Small satellite/subwoofer-type speaker systems are nothing new and quite frankly they all promise “big sound from small boxes.” Given that some extremely formidable VBC’s (Very Big Companies—e.g., Bose, Sony, and others) offer well-established sat/sub-type products through big-box retailers and factory outlet stores across the country, it seems fair to ask if the world really needs yet another speaker system of this type? But give Cambridge Audio’s new Minx system a careful listen and I think you might answer that question with an immediate and resounding “Yes!”
This review focuses on Cambridge Audio’s S325 system ($1399), which is a bundled 5.1-channel system that consists of five Minx Min 20 satellite speakers (the larger of Cambridge Audio’s two Minx satellite designs) and a 300-watt Minx X300 subwoofer (the middle model in the Minx subwoofer lineup). What exactly sets the Minx system apart? The answer, in a nutshell, is that the Minx rig fulfills the promise of “big sound from small boxes” far more completely—and with substantially more subtlety and nuance—than competing sat/sub systems in its price class have ever been able to do.
Just to give you a sense for the full scope of the Minx product family, let me point out that the smallest 2.1-channel Minx system, the S212 system, starts at about $549 while the largest 5.1-channel rig in the group, the Minx S525 system, sells for around $1799. But from the smallest package to the largest, the appeal of Cambridge Audio’s Minx packages centers on sonic sophistication, pure and simple. Though undeniably “budget-priced,” Minx systems simply do not sound like typical low-cost speaker packages usually do; in truth, they offer what we regard as benchmark performance in their size and price class, which means prospective buyers can expect to get more (actually, a lot more) than their money’s worth. Below, I’ll point out key highlights that set the Minx system apart from its competitors.
Not unlike a certain nationwide pizza chain, which proclaims that “better ingredients” make its product superior, all Cambridge Audio Minx systems incorporate a special, signature ingredient said to make a huge difference in performance. That ingredient is the so-called BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) driver Cambridge uses in each and every one of its Minx satellite speakers. To be candid, it would take an article longer than this entire review to give a thorough explanation of the technology and benefits of BMR drivers, so let me instead provide a brief summary here along with links to several AVguide.com blogs that discuss BMR technology.
About BMR Drivers
Most of the drivers used in typical loudspeakers feature rigid and relatively non-resonant diaphragms (think “domes” in tweeters or “cones” as used in woofers or midrange drivers) that are designed to behave like nearly perfect “pistons.” The drivers respond to audio signals by moving inward and outward (ideally with minimal distortion), thus creating the sound waves we hear. There are several key “rules of the road” for piston-type drivers that are worth bearing in mind. First, the diameter of a driver diaphragm must be smaller than the wavelength of the highest frequencies the driver is meant to reproduce, if the driver is to disperse well (thus promoting good imaging). Second, the lower a driver goes, the greater the volume of air it must displace in order to play at a given loudness level. Together, these two rules help explain why woofers (which handle bass frequencies) are larger than midrange drivers, and midrange drivers are in turn larger than tweeters (which handle the highest frequencies).
One further point to note is that, whenever loudspeakers assign various bands of audio frequencies to different drivers, an electrical “crossover network” typically must be used to direct those frequencies to their appropriate drive units (high frequencies routed to tweeters, midrange frequencies routed to midrange drivers, and so on). Much though designers struggle to make sure that crossover networks are low in distortion, the fact is that they do inject some coloration that affect the overall purity of the sounds we hear.