one that is as fast and articulate as the M-Lore itself. My JL Audio Fathom f110 fit the bill nicely though at $2,100 retail is considerably more than the M-Lore itself. Tekton has a few pictures on their blog of custom subwoofers so it might be worth a call or email to inquire about having a matching M-Lore sub built to augment the M-Lore’s bottom octaves. Of course, setting the M-Lores up in a smaller room will also aide in their low-end response.

Competition and Comparison
Truth be told, there aren’t a lot of loudspeakers at or near the M-Lore’s price that can do what the M-Lore can do. Most mainstream manufacturers charge $650 for a pair of bookshelf speakers let alone floorstanding ones. That being said there are a few other loudspeakers worth considering if you’re leaning towards buying a loudspeaker like the M-Lore.

Zu Audio’s OMEN loudspeaker is one such speaker, though despite looking eerily similar to the M-Lore, the OMEN misses, for it costs double what the M-Lore does without providing twice the performance. Even if you customized your M-Lore to match the wood finish of the OMEN, you’d still be saving money. That, and in my opinion the M-Lore sounds a bit better. Granted, Zu Audio has a bit more “brand presence” but where it matters, sound quality, the M-Lore sounds a bit more mature, not to mention its tweeter doesn’t turn violent at high volumes.

Another option to consider would have to be Aperion Audio Intimus 4T Tower Speaker, which at $650 a pair is evenly match, in terms of price, with the M-Lore. While the 4Ts are good (really good actually), they don’t possess the same coherence and effortless nature that the M-Lore does. That and the M-Lore’s largely uncolored sound throughout its frequency band is a real treat once you’ve grown accustomed to it, making the 4T sound a bit veiled and slow in comparison. Still, the 4Ts take up less space, don’t require additional platforms or stands and are far more forgiving of source material and components than the M-Lore.

Lastly, there’s Magnepan’s MMG loudspeaker, which for many is the reigning king of affordable loudspeakers. There’s no denying the MMG’s inherent value proposition at $599 a pair – they’re stellar, which is why I own a pair and have for some time. Still, you couldn’t ask for two different approaches to speaker design when comparing the MMG to the M-Lore, for the M-Lore is far more focused and agile in comparison, though the MMG is more lush compared to the M-Lore. Still, the power it takes to make the MMGs truly sing is enough to make the M-Lore explode, which does add to the MMG’s bottom line. For me, I like them both, though consider them to be competitors in price only, for their approach to the music couldn’t be more different.

For more on floorstanding loudspeakers including the latest news and reviews please visit Home Theater Review’s Floorstanding Loudspeaker page.

I’m going to cut right to the chase: Tekton Design’s M-Lore loudspeaker at $649 a pair is stupid good and is flat out capable of embarrassing the competition near, at and even above its modest asking price. True the M-Lore isn’t perfect, no speaker is, however when fed the proper source material through the right associated equipment, the aural experience the M-Lore is capable of providing borders on otherworldly – especially for a sub-$1,000 a pair loudspeaker. While I’m sure some will find the M-Lore’s revealing nature and ‘live’ sound a bit too much, those looking for such a loudspeaker may in fact be purchasing the last loudspeaker they’ll ever truly need. Yeah I said it – just because a loudspeaker like the M-Lore is cheap doesn’t mean that it can’t represent or be all the loudspeaker one truly needs.

As for me, I’m not buying, not because I don’t feel the M-Lore is worth it – it absolutely is, but because if Tekton can do this much with so little, it boggles the mind to think what their $2,500 flagship Pendragon loudspeaker can do.

I aim to find out. Stay tuned…

Additional Resources
• Read more floorstanding speaker reviews from the staff at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a subwoofer to pair with the M-Lore loudspeaker in our Subwoofer Review section.
• Explore source components in our Source Components Review section.