This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above
Reviewer: John Potis
Analog Source: Merrill-Scillia Research MS2 table, Hadcock GH Export arm, Ortofon Kontrapunkt H & Garrott Bros Optim FGS Cartridges, K&K Audio MC Step-up
Digital Source: Accustic Arts Drive 1/Audio Aero Prima SE DAC
Preamp: Bel Canto Pre2P
Power Amp: Art Audio Carissa, Bel Canto e.One REF1000 and Canary CA 330 monos, Opera Audio Cyber 211 monos [on extended loan], Musical Fidelity A5 Integrated
Speakers: Tidal Audio Pianos, Hørning Perikles, Thiel CS 2.4, Ohm Acoustics Walsh 4 with 4.5 mk.2 upgrade
Speaker cables, interconnects and digital cables: JPS Labs Superconductor 3
Power cords: JPS Power AC, Analog AC, Digital AC, Aluminata and Kaptovator
Powerline conditioning: Balanced Power Technology 3.5 Signature Plus with ZCable Cyclone Power Cord
Sundry accessories: Sound Mechanics Performance Platform, 2-inch Butcher Block platforms with Quest for Sound Isol-pads, Vibrapod Isolators and Cones, Ultra & Heavy ZSleeves, Viablue QTC spikes under speakers, Auric Illuminator, Gingko Audio Mini-Clouds
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling
Review component retail: Maximus Mini $1,200/pr; Apollo II $12,400/pr
Yep, that's right. Another Mark & Daniel review on 6moons. I'm well aware that as a group, we've already published a veritable library of information on this brand. But what you may not be aware of is how the behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt on these gents' wares is every bit as enthusiastic. Plus, when an audio writer recommends a product to other writers, you'd be wise to take that recommendation seriously.
Still, all of the Mark & Daniel speakers we've reviewed thus far have been smaller stand mounts. Clearly, it was time to take a look at something even more ambitious. When the larger 170-lbs Apollo IIs became available, I cashed in all my chips and threw around all the weight my rank and position of seniority afforded me here on the moons and bullied my way right to the front of the line. Believe me when I say that I don't like pushing my weight around. But sometimes a guy's gotta do what needs doing. Fortunately, most everybody else's plates were full and I got the assignment with little effort. But that didn't turn out to be the end of the story.
Just as I was in the process of unboxing the Apollo IIs, out went another solicitation from our chief to the clan of writers. Who wanted to review yet another Mark & Daniel speaker, this one completely new to the line and never before seen yet? Most everybody was still busy. So Srajan and I got together thinking that it could be interesting to review the huge Apollo IIs in tandem with the extremely diminutive new Maximus Mini. While I was very happy to have a shot at the ambitious Apollo IIs, I admit that I was also curious about the Mini by way of what the other writers had already experienced with the smaller models. With all that in mind, we now embark on this David/Goliath combo review of Mark & Daniel's little upstart, the Maximus Mini as well as the big Apollo II brother. Don'tcha love it when a plan comes together?
The way I figure, we have three different types of readers reading this. There's the reader who's already gathered encyclopedic knowledge of the brand through our numerous reviews but is curious as to how yet another writer will react to M&D products. Then there are those readers who haven't really tuned into the Mark & Daniel reviews because thus far, they've all been on monitor speakers and monitors don't ring their bells. And then there's the reader sick of reading about Mark & Daniel speakers who wishes an actual pair would become available in the neighborhood for an audition. Well, to the first reader, I beg your indulgence as I briefly reiterate the basics of the M&D design for the second reader to whom it is news. For the third reader, I offer some more pretty pics and commentary to hold you over until you actually get to hear a pair for yourself. With all of these readers in mind, let's cut to the chase.
Mark & Daniel speakers are quite unlike any other speaker I've ever had in my home to date. There are several reasons why this is so and any one of these reasons on its own would make these speakers rather unique. But what really sets them apart is the fact that they don't rely on just one unique feature. They utilize several at once for a completely distinctive product.
The first thing many will notice is the different tweeter. At first glance some may mistake it for a ribbon but what's really going on here is Mark & Daniel's spin on another unusual driver, the Oskar Heil Air Motion Transformer. The AMT dates back to 1972 and has gone in and out of production several times since then. Now that the original patents have expired, the basic AMT design has become fair game to any crafty designer. What M&D have done is put their own spin on the AMT to create what they call their Directly Responding Emitter by Air Motion Structure driver - DREAMS for short. That acronym also entails a concave version of the AMT with ±30º lateral dispersion.
With my good editor's permission, I'll quote from his review of the Mark & Daniel Ruby: "Heil's basic design premise stated that all conventional loudspeaker cones and domes move air pistonically in a 1:1 ratio between diaphragm and air, with the visible diaphragm area always corresponding to the physically active portion. Because air's specific mass is lower than that of the mechanism driving it, Heil viewed the efficiency and coupling of such drivers poorly. His Air Motion Transformer employs a large surface folded in the 3rd dimension. No longer flat-though-curved as conventional drivers are, an AMT squeezes the air out of its folds, elevating the effective ratio to 4:1 - the pleated lamella diaphragm moves air four times faster than it moves by itself. Hence the various terms expressive of velocity transformer for this type of driver. Burmester for example uses AMT derivative tweeters while Adam Audio has additionally developed midranges capable of hitting 300Hz, dubbing theirs accelerated ribbon transducers instead. By their very nature -- like horn-loaded acoustic gain, small diaphragm motion translates into large air motion -- AMTs are extremely articulate and fast and offer superior dynamic range. And M&D claims a 5.3:1 ratio for their version for yet higher velocities."
