Usher Audio was first established in central Taiwan by its owner and head engineer Lien-Shui Tsai. Since then it has moved into its newly built factory located in the city of Taichung with a population of just over one million people. Looking to their website one finds a brief statement that seems to sum up the Usher philosophy, “There are no accidents”. The people at Usher Audio are scientifically oriented to the point of having even developed their own computer-based measuring system which they claim is now an industry standard in factories throughout Asia. Some manufacturers adhere to the concept that listening test are the answer for making great audio equipment.
At Usher the thought is in understanding to measure the proper parameters, the ones that truly matters and which actually have the largest impact on music. Looking at the world-wide reviews of their various loudspeakers it seems they might just have hit upon a proper way to correlate the connection between measurements and sonic performance. Usher’s loudspeaker lineup consists of bookshelf as well as floor standing systems for both two channel audio and home theater setups with subwoofers available if you so desire. Want something a little different, check out their D3 loudspeaker weighing in at 690 lbs. apiece and featuring a horn high frequency compression driver. Now that is something I would love to get my hands on. Do you need an audio rack or loudspeaker stands, not to worry they make them as well. Maybe you prefer building your own loudspeakers, again not a problem for they sell a lineup of loudspeaker drivers for the do-it-yourselfers. If you are wondering about amplification check out their web site as they take the guess work out of that as well, with their own R-1.5 (150 wpc @ 8 Ohms, 20 Hz to 20 kHz) amplifier.
“The DMD done is effectively a diamond dome with a reduced mass and a well-controlled, appealing sound signature, resembling very closely a perfect piston in its behavior. This is made possible by its laminated diamond-metal-diamond structure, which consists of a proprietary metal alloy base layer coated with an amorphous diamond-like carbon layer (pure diamond-like carbon has mixed sp3 and sp2 bonds to achieve its desirable properties) on both sides. The base metal layer of the Diamond DMD dome tames all the diamond layers’ unfavorable sonic traits and brings out the best of both materials.”
All their tweeters use Usher’s Symme-Motion technology which allows the driver to move outward and backward in a symmetrical motion for accurate reproduction of the recorded music material. On the back of the Mini One’s are terminals for either a single or bi-wired setup. The Monarchy amplifiers were run as mono blocks in a bi-wired setup which is how I almost always normally use them.
The Music Begin
Music emanated from around the room instead of the loudspeakers, creating a well-focused soundscape to render the illusion of live performers in front of me. This is not an easy task to do or even expect, especially at the Mini One's relatively low selling price. On YO-YO- MA & Friends, Songs of Joy & Peace CD [Sony Classical 88697-2414-20] the sound of YoYo Ma's cello was full and alive. Individual strings could be heard vibrating as music escaped from deep inside this wood instrument. The decay of notes fading away was especially evident throughout the entire album. Sitting back to listen as James Taylor sang, "Hear Comes The Sun" made me take a deep breath while taking in all the intricate details of his voice which the Mini One’s had fleshed out. Want to hear some great harmony, try paring the Mini One's with the incredible Assad Family on "Familia". Here the performance of Angelina, Badi, Carolina and Clarice Assad where impressive as they captured this beautiful intimate performance with all their natural chemistry and playfulness. The four singers could be "seen" lined up in a row left to right with the sound of Yo-Yo-Ma's cello chiming in to weave a magical spell around them.
Turning to another recording from 2L, Come Away Death [2L 63] we have William Shakespeare's poem, of the same title, taken from his play Twelfth Night (from the year 1601). This poem is put to music by Sergej Osadchuk, piano and Marianne Beate Kielland, vocals. Marianne Kielland's voice sounded effortless, as if floating in the space between each loudspeaker with a true sense of height above a wide open soundscape. Equally impressive was the piano of Sergej Osadchuk playing in the background clear and spacious with the decay transients of notes slowly fading away. Not flat or two-dimensional there was a nice holographic effect between pianist and vocalist as they joined together lending a lifelike presentation to this performance.
On to something different we next visit with The Rolling Stones on their Beggars Banquet [abkcd 95392] hybrid SACD for the sound of some light rock and roll. Here the Mini One' performed admirably rendering well-focused images within a large open soundscape to rival those loudspeakers selling for many thousands of dollars more. The Mini One's brought added joy when listening to familiar recordings as on “Sympathy For The Devil" where the opening drum sequence was startling clear and forthright. With a slight toe in, of about one inch towards the listening seat, things seemed well focused, with both instruments and vocals easily recognizable for truth of timbre and layering. Musical is a word that comes to mind when listening to the Mini One’s as they “sang” within my reference system with their ability to reveal textural differences. Mid-bass as well as high frequency extension was particularly noticeable as guitar notes rang true accompanied by the sound of a quick and tight drum display. On "Dear Doctor" the opening duet of singers remained distinctly unique with vocal content of a very natural content. As a harmonica played without any signs of edginess, one could hear well into the back of the soundscape. Where the Mini One's were not as impressive was with their ability to produce the lowest frequencies but going into this review I assumed there would be limits. Remember, we are looking at the lower end of the Usher loudspeaker lineup and are dealing with a seven inch mid-low range woofer.
