MJ Acoustics is a relatively new UK company but is rapidly biting lumps out of the subwoofer world by producing products that combine performance with style and value. Buying a sub from the brand often means you get more for your money, in surprising ways: for example, the wood veneer options (other than black ash) for the Reference 200, do not cost extra as is usual with other makes.
With its Reference 200 model, MJ set about designing a subwoofer that could be many things to many people. Home use, professional recording studios and the specific requirements of the custom install market have been taken into account. Phono inputs for the LFE feed and daisy-chain outputs allow multiple boxes to be used in a 5.1 system.
There's also a stereo signal level option as well as simultaneous use of the Speakon by Neutrik for a high level speaker-drive input; Musical Instrument Digital Interface or MIDI control, and superior remote controlability with a remote-wired infrared 'eye' and simple handheld remote control. It's all very clever, well made and great to look at.
So what do you get for your money? A solid wooden cube, with feet that hold it off the floor and a brutal-looking 10in woofer fixed in the base. Shiny hardwood floors can be protected by adding supplied rubber covers on each foot to ensure no motion migration of the woofer around the room.
The sub is bundled with a Speakon connector to piggyback on to your speaker outputs, as well as a cheapish phono lead, so you should be able to get yourself up and running from the outset. Also, there is the aforementioned RM1 remote control and a remote infrared 'eye' on a wire.
The idea is that you can put your subwoofer where you feel it should be positioned, then you can sit in the sweet spot (even if you cannot see your sub) and adjust it by pointing the remote at the extension 'eye' - plonked where the remote can 'see' it.
The controls on the device are an interesting combination of digital grip and analogue feel. There's a separate rotary controller on the back panel for four different parameters that can also be used to call up one of four recordable pre-settings of phase, low and high level gain, upper roll off and everything else, including the polarity of the external 12V trigger socket.
A favourite toy of custom installers, it can switch from tip-hot to sleeve-hot, meaning you can use whichever polarity of 12V trigger you have without having to re-wire your connector. Very installer-friendly.
A display at the top of the back panel shows a wattage bar graph of red LEDs and the settings in Hz from 20-120 or individual degrees of phase up to 180 as you adjust incrementally. Consequently, you can set four global settings of your choice and also have the current arrangement as a fifth default setting. You can control the input of the high/low level and the LFE input independently too, which makes sense, although you cannot alter the levels of speaker and phono inputs.
After experimentation, I used the LFE input and Speakon input for maximum control.
MJ Acoustic's digital calibration system is brilliantly precise but of necessity, very slow as you crank through every value one digit at a time. This is why the four rear-mounted rotary controllers are in place and you can use these for the main audio settings, merely tweaking via the remote after that.
The output of this small box is simply prodigious. The sheer grip, muscularity and amazingly deep low extension of this subwoofer was scary. I have auditioned similar small-footprint subs recently that had more onboard power, yet they failed to do the full-on scary deep subsonic 20Hz-and-below lows of this beast.
The Reference 200 extends strongly to a proper 15Hz-and-deeper zone. Such is its character that it would severely shake my world and yet keep a civil tongue in its box when overdriven during setup due to clever controls. This politeness can be attributed to a soft-start feature, allowing you to turn it off to assess your 'with' and 'without' woofer sound and back on again without thump.
Melodic and rich, the Reference 200 is a state-of-the-art small-footprint sub that offers granite muscle in a velvet glove. It's certainly the best box that we've encountered from the brand, and its extreme versatility will make it the ideal bass backbone for a variety of users.