Playback readers who follow the forum section of our parent Web site www.avguide.com will already know that Usher’s superb Be-718 stand-mount monitor speaker ($2795/pair) comes up frequently in discussions and has generated a lot of reader interest. The Be-718 was favorably reviewed by Robert Harley, editor-in-chief of The Absolute Sound, and has gone on to win many awards both from our own and other publications. It’s a speaker that has earned a reputation as one of those magical “go to” products that successfully caters to listeners with (very) high-end tastes, but whose price fits within sensible, real-world budgets. What’s not to like about that?
Well, good though the Be-718 is, it does have a few acknowledged limitations such as adequate but not great low bass response as well as an inevitably limited dynamic envelope (the Be-718 offers serious dynamic punch as traditional stand-mount monitors go, but—let’s face it—it is not a full-sized floorstander). To get a handle on the mission profile of Usher’s new Mini Dancer Two, then, picture it as an attempt to build a speaker that preserves the essential goodness of the Be-718, but that addresses customers’ expressed desire for deeper bass and an even more expansive dynamic envelope.
Usher calls it top tier speakers the Dancer series, of which the Be-718 (also known as the “Tiny Dancer”) is the entry-level model. In the past, the next step up the line was the superb CP-8571 Mk II, which is a wonderful speaker, but one that sells for well over $10,000/pair (too big a step up for many prospective customers to handle). To bridge this gap, Usher has created a pair of Mini Dancer models—the Mini Dancer One and Two. We chose to review the Mini Dancer Two, partly because it appears to offer much more performance headroom than the Mini Dancer One does, and partly because its design is more strongly differentiated from that of the Be-718.
The Mini Dancer Two uses the same exotic metal dome tweeter as the Be-718 plus two of the 718’s mid-bass drivers, placing them in a D’Appolito array and housing them in a tall, deep, reflex-loaded floorstanding enclosure with beautifully curved sidewalls. The resulting speaker is quite large (believe us when we tell you it is “mini” in name only) and strikingly handsome, with an overall level of fit and finish that makes the Mini Dancer Two seem more expensive than it really is. And as you’ll discover in a moment, the theme of value that belies price applies to the sound of this speaker, too.
Consider this speaker if: you have admired the look and sound of premium priced speakers in the roughly $10k range, but simply could not afford them. In essence, the Mini Dancer Two cuts the cost of entry to that performance spectrum in half. The Mini Dancer Two preserves most of the strengths of the Be-718 (sonic transparency, neutral tonal balance, richness and purity of timbres, and an involving and expressive sound) while delivering noticeably deeper bass extension and even more expansive dynamics. In fact, in some respects it is nipping at the heels of Usher’s larger Dancer models, which is saying a mouthful.
Look further if: you were hoping for a speaker that identically matches the voicing and imaging characteristics of the Be-718’s. In practice, we observed two subtle but noteworthy differences between the Usher siblings. First, the Mini Dancer Two gives a slightly more distant perspective on the music, throwing a soundstage that unfolds behind the plane of the speakers, whereas the Be-718 tends to be more of an “up front” imager. Second, the Mini Dancer Two sounds perhaps a hair less midrange-forward than the Be-718, offering a sound that is arguably richer and smoother, but just slightly more reserved.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced floorstanding loudspeakers)