Mirage’s Nanosat Prestige home theater speaker system may be one of the most unconventional speaker rigs you’ll ever encounter, but its pod-shaped satellites present a huge enveloping sound field that will at first surprise you and then impress you. You’ll soon forget you’re listening to speakers and think you’ve been transported into the movie you’re watching—just hope that it isn’t Mars Attacks!
FEATURES Speaking of those pods, you get four of them plus the elongated Nano CC center speaker and the Prestige S8 subwoofer. All of the speakers in my review system were finished in an elegant high-gloss black that screams high class and would look great next to a flat-panel TV; the Nanosat pods are also available in high-gloss white or rosewood.
To understand how the Nanosat Prestige satellites work, you need to pop off one of the grille covers and brace yourself for an alien experience...at least in terms of speaker design. A horizontally oriented tweeter is suspended above a small woofer in what Mirage calls an Omniguide module (it actually looks like a tiny UFO that’s about to land in wooferville). The little saucer…er, Omniguide, holds the key to the system’s spatial qualities: It deflects the sound to create a 360-degree “omnipolar” radiation pattern that Mirage believes sounds more true-to-life than conventional speakers.
Getting back to the S8 subwoofer, it packs a 200-watt amplifier and 8-inch woofer in a box that’s just over a foot square. Bordering the edge of the woofer, is a beefy ribbed, “elliptical surround” that’s said to increase excursion and reduce distortion, compared with more conventional woofer designs. Mirage rates the S8 down to 26Hz.
PERFORMANCE The Nanosat Prestige system sounds best when the speakers are placed near, or up against, a wall. If they’re too far away, it can sound like you’re in a cave. So I used the supplied mounting hardware to attach the surround pods to my side walls, up high with the grille facing down, as Mirage recommends. The front speakers were on stands, up against the wall on either side of my projection screen, with the center channel below.
What better way to evaluate the Nanosat Prestige system than by watching The Prestige on Blu-ray? This dark drama from director Christopher Nolan is about the tense relationship between rival magicians in late nineteenth century London. The movie unfolds in a stark, reverberant courtroom, which struck me as a perfect scene for putting Mirage’s omnipolar concept to the test—a test that it passed handily. The sound of echoing voices was so realistic that I felt like I was the next one to approach the bench. And in scenes where the magician Angier demonstrates his Tesla Transporter, I was encircled by the crackling sound of electricity, waiting to be jolted out of my seat at any moment. Together, the five Nanosat speakers created a remarkably convincing illusion of space, with a sense of height, width, and depth was greater than what I’ve experienced from most other speaker systems.
The Prestige S8 subwoofer performed remarkably well for such a small subwoofer. The deep rumbling and room shaking bass made the scenes with the Tesla contraption more riveting. And the bass was reasonably tight for a sub of such modest proportions—and price.
It was easy to follow the dialog through the Nanosat CC center speaker, too—British accents and all. And when I moved to the edges of my couch, dialog remained clear and firmly centered, instead of becoming dull as often happens with center speakers.
When listening to music, I was shocked at how extended the treble was, without a hint of harshness that is common in this price range. The highs possessed an airy quality that audiophiles would pay big bucks for. On Diana Krall’s “S’Wonderful” [The Look of Love, Verve SACD], the strings and woodwinds had an ethereal lushness that reminded me of speakers I once owned that cost six times as much as a pair of these speakers.
Of course, music is a tough test for any system and it uncovered one of the system’s few negatives—the lack of precise imaging. Listening to Patricia Barber’s well-recorded “Bye Bye Blackbird” [Nightclub, Mobile Fidelity SACD], I heard a vague wall of sound in front of me instead of a solid center image. After a bit of fiddling, I realized that the front left and right speakers were too far apart. The imaging improved noticeably when I moved them closer together. Barber’s voice was now centered, with drums to the right and piano on the left. Imaging and soundstaging was still not as precise as what you get with conventional “direct radiating” speakers but that in no way overshadowed the system’s many positive aspects.
BOTTOM LINE Mirage’s Nanosat Prestige home theater system has a lot going for it. Topping my list are its wonderfully sweet treble, and excellent surround envelopment—traits that you just don’t expect from a system with such tiny speakers. And all this from a system that costs only $1400.