Usher

Award wining, affordable Loudspeakers with Diamond tweeters from Taiwan
"There are no accidents." At USHER, we don't leave it to chance to improve or to innovate.

Why Should Anybody Accept Compromised Performance In Real-World Priced Speaker Systems? 

Established in 1972 in central Taiwan, USHER has grown from a small audio enthusiast's shop to one of the most respected name in the global audio scene. Today, at its newly completed factory in Taichung, USHER continues to develop and manufacture audio amplifiers and loudspeakers of cutting edge design, to its exacting high standards.

Owner and engineer-in-chief, Mr. Lien-Shui Tsai, holds a unique view towards high end audio. He believes that no-compromise audio components can and should be friendly price-wise to all music lovers and audiophiles; They should be a luxury most people can afford.

The secret to USHER's ascend to the cream of the crop in high end audio lies in the fact that USHER always takes a scientific approach to engineering, and supports it with imagination and extensive, pains-taking experiments and listening tests. The result of USHER's thorough engineering and quality control is products of exceptional performance and reliability. Many of the USHER amplifiers built in the '70s are still actively serving their owners today.

 Usher Audio Technology speakers and electronics are built for the experienced listener who just won’t compromise on sound quality even at moderate prices. Our loudspeakers are produced with skill and pride in an ultra-modern factory in Taiwan with great attention to manufacturing efficiency and productivity, turning out beautifully-crafted speaker systems incorporating advanced technologies like beryllium midrange drivers to match Usher’s superb DMD diamond tweeters.

Usher’s Drivers
Usher has been producing speakers in Taiwan for more than thirty years, and makes a number of specialized in-house drivers featuring DMD diamond & Be beryllium ceramic diaphragms.  

USHER Diamond DMD Technology:
Uncovering Key To Superlative Diamond Sound

Because of its extreme hardness and excellent thermal conductivity, diamond has always been considered a potentially great material for loudspeaker diaphragm. Tweeter units with a diaphragm made of synthetic diamond, from the traditional CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) method, have been around for quite some time, but many find their sonic performance compromised, due mainly to the relatively high mass of the diamond dome and also to the unfavorable resonance signature of the material itself.

At Usher, we saw the promise of diamond as an ideal diaphragm material, but we also reckoned that it would take some original thinking and an innovative approach to the engineering, in order to bring out the best of this unusual material for application in audio. In typical Usher fashion, we took our time to carefully research and develop our own original solutions for both pure diamond and laminate diamond diaphragms, tackling the issues with both imagination and extensive measuring/listening tests.

Today, years after we began our quest for the ultimate diamond sound, we're pleased to present to the music-loving public and audiophiles the exciting result of our first diamond technology research project, and we believe the key to superlative diamond sound: The new Usher Diamond DMD series speakers.

Employing the Usher Diamond DMD Technology, our Diamond DMD speakers have a new tweeter unit with an USHER Diamond DMD dome. The DMD dome is effectively a diamond dome with a reduced mass and a well-controlled, appealing sound signature, resembling very closely a perfect piston in its behavior. This is made possible by its laminated diamond-metal-diamond structure, which consists of a proprietary metal alloy base layer coated with an amorphous diamond-like carbon layer (pure diamond is carbon atoms arranged solely in sp3 bonds; amorphous diamond-like carbon has mixed sp3 and sp2 bonds to achieve its desirable properties) on both sides. The base metal layer of the Diamond DMD dome tames all the diamond layers' unfavorable sonic traits and brings out the best of both materials.

The true revolution, however, is in the Diamond DMD tweeter's unprecedented micro-dynamics resolving power. The DMD dome's structural integrity makes possible a surprisingly intact and undistorted reproduction of the input signal, which clearly shows in the reproduced sound as a sense of purity and completeness that is at the same time new and familiar: New in reproduced music but familiar in live performances.

Audio is No Black Magic at USHER:
Correlating the measurements and the perceived performance by human ears at USHER, we believe audio is a science. There was a time in the history of audio when measurements couldn't really explain a lot of the perceived listening impressions, but we discovered, through extensive listening tests, experiments and measurements, that it was because people didn't measure the parameters that really matter. For years, USHER have worked hard on correlating measurements and perceived performance. The initial success USHER have achieved in this pursuit has allowed us to greatly improve the effectiveness and precision of our R&D work, making possible an even more friendly pricing policy, despite the ever-heightening level of quality in our products' absolute sonic performance.

A Relentless Quest For Precision and Musicality: Tools and mindset
Almost all first-time visitors to USHER's labs and factory were awe-struck by the quality and quantity of the precision equipment they saw in service. Perhaps they would be even more surprised if they knew the amount of research and trainings put into utilizing these pieces of high precision equipment. As the saying goes, "There are no accidents." At USHER, we don't leave it to chance to improve or to innovate. We even developed a computer-based measuring system of our own, which has since become an industry standard and is now widely used at many factories in Asia.

A Word about Dr. Joseph D’Appolito

We are very happy to have Dr. Joseph D'Appolito as Usher’s technical consultant since early 2000. He provides guidance on all our speakers’ crossover designs. A world-renowned authority in audio and acoustics, he specializes in loudspeaker system design with credentials galore: BEE, SMEE, EE and Ph.D., degrees from RPI, MIT and the University of Massachusetts. As a member of the Audio Engineering Society, Dr. D'Appolito has published over 30 journal and conference papers. His most popular and influential brainchild has to be the MTM (midrange/tweeter/midrange vertical array) commonly known as the D'Appolito Configuration that’s used by dozens of manufacturers throughout the world.

Reviews

Awards

Testimonials

Reviews

These speakers are a fantastic value for money.
Submitted by gherop an AudioPhile
Bottom Line:   
I am listening to Usher D2 piano-black horn speakers (each 236 kg!) since Jan 2005 when they replaced ATC 150 Active Towers. In 2007 Usher sent me, free of charge, the new two box crossover for each speaker, with which the sound is much more accurate, especially in the mid-low and low region. Their sound is great, with full dynamics (each has two 15" woofers), huge soundstage, excellent depth, real presentation and very good tonality. In addition, human voices are reproduced very naturally and with the correct “size”. Listening to Nina Simone is an experience. Their horn is TAD 4001 and the woofers come from Usher. They can play due to their very high sensitivity (98 db), effortlessly with single-ended Triode amplifiers, even from 8 Watts per channel (Audion Golden Night, based on 300B) or 15 Watts (Geroukis, based on 211 VT-4C). Interesting is that they can play in the same excellent quality level, though in a different way, with solid state amplifiers like Plinius (2X250 Watts) or Muse 160 II (2X160 Watts). By auditioning different amplifiers one can find his personal taste in his own room. The built quality is amazing. These speakers are a fantastic value for money.
These speakers are a fantastic value for money.
Submitted by gherop an AudioPhile
Bottom Line:   
I am listening to Usher D2 piano-black horn speakers (each 236 kg!) since Jan 2005 when they replaced ATC 150 Active Towers. In 2007 Usher sent me, free of charge, the new two box crossover for each speaker, with which the sound is much more accurate, especially in the mid-low and low region. Their sound is great, with full dynamics (each has two 15" woofers), huge soundstage, excellent depth, real presentation and very good tonality. In addition, human voices are reproduced very naturally and with the correct “size”. Listening to Nina Simone is an experience. Their horn is TAD 4001 and the woofers come from Usher. They can play due to their very high sensitivity (98 db), effortlessly with single-ended Triode amplifiers, even from 8 Watts per channel (Audion Golden Night, based on 300B) or 15 Watts (Geroukis, based on 211 VT-4C). Interesting is that they can play in the same excellent quality level, though in a different way, with solid state amplifiers like Plinius (2X250 Watts) or Muse 160 II (2X160 Watts). By auditioning different amplifiers one can find his personal taste in his own room. The built quality is amazing. These speakers are a fantastic value for money.
These speakers are a fantastic value for money.
Submitted by gherop an AudioPhile
Bottom Line:   
I am listening to Usher D2 piano-black horn speakers (each 236 kg!) since Jan 2005 when they replaced ATC 150 Active Towers. In 2007 Usher sent me, free of charge, the new two box crossover for each speaker, with which the sound is much more accurate, especially in the mid-low and low region. Their sound is great, with full dynamics (each has two 15" woofers), huge soundstage, excellent depth, real presentation and very good tonality. In addition, human voices are reproduced very naturally and with the correct “size”. Listening to Nina Simone is an experience. Their horn is TAD 4001 and the woofers come from Usher. They can play due to their very high sensitivity (98 db), effortlessly with single-ended Triode amplifiers, even from 8 Watts per channel (Audion Golden Night, based on 300B) or 15 Watts (Geroukis, based on 211 VT-4C). Interesting is that they can play in the same excellent quality level, though in a different way, with solid state amplifiers like Plinius (2X250 Watts) or Muse 160 II (2X160 Watts). By auditioning different amplifiers one can find his personal taste in his own room. The built quality is amazing. These speakers are a fantastic value for money.
These speakers are a fantastic value for money.
Submitted by gherop an AudioPhile
Bottom Line:   
I am listening to Usher D2 piano-black horn speakers (each 236 kg!) since Jan 2005 when they replaced ATC 150 Active Towers. In 2007 Usher sent me, free of charge, the new two box crossover for each speaker, with which the sound is much more accurate, especially in the mid-low and low region. Their sound is great, with full dynamics (each has two 15" woofers), huge soundstage, excellent depth, real presentation and very good tonality. In addition, human voices are reproduced very naturally and with the correct “size”. Listening to Nina Simone is an experience. Their horn is TAD 4001 and the woofers come from Usher. They can play due to their very high sensitivity (98 db), effortlessly with single-ended Triode amplifiers, even from 8 Watts per channel (Audion Golden Night, based on 300B) or 15 Watts (Geroukis, based on 211 VT-4C). Interesting is that they can play in the same excellent quality level, though in a different way, with solid state amplifiers like Plinius (2X250 Watts) or Muse 160 II (2X160 Watts). By auditioning different amplifiers one can find his personal taste in his own room. The built quality is amazing. These speakers are a fantastic value for money.
gorgeous design, innovative driver technology, great build quality and outstanding sound quality.
greg borrowman - AVHub

It is certainly possible for a small two-way to deliver impressively realistic bass… and that’s exactly what the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X delivered in my listening environment.

What you hear is that despite all the brass, you can not only instantly hear the individual voices, but also the differences in tone between Jon Nelson’s andTim Leopold’s trumpets, even when the two are playing exactly the same note, and since the fundamental note is the same, it must be the harmonics that are being delivered with such precision because otherwise, to tell two trumpets apart would be all but impossible. Listen also to the way the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-Xs so accurately render the hand-stopping on Abide with Me, and to the ‘singing’ sound of the unison playing, which tells me that this is a truly musical design.

Usher Audio’s Dancer Mini-X Diamond is the third in this manufacturer’s ‘Mini’ series but it’s actually the first ‘Mini’ that is really a ‘Mini’. Members of the Usher Audio Owners’ club might be smiling now, but other readers may well be confused by that statement. The club members are smiling because they know that the Usher Audio ‘Mini-One’ and ‘Mini-Two’ loudspeakers are both actually floor-standing speakers that stand more than a metre high, so they’re hardly ‘Mini’ speakers. However, that term could well apply to the Dancer Mini-X, because it’s just 435mm high. In fact it’s closer in size to Usher Audio’s award-winning Be-718, but it has, to my eyes, a much curvier and more attractive cabinet, obviously borrowed from the other ‘Minis’. The Mini-X Diamond is also one of the smallest speakers in Usher Audio’s range to sport its ‘DMD’ Diamond dome tweeter
 
The equipment
 
Whereas most manufacturers buy ‘off the shelf’ drivers from specialist driver manufacturers, and others design their own drivers, but have them made by those self-same specialist driver manufacturers, Usher Audio is one of the very few speaker manufacturers that builds all the drivers it uses itself - bass drivers, midrange drivers and tweeters. All this driver manufacturing takes place in Usher Audio’s home town of Taichung, Taiwan, in the same factory the speakers are assembled.
 
As you can see from the photograph, the Dancer Mini-X is a two-way bass-reflex design. The bass/midrange driver is an Usher Audio 8948A that is rated by Usher Audio as having a 7” diameter, and sure enough, the company’s own data sheet shows that the overall dimension of this driver is 177mm.  However, the Thiele/Small diameter is 138mm, which puts the driver’s effective cone area (Sd) at 150cm². Because this driver is available from Usher Audio for sale to other manufacturers, I can tell you that its Fo is 30.945Hz, its voice-coil is 42mm in diameter and it has a 1.055kg rear-vented magnet with a flux density of more than 11,000 gauss. The frame is completely cast from alloy, rather than being stamped from steel. And although Usher Audio makes a magnetically shielded version of the 8948A, the version inside the Mini-X is unshielded. The cone of the 8948 is made from that most traditional of materials: paper. Don’t be put off by the fact that the cone on the Mini-X looks a little ‘rough’. This is how it comes from the mould and means it’s stronger and more rigid than if Usher Audio had mechanically smoothed it. (And if you thought it looks familiar, be reassured that it’s identical in every way to the bass/midrange driver used in Usher Audio’s famous Be-718 speakers).
 
The tweeter in the Dancer Mini-X Diamond is Usher Audio’s own ‘Diamond’ tweeter, with a 32mm dome. Not surprisingly, Usher Audio does not make this tweeter available to other manufacturers (though you can buy them in pairs at retail level in order to upgrade earlier Usher Audio speakers fitted with Beryllium tweeters.) Usher Audio refers to the tweeter as a ‘DMD’ tweeter, which it says stands for ‘Diamond Metal Diamond’ and means that it’s a ‘hybrid’ dome that has a central alloy membrane that’s coated on both sides by ultra-thin layers of a diamond-like carbon coating. Or, in Usher Audio’s own words, as extracted from its website: ‘The DMD dome is effectively a diamond dome with a reduced mass and a well-controlled, appealing sound signature, resembling very closely a perfect piston in its behaviour. This is made possible by its laminated diamond-metal-diamond structure, which consists of a proprietary metal alloy base layer coated with an amorphous diamond-like carbon layer.’ (Unquote.)
 
