Friday, September 30, 2016

Stereophile Hatchets the Crystal Cable Arabesque Minissimo Diamond

This is kind of a follow up on my original article Stereophile - The Data Doesn't Lie and, to be honest, this is a tempest in a teacup as well. It's just one sentence that lit a fire under me.

First, I've never heard the Arabesque Minissimo, nor can I really morally justify the purchase of small home speakers that cost $20,000, whether from Crystal or Magico.

Even then I am nothing if not a hero for truth and justice so it was inevitable that the latest online review from Stereophile would completely piss me off. For the most part, it's a too crappy and short for a pair of speakers with such pedigree.

Stereophile Listening Tests 

The listening section is only one page, and very little devoted to actual music listening. Also, John Atkinson seems to write that he relies on test tones and his ears to tell "tonality" instead of oh, I don't know, music? I mean, your ears are for music, not test tones. If you have the gear, you don't need to be using test tones and aural guessing.

The biggest problem is that by JA's own admission, the speakers could not be placed optimally in his room. Instead of realizing there was significant "operator error" JA goes on to blame the speaker's and claims "treble tailoring" will only play nice with some music.

So what happened? Speaker/reviewer mismatch.

To have the maximum possible sensitivity and simplest crossover it seems that the Minissimo foregoes "baffle-step compensation" or BSC, and requires close wall placement. I have highlighted this region under the line in the chart at the left. This rising bass effect happens as the woofer's output goes from omni-directional to half space, and is related to the woofer and the baffle width. Notice it does not show up in his near field graphs...that's a whole other story of mess too long for this post. 

You might look at that and say "what a crappy speaker!" but you'd be wrong.  There's nothing wrong with designing a speaker for a specific environment, and we need more speakers that don't try to dominate your living room. This kind of design approach can yield exceptional results. Unlike almost all "high end" speakers, the Minissimo's were never designed to be a "one size fits all" model. They are ideal for a salon where discretely beautiful speakers could play wonderfully while leaving space for everything else. Listening to the Minissimo's in the middle of the room will sound like a mosquito orchestra, which seems to be just what happened.

JA rigidly reviewed them as middle-of-the-room stand mounts and blames the speaker when he should be blaming his closed mind and lack of understanding. With these measurements in hand, JA should have stopped or found a better place to listen to the Minissimos, or held of on publishing the review. Instead he attributed the weak response to the "tailored treble." His excuse that his furniture did not allow him to place the speakers correctly is the height of professional whinery. Either move them to the right place, or let some one who can and wants to them properly so. Don't compromise by writing a half-ass review with the speakers in a poor location.

The Bottom Line

The Crystal Cable Minissimo designers took truly refined components with a minimalist design aesthetic and made a high quality, beautiful looking pair that will stay out of your living space. Comparing the Minissimo to the slightly less expensive, but equally insensitive, Magico S1 Mk. II, the S1 requires much more floor space to sound it's best. To me, a small speaker that actually needs so much space is kind of a weird situation. On the other hand, the Minissimo is small (for a speaker with a 6" woofer) and perfectly happy to get cozy to the art on the wall.

With this in mind, if you are a music lover who wants top tier, beautiful speakers made from rare materials that don't take over your room I strongly encourage you to listen to them for yourself and pay no attention to the critic behind the curtain.