MXSP-4000 full review

iPod User was one of the first to get its hands on Maxell’s shiny new MXSP-4000 speaker system _ and its quirky design is sure to turn heads.

The glossy black oval cylinder is just under 8in long, and is mounted on a shiny silver stand with a circular base. There’s an iPod dock built into the base, but Maxell doesn’t include any dock adaptors with the speakers so you’ll need to dig out the adaptor that was originally supplied with your iPod (you can insert the iPod without an adaptor, you’ll just have to be careful not to press the buttons too hard and damage the fragile connector port).

Down the tube

The tubular design is visually striking, but it’s not just for show. The ‘Time Domain’ part of the name refers to an innovative technology that uses a cylindrical speaker design rather than the rectangular ‘cabinet’ used by most conventional speakers (see boxout). The left and right stereo speakers are located on each end of the cylinder, and there’s a set of ‘bass reflex’ ports running along the back of the cylinder to boost the lower frequencies.

The results are pretty impressive, and the MXSP-4000 produces a very clear sound that picks out each voice or instrument quite distinctly. The bass ports do their part too _ it’s not quite the same as having a separate subwoofer unit, but they do help to fill out the lower end of the frequency range.

The 5W per channel (10W total) specification may not sound like much, but it was loud enough to drown out our phone ringing. The sound can become a bit shrill and distorted when you turn the volume all the way up _ especially on complex multi-layered sounds such as Queen or Muse.

To be fair, though, this distortion only starts to creep in as you get to about 90 per cent of maximum volume. There’s also a ‘comfort’ switch that you can turn on, which is designed to enhance the playback of compressed digital music files. This takes some of the shrill edge off the sound at higher volumes.

Blinking lights

The MXSP-4000 also includes a small remote control unit _ which you’ll need to keep close at hand as this is the only way to adjust the volume. The power light on the front of the speakers blinks as you adjust the volume, and then glows solid when you reach maximum volume. There’s an audio input on the base of the unit so you can connect other types of portable player as well.

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