In fact, the material Usher Audio is using is an amorphous carbon material that’s more commonly known as ‘DLC’ or ‘Diamond-Like-Carbon’, of which there are seven different ‘flavours’ or formulations. All seven types contain significant numbers of sp3 hybridized carbon atoms, but the differences between them (and which are exploited for specific applications, hence the different ‘flavours’) are the way the carbon atoms are arranged, which can either be as a cubic lattice, or as a hexagonal lattice or as a combination of both types; and the ratio of sp2 to sp3 carbon atoms. If you’re after strength, for example, coating a stainless steel bearing with a DLC comprised exclusively of tetrahedral amorphous sp3 bonded carbon will increase its useful life from less than one year to an estimated 85 years. DLC coatings have dozens of uses including being used as protective coatings on optical discs such as DVD-Rs, on magnetic storage disks, for optical windows and on micro-electromechanical devices. Because it’s possible (and, in fact, highly desirable) to manipulate the properties of DLC for specific applications, its properties can vary greatly from those of pure diamond, and also means that not all ‘diamond’ dome tweeters will have similar properties or sound quality.
 
As one example of the differences between true diamond and DLC, the Young’s Modulus of pure diamond is 1,000 whereas the Young’s Modulus of DLC can be designed to be anything from 200–800 depending on what it’s going to be used for, and the hardness of diamond is 100GPa, whereas that of DLC may be anything from 20 –80GPa, so you can see that for some physical properties, it’s possible for DLC to be very close to diamond. However, if you were after thermal conductivity as a desirable property, the very best DLC tops out at 5Wm-1K-1, whereas pure diamond is ‘way above 3000Wm-1K-1. (And for those of you who have forgotten their high-school chemistry classes, what we call a ‘diamond’ is made up of repeating units of carbon atoms joined to four other carbon atoms in a tetrahedral network where each is equidistant from its neighbouring carbon atoms.)
 
At the bottom of the Dancer Mini-X’s cabinet is the bass-reflex port, which the company’s founder and chief designer, Tsai Lien-Shui, has implemented as a slot (which is 15mm high, 150mm wide and 140mm deep) rather than the more usual tube (which would have to have been 53mm Ø.) This is actually a more expensive way to build a cabinet, and I can only assume that he’s done it to move the port as far as possible from the bass/midrange driver, though I confess that considering the size of the cabinet, I cannot imagine this would make quite the difference it might on a larger cabinet. Speaking of cabinet build, I still haven’t got over the weight of each Dancer Mini-X cabinet. Each one weighs 15.5kg. Some of this is the weight of the bass driver, which itself weighs an incredible 2.6kg, and some is down to the tweeter, which is one of the heaviest I’ve seen. However, a good deal is down to the construction of the cabinet, which has walls that are 25mm thick and a baffle that’s fully 50mm thick. Usher Audio says that the material it uses to build the cabinet is: ‘a new layered wood cabinet construction held together with a special penetrating glue, effectively creating multiple constrained layers for dramatically reduced cabinet resonances.’ I mentioned previously that the cabinet was 435mm high, so I should add that it’s 260mm wide and 370mm deep before I go any further. Needless to say, it’s designed for stand-mounting, though the front-firing reflex port means that you could, if you wished, wall-mount or shelf-mount them. However, when you see them in the flesh, you will see that they’re ‘way too beautiful to be put anywhere except on stands, where their curvaceous sides and multi-faceted baffle can be viewed to advantage from all angles.
 
The ‘rear’ of the cabinet (it’s so rounded towards the back that it would be more appropriate to call it the ‘spine’ of the cabinet, rather than the ‘rear’) is where you’ll find the speaker terminal plate, and what a terminal plate it is! It has four gold-plated terminals so you can bi-wire or bi-amplify the Mini-X, and really solid gold-plated jumper terminals you can use to bridge the terminals if you want to use only a single set of speaker wires. The terminal plate is made of solid metal that is 8mm thick, 54mm wide and 184mm high and is finished in a kind of ‘burnished’ gold that’s very attractive. It’s recessed into the cabinet. As you can see from the photographs, the side walls of the Dancer Mini-X speakers curve backwards from the front baffle to the narrow spine. This means you’re not going to get standing waves inside the cabinet, which is good, and also improves the speakers’ dispersion characteristics, which is also good, and also improves cabinet rigidity to reduce cabinet resonances which, yet again, is good. So while the cabinet design is best acoustic practise, it does mean that no matter how you position the speakers, it will be very difficult to hide the speaker wires from being obvious unless you’re very creative indeed. Speaker wire visibility doesn’t bother some owners at all… but it does others.
 
Inside the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond I discovered that Usher Audio has taken the bi-wiring/bi-amping principle to 
the extreme, because the ‘crossover’ is spread across two completely separate printed circuit boards (PCBs), one for the high-pass filter section and the other for the low-pass filter section. According to Usher Audio, crossover takes place at 2.3kHz. Both PCBs are fixed to opposite walls of the cabinet, with an elastomeric substance between the PCB and the cabinet wall to avoid resonances. The totality of the crossover circuits’ components is four 15-watt Usher Audio-branded resistors, three air-cored inductors and four 250V audiophile-grade capacitors. The wire linking the rear terminal plate to the PCBs—and the PCBs in turn to the drivers—is of very thick, very high-quality, ‘Figure 8’ construction, soldered at the PCB ends and spaded or bolted at the other. Overall, I think the crossover is one of the best-made I have ever seen: it’s definitely the largest I’ve seen in any two-way design.
 
Usher Audio’s Dancer Mini-X doesn’t have a speaker grille as such, because that Diamond tweeter is well-protected by a wire 
mesh grille. The bass/midrange driver has a circular grille that covers it entirely. If you use this grille, be sure not to push it down too hard on its support pegs, because these ‘pegs’ are also used to fasten the bass/midrange driver to the cabinet (with the aid of captive nuts).
 
in use and listening sessions
 
As I mentioned earlier in this review, the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond speakers were designed to be stand-mounted, and if you can stretch to them, Usher Audio has designed a pair of stands specifically for the Mini-X that look absolutely superb, with a piece of timber curving gracefully around a solid black central post. Usher Audio refers to these stands as ‘Waveguide’ stands because it says the curved timber helps smooth and improve the monitor’s low frequency response. When I say ‘stretch’ to them, I do so because production issues had apparently delayed these ‘Waveguide’ stands, so local distributor could not only not provide the stands for the review, but I’d venture they’d be pretty pricey  probably because they’d be so difficult to manufacture.
 
The laws of physics dictate that no small, two-way stand-mount/bookshelf speaker with a moderately-small bass/midrange driver is going to be able to deliver deep bass at very high volume levels (which is, after all, why Usher Audio has larger floor-standing models in its range) but if a designer is careful and makes the right compromises, uses only the highest quality components and, perhaps, sacrifices a little overall loudspeaker efficiency, it is certainly possible for a small two-way to deliver impressively realistic bass… and that’s exactly what the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X delivered in my listening environment.
 
I think the main thing a designer has to avoid when designing a small loudspeaker is bumping up the upper bass response in 
order to artificially extend the lower bass, and certainly Tsai Lien-Shui has avoided that temptation here, with the admirable result that the bass is very uniform, without any of that aforementioned ‘bump’ but also, with surprising extension down into the lowest frequencies, presumably because that slotted port is doing its stuff. In fact the very low frequencies were so powerful that I thought it might be possible to get the port to ‘whistle’ due to its narrowness, but no matter how much I wound up the volume level the port behaved itself. ....While I was pushing the Dancer Mini-Xs to see if I could get the port to whistle, I discovered that I was winding my amplifier’s volume control ‘way higher than usual, which indicated to me that the Dancer Mini-X is not an overly efficient design… which would also explain the extended bass. Sure enough, when I played them with a much lower-powered amplifier (tested at 50-watts per channel), the speakers sounded a little power-starved, and the dynamics that were previously in abundance were now diminished..... What was obvious at all the listening levels I used during the review process was the tiniest trace of midrange ‘punch’ which tended to push female vocals, especially, but also the instruments playing the melodies, to the fore of the mix. The effect is very subtle, and I have to say that I liked it a lot. It tended to be more revealing of the music being played. Importantly, even with the slight punch, the overall midrange sound was still very warm and totally engaging.
 
Having previously been very impressed with the sound quality of Usher Audio’s Beryllium tweeter, I was looking forward 
to hearing the Diamond tweeter (though a bit disappointed that I didn’t have a pair of Usher Audio Be-718s on hand to do a direct A–B comparison between the two tweeter types). As it happened, I need not have worried: I didn’t need an A–B comparison to tell me that the new Diamond tweeter is audibly a cut above the Beryllium tweeter, with its most noticeable trait being that whereas I thought the Beryllium tweeter seemed to subdue the ‘airiness’ of the very highest frequencies, and also cut off some high-frequency decay, the new Diamond tweeter is super-airy, and there is absolutely no high-frequency cut-off at all. When a flute stops playing in a church, for example, you can hear the reverberations from the walls slowly dying away until they’re lost in the blackness of the acoustic background. I was so impressed by this when listening to flute that I pulled out ‘Hearing Solar Winds’ with David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir, which also was recorded in a church in the middle of the night, to ensure a perfectly silent background for the recording, so you could hear the decay. The eerie sounds of the harmonic singing were realised to perfection by the Dancer Mini-X’s Diamond tweeter. (In harmonic singing, a single singer creates two notes at the same time, and the differences in frequency between these notes creates ‘overtones’ that are far-higher in pitch than it’s possible for even the highest-pitched soprano to sing. The ‘quality’ of the sound produced is a little like the sound you hear when rubbing the rim of a wine glass. And when you have a whole choir of harmonic singers, as on Hearing Solar Winds, the effect is amazing.)
 
I had been listening for several weeks to the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X trying to put my finger on a particular sonic characteristic that was making them work so well, but it wasn’t until I played ‘In The Zone’, (Andrew Rindfleisch and the Meridian Arts Ensemble) that I finally twigged what it was, which was that not only does the Diamond seem a better ‘match’ for the 8948A at the crossover point, but also that the whole presentation of the higher frequencies seemed more cohesive and somehow more ‘together’. I guess it was the fact that the Meridian Arts Ensemble is an all-brass ensemble, and the acoustic of this recording is insanely good. What you hear is that despite all the brass, you can not only instantly hear the individual voices, but also the differences in tone between Jon Nelson’s andTim Leopold’s trumpets, even when the two are playing exactly the same note, and since the fundamental note is the same, it must be the harmonics that are being delivered with such precision because otherwise, to tell two trumpets apart would be all but impossible. Listen also to the way the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-Xs so accurately render the hand-stopping on Abide with Me, and to the ‘singing’ sound of the unison playing, which tells me that this is a truly musical design.
 
Conclusion
 
Usher Audio is going from strength to strength as a speaker manufacturer, and the new Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond is a perfect example of all the company’s strengths: gorgeous design, innovative driver technology, great build quality and outstanding sound quality.
…….greg borrowman
Newport Test Labs’ measurements prove the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond to be a well-designed, stand-mount, bass-reflex speaker.
 
In sum, Newport Test Labs’ measurements prove the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond to be a well-designed, standmount bass-reflex loudspeaker. Although it is relatively inefficient, it will be very easy to drive due to its overall high impedance. It 
also has an extremely flat frequency response that’s beautifully balanced and well-extended at both ends of the audio spectrum. Overall, an excellent design.
…….Steve Holding
You’ll search long and hard to find anything else to match it at the price.
Jon Myles

OUTSTANDING - amongst the best

VERDICT
A highly-accomplished standmount loudspeaker from Usher with outstanding sound and great build quality.

FOR
- smooth, refined diamond tweeter
- tuneful bass
- great detail
- excellent build quality
 
In 2013 Usher releaesd a standmount loudspeaker with Diamond tweeter is bedazzled - 
Usher manufactures a comprehensive range of loudspeakers at its purpose-built facility – one that has been attracting a growing number of enthusiastic customers here in the UK.
 
    We were impressed with the Usher Dancer Mini-Two reviewed in the November 2012 issue of Hi-Fi World – a £3,500 floorstander good enough to trouble ‘speakers costing twice as much. But that’s a big, imposing floorstander not necessarily suited to everyone’s listening space. Which is where the new Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond DMD standmount comes in.
 
    Usher Audio is one of a select few speaker manufacturers that builds all the drivers it uses itself and the DMD in the name refers to its proprietary tweeter – an acronym for diamond-metal-diamond.
 
    Usher explains: “The DMD dome is effectively a diamond dome with a reduced mass and a well-controlled, appealing sound signature, resembling very closely a perfect piston in its behaviour. This is made possible by its laminated diamond-metal-diamond structure, which consists of a proprietary metal alloy base layer coated with an amorphous diamond-like carbon layer”.
    This 1.25in DMD tweeter unit is mated with a 7in bass/mid-range driver with a front-facing slot port underneath to augment low frequency response.
 
    As to the ‘Mini’ in the name? Well, it has to be said it’s a relative term as the Dancers are not exactly diminutive, standing 435mm tall and stretching back 370mm with a front baffle width of 260mm. That 50mm thick front baffle curves back slightly around the tweeter to help time-align the drivers and the edges are chamfered to lessen diffraction effects.
 
    The cabinet itself is a beautifully veneered layered-wood construction  that Usher says is held together with a special glue that creates multiple constrained layers to reduce cabinet resonances.
 
   The side walls curve backwards from the front baffle to a narrow spine containing four sturdy gold-plated speaker terminals to facilitate bi-wiring or bi-amping. Inside the cabinet the crossover is split across two completely separate printed circuit boards – one for the high-pass filter feeding the tweeter and one for the low pass feeding the bass unit. They are fixed to opposite walls of the cabinet with an elastomeric substance to avoid resonances.
 
    There’s no overall grille as such for the fascia – just a round cloth pad that fits over the mid-range driver; the DMD tweeter is protected by its own fixed wire-mesh.
 
    True to Usher’s renowned attention to detail, the company also produces dedicated ‘Waveguide’ stands for the Mini-X that look superb. They’re a cast metal design with a sweeping front section that curves gracefully round the central pillars while the top plate has two holes which allow the Mini-Xs to be bolted to it via threaded inserts on the base of the ‘speaker cabinet. In situ they look undeniably imposing and purposeful while the curved center piece is said to help smooth and improve the Mini-Xs low-frequency response.
 
    One word of warning, though – once mated together the speaker and stand are heavy – and I mean heavy because each ‘speaker weighs 15.5 kg. So it’s worth assembling them as close as possible to their intended site before making those final crucial positional adjustments.
 
    Speaking of which, the front-firing port means the Dancers are relatively unfussy about close-to-wall placement – but they do sound better with a bit of room to breathe. I found they worked well some 16in into the room and well clear of side walls, and with a slight toe-in – but, as ever, individual experimentation is recommended.
 
    Not surprisingly, all this engineering and craftsmanship comes at a price, the Usher Mini-Xs retailing at £2,450 and the stands £650 – although they are available as a package for £3,000.
 
