Element Cables Signature
$4000/pr Introductory Pricing
One In A Millennium
Element Cables has been around since 2003 helping budding audiophiles with affordable entry-level cables. In my various stages “audiophiledom”(if you ever see this word in a dictionary, remember I coined it.) I have had the honor of using various Element cables. This was made a lot easier as Element Cables is a local company to the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
I first met Anthony Nguyan, one of the co-founders of Element Cables, at the first Lone Star Audio Fests (LSAF) a few years back where they had a room displaying their cables. There have been a few years in-between where Element was missing from the show until this years LSAF (2012) where Anthony introduced their first loudspeaker, the Millennium Mini Monitors (MMM). When I first entered the room, I was met with MUSIC. I knew then that I had to give these speakers a good long listen but I wasn't the first so I had to get in line.
Anthony contacted me and asked if I still wanted to listen/review them, yes of course, I said. Instead of waiting for them to be shipped, I scheduled a trip to Anthony's home for a listening/drinking session, where after a couple of hours of good times, Anthony boxed them up and off I went.
Each speaker is carefully boxed separately and weigh in at 25 lbs. A piece. The pair I am reviewing come in the optional high gloss black finish, the stock finish being a satin black with Cardas Patented binding posts.
Specifications are as follows:
1"(25mm) Seas Excel fabric dome tweeter
45 Hz - 22 kHz (+-3dB)
85dB (2.83 V/1m)
Cardas Patented Binding Post
One of the first things we noticed was the Cardas Patented binding posts we have seen on only the most expensive, cost-no-object speakers. The Cardas are considered by most the very best in sound quality. Right there thsi us this is no ordinary monitor speaker. and as you can tell this is not your typical box speaker. Be aware that he speakers do not come with grill covers; another indication that these are not intended for the typical tin-eared listener.
Each Millennium cabinet is engineered and hand-built for Element Signature in the USA. It is made of 25mm thick High-Density Fiberboard (HDF). Most speakers use MDF or medium density fiberstuff. These are crafted by a skilled master carpenter who finishes and polishes the real wood veneer to perfection. HDF is dense, flat, stiff, and has no knots, resulting in a faster sounding cabinet. Its fine particles provide dimensional stability without a predominant "grain", as in the case with other wood types. Unlike most plywood, HDF contains no voids, and is well damped acoustically making it the best material for speaker enclosures. Inner walls are strategically braced and treated with resonance damping material to keep the energy storage effects at a minimum and also to absorb the mechanical and acoustic disturbances produced by the drivers.
It's a bit hard to tell in the pictures, but this is not a square box - like rare cut gem, it is a multifaceted design that not only adds to the styling of the cabinet, but also allows them to reduce the front baffle area which minimizes diffraction.
For the critical midrange/bass unit Element turned to one of the most accomplished transducer makers in the world, SEAS of Norway for their excellent 150mm magnesium cone driver. These cones are world renowned for their high definition, low distortion and sound reproduction. Magnesium is strong and light as a feather and acts as a piston through the audible frequency band without showing any sign of midrange resonances.
The tweeter is an expensive 25mm unit with a unique HEXADYM magnet system based on 6-radial magnetized NdFeB magnet blocks. An optimally shaped and coated fabric dome diaphragm manufactured by SEAS from SONOTEX for excellent performance and consistency.
Just as important as the cabinet and drivers is the crossover. The crossover elements are premium units sourced from all over the world including Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States. They are chosen both for their excellent sonic characteristics and exceptional technical merit. These elements include metalized polypropylene capacitors, air core inductors, non-inductive wire-wound resistors, each point-to-point hand wired for the best possible connection.
From Element's site: Minimizing resonance within the cabinet is an essential part of designing a reference monitor. With this in mind, we have also given attention to minimizing resonant to the crossover network. At the bottom of our speaker is a smaller compartment which houses the critical parts in our cross-over, this compartment is separated from the speaker internal volume and isolates these components from pressure and vibrations created by the drivers. The result is a noticeable improvement in detail and separation.
First thing out the box was “ ye ole knuckle test” and needless to say the MMM's passed with flying colors. I placed the speakers on 28” Atlantis Pro, filled stands in my listening room that is 12'x15'x8' with DIY bass traps and panels. Speakers were placed 4' into the room measured from the rear of the speaker and 6' apart, which makes that 3' from the sidewalls with my listening chair being 9' away.
One last thing of note, don't know if it would be of importance to you but there is a cutout beneath the speakers that fit the top of my stands to a tee. The top of my stands measure 6.5”by7.5”, here is a picture.
I did not have to worry about break in as these had been reviewed prior to coming to me, but I did let them play for a while before I did any critical listening. Right out the box I wanted to get an initial impression of the sound of the MMM's. This is not a forward or in your face-sounding speaker, the sound stage starts just behind the speakers and presents a deep, tall, and wide picture into the stage. With my Usher 6381's the sound stage starts clearly in front of the speakers and at times a little further out into the room. The speakers are placed 3 feet into the room and 6 feet apart. My listening chair is nine feet away. As for imaging the speakers just disappear as if there are no speakers in the room. The sound while not pronounced in a laid back way, had an ease to the sound, for example if you have a four, six, or eight cylinder car all going at 60 mph, the MMM's are like a six cylinder car, reserved power. At first listen, I had a feeling that the highs were a bit truncated but after further listening the highs are extended but highly refined. This can really be appreciated when there is less bass content in the music.
