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Living with the
Evolution Acoustic MMMiniTwos
This past summer I had the opportunity to listen to the Evolution Acoustic MMMiniTwos ($27K with subwoofer, $15K as a two way) for about a month or so here, in my own home. But to make this happen, Kevin (the designer of the company) offered to deliver them in person and facilitate setting them up. Way cool, but before you go all hog-wild and pop an aneurism, this is not a perk of being a reviewer, No they offer this for the typical end-user as well, though there are no doubt some considerations regarding distance and what not. So sit back and chill.
The MiniTwos are not quite what you might be thinking, and perhaps the same applies to the company as well, so here is the scoop on both. First off, the MiniTwo is a two-way speaker 'mounted' on a powered sub-woofer. Now this is not just any two-way, but (to quote from the EA site)... "one using ultra high quality pure ribbon tweeters, ceramic midrange drive units, optimized custom subwoofers, and ICE Power amplifiers. These components are housed in advanced acoustic cabinetry, which is both structurally inert and sonically diffuse through the use of multiple layer construction. Because the layers are individually bonded by an adhesive compound, the cabinet walls have superior strength, and the differing size of each layer produces an internal environment similar to an anechoic chamber, which significantly reduces back wave reflections from the transducers."
And they are damn heavy, beautifully built and finished, and so well-engineered that it is damn scary as the the attention to detail that went into these works of art. And they are made right here in California!
Kevin un-wrapping the MiniTwo's top—a good 85lbs or so of solid mass-inessness.
The locking end of the subwoofers. The top half (the two-way) sits on the two metal 'stub's and by turning the locking mechanisms (via a long crank-like tool) the bottom half grabs hold and one could lift the whole deal from the top without any damage...well, maybe not. Just to be careful and not do that, but Kevin suggested several hundred pounds of pressure holds the two speaker halves together, making for one solid pair.
Kevin working a sweat as he carefully lowers the top two-way down onto the bottom subwoofer.
Kevin locking the two cabinets together.
All locked and in place, time for the adjustable cones.
Getting the right level in terms of front to back and right to left is most important as these are time and phase aligned meaning where they are pointing makes or breaks their performance. They end to be hitting pretty much smack in your face to get the right tonality and soundstage which simply results in an amazing musical experience. Move much this way or that and while they still sound fantastic, you loose a good 10% of what they can do. Unfortunately that 10% is a lot of musical wow and engagement.
Yeah, these are fully adjustable allowing for a perfect 'tuning' to one's room.
The sub's extensive controls allow for fine tuning every parameter of the bass modules' ability to output the bass as one either wants, prefers, or is seen as being 'right' in terms of measurement and such. Of which Kevin did extensively.
The rear end of the transmission line. Yeah the two-way is good down to a solid 40Hz and even lower with the room helping out.
The ribbon and ceramic woofer - both of which are specially made for Evolution Acoustics... nothing off-the-shelf here. As extended as a bat's hearing these be.
Amazing finish... a close-up of the tweeter. Care has to be taken as a burst of wind can damage the ribbon necessitating a return to be re-ribbon-ed. Not something that anyone is looking forward to at this price point.
The subwoofer features a downward firing 8" x 12" paper-cone woofer housed in an sealed cabinet. With a 1000-watt amplifier, this baby has extension down to the core... say like 15Hz!
Ready to go... well not yet. Part of Kevin's trip was to not only set them up, but to SET THEM UP! Meaning that after Kevin had spent about 4 hours or so un-packing and placing the speakers in the 'right' positions, he then spent another 4 hours measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring till he had the speakers in the right place, the controls set to the right points... and the frequency pretty much flat from like 5Hz to 40kHz.
But let me digress here a bit. Now what was so interesting, is that prior to even setting these up, Kevin spent a good hour measuring the room and crunching the numbers so he could place the speakers where the math said they should go... should go is the idea, but then, well... I know my room. After placing them by the numbers and all, along with the hours of measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, and measuring, Kevin felt that he was not getting the measurements and sound that he knew the speakers were capable of both in terms of overall musicality and sonics.
"Uh, Kevin? Remember when I said that my speakers (and any others that I have had here as well) sounded best right about here? Well I realize that the math says that they should sound the best over there, but let's try them where I usually place speakers and see what happens. Worth a try, no?"
So we moved the speakers a few feet back and a foot or so sideways... and then Kevin measures, and measures, and measures, and measures, and measures, and measures, and measures, and measures, and... hey, that spot seems to be the a decent spot after all. Not perfect, but better in many ways than the one the math suggested to be the right; smoother, more even, more extended, more balanced left-to-right... cool. It was more of the right being different then that the left as the original placement resulted in 'differently-bad' room interactions than that in the final placement. For Kevin it was, well you know, more of what an engineer is looking for when measuring speakers in a room.
(Measurements were done on a PC running software to measure the frequency response from like 0Hz to 80kHz at the listening position. Kevin would measure the left then the right, and then both, make some minor adjustments to the speaker's position and/or settings, and the do it again... and again, and again, and again...)
Final placement and ready for some tunes! Sort of mean looking aren't they?
A wider shot of the system.
So how did they sound? Quite amazing actually. Very full range, extremely quick and articulate, highly resolving without a hint of being analytically cold or sterile... but you really needed to sit in the right spot and not move all that much. very similar to sat Quads, the MMMiniTwos are for the serious, " am the one guy who sits and listens in my dedicated chair and room" sort of thing. Not for the gang to hang and play tunes, they will do that, just you won't get it all unless you sacrifice the room and sweet spot for the musical bliss. Issue we had is that this is our living room, as well as being the listening room, so while the speakers would have sounded even better with the couch up a couple of feet (meaning out goes the coffee-table and forget the rest of the furniture) we simply had to make some serious compromises. Sit way forward and at the right height and man these things sang, Sit back and relax sitting somewhat lower and they lost a degree of that magic and life. Oh, well... we could hear it when we had to, just not for the long term. "No way the couch can go there!"
So sure, we did not have the optimal overall placement for ourselves, meaning we were probably only getting like 95% of what they could do, but yikers. These things are like an F1 winding around some track; speed, agility, bass slam, dynamics, you get it all. Resolution to the max without ever becoming overlay analytically un-nerving, musicality, etc.. You know the drill. Except there are a few additional issues to consider... one they are a two-way combined with a subwoofer meaning that while you want to pump up the volume thinking that the subwoofer is doing all the work, the reality is that that 6" midrange/woofer is working mighty hard so one needs to temper the volume a bit. I did stress it a few times with some bass heavy tunes, and it held its own.
But.... yeah, these drivers move... they move a lot of air and watching them doing so is pretty startling in how they simply do not fail when driven so rather loudly. Two, getting the subwoofer to be just right is not an easy task. Kevin set it where it measured right, but in listening to music the temptation to tinker with its settings; which can get one into trouble. Too much of this and not enough of that (there are five adjustments and changing one affects the others, so a slippery slope is in your future if you find the need to tinker) can get things way out of whack... fortunately Kevin left a diagram with his settings marked so going back to the initial settings was easy, but yeah... I got myself into some bad bass on occasion. Too oomphy. Too wimpy. Too woolly. Too boomy. Too wrong and not right. Of course when it is right it is very right, but even so one does need to adjust to the bass coming from a down-ward firing driver. It is simply a change in how the bass loads the room and such. Different for sure.
Highly recommended for that listener that can dedicate the room for their and your benefit. Not inexpensive in the least, but when one considers the complete package in terms of the visual and musical statement they offer the listener—along with the design, materials, construction. etc—they are appropriately priced. The truest form of a 'State of the Art' product, these speakers really are amazingly good.