Sugg. Retail: $6395, $4535 US Sold Direct Only
(Grilles extra: $645, $460US)
Size: 42″H x 17″W x17″D (at base)
Waveform Mach MC Center Channel
Sugg. Retail: $1485, $1085 US
Manufacturer: Waveform, R.R.#4, Brighton, Ont. K0K 1H0
(800) 219-8808 FAX (800) 219-8810
(Reprinted from the Winter/Spring 2000 Audio Ideas Guide)
I never thought I’d see a centre channel that reminded me of Humpty Dumpty. Well, now, thanks to John Otvos, I have. But if it has a great fall, it’s your feet you’ll have to put back together, not the Mach MC, which is made of aluminum. But more on eggs and feet and falls below.
The Waveform Mach Solo is a smaller version of the mighty Mach 17, with only one woofer, and a passive crossover. The 17 comes with an electronic crossover made for Waveform by Bryston, and costs $12,000. The egg midrange/tweeter module is the same in all models, though a different woofer/midrange driver is used in the MC. The Solo woofer is a 10″ treated paper cone driver with a rolled rubber surround. The crossover is a 4th order Linkwitz- Riley type (14-dB/Octave) at 575 and 1850 Hz. Low end response is said to extend to 35 Hz in a normal room.
The standard finish for the Solo is walnut, “pommele mahogany, quilted makore”, and black
lacquer available for several hundred dollars more. The grille cover that is also optional can be seen, and while it covers the egg and the woofer, it also conceals quite a bit of the lustrous finish. Our review samples were supplied in the quilted makore finish, which reminds me somewhat of a Bentley’s interior trim (and I’m sure everyone knows of my vast experience with such cars…home, James).
Here’s what John has to say in the owner’s manual about the Solo’s design: “The Mach Solo was designed for smaller room installations, where the overall cost of the system and the physical size and electronic complexity do not compete with the owner’s desire experience a fine musical or theatrical performance. It will operate on a single solid state transistorized amplifier of at least 120W/ch and preferably 250W/ch. The Mach Solo’s cost to performance ratio is quite exceptional in that it costs slightly less than half of our state of the art Mach 17, although it recreates perhaps 80% of the Mach 17’s very high sound quality.”
The Mach MC is the egg naked, with an aluminum base painted in the same nubby black finish, shaped rather like a large, shallow ashtray, with soft rubber thingies that allow swivelling of the to angle it up or down, depending on its location realtive to the TV and left and right speakers. When you pick up the MC its base adheres for about 2 seconds, just long enough for it to be positioned directly over your leading foot, and then it drops like a stone. You have been warned. I have suggested to John that he substitute felt pads for the quasi-adhesive rubber ones, or, alternatively, substantially increase his liability insurance
I’ll talk more about sound quality shortly (after my foot stops throbbing), but first a look at the measurements. At top are the Pink Noise Sweep (PNS; the slightly squigglier trace), and Summed Axial Response (SAR; just slightly bumpier in the midrange). The PNS represents a kind of power response, reflecting radiation on all directions, while the SAR is the sum of 12 individual measurements on the 4 axes, with 3 vertically averaged measurements made for each axis. The fact that they are very similar is an indication of very even dispersion and frequency response. The on-axi quasi-anechoic curve below confirms the accuracy on the direct axis, while the axial measurements below are very linear out to beyond 30o, with a falloff in mid and high frequencies at 60o off axis. Performance can be said to be very close to +/-1 dB over much of the audio range, except for a slight dip in the mid bass that may well be room related. Bottom end response is down only 2 dB at 50 Hz, and 7 dB at 30.
PNS traces at 0, 15, and 30o for the Mach MC can be seen at bottom. These match the Solo’s on-axis PNS almost perfectly, with the expected upper octave rolloff as we move off axis. Unlike most centre channels, this one has a perfect tonal match to the Solo left and right speakers. It also shows a little more warmth in the mid bass, and will give male voices and lower string instruments a bit more body.
It would be an understatement to say that these are good measurements. They are superb, with only a hint of treble lift on axis and at 15o. This is complemented by the rolloff beyond 30o in the same region. Though John likes to angle the speakers in about 20o, my preference was for the more natural tonal balance with them facing straight ahead. Chacun a son son.
No matter how you aim them, the Mach Solos still hit bullseyes, rather like the weird all-purpose gun Gary Oldman demonstrates in The Fifth Element. These are among the most accurate speakers in my experience, with huge dynamic capability, and very low distortion at any level; the room will distort before these speakers do. And they do it fast, with very good transient response and a silky top end that is extremely seductive.
Tonally, they’re right on, the flat response and very even dispersion resulting in a stable image with great depth and soundstage accuracy. It’s hard to talk about a speaker that does everything so well, since there’s just nothing to criticize. The combination of warmth, power, speed, and transparency is just about perfect. In fact, as a fan of minimal electronic interference in the signal path, I’m inclined to rate the Mach Solo ahead of the Mach 17 in this regard, because it does not have an electronic crossover in the circuit; but, then, the Solo does contain a high-order passive crossover network. I have to confess I’ve not had the opportunity to compare the two Waveform models directly.
The Mach MC is easily the best centre channel I’ve ever heard, with very flat response through the critical midrange and virtually perfect dispersion. If you must have a centre channel, this is it, at a very reasonable price, provided it doesn’t show up your other home theatre speakers’ weaknesses.
I conducted an interesting experiment in my audio system with the Mach MC. Instead of connecting it in phase, I did a Dynaquad, that is, I hooked it up to both red terminals of the amp, thereby sending a R-L difference signal into it. It was amazing how much space and depth appeared behind the stereo speakers, this varying with the amount of out-of-phase information there was in the music. Try it, if you want to add depth to your soundstage, but be careful: some amplifiers may not take to this mode of connection.
Getting back to stereo and the Mach Solo, let us ponder the etymological question I’m afraid to ask John Otvos: how can they be Solo if they come in pairs? Is that like the “If a tree falls in the forest” thing? Sometimes answers don’t come easily.
Whatever it is, there is no mystery in the excellence of this speaker system. Some might also be put off by the look of the Mach Solo, though I think the superb cabinetry will be appreciated. I very much like the look with the optional covers.
Though many audiophiles might be disinclined to spend over $6000 for a speaker they’ve never heard, those who do will not regret having taken the plunge. The Waveform Mach Solo is one of the best loudspeakers available for under $10,000, and probably also superior to quite a few at prices beyond that figure.