SOUND QUALITY
 
If you equate diamond tweeters with a ringing, bright treble then the Mini-Xs might come as a bit of a surprise. Instead, Usher’s DMD design gives a smoother response than some others. High frequencies are very much present and correct but devoid of that sometimes-piercing ‘tizzy’ sound diamond or metal-domed tweeters can exhibit. What that equates to is a very refined yet detailed portrayal of music.
 
    Listen to something with plenty of atmosphere – such as Cowboy Junkies’ ‘The Trinity Sessions’ or David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir’s ‘Hearing Solar Winds’ – and you can hear the sounds reverberating in the acoustic space they were recorded in.
 
    In the David Hykes piece in particular the DMD tweeter captured the high-pitched overtones produced by the choir with astonishing detail without ever sounding shrill or edgy.
    Overall, there’s a slightly forward nature to the Ushers which means images are pushed into the room, hanging deliciously between the speakers.
 
    Jan Garbarek’s ECM recording ‘In Praise Of Dreams’ positively soared from the Ushers – the soprano saxophone sounding clean and finely-etched with the subtle synthesizer embellishments rumbling clearly beneath.
 
    Even pushed to neighbor-bothering levels here the Ushers stayed controlled and poised throughout.
 
    And it has to be said the Mini-Xs do respond to a good dose of power. Usher quotes an 87dB sensitivity level and they thrived on the end of Quad’s 50 Watts per channel Platinum Stereo amplifier.
 
    The combination brought an impressive depth to YoYo Ma’s ‘Songs Of Joy And Peace’ with the cello having a rich tonality. Yet again the delicate decay of notes fading away was admirably well captured.
 
    Switching to a less powerful 50 Watt per channel Arcam amplifier and, while the Ushers never sounded anything less than musical, the dynamics previously on offer became somewhat softened.
 
BASS PERFORMANCE
 
Despite being relatively large for a standmount, basic physics dictates that the Mini-X is never going to have prodigious amounts of low-end heft. And, after all, Usher has its larger floorstanding models for those looking for room-shaking subsonics.
 
    But to its credit the bass the Mini-X does provide is both powerful and realistic – sounding tight, solid and tuneful. Usher seem to have avoided the temptation to engineer in any artificial upper bass hump which means you get a low-end that is very consistent.
 
    It means if the bass is there you’ll definitely hear it, but at a realistic level that retains its place in the overall musical spectrum.
 
    I’d say the sturdy construction of the Mini-Xs is playing a big part here as there is no sense of the cabinets adding any colouration to the music.
 
    Take Leftfield’s ‘Rhythm And Stealth’ for example. This slice of 1990s dance music electronica positively thumps along – and, unfortunately, thump is exactly what it does through some loudspeakers. Not with the Mini-Xs. They take the extended lows in their stride with no energy-sapping overhang, so the album pounds along energetically. Yes, subsonics are missing but the Ushers are so musically satisfying you really don’t notice.
 
    Similarly on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s ‘Bright Moments’ CD you can hear the power of drummer Robert Sly’s sledgehammer beats while Henry Pearson’s supple bass bristles with energy – providing the perfect foil for Kirk’s improvisations at the top of his saxophone’s register where yet again that DMD tweeter comes into its own.
 
    Nothing seemed out of place through the Ushers – every element of the music occupying its correct place within the sonic palette.
 
    If there’s one criticism to be made it’s that on first listening the Mini-Xs will not sound as exciting as some rival speakers – especially those with more sharply-etched diamond or ribbon tweeters.
 
    That’s a consequence of their overall smooth balance and something that actually rewards long-term listening better. The chances are you’ll still be enjoying them when their more immediate-sounding brethren have started to grate on the ears.
 
CONCLUSION
 
Usher Audio has forged a deserved reputation for superbly-engineered, beautifully-made loudspeakers and the Dancer Mini-X does nothing to alter that.
 
    Fed by a good quality amplifier they are terrific performers with a sonic signature that doesn’t favour one part of the frequency spectrum above another – which makes for an extremely honest, open and natural performance.
 
    Usher's DMD diamond tweeter is among the best examples of the breed you could hear, with excellent high-frequency treble response that manages to avoid veering into harshness. Instead, it is smooth and refined with a beguiling character which shines on well-recorded material.
 
    The relatively large and heavy cabinet means bass response is also well-controlled with little coloration.
 
    Most importantly, they present sounds in an infectious and involving manner, whatever musical genre takes your fancy.
 
    Add in the fact that they are finished to a standard befitting loudspeakers costing easily twice as much and it’s clear the Usher Dancer Mini-Xs are a very impressive package indeed.
 
    You’ll search long and hard to find anything else to match it at the price.

MEASURED PERFORMANCE
 
Sensitivity at one metre measured 86dB for one nominal watt (2.8V) of input – a fair result, compromised slightly by the ‘speaker’s high overall impedance. This measured 10 Ohms with pink noise, partly because Usher have used a high DCR 7 Ohm bass unit, where 4 Ohms is a common value these days. Our impedance curve clearly has a very high value at low frequencies, meaning the Diamond Mini-X draws little current from an amplifier. It needs a high power amplifier with good voltage swing to go loud, around 60 Watts being a minimum for good volume and over 100 Watts to play very loud.
 
    Frequency response was flat, as is usual with Usher loudspeakers. The interesting feature here is the flatness of the Diamond tweeter’s response. Diamond tweeters tend to be peaky, but Usher’s unique diamond vapour deposition process on a substrate avoids this problem, our analysis shows. The result is smooth, accurate treble.
 
    There is no upper mid-range crossover suckout so detailing will be strong. There is no bass lift either, to add warmth or body to the sound. Absence of peaks and undulations in frequency response suggest low coloration and this was borne out by our 200mS decay analysis.
 
    The slot port works around 40Hz, damping the bass unit over a fairly wide frequency band, our red port output trace shows. Bass extends down to a low 30Hz and quality will likely be on the dry and controlled side, but near wall placement will lift low frequency output in use.
 
    The Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond is accurately engineered, delivering a smooth even response right across the audio band. It runs low and should have firm bass. The Diamond DMD tweeter looks impressive. Sensitivity is on the low side however so it needs power. NK
When a flute stops playing in a church, for example, you can hear the reverberations from the walls slowly dying away until they’re lost in the blackness of the acoustic background.
Greg Borrowman

SUMARY REVIEW:  Usher Audio is going from strength to strength as a speaker manufacturer, and the new Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond is a perfect example of all the company’s strengths:
Gorgeous Design
Innovative Driver technology,
Great Build quality 
Outstanding Dound quality
….. Greg Borrowman

Lab Report:
In sum, Newport Test Labs’ measurements prove the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond to be a well-designed, stand-mount bass-reflex loudspeaker. Although it is relatively inefficient, it will be very easy to drive due to its overall high impedance. It also has an extremely flat frequency response that’s beautifully balanced and well-extended at both ends of the audio spectrum. Overall, an excellent design. 
…… Steve Holding

EXTENDED REVIEW: Usher Audio’s Dancer Mini-X Diamond is the third in this manufacturer’s ‘Mini’ series, but it’s actually the first ‘Mini’ that is really a ‘Mini’. Members of the Usher Audio Owners’ club might be smiling now, but other readers may well be confused by that statement. The club members are smiling because they know that the Usher Audio ‘MiniOne’ and ‘Mini-Two’ loudspeakers are both actually floor-standing speakers that stand more than a metre high, so they’re hardly ‘Mini’ speakers. 

However, that term could well apply to the Dancer Mini-X, because it’s just 435mm high. In fact it’s closer in size to Usher Audio’s award-winning Be-718, but it has, to my eyes, a much curvier and more attractive cabinet, obviously borrowed from the other ‘Minis’. The Mini-X Diamond is also one of the smallest speakers in Usher Audio’s range to sport its ‘DMD’ Diamond dome tweeter.

The Equipment

Whereas most manufacturers buy ‘off the shelf’ drivers from specialist driver manufacturers, and others design their own drivers, but have them made by those self-same specialist driver manufacturers, Usher Audio is one of the very few speaker manufacturers that builds all the drivers it uses itself—bass drivers, midrange drivers and tweeters. All this driver manufacturing takes place in Usher Audio’s home town of Taichung, Taiwan, in the same factory the speakers are assembled.

As you can see from the photograph, the Dancer Mini-X is a two-way bass-reflex design. The bass/midrange driver is an Usher Audio 8948A that is rated by Usher Audio as having a 7” diameter, and sure enough, the company’s own data sheet shows that the overall dimension of this driver is 177mm. However, the Thiele/Small diameter is 138mm, which puts the driver’s effective cone area (Sd) at 150cm². Because this driver is available from Usher Audio for sale to other manufacturers, I can tell you that its Fo is 30.945Hz, its voice-coil is 42mm in diameter and it has a 1.055kg rear-vented magnet with a flux density of more than 11,000 gauss. The frame is completely cast from alloy, rather than being stamped from steel. And although Usher Audio makes a magnetically shielded version of the 8948A, the version inside the Mini-X is unshielded. The cone of the 8948 is made from that most traditional of materials: paper. Don’t be put off by the fact that the cone on the Mini-X looks a little ‘rough’. This is how it comes from the mould and means it’s stronger and more rigid than if Usher Audio had mechanically smoothed it. (And if you thought it looks familiar, be reassured that it’s identical in every way to the bass/midrange driver used in Usher Audio’s famous Be-718 speakers).

The tweeter in the Dancer Mini-X Diamond is Usher Audio’s own ‘Diamond’ tweeter, with a 32mm dome. Not surprisingly, Usher Audio does not make this tweeter available to other manufacturers (though you can buy them in pairs at retail level in order to upgrade earlier Usher Audio speakers fitted with Beryllium tweeters.) Usher Audio refers to the tweeter as a ‘DMD’ tweeter, which it says stands for ‘Diamond Metal Diamond’ and means that it’s a ‘hybrid’ dome that has a central alloy membrane that’s coated on both sides by ultra-thin layers of a diamond like carbon coating. 

Or, in Usher Audio’s own words, as extracted from its website: 
"The DMD dome is effectively a diamond dome with a reduced mass and a well-controlled, appealing sound signature, resembling very closely a perfect piston in its behaviour. This is made possible by its laminated diamond-metal-diamond structure, which consists of a proprietary metal alloy base layer coated with an amorphous diamond-like carbon layer". 

In fact, the material Usher Audio is using is an amorphous carbon material that’s more commonly known as ‘DLC’ or ‘Diamond-Like-Carbon’, of which there are seven different ‘flavours’ or formulations. All seven types contain significant numbers of sp3 hybridised carbon atoms, but the differences between them (and which are exploited for specific applications, hence the different ‘flavours’) are the way the carbon atoms are arranged, which can either be as a cubic lattice, or as a hexagonal lattice or as a combination of both types; and the ratio of sp2 to sp3 carbon atoms.

If you’re after strength, for example, coating a stainless steel bearing with a DLC comprised exclusively of tetrahedral amorphous sp3 bonded carbon will increase its useful life from less than one year to an estimated 85 years. DLC coatings have dozens of uses including being used as protective coatings on optical discs such as DVD-Rs, on magnetic storage disks, for optical windows and on micro-electromechanical devices. Because it’s possible (and, in fact, highly desirable) to manipulate the properties of DLC for specific applications, its properties can vary greatly from those of pure diamond, and also means that not all ‘diamond’ dome tweeters will have similar properties or sound quality.

As one example of the differences between true diamond and DLC, the Young’s Modulus of pure diamond is 1,000 whereas the Young’s Modulus of DLC can be designed to be anything from 200–800 depending on what it’s going to be used for, and the hardness of diamond is 100GPa, whereas that of DLC may be anything from 20–80GPa, so you can see that for some physical properties, it’s possible for DLC to be very close to diamond. However, if you were after thermal conductivity as a desirable property, the very best DLC tops out at 5Wm-1K-1, whereas pure diamond is ‘way above 3000Wm-1K-1. (And for those of you who have forgotten their high-school chemistry classes, what we call a ‘diamond’ is made up of repeating units of carbon atoms joined to four other carbon atoms in a tetrahedral network where each is equidistant from its neighbouring carbon atoms.)

At the bottom of the Dancer Mini-X’s cabinet is the bass-reflex port, which the company’s founder and chief designer, Tsai Lien-Shui, has implemented as a slot (which is 15mm high, 150mm wide and 140mm deep) rather than the more usual tube (which would have to have been 53mm Ø.) This is actually a more expensive way to build a cabinet, and I can only assume that he’s done it to move the port as far as possible from the bass/midrange driver, though I confess that considering the size of the cabinet, I cannot imagine this would make quite the difference it might on a larger cabinet. Speaking of cabinet build, I still haven’t got over the weight of each Dancer Mini-X cabinet. Each one weighs 15.5kg. Some of this is the weight of the bass driver, which itself weighs an incredible 2.6kg, and some is down to the tweeter, which is one of the heaviest I’ve seen. However, a good deal is down to the construction of the cabinet, which has walls that are 25mm thick and a baffle that’s fully 50mm thick. Usher Audio says that the material it uses to build the cabinet is: "a new layered wood cabinet construction held together with a special penetrating glue, effectively creating multiple constrained layers for dramatically reduced cabinet resonances."

I mentioned previously that the cabinet was 435mm high, so I should add that it’s 260mm wide and 370mm deep before I go any further. Needless to say, it’s designed for stand-mounting, though the front-firing reflex port means that you could, if you wished, wall-mount or shelf-mount them. However, when you see them in the flesh, you will see that they’re ‘way too beautiful to be put anywhere except on stands, where their curvaceous sides and multi-faceted baffle can be viewed to advantage from all angles.

The ‘rear’ of the cabinet (it’s so rounded towards the back that it would be more appropriate to call it the ‘spine’ of the cabinet, rather than the ‘rear’) is where you’ll find the speaker terminal plate, and what a terminal plate it is! It has four gold-plated terminals so you can bi-wire or bi-amplify the Mini-X, and really solid gold-plated jumper terminals you can use to bridge the terminals if you want to use only a single set of speaker wires. The terminal plate is made of solid metal that is 8mm thick, 54mm wide and 184mm high and is finished in a kind of ‘burnished’ gold that’s very attractive. It’s recessed into the cabinet. As you can see from the photographs, the side walls of the Dancer Mini-X speakers curve backwards from the front baffle to the narrow spine. This means you’re not going to get standing waves inside the cabinet, which is good, and also improves

the speakers’ dispersion characteristics, which is also good, and also improves cabinet rigidity to reduce cabinet resonances which, yet again, is good. So while the cabinet design is best acoustic practise, it does mean that no matter how you position the speakers, it will be very difficult to hide the speaker wires from being obvious unless you’re very creative indeed. Speaker wire visibility doesn’t bother some owners at all…but it does others.

