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Mini Matters: Ophidian Minimo Desktop / Bookshelf Speakers

I’m not even religious but I’ve used the analogy before that speakers produce more sound then they have any god given right too. A slight platitude, maybe, but it’s never more apt than with these tea box sized propositions.

I had them disappearing into my room like Houdini, such that I was forgetting how much more expensive and larger speakers sound. That’s the ideal of a great pair of speakers. Plug N’ Play and appreciate them for what they invoke in music. Not necessarily getting all hung up over whether they reach a plateau in soundstage and scale. Maybe this is why speakers tend to stay put in HiFi systems, because of this emotional connection! It’s more than just ‘HiFi precision’. This is not to imply in any way that these speakers aren’t competing in the scheme of things, it’s just there are of course limits to what can be achieved in ultra small boxes.

But I’m forgetting the normal order that goes into an ‘article’ and I won’t use that R word, I’m sure it detracts from a website if it’s to interest people.

Ophidian Audio is the business of Gareth James who I have chatted to at shows and it’s refreshing the audio industry has a new generation. And no I’m not being patronising but making an observation, since I think it’s fantastic when high quality audio expands beyond its normal reach. It needs to!

Out of the box these are immaculately made with mirrored grain pairs (if going for the walnut or oak finishes). They are solid and weighty for their size. At the back is a round mesh grill that got my head going to American prison films. The grate like appearance says something about my subconscious!?

This is basically a port and these speakers use what Ophidian Audio call ‘Aeroflex Port Technology’. Gareth says that by using a long port, akin to transmission line designs, air velocity is lowered and thus the effect on the driver is to reduce uncontrolled driver movement, with the effect that distorted noises from the port are eliminated. Transmission lines are a type of speaker where the bass air created from the back of the bass driver within the cabinet, moves along a folded internal line in the cabinet, augmenting the power of the bass driver and helping to reduce distortion of the driver in this way. I guess this body of air in the line acts as a kind of cushion to stop bass driver distortion.

I’m not comparing these £700 RRP speakers to others at this size, because I’ve limited experience of passive speakers of such a size, which I’m happy to admit. It’s just I don’t normally listen to miniature bookshelf or desk mounted speakers as I tend to listen to a main system. Much of what I’ve heard in this size are small compact inexpensive types available from mainstream consumer HiFi shops. Or active (with powered amplifier) small speakers.

The above said, these Minimo’s don’t quite have the all out resolution of something a little larger at a similar price, like a pair of KEF LS50’s. They aren’t as incisive as the similarly sized and newish active KEF LSX’s either, available for an extra £300. Maybe this could be construed as me playing them down. However this is definitely not the case. The reason being that, in my view, the main ‘bag’ of these Minimo’s is to create a non fatiguing sound. On a desk they are so relaxed and enveloping and project a non tiring sound, you can listen for hours. If you think about it, this is exactly what you want in a desk based pair. Working away, you don’t want distracting. It may be very different to the more analytical nature of conventional sized HiFi systems for critical listening, but it’s a different ball game. So go with it. As I’ve said, there is more to speakers than HiFi precision but invoking the emotionality in music.

Another sword in the Minimo’s armour is the ability to keep control at volume, and have authority too, which small speakers like the KEF LSX (£1000) I’ve heard, just cannot do as well comparatively speaking. Whilst the KEF’s are better detail wise, they aren’t as good at limiting  distortion at volume. Unlike the booming Brian Blessed, these Minimo’s rise up and keep to this challenge, all day long.

I also found a lovely extended mid range, reasonably good bass depth and accuracy and they cope pretty well with faster bass, like on the brilliant Morning/Evening album from Four Tet. They do have a great tonal balance and it’s true what Gareth says, that they keep their tonality as volume is increased.

Much of the ability to appreciate the Minimo’s for what they do in creating a really rounded non fatiguing sound, accounts for why they dissolve in your listening environment. It’s so true there are  many ways to create pleasing sound.

Paired in my main system, the Minimo’s more than keep up with the scale of the PMC twenty5 23s on a box size:sound ratio. Clearly my amplification is overkill but it shows what these speakers are capable of. With the more inexpensive Nord/Yamaha/M2Tech desk system, they keep their sonic characteristics. I’m sure with a more affordable amplifier like the Cyrus One, or Rega Brio, it would make for a similarly priced system to best any all in one systems like the Naim Muso 2. That is, if you want the separation and stereo imaging satellites afford, the non distorting characteristics at volume, a non tiring sound, and the type of enhanced quality you get from separates. I found these speakers work equally well with class ab (Cyrus) or class d (Nord/Hypex) power amps, if using a well matched pre amp.

So just as you think that your idea about speakers is right, life has a habit of hitting you like a proverbial truck of reality. This is so true with these speakers.

An engaging 60 second appraisal of these baby monitors

Test Systems

A fair selection of different kit;

System one (main) : Innuos Zenith Mark 2 source/server, Cyrus DAC XP Signature pre amp with connected Cyrus PSX-R power supply, Cyrus Mono X200 Signature power amps, ISOL-8 Integra power conditioner connected to mains with ISOL-8 IsoLink Ultra power cable, Chord Qutest DAC with matching MCRU linear PSU, Chord Signature tuned Aray XLR interconnects.

System two (desk) : M2Tech Young MkIII pre/DAC, Yamaha WXC-50 pre/streamer, Nord NC500DM MkII power amp.

Specifications

  • 90mm aluminium long throw midbass with balanced neodymium motor system
  • 27mm neodymium high frequency unit with a Sonolex coated fabric diaphragm
  • AEROFLEX port system for a precisely controlled bass performance
  • Braced and optimised cabinet built in Sheffield, UK
  • Sensitivity – 85dB (2.83v)
  • Frequency response – 53hz to 28khz
  • Recommended power – 30 to 60 watts
  • Impedance – 4 ohms
  • Dimensions – 178mm H x 122mm W x 144mm D* (plus 20mm binding posts)
  • Weight – 1.9kg
A Transmission Line – directing bass air within the cabinet (Diagrammatic-not actual design)

Price

£700
Available in satin white, black ash, oak, or walnut;

Manufacturer Details

Ophidian Audio Ltd
21 Grosvenor Road
Hoylake
Wirral
CH47 3BS
United Kingdom
Email : info@ophidianaudio.co.uk
Website : http://www.ophidian.co.uk

Useful Branded 13th Note products 🙂

Written by Simon Price

I'm an audiophile who likes faithfully reproduced audio and sharing experiences with others. I am primarily interested in products; their looks, functionality and features, and most importantly how they sound! My reviews are not overly technical and I don't use pretentious language, as I believe great audio is non exclusive and to be enjoyed by all! It's all about the music!

Exceedingly Good Value; NORD NC500DM MkII Stereo Power Amplifier

Headphone Amp/DAC shootout – AudioQuest DragonFly Black, Red and Cobalt, Cyrus Soundkey, & Chord Mojo