Planar Magnetic / Cone hybrid • Powered 8" woofer • Dimensions: 47" H x 17.5" D x 11.5" W
Real wood South American Rosewood veneer wrapped around a well-braced MDF frame.
System: Four way, four driver direct-radiating system. Sealed enclosure except for the 8” woofer which is ported via a flared slot.
Drivers: Planar magnetic 1" tweeter, planar magnetic 8" midrange, 5.25" mid-bass coupler, 8" mass-loaded woofer.
Amplifier: Built-in 350 watt class A/B for the powered woofer. Includes LINK cable so no additional speaker wire is required for connection. Features crossover, gain, variable phase and high level/low level inputs and outputs.
Crossover Network: Includes air core inductors, polypropylene capacitors and non-inductive wire wound resistors. 4th order acoustic slopes on the upper end and 2nd order slopes on the bottom end.
8" woofer : 27 Hz - (user definable)
5.25" has a 1st order high pass at 80Hz
5.25" mid-bass coupler to 8" midrange : 650Hz
8" midrange to tweeter : 4100Hz
Frequency Response: 27 Hz to 35 KHz (± 3 dB)
Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal
Efficiency: 86 dB (@ 1 watt / 1 meter)
Dimensions: 47" H x 17.5" D x 11.5" W (note on depth: 17.5" is the deepest point at the bottom of the speaker. Depth reduces to 3" at the top)
Weight: 94 lbs each (315lbs total shipped/crated/palletized)
Warranty: Three years
In-Home Trial Period: 30 days
The two reviews posted lay out the attributes of the strata mini very nicely. I will only add that in adding the flying ninja upgrades and mods to the the speaker have taken the speaker to stratospheric levels. The crossover replacements are phenominal. Increased detail, resolution and decidedly better imaging. If you want a speaker that gives you EVERYTHING......it is the strata mini. I'm not interested in spending $20,000 to better it! YES.........it is that good.
Unlike most large glossy snobbery ‘zines, we will actually hold our heads high and admit to being audio equipment fans who read and purchase other audio publications and more importantly (and far more CHEAPLY) browse the internet’s selection of fine “consumer driven” review pages and online societies. One such online forum is the tightly-knit community for AV123’s products.
If you are unfamiliar with AV123 (please feel free to check out their link at the end of this article), it is the brainchild of one Mr. Mark Schifter (see our inaugural “20 Questions” interview), who has built up quite a faithful following of believers in his ability to build high quality items at low price….. just our kind of guy ….. there we turned to a product that has had large amount of “internet groundswell”…. the Strata Mini.
The Onix products safely come in large MDF cornered/edged boxes, which bear the 158 lbs. each (in full courier resistant battle armor) the Mini’s weigh!
The handling of these is definitely not for the meek or the weak of/at heart. Unloading this extra weight certainly requires more than one person; thankfully, the Stratas come with a set of cotton gloves for each speaker (as one person unloading a set of speakers wearing gloves just looks silly, but two of you can strike up quite a kinship when both of you are wearing these cotton “de-fingerprinters”)!
The extra weight of the Minis certainly foretells a story of it’s own; besides the heft of the included power amp (more on this later), the cabinetry itself is very solid. The “knuckle-wrap test”(as well as the lesser-known head-bump test, this writer admittedly found out) reveals supremely resonance free cabinetry, that is beautifully seamless in build quality, from the base to the matching top which is crowned with a AV123 signature black “cap”.
Attention to detail is evident everywhere in this product from the packaging (including the use of a wonderful cotton speaker sock, the last covering before the grand unveiling) to the detailing of the design. The real rosewood veneer covering the face / front pillar on our review pair is a matte finish which does not detract from the fine grain of the rosewood veneer.
Though the available high gloss optional finish is quite spectacular in pictures, the matte may be more practical when used as it is in our room; it reflects less light when used in a home theatre setting, especially if are using a front projector.
However given the height of the Mini (47”), you would only be able to use the “3 across” preference with a high-placed Plasma screen, or a sound permeable “acoustic” screen (in the case of a front projector). However, in my pervious experience with ribbon drivers, they can usually float a wonderfully convincing “phantom” center channel that is superior to the usage of a horizontal center… we’ll see if the Minis can replicate this notion..
Not a very “placement difficult” speaker, we moved the Minis to our starting position in the room, 37” out from the back wall, and “toed-in” about 9 feet out from the “sweet spot” listening position. After initial play back, we settled on moving the Minis about two inches back toward the wall to try and get an as perfect “equilateral triangle positioning” as possible, in this room. Angled down with the assistance of a few “shims” (various spike discs we have collected while auditioning other products), so that the tweeters are at ear height as suggested in the manual, there they stayed throughout the rest of our testing…. and in fact here they still sit….. ?
