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Diapason Micra II CE
Product: Diapason Micra II CE loudspeaker
Diapason is an Italian brand which specializes in HiFi loudspeakers. No, it is not just another Italian loudspeakers Company, Diapason has a very original approach to HiFi design. You may have seen the Diapason Adamantes, a real hi-end bookshelf loudspeaker, known for its outstanding performances and for its unique diamond-shaped wood cabinet.
Approx. list price: 1,100 US $ (pair)
The Micra II CE is the smaller loudspeaker designed and built by Diapason, actually it is a rear-vented bass reflex mini-loudspeaker: 190L x 260P x 285H are its dimensions and each Micra weighs in an impressive, considering its small size, 5.3 Kgs. The cabinet, as you may see in the picture at your left, is a sturdy nicely finished solid-ash box.
The Micra is equipped with a smallish 11 cm woofer and a 26 mm silk tweeter. The crossover is simple as it can be: the woofer has NO filtering at all, hence it is directly connected to your amplifier. This technique is called Diapason Direct drive by Diapason. Van den Hul cables are used as internal wiring, Neutrik Speakon connectors for...connections and a non-resonant metal front grid is there to protect the speakers from accidental hits.
Diapason claims a fair 88 dB/W/m efficiency, nominal impedance being 6 Ohms with a minimum of 3.3 Ohm at 250 Hz.
In order to directly connect the woofer to the amplifier, without using ANY filtering, the component has to be of very high quality, otherwise the match with the tweeter could cause some trouble.
The quality of the finish is good and the Micra can be easily installed into any living room, thanks to its naturally high WAF.
After struggling for an hour and a half with the Speakon biwiring (!!!) connectors (difficult to use with huge cables) the little Micra's were ready for some needed burn-in (the manufacturer recommends a minimum of 100 hours).
The Micra has been evaluated with several different HiFi components and in two different listening rooms: a large and a small one.
Small size = small sound?
I don't like mini-loudspeakers, definitely. Normally I listen to my reference system in a large room so I've always had some trouble enjoying my fav Music with small speakers.
So, what a surprise when I connected this pair of loudspeakers to my reference system!!!
The first thing that caught my skeptical ears has been the bass range: powerful, deep and extended so much that I couldn't believe to my ears. No, I'm not kidding: the bass range reproduced by these small woofers is impressive and no, it is not the usally 100 Hz emphasis that many small sized loudspeakers have.
No, the Micra bass range is clean, linear till, let's say, 65 Hz, and so powerful that a friend of mine, while listening to the Micra, asked me if I was sure to have connected the right pair of speakers since it seemed, in his opinion, that the sound was coming from a pair of large floorstanders placed behind (and far away...) the small Diapason jewels. Go figure!
Of course he was wrong: first of all because they were the Micra filling the listening room with plenty of bass and then because the bass range of a floorstander is a whole different story (of course!). So, do not sell your floorstanders yet!!!
The Diapason direct drive design could partially explain why this small woofer can actually perform this good but clearly this doesn't explain all. It is the woofer itself to be an extremely good component mounted in a carefully studied bass reflex enclosure.
I know that HiFi critics should always find a fault in every HiFi component, well, let me say that, given the fact that the Micra is a very small sized loudspeaker and considering the price, I am not able to find a fault in the bass range performance of this speaker. To me, this is, given size and price, one of the best bass range performances I've ever heard. 'noff said, I hope.
And now for something completely different: how is the tonal balance of the Micra? I expected it to be on the bright side, with a wide open high range and a fast, hyper-dry bass. And I wrong I was. The tweeter of the Micra is a very clever component: precise but not clinic, detailed but not overbright, in few words the Micra has a very clean high range which never becomes shouty or harsh. And it is clear enough to my ears that the tweeter can do more than the small woofer, in terms of power handling, so if you overdrive
And what about the midrange? Since the woofer isn't filtered one could expect an interaction with the tweeter exactly in the mid range, where the human ear is more accurate.
Nope! It is impossible to detect the portion of frequencies where the woofer crosses the tweeter, the sound in this range reminds me that of a wide range one-way speaker, sometimes dry but always coherent.
As for voices: excellent both the male and the female ones, just the former being a little bit on the light side, if we want to judge this tiny loudspeaker like it was a large bookshelf.
Correct tonal balance? You bet!
I don't know if the Direct drive approach pays its dividends here, but the Micra is very dynamic and feet-involving :-). More dynamic than fast, I'd say, but this is not a drawback: if you want the bass range to be extended and powerful you have to spend something in terms of speed. No, the Micra isn't slow, but certainly it is slower than many equivalently sized loudspeakers.
