November 16, 2010

A Diamond For The Masses? Usher Dancer Mini 1 Speakers.

The Usher Dancer Mini 1 is a compact floor standing speaker finished in glossy piano black on the front baffle, and a Sonus Faber like lute shaped back, mounted on an over sized plinth for added stability.

Priced at RM$12,400.00/pair, the Usher Dancer Mini 1 speakers are the second most economical model available with Diamond DMD tweeter driver. The most economical Diamond DMD equipped Usher speaker is the the BE-718 Diamond DMD, in fact just think of the the Dancer Mini 1 as the floor standing model of the former and you'd not be far off. Both are typical 2 way design utilising a Diamond DMD driver for high frequencies and a 7" mid bass driver made of untreated pulp surface(which looked very similar to those Scanspeak drivers used on older Wilson speaker designs, ala Watt/Puppy 2, perhaps?)

The packaging came in 3 boxes, two for the speakers themselves, and another box for the heavily mass loaded, wood/alloy sandwiched plinth, finished in powder coated black. The heavy plinth forms an anchor to weight down and perhaps provides some mechanical dampening to the main speakers attached on top. The over sized plinth also provides greater stability by allowing 4 cones to be mounted under each corner. Usher had thought fully provided over sized coasters for the pointy cones too, to protect the beautiful flooring in most of today's homes. The Usher's cabinet finishing is first rate, reminding me of those very high end Sonus Faber speakers!
It's two way design, made up of a Diamond DMD tweeter and a 7 inch Scanspeak look alike mid bass driver.

Assembling the speakers to their plinths is an easy 4 screw job, and once attached, the speaker weights substantially more, so make sure you assemble them near or on site where you intend to place them. I used the Usher Dancer Mini 1 in place of my usual PMC Fact 8 pair, and not surprisingly, the Usher settled in very well, right in the same place as originally occupied by the PMC. That means 41" of the rear wall and 22" off the side walls. The Usher Dancer Mini 1 does not seem to like toe in at all, so I had them firing straight ahead in to the room. The Usher allows bi-wiring, and this is an area that allows fine tuning to the speaker's tonal balance. I tried, as usual, plugging my Siltech speaker cables in to the high terminals, the low terminals and cross terminals, but eventually end up settling for the low terminals for a smoother tonal balance across the frequency range.
The WBT style speaker wire terminal is bi-wire able, offering positive finger feel.

From the very first tune, this speaker struck me as an especially strong, dynamic and musically bold performer, both macro and micro wise. The review pair was a showroom demo and therefore should be thoroughly run in by now, but it wasn't. I waited a week or so for the high frequencies to settle down before starting serious auditioning. Once settled in, the high frequencies were smooth, extended but did not seemed as airy as I'd expect from other diamond tweeter designs I've experienced in the past. The lower mid bass is warm but punchy and the Dancer Mini 1 actually digs lower in the bass department than it's compact driver/cabinet size appears to suggest. The gentle grunt at the lows make listening to loud rock/pop or techno music such a joy.

However, playing classical music is not one of the Dancer's forte. It was perfectly fine with an orchestra on full crescendo, thanks to it's great transient and dynamic response. However the quiet passages can expose a discontinuity between the tweeter and mid driver on the cross over frequency point, and this causes harmonic and timbre rich instruments such as the flute, oboe and wood winds to sound flat and lacking in some wooden texture. Violins and violas suffers the same by having it's strings emphasized over the wooden body reverberation that follows. Perhaps partnering the Dancer with a tube amp can ameliorate this issue? I don't know, but I would suspect that it's highly possible as I've heard the Usher/Primaluna(tube amp) combo on demo in CMY Audio & Visual showrooms before and did not notice the above issue.

The Dancer Mini 1 redeems it self with vocal(think 2V1G style, girl/guy & guitar) music. The vocal is portrayed with great focus, immediate clarity and absolute chest density. The Dancer feels most at home playing rock, pop, R&B, techno and dance music, when it's allowed to play the transient and dynamics calling cards. This is one speaker that plays fast and plays very loudly! The threshold of cone break up is very high, as I've never quite manage to push hard and loud enough(it came a point that it was just too loud for me to bear, but the music was still clean and maintained it's composure). I would suspect the Dancer Mini 1 to make a great high end HT speaker too, with it's matching surround and center package.
Another look at the Usher Dancer Mini 1 speaker.

Ultimately, this pair of Usher speaker offers good value, if classical music is not a big part of one's musical diet and taste. It's hardy drivers and beautiful enclosure would almost certainly ensure long term reliability and decor friendly. It's not particularly fussy when it comes to setting up in the room. It's also an easy load for most amps to drive and control. I would however caution one to audition the Dancer with his/her own amplifier, if this speaker is shortlisted for purchase.

The Usher Dancer Mini 1 is not the most polished of diamonds for sure(given it's nearly budget pricing), but it certainly qualifies as a diamond for the masses who can aspire to own with little financial burden.

Usher is sold by CMY Audio & Visual, contact John at 03-21439406.

No comments: