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Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond
page 2
page 3 Sound quality
page 4 Conclusion
page 5 Measured performance
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From Hi-Fi World - January 2014  issue
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Diamond mini

 

 

In 2013 Usher releaesd a standmount loudspeaker with Diamond tweeter. Jon Myles is bedazzled.

Taiwanese company Usher manufactures a comprehensive range of loudspeakers at its purpose-built facility in the Far East (Taiwan) – one that has been attracting a growing number of enthusiastic customers here in the UK.
    We were impressed with the Usher Dancer Mini-Two reviewed in the November 2012 issue of Hi-Fi World – a £3,500 floorstander good enough to trouble ‘speakers costing twice as much. But that’s a big, imposing floorstander not necessarily suited to everyone’s listening space. Which is where the new Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond DMD standmount comes in.
    Usher Audio is one of a select few speaker manufacturers that builds all the drivers it uses itself and the DMD in the name refers to its proprietary tweeter – an acronym for diamond-metal-diamond.
    Usher explains: “The DMD dome is effectively a diamond dome with a reduced mass and a well-controlled, appealing sound signature, resembling very closely a perfect piston in its behaviour. This is made possible by its laminated diamond-metal-diamond structure, which consists of a proprietary metal alloy base layer coated with an amorphous diamond-like carbon layer”.
    This 1.25in DMD tweeter unit is mated with a 7in bass/mid-range driver with a front-facing slot port underneath to augment low frequency response.
    As to the ‘Mini’ in the name? Well, it has to be said it’s a relative term as the Dancers are not exactly diminutive, standing 435mm tall and stretching back 370mm with a front baffle width of 260mm. That 50mm thick front baffle curves back slightly around the tweeter to help time-align the drivers and the edges are chamfered to lessen diffraction effects.
    The cabinet itself is a beautifully veneered layered-wood construction  that Usher says is held together with a special glue that creates multiple constrained layers to reduce cabinet resonances.



    The side walls curve backwards from the front baffle to a narrow spine containing four sturdy gold-plated speaker terminals to facilitate bi-wiring or bi-amping. Inside the cabinet the crossover is split across two completely separate printed circuit boards – one for the high-pass filter feeding the tweeter and one for the low pass feeding the bass unit. They are fixed to opposite walls of the cabinet with an elastomeric substance to avoid resonances.
    There’s no overall grille as such for the fascia – just a round cloth pad that fits over the mid-range driver; the DMD tweeter is protected by its own fixed wire-mesh.
    True to Usher’s renowned attention to detail, the company also produces dedicated ‘Waveguide’ stands for the Mini-X that look superb. They’re a cast metal design with a sweeping front section that curves gracefully round the central pillars while the top plate has two holes which allow the Mini-Xs to be bolted to it via threaded inserts on the base of the ‘speaker cabinet. In situ they look undeniably imposing and purposeful while the curved centerpiece is said to help smooth and improve the Mini-Xs low-frequency response.
    One word of warning, though – once mated together the speaker and stand are heavy – and I mean heavy because each ‘speaker weighs 15.5 kg. So it’s worth assembling them as close as possible to their intended site before making those final crucial positional adjustments.
    Speaking of which, the front-firing port means the Dancers are relatively unfussy about close-to-wall placement – but they do sound better with a bit of room to breathe. I found they worked well some 16in into the room and well clear of side walls, and with a slight toe-in – but, as ever, individual experimentation is recommended.
    Not surprisingly, all this engineering and craftsmanship comes at a price, the Usher Mini-Xs retailing at £2,450 and the stands £650 – although they are available as a package for £3,000.



SOUND QUALITY
If you equate diamond tweeters with a ringing, bright treble then the Mini-Xs might come as a bit of a surprise. Instead, Usher’s DMD design gives a smoother response than some others. High frequencies are very much present and correct but devoid of that sometimes-piercing ‘tizzy’ sound diamond or metal-domed tweeters can exhibit. What that equates to is a very refined yet detailed portrayal of music.
    Listen to something with plenty of atmosphere – such as Cowboy Junkies’ ‘The Trinity Sessions’ or David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir’s ‘Hearing Solar Winds’ – and you can hear the sounds reverberating in the acoustic space they were recorded in.
    In the David Hykes piece in particular the DMD tweeter captured the high-pitched overtones produced by the choir with astonishing detail without ever sounding shrill or edgy.
    Overall, there’s a slightly forward nature to the Ushers which means images are pushed into the room, hanging deliciously between the speakers.
    Jan Garbarek’s ECM recording ‘In Praise Of Dreams’ positively soared from the Ushers – the soprano saxophone sounding clean and finely-etched with the subtle synthesizer embellishments rumbling clearly beneath.
    Even pushed to neighbor-bothering levels here the Ushers stayed controlled and poised throughout.
    And it has to be said the Mini-Xs do respond to a good dose of power. Usher quotes an 87dB sensitivity level and they thrived on the end of Quad’s impressive new 150 Watts per channel Platinum Stereo amplifier (see review this issue).
    The combination brought an impressive depth to YoYo Ma’s ‘Songs Of Joy And Peace’ with the cello having a rich tonality. Yet again the delicate decay of notes fading away was admirably well captured.
    Switching to a less powerful 50 Watt per channel Arcam amplifier and, while the Ushers never sounded anything less than musical, the dynamics previously on offer became somewhat softened.

