Model Twelve Portable Speaker System

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by Torgny Nilsson, May 4, 2005.

  1. Torgny Nilsson

    Torgny Nilsson Second Unit

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    I stumbled across the “Mick Fleetwood Signature™ Model Twelve Portable Music System” while researching outdoor speakers for my backyard. Though I assumed that only stationary speakers would give me the sound I wanted, I liked the idea of a portable speaker system because not only could I use it in my backyard, but I could move it to my front yard for block parties, take it to a beach house, take it on vacations, etc. But finding reviews on the Model Twelve proved impossible.

    Given that the Model Twelve is sold by Cambridge SoundWorks, and given that they have a 45-day return policy, I decided to take a chance on it. Heck, I could just return it if it sucked. Well, it arrived yesterday and—after spending a couple of hours listening to everything from classical, acoustic, vocal, jazz, opera, and rock on it—I can only say “WOW!”

    For those of you who don’t know, the Model Twelve is an amplified subwoofer/satellite speaker system more properly known as “The Model Twelve Transportable Component Music System by Henry Kloss.” But because Mick Fleetwood has had it for years, and seems to take it everywhere with him, Cambridge SoundWorks now sells it as the “Mick Fleetwood Signature™ Model Twelve Portable Music System.”

    The Model Twelve consists of a hard plastic case with an integrated subwoofer, two cushioned satellite speakers, a portable amp, and all the power cords and cables you need to hook everything up to the music source of your choice (a CD player, IPod, tape player, etc.) and to a standard electrical outlet or to a cigarette lighter in a car or boat. Everything fits inside the hard plastic case/sub for transport. All you need to add is a portable CD player or IPod, and there is room for that in the case too.

    The back of the amp has connections for the two satellites, the sub, your power supply, tape out and tape in, CD in, and two auxiliary in connections. There is also a bass level control. The front of the amp has controls for source, volume, tape (to listen while recording), stereo and mono, a headphone connection, balance, bass, treble controls, and a power button and power indicator.

    Set up is easy. Just connect the two satellites and to the sub to the amp via the included color coded speaker wires. Then connect the amp to your power supply and to your music source (a portable CD player in my case). Turn on your CD player or other music source, and you have music. If I have one quibble about set up it is that Cambridge has never figured out the benefits of banana plugs and seems to use clip connections on all of their products that I have seen. Why of why can’t Cambridge see the light on this issue? While that is a personal pet peeve, I don’t think it has any real impact on set up or the sound of the Model Twelve.

    Adjustment of the system was easy too. The balance, bass, and treble controls all have indents indicating a “flat” response. I used those settings and merely adjusted the bass control on the back of the amp by ear to my liking. I suppose I could use my Radio Shack sound meter to set the sub at just the right level, but that seemed unnecessary (though it might be something I will experiment with at a future time).

    I had set up the Model Twelve in my 10’ by 26’ home theater. While I have a fairly expensive speaker set up in that room, and while I would never swap that set up for the Model Twelve, the Model Twelve held its own, especially considering that it is about one-tenth the price of my HT speakers.

    I spent the next couple of hours after set up listening to a bit of everything I could think of: classical mandolin concertos, reggae, vocal and instrumental jazz, movie soundtracks, heavy metal, acoustic rock, disco, gospel, and opera. The Model Twelve sounded simply amazing on them all. I don’t think I have ever been so impressed with a portable stereo in my life.

    One benefit the Model Twelve has over other portable stereos is that you can position the satellites a long way apart. I set them up about 6’ apart, though I think I could easily have set them over 12’ apart if I had wanted to. And I placed the sub right in between them. This proved to be a very effective set up and the sub acted a lot like a center speaker (probably because the satellites have a high crossover due to their small size). This provided an amazing soundstage on music such as gospel and others with bass singers. This is the first time I have gotten the feeling with a portable system that I was there, live, in the audience at a jazz or gospel concert. As a result, I spent most of the evening yesterday sitting on the floor of my home theater with a silly grin on my face.

    Now, the Model Twelve does have certain drawbacks, or perhaps limitations is a better word. It is a 2.1 system and not capable of expansion to 5.1. The Model Twelve also seems designed for very precise and accurate sound rather than sheer volume. Vocal music, classical, and jazz sounded simply amazing. I was in awe. It was the next best thing to being there in person, and when I closed my eyes, I would have sworn that I was there in person. On the other hand, the only heavy metal album I own (AC/CD’s Back in Black) did not give me the feeling of being there in person. But that could have been because I was too much of a chicken to turn the volume more than about ½ way up. Still, my wife came into the home theater to ask what on earth I was doing as she could hear the music from two rooms away with the solid core door to our home theater closed. So I guess the Model Twelve has sufficient volume for rock too.

    Interestingly, I noticed that I could feel the bass in my chest from 7 feet away from the sub, and that the pamphlet I was holding was vibrating, when I played a very well recorded copy of Gregory Isaacs’ reggae version of House of the Rising Sun. So, perhaps the Model Twelve is just not cut out for poorly recorded music. And that did seem to be the case. The Model Twelve has the same drawback (if you can call it that) of high end speaker systems such as that in my home theater: it shows you any flaws that exist in your media and in your music source. While well recorded CDs were a musical epiphany when played on the Model Twelve, I certainly heard the limits of my cheap portable CD player when I played poorly recorded CDs.

    The Model Twelve retails for around $400 through Cambridge SoundWorks, give or take some because of one of their regular sales or any coupon you can find on the Internet. They offer free shipping and a 45-day return policy. If you are up for spending that on a portable speaker system alone, I don’t think you will be disappointed. Other than professional portable systems that require roadies, the Model Twelve is the single best sounding portable system I have ever heard. And the fact that it all packs away in its own little sub/case makes it even more amazing.

    I will update this entry within the next week or so when I have had a chance to try the Model Twelve outside.
     
  2. Torgny Nilsson

    Torgny Nilsson Second Unit

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    I have now had time to try the Model Twelve outside during a couple of parties with up to about 100 or so guests and I am still impressed by it.

    The system is perfect for providing background music during backyard parties or bbqs. I had no trouble hearing the music from over 60 feet away, despite people talking kids running around, etc.

    While I still think the system is the best non-professional portable system I have heard, there are some really picky things you may want to consider before you buy one:

    1. Don't expect the system to play really loud dance music. I mean, come on, it's only two satellite speakers, a small sub, and a small amp. Amazing though it is, there is no way it can compare to the portable systems used by bands.

    2. The case will hold an IPod or a small tape player, and an extension code, but it is not big enough to hold a portable CD player. It would have been nice if the case had space for a portable CD player, and maybe 2-3 CDs.

    3. The system is very easy to set up, but you have to connect three speakers, an amp, an Ipod or other music device, and a couple of power cords. It does take a couple of minutes to set it all up.

    4. The system is not waterproof. If it was, it would be just about a perfect system.

    5. Given that this is a portable system CSW really should have built it to accept banana plugs. Though the clips and bare end wires work fine, and I have not had any problems with them so far, I could see the wires getting frayed over time. Sure it is easy to replace them but banana plugs would have been even easier.

    6. The speaker wires are very thin. While I don't believe most speaker wire claims, I think the sound would be improved a bit with thicker wires. And while you could easily replace the wires with thicker ones, you would probably end up fraying the ends of thicker wires more quickly than the included wires.

    All those are nit-picks. The system is amazing and I can't think of anything better for summer parties, bbqs, picnics, and vacations. If you are in need of a good portable system, check it out. With CSW's return policy, you really don't have much to lose.
     

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