Mordaunt-Short Performance 5.1 review

Stylish, sensuous looks, hair-raising performance and truly spine-tingling sound – the Mordaunt-Shorts have it all Tested at £10000.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Deeply impressive: matched with worthwhile partners, the Performance 5.1 system will leave you breathless


  • +

    Poised, potent and endlessly realistic sound

  • +

    excellent integration

  • +

    looks, build and finish


  • -

    Needs lots of space to breathe

  • -

    deserves partnering with a big image and top electronics

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Psychoanalysts would say we're ‘conflicted'. Actually, they might say a great deal more about us, but that's another story.

The root of our present conflict is not childhood trauma, but Mordaunt-Short's Performance 5.1 speaker package. We'd like to spend this whole page extolling the virtues of MS's commitment to uncompromised manufacturing methods and technical innovation, not to mention inventive use of materials.

On the other hand, we're equally keen to go on at length about the Performance's barnstorming, erm, performance, or knee-weakening good looks, and subtle indication of the wealth of any prospective owner. They are 120cm tall, sensually curvaceous, and come supplied without grilles (the better to admire the array of Continuous Profile drivers and the tweeter, which pierces the cabinet like the tip of an errant javelin). They not only look lovely judged as speakers, they're quite acceptable sculptures, too.

Performance is the name of the game
Once the Performance 5C centre channel and substantial 9W subwoofer have been manoeuvred into position, the effect is at once pleasing and purposeful, even though maintaining that deep, deep grey finish will cost you a fortune in polish.

With a due sense of anticipation, we dropped Kingdom of Heaven into our reference DVD player and sat back. The way the Performance 5.1 delivered this soundtrack was, honestly, hair-raising. The sheer quantity of detail unearthed and transcribed is extraordinary: previously unimagined atmospherics are exposed without fuss and marshalled on the soundstage with the deftest of touches.

At the other end of the scale, the Performance demonstrates monstrous dynamic ability – it musters relentless, rigidly controlled attack, moving from a whisper to a shout in an instant, and having no problem keeping the bass prompt and accurate.

The P9W subwoofer might be sizeable, but it's able to stop the big bangs on the proverbial sixpence, and the centre channel sounds as natural as can be, lending dialogue a conspiratorial and naturalistic air, and the whole integrates seamlessly. This is a truly cinematic performance.

Multichannel music isn't wanting neither
The excellent DVD-Audio remaster of David Bowie's live Stage shows off the Performance's talents superbly: that oddball tweeter gives fantastically crisp treble, and the low end is blessed with considerable weight and dexterity – like an elephant on the parallel bars.

However, it's the midrange that really impresses: vocals are first-person accurate. There's a real sense of recital here, everything knitting with exceptional timing.

Seems we've solved our own ‘conflict' here: no mention of the Performances extraordinarily stiff cabinets or the 6's triamping potential.

But we must end on a note of caution: these speakers deserve a lot of money to be spent around them – say, £5000 minimum for suitable amplification; a similar amount on a projector; and an easy four figures on a DVD or Blu-ray player.

Then there's the small matter of a room big enough to allow the Performance 5.1 to stand in free space. Still, at least you won't have to find spc for an analyst's couch.

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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