Cambridge Audio Minx S325v2 Speaker System Page 2

The X300 subwoofer has two 8-inch aluminum drivers. One is active, and the other is passive—Cambridge calls it an auxiliary bass radiator. For greater rigidity, both are continuous-profile cones, with no hole in the center. DSP keeps the subwoofing under control, so you won’t hear clipping or any other signs of audible distress at high volumes.

Associated equipment included a Pioneer Elite VSX-53 A/V receiver, Oppo BDP-83SE universal disc player, and for downloads, a Lenovo Win7 laptop running Foobar 2000 and feeding a Wadia 121 digital-to-analog converter. All movie demos were on Blu-ray Disc.

How You’ve Grown
I’d been warned that the Minxes needed break-in time. What I had not expected was how dramatically they would morph from a stingy bass-light sound to a full, rich tonal balance. As uncrated, the speakers could barely muster a soundfield or a stereo image. Within just a few hours, they commanded the room with a swagger, transcending both their size and positioning to produce a huge and seamless soundfield with a vertically and horizontally spacious front soundstage that didn’t seem to come from the little cubes at all. Imaging was generous, with effortless integration between the fully fleshed- out midrange and fine airy treble. The crossover from satellite to subwoofer also improved steadily as I dialed it in and the sub and sat drivers began to loosen up. While never rock-the-house powerful, the sub had enough bass extension and pitch to do justice to music, and I became less and less aware of the crossover until it ceased to be an issue. Normally, I don’t make a big deal of break-in, but the reader who buys these speakers needs to know that the first few hours will not be even remotely indicative of long-term performance. Be patient.

Notes from the movie sessions document this steady improvement. A getting-to-know-you demo, the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack of One in the Chamber—with the nimble Cuba Gooding Jr. and monumental Dolph Lundgren as dueling paid assassins—was bland and flat spatially, with uneven and often unsatisfying bass. The satellites’ low end sounded as small as the speakers looked. However, their excellent dispersion made itself known immediately, and the soundfield got more spacious as the movie went along.

Skipping ahead, the Prohibition-era rural epic Lawless (DTS-HD Master Audio) started to reveal the Minx’s true talent. Suddenly the sound had lifted clear of the speakers—“Where are the speakers?” I asked my notebook. A Pentecostal church scene was “incredible,” meaning spatially three-dimensional and texturally vivid. The system became a dynamically assured handler of gunshots and explosions. But when serving up a gently ruminating acoustic guitar, it also excelled at low-level resolution and harmonic wholeness. Dialogue was clear throughout. I was beginning to have fun.

Sparkle (DTS-HD Master Audio) is the story of three teenage girls uneasily immersing themselves in the Detroit music scene of the 1960s. Its virtuoso soul-singing performances showed off the sats’ and sub’s ability to deliver natural vocal timbre and the performers’ virtuoso dynamics. It brought out details in the music like the Auto Tune used to tweak one vocal—I suspected this was more of a stylistic flourish than a need to correct the amazing singing. Bass by this time was musically appropriate, well pitched, and reasonably slick in the handoff between sats and sub.

How Sweet It Is
Glenn Gould’s best-selling 1955 performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations came as a 24/96 FLAC download from HDtracks. What sounded bland in the first-generation CD release and slightly richer in the later CD remastering (A State of Wonder) acquired a more distinctive beauty in this high-resolution download. Minx pulled together several subtle elements, including the piano’s austere harmonic body and the gentle percussive attack of each note. The system’s wide and comprehensive soundstage made every seat on the sofa a good one, enabling me to relax into the music without keeping my body rigidly fixed in the sweet spot. There was hardly an unsweet spot anywhere in front of the speakers. I have never heard a speaker that so effectively ameliorates stereo’s notorious Achilles’ heel, the hole in the middle for listeners not directly between the two speakers. It sounded almost as though the center speaker were operating, though when I checked, it was silent.

Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions was another 24/96 download from HDtracks. Bass was now at its peak, not only in weight, but in pitch definition and timbre, as was evident in the unison synth and bass guitar line of “Too High.” The drum sound was as well integrated as anything I’ve ever heard from a sat/sub set operat- ing at a high crossover. As I was musing about how big the system sounded in just 2.1 channels, I happened to glance at the satellites, and they seemed to merge and vanish into the white walls of the room. With my glasses off, I couldn’t see them at all.

An untitled live recording by Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists (Argentina, May–June 2007) arrived as a FLAC download. This group of impressively well-coordinated guitarists playing shallow-body instruments often sounds like a harpsichord. Though the Minxes downplayed that effect compared with the Era Design 4 speakers that sit on my desktop, they didn’t downplay the hard electronic edge of Fripp’s Soundscapes (guitar synth). The music’s undulations and mood swings got the dynamically wide and nuanced treatment they deserved. Spatially, this demo was a marvel: The Minx’s output was so un-speaker-bound that the 2.1-channel playback often took on a surround-like character, spilling out of the two satellites and filling the entire room.

I go out of my way to review compact satellite/subwoofer sets and have acquired a large frame of reference for the category. Cambridge Audio’s S325v2 speaker package is one of the best I’ve heard. Let me be more specific: As far as the Min 21 satellite is concerned, I’ve never heard a better one, and I can count its equals on the fingers of one hand with a few fingers left over. As often happens in even the best sat/sub sets, the X300 subwoofer lags behind, but in this case, not far. Its ability to tunefully mesh with the satellites was never in doubt. For this system, the sub does well—and the sats are just extraordinary. As long as you don’t need to rattle the crockery, the Minx offers a completely satisfying listening experience, both musically and cinematically. If I were buying a compact sat/sub set today, this would be the one.

Cambridge Audio
(800) 663-9352