Inside the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond I discovered that Usher Audio has taken the bi-wiring / bi-amping principle to the extreme, because the ‘crossover’ is spread across two completely separate printed circuit boards (PCBs), one for the high-pass filter section and the other for the low-pass filter section. According to Usher Audio, crossover takes place at 2.3kHz. Both PCBs are fixed to opposite walls of the cabinet, with an elastomeric substance between the PCB and the cabinet wall to avoid resonances. The totality of the crossover circuits’ components is four 15-watt Usher Audio-branded resistors, three air-cored inductors and four 250V audiophile-grade capacitors. The wire linking the rear terminal plate to the PCBs—and the PCBs in turn to the drivers—is of very thick, very high-quality, ‘Figure 8’ construction, soldered at the PCB ends and spaded or bolted at the other. Overall, I think the crossover is one of the best-made I have ever seen: it’s definitely the largest I’ve seen in any two-way design.

Usher Audio’s Dancer Mini-X doesn’t have a speaker grille as such, because that Diamond tweeter is well-protected by a wire mesh grille. The bass/midrange driver has a circular grille that covers it entirely. If you use this grille, be sure not to push it down too hard on its support pegs, because these ‘pegs’ are also used to fasten the bass/midrange driver to the cabinet (with the aid of captive nuts). 

In Use and Listening Sessions

As I mentioned earlier in this review, the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond speakers were designed to be stand-mounted, and if you can stretch to them, Usher Audio has designed a pair of stands specifically for the Mini-X that look absolutely superb, with a piece of timber curving gracefully around a solid black central post. Usher Audio refers to these stands as ‘Waveguide’ stands because it says the curved timber helps smooth and improve the monitor’s low frequency response. When I say ‘stretch’ to them, I do so because production issues had apparently delayed these ‘Waveguide’ stands, so local distributor Westan could not only not provide the stands for the review, but it could also not provide a retail price at the time we went to press (June 2013), but I’d venture they’d be pretty pricey… probably because they’d be so difficult to manufacture. 

If you can’t wait for the Waveguide stands, the stands that are available now are the Usher Audio RWS-728 stands, which are 700mm high. Although these will be available by the time you read this review, they weren’t at the time of the review either, so I used a pair of ordinary (but perfectly serviceable!) Australian-made stands that put those Diamond tweeters at ear level and were solid enough that the motion of the Mini-X’s bass / midrange driver could not cause any reactive forces.

I should caution that when buying stands for the Mini-X, you should ensure the base of the stand is sufficiently large that the combination of stand and speaker is stable enough to withstand accidental knocks, because the not-inconsiderable weight of the Mini-X cabinet means that the centre of gravity is very high when it’s on a stand, so stand stability will be crucial not just for performance, but also for the speakers’ safety (and you wouldn’t want to dent that Diamond DMD tweeter!).

The laws of physics dictate that no small, two-way stand-mount/bookshelf speaker with a moderately-small bass/midrange driver is going to be able to deliver deep bass at very high volume levels (which is, after all, why Usher Audio has larger floor-standing models in its range) but if a designer is careful and makes the right compromises, uses only the highest quality components and, perhaps, sacrifices a little overall loudspeaker efficiency, it is certainly possible for a small two-way to deliver impressively realistic bass… and that’s exactly what the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X delivered in my listening environment.

I think the main thing a designer has to avoid when designing a small loudspeaker is bumping up the upper bass response in order to artificially extend the lower bass, and certainly Tsai Lien-Shui has avoided that temptation here, with the admirable result that the bass is very uniform, without any of that aforementioned ‘bump’ but also, with surprising extension down into the lowest frequencies, presumably because that slotted port is doing its stuff. In fact the very low frequencies were so powerful that I thought it might be possible to get the port to ‘whistle’ due to its narrowness, but no matter how much I wound up the volume level the port behaved itself. (If I put my ear close to it I could hear some higher-frequencies issuing from it, but back at the listening position, everything was perfect.) While I was pushing the Dancer Mini-Xs to see if I could get the port to whistle, I discovered that I was winding my amplifier’s volume control ‘way higher than usual, which indicated to me that the Dancer Mini-X is not an overly efficient design… which would also explain the extended bass. Sure enough, when I played them with a much lower-powered amplifier (tested at 50-watts per channel), the speakers sounded a little power-starved, and the dynamics that were previously in abundance were now diminished. At the other end of the power spectrum, when I trialled them with a 200-watt per channel amplifier, I found I could now over-drive the Mini-X design and it was the tweeter that revealed that I was doing this: its sound hardened and became brassy. That said, this happened only at very high listening levels.

What was obvious at all the listening levels I used during the review process was the tiniest trace of midrange ‘punch’ which tended to push female vocals, especially, but also the instruments playing the melodies, to the fore of the mix. The effect is very subtle, and I have to say that I liked it a lot. It tended to be more revealing of the music being played. Importantly, even with the slight punch, the overall midrange sound was still very warm and totally engaging.

Having previously been very impressed with the sound quality of Usher Audio’s Beryllium tweeter, I was looking forward to hearing the Diamond tweeter (though a bit disappointed that I didn’t have a pair of Usher Audio Be-718s on hand to do a direct A–B comparison between the two tweeter types). As it happened, I need not have worried: I didn’t need an A–B comparison to tell me that the new Diamond tweeter is audibly a cut above the Beryllium tweeter, with its most noticeable trait being that whereas I thought the Beryllium tweeter seemed to subdue the ‘airiness’ of the very highest frequencies, and also cut off some high-frequency decay, the new Diamond tweeter is super-airy, and there is absolutely no high-frequency cut-off at all. When a flute stops playing in a church, for example, you can hear the reverberations from the walls slowly dying away until they’re lost in the blackness of the acoustic background. I was so impressed by this when listening to

flute that I pulled out ‘Hearing Solar Winds’ with David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir, which also was recorded in a church in the middle of the night, to ensure a perfectly silent background for the recording, so you could hear the decay. The eerie sounds of the harmonic singing were realised to perfection by the Dancer Mini-X’s Diamond tweeter. (In harmonic singing, a single singer creates two notes at the same time, and the differences in frequency between these notes creates ‘overtones’ that are far-higher in pitch than it’s possible for even the highest-pitched soprano to sing. The ‘quality’ of the sound produced is a little like the sound you hear when rubbing the rim of a wine glass. And when you have a whole choir of harmonic singers, as on Hearing Solar Winds, the effect is amazing.)

I had been listening for several weeks to the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X trying to put my finger on a particular sonic characteristic that was making them work so well, but it wasn’t until I played ‘In The Zone’, (Andrew Rindfleisch and the Meridian Arts Ensemble) that I finally twigged what it was, which was that not only does the Diamond seem a better ‘match’ for the 8948A at the crossover point, but also that the whole presentation of the higher frequencies seemed more cohesive and somehow more ‘together’. I guess it was the fact that the Meridian Arts Ensemble is an all-brass ensemble, and the acoustic of this recording is insanely good. What you hear is that despite all the brass, you can not only instantly hear the individual voices, but also the differences in tone between Jon Nelson’s andTim Leopold’s trumpets, even when the two are playing exactly the same note, and since the fundamental note is the same, it must be the harmonics that are being delivered with such precision because otherwise, to tell two trumpets apart would be all but impossible. Listen also to the way the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-Xs so accurately render the hand-stopping on Abide with Me, and to the ‘singing’ sound of the unison playing, which tells me that this is a truly musical design.

Conclusion

Usher Audio is going from strength to strength as a speaker manufacturer, and the new Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond is a perfect example of all the company’s strengths:
Gorgeous Design
Innovative Driver technology,
Great Build quality 
Outstanding Sound quality
….. Greg Borrowman

Lab Report:
In sum, Newport Test Labs’ measurements prove the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond to be a well-designed, stand-mount bass-reflex loudspeaker. Although it is relatively inefficient, it will be very easy to drive due to its overall high impedance. It also has an extremely flat frequency response that’s beautifully balanced and well-extended at both ends of the audio spectrum. Overall, an excellent design. 
…… Steve Holding

the Meridian Arts Ensemble is an all-brass ensemble, and the acoustic of this recording is insanely good. What you hear is that despite all the brass, you can not only instantly hear the individual voices, but also the differences in tone between trumpets
Greg Borrowman

REVIEW SUMMARY: Usher Audio is going from strength to strength as a speaker manufacturer, and the new Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond is a perfect example of all the company’s strengths: gorgeous design, innovative driver technology, great build quality and outstanding sound quality. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: Usher Audio’s Dancer Mini-X Diamond is the third in this manufacturer’s ‘Mini’ series, but it’s actually the first ‘Mini’ that is really a ‘Mini’. Members of the Usher Audio Owners’ club might be smiling now, but other readers may well be confused by that statement. The club members are smiling because they know that the Usher Audio ‘MiniOne’ and ‘Mini-Two’ loudspeakers are both actually floor-standing speakers that stand more than a metre high, so they’re hardly ‘Mini’ speakers. However, that term could well apply to the Dancer Mini-X, because it’s just 435mm high. In fact it’s closer in size to Usher Audio’s award-winning Be-718, but it has, to my eyes, a much curvier and more attractive cabinet, obviously borrowed from the other ‘Minis’. The Mini-X Diamond is also one of the smallest speakers in Usher Audio’s range to sport its ‘DMD’ Diamond dome tweeter.
The Equipment

Whereas most manufacturers buy ‘off the shelf’ drivers from specialist driver manufacturers, and others design their own drivers, but have them made by those self-same Usher Audio’s Dancer Mini-X Diamond is the third in this manufacturer’s ‘Mini’ series, but it’s actually the first ‘Mini’ that is really a ‘Mini’. Members of the Usher Audio Owners’ club might be smiling now, but other readers may well be confused by that statement. The club members are smiling because they know that the Usher Audio ‘MiniOne’ and ‘Mini-Two’ loudspeakers are both actually floor-standing speakers that stand more than a metre high, so they’re hardly ‘Mini’ speakers. However, that term could well apply to the Dancer Mini-X, because it’s specialist driver manufacturers, Usher Audio is one of the very few speaker manufacturers that builds all the drivers it uses itself—bass

drivers, midrange drivers and tweeters. All this driver manufacturing takes place in Usher Audio’s home town of Taichung, Taiwan, in the same factory the speakers are assembled.

The Dancer Mini-X is a two-way bass-reflex design. The bass/midrange driver is an Usher Audio 8948A that is rated by Usher Audio as having a 7” diameter, and sure enough, the company’s own data sheet shows that the cubic lattice, or as a hexagonal lattice or as a combination of both types; and the ratio of sp2 to sp3 carbon atoms. If you’re after strength, for example, coating a stainless steel bearing with a DLC comprised exclusively of tetrahedral amorphous sp3 bonded carbon will increase its useful life from less than one year to an estimated 85 years. DLC coatings have dozens of uses including being used as protective coatings on optical discs such as DVD-Rs, on magnetic storage disks, for optical windows and on micro-electromechanical devices.

Because it’s possible (and, in fact, highly desirable) to manipulate the properties of DLC for specific applications, its properties can vary greatly from those of pure diamond, and also means that not all ‘diamond’ dome tweeters will have similar properties or sound quality. As one example of the differences between true diamond and DLC, the Young’s Modulus of pure diamond is 1,000 whereas the Young’s Modulus of DLC can be designed to be anything from 200–800 depending on what it’s going to be used for, and the hardness of diamond is 100GPa, whereas that of DLC may be anything from 20–80GPa, so you can see that for some physical properties, it’s possible for DLC to be very close to diamond. However, if you were after thermal conductivity as a desirable property, the very best DLC tops out at 5Wm-1K-1, whereas pure diamond is ‘way above 3000Wm-1K-1. (And for those of you who have forgotten their high-school chemistry classes, what we call a ‘diamond’ is made up of repeating units of carbon atoms joined to four other carbon atoms in a tetrahedral network where each is equidistant from its neighbouring carbon atoms.)

At the bottom of the Dancer Mini-X’s cabinet is the bass-reflex port, which the company’s founder and chief designer, Tsai Lien-Shui, has implemented as a slot (which is 15mm high, 150mm wide and 140mm deep) rather than the more usual tube (which would have to have been 53mm Ø.) This is actually a more expensive way to build a cabinet, and I can only assume that he’s done it to move the port as far as possible from the bass/midrange driver, though I confess that considering the size of the cabinet, I cannot imagine this would make quite the difference it might on a larger cabinet.

Speaking of cabinet build, I still haven’t got over the weight of each Dancer Mini-X cabinet. Each one weighs 15.5kg. Some of this is the weight of the bass driver, which itself weighs an incredible 2.6kg, and some is down to the tweeter, which is one of the heaviest I’ve seen. However, a good deal is down to the construction of the cabinet, which has walls that are 25mm thick and a baffle that’s fully 50mm thick. Usher Audio says that the material it uses to build the cabinet is: ‘a new layered wood cabinet construction held together with a special penetrating glue, effectively creating multiple constrained layers for dramatically reduced cabinet resonances.’ I mentioned previously that the cabinet was 435mm high, so I should add that it’s 260mm wide and 370mm deep before I go any further. Needless to say, it’s designed for stand-mounting, though the front-firing reflex port means that you could, if you wished, wall-mount or shelf-mount them. However, when you see them in the flesh, you will see that they’re ‘way too beautiful to be put anywhere except on stands, where their curvaceous sides and multi-faceted baffle can be viewed to advantage from all angles.

The ‘rear’ of the cabinet (it’s so rounded towards the back that it would be more appropriate to call it the ‘spine’ of the cabinet, rather than the ‘rear’) is where you’ll find the speaker terminal plate, and what a terminal plate it is! It has four gold-plated terminals so you can bi-wire or bi-amplify the Mini-X, and really solid gold-plated jumper terminals you can use to bridge the terminals if you want to use only a single set of speaker wires. The terminal plate is made of solid metal that is 8mm thick, 54mm wide and 184mm high and is finished in a kind of ‘burnished’ gold that’s very attractive. It’s recessed into the cabinet. As you can see from the photographs, the side walls of the Dancer Mini-X speakers curve backwards from the front baffle to the narrow spine. This means you’re not going to get standing waves inside the cabinet, which is good, and also improves the speakers’ dispersion characteristics, which is also good, and also improves cabinet rigidity to reduce cabinet resonances which, yet again, is good. So while the cabinet design is best acoustic practise, it does mean that no matter how you position the speakers, it will be very difficult to hide the speaker wires from being obvious unless you’re very creative indeed. Speaker wire visibility doesn’t bother some owners at all… but it does others.