I prefer the Micra approach, absolutely: a lightning fast sound, if not supported by the weight of the bass range could easily and quickly become unbearable, as many small loudspeakers are, indeed. I prefer a slightly slower pace, plenty of bass and dynamics.
What about microdynamics, then? Well, the tweeter, which is the main responsible for this parameter, does its job with a natural sense of precision and introspection, it can easily follow each (tiny) variation of level without effort.
Can these babies rock? You bet! These loudspeakers can sound very loud too, even in large (25-30 sqm) listening rooms and with some well recorded discs it will not be difficult to hear your windows panes resonate. No, they won't shake your walls, don't forget the size of these babies.
Attacks and decays are naturally reproduced, even at loud listening levels.
3D virtual imaging
You may know that one of the pluses of the small sized loudspeakers is their ability to create a large soundstage so it is not a surprise that even the Micra's can do this. But they do something more: they magically disappear, creating an impressively wide soundscape. For this reason using these loudspeakers into a Home Theater system is strongly discouraged, unless you have a very wide wall screen (3 meters wide, at least). Why? Because, otherwise, the image created by the Micra's will be way too large compared with the image on the TV screen, causing a very unnatural sensation.
The soundstage created by these Italian jewels is also deep and well focused though sometimes it seems that the singers, especially the male ones, are not full bodied, if you know what I mean.
This is evident with large choirs where you can easily SEE the choir behind your loudspeakers, some meters wide but somehow the singers are slightly reduced in size...in other words there's a lot of space between the singers and the instruments too.
With smaller ensambles or with a single voice everything becomes normally sized, I'd say realistically sized.
Some (important) advice
Please READ carefully this section if you really want to get the best out of these loudspeakers.
First of all the break-in period: the manufacturer recommends 100 hours so do not even attempt to judge these speakers before the break-in period is over.
Then the room placement. The Micra is capable to create a very wide soundstage so don't be afraid to put the boxes far away from each other (even 3 meters!): stop just when the center of the image becomes to blur or when the side walls are too near.
1 meter from each side wall and from the rear wall is strongly recommended since the rear firing reflex port needs some air to perform at its best.
Also, tilt the speakers (pointing to the listening chair) by a 10 degree angle, more or less. Too much and the image will collapse in the center between the speakers, too little and the image will loose its natural focus.
The Micra has a sweet spot, slightly different for every listening room: you must search for the perfect position even for days. You'll know when you've reached that sweet spot because everything will become magic: wide and deep image, excellent focus and outstanding bass performance.
Another important advice: the Micra is not an easy loudspeaker to drive, despite the manufacturer's claims. The minimum of the impedance (3.3 Ohm) placed at 250 Hz is not an easy task for every amplifier. You don't need much power, just good driving capabilities. With the wrong amplifier the sound of the Micra will become slow and compressed, the image will become narrow and you can wave goodbye to the otherwise excellent bass range. So you've been warned: choose the right amplifier or you're history :-)
No, don't ask me: I haven't tested the Micra with every amplifier made on Earth so I can't recommend any brand in particular. I can only suggest to pay extra attention with low powered tube amps or cheap solid state integrateds.
As for stands: Diapason makes a very nice stand for the Micra that allows you to bolt the loudspeaker on the top (see the picture on top of this page). The metallic stand costs an extra 200 $ (more or less) but it is money well spent, definitely.
No, Virginia, DO NOT PLACE the Micra over a shelf.
Then the Speakon connectors: it is difficult to use cables with a large cross section (say, over 2.5 mm2) especially if you decide for a biwiring connection. Luckly it seems many cables Companies are ready to sell their cables with Speakon connectors built-in, so it will be easier for customers (and poor reviewers) to test different cables before choosing the right one for the Micra.
If I was condemned to live the rest of my life with a pair of mini loudspeakers into a large listening room I'd choose the Diapason Micra. Why? Because, even if appreciating many other mini loudspeakers for a reason or another, the Micra has been the only one to fill my listening room with a big sound, nice bass and larger than life 3D image. You can forget that you're listening to loudspeakers that small.
Probably it is not the best mini loudspeaker if you're looking for a lightning fast sound and razor sharp reproduction, but if you're in the market for a pair of small sized boxes, that don't cost like large floorstanders and that can sound fine even in large rooms, give the Micra a serious listening test.
If you judge the HiFi by size then you can conclude that loudspeakers so small should come cheap. But if you judge using your ears (and not your eyes) then you'll agree with me than the Diapason Micra's are well worth the money and, considering there are many outrageously expensive mini loudspeakers out there, these Italian beauties can even be considered a bargain.
A HUGE thank you to Alessandro Schiavi, the designer/co-owner of Diapason, for having sent us these jewels for this listening test.
© Copyright 1998 Lucio Cadeddu - http://www.tnt-audio.com
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