Factory Tours

MK Sound/ABT Electronics Tour

It’s been two years since MK Sound arose phoenix-like from the ashes of the former Miller & Kreisel, one of the most respected brands in the professional audio industry. MK Professional speakers are still used in many film studios, including Skywalker Sound (check out the credits at the end of Star Wars Episodes I and II). When the original company went defunct in 2007, many assumed that it was the end of an era. However, a team consisting of M&K’s former international distributor and international management purchased its assets (including intellectual property) from the bankruptcy court, and about a year later the new MK was born.

There are two divisions at the revived company: MK Professional, which as the name implies serves the professional audio market; and MK Sound, which is the consumer division. As MK Sound started re-building its dealer network, it scored a major coup by landing the Chicago-based Dolphin Group as its exclusive U.S. distributor. The owners of the Dolphin Group also own Abt Electronics, one of the largest dealers of the former M & K line, and a nationally known electronics retailer since 1936. Abt sells MK Sound products, the renowned MK Professional 2510P powered monitors, and also provides warranty service for MK.

Recently, I was invited to tour Abt’s Chicago-land store and hear the newest MK Sound speakers. The tour was led by third-generation Abt owner Mike Abt, MK Sound President Lars Johansen (M&K’s former international sales director, with more than a decade at Harman International and recently Klipsch Group), CFO Per Becher (global business developer) and industry veteran Bart Greenberg, National Sales Manager for MK Sound/Dolphin Group.

Abt is a midwest institution, operating continuously from a single-store location since 1936. As the company grew, it would re-locate to a larger facility. The current Abt store, located in the Chicago suburb of Glenview, Illinois, employs over 1,000 people in its 350,000 square foot building. In some ways, Abt is a throw-back to another time; unlike the just-in-time manufacturing companies which seem to dominate the marketplace, Abt has an enormous on-site inventory of appliances such as washers, dryers, ovens, and of course, audio-video equipment.

However, Abt has a decidedly 21st century approach to environmental stewardship. The massive facility includes its own on-site recycling center, including a rarely found styrofoam recycling facility. Abt is off-the grid, creating its own power using natural gas. Its 230 trucks run on biodiesel, and it recycles its water. Abt runs an energy efficient warehouse, including a cooling system based on an enormous fan. When someone asked how large the fan was, Mike Abt replied that it’s a big-ass fan. No, really: Big Ass Fans

As impressive as the Abt facility was, I was there to demo the new MK speakers. Although MK Sound has taken a mostly hands-off approach to modifying its legacy speakers, it has developed a new tweeter for its MPS 2510P and 1611P professional monitors. The new tweeter was developed in conjunction with Peerless of Denmark (now part of Tymphany), M & K’s driver component partner for 34 years. MK has incorporated the new tweeter into its newest consumer speakers, the 950 series; a similar tweeter sharing the same attributes (except for the cast aluminum front plate) is now being used in the legendary S-150THX speaker. I asked how long-time M & K customers were responding to the new design, and was told that Disney Studios liked the new S-150’s so much that they have placed ten new S-150THX systems into their various facilities.

We were then treated to a demo of the new S-150THX system in Abt’s dedicated theater, driven by Denon separates and a Sony front projector. It sounded fantastic; reference quality sound from top to bottom. We also heard some two-channel music through a pair of MK Professional 2510P active monitors. Every time I hear the 2510’s, I want them.

Although it wasn’t set up for demonstration purposes, I also got a quick listen to MK Sound’s newest speakers, the 950 series. These speakers sit between the 150 and 750THX systems in MK’s model line. The 950’s are similar in appearance to the M Series speakers I reviewed last year, but use larger woofers and incorporate the new tweeter found in the top-of-the-line 150 series. The 950’s are THX Select2 certified. My quick impression of the 950’s was that at $600 each, these were really impressive-sounding speakers. Look for a full review of the 950 system in the coming months.

Letting the MK brand go would have been easy. Reviving an icon is hard work. Based on what I heard from its new products, and the passion and enthusiasm of the new management team, they are committed to continuing MK’s rich heritage.

www.mksoundsystem.com

www.abt.com