MayFly MF-201 loudspeaker

If you've ever read Homer's Iliad, you probably remember the Catalog of Ships at the beginning. It's an exhaustive record of the contingents the Achean army deployed against Troy, naming the commanders, their hometowns, the number of ships in each contingent, and more. Not to put too fine a point on it, it's a snoozefest. It makes you dread what's next. But of course, if you come to this point only to abandon the Iliad in frustration, you'll miss the fabulous war epic that follows, chockablock with action, drama, and romance.

For me, the MayFly MF-201A speakers were a bit like that: a great poem or novel that initially fails to grab you—okay, me—or, if you prefer, a slow-burning movie that doesn't become engrossing until the second act.

Baked Dragons
The Mayfly MF-201A (to keep things short and simple, I'll call it the 201) is the brainchild of Ottawa-based Trevor May, the founder of MayFly Audio Systems. May is a veteran guitarist and sound designer who builds two types of products that have opposite intentions. His equipment for guitar players includes a stomp box called the Sketchy Zebra that generates swirling vibrato and phase-shifting effects. Another one, the Dirty Window, produces different types of tubelike distortion.

The groovy nomenclature doesn't carry through to May's other enterprise: designing and manufacturing hi-fi speakers, a field where distortion is the enemy and tonal purity is paramount. I wouldn't have minded if a pair of Baked Dragons had turned up on my doorstep, or, say, a duo of Funky Beavers. Instead, we have the blandly named 201 standmounts ($4900/pair); plus, to satisfy bassheads, the matching MF-301 passive subwoofers ($10,000/pair; bring your own crossover and amplification).


Photos: Trevor May

The subs double as stands for the 201s and are claimed to play down to 18Hz. But unless you're a lover of pipe organ or dub music, you can save yourself 10 big ones plus the price of a quality amplifier and external electronics. That's because the MayFly standmounts have tight bass that pumps out 40Hz with authority, satisfying the playback requirements of the majority of rock, pop, jazz, and classical music (footnotes 1 & 2). I lived with these speakers for a good two months and paired them with various streamers, DACs, and amplifiers; however, I was never tempted to connect subwoofers.

While May offered to send along a pair of his subs for me to listen to, he, I, and Editor Jim Austin agreed that I'd focus my attention on the main speakers. As a third-party crossover and amplifier are necessary to experience the full MayFly monty, those components would've been wild cards, thwarting a confident and fair standalone review of the 201s.

The 20.5"-tall, almost 32lb speakers arrived in two sturdy cardboard boxes, each about 2" shorter and 5" narrower than a standard dishwasher. You don't need a wheeled dolly or support belt to haul them, and a buff friend is optional. MayFly built in a thoughtful feature that makes unpacking easier: The horizontal, front-firing bass port is mirrored on the rear by a slot that serves no sonic purpose; it's simply a welcome handgrip.

Lift—with your knees, people!—and out of the box comes a slightly odd-but appealing-looking speaker. At first blush, it reminded me of Sonus Faber's Sonetto II and Olympica Nova I, and of the Audiovector R series. Not many straight edges. I've been a fan of curved enclosures since I owned some terrific-sounding mid-'90s Gallo Acoustics Nucleus References, each the size and shape of a basketball, and each looking unnervingly like a huge human eye.


Rounded, sloping cabinets have some well-known advantages. All else being equal, rounded enclosures are stiffer than those made from flat panels, making them less susceptible to cabinet vibrations. Rounded edges are less prone to edge diffraction. Enclosures rounded on the inside reduce standing waves in the air space by spreading the internal resonance over a wider frequency range (although, about this, read on). And then there's the look: Vertical, nonspherical cabinets look more svelte than your standard coffins, blending better into most decors.

The MayFlys aren't merely curved—they're cylindrical. Viewed from above, the speaker is a circle, 12" in diameter, with a straight cut 5" from the midpoint. That yields a 7"-wide baffle, which uncoincidentally is the size of the coaxial SEAS transducer Trevor May chose for his speaker.

The aforementioned Sonus Fabers are built and finished like fine furniture (footnote 3). A tiny company like MayFly can't touch that level of cabinetmaking, but that doesn't mean the 201s are unprepossessing. The hand-laminated enclosures look like bamboo; they're actually 15-ply Baltic birch treated with French polish, then buffed to a medium shine. They can be ordered with veneered tops of white oak, cherry, or walnut.