“….funny, they don’t SOUND like Mini Driver(s)…”
The Mini’s overall sound is on the warmer side of neutral; the mids, from the planar magnetic 8" midrange, and 5.25" mid-bass coupler, though not “boxy” have body to them regardless. Being on the warmer side of neutral, they are not too “hyper-detailed” for those who do not enjoy naked transparency, they still project the sound of the recording itself… just a more relaxed version of it…… very crafty (and often difficult to achieve) indeed! This is definitely full scale mid-range, with no discernible drop out in the lower sections. I have experienced this same planar driver in other manufacturer’s products and have found it to be nice and fast, but the attack can be unnaturally quick, as to limit “resonance.” In other words, I heard the strum and attack of the acoustic guitar but not necessarily the timbre and vibration of the wood, present even when a note or chord is muted; not so with the Minis.
Furthermore, the mid to low-end transition is quite seamless. And what a low end it is, even prior to engaging the sub amp and woofer! When playing the title track off of the Donald Fagen “Morph the Cat” DVD-A disc, the drums were fully represented and had enough dynamics to have a believable presentation and “feel”. Given this set-up is the simplest and most direct “plug and play” option, and that we are comparing this speaker to others with more and larger drivers, the bass quality is indeed sufficient for music only uses. Cutting to the chase, if you are using the Mini for movies, or “Organ-fests”……
…..….that is just TOO easy……………
…you’ll want to engage the powered sub option; come ON people, you’ve just re-injured your hernia lifting these things, the least you could do is make use of the option you paid so little for!
Plugging in and dialing up the powered sub opens up a WHOLE new world, and in fact if you did indeed open up your hernia by lifting, the level of lower intestinal damage will be further increased, so you should move out of the listening area…
... hey, I warned you….
Utilizing the sub-amp makes this speaker pound and pummel for movie usage (as almost all subs will) but somewhat surprisingly, continue the musicality of the speaker, especially when once again playing the Fagen reference song. The bass comes together (we’ll come back to that in it’s capitalized form ….wait, wait…..it’ll be fun…. you’ll like it) even though nothing was noted as missing prior to sub utilization.
AV123 sure has done their job with the crossovers (as noted in our interview with founder, Mark Schifter) in this speaker. When crossover settings in speakers are adjusted accurately, the whole unit speaks as one throughout the entire frequency range; thus is the case with the Minis. In fact, so much so that even adding the extra bass extension does NOT take away from the mids and/or the tweeters. The specs list the low end limit as 27 Hz, and though not measured (we’ll leave that to our learned peers!) that would seem to be about right.
On “Come Together” (see I TOLD you that was coming up)off of the DVD-Audio disc “Love”, the bass is clear, musical and defined. What if you already have a sub that you would like to utilize? Easy answer: not needed, for most uses…..especially if you are a music only listener, as previously mentioned. But given the low price of the Minis, and while we have the “Love” disc in our player, we hooked up our reference sub, the wonderful TBI Magellan (link to sidebar of same name) .
As other publications and esteemed audio writers have noted, “system synergy” or the ability to “play well together” (that of course is a simplification of this term…. but hey, “I am but a simple man”), is important; thankfully the TBI and the Minis form a well matched set-up. We have the sub placed almost center between the two mains (actually just to the right, if facing the speakers), as suggested, and found the best matched settings within minutes:
Now, settling in for some extended listening, we have bass as low as is needed for tracks such as the Beatle’s “Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows” and movies such as “Lord of the Rings”, which require full range and can be punishing to speakers if not “up to snuff”. Simply stated, the transition between these speakers and subwoofer is seamless. Beautiful!
Having the opportunity to listen to these speakers for a bit, there was something small missing; all joking aside, we DO take our responsibility in providing readers with a honest recommendations very seriously, so when I sat down to do some dedicated listening, I deduced that the “air” of the treble wasn’t what it could be.
Spoiled by my admitted preference for – and experience with- the breathy highs that ribbons can provide, I was slightly under whelmed by the very high treble of the planar magnetic 1" tweeter. The quality isn’t bad at all, don’t get me wrong; they just seemed somewhat limited in range.
This is when we contacted AV123 (thanks again Mark and Sean) with this minor “issue”. In typical Onix customer service fashion, they did not miss a beat and sent us out a pair of $349.00 Extended Response Tweeters (ERT), to try.
This was ideal, as an extended/super tweeter device such as this can usually cost as much as our main speakers themselves, but in this case still kept us well under budget. Again the set-up was rather quick; we followed the instructions, adjusted the settings and positioning, and settled on aiming them down towards the “sweet-spot”. Now, the high end had the ability to truly keep up and surpass most other ribbon-hybrid speakers (and QUITE a few costing $1000’s more………….$1000’s…).
