Mordaunt-Short Carnival 2 Bookshelf Speaker Review

The Brits Know How to Build a Good Speaker

With speakers, you never know what you're going to get. It's always a surprise when they're played for the first time, and that's one of the reasons I enjoy reviewing speakers. I do, however, have sound characteristics and preferences that I listen for when I review speakers such as the Mordaunt-Short Carnival 2 speakers.

Mordaunt-Short is a British loudspeaker maker with a reputation for making high-end products. The company started in 1967 and offers a wide range of stereo and home theater speaker systems; the Carnival 2 is one of their more affordable bookshelf models.

Simple Yet Sophisticated

The design is straightforward – no 21st century, space-age materials or unpronounceable high-tech features; it's just a simple, well-built speaker. It's a two-way bass reflex speaker outfitted with a 5 ½" woofer with a woven composite cone (probably Kevlar) and a 1" soft-dome tweeter. The woofer features a phase plug, important for proper alignment of midrange frequencies. The compact, ultra-solid enclosures have two front-facing ports for bass response and the speakers are magnetically shielded for safe placement near a television. The Carnival 2 can be bi-wired or bi-amped, a feature often reserved for higher end speakers.

With two finishes, Black and Calvados (a sort of Maple-looking finish) and their compact sized enclosures, the Carnival 2s will complement nearly any décor.

The size, appearance and simplicity of the Carnival 2 speakers are refreshing and it gets even better when you listen to them.

Fire 'Em Up

I like a neutral, yet warm-sounding speaker with lots of detail in the mids and highs. I prefer speakers with a relaxed, natural quality – not in your face, by which I mean a speaker with little or no coloration or exaggeration. A relaxed speaker lets you listen rather than forcing you to listen.

The piano and cello in Dana Cunningham's "The Color of Light" had a natural timbre when reproduced by the Carnival 2 speakers. These two instruments are particularly revealing of a speaker's capabilities. Likewise, vocals provide clues about the neutrality and accuracy of a speaker as I heard in the duet of "Fever," performed by Ray Charles and Natalie Cole. The wide dynamic range in this track came through with excellent detail and clarity.

I prefer the simplicity of a two-channel system without a subwoofer and the Carnival's 5 ½" woofers had more than adequate bass and mid-bass response. Although the deepest, lowest bass notes are clearly passed over, a sub is not needed to enjoy the Mordaunt-Short speakers. A case in point was Queen Latifah's "Hard Times," with bass that sounded warm and well balanced with the rest of the system, even without a subwoofer.

Overall the Carnival 2 speakers are easy to enjoy with all types of music and offer surprisingly refined sound quality for a pair of small bookshelf speakers.

The Bottom Line

With speakers, you never know what you're going to get until you listen. The Mordaunt-Short Carnival 2 speakers reproduce music with an uncommon, delicate finesse and transparency typically found in speakers costing much more, which makes them an exceptional value. In fact, the Carnival 2s may be one of the best-kept secrets in recent memory.

The fit and finish of the enclosures are excellent and the results are a solid, inert cabinet.

The best part is the price of the Carnival 2: $299 per pair (as of publication). They would make a great pair of speakers for a modest stereo system or as surround speakers in a home theater system.

I briefly scanned the Mordaunt-Short dealer list in the US and found few dealers, so you may have to search a bit to find one near you.


  • Drivers: One 5 ½" woofer and one 1" soft dome tweeter
  • Magnetically shielded
  • Frequency response: 55 Hz - 20 kHz
  • Impedance: 4 - 8 ohms
  • Recommended amp power: 15 - 100 watts
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 6.3" x 12.6" x 8.6"
  • Weight: 10.45 lbs. each
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