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The PBN MR! 777 - Of Men, Music, and Mountains

02-28-2020 | By Gregory Petan | Issue 108

When it comes to projecting a sound-field that images well, especially in this day and age of speaker manufacturing, performance can work in the favor of the smallish speaker. Even very small designs can image like crazy, particularly listened too in the near field. But to truly reach the peak that is live music, a speaker must produce a wave launch of energy that mimics the effortlessness of live musicians, or the power injected into music in a studio production. Nothing beats a large speaker housing  plenty of the driver surface area necessary to charge the air with the ease of the real thing. Of course there are many other variables, but as a rule, a big speaker, well executed in the right room, secured to the right amplification, has it all over a smaller design.

Peter Noerbaek seems to understand this, and is deeply committed to the cause. Sure he makes designs for all needs, but one look at his site and you will find the most enormous speakers you may ever see. And if that is not enough, he makes complimentary bass towers worthy of of King Kong to scale them with a damsel in distress in his firmly clutched paw.

The $83K MR!777 is the result of a one off design for a client that led to the MR!777 joining the permanent, deeply populated line up of speakers on offer. During an early discussion with Peter regarding the MR!777, I mentioned that burled walnut was my favorite veneer for any speaker. Apparently he took that as a bit of a hint, and proceeded to prepare a set of the nearly 7 ft tall, 490 lb odes to the ultimate expression of what could be achieved in speaker design. That said, Peter makes an even bigger design…again, with matching bass towers.

I followed the production process via Facebook messenger, and became more familiar with the ways and means Peter employs. Peter moves quickly, and before long, the complex multi braced cabinets were constructed, veneer and multiple coats of gloss varnish were applied, the crossover was installed, and the two 18"coated paper bass drivers, two 12" mid-band drivers, and the 6" HF tweeter completed the process. Peter had hinted that they were coming my way, but I wasn't really sure until I out right asked, "Are those coming to me?" The answer was affirmative, and I couldn't have been more intrigued.

I was warned that the crates and speaker in total would weigh nearly 700 pounds, and would need much help to maneuver. After my dedicated minions realized they would not fit in the elevator crated, I removed the front panel in our condo lobby, and fortunately Peter had put them on integrated castors. From there it was simply a matter of wheeling the still very heavy  speakers very, VERY carefully, just barely clearing the elevators top edge, and gently nudging them the remaining distance into  my listening spot within my sizable, 33 x 60 x 14 foot loft's main room.

One of my personal reference speakers is the Sunny Cable Majestic 15, which weigh around 500 lbs and stand 6 ft tall. The MR!777, when positioned near the Sunny, absolutely dwarfed them. After unwrapping the protective foam I inspected every inch of the flawless mirror polished varnish covering the beautiful book matched burled walnut veneer. The front veneer is plain walnut creating a nice visual contrast. While the M!25 was very nicely finished, the MR!777 is a substantial step up, and must rank as amongst the elite in speaker finish and manufacturing.

I placed them where the M!25 had resided, a good 10 ft apart, which is where most speakers find themselves, I lined them up with not a lot of toe in. After a good 20 hours they seemed to really loosen up. I intuitively knew I was  able to move them apart more, and they ended up 13 ft apart, effortlessly opening up the already enormous stage.

The MR!777 is by far the largest speaker I've ever really auditioned, save a few crazy designs from the 90s. It cannot be over stated that two 18" woofers per side, when handled as they are by the 800 watt PBN Olympia amplifiers, reveal an entire new world of low end speed and  impact, with seemingly endless depth. Kick drum triplets become individual punches  in the chest when more often than not lost or smeared within the mix. The strikes are now not only heard, but heard and felt. I have plenty of bass references I've used over the long haul such as Stanley Clark's "East Riverside Drive," Billy Cobham's Best Hits, Cowboy Junkies "Lay it down," and Brian Bromberg "Wood." And yes, they were all elevated far beyond anything I've heard at home for sure. But it was the seemingly kind of deep bass shy titles whose low end came to life that surprised me. Aerosmith's "Young Lust" from Pump, which can sound good but not the best at the bottom, for example. The MR!777 injected back breaking power while maintaining the essential nature of the recording. This was not distortion of any kind. I believe the MR!777 and Olympia amplifiers are reproducing bass in its full glory, choked off by lesser designs, played back the way it was meant to be experienced.

The sound field as a whole is enormous without over blowing the size of instruments, or finding the image 7 feet in the air. What you get is the whole instrument, properly located in height, width, and depth.  Tonal density image size and free flying dynamics make for a very compelling performance . I used these same descriptors for the M!25, but I'll be totally clear right here. As much as I loved the M!25, especially for the price, the MR!777 are in an entirely different league. The treble of the MR!777 is not a bit rolled off or softened. It's not inherently edgy, but it does put out a good deal of energy and may take some adjustments if moving from a speaker that softens or lays back the upper frequencies.

The better the gear, the more important it is too hit just the right volume for any given recording. There is always a spot were the music just feels right. Listening to John Coltrane Blue Train on Classic Records 45 RPM clear vinyl, I hit the volume's sweet spot. Like most jazz lovers, this is one of the first titles in the collection right after Miles Davis Kind Of Blue (I prefer Blue Train by a mile). I've been listening to this since I was a young lad thanks to my father spinning it on his Motorola Credenza de Monte Carlo. Okay, so that was not the real name, but it should have been. I have listened to some version of this title on every system I've ever amassed or component evaluated. Through the MR!777, it's not even close how much better, freer, and alive the music is. Much like the M2!5, music through the MR!777 sounds so live, happening very much in real time, in the moment but to a much greater degree. Vinyl or stream, I just could not get enough. This is a speaker through which you want to hear every song you've ever heard.

