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From Hi-Fi World - November 2012 issue
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Diamond Dancer



Usher's Dancer Mini-Two with diamond tweeter is a gem of a loudspeaker, Noel Keywood finds.

Usher’s massive Be-10 loudspeaker (June 09 issue, see our website) impressed us no end, as it seems to impress everyone worldwide, but it costs £10,500 and is big. For smaller wallets and rooms Usher launched the Dancer Mini-One, recently upgraded with a DMD diamond tweeter. I reviewed it in our March 2012 issue (see our website), provoking Ron Levine in Philadelphia, USA to e-mail us that he was “disappointed that you chose to review the Dancer Mini-One rather than the Mini-Two” because the Mini-Twos “might have provided a better frequency balance”. He’s right – they do.

We e-mailed Usher in Taiwan after his request and begged for a pair of Mini-Twos: here’s the review.

As Ron noted in his letter, the Mini-Two has two woofers rather than one. Technically, this doesn’t automatically mean it will have stronger bass. Usher have balanced it differently, toward the academic accuracy achieved by the Be-10 in truth. In the latest Dancer Mini-Two, for £3,500 you now get a loudspeaker closer to the Be-10 in design rationale, but for £7k less. It’s a big loudspeaker that stands 1.2m high and weighs 41kgs (90lbs) with its heavy cast metal base attached, making it a two-person lift. Behind the circular cloth grilles lie a pair of 7in paper/carbon fibre bass/midrange units flanking a diamond DMD tweeter in what is termed a D’Appolito arrangement, making it a two-way loudspeaker. Usher make their own drive units by the way; they do not buy them in from outside suppliers, like Hi-Vi in nearby China.

The Mini-Two expects a lot from its bass/midrange units, as they must reach right up to 2.7kHz before handing over to the tweeter, and that – as well as midrange dispersion – is the big difference between the Mini-Two and Be-10 that has a dome midrange unit.

I was as impressed by this giant as I was by the Be-10 because it is similarly imposing and beautifully built and finished. The cabinets are curved toward the rear, for strength and to disperse high frequency internal resonant modes, although curved cabinets still have a basic main mode no matter what their dimensions, or their manufacturer! 
    The veneers have a deep polish and the cabinet is absolutely dead when rapped with the knuckles. The Mini-Two is quite gorgeous against similarly priced rivals, as in this price band there are a lot of rivals nowadays, often with the same build quality and finish as sub-£1000 loudspeakers. The Mini-Two is way better.

For stability, Usher supply massive cast bases that are very heavy in themselves, and quite a lift. Needless to say, strong adjustable spikes are supplied. However, you  get floor protectors, but you don’t get foam port bungs, which I feel are needed.

Looking around the ‘net at prices I see some confusion over the old and new Mini-Two loudspeakers. The model reviewed here uses Usher’s relatively new diamond DMD tweeter; some ads. use the acronym DMD in their headline and then go on to catalogue a beryllium tweeter. Er – no! The beryllium tweeter was in the old model and DMD refers to the new model with its laminated Diamond-Metal-Diamond tweeter. So there are in effect two Dancer Mini-Twos, old and new, and many current reviews and ads refer to the old model.

As Usher say, diamond vapour deposition has been around for some time, but “many find their sonic performance compromised, due mainly to the relatively high mass of the diamond dome and also to the unfavourable resonance signature of the material itself”. This was indeed the case with B&W’s diamond dome, that peaked at 15kHz, giving treble a lovely sparkling presence but a one-note effect (Feb 2011 issue - and see our website). Nice, but not right. To avoid this the Usher tweeter uses “a metal alloy base layer coated with an amorphous diamond-like carbon layer, on both sides". Our frequency response graph clearly shows this works: there is no in-band peak; a lift occurs above 19kHz – too high to be audible. 

The D’Appolito arrangement refers to the placement of a bass/midrange unit both above and below the tweeter. This evens up the vertical dispersion pattern to give a more consistent output. In effect it means sound fired down is the same as that fired up, and measurement confirmed the loudspeaker’s phasing was good. But then Usher are very heavily equipped in their massive factory and are perfectionist about what they do, so I’d expect this to be the case.

