Editors' Note: This is the old version of the Mirage Nanosat 5.1. Please see this review for the updated version of the product (available as of September 2008).
Viva la difference! Conventional box speakers project sound straight ahead, so it's easy to identify them as sound sources. By contrast, Mirage's Omnipolar designs, such as the Nanosat, radiate sound in a 360-degree pattern. That makes them far less localizable and accounts for the Nanosat's unique sonic qualities. The $800 Nanosat 5.1 system is the most compact and affordable of Mirage's Omnipolar designs--and it's well worth the price for those seeking a set of small surround speakers with impressive performance for their size.
Viewed from above, the Nanosat speaker is a smoothly rounded triangle, with its midrange and tweeter mounted on its angled top surface, visible under a curved, magnetically attached metal grille. The Nanosat's beautifully finished platinum/brushed-black aluminum cabinet is a mere 5.8 inches tall, 4.2 wide, and 4.3 deep. The speakers come with a metal L-shaped wall bracket attached to their bottoms. With that bracket, you can invert the Nanosats and wall mount them near the ceiling upside-down, so they'll direct sound toward the listening position. That may be an ideal arrangement for the front or rear/surround Nanosats, but if you can't wall mount the speakers or have them live on an open shelf, you can opt for Mirage's sleek-looking MS-STB-1 floor stands ($80 a pair), which give you lots of flexibility with placement.
The Mirage system includes five identical Nanosats, with no dedicated center-channel speaker. That's fine, but because of the way the speaker radiates sound upward, the center-channel Nanosat won't sound its best if you place it on a shelf under a TV--better stick with the top of your television. Wall mounting under a flat-screen model shouldn't be a problem, and if you're interested in a 6.1- or 7.1-channel system, extra Nanosats are available separately for $125 each.
You don't have to be an engineer or an audiophile to notice the Nanosat is a very different sort of loudspeaker. The Nanosats' perforated metal grilles don't hide the speaker's upward-facing dome-shaped "dispersion modules" strategically positioned above the Nanosat's 2.75-inch titanium-hybrid midrange and 0.75-inch titanium dome tweeter. The modules create the speaker's Omnipolar radiation pattern and use the room's reflections to create a deep, wide, and tall soundstage. The speaker's all-metal binding posts offer a solid connection with banana jacks, spades, or stripped bare wire ends.
As for the Nano sub, it's a neatly styled medium gray box with curved corners that measure 13.5 inches tall and wide and 11.7 inches deep, and it weighs 20.1 pounds. Its 8-inch down-firing woofer features Ribbed Elliptical Surround technology to lower distortion and increase the system's bass capability. Impressively, the sub's 75-watt amplifier is capable of delivering as much as 300 watts for brief periods of time. Connectivity is limited to a single RCA line-level input and a pair of speaker-level inputs. We noted the sub lacks a phase control that would help smooth the bass transition with the satellites in some installations. However, we experienced no problems in that regard.
The subwoofer itself doesn't have a crossover, relying instead on the one built into most A/V receivers (the Nanosat owner's manual recommends selecting a 120Hz subwoofer crossover). That's fine, but not all receivers offer that sort of adjustability and, instead, come with fixed 80Hz or 100Hz crossovers; we suggest you first consult your receiver's owner's manual to make sure you can tweak the necessary subwoofer crossover settings. The wrong setting won't do any harm but may cause a gap in the bass output between the Nanosats and the subwoofer.