Cambridge Audio Minx system
“Audiophile performance from stylish miniature enclosures” is a concept that has been touted by virtually every loudspeaker manufacturer in existence to the point where, having heard a few examples of Bonsai Sat and Sub systems, I can no longer read those words without falling off my chair laughing. Recently, however, I tidied my office, after a decade of it being a vacuum cleaner and duster-free zone, and I so enjoyed the freedom from clutter and all-round cleanliness that I decided to maintain my desktop and its environs in its newly acquired pristine state.
All that was needed was an equally tidy hi-fi system to keep me entertained while I worked. This would be based on my existing Naim UnitiQute streamer/amplifier – one input for networked audio from my NAS drives and the internet, and another fed by my PC soundcard for stuff such as podcasts discovered while browsing. Dangling out of the rear of the ‘Qute was a pair of TelluriumQ speaker cables that needed terminating with some speakers… small quality speakers that would be content on a desktop… maybe even a good quality satellite and subwoofer system…
A phone call to Cambridge Audio resulted in the rapid arrival of a £349 S212 Stereo Minx package, to whose existence I had been alerted by a post on Facebook. The system consisted of a pair of compact min 10 satellite speakers (smaller than 3.5-inch cubes) and a powered X200 subwoofer (a cuboid whose largest dimension is less than 9 inches). This system certainly ticked all the boxes in respect of my dimensional requirements. The black-lacquer finish min 10s actually looked a little lost and forlorn on the barren expanse of Ikea Beech tabletop that fulfills desktop duties in my office.
I installed the X200 beneath the desk and spent a couple of moments balancing its output with that of the min 10s. That is a simple case of adjusting the gain of the X200 to make sure that the presentation has sufficient but not overwhelming bass. When you reach the point when the bass is starting to become undetectable, turn it down just a fraction more and you will be good to go. The sub features one active aluminium cone drive unit and two passive ABR (Auxiliary Bass Radiator) units, augmented by sophisticated Digital Signal Processing to extract the maximum performance from the enclosure and its integral 200W amplifier.
And that is all that needs mentioning except to say that the success of this fine-sounding little system is enhanced by the use of a BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) driver as the sole drive unit in each satellite. Because of the way this driver works it has greater bandwidth than conventional units and so covers the upper bass, midrange and high frequencies without needing any intrusive crossover components, which usually do their interfering business slap bang in the middle of the vocal region.
The system offers remarkable clarity and dynamism… I nearly said ‘for enclosures so tiny’. The last satellite speakers near this size I heard were part of a Bose Acoustimass system… and I thought that neither clarity nor dynamics were anywhere near what the Minx delivers. The sound, I felt, was distinctly short in the vitality and musical integrity stakes. And the Acoustimass sub, although small compared to most, is larger in volume than the X200.
The Minx system impressed me particularly with the way it presented voices: even different contributors on a low-res podcast were always unmistakably identifiable, their voices full of character and natural warmth. I detected no coloration on any of the myriad vocalists to whom I listened through the system: no chestiness, exaggerated sibilance, or undue nasal emphasis spoiled the scrupulous, highly detailed presentation of those singers’ voices.
It also produced very distinct stereo soundstages, which seems to be another trait of well implemented BMR drivers and their particular dispersion characteristics. Note that I was using the system in a number of configurations but I finally settled upon a near-field monitoring-style set-up with the min 10s distanced from each other, flanking my flat-screen monitors, and toed in aggressively on their neat, little 600D table-top stands. The 600Ds are worth the extra £20 they add to the bill for the refined performance they deliver with the min 10s used on a desktop. The system recreated the acoustics of recording venues quite vividly, a trait demonstrated by playing a rip of José Carreras performing Ariel Ramirez’ Misa Criolla, and hearing his voice, and those of the choristers (the Sociedad Choral de Bilbao), clearly positioned in, and reverberating around, the interior of the church (the Santuario de la Bien Aparecida, Cantabria, Spain), then decaying gracefully into silence.
The Minx system was just as impressive with more contemporary recordings, including the posthumously assembled, Laurie Latham produced, Ian Dury and The Blockheads’ album “Ten More Turnips from the Tip”. The Minx conveyed the band’s legendary rhythmic tightness and punchiness with a conviction rarely heard from a sub/sat system, demonstrating just how well the two halves of the system gelled acoustically. There was plenty of slam and power to Norman Watt-Roy’s bass guitar so the integrity of the performance clearly was not achieved by curtailing the low frequencies.
Similarly, a rip of Frank Black [ex-Pixies] rare tracks retained all its angst, vitality and rawness; not only the vocals had obvious energy but so did the instrumentation, sounding as though it was being played with a passion verging on intense anger…just as one might expect from a song called Hate Me.
All round the hi-tech Cambridge Audio S212 Stereo Minx system is a very accomplished and quite exceptional little speaker package: It sounds good; it looks great; it is ideal for the smaller room or desktop; and its price certainly shouldn’t bankrupt anyone. It is thoroughly recommended.