Music Hall Marimba Bookshelf Speaker
The Marimba ($349/pr) is the first speaker ever offered under the Music Hall brand, known for affordable turntables and audiophile electronics. Clearly, the sound was the focus; the Marimba's black ash vinyl wrap finish won't win any design awards. The 1-inch silk-dome tweeter and 5.25-inch, polypropylene-cone woofer are mounted in a rear-ported, 11-inch-high cabinet.
The company says it tuned the Marimba "by ear, with real music," which scares me; I think it's wisest to rely on your ears and your measurement instruments when tuning audio products. That's why I found the Marimba so annoying. Honestly, I kinda wanted it to be bad, but it's very, very good, at least the equal of any speaker tested here.
Greg and I fell in love with the Marimba, largely because it got the voices so right. It's the only speaker in which I didn't hear frequency response flaws in the midrange. Greg put it in everyman's terms: "I felt like I was sitting right in front of the singer," he said when he played Mother Love Bone's "Bone China." Geoff largely agreed, unable to decide if the Marimba or the Hsu HB-1 MK2 or the Polk RTiA1 was his favorite. Greg and I both also loved the Marimba's ability to focus, to create realistic sonic images of singers and instruments between the speakers. We also appreciated its balanced, reasonably tuneful bass response.
It's not perfect. The tweeter's just okay; it's got a little bit of edginess in the middle of its range, yet seems a tad rolled off on the very top. Lauren, likely possessing the best high-frequency hearing of any of us, called the treble "a little soft," and while she lauded the Marimba's mids, she deplored its bass, which she also described as "soft," meaning undefined.
But hey, no speaker in this group got an unqualified rave from everyone. Clearly, the Marimba's high on our short list of great, affordable minimonitors.
Frequency response of the Marimba measures 60 Hz to 20 kHz ±2.7 dB on-axis, ±2.2 dB avg 0°-30°. That's the flattest response I measured of all the speakers in this roundup. Which leads me to believe that Music Hall's claim that this speaker was tuned by ear is mostly hoo-hah, pandering to audiophiles' prejudices and fears of technology. While it's possible Music Hall tweaked the Marimba by ear, I strongly suspect that CAD software and/or measurements were used for the box tuning and crossover. Measured impedance is 5.0 ohms minimum, 9 ohms average. Sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz averages 85.0 dB.