Tightly on their 20cm leash, Mini transformed to maxi. I usually review far bigger speakers; in open space. Even there I'm self-employed, with none of the usual tax benefits civil servants enjoy; or close-proximity bass benefits in speaker currency. I don't want wall/corner gain. Subwoofers handle my LF far better than speaker room gain from reflections. That's always late so blurs the time domain. Only outdoor listening avoids it altogether but indoor setup can certainly minimize the effect. Having speakers this close to the front wall maximally shortens reflective delays. Sitting within 1.2m toed in practically removes the rest of the room. That's nearfield 101. New to me by being this transformative was significant gain in low-end reach. I nearly netted an extra octave. Now even ambient fare came off feeling complete. Mini had grown legs down to the floor rather than float in midair. Now I heard it give all just as its designer intended. To cater to his (cough) 500-watt power lust, Kinki Studio's integrated did the honors. Alas, I barely got out of reverse gear. 016 on the dial was plenty loud. Despite being small, Mini isn't a power monger. My lowboy's dimensions limit how far speakers can space. That curtails soundstage width. For 3-meter breadth I still had the main downstairs room. This upstairs zone is more intimate. Think stereo triangle with 75cm base and 120cm sides to the ears. Speakers any bigger would upset the whole concept. As the Irish say, this was right as rain. To make it cats 'n' dogs, I'd ideally want a wider stereo base just because my desktop had already shown how Mini is perfectly capable of populating it without any collapse of center fill. This wasn't that. This was about sailing solo without complaints. Call it point sauciness without diluted bandwidth. It reminded me of Anthony Gallo who held that the ideal midrange diameter is 3-4 inches. Mini now showed what happens when such a tweeter/mid needs no add-on woofer for multi-way confusion but covers the lot except for 6kHz+ harmonics and sub bass.
Nearly certainly because of its point-source behavior, Mini threw unexpected and specific depth despite playing purple-pinkish wall hugger. It also staged well above itself. The action occupied the golden picture frame expanded to full width. Even when I revved up stout levels anyone on the other side of this wall would have heard—as is, the black bulls in the neighboring field cared not—I couldn't see these drivers move. Mercan Dede club beats made no difference. The 4Ω/290wpc with damping factor of 2'000 probably did. Mostly it seemed a direct consequence of the hidden driver back-loading the front runner. The naked eye could appreciate just how effective this controlled damping is. It's why nothing frayed at the edges when SPL got frisky for such proximity.
Not having heard this CHR 90 widebander before—which isn't yet Mark Audio's spiderless best—I was impressed by how fastidiously it honed into bowed string action. Its temporal rightness managed to zoom into those micro moments when bow hairs trigger strings to vibration. From phase-correct speakers of sufficient speed, you expect that suchness from hard tips on drum skins or rims; from strings plucked by a qanun player's thumb picks or a flamenco guitarist's hard nails. It's far more rare to transfer to bowed transients that aren't spiccato. Yet from violin to cello to the mini cellos of Mark Eliyahu's or Cafer Nazlibas' spiked fiddles then Renaud Garcia-Fons' mighty 5-string upright… the realism of con-arco strings was a very special attraction on Mini's scenic tour. Concert piano too made the list as the following track with the Khalifé brothers and Mike Massy celebrates.
Granted, this experience was a bit disturbing in being a virtual stand-in for the big system simply shrunk down from XXL to S. Compaction was merely of scale, not tone, elegance, resolution or general sonic pedigree. Hearing true high-end essence go where it usually doesn't—wedged in a room corner on an 80cm wide lowboy—was rather disconcerting at first. Did one really have to make no other concessions? Apparently not. Be still my beating heart. This was a higher level of persuasiveness than the €2'500/pr Polish actives achieve which these displaced. Of course Mini also needs a separate DAC/amp to pile onto the bill. The actives do not. On Mammon's score, all was right with my world. The raw performance still had me rattled though. But as humans, we can get used to things very quickly if we don't fight it.
I'm no glutton for punishment so wouldn't be fighting Mini's revelation. So often rear ports cause issues too close to a wall. This one factors that interaction into its performance equation with a very specific nearness reco. For that to come off, porting Mini out the front wouldn't work. Neither does placing it in free space if we don't want a sub. In its intended position as soloist, Mini acquired grown-up fruitiness to transcend my extreme desktop transparency caused by bass anemia. It's uncanny how in its native habitat, Mini really distills big-box sound—when/if that comes off because a room plays nice—for listeners who are humble enough to follow the designer's advice to the letter rather than insist that they know better. Now let's grope the low-hanging fruit of subwoofer lust.
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