Until MJ Acoustics came along, REL had the specialist Brit-sub market sewn up. MJ Acoustics is one of the first to offer a valid alternative to the REL regime. And the Reference 200 is one of the first of the latest generation, featuring the newest version of MJ's DAMP system.
The 200 features a downwardfiring 250mm drive unit in a sealed wraparound wood cabinet, with an inset rear connections and control panel for the 200W amp. This puts it in common with many subs on the market. But that's where the run-of-the-mill aspects end, and underneath the standard exterior is a very distinctive design...
The 200 features two crossover networks with their own LED read-outs, presets and a remote control. Remotes are often useless with subs, because this speaker is normally hidden away, but MJ puts a remote eye at the end of a 2m cable, allowing you to place the sub where you want and still control it remotely.
This means you can perfectly shape the parameters for music and movies, and not rely on the flip of a switch or continual adjustments of the controls. The remote also means that you can switch from one sound to another from your seat. The controls are wide-ranging, too, even down to changing the brightness of the LEDs and the time of power-off.
The above-mentioned DAMP system is another useful function. Standing for Digitally Accurate MicroProcessor, this allows the listener to visually dial up the correct crossover frequency on the LED, then accurately monitor the performance of the subwoofer once it is set up. This should lead to a more consistent sound, throughout the subwoofer's life.
All of which would be rather pointless if the sound was below par - but thankfully the Reference 200 is a real cracker. It manages to be virtually all things to all people. It disappears when there's no bass required, and kicks in with earth-moving oomph when you start blowing up planets. Play a DVD-A and the bass is controlled, tuneful and accurate. Turn it up for entertainment and subtlety drifts away, replaced by authoritative bottom-end grunt.
Ringing the changes
Those four presets and second crossover become all-important for those who do use their system for various purposes. It means you can have settings for DVD, CD, DVD-A and SACD replay - or you can have Granny, Mum, Dad and Heavy Metal Teenager settings! This flexibility really pushes the 200 to the forefront of its field. It is one of the few subs that has feet in both camps, working well with both hi-fi and home cinema. You can have the Death Star explosion from Star Wars on one hand, and subtle up-right bass from an Oscar Petersen trio CD on the other.
The technology that goes into what is basically a boom box is sometimes fantastic - but it can be superfluous. There's next to nothing superfluous about MJ Acoustics' reference 200, however. This is a subwoofer to relish.