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Tony Minasian's Drums & Bells

08-25-2017 | By Larry Cox | Issue 93

I was at CES when GamuT Audio of Denmark was starting to make a footprint with their electronics. This was in the early 2000s well before Gamut had speakers which have deservedly garnered raves. GamuT showed with some speakers were an exceptionally finished product soundwise, if not also in appearance. The speakers? Tonian Labs speakers, designed and built by Tony Minasian. Francisco Duran owns a pair. I like them.

Tony has a considerable background in audio. He audio education was through the venerable German Siemens and has been in audio since the middle 1980s. If that amount of time doesn't show a commitment to audio then you might say his collection of microphones that could buy a house speaks his commitment. 

The first time I heard Tony's speakers, he also passed me a CD with a couple of tracks on it, essentially all percussion. The sound was revelatory, with a light and delicate treble over an equally nuanced and deep bass presentation. The recording was more interesting than the music, but the recording was surprisingly informative. From that recording I've noticed on a regular basis that the least expensive upgrade to any system, and I mean any system, is a better recording. Do you think Peter McGrath appears at shows for Wilson Audio because of his Vanna White good looks? I expect he's there because he has bespoke recordings of exceptional quality.

Drums & Bells

The primary purpose of this brief note is to point you to Tony's first full CD of recordings, Drums & Bells. It is a remarkable recording with all tracks recorded in plain Redbook CD, i.e. 16/44.1kHz and not a souped up multiple. Looking for new music? Looking for artistry? I'll let you decide what's on this CD, though the performers are quite accomplished with outstanding resumes—numerous world renowned performers and more TV shows than I'd want to list. The reason to listen to this recording is to hear what your system is capable of, given the right software. Do you wish your system is better? Maybe it's better than you think it is, but it's just stuck replaying poorly recorded and engineered music, GIGO (garbage in garbage out) and that's not your system's fault. 

I've been listening to the 20 tracks through my Acoustic Energy Aego speakers at work, with DSP performed by my Mac Mini—about as budget-level as one can get. However, the nuances of the recorded music/sound on Drums & Bells are easily discerned. It's remarkable how much can be conveyed through my lowly office computer setup. What door might these recording open up on your system, which is likely much more resolving than my office setup? That, my friends is the question and I think it's worth an examination.

At home with my reference system timbre is as easily identified as a color, and tone is rich and full. This note isn't intended as a music lesson—I'm not equipped to offer that—but consider that timbre is the ability to distinguish instruments playing the same note at the same loudness, e.g. a cello from a viola. Each percussive instrument, with already limited palettes of timbre were easily distinguished. The dynamic envelope of each instrument was nearly as expressive as individual voices have differing dynamic envelopes.

With Tony's permission I've attached one track from the album featuring "large frame drums" which sounds miraculous on my Aegos.

 Tony says part of the magic (my word) arises from using the right microphone for the instrument to be reproduced, and Tony has enough microphones to choose the right one. The dynamic range on the CD really give me a much greater sense of a live experience. What a live experience means to me isn't being at the event but that the instrument sounds naked of a recording and like a live experience. 

And image specificity—yeah, not important to me, but still worthy of note - was strikingly exact. Of course, with fewer instruments being reproduced at the same time, you should expect. Ever notice that audiophiles take recordings of small ensembles with limited complexity to test music at shows? Yeah. The limited timbrel challenge here might have you scoff, but given a limited palette of timbre it's remarkable on the range of percussion how broad the range of timbre is and how easy it is to hear what is being played. At $20, shipped, it's an affordable tool to add to your collection.

Tony Minasian, Drums & Bells

I'm recommending this CD because I think it will give you a better idea of what your system is reproducing. Tony tells me the quality of this recording was enhanced by a new speaker driver he's developed and which design is patented. The new driver provided more accurate and better feedback on his work than the past speakers, which employed very highly regarded drivers from PHY and AER. Though the speakers aren't listed on his website (www.tonianlabs.com) as of now they are available. I guess you'd have to come to California to hear them first hand or buy them unseen and unheard. 

The drivers come in 8", 10", and 12" drivers; the 8" driver goes from 45Hz to 14kHz. Speakers incorporating the 8" drivers and a super tweeter are 99dB efficient. The super tweeter extends reproduction up to 40kHz +/- 3dB. I haven't heard these but would love to, especially given the performance of Tony's previous speakers.

Tony Minasian

Tel (818) 326-1177

[email protected]


All images and apologies therefor by Larry Cox