I was smiling to myself as I closed my eyes and now completely heard the breath of the alto sax entry into “Take Five” on the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s classic, “Time Out” (sacd). I love hearing the little nuances of recording, such as the sound of sheet music being turned, session chairs squeaking, and even the breathing of musicians themselves in recordings such as MA’s must have “MA on SA” sampler, and Concord Jazz’s “Super Audio CD Sampler Volume 2”. For me this represents the “life” of the recording, more accurately approximating the live experience of having the musicians in the room with you (after all, isn’t that the goal of all of “this” anyway?). Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!!!
The Minis have a great combination of qualities. They are revealing yet not clinical; they image well yet have a large sweet spot and some dynamic impact where other ribbon / ribbon-hybrid speakers don’t.
This Mini is one of those break-through products of it’s time, not just in sound alone, but in VALUE. When factoring in performance vs. value there is NOTHING that we have encountered giving this amount of performance, for this little money….nothing. INCLUDING the added price of the ERT’s.
If you are one who does not value transparency as much as I (especially if your listening experience is mostly made up of heavier rock or movies), you will do MORE than fine in skipping the ERTs. To make the value of this product even more desirable (if you do need any more reason to purchase) we have seen AV123 price the Minis down to $1299.00 a PAIR (in South American Rosewood) on sale… not “b” stock”, but brand new …. you really can’t go wrong. So you could buy the ERT’s and try ‘em out; with the sales like these, they are STILL cheaper than the full price when our testing began!! And by the way, damn AV123, as the Mini’s could be considered in our MID room with sales such as these…… but we are tired (some would say lazy), and want to just rest…. and listen to some music……J
Two more are now on their way to complete our 4.1 set-up (using the “Phantom center” setting on our NuForce AVP17)…. I hope the structure of our listening room can take it!!!
Call it: reference speaker solidified!!
Well done Mr. Schifter, well done.
I.M.H.O., Jason Gower
My opinion - these are one of the best values in the audio world!
Value is what I am about. I have spent years refining my two channel system to get that sensation of being in the studio with the musicians when they are making the music. Am I there - nah, but for the price I am pretty far up the curve.
Anyway, about the speakers and what makes them special. These are big beasts that have a powered sub in each. They weigh ~ 100 lbs a piece. That means these babies will go deep. Not just thumping for effect but really picking up the subtleties of the lower octives. Stand up bass players would love this speaker. The Starta Minis can actually reproduce the lowest notes accurately. It will also lay in electric bass lines with such authority that almost everyone who hears them will take notice. One of the great things about the bass is the ability to customize it to your tastes and your room. Each sub has adjustments for volume, cross-over frequency and phase. This is critical with two seperate subs to make sure that the sonudwaves that they are producing don't cancel eachother. It takes some tweaking, but when you get it right it is really amazing.
Okay, what about the mid-range where most insturments and the human voice register. There are three elements sitting above the rear firing woofers. The majority of the work is done by a planar magnetic driver. Anyone who has heard or owned Magnepan speakers knows how well these transdurcers can cover the all important mid range, especially horns and voices. One of the things that amazes me about the Strata Minis is how well they are blended. By that I mean that even thought they have 4 drivers, and none of them are by the same manufactrure, they sound seemless. And the blend is very musical, It is somewhat laid back as opposed to analytical but it is very acurate and sounds like a live performace. The guys that engineered these cross overs really kniew what they were doing. The imaging and the sound stage are also outstanding. Top to bottom they just sound right. In the audio press they are often labled as close to or equal or maybe even better than most speakers in the $5,000 + range. I wouldn't know becuaes I can honestly say I will never spend that much. But for ~ $2,000 nothing I have heard comes close. The only other one I personally would consider is Magnepan 1.6's and high quality woofer.
Some recordings that I think bring out the best of what this speaker has to offer are - Lee Ritenoir - Smoke and Mirrors, The Crusaders - Rural Revival, Charlie Hunter - Natty Dread, Diana Krall - When I look, Donald Fagan - Morph the Cat, Four80east - all.
A few observations -
These speakers take a long time to break in, and are sensative to placement and adjustments to the woofers. It is worth getting a frequency sweep CD and a sound meter to get the most out of them. I would say it took several weeks of living with them before they were dialed in.
They will sound good with mid fi amplification but they really beg for the best you can afford. In my experience they also like a lot of wattage, which is somewhat surprising in that the woofers are self powered (meaning one might think you need less power going in). I think that the issue it is the planar driver. Anyway I run them with a McCormak DNA-1 which is rated at 185 watts. The point is these speakers will reveal how good the rest of your components are.
Which brings me to another surprising revelation, literally. Since these speakers are so sensitive I think even the inner connects are critical. Shortly after getting the Strata's I switched to Signal Cables best inner connects (Signature Silver - also one of the best deals out there). All I can say is WOW! It really extended the top end and just brought out more detail with out loosing anything.
Tastes are personal, but trust me, if you like music and have a critical ear you will not go wrong with these speakers.