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Maximus Monitor Mk2

Reviewer: Glen Wagenknecht
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Wyred4Sound and Auralic Altair server/streamer
DACs: Wyred4Sound DAC-2, Ideon Ayazi, Auralic Altair
Preamplifier: Audio Space Reference 2S, Tortuga Audio LDR6 Passive, Auralic Altair
Amplifier: Bel Canto 200.4, Audio Zone D-2
Main Speakers: Audio Space AS-3/5A,  Mark Daniel Maximus Mini Monitor, SVS SB3000 subwoofer
Rack: Codia Acoustic Design Stage 3000 BAB
Stands: Charisma Audio Function stands, Target stands
AV Speakers: JohnBlue M3s 
Desktop Audio Speakers: Swans M200 MkIII
Desktop DAC/Pre Headphone Amp: DA&T U-2
Cables: Arkana Physical Research Loom, Audio Art SE and Classic cable looms, JPS Labs Ultraconductor 2 speaker cables, Madison Audio Lab E3 Extreme 1 Interconnects/Extreme 2 speaker cables, Signal Cable Silver Reference interconnects, optical and coax digital cables, Audio Sensibility Impact SE balanced interconnects, Statement S/PDIF and Impact USB digital cables, DH Lab Power Plus AC cable
Resonance Control: KAT Audio Terminator 1 Feet, Solid Tech Feet, EquaRack Footers, Weizhi Precision Gold Glory footers, Boston Audio TuneBlock2 footers, Audio Exklusiv Silent Plugs, Audio Exklusiv d.C.d. Footers, Superspikes, CA Electronics Standard Cones, Feet, Cable Clamps, Isoacoustics L8R130, Aperta and L8R200 SUB speaker stands
Powerline conditioning: Exact Power EP15A, GutWire Ultimate Ground cable
USB conditioners: Ideon 3R Renaissance
Listening Room 1: 12' x 17'
Listening Room 2: 10.5' x 16.5'
Review component retail: $4'500/pr

When I retired my Apogee ribbons recently, there was a fair bit of soul searching and auditioning involved to choose the next speaker that could assume duty as in-house review reference. The Mark & Daniel Maximus Monitor Mk2 became the design which had to fill those very big shoes. At the end of my article Changing of the Guard to document the process, the Maximus Mk2 were just beginning to blossom. The question of how they sound fully broken in remained unanswered. I decided to do a quick writeup on their performance abilities to bring people up to date. Bear in mind that these observations are system specific.

To keep accuracy of context, the assembled system started with the Audio Space 2S 300B-based preamp, Bel Canto EVO 200.4 plus Wyred4Sound server and DAC. The speaker cabling was swapped from Arkana Physical Research to Madison e3 Extreme 2 to full bi-wire and I did a switch from the AudioSpace to the Tortuga LRD passive preamp to experiment with a shift in flavor. The situation further evolved to encompass a new listening room and equipment roster. The Auralic Altair source and Audio Zone D-2 amplifier hit centre stage in the new facility, throwing fresh challenges at the Mark & Daniel. There's a wealth of observations now under my belt so let's start at the bottom and work our way up.

Mark & Daniel have a stellar reputation for amalgamating the best qualities inherent in small long-throw woofers and giving them the cabinet solidity to perform to potential. Another reviewer stated that the Maximus redefined what could be expected from small woofers and modestly sized enclosures and he was indeed correct. With proper power, Mark & Daniel's long-throw woofer is extremely well controlled and plumbs real bass depth into the mid 20Hz range in both our rooms, with authority and precision competitive with much larger speakers. In multiple setups the performance approached the thin-film responsiveness and propulsive mass of my former Apogee. It has pushed close enough to subwoofer territory and with sufficient conviction to be satisfying in standalone configuration. Unlike the smaller Monitor Mini which benefits from a sub to realize performance competitive against ten times the price, the Maximus Mk2 is legitimately full range. Now a sub becomes an optional but not entirely necessary extra. (Those demanding the full force of subsonic impact will be impressed by what's available but still want the addition of that little bit extra that a true subwoofer can contribute.)

The ability of that small white woofer represents the culmination of a number of smart design decisions. The raw driver is a mechanical and electrical marvel in its own right but woofers with that much sheer excursion will automatically deal with the potential of serious cabinet resonance. Thin-film loudspeakers such as the Apogee sidestep the problem by eliminating the cabinet altogether. Price-no-object cabinet designs apply absorption and dissipation techniques, exotic materials such as battleship metal, carbon fiber or artificial marble to reduce the problem to negligible levels. Mark & Daniel have chosen artificial marble in all their speakers even at lowest price point, achieving exceptionally low cabinet coloration to rival the best of the best.

The second contributing design choice in the Monitor Mk 2 was the adoption of dual small-diameter ports. Most modern ported loudspeakers utilize their ports to augment woofer performance with out-of-phase air motion. While this produces more quantity of bass and stunningly marketable frequency graphs, it does so at the expense of coherent time-domain performance. Mark & Daniel have concentrated on maximizing woofer excursion. This is the high road less taken and requires a phenomenally good woofer to pull off properly. Luckily Mark & Daniel have created the necessary 6½" driver to take on the challenge, achieving massive air displacement with iron-fisted control to honestly win its flat response. Add the vanishingly low cabinet coloration and Maximus approaches state-of-the-art performance in cabinet design and bass delivery.