Why did I start with Death Race 2 as my first test of the Minx? Because this Blu-ray Disc provides the kind of intense audio workout that reveals a small system’s limitations. The prequel to a 2008 Jason Statham vehicle, Death Race 2 may lack its predecessor’s iconic star and witty script, but it retains the key elements of the original: hot babes, car crashes, and Gatling guns.
The titular event doesn’t begin until the second half of the movie, so the first scenes gave me a chance to check out the more delicate aspects of the Min10’s performance, such as dialogue clarity and spaciousness. On both counts, it scored exceptionally well. Every actor from bad guy Ving Rhames to heroine Lauren Cohan sounded natural, with no sibilance, no “cupped hands” coloration, no bloating, and none of the other midrange problems that often afflict speakers. However, some voices sounded a bit thin, lacking energy between 100 and 200 Hz — a result likely caused by the Min10’s negligible bass. The Min10s also created a great sense of space and excitement, capturing the sonic signatures of the prison, the fighting arena, and the crowded TV control room from which the bad guys manipulate their pawns.
As expected, once the action kicked in, limitations became apparent. The Minx system seemed to hold back during scenes that a larger speaker would have fearlessly attacked. For little cube-shaped speakers, the Min10s are reasonably robust — but still, I wouldn’t recommend them for anything larger than a small den or a master bedroom.
The X200 delivered a shocking amount of low bass, rarely distorting or showing signs of stress. It even plays some of the deepest notes in the series of “bass torture test” scenes I use to evaluate subwoofers. The X200 appears to be designed more for efficiency rather than for maximum fidelity; bass notes don’t have the “growl” and definition you hear in bigger, better subs. Given that Cambridge Audio is getting real home theater bass from a sub that looks like it belongs in a desktop system, I’ll take that trade-off.
When I switched to stereo music, the Minx exuded the same pros and cons — yet my opinion of it swelled from “really good” to “world-beating.” Dynamic limitations that impede reproduction of movie soundtracks are often not so troubling for stereo music, and the advantages of the BMR technology become more apparent. When I played “So Fine” from Electric Light Orchestra’s A New World Record LP, I struggled to find a flaw in the system’s sound. Singer/guitarist Jeff Lynne’s voice was smooth and clear despite its high-pitched tonality; the strings enveloped me as if they were playing from all around the room; and the beefy 1970s groove pumped powerfully from the X200.
The Minx system easily stepped back in time another 17 years to portray the plush sax sound on my ancient (but still almost perfect) vinyl copy of Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson. Hearing the tiny Min10s conjure Webster’s powerful tenor sound was like watching a magician pull a Labrador retriever out of his hat. The stereo imaging was more convincing than I’ve heard from any other little cube-shaped speakers and comparable to that of budget audiophile speakers that I’ve tested.
As I noticed with movie soundtracks, voices sometimes sounded a little thin through the Minx system, and low notes sometimes sounded a little fat. But a mini-system must compromise, and I think Cambridge Audio made the right compromises here.
The Cambridge Audio Minx 215 is the best little cube-shaped speaker system I’ve heard, and the first that I liked as much as larger, two-way sub/sat systems. At $800, it’s clearly one of today’s best speaker-system bargains. The Minx is like a violin as opposed to an electric guitar — I hesitate to say it kicks ass, but it definitely satisfies.
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