The Ministry of Sound Audio L is a decent looking wireless speaker which is also cheaper than a lot of big name rivals. However, the collection of small and niggly issues add up to create what is quite a frustrating experience. The app can be made better but the touch controls are unreliable and we expected sound quality to be better.
The words Ministry of Sound probably don’t conjure up images of wireless speakers for the home but the big name in the music industry is taking on the likes of Sonos and Bose in the multi-room audio game. Here’s our Ministry of Sound Audio L Plus review.
Ministry of Sound Audio L Plus review: Price and competition
The Audio L Plus is off to a good start with the price. At £299 it’s quite affordable for a large speaker saving you £120 compared to the new Sonos Play:5 which is a key rival. There’s an even bigger saving when matched to the Bose SoundTouch 30 Series III which is is £499.
For your money you simply get the speaker with a power cord and instruction booklet but there’s also free entry for two people to the Ministry of Sound nightclub which is a pretty cool addition (T&Cs apply).
Ministry of Sound Audio L Plus review: Design and features
Ministry of Sound has gone for a long, tall and rounded design for the Audio L Plus which won’t suit everyone’s taste. We prefer it to the square design of some rivals but it’s equally not our favourite either. The speaker is made from a strong plastic and we’re impressed with the way gold detail has been added without it getting garish and overly bling in appearance.
On the side of the speaker is power and connect buttons with status LEDs while ports are situated round the back. There’s a 3.5mm jack for connecting with a cable but don’t get fooled by the Micro-USB port which is merely for updates.
Setting things up is pretty simple and you have a choice of methods. You’ll probably want to use the app to connect the Audio L Plus to your Wi-Fi network in order to stream content. However, you can connect over Bluetooth (with aptX) using NFC to pair easily or connect with Wi-Fi directly if you happen to not have a network.
Most of this is easy and self-explanatory but the NFC pairing didn’t work first time and we’ve had to set the system up a second time when connecting for no apparent reason.
Once you are set up, you can use the app to stream content to the Audio L Plus. It’s fairly intuitive but there are some improvements which could be made. For example, you can swipe between screens leaving you to tap on small buttons instead and some buttons in the settings menu are all dark grey so you don’t know the status.
Although the app could be better (and hopefully will be in future versions) we experienced some far more frustrating things when using the Audio L Plus.
It’s not obvious – we happened to read the manual – but the speaker has a touch sensitive control on the top of the speaker around the Ministry of Sound logo (which incidentally is almost invisible from most angles).
The system works in a similar way to the new Play:5 and allows you to do various things such as change volume with a circular motion. Once you get the hang of that it’s pretty good but changing tracks with a swipe is backwards if you ask us (right to skip backwards) and most controls actually just end up adjusting the volume.
Then there’s the huge delay when playing and pausing content which at times – when listening to internet radio, for example – took up to around 5 seconds to occur. Lag like this is simply unacceptable and leads to frustration and a lack of belief that you’re input was registered in the first place.
Ministry of Sound has implemented multi-room support so you can stream music around the house in clever ways. However, our Audio M Plus review sample wouldn’t power on so we haven’t been able to test this element.
Ministry of Sound Audio L Plus review: Content and audio performance
Speaking of content, there isn’t a huge amount on offer beyond Spotify which you’ll need to be a Premium subscriber to use. You can stream internet radio including Ministry of Sound’s own selection and even listen to what’s going on at the club live which we like. You can connect to devices on your network like a NAS drive but most consumers will want internet streaming.
That’s not a great list when you consider that Sonos offers Google Play Music, Deezer, Amazon, SoundCloud and Tidal to mention a few of the big names. You can stream content that’s stored on your device but the Ministry if Sound app couldn’t find albums we’d downloaded from Google Play on our Nexus 5X meaning we has to switch to Bluetooth to play them.
Many of these issues would seem a lot less of an issue if the Audio L Plus provided a knock out sound. Inside is two 4.5in drivers and two 1in tweeters – it’s essentially two Audio M Plus speaker joined together in one unit with an added bass port.
We certainly don’t think the result is bad here but it’s lacking that wow factor that we expected. Bass is good when you consider there is no dedicated woofer for the low end (which we thought there might be from a brand like MoS) and the speaker overall can provide decent amplitude, or volume without going hideously distorted.
There’s more of a problem in the mid-range which is muddled and as a result the Audio L Plus lacks a certain definition and clarity. We’re also disappointed with the soundstage and presence of the speaker which may be partly down to all the drivers facing dead forwards. The sound changes depending on your position in relation to the speaker and things sound generally quite confined.
Most consumers won’t be disappointed in the performance of the Audio L Plus but those with a bit more knowledge about audio may well be.
Ministry of Sound Audio L Plus: Specs
- 2x 4.5in mid-woofer
- 1x 1in tweeter
- Bluetooth with aptX
- 3.5mm audio jack