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It is without disdain or mockery that I hereby dub the Maximus Mini Mark & Daniel Lite. It's a great little speaker - and I emphasize the word little. At 14 inches tall and with a 4-inch woofer, it's the smallest speaker I've had in my room in years. Quite a number of years in fact. Its dimensions remind me of the old NHT SuperZero if that helps any. But that's really where the resemblance ends. These speakers couldn't be much more different. For one thing, this little 'un weighs in at 14 lbs. It is one chunky monkey and sounds equally weighty in the bass. Now, no 14-pound speaker is going to rattle the windows in your room but unlike most speakers of this size, the Maximus Mini is more than capable of a semblance of bass. With a floor of about 50Hz, it's about a half-octave short of most stand-mounted speakers of at least double its size and price but unlike the aforementioned NHTs, these puppies have some kick to them. You'll probably never feel the bass in your gut but there's a good amount of it to hear.

Overall, the Maximus Mini is smooth and pleasant and it's got an honest-to-goodness natural upper bass balance that doesn't trick you into sounding bigger than it is by being overly warm or thumpy. If the Maximus Mini is to be the main speaker in the house, most listeners will indeed appreciate the addition of a subwoofer but one can easily live with the Maximus Mini the way it is until such a time that a suitable sub can be procured. If the Mini is going to be used in a den or second system, its bass balance and neutrality will make it very easy to place and most listeners should be able to enjoy it on its own. From the mid bass on up, the Maximus Mini is all Mark & Daniel - with one more exception. While the larger Apollo II throws one of the more solid images I've ever heard, this is where the Mini earns its 'lite' suffix. The big Apollo produces a soundstage that you can almost reach out and touch for all its density. The Mini conjures a much lighter and airier presentation. Also, there's not much chance that the little Mini can fill as large a room as the Apollo II can but that's pretty much where these speakers' differences end.

It's not so thick as to stick in a fork but the Mini's soundstage presentation is everything one expects from a very good monitor - even ones well in excess of its price. It's huge, it's spacious, it's airy and it's focused. Alvin Lee's guitar on "One Of These Days" [Ten Years After - A Space In Time - Chrysalis KC 30801] comes from the entire front wall of my room while his voice is superbly focused and emanates from the left corner well behind the left speaker. Lee's tonally drenched Gibson ES-335 is reproduced with great lucidity and transparency and while the high percussion isn't exactly recorded with the same degree of success, it avoids sounding hard or splashy over the Minis. The opening guitars on "I'd Love to Change the World" had clarity and an almost tactile quality while never getting unnaturally hard or supernaturally present. There's absolutely no emphasis on their upper ranges and the speaker sounds extremely well balanced with no evidence of a raw or threadbare quality. Bass quality and quantity are just about perfect on "Over The Hill" as both the lower registers of the guitar and the electric bass coincide together and the electric bass does a very respectful job of energizing the room. While treble is as extended as can be expected on this recording, record noise is not accentuated on this 36-year-old LP. Cue up "Baby Won't You Let Me Rock 'N' Roll You" and the Minis switch gears with a much more distant perspective placing me at the back of a dance hall, rendering the perceived depth of the recording nearly spectacular. By the end of side one, I had completely acclimated to the Minis and they were extremely easy to accept on their own terms. They may not be as tonally and visually dense as their huge brethren but they sure are dimensional. The bass from "Let The Sky Fall" purred, the snare snapped and the vocals expanded through the room like rings on a pond. Overall, the Minis turned in a stellar performance of this semi-mediocre recording and clearly made the best of what they had to work with instead of honing in on weaknesses. Somehow the Minis combine an ever-so-slightly forward and exciting character with remarkable forgiveness.

I spoke of how easily and quickly I became acclimated to the Minis. I was in the middle of the Usher Be-718 review and quite enamored with them when I threw the Minis into the system for a little reality check. Within a few moments, I found myself completely at home with the Maximus Minis and started to adjust my perspective on the Ushers - downward. But when I removed the Minis and replaced them with the Ushers, reality flooded back and I was instantaneously reminded of the performance gulf between the two speakers and how indeed the bigger and over twice-the-price Ushers played in a different league. If that sounds like a left-handed compliment to the Minis, it most certainly is. At its size and price, this speaker can't be expected to do all things but perhaps its greatest strength is how quickly it allows you to ignore what it can't do in favor of what it does so well. It may not be universally capable but deep bass aside, it has no major deficiencies and does just about everything else very capably.

An excellent example of a well-done modern recording is David Bowie's Tonight [EMI SJ-17138]. It threw the Maximus Minis into even better light. A much more transparent recording, it allowed the Minis to do an even better job of disappearing within my room. The soundstage still traversed my room wall to wall. Images had terrific focus and the bass was physically palpable if not quite jolting. High percussion on "Loving The Alien" is recorded slightly hot and the Minis let me know it but kept it manageable by not exaggerating anything. The bass lines on "Don't Look Down" came across strong, articulate and completely satisfying. Songs like this make the Minis sound like a much larger speaker. "Tonight" displayed the same kind of satisfying tuneful bass power as it combined with a much more accurate portrayal of both high percussion and Bowie's vocals in a way that would leave anybody entering the room incredulous.

