Everyone has some movie lines stuck in their heads. “I like leeetle things…” uttered by Ian Holm while playing Napoleon in Time Bandits is one of my all-time faves. This line bubbles up to the top of my consciousness every time I go to CES looking for small loudspeakers to review. The Silverline Minuet Supreme speakers are certainly little things; only 5.5” wide, 9” tall, and 7.25” deep. When I saw them in Alan Yun’s room at CES last year, I felt an instant attraction. After looking through the extensive list of reviews on his site, I felt a bit late to the dance—they’ve been reviewed by a lot of people. So When Alan revised the Minuet and turned it into the Minuet Supreme, I was first in the queue for review, with my dance ticket gripped tightly between thumb and forefinger.
I asked Silverline’s designer and owner Alan Yun what he changed to make the Minuet into the $600 Minuet Supreme. He said: “The Minuet Supreme is the extension of the original Minuet with several minor but critical improvements.” First the crossover point was changed from 3.5kHz to 3.7kHz. According to Yun, “this gives the tweeter a more relaxed presentation in the lower highs coupled with more extension. This new crossover point also enhances the midrange and lower midrange with a bit more weight.”
The cabinet is the biggest cosmetic change. Instead of cheap-looking vinyl wood-grain, the new Minuet Supreme has switched to real wood veneer. And what veneer it is, with wonderful grain and figuring. Going to veneer also necessitated some other production changes. Yun said, “The cabinet of the Minuet Supreme is more rigid than the original Minuet. The Supreme uses a 1/2” particleboard compared to the 3/8” of the original. Overall the Supreme’s cabinet is an inch deeper. These changes give the Minuet Supreme a much lower cabinet resonance without making the cabinet too ‘dead.’ We consider the particleboard we are using to be the most consistent wood material vis-à-vis weathering, in normal living environment. We do not use plywood.”
Instead of exotic materials, the Minuet Supreme relies on tried-and-true technologies, a silk dome tweeter and paper cone midrange driver. Yun’s reasoning is straightforward. “I fell in love with dynamic paper cone drivers when I first heard them. My humble opinion is that paper cone drivers usually have a more neutral and robust midrange even though the bench measurements are not as good as other materials. Although sandwiched materials and ceramic cone drivers achieve clean and tight performance, many have a kind of dryness I find emotionless. A good paper cone driver always has more ‘humanity.’”
Another weapon in Yun’s designer’s arsenal is the driver itself. “I use a long-throw over-hung design. The cone is 1/2” above the spider. This ‘mini’ driver with an effective diameter of 3.25” yields an unusual peak-to-peak excursion of 1/2”, which enables the Minuet Supreme to achieve a free-resonance point below 50 cycles. Except for the driver frame, the motor magnet, spider, and T-Yoke are custom made for me. Due to its efficiency, this driver can play effortlessly in the mid-90dB’s.”
In order to get a seamless match with the woofer Alan Yun used an ultra-lightweight silk soft dome tweeter. To cope with the heat generated by the driver, it has both internal ferro-fluid heat dissipation and a heat sink on the back. Yun says, “I love a soft-dome silk tweeter because it gives a warmer sound and eliminates the fatigue usually found on hard materials such as metals, diamond, or ceramics.”
Even the real rosewood veneer on the Minuet Supremes was chosen as much for its sonic effect as aesthetics. “There are so many different wood veneers available. Personally, I prefer the Danish rosewood veneer we're using on the Minuet Supreme. The sound from this veneer is more ‘organic’ than other veneers I tried.”
As Yun said, “To build a very small mini-monitor without giving away quality is very challenging, especially under the restrictions of a budget. Still, the Minuet Supreme has PP capacitors, 6N copper internal wiring, bi-wireable high-quality binding posts, machined and brushed anodized solid aluminum speaker binding post boards. They are all hand-assembled, and the serial number is engraved by the designer himself after final testing.” Getting all this in a speaker that sells for $600 a pair would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.
Back in 2007 Neil Gader reviewed the original Minuet speakers. He found the originals to be “gregarious and voluble with a hint of spotlighting on top. Harmonically the Minuet has an intrinsic sweetness that just won’t quit… Although it attains some impressively high SPLs, when stressed it will sit on vocals a bit, pushing them back a couple rows…like every mini-speaker I know of, the Minuet can’t summon the linearity and sheer gravitas that larger multi-driver speakers extend to the lower frequencies…if your tastes run strictly to Mahler or Metallica it might be a bit overmatched, otherwise the Minuet is musicality personified.”