Caveat Emptor: The Minx System Needs (lots of) Break-In
Before I say one word about the sonic character of the Minx system I first need to caution readers that this system absolutely, positively needs a good bit of break-in before it starts to sound decent, let alone good. Straight from the carton the Minx system sounds almost painfully edgy, constricted, and “tightly wound,” meaning that at first, highs and upper midrange frequencies sound rough, tizzy, and strained, while bass seems thin, anemic, and poorly controlled. But be patient, give the system some playing time, and think of every story you’ve ever heard about ugly caterpillars turning into beautiful butterflies. Better sound comes to those who wait.
Our review sample of the Minx system began its sonic turnaround after it accumulated about 10 hours of playing time, made more sonic strides once it got to about 15 hours of total time, and continued to show improvements until its sound seemed fully “fleshed out” after about 20-30 hours of total time. What about the sound changes during this break-in period? First, highs become progressively smoother and better defined, as do upper midrange frequencies—as a result of which both imaging and soundstaging markedly improve. Down below, bass becomes at once more ample and better defined, and the blend between the sub and the satellites gradually becomes smoother and better integrated. You might think that what I am describing are small, incremental improvements, but they aren’t. In truth, these changes are so substantial that they make for a night/day improvement in the Minx system’s overall sound. For this reason let me offer one hint: if you use a calibration system during initial set-up, go back and re-run the calibration after the system has been played for 30 hours or so.
Once ready to give of its best, the Minx system exhibits three signature qualities that will favorably impress most listeners—even those who might normally not consider buying systems of this type (because they presume they’ll need something larger and more costly).
Refinement and Finesse
From the midrange on up, the Minx satellites sound markedly more refined, detailed, subtle, and delicate than you would expect a system of this size/price to sound. Many small systems sound, well, small—as if their satellites are continually straining and struggling to do their jobs. As a result, most small sat/sub systems exhibit glaring sonic errors, such as a tendency to blur details, smear or distort instrumental and vocal timbres, exaggerate the edges of transients sound to a painful degree, or make highs and upper midrange frequencies sound “papery” and thin. The Minx system, however, sounds nothing like this. On the contrary, it sounds open, clear, quite well detailed, and shows a certain richness and purity of tonal color that is almost unheard of in this price range. High-frequency percussion instruments, which can be a real pain as heard through typical tiny sat/sub rigs, sound terrific through the Minx system.
Disappearing Act Imaging, Spacious Soundstaging
Once they are fully broken-in the Minx satellites seem almost to “disappear” in a sonic sense, meaning that they draw little if any attention to themselves and instead create the illusion that the sounds of instruments, voices, and cinematic sound effects are originating from specific points within a large three-dimensional soundstage. I attribute these qualities to the remarkably broad, smooth dispersion patterns that Cambridge Audio’s BMR drivers are able to achieve. As you listen to the Minx system at play, then, you may be struck by two qualities of the sounds you are hearing. First, sounds don’t seem to cling to or even to originate from the tiny Minx Min 20 satellites, which makes it easy to suspend disbelief and to happily “go with the flow” of the music or movie soundtrack you’re playing. Second, the overall size, scope, and seamlessness of the soundstages you’ll experience seems almost impossibly large and spacious given the diminutive size of the Minx system components, themselves (the experience is more like what you would expect to hear with a bigger, more costly mid-size system in play). It’s in this specific area that the Minx system really delivers on the promise of “big sound from small boxes.”
Surprisingly Robust Dynamics
Cambridge Audio has, I think, really done its homework in the DSP programming for the X300 powered subwoofer, which—please bear in mind—also handles frequencies up to (and, of course, a bit beyond) 130Hz. As the system plays, you’ll hear a decent attempt at low bass (though the woofer doesn’t really reach down below the mid-30Hz region), ample mid-bass, and very good handling of upper bass/lower midrange frequencies. But the really significant part is the sheer graciousness and, yes, joyful punchiness with which this little sub tackles large-scale dynamic swells and low frequency effects of the type that give many small systems conniption fits. Does the Minx rig play as loudly as well-made mid-size and full-size surround speaker systems? No. But does it sound more robust, lively, and at-ease with itself than other small sat/sub systems we’ve heard. Yes, and by a not-subtle margin.