Silverline Audio Minuet loudspeaker Page 2

It was at the upper end of the dynamic spectrum where the Minuet most impressed me. No matter what type of difficult program material I spun, and no matter at what volume level, the Silverline never sounded like a small bookshelf speaker. Speaking of "A Night in Tunisia"—in the Brooklyn Sax Quartet's iconoclastic reading of this tune, on A Far Side of Here (CD, Omnitone 12206), the saxes cover their entire ranges of frequency and dynamics. This track's wide dynamic swings were reproduced by the Silverlines without a hint of attenuation: they breathed BIG. When I took a spin with Timothy Seelig and the Turtle Creek Chorale's recording of John Rutter's Requiem (CD, Reference RR-57CD), the Minuets reproduced the huge acoustic of the recording venue with ease. Organ-pedal notes bloomed naturally, and there was nary a hint of compression or coloration on the more full-throated passages.

Similarly, the more bombastic passages of Antal Dorati and the London Symphony's recording of Stravinsky's The Firebird (CD, Mercury Living Presence SR 90226) blasted through the room as if from a pair of large floorstanders. Bass-drum fortissimos were relatively natural-sounding, but I've heard other speakers render them with more bottom-end extension. Rock music at loud volumes also cooked through the Minuets. Listening to "Becuz," from Sonic Youth's Washing Machine (CD, Geffen DGCD-24825), I reveled in the pounding drums and the extended upper harmonics of the shimmering electric guitars—and this at around 95dB in my very large main listening room.

The Minuet's superior resolution of midrange detail and wide, deep soundstage created an extraordinary sense of acoustic space with the better recordings I auditioned. Last year, my jazz quartet Attention Screen gave a special improvisational concert at New York City's ABC No Rio performance space, augmented by a number of improvising musicians including saxophonist Blaise Siwula (formerly with Cecil Taylor) and West Coast percussionist Matt Hannafin. John Atkinson recorded the performance with a single pair of cardioid microphones. The acoustics of the space are extraordinary; through the Minuets, each of the dozen musicians was placed in precisely the same place on the soundstage as he was on the night of the performance.

As I continued to listen to the Minuets, the word that kept popping into my mind was drama. On well-recorded works that made organically involving musical statements, the Minuets captivated me—it was as if I were listening to larger floorstanding speakers, or even to a live performance. A classic example was pianist Elliot Kallen's "Ellis Island," from the KliP trio's Sonny Boy Blount (LP, Should I Be Concerned About This? 1001-02). The trio creates an aural landscape depicting a shipload of immigrants arriving in New York City at the turn of the last century. Bassist John Lauffenberger creates the foundation by bowing a long, low-register note. Percussionist Garth Powell alternates between a brooding ostinato on deacon chimes and pounding bass drums, while Kallen introduces the wailing modal melody. Although Kallen plays this on a highly electronically altered Roland synthesizer, it sounds as soulful and articulate as any jazz horn. With the Silverlines, I shut my eyes during the entire track. I could smell the seawater, see the smoke rising from the ships' stacks. By the end of the piece, I was teary-eyed.

I compared the Silverline Minuet ($600/pair) with the Epos M5 ($695/pair) and the Nola Mini ($600/pair when last available).

The Epos M5 rendered even more inner midrange detail than the Minuet, with more delicate and more articulate highs and an even finer reproduction of low-level dynamics. The Epos also produced slightly deeper bass and slightly better high-level dynamics. The Nola Mini provided still deeper bass and great high-level dynamics, but its highs weren't as delicate as those of the Epos or Silverline. The Nola's midrange detail and neutrality were as good as the Silverline's, but its low-level dynamic resolution was superior to the Minuet's, and equal to that of the Epos.

But the Epos is more than twice the size of the Silverline, and the Nola is more than three times as big. In terms of bass extension and high-level dynamic resolution, the Minuet's ability to play in the same league as these two much larger speakers was quite impressive.

Summing up
Silverline Audio's Minuet is an uncolored, detailed, and dynamic performer that competes with the best designs I've heard at its price. But it is even more special than that. If compared with speakers of equivalent size, it would likely be compared with models that are less expensive and less revealing, or that require bass reinforcement from a companion subwoofer. As such, the Silverline is ideal—and may be the only choice I've heard—for the audiophile who wants a big, neutral sound, but whose spouse won't stand for larger bookshelf speakers in the living room. It's a brilliantly designed lifestyle choice that will satisfy audiophiles while providing a Spouse Acceptance Factor that's off the charts.

Silverline Audio
936 Detroit Avenue, Unit C
Concord, CA 94518
(925) 825-3682