I have not been a fan of monitors. I’d heard a number of them over time, and never really felt the urge to spend any serious money on them. Just hadn’t heard anything that impressed me that much. That being said, I own a pair of GR Research Paradox 1’s that I use nearfield in my computer system (they were so cheap I couldn’t pass them up), and the best monitors I’ve heard are the Neo 2x’s also by GR Research.
I got the diminutive Menuets after hearing them at the recent AKFest. They sounded unlike anything I’d heard before from a monitor. The shear speed, detail, and dynamics took me by surprise, and I figured that given their size (10 inches high), I could find a spot for them somewhere in the house. It’s also worth mentioning here that I listen to mostly electronic music, which tends to emphasize all of the above features. So, a perfect match. Even my wife, who also came to the show, didn’t bother arguing w/ the purchase, even though we didn’t know where they were going to go. Always a good sign.
After getting them, I let them burn in in my listen room, where I was using a pair of Onix Strata Minis (a planar-magnetic hybrid designed by Danny Richie) that I had gotten the Ninja boards for and added Sonicap Platinums. The electronics are modded, so who knows what to make of them, but I am using a Lightspeed Attenuator and a modded Audiosource Amp 7T (200 watt per T amp) that I am rather fond of. Anyway, it was clear right away that the Menuets out performed that Mini’s in a number of different ways. First, the Menuets were just faster. The sound attacked and decayed faster than I was used to. This is very important in the electronic music I listen to since there tends to be a lot going on, and if a speaker is too slow, then the sound tends to lump together. The Menuet's speed did not seem to be artificial and there was no cutting out of the decay. Just faster. Second, the level of detail was a couple of degrees higher than what I was used to. I picked up on a whole lot of things going on in the music that I wasn’t used to hearing. This was probably due to the aforementioned speed as well as the separation between the sounds. With the Menuets, the sounds are also more distinct than I’m used to. But the sound is not etched, which is very possible with speakers like this. And finally, there were the microdynamics. The sounds just leaped out of the soundstage, particularly the highs. The highs were very crisp and detailed. Cymbals sounded more realistic than I’ve heard before. Not bright though, just right. And for those who are thinking that these results may just be an artifact of the type of music I listen to, I also tried things like Alice in Chains Unplugged and Zero 7’s Simple Things album (acoustically influenced electronic music). Same results.
Despite these pluses, like all speakers, the Menuets have their downside. Dali strongly advises that the Menuets be placed close to a wall, and they aren’t kidding. Even though I loved the sound and the soundstage when I pulled the Menuets out into the room, the bass all but disappeared. Dali says that the bottom range of the Menuets is 60Hz, and that’s no joke. So, when the Menuets are away from the walls, it sounds like they are in desperate need of a sub. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any handy, particularly not any that could keep up with the speed of the Menuets, so I had to put the Menuets back towards the wall (within a foot). The bass response was definitely better, and only seemed to be missing the lowest bass notes. However, the intimacy they had when they were closer to me was lost. When I showed my wife the results of putting them closer to the wall, she did the obvious thing, and pulled the chair a lot closer to the front wall. That worked much better (soundstage, intimacy, and better bass), but, unfortunately, I couldn’t get used to physically being so close the wall.
So, since I don’t have a sub to use w/ the Menuets, I was forced to try something different. I put the Menuets in my computer system in place of my GR Research Paradox 1’s. Now, please note that while I can’t say that I’ve ever been in love w/ the Paradoxes, they work pretty well in the nearfield of my computer system. While their sound is not at the same level as that I have with my Mini system or w/ my GR Research O-3 system, it more than sufficed. Thankfully, the Menuets performed very well in this set up as well. While they don’t sound quite as good as they did in my listening room (likely because the electronics I use aren’t as good) the same strengths of speed, detail, and microdynamcis were still there. And the bass sounded even fuller. The bass obviously doesn’t hit you hard and the very low bass is still missing, but the basslines of genres like dubstep and drum & bass sound fast and detailed. Interestingly, even though the Menuets don’t dig as deep as the Paradoxes do on paper, I haven’t noticed much of a difference. Otherwise, there really isn’t much of a comparison between the Paradoxes and the Menuets. The Menuets are clearly better in basically every category I can think of.
The final thing I did was compare the Menuet system to my O-3 system. I use the O-3’s in my living room where I can get them well off of the walls so they can shine. Here I can mention the electronics, since I haven’t modded them much. I use a PS3 as a transport for CD’s as well as my computer audio, and have it feeding an Outlaw Audio 970/7125 combo. I am also using an Onix UFW-12 that has been upgraded by Motor City Custom Audio to a 15 inch driver and an overall beast of a sub. And while I haven’t yet brought the Menuets downstairs for a direct comparison (likely wouldn’t sound good in that sized room), since I can play computer audio on both, it’s a reasonable comparison. Here it’s kind of a wash. The Menuets are faster and have better microdynamics than the O-3’s. Not a huge difference, and some of the difference may be because the Menuets are in the nearfield, but present none-the-less. They both throw a wide soundstage and both speakers do a lovely job of disappearing, but the O-3’s have a deeper soundstage. The Menuets have a lovely soundstage that is deeper than what I would expect it to be, but they can’t compare to the omni-directional design of the O-3’s. Detail is about equal between the 2 of them and the bass is obviously better w/ the O-3 system, where the sub helps out. 2 different systems, each with their pluses and minuses.
So, my conclusions about the Menuets? I love them. They are the first monitor I’ve really enjoyed listening to. They simply do certain things better than any of my other speakers and fill a niche in my systems. But they do have the requirements that they either be placed close to a wall or, preferably, paired w/ a fast sub. I’m looking forward to comparing the Menuets to other good monitors (e.g. the Neo’s) at some point, and when I get around to it, I think a servo sub will be in order.