Mission is back on top

missionBeing in the audio business for many years it’s sometimes hard to get excited by new products. Often I see new products which are just production cost saving measures rather than true product development or “change for the sake of change”. It becomes easy to spot marketing efforts to get a particular brand’s product noticed rather than a true engineering advancement. One of the hardest things to achieve for a brand is to be considered the leader in its category, but it’s even harder to stay at the top. Unfortunately, the reality is that to stay on top you need to keep throwing money into clever marketing and advertising. This results in, you guessed it: less money for real improvements in their products. Time and time again we help customers who’ve been left disappointed after purchasing based on an advertisement err, I mean ‘review’ or off the marketing spec sheet to get the sound they want. How do we do this, it’s pretty simple really. Nothing tells a better story than an audition, there’s no fancy new technical jargon clouding judgement here, what sounds good sells.

Enter Mission

Mission 753I purchased my first Mission speakers around 1978, the Mission 770 (I still have them) and over the years I’ve bought and sold a few Mission speakers but it was really only in the mid 90’s that Mission became the household “go to” brand with their 75 series (I still have the 750 and 752 and recently sold my 753 (sample picture right), probably the most famous of them all with their multiple driver array). In the early 2000’s they followed up with their very stylish and unique looking 78 series but then something happened, Mission started to lose control of what made Mission great. By the mid 2000’s they started to make cheap speakers that unfortunately looked and sounded cheap – I lost interest.

It was only recently that I rediscovered Mission again when the new importer of Mission in NZ (Capisco) approached us to listen to the new breed of Mission speakers, their MX series. I was blown away, first by their sound quality and secondly by their great value for money. “Mission is back” I thought. Later I learned that the original Mission UK design engineer Peter Comeau was back in charge and the new MX series is his first new series. It is almost unbelievable what sound quality you can get for your money with these MX series. When Mission announced the flagship SX series, I immediately had to check them out, especially when I saw they were real world priced. I chose to demo the SX4 model first because it’s a floorstander and due to the complexity of more drivers, and a larger cabinet it’s much trickier to get the sound of a floorstander right than a stand mount speaker. Also, as the SX4 sits right in the middle of the three floorstanding models, it will give me an idea of how the smaller SX3 and bigger SX5 will sound.

Unboxing

Unboxing a product is a big part of the whole experience of a new product – ask any kid! When the two boxes arrived I could not believe their sizes… “If this is so big how big must the SX5’s be?” Unpacking them revealed part of the mystery. The packaging material isn’t your average Styrofoam that can crack or flake all over the place when you try to remove the contents. No, this is a flexible foam type that can be reused many times to protect your speakers from bumps and bruises in transit. The SX4’s are big speakers so you have to turn the box over and lift the box off the speakers, rather than lift the speakers out of the box. From experience with these types of things, before I lift the box carefully off I was waiting for the plinths + manual + accessories to fall out and hit my toes. Thankfully, the plinth and spike kit was already fitted in the factory for you, so no sore toes here.

Each speaker is double wrapped; a strong plastic bag to keep the dust out and a type of white organic material with a sticker on it “mildew proof”, very nice.  Mission really wants to ensure that your new speakers get to you in the perfect condition. However, I couldn’t find the manual? I opened the second speaker box and lifted it off. Surprise, surprise there’s the manual. I initially thought they forgot to put one in the other box but then my eye struck the big serial numbers on the two boxes – the serial numbers are identical. Maybe they care about the environment as only one manual is needed… but more importantly these are matched pairs, thus tolerances are as close as possible you can get from both a wood grain and a sonic perspective. I have only seen this amount of detail on far more expensive speakers before.

Grills off

Mission SX4 (right) standing next to the Q Acoustics 2050i (left)

Mission SX4 (right) standing next to the Q Acoustics 2050i (left)

I nearly always listen with the grills off, I like to see what’s underneath. What a nice touch, the magnetic grills come off with a gentle “click” – no battling with your fingers or even worse a knife to get the grills off. Being magnetic grills, they left no holes just smooth finishes. I immediately touched the silver surround plates with the back of my hand, aha it’s cold! All aluminium, no plastic here… the drivers are aluminium too and when I stood back and admired that real wood finish in beautiful cherry – man they really do look stunning. Then I looked at the detail of the cabinet, no straight corners, every side is curved even the back is rounded! Not only does this make the SX4 appear smaller than it really is, it makes sense to improve the sound quality of the speaker to eliminate internal cabinet resonance.

Hooking up

Ok this is where it finally matters how does it sound? Well I could go on and on about how this and that instrument sound, how this singer voice put me “there”, or how much bass there is and what is the bass like …midrange ..treble …how big the soundstage is …how loud it can go and what the micro detail of sound is etc. Or perhaps I should just state this:

I bought the pair!

Yes I bought it, it’s that good. I haven’t been so impressed with a speaker in a long time, it ticks all our 4 x L criteria with flying colours:

LOOKS: Some of the best looking speakers around today.
LABEL: MISSION are back in full glory.
LIST PRICE: $4699, this is a reference level speaker, so a bargain for all this compared to some other ‘reference’ speakers.
LISTENING: One of the best I have heard in a long time, great frequency balance, clean fast tight bass, rich mids, clear treble. Not to warm not to bright, just right.

Image Gallery (Click to enlarge)

In closing…

Well to say the least I was impressed and continue to be impressed by the SX4’s. The sound characteristics are a combination of the Jamo D590’s and Castle Conway 3. It does not have the deep bass of the Jamo D590 but the bass is faster and tighter with more speed and attack. The SX4 has the superb rich midrange of the Castle Conway 3’s buts it’s really in the treble that the Mission’s shine. The titanium tweeters give clarity and a sense of realism on cymbals that metal domes excel at but without the ringing and sharpness of typical metal dome tweeters. The treble is extended but still sweet and clear without drawing too much attention to itself. Maybe it’s due to the phase correcting plate around the dome, or the surrounding rubber padding to isolate it from any cabinet resonance… I do not know, all I know is that it works, and at this price range where there is a lot of competition, that SX4’s will have the competitors running scared. The Mission SX4 will suit most types of music, a true all-rounder if ever there was one. You can play it loud or soft and it will deliver the goods. I’ve found matching electronics is not critical with the SX4’s but if rock music is your taste then a warmer or neutral sounding amp will be better especially if you like it loud… and then you have to be careful not to annoy your neighbours because these speakers can deliver in buckets and you tend to turn up the volume control more often than not. Yes, the SX4’s are exciting speakers! We’d love to demo these to you.

View the SX4 and the rest of the Mission SX range