Review: Cambridge Audio Minx M5 Desktop Speakers

Desktop speakers are a dime a dozen, and usually worth the same. But a few produce sounds as in a concert hall and are worth the price of admission. A case in point is the Minx M5 Multimedia Speaker System from Cambridge Audio. This handsome, four-piece set includes a pair of compact desktop tweeters, a powerful subwoofer and a convenient control unit that puts all of the system's key functions close at hand.

The controller looks like an espresso-sized cup warmer. But spinning this rubber-capped infinite potentiometer controls the speaker volume, and a press in the center wakes and sleeps the system. In front of the small controller is a stereo mini headphone jack that gently mutes the speakers when used and gradually brings them back again when headphones are removed. In back are inputs for an MP3 player or other handy device and the USB port of the host computer. It's all tethered by an 80-inch cable to an 8-inch cube that houses the 5.5-inch bass speaker. Overall volume is louder when feeding the M5 through the laptop's headphone jack (and Apple's own digital-analog converter chip) but the Cambridge DAC produced equally good sound quality with no distortion at full volume.

Cambridge designed a triangular tilt base that looks great but makes the top-heavy speakers a bit tippy. The 3-inch cubic desktop speakers on their detachable bases stand about four-and-a-half inches high and are nicely tilted to direct sound toward the ears. They attach to the subwoofer unit with blade/pin cable ends and are fixed at the speaker end. The subwoofer accepts AC power directly, contains all amplifiers and other electronics for the system and is equipped with a single control for bass level.

To test the Minx M5, we connected it to a MacBook Pro running Mac OS X 10.8.4 Mountain Lion. Upon connecting the USB cable, the Mac recognized it immediately, listing Minx Multimedia as an available audio device in the Sound Preferences panel. Alternating between the audio jack and USB port, we played a variety of music and talk programming at full volume and listened for buzzing and distortion. There was none. The system worked flawlessly when switching between inputs. Neither takes preference and it can play through both simultaneously. At certain points, we plugged headphones into the jack and listened for popping or other noise. Again there was none.

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The Minx M5 Multimedia Speaker System from Cambridge Audio lists for $229 and includes the two 2-inch tweeters, one 5.5-inch subwoofer, a control unit, power cord, and cables for USB and stereo mini connections. The published range is a fairly impressive 45Hz to 20kHz. The CRN Test Center recommends the M5 for anyone seeking a stylish, high-tech and high-quality audio system for the desktop that's as versatile as it is convenient.