Inside the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond I discovered that Usher Audio has taken the bi-wiring/bi-amping principle to the extreme, because the ‘crossover’ is spread across two completely separate printed circuit boards (PCBs), one for the high-pass filter section and the other for the low-pass filter section. According to Usher Audio, crossover takes place at 2.3kHz. Both PCBs are fixed to opposite walls of the cabinet, with an elastomeric substance between the PCB and the cabinet wall to avoid resonances. The totality of the crossover circuits’ components is four 15-watt Usher Audio-branded resistors, three air-cored inductors and four 250V audiophile-grade capacitors. The wire linking the rear terminal plate to the PCBs—and the PCBs in turn to the drivers—is of very thick, very high-quality, ‘Figure 8’ construction, soldered at the PCB ends and spaded or bolted at the other. Overall, I think the crossover is one of the best-made I have ever seen: it’s definitely the largest I’ve seen in any two-way design.

Usher Audio’s Dancer Mini-X doesn’t have a speaker grille as such, because that Diamond tweeter is well-protected by a wire mesh grille. The bass/midrange driver has a circular grille that covers it entirely. If you use this grille, be sure not to push it down too hard on its support pegs, because these ‘pegs’ are also used to fasten the bass/midrange driver to the cabinet (with the aid of captive nuts).

In Use and Listening Sessions

As I mentioned earlier in this review, the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond speakers were designed to be stand-mounted, and if you can stretch to them, Usher Audio has designed a pair of stands specifically for the Mini-X that look absolutely superb, with a piece of timber curving gracefully around a solid black central post. Usher Audio refers to these stands as ‘Waveguide’ stands because it says the curved timber helps smooth and improve the monitor’s low frequency response. When I say ‘stretch’ to them, I do so because production issues had apparently delayed these ‘Waveguide’ stands, so local distributor could not only not provide the stands for the review, but it could also not provide a retail price at the time we went to press (June 2013), but I’d venture they’d be pretty pricey… probably because they’d be so difficult to manufacture.
(NOTE - now available @ NZ$1,250/pr incl GST - might appear slightly expensive but well worth the investment).

If you can’t wait for the Waveguide stands, the stands that are available now are the Usher Audio RWS-728 stands, which are 700mm high. Although these will be available by the time you read this review, they weren’t at the time of the review either, so I used a pair of ordinary (but perfectly serviceable!) Australian-made stands that put those Diamond tweeters at ear level and were solid enough that the motion of the Mini-X’s bass/midrange driver could not cause any reactive forces. I should caution that when buying stands for the Mini-X, you should ensure the base of the stand is sufficiently large that the combination of stand and speaker is stable enough to withstand accidental knocks, because the not-inconsiderable weight of the Mini-X cabinet means that the centre of gravity is very high when it’s on a stand, so stand stability will be crucial not just for performance, but also for the speakers’ safety (and you wouldn’t want to dent that Diamond DMD tweeter!).

The laws of physics dictate that no small, two-way stand-mount/bookshelf speaker with a moderately-small bass/midrange driver is going to be able to deliver deep bass at very high volume levels (which is, after all, why Usher Audio has larger floor-standing models in its range) but if a designer is careful and makes the right compromises, uses only the highest quality components and, perhaps, sacrifices a little overall loudspeaker efficiency, it is certainly possible for a small two-way to deliver impressively realistic bass… and that’s exactly what the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X delivered in my listening environment.

I think the main thing a designer has to avoid when designing a small loudspeaker is bumping up the upper bass response in order to artificially extend the lower bass, and certainly Tsai Lien-Shui has avoided that temptation here, with the admirable result that the bass is very uniform, without any of that aforementioned ‘bump’ but also, with surprising extension down into the lowest frequencies, presumably because that slotted port is doing its stuff. In fact the very low frequencies were so powerful that I thought it might be possible to get the port to ‘whistle’ due to its narrowness, but no matter how much I wound up the volume level the port behaved itself. (If I put my ear close to it I could hear some higher-frequencies issuing from it, but back at the listening position, everything was perfect.) While I was pushing the Dancer Mini-Xs to see if I could get the port to whistle, I discovered that I was winding my amplifier’s volume control ‘way higher than usual, which indicated to me that the Dancer Mini-X is not an overly efficient design… which would also explain the extended bass. Sure enough, when I played them with a much lower-powered amplifier (tested at 50-watts per channel), the speakers sounded a little power-starved, and the dynamics that were previously in abundance were now diminished. At the other end of the power spectrum, when I trialled them with a 200-watt per channel amplifier, I found I could now over-drive the Mini-X design and it was the tweeter that revealed that I was doing this: its sound hardened and became brassy. That said, this happened only at very high listening levels.

What was obvious at all the listening levels I used during the review process was the tiniest trace of midrange ‘punch’ which tended to push female vocals, especially, but also the instruments playing the melodies, to the fore of the mix. The effect is very subtle, and I have to say that I liked it a lot. It tended to be more revealing of the music being played. Importantly, even with the slight punch, the overall midrange sound was still very warm and totally engaging.

Having previously been very impressed with the sound quality of Usher Audio’s Beryllium tweeter, I was looking forward to hearing the Diamond tweeter. I didn’t need an A–B comparison  to tell me that the new Diamond tweeter is audibly a cut above the previous Beryllium tweeter in the realier 718, with its most noticeable trait being that whereas I thought the Beryllium tweeter seemed to subdue the ‘airiness’ of the very highest frequencies, and also cut off some high-frequency decay, the new Diamond tweeter is super-airy, and there is absolutely no high-frequency cut-off at all. When a flute stops playing in a church, for example, you can hear the reverberations from the walls slowly dying away until they’re lost in the blackness of the acoustic background. I was so impressed by this when listening to flute that I pulled out ‘Hearing Solar Winds’ with David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir, which also was recorded in a church in the middle of the night, to ensure a perfectly silent background for the recording, so you could hear the decay. The eerie sounds of the harmonic singing were realised to perfection by the Dancer Mini-X’s Diamond tweeter. (In harmonic singing, a single singer creates two notes at the same time, and the differences in frequency between these notes creates ‘overtones’ that are far-higher in pitch than it’s possible for even the highest-pitched soprano to sing. The ‘quality’ of the sound produced is a little like the sound you hear when rubbing the rim of a wine glass. And when you have a whole choir of harmonic singers, as on Hearing Solar Winds, the effect is amazing.)

I had been listening for several weeks to the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X trying to put my finger on a particular sonic characteristic that was making them work so well, but it wasn’t until I played ‘In The Zone’, (Andrew Rindfleisch and the Meridian Arts Ensemble) that I finally twigged what it was, which was that not only does the Diamond seem a better ‘match’ for the 8948A at the crossover point, but also that the whole presentation of the higher frequencies seemed more cohesive and somehow more ‘together’. I guess it was the fact that the Meridian Arts Ensemble is an all-brass ensemble, and the acoustic of this recording is insanely good. What you hear is that despite all the brass, you can not only instantly hear the individual voices, but also the differences in tone between Jon Nelson’s andTim Leopold’s trumpets, even when the two are playing exactly the same note, and since the fundamental note is the same, it must be the harmonics that are being delivered with such precision because otherwise, to tell two trumpets apart would be all but impossible. Listen also to the way the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-Xs so accurately render the hand-stopping on Abide with Me, and to the ‘singing’ sound of the unison playing, which tells me that this is a truly musical design. 

Conclusion

Usher Audio is going from strength to strength as a speaker manufacturer, and the new Usher Dancer Mini-X Diamond is a perfect example of all the company’s strengths: gorgeous design, innovative driver technology, great build quality and outstanding sound quality. 

………Greg Borrowman

LAB REPORT
overall dimension of this driver is 177mm. However, the Thiele/Small diameter is 138mm, which puts the driver’s effective cone area (Sd) at 150cm². Because this driver is available from Usher Audio for sale to other manufacturers, I can tell you that its Fo is 30.945Hz, its voice-coil is 42mm in diameter and it has a 1.055kg rear-vented magnet with a flux density of more than 11,000 gauss. The frame is completely cast from alloy, rather than being stamped from steel. The cone of the 8948 is made from that most traditional of materials: paper. Don’t be put off by the fact that the cone on the Mini-X looks a little ‘rough’. This is how it comes from the mould and means it’s stronger and more rigid than if Usher Audio had mechanically smoothed it. (And if you thought it looks familiar, be reassured that it’s identical in every way to the bass/midrange driver used in Usher Audio’s famous Be-718 speakers).

The tweeter in the Dancer Mini-X Diamond is Usher Audio’s own ‘Diamond’ tweeter, with a 32mm dome. Not surprisingly, Usher Audio does not make this tweeter available to other manufacturers (though you can buy them in pairs at retail level in order to upgrade earlier Usher Audio speakers fitted with Beryllium tweeters.) Usher Audio refers to the tweeter as a ‘DMD’ tweeter, which it says stands for ‘Diamond Metal Diamond’ and means that it’s a ‘hybrid’ dome that has a central alloy membrane that’s coated on both sides by ultra-thin layers of a diamond like carbon coating. Or, in Usher Audio’s own words, as extracted from its website: ‘The DMD dome is effectively a diamond dome with a reduced mass and a well-controlled, appealing sound signature, resembling very closely a perfect piston in its behaviour. This is made possible by its laminated diamond-metal-diamond structure, which consists of a proprietary metal alloy base layer coated with an amorphous diamond-like carbon layer.’ (Unquote.) In fact, the material Usher Audio is using is an amorphous carbon material that’s more commonly known as ‘DLC’ or ‘Diamond-Like-Carbon’, of which there are seven different ‘flavours’ or hormulations.

All seven types contain significant numbers of sp3 hybridized carbon atoms, but the differences between them (and which are exploited for specific applications, hence the different ‘flavours’) are the way the carbon atoms are arranged, which can either be as a an incredible 2.6kg, and some is down to the tweeter, which is one of the heaviest I’ve seen. However, a good deal is down to the construction of the cabinet, which has walls that are 25mm thick and a baffle that’s fully 50mm thick. Usher Audio says that the material it uses to build the cabinet is: ‘a new layered wood cabinet construction held together with a special penetrating glue, effectively creating multiple constrained layers for dramatically reduced cabinet resonances.’ I mentioned previously that the cabinet was 435mm high, so I should add that it’s 260mm wide and 370mm deep before I go any further. Needless to say, it’s designed for stand-mounting, 

In sum, Newport Test Labs’ measurements prove the Usher Audio Dancer Mini-X Diamond to be a well-designed, standmount bass-reflex loudspeaker. Although it is relatively inefficient, it will be very easy to drive due to its overall high impedance. It also has an extremely flat frequency response that’s beautifully balanced and well-extended at both ends of the audio spectrum. Overall, an excellent design. 

……..Steve Holding

Usher Audio Dancer CP-8571 II Loudspeaker "A high-end speaker" - Our reviewer says it’s the real deal.
Chris Martens & Robert Harley

 Usher’s three-way Dancer CP-8571 II is a dead-serious high-end speaker that offers innovative design, Rolex-like construction, exceptionally high-performance drivers, and—most importantly—sound so good that it easily competes with American and European speakers selling for thousands more. 

The Dancer is so free of dynamic constriction that when you first hear it, you may think that the audio signal has been run through an expander. But the longer you listen, the more the big, fullbodied dynamics seem expressive and to scale. What’s more, the powerful dynamics carry right on down into the bass region, which extends to the upper-20Hz range. As a visiting colleague put it, “It’s hard to believe the bass Usher gets from a single 8" woofer. If you told me it was using dual 10" woofers, I’d believe you.”  

Usher’s Dancer CP-8571 II is a wonderfully capable speaker that gives you nearly top-tier performance at a not too-outlandish price. If you’ve dreamed of owning speakers like Wilson Audio’s US$22,400 Watt/Puppies or US$11,700 Sophias, but can’t fit them into the budget, the great news is that the Dancer puts you in that performance range for a much more manageable US$7735 — a price/performance “math” that works for me.

Founded in 1972, Usher Audio Technology has become well-known throughout Asia for its speakers and highquality OEM driver units. Usher drivers feature a proprietary technology called Symme-Motion, which is said to give the company’s speakers highly symmetrical long-throw excursion capabilities and the ability to play with low distortion at both high- and low-output levels. Usher’s president, Lien-Shui Tsai, hired Dr. Joseph D’Appolito as product design and development collaborator. Tsai defines the overall speaker configuration, chooses drive units, and oversees enclosure design, while D’Appolito takes responsibility for crossover design and speaker voicing. This melding of the minds yields products with a magical sound.
 
The Dancer is highly focused, thanks largely to its Beryllium tweeter that supplies gobs of high-frequency and uppermidrange
detail without a trace of edge or glare. Similarly, the speaker’s 7" mid/woofer can resolve extremely fine textures and nuances, yet offers enough power to capture explosive transients and enough reach to handle upper-bass frequencies with authority. I wouldn’t have thought a 7" driver could sound so agile and versatile, but this one tracks complex waveforms more faithfully than most. Finally, the Dancer’s low-resonance/lowdiffraction baffle plates contribute to the sense of focus by allowing listeners to hear exactly what the drive units have to say.
 
On recordings such as Philip Hii’s acoustic-guitar transcription of the Chopin Nocturnes [GSP] that capture natural hall ambience, air, and fine details, the Usher presents delicate overtones, subtle instrumental resonances, and small finger and string sounds so realistically that you would swear the performer was standing directly across the room. On closely miked recordings like Patricia Barber’s recent Blue Note CDs, the Usher has a deliciously intimate, personal quality; musical details just appear as a natural and balanced part of the performance. But the Ushers also have sufficient resolving power to handle large-scale orchestral works, remaining composed even when orchestration becomes dense and complicated (on Mahler symphonies, for example). Together, these characteris-tics allow you to savor fine details in recordings much like the way a magnifying glass lets you appreciate small textures you can’t ordinarily see in everyday objects. The only downside is, once you grow accustomed to the Dancer, most other speakers sound either out-of-focus or etched and exaggerated.
 
The Usher is among the most holographic speakers you could hope to hear, producing images that float free from its surfaces. On a first-rate disc like the Richter/Munch/Boston reading of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 [JVC XRCD], it precisely delineates the onstage positions of the orchestra sections as well as interactions between the orchestra and the venue’s acoustics. On smaller-scale recordings, the Dancer also presents spatial and textural cues that suggest the sizes and shapes of instruments. The only drawback is that the Dancer is not terribly tolerant of poorly mixed recordings. So if an engineer pans certain instruments into one channel, the three-dimensionality of the soundstage may collapse, leaving instruments “trapped” inside their assigned speaker. Yet under normal circumstances, the Dancer sounds highly three-dimensional—you may want to place the speakers far apart in order to enjoy the huge, deep, realistic soundstage they can produce.
 
