That image specificity is one of the Mini's greatest strengths. It will paint the size and contour of a solo cellist with utmost precision. Even on large orchestral pieces where you'd expect a 3" driver to lose its composure, everything is clearly defined and in its rightful place, just not with the scale and physical presence larger speakers can achieve. But that really is no surprise. Imaging does get influenced by placement but the Minis are very flexible. They easily accommodate from very wide placement with strong toe-in to much narrower positioning with little toe-in. The key is to experiment with that toe-in factor. It will determine whether the centre stage fills up as well as influence treble extension. Speaking of the extremes of the musical range, the lower treble is surprisingly lively and gives a lot of its character to the speaker. You can hear it in string pizzicatos, guitars and the initial impact of percussion. The dynamic capability of these Minis in the lower treble where a lot of the meaningful transients happen, will surprise you. You can further enhance this effect with an amplifier like the FirstWatt F5 which also thrives in that range; or tame it down a bit with a warmer tube amplifier like the Triode Labs EL84TT. The basics remain but the emphasis changes. The upper treble is present but fairly curtailed which should not surprise. Don't expect cymbals to ring out forever and offer a lot of nuance like you'd get out of the best ribbon tweeters. There is a limit to what a 3-inch driver asked to also go down to 100Hz can physically do.


Moving to the bottom of the range is a tale in two parts. The upper bass and lower midrange are rich and highly resolved, giving baritones and basses a gorgeous sonority. At the same time, the 3-inch driver cannot handle bass transients with much scale. As much as the jump factor from treble transients is huge, bass transients are very much downplayed. Do not expect any physical impact from percussion or aggressive string plucks from an upright. The sympathetic excitement of the lower octaves described by Robert Gaboury is an absolute reality though. The sound continues to expand with good volume all the way down to 50Hz. I actually sensed it even lower but it is not bass that you will feel physically in any way. On the positive front, despite the ports I could hear very little negative effect from them. Whether I placed the speakers close to the front wall or away, there was no booming, no hot spot in the room and bass was very clean and certainly mind-bending in some ways as a single 3-incher should not be able to deliver that kind of output. This very linear behaviour in the lower octaves and clean cut-off somewhere below 50Hz should make integrating a subwoofer fairly easy if you feel the need. This is simply not a speaker for head bangers. Most who will value what it does superbly will probably not feel they are missing much. I know I did not even in our very large open space with 12 foot ceilings. Obviously the Minis are really meant for smaller spaces but they certainly did not feel embarrassed with a huge space to fill.


Speaking of what these speakers do superbly, they very much reminded me of early Zu despite the fact that it simply should not be possible. Like Zu, the sound they generate is characterized by great coherence and integration of all registers due to that single point source over most of the critical musical range. Just like original Zu speakers, they offer a dense, beefy, rich sound that's a little shy on air and extension. How that's possible from such a small driver is beyond me but the Vivace Minis clearly play in Zu territory and far away from Rethm's sonic aesthetic. Based on the design I actually expected exactly the opposite. The only similarity with smaller Rethm models and thus different from Zu is that shyness on bass transients already discussed. Otherwise, if you heard the first generation Druid, you can pretty much describe 95% of the Mini's sound. I have mentioned the lusciousness of the lower midrange and upper bass but have yet to mention what's happening in the upper midrange. Anybody who has read my earlier reviews knows that opera is a huge part of my musical diet. More often than not it's pretty obscure stuff that didn't necessarily benefit from the best recording quality. The reason this review took a little longer than planned is due to the fact that the upper midrange of the Minis is the most amplifier and cable dependent. First, let me clarify that we are not dealing with anything that sounds like the cupped-hand effect of unmodified Fostex or any nasally sounding sopranos that have turned many listeners away from such designs including what was noticed in the review of the original Vivace a decade ago.


With certain amplifiers like the FirstWatt F5 or Sphinx Project 10, the upper midrange where violins and sopranos come alive turned somewhat silvery and smooth as opposed to detailed and rich. One could combat that with darker cables but it happened at the expense of upper treble air which is already in short supply. A better solution was to move to tube amplification. Triode Labs' EL84TT ended up being a little too much of a remedy as it is not as driven and dynamic as other amplifiers with this tube but far richer. I could not test the EL84TT with Zu Event speaker cables due to the fact that the Minis don't accept spades. That would have probably been a good balance in a richer more relaxed kind of way. I also know that Frank can easily tweak the treble response of the Triode Lab EL84TT. Mine is actually the less energetic option as my Ocellias offer variable tweeter output. For the Minis, I would suggest that the more open and extended version of this amplifier might be a better option.


Going up in price, the Triode Labs 2A3i sounded superb, with resolution and richness fully returned to the upper midrange compared to the solid-state amplifiers. It gave back texture to violins and allowed me to hear strings and sympathetic body resonances very clearly. This was a stunning match that would likely benefit even further from more transparent cables than the Cobalt Blue I used. The only question would be whether prospective Mini customers could see themselves spending twice the amount they are spending on their speakers to secure a low-power triode that's admittedly perfectly matched. If they did, I would surely encourage them to test both 8Ω and 16Ω speaker taps which sound different. I liked the faster leaner 16Ω setting better but Frank Ng favours the 8Ω tap for ts greater weight. Neither is wrong, just different.