Sonus Faber Minima FM2 loudspeaker Page 3
The Minima's treble response first showed the strain when the speaker was driven at high levels in my big room. The sound of vibes hardened and became zingy, as heard on Joe Beck's "Unspoken Words" (The Journey, DMP CD-481). Vocals, otherwise a strength of this speaker, became peaky, particularly on soprano choral works. Moving to the smaller room greatly reduced these problems.
Subwoofer to the rescue
The Minimas got a major transfusion of bass extension when teamed with the Muse Model 18 subwoofer (see review, Vol.14 No.7). The Model 18 was positioned so the Minimas were situated at the Muse's midpoint, front-to-back. The result was terrific. With the Muse, Blue Nile's lead singer moved behind a screen of music in "A Walk Across the Rooftops." The snaredrum registered with a swiftness, suddenness, and startling quality I had not heard before. On the same album, "Tinseltown in the Rain" resounded with waves of deep electric bass, and the synthesizer on "Rags to Riches" was startling. Kickdrum and drumhead on "Tinseltown" also felt very solid, as if in the room.
The Muse subwoofer also gave extension to the Minimas' dynamic range. Full orchestral works put excessive demands on "barefoot" Minimas, particularly in my big living room. Turn on the Muse, and the sound became lush, the soundstage full in The Age of Gold, a wonderful LP featuring Leopold Stokowski conducting the Chicago Symphony (RCA Red Seal LSC-3133). Corey Greenberg's Real Music Test (Vol.15 No.7, p.112) also proved revealing here. James Hetfield's bittersweet ballad, "The Unforgiven" (Metallica, Elektra 61113-2), caused the Minima considerable treble angina, until the Muse subwoofer picked up the energy in Newsted's bass and Lars Ulrich's drums. Then the harmony between the guitars could be appreciated.
Comparisons & contrasts
The Minima's overall sonic balance was tilted down in the treble, with a warm midrange and a lean bass register. These emphases, while not objectionable, meant that the Minima was no threat to such full-range speakers as the Hales, Quads, or Proac Response Threes. In this instance, "less" did mean a narrowed range.
Although this sonic personality may appeal in certain rooms, the Minimas' relatively high price may be a deciding factor for some audiophiles. These listeners should place the $200 PSB Alphas (see JE's review, Vol.15 No.7, p.117) higher on their shopping lists. However, there are other considerations, particularly sonic ones. Lesser-priced minimonitors may not match the Minimas' imaging and midrange abilities, or their ability to reproduce vocalists, orchestral string tone, and clarinet timbre. Speakers of equal sonic quality are the similarly priced ProAc Response Two (Vol.15 No.7, p.109), the B&W Matrix 805, and the Acoustic Energy AE-1 (Vol.15 No.6, p.193).
As the smallest of the Sonus Faber minimonitors, the Minima is not the optimal model for those playing full-range organ music or Metallica-like thrash, or those with cavernous listening rooms. "Less is more" doesn't quite apply. On the other hand, these minis favor classical music and vocal and instrumental solos, where they are among the most musically involving minimonitors I've heard. They can be used with either the Mark Levinson No.27 or a Krell KSA amplifier, Sumiko's OCOS cable, and the Franklin and Lowell stands. Add a subwoofer for big rooms.
At their best, the Minimas imaged beautifully, playing with a naturalness that allowed hours of listening without fatigue. Here smallness paid off; less was really enough. For a seventh its price, the Minima gives its owner a bit of the Extrema's magic: Italian sculpted-wood cabinetry, outstanding imaging, and captivating musicality.
The Minimas' balance of strengths (tremendous naturalness and ability to involve the listener in the music, great imaging, low listener fatigue, midrange smoothness, excellent dispersion), even when set against their weaknesses (reduced transparency, peakiness when driven hard in large rooms, cost), lead me to place them at the top of the "restricted bass" Class C in Stereophile's "Recommended Components."—Larry Greenhill