The Dancer is so free of dynamic constriction that when you first hear it, you may think that the audio signal has been run through an expander. But the longer you listen, the more the big, fullbodied dynamics seem expressive and to scale. What’s more, the powerful dynamics carry right on down into the bass region, which extends to the upper-20Hz range. As a visiting colleague put it, “It’s hard to believe the bass Usher gets from a single 8" woofer. If you told me it was using dual 10" woofers, I’d believe you.” Granted, when you push the Dancer very hard, you might hear faint strain—a subtle “shouting” quality—from the 7" mid/woofer. But on the whole, the Usher’s dynamic qualities are exemplary.
 
There are only a few nits to pick.
While driver integration is very good, there remains an ever-so-slight qualitative difference between the sound of the
Beryllium tweeter (since updated to new Diamond tweeter) and 7" mid/bass driver. To be fair, this difference is much less
noticeable than, say, the disparity between the ribbon tweeter and non-ribbon midrange driver in Magnepans. There is also a slightly strained “shouting” quality when you push the 7" midrange driver to very high levels (a problem I also hear, and to about the same degree, in Wilson’s costlier Watt/Puppy speaker system).
 
While I do not find the Dancer’s mid and low bass to be underdamped, some listeners might, although damping materials can be added to the massloading chamber to further tighten the bass. Finally, low-frequency aficionados might wish for a dab of bass reinforcement to add weight to the half-octave between 20-30Hz.
 
Usher’s Dancer CP-8571 II is a wonderfully capable speaker that gives you nearly top-tier performance at a not too-outlandish price. If you’ve dreamed of owning speakers like Wilson Audio’s US$22,400 Watt/Puppies or US$11,700 Sophias, but can’t fit them into the budget, the great news is that the Dancer puts you in that performance range for a much more manageable US$7735 — a price/performance “math” that works for me.
.......Chris Martens
 
Robert Harley Comments 
I had the opportunity to hear the Dancer at Chris Martens’ house one evening, and though Chris expressed to me his overall enthusiasm for the Dancer, I had not read his review as of this writing.
I was taken aback by the Dancer’s size, shape, and build quality—I wasn’t expecting this much from a $6900 loudspeaker, which would be appropriate in a much more expensive product.
 
I was similarly impressed by the Dancer’s specific sonic attributes as well as its overall musicality. For me, the Dancer’s most impressive characteristic was its sense of transparency through the midband. There was the distinct impression of a lack of veiling between the musicians and me, which fostered a remarkable sense of tangibility without sounding forward or forced. Images had a wonderful presence and palpability that made it easy to forget the playback system. This transparency contributed to the sense of depth and “see-through” quality that allowed low-level sounds at the back of the soundstage to sound clear and distinct.
 
I also enjoyed the Dancer’s portrayal of space; images were tight and focused, and surrounded by space and air that was detached from the image. Some speakers tend to fuse the surrounding acoustic with the image, diminishing the impression of an instrument or voice in a hall. I noticed the Dancer’s terrific soundstaging, particularly on the solo voice passage in Rutter’s Requiem [Reference Recordings], a recording I’ve heard on dozens of loudspeakers.
 
Tonally, the Dancer had a neutral overall balance and deep bass extension, coupled with a treble that was clean and free from hash. Although the Dancer had good dynamic impact, I thought that the speaker wasn’t as dynamically coherent across the frequency range as I’m accustomed to hearing. That is, the bass didn’t have quite the same sense of quickness and
snap as the rest of the spectrum. Overall, the Dancer delivered an amazing level of performance for the price. In fact, it’s
a stone-cold bargain.
Excellent dynamics, convincing sense of detail and harmonious design. (Translation from German to English)
Phillip Child
+ Dynamic fine-very good 
+ Solid level stability 
+ Very good workmanship 
+ Power and Reproduction 
+ Accurate and fast 

The Quadral Ascent 90 adults transducer at an affordable price. Fascinated has been mainly as dynamic and finely detailed the tower speaker from this price range to work.Adopt any of them is a very harmonious design with strengths in all frequency ranges. The Super Audio tweeter has high strength and light beam from the upper regions perfectly. Die Mitten sind sehr präsent, drängen sich aber nicht in den Vordergrund. The mids are very present, but not force their way into the foreground. In the low frequency range and power are strongly, if requested, once the precise location. The large signal behavior is naturally not the outside, the Ascent 90 always seem musical and vividly. Balanced and harmonious hold the transducer was also a high level and are only slightly more pointed at excessive volume. The workmanship is solid, classic look gives a timeless pleasure. 

 Introduction 
The Ascent 90 can be found after the 5.1-testing the largest of the current series of Quadral Ascent Classic with us in the newsroom. The speaker stand measuring just over one meter high and bring about 22.5 kilos. The 3-way bass reflex speakers offer a Power Handling of 160/220 watts and an efficiency of 89 dB. For solid bass is provided by two 180mm Titanium Polypropylene woofer, for middle is a 135mm dome selfsame material responsible and in the heights finally makes a 25mm aluminum dome for clarity and conciseness. The frequency range is 38hZ - 46kHz indicated. Also for the Ascent 90, it is customary for Quadral 5 year warranty. To have the adult speakers for only NZ$ 1995/pr.
 
The Quadral Ascent speakers seem quite traditional, with the curved side wall but they were awarded a visually stylish touch. The baffle comes in glossy black with a very good speaker enclosed chassis. The dust catcher and the speaker grilles are magnetically attached. Also open the Ascent making 90 a good figure and who the speaker wants to show bar, does not have to live with the other common-place grid fixtures. The case is matte black plastic coating, the Ascent series is to be had in cherry with a baffle in graphite. The foliation has smooth edge transitions very clean, the gaps between the baffle and the housing are consistently low. The bass reflex tubes are also fitted and clean the speaker screw terminals on the back of a valuable aspect. The Ascent 90 is based on good-sized feet that are rubber coated for high stability below. The dimensions are 1051W x 254H x 355D mm. 
 
Sound 
Our review of the acoustic performance of Ascent 90 starts with Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The violin sounds are clear, but played nice. No tinny touch, play and succeed in the fast changing fresh. Pack the powerful woofers and thoroughly is something more in demand volume. This leaves the Ascent 90 is very precise and dry, the frequency ranges remain clearly separated, the resort does not have two 180mm woofers. The vibrancy of the scenery is positively influenced by the excellent course dynamics, but also more subtle musical differences, but will not go under largely covered. The sound from the speaker is soluble and a neat instrument separation is possible, although the breadth and depth of the stage seems not quite as pronounced. Excellent presents the Ascent 90, the lively Allegro Danza Pastorale violin cascades in the Violin Concerto in E Major No. 1 op.8 agile and fast acting here is excellent in transparency. Intervene as the slightly lower strings, the sound is not disturbed in its harmony but fused into a homogeneous whole. 
 
Brian Ferry It's All Over Now Baby Blue begins with a wonderfully deep bass beats. The Ascent 90 receives this offer of assistance and there is no shame. The bass playing tremendously deep down, and with force and vigor. At the same time it convinces with clear, audible through the middle and a nice treble. Brian Ferry's voice is recorded above average for this price range, characteristic, and of course it is worn on the listener. Really perfect harmony is offered of the different frequency ranges, precise and accurate access to the woofer and carry on too thick. Amazing how fine is the Ascent to work dynamically. Very detailed and refined, this lively and musically inviting the Ascent 90 is a straight to Fußwippen. These 90 also liked the Ascent very distinct by its spaciousness, nothing seems flat or one dimensional, the audience becomes part of the backdrop. 
 
The great space, the Ascent 90 in Crockett's Theme by Jan Hammer Profect feat. But not only that, the kick bass is extremely deep and precise. Up in the gut make it the more moderate Quadral speakers, and at the level. The voice is not quite as good as Brian Ferry. Characteristics and authenticity are given, but the stage setup looks a little low down lying voice is not quite correct. Middle-and high-impact transparent and very well ausdetailliert aggressive heights we can not even find at high volume. Make sure the Ascent with 90 more, firmly and confidently play the level transducer. In the next track in the dry, precise bass comes after about 30 seconds into its own again. The Ascent 90 develop an excellent dynamic performance and low levels of conscious and animated musical enjoyment. In the treble the Quadral create a superior attention to detail and resonance, and the excellent three-dimensionality is further supported 
 
It is a little faster with DJ Quicksilver "I Have a Dream". Immediately shows the excellent separation of the speaker components, both the male and female vocal part is central front of the listener. The bass work here in terms of precision taken back a bit, but this is due to the slightly poorer image quality and of course the fact that Orhan Terzi applying a little thicker. Deep and powerful bass, the kick is still going on but also in terms of volume, the need not hide Ascent 90. Bei extrem hohen Pegeln wird der Super-Audio-Hochtöner schon ein wenig spitzer, wirklich störend aggressiv aber nie. At extremely high levels is the Super Audio tweeter a bit sharp, aggressive, but never really distracting. Basically, the representatives of the Ascent series have a very nice design and not be strenuous. 
 
In our last test piece of music may be the Quadral Ascent 90 to try "The Poet and the Pendulum" from Dark Passion Play album by Nightwish. In the very first seconds, the atmospheric acoustic transducers are characterized by their great space and a dense atmosphere. As a start in about a half minutes, the actual song, inspired an excellent large signal behavior. Packed with a lot of power and the Ascent 90 to play down very deep.

Performance.
The high speed makes for a very lively performance. Despite the complex acoustic events, the instruments remain differentiated and graded the various platform levels. The voice is clean and is slightly ahead of the heavy-laden tirades. That the Ascent also master the gentle sounds of shows, in turn, about 5 minutes. Very nice violin sounds great with acoustic finesse to convince development. In the following minutes, the speed increases again, until the instruments culminates at about 8 minutes by fast sequences played to a very complex and dense acoustic backdrop. Excellent dynamics, convincing sense of detail and harmonious design. 

 
Competitive Comparison 
Klipsch Reference RF-62 MkII : speakers are about 50 EUR cheaper to have a piece. You can probably still be regarded as a fixed level and generally have a slightly more direct interpretation, especially at high frequencies. Here, the Quadral shine though as clear and transparent, but look a little softer and more pleasant. In addition, the Klipsch Dynamiker real rough, while the Ascent ausdetaillieren 90 additional fine and show a lot of finesse.  
 
Conclusion
For 1200/pr EUR is obtained by the Quadral Ascent 90 adults transducer at an affordable price. Fascinated has been mainly as dynamic and finely detailed the tower speaker from this price range to work.Adopt any of them is a very harmonious design with strengths in all frequency ranges. The Super Audio tweeter has high strength and light beam from the upper regions perfectly. Die Mitten sind sehr präsent, drängen sich aber nicht in den Vordergrund. The mids are very present, but not force their way into the foreground. In the low frequency range and power are strongly, if requested, once the precise location. The large signal behavior is naturally not the outside, the Ascent 90 always seem musical and vividly. Balanced and harmonious hold the transducer was also a high level and are only slightly more pointed at excessive volume. The workmanship is solid, classic look gives a timeless pleasure. 
..............Phillip Child
 
The Mini Two DMD is a finely detailed, nuanced, full-range speaker that sounds dynamically alive....these qualities make it ideal for those who know and love what ultra-premium loudspeakers can do,
Chris Martens

while the Mini Two was very good, the new model is, on the whole, even better. To my way of thinking, one of the most essential aspects of the Usher “house sound” involves an almost uncanny ability to find a middle path when navigating the thorny divide between sonic truths versus sonic beauty. Thus, Usher’s Dancer models have traditionally been able to deliver accuracy without sounding uptight or clinical, to deliver a full-bodied and dynamically engaging sound without become sloppy, syrupy, or overblown, and to provide a revealing look at inner details in recordings without becoming punishingly unforgiving or finicky.

Usher Audio is a Taiwanese loudspeaker-maker known for developing high-quality loudspeaker drive units that rival offerings from such famous Scandinavian firms as Scan-Speak or SEAS. But unlike those powerhouse Nordic firms, Usher has leveraged its driver-making expertise to create several families of loudspeakers, collectively known as the Dancer Series.
 
Thus far, Usher’s two best-known Dancer models have been the flagship Dancer BE-20 floorstander (US$21,995/pr), which I reviewed in TAS 181, and the smaller but no less impressive Mini-Dancer BE-718 stand-mount monitor (US$2799/pr), reviewed by Robert Harley in TAS 176. Those two products represent the bookends of the Dancer lineup; between these two extremes Usher has sought to create a middle model that would combine some of the dynamic clout and full-range reach of the big BE-20 with the musicality and accessible pricing of the BE-718. That middle model is the Dancer Mini Two Diamond DMD (or Mini Two, for short) floorstander, priced at US$4999/pr (NZ$7,000 incl GST).
 
To appreciate what the Mini Two really is and why it exists, it helps to picture the speaker as an improved, floorstanding
version of the well-respected BE-718, but one that aims to provide enhanced dynamic range, dramatically better lowfrequency extension, and even higher levels of resolution and nuance. The original BE-718 was a classic bass-reflex, two-way stand mount monitor based on a 7" mid/bass driver and an exotic 1.25" beryllium/titanium dome tweeter. The new Mini Two is also a two-way bass-reflex design, but one that uses a pair of the BE-718’s mid/bass drivers configured as a D’Appolitotype array flanking Usher’s all-new 1.25" DMD (diamond-metaldiamond) ceramic/metallic tweeter.
 
A cursory review of the Mini Two’s published specifications reveals that this floorstander offers, as promised, higher sensitivity (90dB vs. 87dB), deeper bass extension (28Hz vs.42Hz), and more extended treble response (40kHz vs. 35kHz)
than the original Be-718. Numbers like these can, of course, be misleading, but as we’ll see in a moment the Mini Two Diamond DMD really does deliver on the promise of preserving the BE-718's uncanny musicality while extending its capabilities and overall reach in meaningful ways.
 
Two final points I should address before we discuss the Mini Two’s sound involve its sheer size and the reasoning behind
its DMD tweeter. First off, let me tell you that the Mini Two is “mini” in name only. In reality, this is a large (48.4" tall) and substantial loudspeaker. In fact, the speaker enclosures feature elegant and beautifully veneered curved wall and bass-reflex cabinets weighing 83 pounds each and that come with massive 37-pound cast-iron floor plinths that bolt to the main enclosures, providing rigid attachment points for Usher’s adjustable floor cones/spikes. Pretty much everything about this speaker is beefy.
 
