Minen'T M5 Loudspeakers
as reviewed by John Brazier
If you read my recent review of the GamuT Minen'T M3 stand mounted two way speaker, you know I concluded with the rhetorical: with the qualities of the M3, why spend more money? Well, one very good reason is the GamuT Minen'T M5 2.5 way flooring standing speakers.
The "M" line of speakers are the successors to the successful "L" model line, and the M5 is the penultimate speaker in the M line up before leaping into GamutT's all out assault on the state of the art with the GamuT El Superiores "S" models. The M5 starts with the same compliment of drivers as the M3, but with the addition of a 7" wood fibre cone, low distortion magnet system . The crossover points are at 550Hz and 2350Hz, as compared the single crossover the M3 at 2250Hz. They are designed for the "medium sized rooms”. Mine is 22 x 23 x 8, which may be on the larger side of medium.
At the outset, it was my intent and desire to review the M5s, but, due to availability, I was offered and did review the M3's. As one may glean from my review, I was impressed. As the stand mounted speakers moved out, a beautiful pair of light maple finished M5's move in. The same styling was apparent between the two models, the casework is neat with tight clean edges and matched veneers. The speakers themselves have a time-alignment rake to them, and an outrigger threaded spike system attached to the plinth allows for all the micro adjustments one could want. I found the floor-standers a bit more finicky in placement, in that I had to creep them further away from the front wall and into the room until the bass clicked. The rake adjustment more than marginally impacted the forward-ness or laid-back-ness of these speakers too, more so than other speakers I have set up in my house. The upside is that the speakers are really responsive to slight variations to location/rake, making them quite tweak-able to your own preferences.
When they arrived and were first driven they were stiff and cold, and took a solid 150 hours before they resembled the evenness and stability of the M3s. Though I was told to expect at least 400-500 hours before they were fully broken in, I found the vast majority of improvement came in that first 150 hours, and the improvements after that fell into the category of "refinement”.
Having just come from the stand mounted M3, the most note-able difference between the two was the bass response – obviously. This review is not in any way meant to be a comparison, but having just spend a few months with the smaller speakers, some comparisons are inevitable. In short, it became immediately apparent these were not stand-mounted 2-way speakers.
Not too long ago, and about ten years after most of the rock-n-world discovered a hard rocking band called Rammstein, they appeared on my radar. Not a "head-banger" per se, I do love good thunderess rock as much as the next carbon based product of the '70s. Always a big fan of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and other staples of the generation, I opted out of the genre when the hair bands of the ‘80s proliferated. Over the years, bands like the Red Hot ChiliPeppers, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and others kept me in touch and grounded in rock. But it wasn't unit I heard Rammstein that my passion for hard-rock bubble to the top once again. Fortuitously, Rammstein—not a band known to tour internationally—was performing about 5 miles from my home at the Los Angeles Forum. Not sure I will ever be the same, and thank God for earplugs. That night, a sold out crowd was on its feet and fist pumping in unison for at least two solid hours. Not since the B-52's in 1983 at the Berkeley Greek Theater had I seen so many people experience the same energy, all at the same time. If you have no idea who Rammstein is, or what their live shows are about, there are an assortment of glimpses on YouTube, and if you have any metal in your blood, you must seek them out. But be advised, however, they are not for everyone.
Anyway, I now have nearly the complete catalog of Rammstein, and of all the hard rock recordings I have heard over the years, Rammstein's recordings are by far the best. Uncompressed, thunderess, focused, and distortion free. A tune like "Los" off Reise, Reise has a kick drum/bass beat that rattles the ribcage. And these speakers reproduced these deep notes fully controlled and tunefully. The presence and energy was viscerally conveyed through the M5s. Up the range a bit, the band's leader, Till Linderman's voice is naturally deep, menacing, and at times throaty, but the hand off between the drivers was seamless. The bass was not these speakers anchor, but much more seamlessly integrated into the whole, which, for $13,598 you should expect, but, is not always provided at price points well above.
In my mind, any speaker that faithfully reproduces the bass, both tonally and viscerally, of Rammstein is, as a matter of fact, a speaker that does bass exceptionally well. All other "tests" for the quality of bass now fall short.
With all that said, as you would also expect moving to a speaker with a much larger cabinet and a third driver, the weightiness and body of the music increased and became much more room filling and robust. This was not only evidenced through various vocals, but I really picked up on this with acoustical guitar sets. Another concert I recently attended was Rodrigo y Gabriella, a team of acoustic guitar geniuses, and another artists whose complete catalog I now have. The M5s were able to bring out the deeper tunefulness of their guitars. During many of their pieces, one or the other will often use the body of the guitar as a percussion instrument, rapping or knocking on it adding an additional layer. After all, it's just the two of them on stage. When doing so through the M5s, the percussions were completely coherent, and there was no mistaking the sound as a knock on the body of the guitar, and not a discrete percussionist. Interestingly for me, I could also now easily discern a closed-fist rap from a palm pat or fingertip tap.
Even more impressive, the frantic and controlled finger work of these two guitarists became a real thing of beauty and amazement in the recorded environment. Having seen them live, I have witnessed firsthand the skill and sheer genius that becomes their music. Over lesser speakers than the M5, such "amazement" could be lost in the translation. The string plucking, strumming, and other technical aspects of their music were placed front and center in my room. While breathing in this music, it was impossible for me not to visualize the mastery unfolding in place before me; .i.e. the M5s translated the movement of hands and fingers up and down the frets, and working the strings to the point of mesmerization.
