Cambridge Audio Minx S325 £800
6th May 2011 | 08:30
Experience the bite of this tiny 5.1 subwoofer/satellite terrier
At first glance, the Minx S325 looks no more remarkable than the speakers you get with an all-in-one home cinema system made by various Korean or Japanese mass market brands. But we need to look West rather than East in seeking a comparison: think Bose rather than Sony or LG and you get the idea.
Midway between the S215 and S525 systems, Cambridge Audio reckons that the Minx S325 "completely rewrites the rulebook of what's possible from miniature speakers".
Build quality bodes well, with extractable banana sockets and a high-gloss lacquer finish applied to dinky little cabinets that are engineered from acoustically damped thermo polymer and extruded aluminium.
Peeling off the grilles reveals a surprise: instead of domes and tweeters there are perfectly flat discs with rubber surrounds. Each driver has a hybrid flat-panel radiator mounted on a conventional rubber surround.
Minx's unique selling point is its use of Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) technology. These full range drivers – reaching the 20kHz limit of human hearing – use NXT-style 'bending wave' principles for higher frequencies and conventional pistonic driver movement for lower ones.
According to Cambridge Audio, this results in a wider frequency response than similarly styled speakers, with deeper and more powerful bass and broader sound dispersion.
The company is certainly playing the lifestyle card here, and as well as black and white lacquer finishes, there are options for mounting, comprising the basic supplied wall bracket, a £15 pedestal stand and £80 floor stands.
The Minx lineup comes in three 5.1 permutations. The Minx S215 features single-driver satellites combined with a 200W subwoofer, while the Minx S525 boasts twin-driver sats hitched to a 500W sub. My sample, the S325, uses twin-driver sats and a 300W sub.
The subwoofer looks classy and resplendent in gloss black and sits on solid rubberised feet. Like the satellites, it takes an unconventional approach. Behind a removable nylon grille is a forward-firing driver which combines with an downward-firing Auxiliary Bass Radiator (ABR).
A bespoke Digital Signal Processor (DSP) helps boost efficiency and enables a much smaller footprint than would normally be expected to deliver a claimed frequency response as low as 33Hz.
The rear panel offers control of gain, phase and crossover frequency and includes a line-out socket for adding a second sub. There's also a handy signal detection feature and a wireless port for removing the LFE input cable in future.
Fired up, it soon becomes apparent that the Minx is indeed a remarkable system, but not an unqualified success.
The subwoofer is an extraordinary beast, like a kitten with the lungs of a lion.
In the first chapter of There Will Be Blood on Blu-ray, Daniel Day-Lewis set off an explosion that blew the grille off the sub. Our fault for not fixing it tightly enough, but on a second serving we watched in amazement as our plasterboard walls reverberated. As the beautifully scored soundtrack reaches a crescendo you really feel the drama of the scene's climax is enhanced, as the bass seals the sense of excitement and fulfilment.
Likewise, when The Thing shouts "fine" on the Brooklyn Bridge in the Fantastic Four's DTS-HD soundtrack, our shirt pressed back into our chest. As the truck exploded, the subwoofer gently flexed its LFE muscle and the room boomed in a purposeful, yet controlled, way.
But what of the satellites? They certainly seem to fill the room, exhibiting much more power than you'd expect and achieving that broad sound dispersion.
But they do have an obvious flaw, which is that mid-to-higher frequencies tend to lack subtlety, while dialogue sounds cold and shrill as if it has come from a primitive, unrefined digital amplifier.
Bigger noises, such as the fire engine crash in the Fantastic Four, screech an uncomfortable assault on the ears. A quick spin of Jeff Buckley's Real was a similar experience – the sub and sats filled the room effortlessly, but the vocals remained unsatisfactory and felt unreal.
The Minx S325 is certainly a remarkable product. This system can fill a room with an impressively broad soundstage, the subwoofer would be a truly compelling proposition as a standalone product and the whole package looks gorgeous.
It's just a shame its upper frequency performance lacks refinement.
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