"Blue Jean" absolutely pulsed with energy and excitement. I guess the biggest point to be made here about the Minis is that they are fun to listen to and very easy to enjoy. But I should also reiterate something said earlier - how Mark & Daniel's power ratings can be a little confusing. Where they suggest a power handling of only 60 watts for the Minis, what they really mean is a minimum of 60 watts for the partnering amplifier. I don't have anything in house that isn't less than half that or four times bigger so I can neither confirm nor deny that 60-watt figure. I can only suggest that one feed the Mark & Daniels with as much quality power as one can afford. Feed them right and these little speakers boogie. If Mark & Daniel aren't working on a subwoofer for these, they should be. I don't see any reason why one would want to abandon these speakers should more bass extension be desired. They just do too much else right to not deserve a built-in upgrade path.

I believe that a great part of the Maximus Minis' success boils down to coherence. The Dreams driver covers 1400Hz to 35kHz. From 1.4kHz up past the limits of audibility, the Minis sing with a single voice. There's no melding of a mediocre midrange with what in this price class is likely to be a relatively inexpensive tweeter. Even if you don't credit yourself with golden ears or don't find yourself vexed by the continuity problems of the usual speakers in this class, there will probably be an almost unconscious reaction to the Minis of a very positive sort. I believe this is why they are so satisfying and why I so quickly acclimated to them. There's no inconsistency in voicing as much of the spectrum is handled by the Dreams driver. There are no radically shifting dispersion patterns either as the Maximus Mini changes radiation with frequency at a very consistent rate. As for the Dreams driver, it couldn't be more accurately named even if it just an acronym. There's only so much air it can move but within the constraints of its size, it's a great driver delivering clean and uncolored music with beautiful detail and zero grit, grain or edge.

Toward the end of my time with the Maximus Minis, I decided
to throw them to the wolves. Not only did I want to see how they would handle some full-scale orchestral music, I thought I'd throw them some bass I knew to be absolutely beyond their capabilities. My almost certain tool of destruction was James Horner's soundtrack to Casper [MCA]. A full-scale orchestral piece with the sporadic addition of what must be synthesized bass, I went into this recording with some major preconceived notions about what I was going to hear - most of which proved entirely wrong. First, the bass was surprisingly well represented. I thought at best that the Minis would just eek out a hint of the bass on this disc but what I heard really impressed me. I heard gobs of natural warmth for starters. The deepest bass notes were missing but time and again I was amazed at the Mini's way with celli and double basses. There even were several instances where I could feel the floor vibrating. I happened to be behind the speakers during one of these episodes and can testify to the near gale-force gusts emanating from the rear ports. It was almost comical. But these little woofers with their +/- 7.5 mm excursion can displace some serious air, lemme tell you. I was totally wrong about how the little Dreams driver would seem to give up the ghost so to speak before the woofer did. Casper is a huge piece of work and I've experienced large floorstanders that couldn't' do it justice so there's no shame in the fact that there was a point beyond which the Minis couldn't keep up and flat-lined dynamically. This happened at what I would call loud though hardly ear-splitting levels. The good news is that I never heard a peep out of the drivers themselves. There was no slapping of the woofers against their stops, no obvious distortions or other hysterics. The speaker just very politely began to compress. I've heard larger speakers badly misbehave here but I guess the really deep stuff was so far beyond the little Mini's reach that they basically ignored it altogether. That's a good thing. There's absolutely no reason for a speaker to tax itself trying to reproduce that which is so obviously beyond its reach.

In terms of perspective and scale, what I was able to glean from the speakers is just about what I'd expect to hear two-thirds back in the concert hall, which ain't bad. Getting back to the positives, "The March Of The Exorcists" surprised the heck out of me. Well, actually the Minis did, with a bass presentation that I wouldn't have expected. The celli and double basses were again full and warm with a real perception of power. The strings soared as well and were smooth and free of edge. As expected, the soundstage was cavernous and tracks such as "The Lighthouse - Casper & Kat" were no test even when things lit up. Here the Minis didn't sound mini at all. "Casper Makes Breakfast" is a sweet and light-hearted romp with lots of woodwinds, basses and strings, which totally worked over the Minis as did "Fond Memories". Here the Minis' neutrality and edge-less presentation really served the music with a smooth fatigue-free listen 'til you drop. It occurred to me that apartment dwellers and those who must restrict deep bass and ultimate SPLs may have the perfect speaker in the Maximus Mini. While they may restrict ultimate scale, they conjure up a really good replica of the whole thing otherwise.

To restate the obvious, the Maximus Mini is a fairly inexpensive speaker that involves compromises by way of ultimate scale and deep bass extension. It doesn't have the full sense of ease larger speakers such as the Usher Be-718 have - or presumably their more expensive stable mate monitors. Ditto for bass extension. But my advice is to judge those compromises only after hearing them if at all possible. Depending on your listening habits and musical choices, you may be giving up a lot less than you'd assume. What you get in turn is what appears to be a very solidly made and nicely finished speaker performing well in excess of its asking price in most other areas. Set them up judiciously and they'll absolutely disappear in your room. Don't starve them for power and they'll surprise you with gravitas of projected musical presence and depth. Once fed with a signal of both proper quality and quantity, you'll be very hard-pressed to hear a discordant utterance. The Minis are exceptionally open sounding. Focused, smooth and utterly coherent, they perform on a plateau much higher than one normally assumes of such an inexpensive -- and petite -- speaker.