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HIFICRITIC
Volume 4 No. 2
Cabasse Mini Minorca
Martin Colloms get to grips with an unconventional stand-mount from France's oldest speaker brand.
Review By Martin Colloms

 

Cabasse Mini Minorca   The very first thing One of the oldest names in European hi-fi loudspeakers, French brand Cabasse was recently purchased by Japanese multinational Canon. While management, location and direction remain resolutely French, the backing of a much larger company has clearly boosted stability and resources.

A few years ago, Cabasse took on the concept of near point source sound radiation from multi-unit coaxial drivers for its high end products, and has been developing the technology in order to transfer it into its less costly ranges. The ultimate exposition of the concept is seen in La Sphere, a massive, large and dramatic looking sealed-box design that uses an innovative four-way multi-concentric with a nominal 20-inch diameter driver that incorporates time aligned active-drive.

Altogether less ambitious and costly, this Minorca is a larger than average stand mount design. It costs £720/pair for the regular real wood veneered finishes, but our £900/pair samples were supplied in an excellent high gloss black finish, set off by a shiny, heavily chromed back plate. It’s a well built classic bass reflex design, distinguished by a feature unique in its class – the incorporation of a proprietary concentric mid-plus-treble driver. Good instructions are provided with sensible advice on placement.

A conventional two-way design of this size will  generally have some limitations in the way the frequency range is radiated from the system, due to the changeover from a largish bass-mid to the necessarily small tweeter, and the physical spacing and relative time delay between the two drivers. Blending their acoustic outputs in time and space is a tricky conjuring act for the designer, and even when done well, uneven off-axis frequency responses tend to impart some variation of performance in different room acoustics. To address this issue, Cabasse has developed a three-way design for the Minorca and its range siblings.

The mid/treble driver is unusual in employing a rolling ‘soft’ ring radiator, an annulus surrounding the compact 25mm dome tweeter assembly. This has near ideal point source radiation by definition while the mid unit allows for a relatively low (900Hz) crossover frequency to the bass/mid driver for good blending and directivity here. In theory because the bass/mid driver does not have to work so high up the audio band, it should deliver higher performance. At the same time, that sophisticated mid-treble driver requires a significant tooling investment, helped here because Cabasse makes its own drivers.

Our review model has a sturdy 170mm diameter cast frame bass/mid unit with a reinforced pulppolymerlaminate flared cone, and an open, well ventilated voice coil. The concentric mid/treble driver has a 90mm ring driven by a similarly large, high power handling voice coil, while the tweeter proper has a 25 mm polycarbonate dome in a short phase-correcting horn section.

The crossover frequencies are nominally 900Hz and 3.2kHz, and the ring radiator has a diaphragm that seems to be impossibly stiff, until you remember that in working above 600Hz, it only has to move a millimetre or less, even at high power. The crossover is neatly built with good quality components and low loss, laminated iron, open-core inductors. It connects to a single pair of generously spaced multi-way binding posts. The enclosure is well finished if quite lightweight, with little damping or evidence of panel resonance control.

 

Sound Quality
Cabasse Mini MinorcaThe Minorca was mainly used with a Naim SUPERNAIT and CDX2 CD player, using 3m DNM Precision speaker cable. Tellurium Q Black cable was also tried as an alternative, and here the sound was considered artificially punchy, less open and less informative, indicating that this speaker shows some sensitivity to its ancillaries.

First impressions were promising. The speaker sounds quite open, articulate and tolerably well balanced. Low frequencies sounded punchy and sufficiently extended to give some weight and sense of scale. All seemed well integrated, and it took higher powers well. Larger scale rock music seemed satisfactory but there was a shortfall in depth, transparency and dynamic expression on more  subtle material, seemingly from an underlying and pervasive level of coloration.

Careful listening revealed enclosure panel contributions, some roughness in the upper range of the bass unit, and a lack of purity and sweetness in the treble. Perfectly competent, it was just not very subtle. Despite its richer and mildly occluded character, comparison with an old Wharfedale Diamond 9.1 rather showed up where the Minorca was missing out musically.

 

Lab Report
The grilles are simple straight-cut MDF, rubber faced and magnetically held in place. They changed the measured response somewhat but did not upset the sound too much overall. On axis it met reasonable limits though with moderate dips at 500Hz and 5kHz. The latter is inherent in the concentric driver and was present at all angles. The treble is also a bit peaky as it lacks a proper baffle from which to radiate. Conversely the output is quite well balanced with fine off axis uniformity in all directions, just as it should be. For the room averaged response, third octave smoothed, the overall balance is quite good if a little dulled at the upper range, better this way than having those rougher ‘edges’ exposed and too prominent.

With a 3.5 Ohm minimum impedance and quite strong phase angles, this is not a particularly easy load for amplifiers to drive. The 5ohm overall rating detracts from a higher than average and close to specification 88.5dB/W sensitivity. The reflex port is tuned to about 42Hz and is free of those oft encountered secondary resonances, while the response extends to about 40Hz in room.

Examining the coloration via the energy decay waterfall graph, the initial response is quick and quite time coherent, which would seem to correlate with the crisp transients we heard. However, the decay field then fills up with a fair degree of clutter pretty well right across the measured 300Hz to 20kHz range, and in our opinion this affects transparency, coloration, and dynamics. Notably, the upper portion of the band clearly changes its response with time, which is not very favourable.

There was no significant output by 25Hz, but at 1W input (quite loud with this efficient design), 35Hz was delivered with moderate 4% third harmonic distortion. By 50Hz distortion had fallen to a very satisfactory 1.3% (summed for second and third harmonics), while by 200Hz second harmonic was a harmless 0.3%; third 0.15%. In the upper midrange, 1kHz, second harmonic was 0.03% and third 0.1%, which is a bit special. However, some tweeter sub-harmonics were audible on gliding tone, and here the distortion harmonics were rather higher, around 0.5-1% at 5kHz and 10kHz – not in itself a problem but might make it sound slightly brighter and rougher than expected.

 

Conclusions
Nicely presented, backed by a 5 year warranty, the Minorca is a well engineered three-way with a notably consistent mid-treble range, and which proved entirely competent with all kinds of music. While quite neutral on measurement, the sound had some moderate coloration which seemed to impair dynamics and transparency, with the result that it sounded better on up-front processed rock than more subtle acoustic jazz and classical material.

It makes some sense as part of a home cinema system, particularly because the matching centre channel will have that unique concentric driver maximising horizontal directivity. However, as a standalone stereo pair it fails to achieve recommendation.

 

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