|I should reiterate that these efficiencies don't take the form of higher sound pressure levels per watt of input. In the case of the Mark & Daniel speakers, that coupling efficiency relates to the driver's ability to produce a dynamic low-end response well beyond what most people would consider possible with most other types of equivalent drivers. In the case of the M&D Apollo II, the Dreams 3 driver -- a larger version than found in the smaller monitors -- extends response down to an amazing 500Hz before filter attenuation begins. The DM-3's composite diaphragm is said to provide 160 times the driving surface of a 1-inch dome tweeter. Smaller M&D speakers using smaller Dreams drivers rely upon it to extend to 800Hz at which point they hand off to smaller mid woofers. Still, a speaker utilizing a single driver from 800Hz up through 20kHz must almost by definition exemplify the very concept of coherence.
|Then there is the use of what M&D calls their OmniHarmonizer,|
|an omni-polar ambiance tweeter. Whether built into the top of the main enclosure or added as a separate unit, the Omni-Harmonizer is a small AMT with a response of 7kHz to 35kHz which points straight up into a conical diffuser to be dispersed 360 degrees.
As if all that weren't enough, Mark & Daniel doesn't produce a solitary MDF cabinet in their line. All M&D speakers go that extra mile and arrive encased in synthetic marble resin. Think Corian equivalent, strong and able to withstand higher internal sound pressures; heavy and very expensive to fabricate but extremely easy to care for and difficult to deface. These enclosures can be special-ordered in all manner of colors to fit your décor.
|The Maximus Mini
Standing a mere 10 inches high by 5.6 inches wide and 7 inches deep, the 14lbs light two-way Maximus Mini is indeed the smallest speaker from Mark & Daniel and a brand-new introduction to create an even less expensive gateway into the M&D line - though if there were any real shortcuts taken along the way, I can't find them. The Mini is constructed of the same costly compound marble as the rest. The drivers use the exact same technologies employed in the larger models. My review pair came in a satin finished red as though you couldn't tell by now. True, the binding posts are more pedestrian compared to the WBT-style posts found on other M&Ds but in this less expensive speaker, biwiring remains an option. M&D requires it on other models such as the Apollo II but not here with the provided jumper straps. The level of fit and finish here is extremely high.
The Mini is rated as being 82.5dB efficient with a nominal impedance of 4 to 8 ohms and a frequency response of 50Hz- 35kHz. When Mark & Daniel talk about the Maximus Mini as having a power handling of 60 watts, they really suggest an amplifier of at least 60 watts. The Mini utilizes the DM-2 Dreams driver to span 1400Hz to 35kHz. The 4-inch 4.0 SX woofer with +/- 7.5mm excursion completes the driver complement and both drivers are mounted in a 3.5 liter (0.12 cubic ft.) enclosure for an F3 of 50Hz, very low for this cubic volume.
Toward the other end and second from the top of the M&D line is found the Apollo II. This speaker is no fly weight. It stands 47.2 inches tall by 14.2 inches wide and 15.8 inches deep and tips the scale at a back-straining 170lbs. Rated as being 87dB efficient with a frequency response of 25Hz- 35kHz, the Apollo will qualify as full-range by most standards. With an impedance of 4 ohms, Mark & Daniel recommend an amplifier of at least 150 watts.
From 600Hz on up, the Apollo II uses the aforementioned DM-3 Dreams driver. As unique as that driver is, I'm here to tell you not to underestimate the importance of M&D's proprietary and patented SX technology as implemented in their woofers. The SX10-1.2 'Super Xmas Woofer' of the Apollo utilizes a 48mm long magnetic gap created by very large NdFeB magnets. A high efficiency ribbon copper voice coil of 18mm length is wired onto a 250°C-grade TIL glass fiber former to yield ±15mm linear excursion. That's 1.2 inches!
|Behind the cone sits a die-cast aluminum frame, a durable|
|DuPont Metamax damper incorporating a large rubber surround and a compound paper cone and dust cap all said to combine for stunning dynamics while yielding outstanding bass control and 88dB/2.83V/1m at 4 ohms in efficiency - and over 150 watts of power handling.
Though the Apollo II is described as a two-way speaker, it does incorporate a small Dreams super tweeter mounted on top - the same DM-2 as utilized in the Mini. The auxiliary tweeter covers 7kHz- 35kHz and output can be dialed down by 6dB via a rear-mounted potentiometer. This driver fires upward into a cone-shaped dispersion lens to deflect its output into a 360º omni-polar pattern
|The Apollo is meant for biwring and comes with no bridging straps but a built-in bubble level at the top to facilitate setup and achieve true vertical orientation. In the listening room, the M&D speakers present an equally unique aesthetic. Subjective reactions to the larger Apollo II will vary between horror (interior designers hate all speakers, don't they?) and love at first sight, with most reasonable people falling somewhere in-between.
|The smaller Minis are extremely solid as well and probably enjoy the more universally acceptable appearance. But one thing upon which all reasonable people will agree is the unusually high degree of fit, finish and fitness of purpose here. The synthetic marble enclosures are the antithesis of fussy and fragile. Finger prints vanish into the material's satiny finish and the larger Apollo IIs are exceptionally sturdy and stable with or without their footer cones. The relevance of that stability will vary with the reader system's proximity to high traffic areas, small children or large domesticated animals. As the right speaker in my listening room is located just in front of the doorway, I quite did|
|enjoy the knowledge that nothing short of a full-body tackle would topple these speakers.
|At this point I've had the Apollo IIs in my room for several weeks. They arrived completely broken in and while the entire story will have to wait for another day -- and most likely I'll be telling you the chapter on the Maximus Mini first -- I'll already state how these speakers are something else altogether. The Mark & Daniel Apollo IIs are tons-o-fun unique, some of the best speakers I've ever used. What exactly that means and why that is so, I'll cover in due time.|