When listening to cymbals, triangles, and the like I wanted a bit more sizzle up top but I just kept listening as the sound is just so musical.
I just got in “Second Nature” by Carey & Lurrie Bell. This CD was recorded in 1991 in Kouvola, Finland. There was no rehearsal, no overdubs and was recorded in one 3 to 4 hour take, wonderful stuff. The harmonica has a nice bite to it but is never harsh sounding and is really natural sounding. I am amazed at the level of resolution as on the guitar each string is a separate soul unto itself.
Male voices are clear without being chesty. The mid range is neutral sounding to a fault at times as I detect a lack of some lower level fullness.
In trying to get to the bottom of this mid range leanness I grabbed a CD I have not listened to in a long time, “Songbird” by Eva Cassidy. Talk about sweet, I don't remember this CD being so smooth and relaxing. I believe the leanness I am experiencing is the lack of that 50 Hz. bump that a lot of small speakers include to fool you into thinking they have true low bass.
There is plenty of sound stage depth with the uncanny ability to follow each line of the song arrangement not only individually but together. Most times you pick out one line or instrument and follow it throughout the song, but with the MMM's you can follow all lines/instruments together, but they are still separate unto themselves.
When I got to “Over The Rainbow” I almost fell out my chair, as this was one of the most glorious presentations of Eva's voice I have heard.
The upright bass on the “Swept Away” by jazzers supremo Marc Johnson and Eliane Elias. This CD was full bodied with good definition. The tap, tap, tapping on the ride cymbals just floated in air and when thebrushes were used, it sent a tingle down my spine.
The bass was nice and full, as I did not feel I was missing out on anything. I am not a sub person but you might need one in a large room.
At the beginning of “But Not For Me” on the “Old Friends” CD, the applause and laterin the cut did not have the usual snap and sparkle I am use to, sort of laid back. In between the first and second cuts Andre Previn has a monologue that is oh so natural sounding you tell he grew up with that silver spoon.
The upper notes of the piano have a feathery feel; you just cannot make these speakers fatigue you.
Thought I'd throw myself a curve ball and put in some classical, the Eliesha Nelson CD did the trick. The upper end of the viola is sweet and extended and as the orchestra blends in the tonality is spot on for each instrument.
I think there should be a CD that has all musical instruments playing solo so the general public can be educated as to what each instrument should sound like. Any ideas James? Publisher's note ~ Why yes, of course! There is composition that was written to accomplish that very thing; it is "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" by Benjamin Britten. Don't let the title fool you, this isn't music for kiddies - it is actually one of the most exciting pieces of music ever written for the orchestra. It's often used as a demo because of its superlative tone colors, frequency range and dynamics. It is very much for adults. It even includes a whip. No chains or handcuffs, though... It was composed for a movie by the same or similar title I believe, Sir Malcolm conducted the London if I recall. If you like things like Night on Bald Mountain, Pictures at an Exhibition and The Planets, you will love it.
It looks like this:
Theme: Allegro maestoso e largamente
Tutti, Woodwinds, Brass, Strings, then Percussion
Variation A: Presto
Piccolo and Flute
Variation B: Lento
Variation C: Moderato
Variation D: Allegro alla marcia
Variation E: Brillante: alla polacca
Variation F: Meno mosso
Variation G: -
Variation H: Cominciando lento ma poco a poco accel. al Allegro
Variation I: Maestoso
Variation J: L'istesso tempo
Variation K: Vivace
Variation L: Allegro pomposo
Trombones and Bass-Tuba
Variation M: Moderato
Percussion (Timpani; Bass Drum & Cymbals; Tambourine & Triangle; Snare Drum & Wood Block; Xylophone; Castanets & Gong; Whip; Percussion Tutti)
Fugue: Allegro molto
The Millennium Mini Monitors are a great sounding speaker that is very revealing, has great tonality, is non-fatiguing and very enjoyable. As for the $4,000 introductory price tag you will have to determine the value for yourself, but for my room and my musical tastes I would say yes - it's worth the price.
This speaker is designed to be accurate - no coloration, more like a true monitor in the real sense of the word. Think recording studio. No fake low bass, but good accurate bass down to 40Hz for this size enclosure.
For small to medium rooms. Sensitivity is low at 85db, so you will need adequate power - 60 wpc or more.
The only thing I would change is to have a little more sparkle at the top, but that's just me in my system in my room. That may not be truly "accurate". For a cable company this is a very good move in the right direction - extending the enjoyment of music in our lives.
Amp: Consonance Cyber 800 tube monoblocks
Preamp: Belles 21a w/auricaps
Speakers: Usher 6381
Source: Virtue Audio Piano M1 CDP
Interconnects: MG Audio Design Planus Cu
Speaker Cable: MG Audio Design Planus 1
Power Cords: 6Sons Audio Thunderbird and Windigo, Virtual Dynamics Testament
Speaker Stands: Atlantis Pro 28”
Treatments: DIY bass traps/panels