The massive cabinet is a large-volume bass reflex with forward firing port at its base: you can see it below the badge and just above the metal base. Like most big volume cabinet loudspeakers the Mini-Twos go low, very low, right down to 20Hz. This means they put out a lot of low frequency energy and will induce room boom. All big loudspeakers have this potential.

Whether a room does boom or not is difficult to predict. In an 18ft-20ft room I suspect subsonic bass will be attenuated and the Mini-Two will have subtonics at just the right level for listeners to go “ooh, ahh!”. Our 24ft room started to boom, as it is tuned close to the Mini-Two’s port frequency. A 30ft room would probably be just about right, but this is a big room, at least, in the U.K. Ron Levine in the U.S.A. may well think this size normal! 

I mention all this just to go over the eternal problem of low frequency room matching. Don’t worry, manufacturers are as baffled and disconcerted by the issue as everyone else. Only low frequency equalisation in a DSP, using sensing mics, will ever overcome this problem to greatly improve bass quality (XTZ tell me they have just such a system – and yes, I am trying to get it for review!).

Bi-wiring is possible, as the rear connection panel carries massive binding posts able to take 4mm plugs, bare wires or spades, and has removable bi-wire links.

Comments (4)
Mini Dancer II DMD performance
4Friday, 05 April 2013 02:42
Mike Pearson

An interesting review and subsequent comments. I have the same speakers but I do not suffer the bass boom at all, just a good extended bass? Probably room size and acoustics make a difference?

I also have the Usher factory graphs for the Mini Dancer II DMD speakers and whilst not exactly the same as those shown in the review, they are fairly similar. Impedance and decay spectrum being slightly different
Foam Port Plugs Installed!
3Tuesday, 15 January 2013 16:19
As you suggested, I half filled the ports with rolled up acoustic foam and immediately heard the difference: tighter bass with no noticeable loss of low end response in my 24ft square listening room.

Sure did help; thanks from across the pond!

You're more than welcome. It's a gloriously simple way to fine tune any reflex loudspeaker. The only other (more expensive) trick is to fill the room with big, deep settees. Most cushions are foam filled and absorb bass energy, damping down room boom.You get a lovely comfortable lounge that sounds great too! NK
Mini Dancer 2
2Wednesday, 14 November 2012 11:36
I run my pair with a high quality medium powered tube amp with great results. I have owned mine for about a year now and they keep on improving. Though it took me some time to get used to the diamond tweeters as I have always used soft domes with the speakers that I have owned.

Hi Paul, that sounds interesting. You should tell us more about how you found them, especially the unique tweeter. It is intensely detailed, I find, and makes the speaker very 'fast' too. It takes no prisoners though.

There is a big issue in running in loudspeakers. B&W say 20 hours for their Kevlar cones but they actually need at least 120 hours before they start to sing. Usher get it right and state 180 hours; at 2 hours a night every night that is 3 months! The longest claimed run-in is for Tannoy Westminsters, a major dealer claiming they need 9 months for the woods to settle. It sounds like your Ushers are steadily getting better.
Foam Port Plugs?
1Monday, 12 November 2012 20:51
I am a USA owner of these loudpeakers, and note that the December issue of The Absolute Sound gives a similarly rave review...and also suggests the need to tighten the low bass.

Query, then: Exactly what did you do to plug the ports: material, dimensions, etc?

We half filled the port with acoustic foam. It was a 3cm slab of foam rolled up into a tube and put into the port. This narrows the port and provides some acoustic resistance. If that is insufficient then the port can be filled completely. You will hear the difference. You can get acoustic foam for the port from Studio Spares or similar operations in the USA.

If your room booms try and put in the largest volume of acoustic foam possible. Big foam-filled settees are good. Studio Spares sell foam bass traps but you need a lot of them in big volume to absorb bass energy. In the Feb issue we will be looking at room equalisation, which also helps suppress the sort of resonant modes that heavy bass form a big loudspeaker can excite.
I hope this helps.

best regards

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