Finger-sized skyscrapers
If you were to saw off the top and peek inside, you'd find that the 201 is built from the bottom up in 29 CNC-cut, stacked horizontal layers, each 18mm (0.71") tall. The four glued-together slices at the bottom have cutouts that together form the bass port. One slice is used for the top. The 24 slices in between, each with a different-length protrusion toward the center, form an internal diffuser—a possibly important innovation that should gain May the US patent he has applied for.


The idea hit him when he read an old BBC paper on skyline diffusers: wall- or ceiling-mounted acoustic panels consisting of jutting, slender blocks that together resemble a dense downtown of skyscrapers. In the words of the paper's author, R. Walker, skyline diffusers "control the sound energy flow patterns within a room by means other than absorption."

May's epiphany was that such a soundwave scatterer could be used to great effect inside the speaker cabinet. It also occurred to him that he could voice a speaker by altering the shape and position of the finger-sized skyscrapers.


"Essentially, you can tune a skyline to particular frequencies by changing the ratio between the longest and shortest 'fingers,'" May explained to me in an email. "I wondered what you could do with a tuned diffuser inside a loudspeaker. I figured I could use it to dampen only a portion of the backwave, specifically the midrange. This is different from most bass-reflex speakers, as they dampen the backwave with stuffing, which affects all frequencies equally. My thought was that I could get more bass response out of the cabinet by not damping those frequencies, specifically the frequencies that the port was tuned to."

There followed a two-year period of calculating, computer modeling, prototyping, measuring, and listening, until May had something that made him happy.

You can call me TAL
And now, here it was, his creation in my listening room, and things weren't as either of us had hoped. I believe I underestimated how much I'd tuned my ears to my reference speakers: MartinLogan Odysseys and Tekton Moabs. Except for the KEF LS50Ws in my office and a set of Audeze LCD-4 headphones, I'd listened to little else for more than a year. (Don't forget: Every major audio show was scrapped due to the pandemic.)


With new equipment, the things I home in on first (and prize the most) are transparency, air, and liveliness—let's call it TAL, analogous to PRaT (pace, rhythm, and timing). When they combine in the right amounts: bliss. When they don't: disappointment and dark mutterings. The 201s didn't exactly lack TAL, but they were stingy in that department, declining to give up the goods even after 20 or 30 hours of break-in with rock music and pink noise. I switched from the delightful-in-every-way Naim Uniti Atom streamer-amplifier to a combination of a MacBook Pro running Audirvana Studio, a PureAudio Lotus DAC5, and a recently recapped Krell FPB 200c. No dice. While there was perhaps a little more bass authority than before, the 201s sounded much the same. The bell-like sound of a stick hitting the cup of a cymbal, the silveriness of a new steel-wound guitar string, even the bright tic-tic snap of a pair of claves all seemed diminished, desaturated.

After an hour and a half of moving the speakers in two dimensions and pushing my chair backward and forward to find the best spot, I still felt little involvement. It could be a lack of synergy with the other equipment, I told myself. Or it could be the speakers, or my listening room. Hell, it could even be me—I've sometimes found that what sounds wonderful to me one day will fail to enthuse the next, even though both the room and the rig are exactly the same. Mood plays a role, and so (probably) do small stresses we may not be aware of. I called it a night.

Footnote 1: Measurements taken in the anechoic chamber of Canada's National Research Council show the MF-201A's response bottoming out around 50Hz. May says that in real-world rooms, he usually gets a –3dB point at roughly 35Hz.

Footnote 2: If the cutoff at 40Hz was sharp, you'd miss the bottom seven keys on a standard piano, or the lowest 16 on a Bösendorfer or Stuart & Sons grand—although the lowest four notes on those extended keyboards are below the assumed low end of the audible frequency range.—Jim Austin

Footnote 3: In November, Sonus Faber announced that they'd bought the cabinet shop that has made their enclosures for many years.—Jim Austin

MayFly Audio Systems
US distributor: Muto Communications
(613) 729-4487

mememe's picture

Looking at the measurements and reading the review leads me to the conclusion that there are many better choices at this price point. Even in the used market.

Glotz's picture

and I appreciate that. That skyline profile affects standing waves internally, and it's a novel approach.