Second, let’s consider the DMD tweeter from which the speaker draws its name. Those familiar with Usher’s already excellent beryllium/titanium tweeter might well ask why a replacement was sought, given that the old unit was regarded by many as one of the finest piston-type tweeters ever made. The answer is that Usher saw an opportunity to create a tweeter that combined the best aspects of conventional diamond and metallic diaphragms, by creating a hybrid dome made of a very thin lightweight-alloy center-layer covered on both sides with ultra-thin layers of diamond-like carbon coating. The resulting diaphragm, says Usher, is “effectively a diamond dome with a reduced mass and a well-controlled, appealing sound signature, resembling very closely a perfect piston in its behavior.” Some years back I reviewed Usher’s original Mini Two speaker for AVguide.com and our sister publication Hi-Fi+. That first DMD, and the fact is that, while the Mini Two was very good, the new model is, on the whole, even better. To my way of thinking, one of the most essential aspects of the Usher “house sound” involves an almost uncanny ability to find a middle path when navigating the thorny divide between sonic truths versus sonic beauty. Thus, Usher’s Dancer models have traditionally been able to deliver accuracy without sounding uptight or clinical, to deliver a full-bodied and dynamically engaging sound without become sloppy, syrupy, or overblown, and to provide a revealing look at inner details in recordings without becoming punishingly unforgiving or finicky.
 
The Mini Two Diamond DMD is no exception, though it hews noticeably more closely toward the “truth” side of the spectrum than the original Mini Two did. Part of the reason why is that the Mini Two Diamond DMD (which looks much like the original Mini Two on the outside) sports unseen but quite audible enclosure improvements, so that bass remains powerful but is tighter, more incisive, and better defined in pitch than before. The benefit is that subtle traces of low-end thickness or congestion present to some degree in the original Mini Two are now banished. Perhaps as a result, the tricky transition region from the midbass on up into the lower midrange also sounds cleaner, more open, and more focused than before, with collateral benefits in imaging and soundstaging. The midrange of the Mini Two Diamond DMD sounds much like that of the original Mini Two or BE-718, which is a good thing, though the higher you climb in the frequency spectrum the more the effects of the new Diamond DMD tweeter make themselves heard.
 
What exactly are those effects? Well, the first and most obvious difference is that the Diamond DMD tweeter is better able to resolve low-level treble details, which is the sort of change that—on good recordings—makes the speaker sound more “continuous” and thus more realistic. Transient and textural details are rendered with greater speed and less grain,
while the sounds of echoes and other reverberant cues become more explicit and tend to linger on the air, rather than being
prematurely truncated. But to my ears, perhaps the biggest benefit is the smooth and sophisticated way the new tweeter integrates, and reveals the intrinsic link between treble fundamentals and their associated high harmonics. It’s this quality of integration that makes the new tweeter a winner.
 
The old tweeter had a certain ballsy and unflappable quality even when pushed very hard, whereas the new tweeter—for all its enhanced resolution and finesse—reaches the upper limits of its dynamic “comfort zone” earlier than the beryllium tweeter did. In practice, this is rarely noticeable except, I suppose, for those who routinely listen to large-scale orchestral pieces or rock music at vigorous volume levels and beyond. The difference is the original beryllium/titanium tweeter essentially never sounded overtaxed; your ears would cry “Uncle” long before the tweeter did. With the DMD tweeter the sound is more sophisticated across the board, ......
 
The key question, of course, is how the speaker performs as a whole, and the answer is that it is a really well conceived and well executed all-rounder—a US$4999/pr (NZ$7,000 incl GST) speaker that makes a ton of sense for aspiring listeners who wish they could spend ten times that sum, but whose budgets lead them to make more realistic, earthbound choices. For a starter, let’s acknowledge that the Mini Two DMD is essentially a full-range speaker, and not one of those near-full-rangers that is basically dreaming about, but not really accessing, the bottom octave. The Mini Two DMD has useful output all the way down into the mid-20Hz range, as a spin or two through bass favorites such as “Pie Jesu” from the Rutter Requiem [Reference Recordings] or the Bakels/Bournemouth reading of Vaughan Williams’ Sinfonia Antartica [Naxos] makes very clear. Pipe organ enthusiasts will be pleased not only by the depths the Ushers can reach, but also by their weight, power, and reasonably good control.
 
Next, the speaker offers a very coherent, expressive, detailed, and neutrally balanced midrange. As with most two-ways, the
Mini Two DMD’s show excellent smoothness and cohesiveness in the difficult transition region from upper bass to the lower midrange—an area where some three-way (or other more complicated) designs have been known to run into trouble. But where the DMD’s truly distinguish themselves is in dynamic nuance and sheer dynamic punch, starting down in the bass region (think bass guitars and kick drums) right on up through the very top of the midrange. One beauty of the Mini Two DMD is that you have the simplicity, focus, and sonic rightness of a classic two-way design, but with the muscle and grunt that only dual, D’Appolito 7" mid/bass units can provide.
 
To appreciate what I mean, listen carefully to Clark Terry and the DePaul University Big Band play “Moten Swing” from
Terry’s Chicago Sessions, 1994-1995 [Reference Recordings], and note the sound of the band’s horn section, in particular. There are moments in that track where the entire band will be cruising along smoothly until—almost without warning—the horn section simply erupts with astonishing brassy beauty and almost shocking dynamic force. These are passages so dynamically challenging that they cause some (actually many) speakers to shift in an instant from a casual “No problem, I’ve got this” to an “Omigosh, I’m seriously over-taxed” dynamic-overload moment, where the sound can momentarily become compressed, raw, or just plain distorted. But not so, the Ushers. They seem almost to relish the track, tackling it with equal measures of dynamic clout and subtlety, plus something of the exuberant glee of a thrill-seeking child looking to revisit a particularly stimulating amusement park ride. When the horn section rises up, the Mini Two captures the fierce burnished leading edges of the notes and the forceful golden-toned thrust and projection of the horns in full voice. But even as it does so, the speaker also keeps the details of the recording straight, preserving the textures and timbres not only of the horns but also of the accompanying drum kit and cymbals as well as other instruments in the band.
 
I’ve spoken about the DMD tweeter’s superior resolution, focus, and overall sophistication vis-à-vis the original Usher
beryllium/titanium tweeter, and thought I might supply an illustration to help crystallize this point. Try listening to “Talking Wind” from Marilyn Mazur and Jan Garbarek’s Elixir [ECM] through the Mini Twos, and then note carefully the sound of the high-frequency percussion instruments featured there.
 
Many speakers can give you a nominally “clean” reading of this recording, but the Usher does more; it crosses the boundary line that divides textbook-correct reproduction to instead achieve hints of genuine realism. What makes this possible, I think, is the deft manner in which the DMD tweeter integrates treble fundamentals, harmonics, echoes, and reverberations into a cohesive, believable whole. A point I have noted in previous reviews of Usher speakers is that they do not “deconstruct” musical elements as some loudspeakers do, but rather help music to sound more whole and complete.
 
Let me conclude, then, by expanding on a point I raised near the beginning of this review. The Mini Two DMD is a finely detailed, nuanced, full-range transducer that is relatively easy to drive and that sounds dynamically alive. These qualities make it ideal for those who know and love what ultra-premium loudspeakers can do, but who have decided (either as a matter of preference or necessity) to hold loudspeaker expenditures within the US$5000/pr (NZ$7,000 incl GST) price range. Within that range, the Usher distinguishes itself, not by achieving “perfection,” but by doing many more things right for the money than listeners might think possible.
.......Chris Martens
 
These diminutive speakers offer stunning levels of sonic performance for your money.
Summary of various reviewers comments

"When I consider the overall sound from any small speaker I’ve auditioned, the Be-718 is the best that I’ve heard. It’s exceedingly well balanced, surprisingly neutral, and extremely transparent. It also has the best bass extension I've heard short of a big floorstanding speaker. The only caveats are that you’ll need a sufficiently powerful amplifier and that you’ll have to give the Be-718 room to breathe, given its generous bass. To me, those limitations are not too hard to accept". ......Doug Schneider - Soundstage 

"The Usher Be-718 is a remarkable loudspeaker and a great achievement for its size and price. What makes the Be-718s special is its extremely low levels of tonal, dynamic, textural, and spatial colorations. This reduction in distortions allows the Be-718 to get out of the music’s way to a degree that is unprecedented in a loudspeaker of this price, in my experience. But the icing on the cake is the Be-718’s unlikely combination of treble resolution with smoothness, a characteristic that fosters an immediate and deep involvement with the music. The Be-718 makes it easy to forget you’re listening to a reproduction rather than to music itself". 
......Robert Harley Absolute Sounds

"The Be-718 is one of those stand-mounts that's more likely to have you look around for the hidden subwoofer than wishing you had one. They showed amazing clarity, body and bass-resolving ability on the drum and its overtones on "Lovin Mother Fo Ya" from John Cougar's Uh-huh [RVL 7504]. Even the bass lines on "Serious Business", which are hardly prominent in the mix, remained superbly intelligible in the background". 
......John Pottis - 6Moons

"Many loudspeakers utilise a rising response towards 20kHz to add sparkle and atmosphere, and ensure that everything is picked up within the performance, whereas the Be718s do this naturally by virtue of their well designed tweeter - you really feel that you are hearing everything you are supposed to, without any areas being artificially boosted. A quick blast of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons - Spring' presented violins with a pleasing effortlessness and ensuring that they never sounded strained or screechy - a sure sign of a good tweeter. This sense of evenness continues into the midrange, where the Be718s deal expertly with both vocals and instrumentation. They project an impressively wide and deep soundstage into the room which permits easy placement of musicians within the recording. Jackson Browne's vocals on 'The Pretender' were magnificently rendered, and the backing drum strikes were snappy and solid, adding verve and pace to the performance"
......Adam Smith - Hi-Fi World

I think these are one of the best pairs of loudspeakers I’ve heard - up there with the finest electrostatics and multi-ribbon designs around. They showcase the best in contemporary (and classic) loudspeaker design and, just as importantly, make it work li
HiFi Worlsd- 5 GLOBES Award: 
Billiantly engineered loudspeakers with leading edge technology, honed to deliver breathtakingly clean, open and musical sound.
- seamless clarity across a wide frequency range
- arrestingly powerful bass
- exceptional tonal neutrality
- overall finesse 
The thing about the Usher Be-10s is that - to my ears at least - they are mostly flawless. They are exceptionally open and expansive, whilst being uncoloured to a degree than makes your average electrostatic sound like a pair of disco speakers.... they work brilliantly with all sorts of music, always drawing one's attention to the innate goodness of the recording rather than its faults. They’re superb at capturing the essence of recording, as well as giving you chapter and verse about the fine detail. They’re generally dizzyingly fast and dynamic, yet never need be used solely for these purposes - you can kick back with some late night classic jazz and relax without being assaulted.

The Be-10 is classically well engineered, giving a superb measured performance in every area. It will need little power, match all amplifiers, is totally accurate, will have monumental bass and approach electrostatic levels of clarity and low colouration, measurement suggests. NK

Much to my chagrin, the only science I wasn’t terribly good at was Physics - not a great admission for an electronics obsessed, internal combustion engine-fascinated fifteen year old. But then, a curious ability at Chemistry kind of made up for it. I’d never been particularly excited at the prospect of test tubes, Bunsen burners and fume cupboards (although the occasional opportunity to add water to acid was never missed), but somehow almost by accident, I took to it like a duck to water...
 
One of the reasons was learning about the Periodic Table. “Wow,” I mused, “here’s everything you need to know, all the chemical building blocks mapped out in front of you - learn that and I’ve cracked it”. Thus began my slavish, by rote, chanting of “H-He-Li-Be-B-C-N-O-F-Ne-Na-Mg-Al-Si-P-S-Cl-Ar-K-Ca”. Although it wasn’t quite as easy as “Every Good Boy Deserves Football” for my Music ‘O Level’, the mnemonic eventually sunk in and lo and behold, Chemistry GCE was a pushover!
 
Well, a decade or so (ahem!) later, my increasingly porous grey matter has retained little of my school science exploits, but one thing it does remember is the Periodic Table, and my interest in materials technology remains. That’s why I’m still fascinated at the way loudspeaker designs choose different substances to make drive units - from plastic film membranes for electrostatics to slivers of metal for ribbons, or any number of variations of doped paper and plastic with conventional moving coil cone drivers. The fun thing is that there are no rules - aside from that the thing or bit that moves the air should be as light and rigid and unresonant as possible...
 
Oh, and I forgot the final dictate - with commercially available speakers at least - cost. Let’s not forget that there’s got to be a point in making them in the first place (i.e. the company’s continued existence), so financial considerations hold sway. That’s why most speakers use moving coil drivers (they’re the cheapest and/or the easiest to source or make), and also why most moving coil drivers use plastic cones of one type or another. Again, the same sort of thing you make Coke bottles out of or dispense Shampoo from is never going to break the bank now, is it?
 
Still - before we get too ‘knowing’ and cynical about why the commercial reality of production loudspeakers is generally so far away from the theoretical ideal - let’s not forget that this is only half the story. Just because you’ve got the best drive unit material doesn’t guarantee you will have the best sound - you need to integrate those drivers with the cabinet and other drivers successfully before you even come close. However, what you can be sure about is that if you haven’t got the best driver materials, you’ll never be able to get the best sound.
And so to the Usher Be-10 - which makes a very earnest attempt to achieve the state of the loudspeaker art by using not polypropylene or paper, but Beryllium for its treble and midrange units. My ‘O Level’ Chemistry textbook reminds me that this is the lightest stable metal on the planet, and only the fourth heaviest element in existence. The prospect of using Hydrogen or Helium to make your speaker cones is - shall we say - ‘airy fairy’, and I wouldn’t want to sit too close to a Lithium tweeter unless it was sitting in a bath of oil - to prevent it spontaneously combusting like a Spinal Tap drummer! In short then, ‘Be’ is ultra light yet stable, and as such ideal for use in a transducer. Because of its very nature, it is far better suited to the job of moving air than anything made from heavy old Magnesium or Aluminium. Well, Beryllium would be ideal, were it not for the fact that it’s so expensive to produce safely - for consumer loudspeaker applications, the price certainly isn’t right.
 
This explains why so few speakers have ever employed this material - with the standout exception being Yamaha’s NS1000M which I use to this day. Sure, they have their weaknesses, but the speed, clarity and insight is like no other I’ve heard. The Yamahas’ strength comes not from using a Beryllium tweeter, but from mating one to a five inch Beryllium midrange dome so well. With this speaker, you have all the most audible frequencies handled by phase-coherent, identical sounding transducers, and the results are startling. Well, to this select group you can now add the Usher Be-10s - for they too run Beryllium tweeters and midrange units, although with the Be-10 Usher have chosen to invert the midrange dome to a cone profile. This, says the company, is the first ever such driver.
 
