Review of the Swans M200 MKIII
I apologize ahead of time for the lack of pictures… Almost as soon as I finished burning in these stunning, sexy speakers and writing this review, I presented them to my brother as a 28th birthday offering. Nevertheless, here is my long-overdue review of the Swans M200 MKIII.
I think… I think I might have broken my back while carrying my NEW Swans M200 MKIII’s up the stairs. Weighing in at around 15 pounds each, the M200’s represent the new flagship standard of desktop sound that is hard to beat…
The M200’s were packed very snugly between two angled Styrofoam boards that fit together perfectly in the double-boxed package I received in my mailroom. For those of you who have bought from Swans/HiVi before, you must certainly agree that the packaging is top-knotch. The speakers (unfortunately) didn’t come with the white gloves that arrived with my Swans M10 2.1 system, but they were wrapped in a silk-like fabric. Also included are an RCA-RCA and RCA-mini cable and a well made, high-quality connecting cable. To be fair, the two RCA cables had a bit of a cheap feel to them, which leads me to believe that they may not withstand the test of time too well… But as any audiophile knows stock cables usually don’t have the best build quality.
At first glance, the M200’s are beautiful – the double walled solid milled hardwood panels really give the speakers a sleek, sexy feel. The speakers themselves are actually larger than I initially imagined, taking up almost a fifth of my available desk space.
Initial impressions are short, but very, very impressive. The M200’s outperformed my expectations by miles. Comparing this setup to Swan’s M10’s isn’t quite fair, but I feel it is important nonetheless…
The M10’s are very fun in nature, which deliver exceedingly well at its price point in the mids and the highs. Unlike the M10’s, Swan’s M200 delivers excellent analytical sound which rivals speakers in the $500-$750 range. I’ve auditioned many sets of bookshelf speakers, ranging from the NHT SuperZero’s to Spendor’s high-end hifi. If I had to put a finger on it, my first impressions of the M200’s put the somewhere between a Grado SR225 and a Sennheiser 600. The M200’s are mostly analytical sounding, but have a unique, and very enjoyable, coloration. As Glen wrote in 6moon’s review of the M200 MKIII, the Swans are truly a “class act.”
Initial impressions seemed to have gone a long way with the M200’s. From “Come What May,” a Moulin-Rouge favorite of mine, Nicole Kidman shined through with near-perfect tonal accuracy. The treble was perfectly balanced with the mids and the lows -- the instrumentals complimented the vocals vividly. The Swans managed to hit the perfect, treble sweet spot that falls a few notches under siblance. And the mids were analyticial, but warm, which complimented the male and female vocals well. As I stated in my initial impressions, Come What May was reproduced in a fashion that leaned towards the more analytic genre of sound, but for me this is more of a pro than a con.
Testing several other tracks, it became obvious to me that the Swans M200 MKIII recreated vocals and string and woodwind instrumentals best. At these higher frequencies, the near-liner frequency response of the Swans shines through, and reveals enormous detail that other bookshelf speakers in the $500-$750 price range cannot provide. The frequencies 10kHz and up were vividly represented, and continuously hit that high-frequency treble sweet spot I mentioned earlier. There was no siblance whatsoever.
The bass of the Swans M200’s, however, is a whole other beast altogether. Let me frame my comments about the bass – I’m not a basshead, by any means, but I’m very picky about the lower frequencies. I appreciate tight, controlled bass that I can feel in my head rather in my chest. I’m more inclinced towards controlled bass because I feel that, in headphones and 2.0 speaker setups alike, it is very easy for the lower frequencies to encroach upon the territory of the midbass and the treble.
That said, the M200’s produced musically pleasant bass that was truly tight and controlled. Listening to Atmosphere, who in my opinion is the best indie/hip-hop rapper, the bass complimented the treble like the Super 8 subwoofer compliments the NHT SuperZeros – INCREDIBLY well. Out of every 2.0 speaker system and headphone I’ve listened to, I most enjoyed the bass of the M200’s. This might be arguable in a home theater context, but the controlled bass was very well balanced with the crisp, crystal-clear treble and upper frequencies. Again, I wasn’t exactly looking for deep, resounding bass like we would find in a dedicated subwoofer or the Fischer Audio FA-011. I was looking for tight, controlled bass that balances well with the music.
But let’s go back a few steps… while the bass of the M200’s accompanies the mids and highs well, I also found it lacking in some contexts… The 5.25” woofers can reproduce bass, sure, but with modern hip-hop and Top-40 songs, the bass quantity was simply not there. This is precisely because the Swans only have 5.25” woofers… to experience the full frequency of sound, my personal opinion is that a dedicated subwoofer is needed. I’m not saying that there isn’t enough bass in the M200’s – I’m just saying that in SOME CONTEXTS, I felt that there wasn’t enough. With almost every piece of music in almost every genre, the Swans M200’s outperformed my expectations. Cymbals sounded crisp, detailed, and compact, while acoustic guitar felt aged and genuine. But if all you do is listen to Nicki Minaj’s SuperBass… you just might want to look somewhere else. Over a bridge, maybe.
The M200’s really outdid themselves in this regard. Listening to the Swans was a completely immersive experience. Not only do the speakers sound terrific, but they create a very fluid listening environment that flowed all around me. These monitors shined through especially well in my near-field listening environment. They sat between two to four feet away from me, and were auditioned in two settings: facing inwards and facing straight forward.
Near-field, the M200’s provided an expansive soundstage with a bit of a forward presentation. At moderate listening levels, the M200’s actually outperformed the NHT SuperZero in soundstage and depth. As a desktop setup, the Swans would be perfect for listening to orchestral reproductions – the expansive and impressive sound of the M200’s make it extremely suitable for classical music – in particular full orchestral reproductions. There is a defined, very crisp separation between the instrument classes, and the width of sound is truly incredible (better than everything I’ve heard from a 2.0 speaker setup, sans the $1500 Spendor speaker setup I had the pleasure of auditioning).
The Swans easily filled a 15’ x 10’ x 10’ room with hifi sound, but aside from that I cannot comment regarding the quality of music in a setting other than near-field listening.
Would I buy the M200’s MKIII’s again if I wasn’t living in a small, cramped dorm room next year with a tiny desk? ABSOLUTELY.
At $400/pair, the M200’s are a force not to be trifled with. From a purely musical standpoint, you’ll be hard-pressed to do better. The highs are crisp, and the mids are vivid and clear. The bass is tight and controlled, and extremely well-balanced with the rest of the frequency range. These speakers completely outperformed all of my expectations, from beauty to sound quality. The looks of the M200 MKIII’s are (in my humble opinion) enough to shovel out hundreds of dollars for. Everything from the double walled milled hardwood panels to the sleek black finish screams quality.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a speaker near this price point that provides the perfect balance of sound suitable for classical, jazz, and rock. For audiophiles looking to upgrade their desktop sound, look no further. The M200’s MKIII’s are sold directly through theAudioInsider.com (the North American importer and Internet-Direct seller for Swan) and is accompanied with a one-year warranty.
Any questions can be directed below, or feel free to PM me.
Edited by zhouf - 7/21/11 at 8:54pm