Mirage MRM-1 loudspeaker Page 3

Stereo imaging was stable and precise, with a well-defined soundstage lying between and behind the speakers. On the live Mozart flute quartet recording on Stereophile's Serenade CD (STPH009-2), the positions of the three string players relative to flutist Carol Wincenc on the stage of Santa Fe's St. Francis Auditorium were made explicitly clear: pure musical virtual reality.

While there was no sense of discontinuity between the MRM-1's midrange and treble, all through my auditioning I couldn't escape a laid-back character in the mid-treble. On most classical music this wasn't a problem. I mean, a Mozart mass does demand a certain calm, contemplative mood, and the emotional distance of the Mirages' presentation was just right. But with rock music, this lack of involvement had me turning up the volume a little too often. When it was time to get down'n'dirty, the speaker just didn't want to "give" enough of itself.

Compounding this reticence was a lack of ultimate dynamic range in the low frequencies. When I simply had to have a hit of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way" (from The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get, MCA MCAD-5869) with the volume control set to Stun, that little woofer ran out of grunt at too low a level for visceral satisfaction. There was a sudden crack as the voice-coil banged against the end stops that had me diving for the Mute control.

But people who buy minimonitors probably don't own "Rocky Mountain Way"---at least not on 12" 45rpm vinyl, as I do. They are looking more for intellectual stimulation from their music, as indeed do I most of the time. But this lack of low-frequency loudness was a definite limitation of the speaker. On my Gerontius recording, for example, there is a moment in Part Two of the work when all hell is literally beaten out of a large bass drum. When the playback level was set to avoid the MRM-1 woofers bottoming on these elemental thwacks, the general orchestral and choral level was too subdued.

And while my review samples were from very early production, and therefore might be more fragile than current examples, my occasional abuse did finally result in one of the pair buzzing on sustained tones at around 320Hz.

The Mirage MRM-1 is drop-dead gorgeous. However, with its laid-back mid-treble, low sensitivity, and ultimately limited dynamic range, it is not going to be a loudspeaker for all seasons. Competition is strong in this category and at this pricepoint, B&W's Nautilus 805 (reviewed last October by Larry Greenhill) being a leading contender. But the MRM-1's generous low frequencies, overall clarity, and freedom from grain make this exquisitely made miniature ideal for a lover of classical music or acoustic jazz who has a relatively small room.

Audio Products International Corporation
3641 McNicoll Ave.
Scarborough, Ontario M1X 1G5, Canada
(416) 321-1800