Be warned though before making any hasty judgments for during their break-in period of 180 plus hours they did change considerably. By the end of this time the Mini One's were pumping out some impressive lower frequency bass notes as compared to their out of the box sound. While my Legacy Focus 20/20's with their $6500 plus price tag (depending on finish), 12” transition woofer and two 12” sub woofers, did go lower the Mini Ones shocked me with the tight firm bass it’s seven inch driver could produce. On "Maria Maria" from Carlos Santana's Supernatural [ARISTA 07822-19080-2] cranking up the volume produced some very satisfying quality bass. While it did not shaking the floor it was impressive non-the-less. Bravo to the Mini One's for doing so much with a limited arsenal of drivers and all on a reasonably priced budget (relatively speaking for high-end audio gear). While not something you would find me recommending for those who feel the need to have the last word in low frequency extension, it was a loudspeaker I found hard to turn off because of its many positive traits.
For those who crave more you could look elsewhere among Usher's loudspeaker lineup. My thoughts would be to go further up the Dancer Series to the Mini Two’s ($4999) with an extra 7” driver, the CP-8571 ($10,799 with its additional 8" driver) or the CP-8871 ($14,599 and its two 8" extra drivers) or perhaps the BE-10 ($17,399, with a 1.25" tweeter, 5" mid-low woofer and 11" low-bass woofer). For me it was the BE-10 that made me drool to just think of it. Who knows, perhaps at the next show I might just get my chance to listen. Oh yes, if you want to spend even more in that quest for those last few lower notes maybe you could look to the Dancer Series BE-20 ($21,199) with its 1.25" tweeter, 5" mid-low woofer and two 11" low-bass woofers. Back now to the One's, they did seem to correctly reproduce the tone of Everlast's voice on "Put Your Lights On" as the opening guitar chords brought me close to center stage. The sound of guitar was rich with details and full of texture allowing a good time to be had for all who chanced by to listen.
From a previous review I had on hand the new Parasound JC 3 phono stage which was found to sound very good through the Mini One’s. With this in mind the temptation to switch over to LP playback was just too great, not that I never need much of a nudge in that direction anyway. The vocal power and inflections of Luciano Pavarotti’s fine tenor voice is on full display with the LP, Pavarotti in Concert [London OS26391] on the selection “La Danza (Rossini)”. Here the swiftness of both woodwind and string sections was correctly captured due to the speed of the Mini One’s drivers. The playful blending of these two sections was quite pleasing indeed. Pulling out the original master recording of Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat LP [Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 1-009] to hear the title song has always been a pleasure. The beginning features a nicely laid down keyboard piece and then a surprise powerful attack of drums. The Mini One’s pulled this off without a snag as it played back those mid-bass notes with a vengeance to the delight of all. Everything was well layered, guitar, violin, percussion, alto sax, keyboard and vocal. Each piece to the puzzle was kept separate and distinct within a realistic soundscape that filled my room. Nice, neat, organized, the Mini One’s do it all.
Everyone has a favorite Beatle, mine being John Lennon, but when looking to the original 1965 Rubber Soul [Capitol Records C1 0777 7 46440 1 3] LP, the song “Michelle” featuring Paul McCarthy has always impressed me. This is one of those classic love songs he is famous for. With the Mini One’s soundscape layering is nicely laid out with George Harrison and John Lennon singing harmony on the left side of the stage, Paul McCarthy on the right with Ringo Starr supporting the cast playing drums behind Paul. Those who forgot how good they sounded should listen to this LP through the Mini One’s. The final musical selection for today was from the Dave Mason Alone Together [MCA-11319] LP on 180 gram virgin vinyl. On “Can’t Stop Worrying Can’t Stop Loving” Dave Mason sounded excellent, as did the rest of the band. The ability to hear each musician separately located in their own space on stage enhanced the musical experience. The very revealing Mini One’s enriched the enjoyment found from listening to good recordings yet did the opposite with poor ones, as good loudspeakers are supposed to do. They showed proper impact on mid-bass and were fantastic with vocals making you sit up and take notice. Listening to this album through the Mini One’s was a pleasure I never did tire of and made me feel the better for having heard.
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