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Usher Dancer Mini Two
Sound quality
Conclusion
Measured performance
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SOUND QUALITY
The Ushers arrived with us run in, but they were De-Tox’d for 24 hours all the same, using Monitor Audio’s De-Tox disc. Ushers need a lot of running in, the manufacturers quoting up to 180 hours and this is down to their use of durable synthetic materials whose properties change little, especially the diamond coated tweeter. I used a Sugden A21SE transistor amplifier and Icon Audio MB845 valve amplifier initially, but some complex interactions jumped out straight away. The Mini-Twos have powerful bass that runs deep and occasionally with emphasised bass lines, like Toni Braxton’s ‘Spanish Guitar’, our listening room boomed deep down, at 24Hz. I swapped from the Sugden to an Audiolab 8200A with a high damping factor but this made little difference. Surprisingly, in spite of their low damping factor, the big Icon Audio MB845 MkII power amplifiers, on their 4 Ohm output, were most balanced and controlled. Running the NAD M51 DAC direct into them, using its volume control to avoid the use of a preamp, gave best results.
    

So, rather more than our measurements would suggest, the Dancer Mini-Twos produce prodigious bass power that excited our 24ft long listening room. Because of its size this is rare, as big volume rooms are intrinsically well damped by the air load – they don’t boom easily. The reason was the Usher's port  produces a lot of acoustic power at 24Hz. I ended up using some acoustic foam to damp down port output a little and this was successful. A large Epos Encore 50 (May 2010 issue) behaved much the same, so this is not a condition unique to the Ushers by any means.
    

Bass lines were powerful and firm once the foam had been added, much as you might hope from a loudspeaker so big and heavy. With a cabinet tuned so low and a port that covers such a wide range, bass lines strode down the scale unhindered and here the big Ushers showed what they could do. It was only the occasional really deep note that excited our room and a 50% fill of foam cured this nicely, allowing the Ushers to reach down smoothly and powerfully. The rumbling deep synths that underpin Lady Gaga’s ‘Monster’  shook our listening room and the corridor outside too, the Mini-Twos produce so much bass power and it runs right down to subsonics. The Mini-Twos got close to the ‘untuned’, even sounding bass of a big Tannoy like the Yorkminster and that’s what you get with a loudspeaker like this. Note differentiation becomes clear and note pitch obvious in these conditions, a strength of a “good big ‘un” – and nothing has changed with loudspeakers.
    

Although the ports fire forward I heard no boxiness from them, by the way. Indeed, I heard no cabinet coloration at all.
    

Unlike many modern loudspeakers the Mini-Twos come across as mild mannered across the midband, with vocals back in the plane of the loudspeakers, not pushed forward. This was most apparent at low levels and in this respect at least the Mini-Twos sound best when pushed a little bit, and run at decent volume. Then the midband came alive and the loudspeaker composed itself, becoming supremely even and accurate, as measurement suggests.
    

Better, it also became insightful too, intakes of breath from Eleanor McEvoy standing at the microphone singing ‘I Got You To See Me Through’ bringing a lovely atmospheric quality to the performance. The Ushers sounded big bodied and smooth here, almost cuddly warm in a convincingly organic way, quite a strange quality these days where the ‘crack’ of synthetic cones breaking up is a hovering blight. The Ushers are super smooth with vocals and it was Renee Fleming singing ‘O mio babbino caro’ that brought home to me just how grown up these speakers are. Her voice projected beautifully, displaying all the pent up emotion and power she brings to a performance, but I hardly recall such a natural sounding balance, all surrounded by a sense of the acoustic captured by the microphone, with strings of the orchestra swelling behind her. The Mini-Two is a loudspeaker with real poise and here it is balanced differently to the Mini-One I reviewed some time ago.
    

It doesn’t take long to  hear how this loudspeaker is distinguished by its unique diamond tweeter. A few minutes of Nigel Kennedy's fiddling, as he does so well, lifted the Mini-Two above all.  Apart from a rich swathe of detail that issued from the bow on some punished strings of his Stradivarius, the tweeter had a peculiarly lush quality and – again – a sense of rare evenness to it. What you get is intense detailing without emphases picking out one part or another of what is going on. Like B&W’s diamond tweeter in their 804D, Usher’s tweeter has a lovely crystalline quality that you’d perhaps expect from diamond, but Usher’s tweeter does not ring like the B&W’s, making it sound even and expansive.
    

The sound of bow on strings had real bite to it, but it wasn’t challenging to my ear. As intense in its detailing as a ribbon tweeter, Usher’s diamond tweeter had less incision and a little less of the residual colour of a ribbon tweeter, a more even quality but still with speed and bite. Needless to say, this made the strings of Nils Lofgren’s guitar sparklingly clear, his playing of ‘Keith Don’t Go’ shimmered with detail and I could hear the quality of the individual strings too, making for a deeply insightful view. Usher’s diamond tweeter brings a quality to the Dancer Mini-Two that isn’t available elsewhere and Usher have used it carefully and wisely, by keeping it in perfect balance. As a result the Mini-Two comes over as supremely well integrated and balanced, which is why I said earlier it is a ‘mature’ design. Manufacturers with a new toy like to show it off, the reason many ribbon tweeter loudspeakers are overly bright. The Mini-Two doesn’t shout like this, but I heard it clearly. This loudspeaker has quite spectacular treble.
 



 

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