When I started installing car audio professionally in the late ’70s, if you truly wanted high-quality sound for your audio system there were very few domestic speaker choices. Back then you had to go with European drivers to achieve these hi-fidelity goals. Since then many players have come and gone, both domestically and internationally, but some of the best sounding speaker systems still arrive from across the pond. I had the privilege recently of auditioning the Hertz Mille MLK 165 6.5" component system from Italy that retails for $999.
I could immediately tell that the venue for this performance was a large concert hall by the ambiance reproduced by the Hertz comps. Not only was the ambiance realistic, but the orchestra sounded absolutely huge here! The speakers seemed to disappear and I felt as if I could visualize the positioning of all the different sections in the orchestra. The foundation laid down by the double basses, tympani and low voices of the orchestra faithfully recreated with appropriate weight and volume. The bass response was nothing short of fantastic; by far the best of any of the speaker systems I’ve auditioned for CA&E. The dynamics were there too. When the cymbals crashed they sparkled, and the violins and violas (they aren’t fiddles anymore) sounded smooth and sweet. As the crescendo rose, the Hertz comps handled the extra volume with ease, and the horns came through loud and clear. I could also hear all the inner detail just as I could when previously listening to the smaller groups. Even the sound of a single triangle strike was easily perceptible and could be differentiated from the sound of the glockenspiel. The Hertz comps dealt with this complex program material with ease. They seem almost imperturbable at any volume. Rarely do I encounter a speaker that has these capabilities, especially at a price point of $999 retail!
Packaged in an attractive container with a high-resolution picture of the contents on it, an impressive looking pair of 6.5" woofers captured my attention. Featuring a cast aluminum frame with a four-bolt pattern, a curvilinear aluminum cone, a Butyl rubber surround and 36mm (1.42") voice coil, these aren’t your average woofers. The motor structure uses a "high-density flux" ferrite magnet and employs a ventilated pole piece, while the cone configuration is unique in that it doesn’t employ the traditional dust cap on cone assembly, but looks rather like the inside of an inverted ice cream cone.
The sides of the curvilinear "V-CONE" curve down to a point at its center for better off-axis response. The spokes of the frame are also minimal to reduce reflections that could go back through the cone and color the sound in the listening area. The voice coil ventilation slots have a screen over them to keep foreign objects out and the tensile leads are attached to the spider in four places to stop them from hitting the back side of the cone at extreme excursion. The included grilles are of the high-void-ratio type so as not to restrict the output of the woofers. All in all, these are some beautifully executed drivers.
The 28mm tweeters in this set are also unusual. They feature interchangeable rear chambers to adjust the "Q" of the tweeter. According to the manual, "The Small chamber increases the Q factor with a sharper frequency roll-off slope; the Big chamber provides a smoother slope with better low-frequency extension." The domes of these tweeters are made of "a mixture of cotton and silk in a controlled percentage with a double-waterproof processing." The motor structure of the ML28 tweeters features a double neodymium and iron magnet with a low carbon content that was specially developed for this transducer. The tweeters come with mounting provisions for surface, flush or naked mounting in a factory location. The only thing I’d change is the color of the silver grilles – black would look better in most vehicles.
The crossovers are impressive too. They employ a circuit that Hertz has dubbed HFC (High Frequency Contour). When activated, this circuit contours the high-frequency response for the left and right channel tweeter for either listening position. This is stated to cure the acoustical anomalies in typical installations caused by different path lengths and tweeter angle. Very robust in their construction, the crossovers feature four levels of tweeter attenuation in 1.5dB increments from 0dB to -4.5dB, settable with what Hertz calls "Easy Jumpers" – a solid bar with a nice little plastic handle on them to make handling easier. Also using the same adjusters are adjustments for the HFC and to select whether you want to use the crossovers in a standard or a bi-amp configuration. Hertz uses poly caps, a tweeter protector and large-gauge inductors along with sand resistors for precise filtering and protection. The wire connections are made via an insulated barrier strip on one end of the housing that will accept up to 10-gauge wire. All this is neatly displayed under a smoked plastic cover.
Wow, I can’t get over the bass produced by these 6.5" woofers! I listened to them in my auditioning room, without the benefit of the transfer function of an enclosed vehicle and they still sounded totally realistic without a subwoofer. You may think I’m going overboard raving about the bass response of these guys, but I think you’d agree if you listened to them yourself.
With all the installation hardware supplied with this set, mounting them into my test boxes was a breeze and should be just about as easy in most vehicles. The only drawback might be that the woofers don’t have a multiple bolt pattern on them to fit some applications, but any good installer should be able to accommodate this. Now comes the fun part!
Eagles "Hotel California"
"Hotel California," the live version from the Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over, has to be one of the best tests for a sound system ever recorded. From the hall ambience to the incredibly detailed guitar and vocal work, this selection will give even the best systems a workout.
From the sound of the crowd to the very first guitar notes, the MLK 165′s conveyed a sense of space and ambience. The lead guitar was out front in the mix and the guitar ensemble behind him sounded appropriately positioned. The resolution of the inner detail was so precise that I could even pick out the individual players in the ensemble. Granted, I’ve seen the video (and I suspect many of you reading this have also), but if I hadn’t, I’d still be able to visualize the performance from what I heard.
It’s the little things that make this selection so great—things like the perfectly rendered drummer’s tap on a closed high hat cymbal, the delicate sound of fingers sliding on a fret board or the sound of the bow caressing the strings of the fiddle. Again, the drummer’s brushwork was reproduced well and he’s placed directly behind the rest of the band. With the Hertz MLK 165s the little details shine through.
Auditioning components like this is one of the reasons I love my work. It drives the point home that there are stil a few companies that place the quality of their product above all else and they refuse to compromise to add a few more dollars (or Euros) to their bottom line. Bravo to the crew at Hertz for a superb set of components that blows away some that cost even more than the $999 MLK 165′s. This is a beautiful-sounding, smooth, accurate component set that will serve well as the main speakers for your next (or even current) auto sound system. At the very least, it’s worth a listen at your nearest Hertz dealer. A little audition may be all the convincing you need.
Overall sound quality: 18/20
Tonal balance (above 80 Hz) 8.5/10
Low-frequency extension 9.5/10
Clarity at low volume: 9.5/10
Clarity at high v
Image stability: 8.5/10
Listening fatigue (moderate volume): 9/10
Flexibility/ease of installation: 15/20
Total subjective score: 87/100