Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Sounddeco Sigma 2; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]; Sablon Audio Petit Corona power cords [on loan], Black Cat Cable Lupo
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15m open floor plan with two-storey gabled ceiling, wood-sleeved steel trusses and stone-over-concrete flooring
Review component retail: $4'500/pr

Quite a few years back, Mark & Daniel speakers were very happy regulars in our pages. Later they seemed to drop not just from our event horizon. I didn't read about them in the global hifi press either. Had they been abducted? Then the Spanish Kroma Julieta and Dutch Æquo Ensis arrived. Both sported Corian-type synthetic stone, either for their entire cab or for just the front baffle. That had me flash on the stoner speakers from Shanghai. They'd covered this ground far sooner. As synchronicity would have it—be mindful of your thoughts!—a few days later founder Daniel Lee checked in. "Long time no see. Hope 6moons and you are doing great! We just announced our new generation of quality-improved bookshelf speakers. If possible, I wish to get them reviewed by 6moons. Frankly, Mark & Daniel had a kind of loose connection to the hifi business for a while. Our factory needed to find other jobs* to survive this recession. With our R&D into the next generation of speakers completed however, we would like to reenter the hifi market."

As it turned out, Daniel had already reissued three models in what now was called the Maximus range: the Monitor MkII, the Ruby MkII and the Mini Monitor. Given the size of our new Irish sound room, I signed up for the top dog. Having reviewed its predecessor, I knew what it could do. For the two others, I'd inquire with the team. Given the firm's focus on very large-excursion woofers in compact super-inert boxes, powerful amplifiers with low output Ω are a must to get the best from their ambitious Napoleons. They're rightly invisible to the SET crowd which walks right by them.

* As to some of those other jobs, "life is tough. I spent a few years in China to grow into one of the best interior suppliers for McDonalds China but even their business isn't roses." Translated, like Corian, Krion and HiMacs have with kitchen-counter and similar vendors, Mark & Daniels developed furnishing outlets for their synthetic stone production to expand well beyond speaker makers. In fact, it's now that which bankrolls their hifi adventures.

M+D's recipe for all their speaker models has always meant three key ingredients: synthetic marble; ultra-potent mid/woofers; and wideband air-motion transformer tweeters based on a long-expired Oscar Heil patent. For the reborn Maximus, Daniel & Co. revisited the tweeter. "Our earlier curved AMT required a dedicated sound chamber and fine-tuned equalization network to achieve optimized wideband replay. Our 960g flat new DM-7b was designed for the most compact 12x3.6cm dimensions. It's a 700Hz-22kHz wideband module without need for an extra chamber. This compact yet powerful driver's airtight structure mounts to the panel without being influenced by deep powerful bass from the same enclosure. Its 4Ω ±0.2Ω impedance is solely resistive and flat from DC to 30kHz. Lack of resonance or inductive/capacitive contributions simplify the demands on a filter. A self-recovery fuse inside each module provides protection from abnormal DC or too much amplifier current. The tweeter automatically returns to the circuit after the voltage irregularity has passed."

On how they manufacture their AMT, we're told that most competitors rely on a 0.025mm Kapton substrate for the folded membrane. At 0.5mil, theirs is half that, so also half the mass. Light tweeters are better. But it complicates fabrication of their 36 micro elements of 0.0006" aluminium foil traces which must be bonded to the extra-thin Kapton before being pleated and affixed to the iron frame which also holds the neodymium-iron-boron magnet array. The resultant structure claims ±30° horizontal dispersion across 700Hz-10kHz@-5dB whilst vertical dispersion is low to minimize ceiling returns and floor bounce. Efficiency of the tweeter is a low 85dB to also set overall system sensitivity.

The matching 6.5" mid/woofer brags of ±12.5mm linear excursion to allow for a serious reduction of enclosure volume for a given -3dB point and SPL. M+D claim 32Hz and five times more output than competing designs. The Maximus 2-way gets a second auxiliary HF driver on top which, Duevel like, fires into an integrated dispersion lens. This smaller AMT's 7kHz-35kHz bandwidth and 360° omni dispersion aim at correcting the in-room power response for the treble which, due to narrowing dispersion with rising frequencies, otherwise beams more and more like a narrow spot light. The MkII also gets a revised extra-thick front baffle geometry aimed at reduced diffraction; WBT biwire terminals; and a minus 6dB to 0dB trim pot for the super tweeter that's conveniently mounted on the terminal plate.

Promising 32Hz-35kHz and a low 700Hz 2-way filter, the entire affair comes in at 37.5 x 21.5 x 29.5cm and clocks 15.5kg. Stock colours are solid white, solid black; and black/red two-tone for just the Maximus. Custom colours incur a surcharge. A magnetized circular metal perf for the woofer and equivalent circular cloth grill for the super tweeter are standard. Two small ports load the muscular bass unit.

A quick recap admits that the Maximus 2 is far from the easy-does-it type. In fact, it's the polar opposite. It's a brute-force design. It's of low efficiency, compact size but huge bandwidth. That's a power drain and reliant on large excursions. By their very nature, those invite distortion and time lag. Relative to SPL, "just because you can doesn't mean you should" becomes a sensible mantra. Like the walking Sunfire subs of yore, the Maximus deals in high stress where ultra-Xmax woofers in small enclosures escalate internal pressurization. Mechanical stress on the driver compounds as well. Of course overkill build compensates for both. That's part of this recipe. Common sense simply predicts that you want to escalate only so far until inevitable payment in high distortion comes due. To underscore this point, if you're a bloody banger, get yourself a big box with a proper 12-inch or bigger woofer. With that sorted, we can get down to business and revisit this ambitious brand. I do the black/red Maximus; Marja & Henk a Ruby in black; and Glen will cast his mojo on a white Mini to showcase all the standard finishes. That returns Mark & Daniel to the air with three-part harmonies: They're back!