Along with the MR!777, the Olympia amplifiers and preamp (I also got great results with the D'Agostino preamp) I used the VPI Avenger Reference turntable and the Ortofon Windfeld Titanium Cartridge. I received the Merrill Jens phono stage midway through the review, and there will be much to say about that gem in due time, the Boulder 508 phono stage shared duties. Wire was Cardas Clear Beyond from wall socket to speaker, as well as a new speaker wire design from an old acquaintance, Jeff Smith of Silver Smith Audio. For streaming, the McIntosh MB50 lashed to the new DAC upgrade in the McIntosh C2700 preamp never sounded better.  

Whether rock, jazz, classical, vocals of any and all all stripes, no genre is short changed. Every thing sounds not just better, but re-imagined. The heart of the midrange supplied by two 12" paper cone mid-range drivers per side sounded utterly organic. All that surface area seems to allow an ease and unforced, transparent, and realistic in timbre. I've heard a few competitors at or around this price range. Forget it. These crush them. It's my own policy not to condemn others in order to prop up another product, but trust me, they are some big names.

The massive, slightly scalloped bevel sided design creates an elongated front baffle with a slight hourglass shape. Even in the stunning veneer, no matter how well constructed they are, they may not be everyone's cup of tea visually, I get that. But once playing, and as imposing as they are, they just kind of vanish into a deep wash of music.

My room is very large, 33 x 60 x 14 feet. There are no side walls anywhere near the speaker, and the room itself adds next to no resonant frequency boost in the bass. There are no poorly located reflection points mucking up the image. Being that I can space them 13 ft apart, a room not adequate to allow for what the MR!777 are capable of, would be a shame. But there are several speakers in the PBN lineup to choose from that may better suit the space. But the MR!777 do fit my room brilliantly. The Olympia amplification designed by Peter makes for great synergy as well.

Despite the huge wave launch of energy, don't be fooled. These are very precise speakers capable of exacting renditions of space, distance, and the general shape each individual recording posses. There is no homogenized speaker induced colorization that gives every recording a similar flavor or contour. I was shocked at first how neutral they are. The M!25 by comparison has a pleasing slight "bottom up" feel, lending a spreading warmth by comparison. While you will get loads of previously unheard information with the MR!777, if the recording is lean and has no recorded bass depth, that is exactly, what you will get. It was a bit unnerving at first to hear a bass shy recording limp its way through the grand MR!777. A bit of cognitive dissonance, if you will. All of that unused driver surface area laying dormant. But put on the big bass power recording of your choice, and hold on to your hat.

I recently hosted classical pianist Maryam Raya for a private concert of Bach at my home, a few weeks before she performed Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto with the NY Symphony at Carnegie Hall. A week later I hosted pianist Tony Tixier and his Grammy winning brother jazz Violinist Scott (for work with Hans Zimmer on the Lion king soundtrack), with bass and drums filling out the quartet. I guess I'm saying not only do I have a reference for live music, I have it in my home regularly. Upon reflection, what struck me is how recording dependent the ultimate illusion to live is, and that it is not a function of the speaker to add, subtract, or correct for. Its ultimate function is only tell the truth. Yet the MR!777 is far more capable of capturing and revealing just those elements that make up the re-creation of live. One of my favorite recordings is Brian Bromberg's Wood. Brian's pianist is very well recorded, and on "Dolphin Dance" much of the power and immediacy is passed along as such. By contrast, yet in a good way, Red Garland's "Bright and Breezy" places Red's piano dead center, set further back and smaller in scale, but has great touch, timbre, and that light melodic feel Red was famous for. Two distinctly different recordings capturing differing elements of live, as I hear it, in their own way and beautifully rendered by the MR!777.

The time spent with the Olympia electronics and MR!777 speakers has reminded me I've not progressed as far from the base camp of high end audio mountain as I had thought in some of the important ways I've discussed. And if all that is not enough, there is just so much to be said for the quality of construction, and resulting sonics. The view-able crossover covered by a clear acrylic panel in the back makes for a real "wow" moment as well.

Coupled to the Olympia amplification, and for roughly $150K, you get to experience what few audiophiles will ever even get a glimpse of, the top of the mountain. The power, ease, neutrality, realism of timbre, all coming together  piercing the cloud cover, and standing above all else I've heard. These products receive my highest recommendation and my deepest admiration.

  • Range: 20Hz to 20kHz +/-1dB
  • Crossover Frequencies: 200Hz-1200Hz (8th.LKRY electro/acoustic)
  • (200Hz LKRY-HP. 1100Hz 6th BTW LP electro/acoustic)
  • Sensitivity: 95db/2.83V/1M
  • Impedance: Nominal 4 ohms (min 2.5
  • Ohms @ 290Hz Max 30 Ohms at 3kHz)
  • Driver Complement:
  • LF 2 x 18" woofers
  • MF 2 x 12" mid-range
  • HF 1 x 6" Ribbon Driver
  • Weight: 490 Lbs
  • Dimensions: 81"H x 26″W x 27.5"D

MR!777 Loudspeakers

Retail: $83,000 a pair