Coin toss. To start spending my new Taiwanese money, the Compacts displaced my usual Boenicke W5se monitors on the desktop. A small wooden footer elevated their fronts to properly angle the pleated tweeters at my ears. The Lunar Eclipse-winning Vinnie Rossi LIO in matching white provided 16/44.1 signal via Qobuz and Tidal subscription streaming, ultra-capacitor powered Mosfet gain and luxurious autoformer volume. Cosmetically, the Taiwanese challengers hit hard from the word 'go'. Like all superior industrial designs, they broadcast well-balanced simplicity of form to trigger admission that arriving at such unembellished reductionism is far harder than it looks. It's that famous quote "sorry for the long letter, had no time to be brief". Eliminating the redundant to distill the pure essentials is the secret to all timeless design. Particularly in the white lacquer to reduce colour to a muted multi-tone concept, the Compact exuded very classic ambitions. Outsourcing that aspect to a specialist firm clearly paid off big. Audeze exploit the same strategy for their EL-8 range. So do HifiMan for their HE1000. It's irrational to expect top cosmetics from people who are specialized in circuit design and electrical engineering. Obviously this doesn't prevent founders of small hifi boutique firms from wearing all the hats and letting that show. Best results really do come from interdisciplinary cooperations between various true experts. Kudos to Coin Audio for practicing such winning team work!

A closer inspection revealed minor fit'n'finish demerits. On one speaker's side, the brushed aluminium dress plate didn't sit flush to create a 1mm freestanding edge along the lower left corner. As it turns out, this inset plate is fixed by four magnets to easily remove should driver repairs be required. At left we see the AMT without the mesh cover inside the unpainted MDF baffle.

And whilst the frontal seams of bullnosed white edges to inset plinth pipes were perfectly executed, the rear terminations of the same pipes betrayed paint imperfections because the pipes don't extent flush to the rear baffle but stop short for a raw recess (here one wonders how this is dealt with on the veneer versions). On something as otherwise immaculately dressed and veritable deep-sea diving in luscious gloss, such minor nits telegraphed more loudly than they otherwise would have. Ham-fisted cable connectors will predictably complain about the concealed binding posts but seeing that you'll only fuss that once, it's a small price to pay for superior cosmetics. Here spades are preferred as available space would severely kink banana-terminated wiring.

Spinning up the classic Beyond the Missouri Sky from Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny for a first impression suggested that bass extension to accompany an upright without misses was indeed sufficient and better than the official spec promised though complex bass also evidenced resonances seemingly caused by port reflections inside the plinth openings. Even fresh out of the double carton delivered on a rainy cool-ish June day, the instantly informative treble didn't feel unnaturally explicit to avoid an early Mark & Daniels trademark. Time to let break-in run a few laps before taking the real pulse all flush and sweaty.

At the appointed time, I began to wonder. Was LIO really best sorting out very complex stuff like the massive live recording of Alexandros Karozas' Kavafis? It sets Rembetiko legend George Dalaras against the full Wiener KammerOrchester and chorus of the Wiener Singakademie, then adds monster guitarist Joscho Stefan and tuba player Jon Sass as guest-starring soloists. The €2'500 MkII combo of April Music Stello HP100/S100 got even more separation, upper harmonics and soundstaging finesse from my desktop setup. The price to pay? The AMT began to dynamically lead as I goosed the throttle. Higher volumes skewed dynamic voltage swings toward the top. Requiring higher SPL than I use at less than one meter, this became a special sort of brightness. It wasn't so much an uptilt in tonal balance as it was a shift in dynamic reflexes. Then the presence region became the most twitchy and responsive. Once volume exceeded the window in which the crossover held the balance, the squeezing bellows action of the folded tweeters converted signal amplitude changes better than the flat mid/woofer. The darker lusher voicing of the Vinnie Rossi deck had helped delay this onset even further. In a midfield setup—on stands, listening seat at 3 to 4 metres, front wall at 1 metre—I expected this shift to kick in even later. Unless one were a headbanger, this would likely make it a purely academic concern. Just so, I'd find out for myself in the big system. In a close-up setting and under high SPL, I did get the Mark & Daniel effect after all.

In the bass represented here by the low brass, uprights and kettle drums, I again had recurring incidents of what sounded like reflections inside the horizontal double-header port extensions. Or perhaps they corresponded to the primary organ-pipe resonance of the folded woofer lines hitting their first reflection points in the inner bases? Either way, these were playback reminders of a mechanical nature. My brain registered them as obvious air turbulence and compression zones. Again I was curious whether a sitting distance greater than achievable here—there's a wall behind my writing chair—would dilute or eliminate those effects. Not all speakers are ideal for the nearfield after all. Suspecting that these might be better close-up players if their fronts were closed, I faked that up with folded hand towels stuffed in. This altered but did not eliminate the interference. There still were oscillating air volumes pushed into modes. Using orchestral music was simply a more obvious tell than amplified fare. Obviously playing such stuff on the desktop is merely asking to be called artificial.

Just so, the opening track of Dhafer Youssef's Birds Requiem also showed these resonant effects with Phil Donkin's bass lines. Some notes bloomed more than others to stand out on both loudness and textural difference. This sounded exactly like triggered room modes; except that here the 'room' was defined by the walls of the speakers' open slots, not any building walls. To my fussy ears which consider lumpy bass too distracting to be acceptable, this eliminated the Mansion Compact from serious consideration for any desktop or studio-monitor positioning*. Time to perch atop proper stands and play the big space whilst my usual Boenickes with their 600Hz+ wideband mid/tweeters, sidefiring woofers and rear ports resumed perfect nearfield duty.

* As it happened, Jerry Huang confessed that they'd done nearfield measurements but no nearfield listening. I suggested that opening up the side walls of the 'tunnel' for matching slot openings with the front and back might do the trick, leaving just enough material in the corners to be mechanically sound. Jerry promised that they'd look into that or a similar solution as well as into improving the fit of their aluminium dress plate and the finish of the tunnel's rear exit.