Q
: The cabinet on the Maximus-Mini is quite stunning. Is the material solid artificial marble or a composite sandwich?
A: The Maximus-Mini speakers are constructed with synthetic stone and one layer of MDF to cut down overall size. Its panels are 12mm thick with 2.5 times the density over MDF so the Mini-Monitor is equivalent to a 30mm thick enclosure if it were made with conventional MDF. Our synthetic stone costs over 10-15 times more and the CAM enclosure must be handmade so it's very expensive and labor intense.


Q: Your existing Mini already appears designed as an introduction to the brand for those starting on a budget or with limited space. Why add the Mini Monitor?
A: Yes, we already had the Maximus-Mini as our entry-level product. Actually, our ambition of developing the Mini-Monitor was to make the finest miniature hifi speaker in the world. If I may say so, I believe we have accomplished this.

 
Q: Was the Mini-Monitor intended as a standalone speaker or designed with a subwoofer in mind?
A: The Mini-Monitor is a versatile instrument for different applications and in my personal opinion, without considering SPL and space limitations, has the perhaps highest performance index of all our products. If matched with a proper subwoofer, the setup can be amazing.  


The discussion with Mr. Lee gave me some information to digest and indicated a lot of tech squeezed into those tiny dimensions. It was time to give the Mini-Monitor a closer examination. From an aesthetic and acoustical viewpoint, the artificial marble cab is a superb choice, rarely implemented and generally only at higher coin. Mark and Daniel break that tradition by utilizing this material throughout their line, from entry-level to flagship, at prices unusually attractive to the average audiophile. This stems from the fact that their non-audio enterprise gives them both intimate expertise and ready access to artificial marble, making it the construction material of obvious choice. They offer a wide spectrum of colors on demand but for this model stick with the two basics of white and a snazzy starry black as standard.

The beveled cabinet surfaces do dual duty. Aside from being attractive, they minimize interference with driver dispersion. The drivers are flush-mounted with Allen bolts. The woofer is covered with a black metal mesh. There's a single pair of unusually hefty WBT NextGen terminals on the rear. The bottom sports four small polymer feet to protect the finish and soften surface contact. Removing those feet reveals four threaded metal receivers to mount to an optional Mark & Daniel wall bracket. This increases the speaker's versatility in home and professional apps. Included are a pair of rubber-studded gloves to ensure a positive grip when removing the speakers from their boxes or making placement adjustments. The Mini-Monitor may be one of the smallest and least expensive M+D but quality felt like top pedigree. Our tiny Mini-Monitor definitely had the looks but as Mr. Lee intimated, they aim still higher, at possibly the best execution in their line as well as best in world in the small division. On the stand and with musical fire running through their veins, would they achieve those lofty aspirations or was their beauty skin deep? The Mini-Monitor was quite listenable out of the box but time brought gradual improvements in all areas. Weaknesses and limitations slowly evaporated as the Mini Monitor began to flex dynamic muscle and gained authority in the midrange. The other major parameter that drastically changed was the handling of front-to-back space. As the two drivers began to sync up effectively, instrumental placement and acoustic recovery evolved from slightly vague to considerably more layered and refined. What started as a fun'n'feisty contender matured into a full-fledged thoroughbred. Patience pays off. Allow these tiny tots to mature to full monitor status.


The first round went with a combination of AudioSpace Reference 2S preamp into Bel Canto 200.4 EVO amp with a pairing of both Arkana Physical Research and Audio Art SE interconnects. Low speaker sensitivity dictated good horsepower, making the Bel Canto a good foundation. The choice of Reference 2S brought 300B tubes into the picture and switchable feedback gave the option of textbook neutral or emotional intensity at the push of a button. The Mini-Monitor showed a distinct love of no feedback, romping like a widebander. It lost some of its neutrality in the process but countered with greater passion. The subwoofer was initially omitted but added back later to assess ease of integration in a 2.1 setup. In all standalone setups, the Mini-Monitor showed the traditional Mark & Daniel strong suit of very tactile bass. Despite small dimensions, this little mite sounded big. If I chose to exclusively push that attribute, upper bass and lower midrange compromised. If instead I pursued midrange authenticity and cleanliness, bass extension and responsiveness fell into place of their own accord. When employed in a 2.1 config, the best accumulation of virtues occurred using a crossover point between 80 and 125 cycles, indicating a good match with equipment conforming to fixed cinema subwoofer standards as well as a high level of flexibility in blending power and mass to seamless advantage.


The second round replaced the AudioSpace preamp with the Tortuga LDR 6 passive, again with and without subwoofer. The LDR plays pure and unadulterated with a stunning dynamic palette. In this combo the Mini-Monitor performed with some of the same supercharged midrange and lower midrange intensity that it had demonstrated with the AudioSpace at zero NFB but also played the Tortuga's strong suit of bold dynamics, adding a little more bounce. Musical selections were spread between my collection of local files and a healthy dose from the Tidal streaming catalog. The Mini-Monitor showed a slight preference for analog and minimal microphone recordings but didn't treat pedestrian populist music harshly, just honestly. Here are a few samples of what played back from my digital Victrola.


"Dance me to the End of Love" from More Best of Leonard Cohen [Sony Music B000002C31] is a lovely live recording from a compilation CD. There is a generous sense of acoustic and good separation between lead and background vocals plus rich instrumentation. The mood is sultry, dark and eerily, fitting with some of the companion pieces like "Closing Time." "Woods Rocks and Mountains" from The English Lute Song [DOR-90109] has tremendous vocal power that lights up the hall acoustic. This is a fine album that explores pure dynamic range from delicate nuance to majestic heights with a blend of lute accompanying powerhouse vocals in a reverberant hall. The Dorian hallmarks of minimal microphone and uncompressed dynamics are done to engineering perfection. "The Preachers of Crimetheus: A Ballet in One Selfless Act: Final Special Deliverance" from P.D.Q. Bach 1712 Overture [Telarc CD-80210] from Professor Peter Schickele is a humorous romp against the staid classical establishment that pokes serious fun at every musical and Sheffield recording in sight. Telarc throws in the kitchen sink to augment superb orchestral performances with hairraising dynamics, minimalist microphone technique and big detailed hall information. "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen: Pratorius" from Winter: Voces 8 [Decca] has the renowned British ensemble take on new and traditional material in a masterful blend of incredible choral talent against reverberant church acoustic. This cut is pure acapella although others make use of sparse instrumental support. This is challenging material that tests a system's ability to keep the interaction intact but articulate the individual contributions in the mix. The album is recorded at All Saint's Church, Tooting and Trinity College Chapel all in Cambridge and stunningly engineered by Dave Hinitt. As good as the CD is, my ears ring at the prospect of the 24/96 version.