BASS PERFORMANCE
Despite being relatively large for a standmount, basic physics dictates that the Mini-X is never going to have prodigious amounts of low-end heft. And, after all, Usher has its larger floorstanding models for those looking for room-shaking subsonics.
    But to its credit the bass the Mini-X does provide is both powerful and realistic – sounding tight, solid and tuneful. Usher seem to have avoided the temptation to engineer in any artificial upper bass hump which means you get a low-end that is very consistent.
    It means if the bass is there you’ll definitely hear it, but at a realistic level that retains its place in the overall musical spectrum.
    I’d say the sturdy construction of the Mini-Xs is playing a big part here as there is no sense of the cabinets adding any colouration to the music.
    Take Leftfield’s ‘Rhythm And Stealth’ for example. This slice of 1990s dance music electronica positively thumps along – and, unfortunately, thump is exactly what it does through some loudspeakers. Not with the Mini-Xs. They take the extended lows in their stride with no energy-sapping overhang, so the album pounds along energetically.
    Yes, subsonics are missing but the Ushers are so musically satisfying you really don’t notice.
    Similarly on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s ‘Bright Moments’ CD you can hear the power of drummer Robert Sly’s sledgehammer beats while Henry Pearson’s supple bass bristles with energy – providing the perfect foil for Kirk’s improvisations at the top of his saxophone’s register where yet again that DMD tweeter comes into its own.
    Nothing seemed out of place through the Ushers – every element of the music occupying its correct place within the sonic palette.
    If there’s one criticism to be made it’s that on first listening the Mini-Xs will not sound as exciting as some rival speakers – especially those with more sharply-etched diamond or ribbon tweeters.
    That’s a consequence of their overall smooth balance and something that actually rewards long-term listening better. The chances are you’ll still be enjoying them when their more immediate-sounding brethren have started to grate on the ears.



CONCLUSION
Usher Audio has forged a deserved reputation for superbly-engineered, beautifully-made loudspeakers and the Dancer Mini-X does nothing to alter that.
    Fed by a good quality amplifier they are terrific performers with a sonic signature that doesn’t favour one part of the frequency spectrum above another – which makes for an extremely honest, open and natural performance.
    Usher's DMD diamond tweeter is among the best examples of the breed you could hear, with excellent high-frequency treble response that manages to avoid veering into harshness.
    Instead, it is smooth and refined with a beguiling character which shines on well-recorded material.
    The relatively large and heavy cabinet means bass response is also well-controlled with little colouration.
    Most importantly, they present sounds in an infectious and involving manner, whatever musical genre takes your fancy.
    Add in the fact that they are finished to a standard befitting loudspeakers costing easily twice as much and it’s clear the Usher Dancer Mini-Xs are a very impressive package indeed.
    You’ll search long and hard to find anything else to match it at the price.



Usher Dancer Mini-X DIAMOND
£2,450
(stands £650)


OUTSTANDING - amongst the best

VERDICT
A highly-accomplished standmount loudspeaker from Usher with outstanding sound and great build quality.

FOR
- smooth, refined diamond
  tweeter
- tuneful bass
- great detail
- excellent build quality

AGAINST
- unexciting at first listen
- large and heavy

Hi-Fi Sound
+44 (0)1642 267012
www.hifisound.co.uk


MEASURED PERFORMANCE
Sensitivity at one metre measured 86dB for one nominal watt (2.8V) of input – a fair result, compromised slightly by the ‘speaker’s high overall impedance. This measured 10 Ohms with pink noise, partly because Usher have used a high DCR 7 Ohm bass unit, where 4 Ohms is a common value these days. Our impedance curve clearly has a very high value at low frequencies, meaning the Diamond Mini-X draws little current from an amplifier. It needs a high power amplifier with good voltage swing to go loud, around 60 Watts being a minimum for good volume and over 100 Watts to play very loud.
    Frequency response was flat, as is usual with Usher loudspeakers. The interesting feature here is the flatness of the Diamond tweeter’s response. Diamond tweeters tend to be peaky, but Usher’s unique diamond vapour deposition process on a substrate avoids this problem, our analysis shows. The result is smooth, accurate treble.
    There is no upper mid-range crossover suckout so detailing will be strong. There is no bass lift either, to add warmth or body to the sound. Absence of peaks and undulations in frequency response suggest low coloration and this was borne out by our 200mS decay analysis.
    The slot port works around 40Hz, damping the bass unit over a fairly wide frequency band, our red port output trace shows. Bass extends down to a low 30Hz and quality will likely be on the dry and controlled side, but near wall placement will lift low frequency output in use.
    The Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond is accurately engineered, delivering a smooth even response right across the audio band. It runs low and should have firm bass. The Diamond DMD tweeter looks impressive. Sensitivity is on the low side however so it needs power. NK

 

FREQUENCY RESPONSE  (red trace - port output)

 

IMPEDANCE

 

DECAY SPECTRUM 200mS

 

DECAY SPECTRUM MAP 200mS

 

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