I'm a little surprised the stands weren't as attractive. Perhaps a different skyline approach there as well?

remlab's picture

...but I've never been impressed with the Seas coax performance. Seas makes great separates that would work even better for about the same outlay. It would need a higher order crossover to pull it off though.

tonykaz's picture

Sure, why not ?

Baltic Plywood, from Finland and other Northern recent USSR Independents are common with YouTube Content Creators that manufacture small-batch precision wood projects. This Loudspeaker looks to create considerable waste wood that is quite expensive to just dump into the Waste Management Land Fill. ( it's still better than everything plastic from Walmart's China suppliers that fill all of our landfills )

I hope they do a Video of how they stack up all those laminations soooooo perfectly, I'd like to see how they keep each layer from sliding around from having wet titebond acting slippery ( like it does - I sprinkle a bit of common salt to keep it from sliding ). Are they using wood dowels or steel ?

Plywood seems to have a re-model look that might not be approved by spouses, mine is tolerant but she would never choose plywood over traditional furniture appearances no matter how much function is enhanced.

Maybe a nice cloth draped over them would create a pedestal for nice Busts of AOC & Bernie

Tony in Florida

johnnythunder1's picture

I used to enjoy your posts when they stuck to audio and your admirable experience in this business. I liked your insights and you seem to have good taste in admiring the writing of Stereophile and your taste in equipment. But can you resist the constant digs that are off topic and sadly one sided? I wish you would reserve your ire for the real threats in this world and not the projected bogeymen of the Right.

Anton's picture

Time to fire up your own political comment machine?

Anton's picture

I get a bit of an 'unfinished vibe' from this product, like an advanced beta test.

It sure is exciting to think about where this project may lead to!

It would be cool to see an array of potential mounts for drivers of people's choosing. I'd like to see how a Lowther or Voxativ driver would work.

Glotz's picture

The Manufacturer Comments section were telling, though no judgment. I wish this company success in refining their product.

md1809's picture

I remember an(other) Italian loudspeaker company born in 2000 (they managed to be the first company registered in 2000 :-) ), named Eventus Audio, that had a very similar idea

Unfortunately, they dont'seem in business anymore.


Carlo Iaccarino

mememe's picture

Checked the site out. Fantastic out of the box, but still in the box approach. The way it should be done. It is unfortunate that they're not in business anymore.

Jack L's picture


Who wants to drop 10,000 bucks for a pair of passive subs ???

Yes, I might be one-of-a-kind who wants his home audio to be a true FULL-range system : to pump 20Hz or lower subbsss, for cathedral pipe organ music & synthetic bass notes.

Yes, I have done it years back by installing 3 100W powered subs (L, R & L+R channels) hooked up direct to my tube phono-preamp.

Yet I spent only peanut vs to $10,000/pair passive subs, let alone the tons money needed for the amps & electronic x-overs.

Give me a break, please.
Be a smart audio consumer !

Listening is believing

Jack L

Rogier's picture

"Who wants to drop 10,000 bucks for a pair of passive subs?"

I agree it'd be an unlikely (impulse) purchase. Then again, we all know quality can be expensive. Hard to prejudge the MayFly subwoofer — or any gear — without first fairly auditioning it/them, at some length.

Note, by the way, that we didn't review the subs, and that we explained why. I spent maybe 25 words merely mentioning their availability and price. The rest is up to you. Too dear for your wallet? That makes two of us.

Jack L's picture


"Great minds think alike" !

Jack L

Jack L's picture


Too true !

But does an average Joe Blow needs/wants to wreck the wallet to own it ?

Likewise, only the very rich & famous are willing to drop $8 million for the most expensive car on this planet today: Mercedes-Maybach Exelero !

Jack L

cgh's picture

Interesting. On visual inspection it doesn’t appear to be a strictly diffusive grating (e.g., Schroeder) but has some regular peaks and valleys rotated through the layers of the structure. If something else is going on that I can’t see not sure how it is patentable, although nothing would surprise me with the US patent system. Regardless, the design clearly will not function exactly like a diffuser, but I can only assume it will convert something to heat. More a thought experiment than practical but I suppose, forgetting sides, top and bottom, that with a certain diffuser at a certain distance perpendicular to the speaker would “effectively see” an open baffle design. Anyway, one of those things that I am surprised somebody hadn’t already thought up. Fun.