This review page is supported in part by the sponsor whose ad is displayed above

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio 2000p/5000s; Ancient Audio Lektor Prime; AMR CD-77 [on loan]; Weiss Jason + Medea [on review]
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Cabernet Dual; ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Wyetech Labs Jade; ModWright LS-36.5 [on review]; AMR AM-77 [on review]

Amp: Bel Canto e.One S300; AudioSector Patek SE; Coda CX and CSX [on review]
Speakers: Mark & Daniel Ruby with OmniHarmonizer; Volent Paragon VL-2 [on review]

Cables: Crystal Cable Ultra loom; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; double cryo'd Acrolink with Furutech UK plug between wall and transformer
Stands: 2 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular 4-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S fed from custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output option
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio Extreme SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Walker Audio Reference HDLs; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 9' h in short-wall setup, with openly adjoining 15' x 35' living room

Review Component Retail: $2,950/pr; optional Omni-Harmonizer $950/pr

The factory modification - Maximus Monitor Revisited
"To my ears, succumbing to the lure of unnatural LF extension from his enclosure, Mark & Daniel's designer knowingly sacrificed degrees of fine resolution. Those might be tied to loosening the suspension compliance of his mid/woofer for a lower F3. While this revised driver does play silly loud and low, it appears less well damped than the Ruby's smaller driver regardless of amplifier power and damping factor." That had been my final assessment of the Maximus Monitor on the previous page - a somewhat bottom-heavy warmish presentation that took away from overall transparency and the quick of the midrange. As it turns out, the designer agreed. His e-mail explains it and also comments on another writer's critique elsewhere of the crossover parts in the original straight-edged Maximus and how Mark & Daniel prioritize their customers' budgets:

"Our target is simple: to produce the best sounding products in the market that remain within the affordable range of audiophiles. 'Affordable to audiophiles' is the bottom line that Mark and I agreed on from the very beginning when we launched the M&D business. One dollar spent on the production will be reflected multiple times by what it costs the audiophile. Our budget to meet the affordable target is therefore very limited. I must spend every penny very effectively.

"The cost of compound marble on our speaker enclosures is over 10 times that of common MDF (not to mention the much higher labor cost of fabrication). The expensive and massive NdFeB magnets used for the SX woofers and Dreams drivers are dear enough to buy the same-sized conventional drivers thrice over - and so forth. There is no free lunch with true hifi. We chose to spend most of the customer's budget on these vital improvements which leaves a rather small amount for the crossover network and other less important parts. If budget were not the issue, we could satisfy even those audiophiles who insist on designer parts.

As for the actual parts in our crossover network, people looking may get the wrong impression based on seeing a PCB without knowing what we actually did. Take the new Maximus Monitor. We used three different paralleled capacitors to form the single coupling capacitor needed for the Dreams driver. This includes one quality electrolytic, one metallized polyester film and one top-grade XPP capacitor with 0.07% dissipation factor. As an engineer, I trust facts rather than the psychology of hi-end parts. We performed tests and comparisons with some famous audio-grade (and of course expensive) capacitors. Frankly, I could not distinguish much difference during the A/B test. M&D believes that how we allocate the customer's funds is the most economical way for best sonic performance under real budget constraints.

"Back to the Maximus Monitor. Thank you for the feedback in your review. You are right indeed about the bass being too strong and the resultant loss of tonal balance.The sample speakers rushed to you were the original version without much opportunity for proper audition on our part. The new soft surround of the woofer makes for stronger output than the old version, further enhanced by the lighter cone mass. This caused the tonal imbalance to the midrange. The softer surround also lowered the F3 of our 6.5" woofer and dulled the bass response to some degree. We have since made the necessary alignments for the final Maximus Monitor by adjusting the crossover to properly increase midrange output to the Dreams driver for a correct tonal balance. We have also tightened the woofer's suspension system for a swifter bass response. The Maximus Monitor now performs more satisfactorily after these minor
adjustments. I shall send you the new woofers and crossover PCBs for replacement in your loaners so you can report on the improvements." - Daniel Lee

New crossover board on left | old one with the eight soldered leads cut off on right

Replacing the boards won't befall any customer since current production has incorporated them. Ditto for the retuned drivers.

Kitchen table surgery

I'm happy to report that the production modification addresses the prior issues head-on. The midrange opens up and the low bass steps back in line to transcend the
minor drag or ponderousness from before. With it, the underlying but pervasive sense of wanting to get the speakers fully off the leash no matter what amplifier I used is history. To borrow a phrase from the crossover-less guys, the Maximus now runs wide open - unencumbered by prior ballast. The bass itself, while possibly diminished by a few cycles of reach at the very bottom, also appears more fleet of foot as a result.

In short, the wrongs a few small parts substitutions righted here are profound. The Maximus now lives up fully to its name and the OmniHarmonizer becomes optional rather than essential kit. At $3 or $4K in either trim package, you're now looking at a compact speaker whose bandwidth and SPL potential compete with slim towers like the $6,500 DeVore Fidelity Nines and the $8,400 Esoteric MG-20. The Maximus Monitor continues to rely on high-current low-impedance amplification and its inherent slight warmth and image density make it a good candidate for the plethora of affordable 100-watt+ class D amplifiers which routinely err on the side of harmonic leanness. (This statement is conditional and generalized. A recent HiFi World review on the Red Wine Signature 70 Tripath amps for example showed that "distortion was surprisingly benign even at high frequencies, comprising mainly second harmonic over all output levels and frequencies, even at high output - unusual for a switching amplifier". While a surprising finding perhaps, it explains why listeners always remark on Red Wine's tube-like midrange.)

Because of its LF prowess and small size, the Maximus also is a smart candidate for civilized 2.0 movie systems doing double duty as music rigs. Even on blockbuster fare, our household -- which admittedly considers THX standards for sound pressure levels utterly ridiculous -- never wants for more than the Maximus powered from the Bel Canto Design e.One S300 delivers on the pressure and wallop front. Far from it in fact. All hail the new general.
The previous page is the feature review of the Maximus Monitor.
Manufacturer's website