The Ophidian Audio Minimo loudspeakers are miniscule, but with some innovative technology inside. Ian Ringstead cuts a rug with theses £700 tiny dancers.

I love to discover new companies or products that I stumble across, whether it be by accident or word of mouth. One such company is Ophidian Audio whom I had never heard of before the recent North West Audio Show at Cranage that Hifi Pig is exclusive media partner for.MINIMO-front

Ophidian is a classic example of a British cottage industry, where one man has a brilliant idea and then wants the world to hear about it and benefit from the fruits of his labour. Gareth James is a very pleasant, quiet and unassuming young man (the sort your mum would like to meet) whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Cranage. Gareth studied audio acoustics at University and first cut his teeth in the pro audio sector with PA equipment. After a few years in that side of the business he felt restless and wanted a change so he decided to design his own hifi speakers instead, which is why we are here today looking at his efforts.

For me hi-fi shows are a window for companies to show their wares off and if they sound good as well then it is a bonus. This is not a criticism of the manufacturers, but it is always very difficult in hotels or venues to achieve a good sound, unless the room happens to work with the equipment, or the manufacturer/dealer has a lot of experience in tweaking the room to perform at its best given the circumstances on offer.

Walking into the Ophidian room I was greeted by a very impressive sound and at first thought it was coming from the larger floor standing speakers until I realised it was these tiny stand mount units called Minimos. These are the babies of the M series range which comprises of three models – Minimo, Mojo and Mambo. The Mojo is a larger stand mount unit and the Mambo a slim floor stander.

Frequency response is 53 Hz to 28 kHz , sensitivity – 85 dB (2.83v) , recommended power – 30 to 60 watts , impedance – 4 ohms, dimensions – 178 mm H x 122 mm W x 144 mm D (plus 20 mm binding posts) and  weight – 1.9 kg. As you can see they are tiny and look just like desk top computer speakers size-wise, but believe me they are a whole lot better sound-wise.MINIMO-colours3

They come in a range of four finishes, satin white and black paint effect, oak and walnut real wood veneers. They look very smart and neat with clean square lines and remind me of the amazing Videotone Minimax speakers of the seventies, or the classic Wharfedale Diamonds of the eighties. They were both ground breaking designs back then for their size and so it is that the Minimo defies modern convention by producing a truly amazing sound given its diminutive stature.

The Minimo is a compact 2-way micro monitor suitable for use on bookshelves and desktops, wall mounted or on stands. Key to its impressive sense of scale is the combination of a midbass driver with a powerful long throw motor system and the unique AEROFLEX port system (see designers comments at the end of this review). The 3.5″ midbass unit features a long throw rubber surround and a light but stiff aluminium diaphragm driven by a powerful balanced neodymium magnet motor system. AEROFLEX technology enables this tiny speaker to produce deeper and more controlled bass notes than its size would suggest by keeping port velocity to a minimum and ensuring the midbass unit is properly supported throughout its stroke. By building the port systems directly into the cabinet structure the outer walls are braced and strengthened minimising panel resonances. Complimenting the midbass is a 27mm tweeter with a Sonolex coated fabric diaphragm and low distortion neodymium motor system. The excellent dispersion characteristics, combined with close placement within the small cabinet, allow a seamless integration of the drive units and incredibly lifelike, realistic sound reproduction.MINIMO-rear

Designing speakers is not just down to physics but literally thinking out of the box, and Gareth James has used his degree and a lot of ingenuity to create an audio marvel. Many, many hours of experimenting and trying numerous combinations of drive units and components for the crossover and cabinet designs have led to today’s creation. Believe me I have seen and heard thousands of products in my life and great designs never happen without a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It has taken Gareth several years to perfect this range and his unique approach to controlling the airflow within the loudspeaker cabinet has paid off in spades. This, combined with drivers that work at their best in this particular cabinet, and experimenting with the crossover components have really paid off.

What first thing that hits you is the sheer scale of sound these little boxes can reproduce. The sound field is wide and open spreading way beyond their tiny dimensions. Bass for the size is pretty remarkable given the tiny 3.5″ diameter and is testament to the control the AEROFLEX technology has over the cabinet resonances and airflow from the rear port. When you normally put your hand in front of the port on a loudspeaker when it is playing you feel quite a rush of air coming out, now with the Minimo it is there but at far less velocity, showing what control the design has in slowing down and smoothing the flow out. Many companies have tried various methods of achieving this by altering the shape and size of the port(s) and changing the surface of the port and all have their merits, but I feel Gareth has hit upon something pretty unique here and all credit to him.

Of the speakers in the Ophidian room at the Cranage show, the Minimo’s worked the best due to the poor acoustic nature of the environment and restrictions imposed. It wasn’t because the Minimo’s are the best in the M series, just that on the day they excelled and didn’t excite the resonances of that particular room. We listened to all sorts of music including Mars from Holst’s The Planets suite and Audioslave with Cochise a firm favourite of my wife’s. Both tracks have a lot of bass and the Minimo’s were very adept at controlling this without sounding at all strained or about to launch themselves into oblivion given their modest power handling specification. Credit must go to the drive unit manufacturer as well for such a remarkable feat of engineering.

This whetted my appetite no end so I couldn’t wait to try them at home. Would they work as well? I wasn’t disappointed. The same sound emanated in my far superior sounding living room and once again Audioslave was used as a benchmark for my wife to judge their capabilities. She loved them. I do as well, but when I was on my own I listened to my personal favourite artists , Supertramp being one example who make great sounding albums and produce consistently good music. It’s the snap and vitality of the Minimos that impress, as well as the scale on offer with a light airiness, and I feel nearly all types of music would sound good on them if used sensibly. Yes, extreme bass and some types of music might not suit and people’s tastes vary so much that they won’t fit everyone’s brief. Positioning them was straight forward and you can of course use them on brackets or bookshelves if you so wish, but on stands I feel they excel.

Currently dealership is limited on this new range so if you are interested in listening, and I strongly urge you to audition them, contact Ophidian Audio direct or check their website out. Gareth already has a dealer in Spain so I hope word spreads internationally, they deserve to do well. I asked Gareth why the name Ophidian and he said when trying to think of one that was a bit different he came across this term which means serpent-like, rather like the AEROFLEX technology used in his speaker cabinets, describing the shape of the baffles used inside to control the airflow twisting like a snake.

Now to the price, £700 which for such a small box might seem excessive, but given the build quality which is very good and an amazing sound, this will be down to you the listener. My wife and I loved them and the reaction at the show was obvious from nearly everyone who said they were equally impressed. Given what is out there now have a listen to these,  otherwise you won’t know what you have missed.

Now I loved these speakers as did my wife, but overall the high standards we have at Hifi Pig and the criteria we apply meant I couldn’t rate them more highly given their price. The downside of being a small business is your buying power and cost restraints mean the end selling price is governed by many factors outside of your control. If Ophidian Audio like other small companies could have these made in China say and get reduced parts costs for buying large quantities, then you the customer would benefit from a lower retail price. As it is in the real world, if you wish to support British ingenuity and manufacturing then one must pay the price. We all love a bargain but these Minimo’s are a bargain sound-wise. Quality invariably doesn’t come cheap and I would rather pay extra for the satisfaction I have bought a product that will give me years of pleasurable listening than have saved a few quid.

Build quality         8.5/10RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW

Sound quality       9/10

Value for money   8.7/10

Overall                  8.7/10

Ian Ringstead

 

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