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Having at the same time at my disposal three other pairs of small speakers—the Harbeth P3ESR, Everything But The Box Terra II Pro and RLS Callisto III—it was easy to see, hear and understand each designer’s particular vision (in this case Franco Serblin). I simply placed the Minimas on the proprietary Stand2 and started listening. I quickly realized that these were different than the others. The distance between them and listener could be far greater than with the EBTB; they offered a much more colorful sound than the Harbeths but were less neutral. The Sonus Faber also offered the more spectacular sound than the three others. Some tricks were used that on one hand make them less neutral but on the other hand allow a guy with an eclectic music collection like me to really enjoy most of it. Plus, they do one more very special unique thing that I will describe in a moment.

The basic information for prospective customers is that the Minima Vintage is not as neutral and linear as the Harbeth (admittedly those are very unique in this regard regardless of price) or even the RLS Callisto III. There is a slight emphasis on the midbass and part of the midrange around 2 to 3kHz. This is a deliberate effect to open up the sound. Thus each recording sounds more lively, fresh and dynamic than usual. This ‘interference’ has no great impact on the results but is more like a push in the right direction. Dynamics are really good although when compared directly to the Harbeth I realized that it was achieved at the expense of bass density (it was less rich).

The sealed enclosure of the P3ESR really came in handy here. Surprisingly it was the Minima Vintage which played subjectively louder and offered the more palpable sound. Part of this came from the bass-reflex port. Fortunately it was not overused but well integrated with the mid/woofer. This design approach had two consequences. On one hand recordings like Kraftwerk’s Minimum-Maximum or Anja Garbarek’s Briefly Shaking had more panache. You could really feel the low frequencies and when, at the beginning of Autobahn, Kraftwerk's guys start an engine it sounded like a really powerful rowdy one.

And when in Sleep Jan Garbarek's daughter has the synthetic deep bass start it kept the pressure on my ears for some time and not just hit them for a split second. None of these recordings were shown with their proper bass foundation as that would have taken a much bigger woofer but the compromise was more than satisfactory, even exciting at times. That’s also why Herbie Hancock's piano from Paula Cole's Lonelytown had such a palpable sound. The pedal footwork coexisted perfectly with the sound of hammers hitting strings and all that together created an excellent intimate ambiance of the recording.

I already mentioned that one of the tricks is a slight emphasis in the presence region. This didn't enforce or emphasize sibilants but the sound was somewhat brighter than from my temporary Chario Academy Sonnet reference speakers. I could tell that the voices of Carmen McRea and Julie London were a bit more distinct as though shifted a notch up when listened to with the Sonus Faber speakers. Ditto for Peter Gabriel's voice on So. The point is that these voices were not crudely brightened or sharper but somehow rendered more lively.