£10,500 buys you a very big (365x715x1215mm) box weighing no less than 92kg (including its base). The Be-10 is, like so many of my favourite loudspeakers, a big three way running a 1.25” Beryllium tweeter from 40kHz down to 3.46kHz, after which that 5” inverted Beryllium dome takes over. This goes down to 550Hz, when an 11” Eton woofer handles everything right down to 25Hz (claimed) with the help of bass reflex loading. One problem for the bass unit to contend with, with two of the world’s fastest, lightest drivers pulsing away above it, is how to keep up. For this reason, Usher have chosen Kevlar - which is another light and stiff material (a patented para-aramid synthetic fibre) - famous for being used in bulletproof jackets, amongst other things, due to it being five times stronger than steel on a weight-for-weight basis. The cabinet is a familiar profile for Usher, being rounded at the back (to reduce resonances) and angled backwards (to provide time-alignment). Needless to say it is massively braced and the standard of finish is - as you’d expect from high end Ushers -
immaculate.
 
SOUND QUALITY
Costing over £10,000 I am afraid you cannot make excuses for a loudspeaker such as this - it’s right up against the likes of B&W’s 801D and thus playing with the big boys. With this in mind, I wasn’t expecting to be able to be ‘nice’ to the Usher Be-10s. Of course, I knew that they had a great start in life with their state-of-the-art treble and mid units, but in my experience theoretical excellence rarely translates into practical perfection. Being the hardened old hack that I am, I was ready to find fault, but it turned out to be more difficult than I had first thought.
 
Within the opening notes of the first bar of a cleanly recorded piece of music, played through decent amplification, you can tell just how different these boxes are to almost every other. There is exceptional clarity from top to bottom, but it’s not the usual sort of dry, sterile focus than so many so-called ‘reference’ loudspeakers serve up. Instead, this is natural and effortless. Rather than shining a thousand Watt bulb on the recording and clicking in the zoom lens, the Ushers provide a wide angle window on what’s going on without preoccupying themselves (or you) on individual detail points. Or so it seems, because actually, they also brilliantly resolve every detail of the song, but just don’t draw attention to themselves as they do it. The result is a simple, natural, matter of fact sound unsullied by mediocre transducers.
 
This is impressive stuff, but the Ushers don’t sound impressive - it’s not like they’re trying hard to push out everything at you. It’s all there for sure, but surprisingly you can take it or leave it as you please - which is one area where they are conspicuously ahead of my reference Yamahas. The combination of enormous detail and delicacy allied to real ease is what defines these loudspeakers as truly great, and it’s all down to the integration between all three drive units. Just having a trick tweeter isn’t enough. It’s the seamless combination of HF and midband units with very similar phase characteristics and tonal character (however unobtrusive this may be anyway) that makes for such an open, lucid and yet so subtle sound. Whilst other Usher speakers have had Beryllium tweeters, to me this almost creates more problems than it solves, because it’s impossible to completely harmoniously marry them to a midrange unit that’s not made of the same super-light material. The end result hasn’t been bad, but still at times seems less than the sum of the parts. Here though, it is the opposite - the two Be drivers give seamless clarity that puts most electrostatics to shame, and then go on to marry up with that big Kevlar bass unit blissfully.
 
Kraftwerk’s ‘Tour De France Étape 1’ is a case in point. This is a sparse recording with tremendous rhythmic subtlety and layer upon layer of detail. I can honestly say I’ve never heard Ralf Hutter’s deadpan vocoded vocals as clearly as I have with the Be-10s - these speakers communicated the air around his voice with utter ease, remaining unflapped by that pounding bassline and cascading keyboards running very close to 0dB levels. Despite the breathtaking forensic analysis of the elements within the mix, this didn’t distract one jot from the song’s hypnotic rhythm and imposing physical weight, which the Ushers caught brilliantly. The result was an engrossing rendition of a track which I (and many other Kraftwerk fans, I suspect) feel gets better every time you listen to it. Even at very high levels, these speakers never veered towards harshness, which is normally the price you pay for such resolution - even on the opening four bars of the following ‘Tour De France Étape 2’ with its highly modulated keyboard pads, which are forward enough to make projectiles out of lesser midrange drivers!
 
Likewise, cue up Saxon’s ‘ ‘747: Strangers in the Night’ and the Be-10s cut right through the mix, conveying Barnsley’s finest with sparkling clarity and freshness that makes the music sound like it was recorded last week, rather than three decades ago. It’s great to hear an instant switch from one studio to another, the speakers telling me everything about the new recording yet never letting this distract - or detract - from the musical performance. The band’s epic drum sound, cowering basslines and falsetto guitars are there in all their (rather camp) finery, along with the distinctive strains of Biff Byford’s gruff vocals. I loved the way that, whereas with Kraftwerk the recording had been up close and personal, suddenly Saxon were hanging back, with some aspects of the mix dropping almost behind the rear wall, with everything in incredible focus all the same.
 
REM’s ‘Maps and Legends’ showed a blissful mix of tonal accuracy, rhythmic alacrity and dizzying detailing. This is a fairly muddy sounding track, appropriately enough recorded during a trip to rainy London in winter 1985, and lacks the glossy sheen of their later (I would say) cruder pop-rock excursions. The Be-10s cut through the grunge like a hot knife through butter, once again ‘snapping’ a completely different recorded acoustic into the listening room as soon as the laser hit the silver disc pits. Where there is usually a muddle of murky guitars doing a pale Byrds pastiche, now I could hear crisply played, deftly strummed, multitracked, layered Rickenbackers chiming “like bells in the night” (as Be Bop Deluxe’s Bill Nelson once so nicely put it). Singer Michael Stipe's plaintive tones gained a degree of warmth and subtlety compared to the likes of B&W’s 801D, those Beryllium midrange units apparently editorialising an awful lot less about its sound...
 
Jamiroquai’s ‘Return of The Space Cowboy’ showcased the song’s beautifully smooth and laid back electric piano work, the speakers giving it a tremendously tactile quality that’s so often missed. This is a band that can sound very bland on record, but I’ve found them quite captivating live, and again the Ushers nailed it. The quality of this early nineties analogue recording showed the excellence of the Usher tweeters; they’re blessed with uncanny clarity, delicacy and air - making your average aluminium affair sound like two dustbin lids being bashed together by a twelve year old with an ASBO. The great integration with the midrange unit meant the Be-10s had brilliant phase performance; backing vocals hung well back yet were solid in their location all the same, contrasting well with singer Jay Kay’s imposing lead.
 
This track also has a big, deep, sumptuous bass guitar pushing it along - and even a bass solo half way through. I found the Be-10 to be very strong in this respect too - powerful, taut, firm and insistent yet never overbearing, the balance was beautifully judged. They also went very loud without showing any strain, giving something very close to a ‘live PA’ sound at high levels. Indeed, my only gripe - and it is minor - is that the Be-10s just lacked that requisite pin-sharpness in the bass. Although I heard negligible box boom from the big cabinets in my small-to-medium sized listening room, it was obvious that these are reflex port-loaded loudspeakers, lacking as they do the instantaneous LED-like ‘on-off’ of my reference Yamahas (which are non-ported, infinite baffle designs). This very subtle time slurring in the bass (and in the Be-10 is it very subtle, I must add) is I am afraid, a fact of life for ported boxes in my experience. Realising that there are many who believe otherwise, I shall brace myself for the complaints, but having chosen to live with infinite baffle speakers all my life, I can sniff this out like milk past its sell by date in my morning coffee!
 
CONCLUSION
It is amazing how many high end speakers are so obviously flawed. Glorious flaws they may be; indeed some people even buy them because of these ‘quirks’; but imperfections they remain. The thing about the Usher Be-10s is that - to my ears at least - they are mostly flawless. They are exceptionally open and expansive, whilst being uncoloured to a degree than makes your average electrostatic sound like a pair of disco speakers. After a protracted run-in and a thirty minute warm up every day they work brilliantly with all sorts of music, always drawing one's attention to the innate goodness of the recording rather than its faults. They’re superb at capturing the essence of recording, as well as giving you chapter and verse about the fine detail. They’re generally dizzyingly fast and dynamic, yet never need be used solely for these purposes - you can kick back with some late night classic jazz and relax without being assaulted.
 
Realistically, you need a serious system for the Usher Be-10s; the review system I used was the minimum you’d be countenancing. Think also about a medium to large room, not a small one - although they’re better in confined spaces than other ‘big’ speakers such as B&W 801s. Music choice? Well - the Ushers loved everything I tried, being seemingly one of the best all rounders in the business. Overall, as you might have guessed, I think these are one of the best pairs of loudspeakers I’ve heard - up there with the finest electrostatics and multi-ribbon designs around. They showcase the best in contemporary (and classic) loudspeaker design and, just as importantly, make it work like few others.
MEASURED PERFORMANCE
Usher are strong on measurement and producing a loudspeaker that is accurate, rather than enhanced. So the measured frequency response of the Be-10 comes as no surprise: it stays close to the 0dB datum from 60Hz all the way up to 18kHz, an unusually wide frequency range as loudspeakers go, and one that stays almost studiously close to notional perfection (in one sense). There’s no treble lift wherever the measuring microphone is placed so the Be-10 isn’t tweaked for the showroom and will sound less bright than most rivals, which these days have emphasised treble. However, a steady state pink noise analysis did show that in a room, modal build up of bass energy causes the Be-10 to peak at 75Hz and deliver enormous energy down to 50Hz, below which the port (red trace) kicks in to extend output down to 20Hz, our analysis shows. Since port output measures +8dB above forward driver output at 40Hz it contributes strongly. The Dancer Be-10 excited our room’s main mode at 24Hz strongly, so it will have earthquake bass in large rooms.
The 5in (127mm) inverted Beryllium dome midrange and 1in (25mm) Beryllium dome tweeter together contributed to an unusually clean 200mS decay spectrum, ranking as one of the best loudspeakers we have measured to date and approaching that of the Kingsound Prince II electrostatic. So expect very low colouration and superb levels of clarity.
 
Sensitivity measured 89dB, as claimed, and impedance worked out at 6.3 Ohms overall, identical to the D.C.R. of 6.3 Ohms. The port is tuned very low, to 24Hz, and the impedance curve shows it exerts wide damping, correlating to its wideband output. Bass notes from 40Hz upward will play cleanly over a non-resonant region of operation and should sound firm and even as a result. Above 60Hz to Be-10 load is 4 Ohms, and largely resistive, so it’s a relatively easy load that should suit both valve and solid-state amplifiers, high sensitivity suggesting 20-60 Watts is all that will be needed in most circumstances.
 
The Be-10 is classically well engineered, giving a superb measured performance in every area. It will need little power, match all amplifiers, is totally accurate, will have monumental bass and approach electrostatic levels of clarity and low colouration, measurement suggests. NK
superb speakers will not be changing these for a very, very long time,
Be-10 owner
I have had my Usher Be-10s for 18months, superb speakers will not be changing these for a very, very long time, great all rounders on all types of music from quiet acoustic stuff, opera to full on loud rock/techno, my neighbours love them.
 
They work in small rooms, mine is 14x14feet with some bass traps & can fill very large rooms build quality and finish are top-notch & not your usual boring box design, even women comment on their looks, it nearly killed me & my mate getting them up the stairs to my flat 92kgs each + lead shot mass loaded in the plinth.
 
They need a good front end to sound best, very easy to drive SS & Valve work tried with 9wpc SET amps if you don't want high volumes currently using a dared T300PP 160wpc 8x300b monoblocks which sound superb.
 
if you ever get to Scotland your welcome to hear them.
....forum member

Awards

Usher S520 book shelf speaker wins coveted 6Moons - BlueMoon award

Usher has lavished a high level of attention on the quality of this value proposition.... easily recommended as a high-performance high-end bargain.

Testimonials

I thoroughly recommend this Usher rack. In my system it has had a major positive impact.
Hi Terry 
I am really pleased with the Usher stand that I bought recently, I was expecting to sacrifice a little sonically having used a couple of marble slabs with supports and a wall rack extension. I managed to get the stand assembled and put it with spikes on two marble slabs reconnected everything and sat down to listen to some music. The effect was astounding, everything sounded much clearer, more air, speakers sounded like they were communicating together, timing was also much better. The mids really opened up significantly. My cd player (transport) always had to be on an angle to work, was sitting level and played without problems. I am getting a lot more sonic information, especially when using cd, my turntable is still on a wall shelf. The difference is similar to moving from a $400 cartridge to a $3000 one, a lot more information coming through playing the same music. The stand looks fabulous similar to my speakers in piano black, and ties my system nicely together. The stand is very heavy, sonically and aesthetically unbelievable for the money. Solid thick birch shelves really don’t come in this price bracket.
 
This rack really improved things more than a component upgrade in my experience. It is too much work to A/B with my previous set up, but I have listened to my system so often to be certain this is a huge step up in every area.
 
I thoroughly recommend this Usher rack. In my system it has had a major positive impact. 
....Jaap Miedema 
really happy......

Hi Terry,

 

Rec’d the Usher S520 speakers on Friday and immediately plugged them in, really happy with sound.

 

Thanks for the fab service, going to enjoy 200hrs break in!

 

Grant

Very highly recommended!
I'm very happy with this centre from every perspective.  Looks great, sounds better, integrates perfectly.  Finally the search is over.  If you have Loreleis, ProAc, Sonus Faber, Usher, anything that uses scan speaks you really have to take a listen to this centre.  Stan was great to work with, it arrived very quickly and in perfect condition.  Very highly recommended!
............Byteme - Forum member: 
......it is the time and effort you have put into my project to get the best outcome and I couldn't be happier with the result.
Hi Terry,
Thanks for talking me into upgrading the Usher B10's to the B20's, because of the size of the room (6.5m x 10.8m) the room has come alive with the B20's filling the space with ease.

The B20's have also added depth to the base but most interesting it has opened up the midrange.

I loved the sound style of the Usher B10's and the B20's are in the same vane but the room/speaker match is now right and I'm now getting the best out of the system.

If I have one big thanks you (above the other thank you's),  is the time and effort you have put into my project to get the best outcome and I couldn't be happier with the result.    

Kind Regards
Martyn Seddon

A Very Satisfied Customer -
From a Very Satisfied customer. 
I purchased the Hegel H160 Amp with the Usher Dancer MiniX DMD speakers.

The heartbeat on Pink Floyd 'Dark side of the moon' has an echo I have never heard before.

Simply outstanding.

Thanks Terry for your excellent service.

….Mike