Rodrigo and Gabriella are pure instrumentalists, so for vocals I typically tend toward Stacy Kent, Ani Di Franco, and Johnny Cash among others as a reference point. Stacy Kent is a jazz standards vocalist who I discovered in the late 90's after her first record—ove Is…The Tender Trap.
Recently, I was listening to an interview with Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler on a local morning radio show, and the interviewers became curious as to the contents of Mr. Tyler's personal iPod. After rattling off some relatively expected music he concluded by saying that he has to have his Stacy Kent! While she is pretty well known, she is not as popular as those other female audiophile favorites, and in fact, I don't know of anyone else that goes deep into her catalog, but I welcomed to hear that Steven Tyler digs on Stacy Kent just as much as I do!
When Stacy sings, you can hear the smile on her face, and the total joy she gets out of it. Rumor has it she was a cocktail waitress in 1990 with no professional signing experience, when she was coaxed up to perform at an open-mic night. The rest, as they say, is history. My Verity Audio Parsifal Ovations are as near perfect with the human voice as I have ever heard, considering my predilections. Their mellifluousness is the standard by which I compare all others, and while the M5s did not out do them in this regard, they were wonderfully close, but more toward neutral. Their neutrality brought out just the right amount of detail and harmonies within the ups and downs of her distinct voice. Never once did I long for the Verities, and about mid way through my review time I switched back to my reference. It was clear the Ovations were smoother and "tube-like" in the mid range, but dynamics, depth and body (in this same range) were bested by the M5s.
However, when it came to vocals, there were cabinet colorations. The speakers are rigid, but they are lighter in weight then one would expect. I owe this to a design philosophy that does not over-engineer in the area of internal bracing to the benefit of the MSRP. Performing the "knock" test, I was able to hear varying interior volumes. Such colorations are not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, some very successful manufacturers have accounted for such in their designs. GamuT just may be one such manufacturer, because although I could hear the cabinet in the mid-bass range, it was just as complimentary to the over all performance as any of the other design parameters that I could hear. It is important to note that I picked up on these colorations only after the performance of the highly technical "knock" test, and concluding such colorations must be present. So, I went looking with the intent on finding them. That is to say, that had I not been so predisposed to their existence, I may not have ever really picked up on them. Never once did I find the cabinet contributing anything negative to the sound, only fleshing it out much the same was a port typically does.
As noted above, the soundstage presented itself confidently. What I found was a real wide dispersion of the music all across the room: front, back, left, and right. When the recording called for it, a discrete sound such as percussion, or the artistry of a saxophone would materialize and hold ground in its own space. At worst, it was surprising but, more often than not, this aspect simply drew me in further to the recording by directing my attention to various, non-obvious spots.
My final thoughts are in the area of dynamics. A few years ago, I recall being taken aback by the dynamic energy of a pair of Marten Designs Miles loudspeakers. I sat back and marveled at the raw dynamic speed, and accurateness of those speakers, and not since then have I been similarly impressed - until now. From one end to the other, these speakers can be explosive when called upon. One second the decay of a piano note can be withering away, and the next microsecond the smack of a snare grabs at the hair on your head. Most importantly, this guided energy does not come across as stereo-play-trickery but honest reproduction of the main event, studio or otherwise. Everyone has those favorite tracks to impress your non-audiophile friends, the American Beauty soundtrack comes to mind, and the GamuT M5 will not disappoint. The M5s also convey a stability and consistency not always heard in the big-time audio marketplace. Not once did I hear the M5 stumble, even when driven beyond acceptable limits (Rammstein). At times I had my Brystons pushing 110dB (SPL App) and the speakers sounded solid, stable, and distortion fee right up to the point I couldn't take it.
All in all, my time with the M5s was much too short. As a reviewer, many times I am ready to go back to my own comfortable reference for a time. I am not the type to, and prefer not to have, products continually going through my system. I like going to the home-base system again and getting my bearings before heading out on another adventure. I anticipated having the M5s longer than I actually did, and when I was told they were to be moved on to a paying customer, I experienced a tinge of jealousy. To summarize as succinctly as I can, music through the M5s is indelibly inked in my audio-bank as coherent, dynamic, joy inducing and darn-right fun. Crunching the collective outstanding attributes of these speakers, the one thing that stands out above the others is its value. For just over $13,500 GamuT has produced a remarkable speaker on par with the best in its class, and outdoing those I have experienced. Set up in the right sized room, and mated to quality electronics, I cannot image this speaker not being on your short list. John Brazier
Post Script: As noted, I thought I would have these speakers through the end the month of September, but, they ended up heading to a lucky customer looking for the light maple finish. Tom Vu of KT Audio Imports let me know he had a pair of the still larger 3-way MinenT M7 for my enjoyment, if I so wished. I did so wish. Moreover, these speakers were in the upgraded and stunning Mascassar Ebony veneer. After three weeks of near continuous sound, I sat down for a real listen. My first thought: these are not leaving my home. Fitting snuggly in my medium-large listening room, and outfitted with the third driver, they were too much to resist, especially after spending the last (4) months with one GamuT speaker or another. Enjoy!