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Beryllium Be-718 Audio Streming Speaker

HARDCORE audiophiles may insist that it doesn’t matter what a product looks like, the performance is what counts. However, if hi-fi products were sold on audio streaming sound alone, we’d have angry spouses on the warpath against designers and manufacturers! Visual impact is undeniably important, to ensure a product stands out from the crowd. And when it comes to getting noticed, nothing draws as much attention as loudspeakers.

Oddly-shaped amps and sources hardly draw comment, but if your speakers are ugly, the spouse will make her views known strongly. Thus, it was gratifying to hear my other half comment: “These are nice, I like their looks.” She was referring to the Usher Audio Be-718 standmount loudspeakers, from the Taiwanese company that’s made bold incursions into high-end audio realms in recent times.

While Usher makes an extensive range of speakers, it is the Dancer series that has been the most acclaimed; the Be-718 is the most compact in this line. The Be-718 was designed and made in Taiwan, with finishing cosmetics by a British firm. Additionally, its crossover was tuned by Dr Joseph D’Appolito.

Do note that the US version of the Be-718 has differing crossover parts/tweaks and wiring than the stock model reviewed here. The time-aligned cabinet houses a 1.25-inch beryllium oxide tweeter (thus, the “Be”) and seven-inch mid-bass unit, with the crossover point set at 2.05kHz.

At the front, there is a slit port, while two pairs of massive gold-plated binding posts are provided at the rear. The main box is finished in a lustrous piano black, with birch cheeks, giving the whole cabinet an aura of consummate class – no questioning the excellent design, manufacturing and finishing standards applied to this “Tiny Dancer”.

Usher quotes a sensitivity of 87dB, nominal impedance of eight ohms, a frequency response of 42Hz to 35kHz and power handling of 200 watts. Two dedicated stands are available – the RWS-708 (RM1,550) and RWS-729 (RM1,920), This review was done with the former.

The Be-718s were run with a number of amplification systems, including Usher’s own P-307/R-1.5 pre-power combo reviewed here earlier, and power amps like the Krell FPB 200, Mesa Baron, Bryston 3B-SST and McIntosh MC402 ... all fed by a Promitheus Audio TVC passive preamp.

Cables included Paul Speltz Anti-Cable, Siltech New York and Mapleshade Audio Golden Double Helix, while other speakers referenced were Audio Physic Tempo and Magnepan MG1.6.

My sources were the Bluenote Stibbert CD player and Clearaudio Performance/Satisfy/Concerto turntable set-up fed into a local phono stage. The interconnects were mostly customised Clearaudio Quint.

These are beguiling speakers, no two ways about it. During the first few hours of listening, the Be-718s impressed me with the manner in which they contrived to audio streaming sound larger than they were, with bass to match.

It wasn’t the sort of bass that came charging in, but the subtler variety that provided a deep and solid fundamental, with finer nuances faithfully reproduced. True, some detail was traded off for control in the last lap of its lower frequency range, but the bass still audio streaming sounded like it was coming from a bigger box, especially with orchestral and upright bass, which the Be-718 delivered with elegant impact. Even with electric bass on recordings of various musical leanings, the lows never overwhelmed the whole event.

The top end was extended, smooth, and with ample headroom – this was the impression of the beryllium tweeter that stayed with me. The clarity was impeccable, but there was also a tinge of fluid sweetness that took the sting away from brighter recordings, suggesting that these speakers tended to be forgiving unless the source signal was particularly poor ... with most recordings, I heard the detail and resolution, not thrust at me, but presented gracefully as a complete event.

The Be-718s also kept impressively out of the way, with no box colouration or additive qualities worth noting. The speakers created a generous audio streaming soundstage, revealing spatial information without over-analysing events – their fidelity to the mix was impressive. Of course, I felt the Maggies possessed sharper focus, finer transparency and more slam, but the Ushers were no slouches in these areas either ... they handled most things I threw at them with verve and confidence, and with a great sense of timing and rhythm.

While these speakers will certainly appeal to hardcore audiophiles, who will love their natural ease when projecting vocals and their attention to detail, even casual listeners will be struck by their unforced and fluent musicality.

There are various speakers for the price that will allow you a tantalising glimpse of higher-end realms, but the Usher Audio Be-718, er, ushers, you right into the midfield of the game. Given this, and the fact that each unit is as well built as anything the European or American manufacturers offer at twice or thrice the price, the Be-718 represents one of the greatest values in its price range. It’s the sort of fine wine that will appeal to more than just the connoisseur.


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