The Mordaunt-Short Mezzo is darned impressive for the price point, which isn't low by any means, and sits just one place down from the very finest in the portfolio – in Mordaunt-Short's case its Performance series.
This system is the company's answer to the superb 800 Series from B&W.
As a speaker purveyor Mordaunt-Short is no Johnny Come Lately, being only five years younger than myself. It has a fine reputation and heritage as one of the bastions of classic British hi-fi.
The comparison with the B&W product obtains throughout, although I genuinely believe it to be because of function breeding form.
The cabinets of the Mezzo 1 enclosures are curve-sided and have a cut-off swollen teardrop cross section. Also, the tweeter, although mounted within the woodwork of the top of the enclosure rather than perched above it, is clearly in a tapered tube-shaped back-chambered enclosure.
They look beautiful from front-on, and since they use magnetic fixings for the grilles, they have no Eelon holes. Hooray!
The rears of the five speakers all have paired bullet-shaped binding post connectors, with curved sheet metal pieces joining them together to use until/unless you bi-wire/bi-amplify.
The subwoofer, which is a small spud of a thing, echoes the general shape of the fronts and rears and has all its connections underneath in the shape of more 'bullet' binding posts for speaker level input, and three sets of phono sockets, for in, out and LFE feed choices.
The Mezzo 9 woofer comes with a terribly smart and cute remote control that is spliced to a Sound Pressure Level (SPL), or loudness, meter.
There's a test CD supplied with it and a set of graph paper is printed in the manual. Use these to go through a rake of different tone-burst tracks to set the levels, phase, notch filter, boost filter and other dynamics controls. DSP modes for Night, Warmth and Extra Bass are also on offer and selectable from the remote.
It's a very clever and complex sub to set up. But is it gilding a lily? The approach recalls the futility
of the traditional Mod form of motorcycle – it may have been stripped down and then lightened and tuned to amazing levels... but it was still a Vespa. And this is still a 2 x 8in, 375W woofer.
It's musical and fast and tremendously melodic, but lacks serious muscle. Mordaunt-Short's Performance range sub looks a bit more serious, though, at thrice the power.
For the bulk of my note-taking, I pushed the system with the Will Smith sci-fi actioner I, Robot.
It quickly became apparent that the bass, even once tuned, was utterly unable to present a simple thing like the slab-cracking impact of a robot falling to stone floor from seven storeys. And there's the rub.
With music, the experience is sufficiently impressive. It has a really sweet, smooth high end and such a talent for recreating textured female vocals, like the ethereal woo-hooing on the 5.1 DTS Titanic soundtrack song about hearts going on (and on and on), that LFE criticisms seem superfluous.
The detail and placement of locational cues from the Mezzo system is delicious and the sweetness of the upper and mid-band is like a fondant fancy cake, thickly iced and hugely enjoyable.
This is also a big part of the movie experience. During I, Robot I noted background details not commonly heard. Around 18:32 Will Smith's character pounds a window with the line, 'Did you know that was safety glass?'
The resultant 'B-DOOING!' is deeply complex, with clangs and thuds all in one; with these Mezzos I could make them out clearly. This sequence also reveals classy dynamics as the system can get louder seriously rapidly on peaks.
At 25:40 a robot gets netted, and the rears provide strands of net whipping around behind you. This, again, is super-crisp.
Before that, beginning at 18:12, there are a series of terribly rare and delicate background 'ting' sounds that again the Mezzo system delivers impeccably.
Powerful surround sound
During the 'Demolition Bot Attack' sequence around 39 minutes in, this dynamism is translated into effective mayhem that has incredible detail within it (although the subwoofer fails to do justice to the deepest, hardest bits).
Will Smith is rescuing a hackneyed cat and I could hear plaintive miaowing even in the maddest moments. This is the sort of performance prowess that's important in any surround system that is to be used for movie-viewing.
Legends are made from less. But despite all this finery, I'm left feeling that the system just doesn't paint the most complete of pictures.
I have little hesitation declaring that this is an ideal home cinema package for a buyer with audiophile sensibilities. It brings the hi-life of high-end audio within tangible grasp, and at what I would say is an affordable price.
The centre, fronts and rears are of a serious, high-quality construction, but unless you really are a chick-flick type who never watches kids' or action movies, I feel you will get better value if you opt not to take the dedicated sub.
Indeed, I would argue that the Mezzo 9 sub's £700 tag could get you two really serious plain vanilla woofers that'd work a treat, or one rather better and beefier one from a specialist sub maker.
However, don't let that suggestion detract from the point that the Mezzo floorstanders, centre and satellites are pretty special.
This is a serious system for lovers of both movies and music.