Mirage Reference Monitor (MRM-1)

      Date posted: June 24, 1999

Mirage MRM-1

13″H x 7 1/2″W x 11″D
Sugg. Retail: $3500 pr (CAN) (Matching Stands $600)
Manufacturer: Audio Products International Corp.,
3641 McNicoll, Scarborough, Ont. M1X 1G5
(416) 321-1800 FAX 321-1500

(Reprinted from the Summer 1999 Audio Ideas Guide)

      This small monitor has been an unusual project for Mirage in that most of their flagship products are large, like the M-1si. But chief designer Ian Paisley took it upon himself to design and build a small monitor that was neither bipolar nor Omnipolar, and recruited young engineer Andrew Welker to work with him to complete the project. Both of their names are on the gold-plated plaque underneath the binding posts on the rear of each speaker.

      The MRM-1 uses a 5″ woofer/midrange designed in house that features a steel phase plug at centre that eliminates the customary dust cap; this allows the driver to be faster and more pistonic, the air resistance of typical dust caps eliminated. Its cone is made of “Carbon, graphite and mica injected polypropylene”, according to their web site. The enclosure is rear ported. The woofer/midrange driver is mated with the tweeter that was used in the M-1si, a “ferrofluid cooled PTHTM Pure Titanium Hybrid dome tweeter”, whose large concave face plate around the dome minimizes diffraction by mildly horn-loading the tweeter.

      The baffle itself is made of solid 3/4″ Corian, and is very dense, heavy, and inert, with rounded edges to also minimize diffraction. The cabinet behind has 1″ thick walls is and internally damped with 1/4″-thick steel plates on all five other interior surfaces. All these efforts to make the cabinet as inert as possible lead to a weight of about 35 pounds per speaker.

      This presented problems for packaging, since the weight was concentrated in such a small box. After experimenting with heavy cardboards, co-designer Welker decided that individual wood crates were in order, lined and padded to protect the speakers.

      External finish (of the speakers, not the crates) is a lustrous cherry behind the shiny black baffle, and similarly finished stands are available for $600 a pair. The binding posts are from Cardas, bi-wire/bi-amp types in solid brass that is heavily gold plated. All in all, it’s a very handsome package with the matching stands (As you can see at left, we bi-wired the pair with Kimber 8TC , though you can’t see the WBT locking bananas).

      The Mirage goal, however, was more than elegance. Audiophiles have prized mini-monitors for their lack of baffle colorations and pinpoint imaging. By eliminating box resonances and providing a rigid enclosure even greater sonic accuracy can be achieved, and that was the goal here. MRM-1 Frequency Response Curves

      Sonic accuracy is revealed in the measurements, the MRM-1 very smooth in the Pink Noise Sweep (PNS) at top, +/-2 dB from about 80 Hz to above 10 kHz. Similar response is seen in the on-axis quasi-anechoic curve below. The axial curves at 0, 15, and 30o are closely grouped, while that at 60o off axis is lower in level, indicating well controlled dispersion, but still very smooth. Adding these together in the Summed Axial Response (SAR) yields the less squiggly curve overlaying the PNS at top. That these are so close is a very good sign, especially for a small monitor, indicating a very similar frequency balance on all axes.

      What character the speaker has in tonal balance should be a slightly laid back quality, a good feature for smaller rooms because of the dip of a couple of dB between 2 and 4 kHz. Also, in the bass, a slight hump around 150-200 Hz adds a little warmth and body to compensate for the rolloff in the deepest bass. This is a trick of design that goes back to the BBC LS3/5A mini-monitor’s design in the 60s.

      However, the MRM-1 really doesn’t do badly in the deep bass, down about 6 dB at 40 Hz, and about 9 at 30. Being rear-ported, its deepest bass will be augmented by boundaries. Mirage MRM-1 Impedance Curves

      The impedance of the MRM-1 is pretty well controlled, but on the low side at 5 ohms in the mid bass. The Audio Refinement Complete amplifier did not like this load a lot, sounding bass-shy and a little edgy, but the Celeste I5080 took to it nicely. The highest impedance was 30 ohms near 30 Hz, but it went off the scale at 20 kHz. Looking at the electrical phase derived from the impedance measurement, we see a fairly smooth phase angle through the midrange, but I have no explanation for the anomaly at 10 kHz. In general these speakers, though a little low in sensitivity, are a fairly easy load if there’s a little current available.

      I spent a couple of hours listening to these babies with Andrew Welker in my listening room on a recent Friday (Call it the afternoon of the Andrews). Even he, knowing the speakers so well, was very impressed at their sound with the Celeste, noting that perhaps some upgrading of amplifiers was due at API. Bass was full and extended, with quite surprising pedal power (the two Sunfire subs were off; I checked!) and the sound was quick, agile and very uncoloured. This is a speaker system that really seems to disappear acoustically, and is capable of surprising dynamics, a small monitor with punch.

      In fact, it sounded a lot like the Veritas v1.8 with half as many drivers, imaging beautifully, and exhibiting a refined and transparent quality that you can only get from speakers that have this level of acoustic engineering in them. The drivers are not only superb, but superbly mated. And I guess it’s an irony that Ian Paisley in particular can savour as designer of the M-1si that the same tweeter does both bipolar and direct radiation equally well.

      At just over $4000 with the stands (and, believe me, if you want these speakers, you’ll want these drop-dead gorgeous stands, too) the MRM-1 is something of an investment. However, few other speakers even at this price exhibit this degree of accuracy and transparency, combined with holographic imaging both laterally and from front to back. I could live happily with the Mirage MRM-1s and a pair of subwoofers most of the time, though on those occasions when Mahler or The Who beckon and the wife’s away, I’d want the big Energy Veritas power.

Andrew Marshall

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One Response to “Mirage Reference Monitor (MRM-1)”

  1. chris tucker c-unknown Says:

    I have been following Ian Paisley for years. He is an awesome engineer!

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