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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.
 



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

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
MBRosenberg
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
Paul
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
MBRosenberg
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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