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Cambridge Audio Minx M5 Multimedia Speaker System Review

by September 08, 2013
Cambridge Audio Minx M5

Cambridge Audio Minx M5

  • Product Name: Minx M5
  • Manufacturer: Cambridge Audio
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: September 08, 2013 20:00
  • MSRP: $ 229/system
  • Satellites - 1x50mm (2") driver
  • Subwoofer - 1x135mm (5.25") woofer
  • Connectivity - USB audio-in / 3.5mm aux input / 3.5mm headphone output
  • Power output - Satellites: 2x15W / Subwoofer: 30W
  • Standby power consumption - <0.5W
  • Frequency response - 45Hz - 20kHz
  • Dimensions - Satellites: 2.9 x 2.9 x 2.91 inches / Subwoofer: 7.9 x 7.9 x 8.1 inches
  • Weight - Satellites: 0.96 lbs / Subwoofer: 9.7 lbs


  • Small
  • Inexpensive
  • Control unit convenient
  • Great sound quality for the size


  • Included USB cable too short
  • Proprietary connections
  • Locatable upper bass


Cambridge Audio Minx M5 Introduction

We'd all love to have full range speakers in every room connected to every source. Heck, if I had anything to say about it, all music/entertainment would be in full 7.2 surround from speakers that followed me around on Back to the Future style hoverboards and reoriented themselves based on the position of my ears. Sure, they'd cause no end of injuries and car accidents to those around me, but for great sound at all times? It is a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

But, of course, we can't have great sound at all times. But that doesn't mean we have to have bad sound either. Now, this introduction would be right at home at the front of a headphone review (and maybe I should have saved it for that). But this is a multimedia speaker system. For those that are confused by the terminology, that means a desktop system you use with your computer. But Cambridge Audio was very deliberate in their naming. 'Multimedia' is not the same as 'computer' speakers. And you'll soon see why.


Minx M5 Overview

MinxM5_satsThe Cambridge Audio Minx M5 speakers came double boxed with clear markings on both (I'm more a fan of having the outer box discretely marked - especially if it will be used for shipping). The inside of the box was split into two sections, the top to house the satellites, control unit, and cables and the bottom for the bass module. All the speakers were covered with a very thin cotton fabric because AUDIOPHILE! The satellites took a bit of assembly. There is a small base which is slid into a slot on the back. Also included are four, very small, rubber feet which can be attached to recessed marks on the bottom of the bases. But I encourage you to think about your speaker placement before you attach the base or the rubber feet. The base angles the speakers up a bit. This is perfect if you are going to place the speakers on a desk and a bit away from you. If they are going to be up higher, you may want to forgo the base entirely and just place the rubber feet on the bottom of the speakers. There are four rubber feet for the bass module as well.

The speakers themselves, are very attractive. The satellites have non-removable (I tried but I didn't want to risk breaking them) fabric grilles and the bass module has a slightly concave wire mesh grille. The satellites have a gloss black finish with a matte black trim near the grille. The bass module is exactly the opposite with matte black everywhere except near the grille. Each of the speakers sorts the Cambridge Audio "logo" (just their name) so that you'll never forget who made your speakers.

Cambridge Audio Minx M5 Speakers

Glancing at the back of the satellite speakers, you'll notice that they have a connected cable. If you follow it to the end, you'll find a proprietary connection. Begin groaning noises now. I'm a big proponent of using standard, and preferably removable, cables. With RCA, speaker terminals, and any number of other cable types out there, using a proprietary connection on a non-removable cable just strikes me as either shortsighted or haughty. "We know what you need. What kind of idiot would place their satellite speaker further away than six feet from the bass module?"

What if I'm just that kind of idiot?


Of course, Cambridge Audio is probably right. No one would put their satellite speakers that far away. While the M5 Minx satellite speakers have a stand, there is no provision for wall mounting. While this might be an unusual occurrence for such a speaker, it is not unheard of to have small, cube speakers mounted to a wall next to the computer monitor they are supporting. A keyhole mount at the very least doesn't seem out of place.

Connecting the Minx M5 speakers to the bass module was a bit of a breeze. With the weird, proprietary connection, there was no way to plug it in wrong. All you needed to do was to remember which was the left and right. Each of the satellite speakers have a 2" "full range" drivers that are designed to tackle the high and some of the midrange frequencies. The speakers are tiny, just under 3" cubes and are sealed for easy placement. They weigh next to nothing and they are very easy to place and move about. The stand is just about perfect at aiming the speakers at your shoulders from your desktop if you have good posture, or at your ears when you lean back to think about something. That seems to be a pretty good design choice to me.


Sonically, these may be the only (and I do mean only) speakers I've ever heard that sounded better after a bit of break-in. Usually, I'm a believer  of ears not speakers breaking in. But, when I first turned these on, they sounded very harsh. I played with placement at first but eventually just forgot about it. Later, I thought they sounded better. I left for a week for a vacation and fully expected that they would once again sound harsh as my ears had "unbroken" in. But that wasn't the case. They still sounded pretty good to me.

Minx M5 Bass Module

MinxM5_bass_backThe words "bass module" set my teeth on edge. I like my subs to be subs and my woofers to be in my speakers. But in multimedia speakers, the bass module is not only a standard fixture, but a must. If you had space on your desk for full sized speakers, you would have them, wouldn't you? With space at a premium, offloading the bass to a separate box that can be placed, well, historically on the floor near your feet where it benefits from TONS of boundary reinforcement, is a must.

The front of the Minx M5 bass module is almost entirely covered with the mesh grille. The bass module is just about an 8" cube and has a 5.25" woofer. While each of the speakers have a 15 watt amp, the bass module has a whopping 30 watts. The bass module is also sealed which is a bit unusual for this type of speaker. Usually manufacturers are looking to eke out as much bass as they can from their bass modules. A port is an easy way to do that. The fact that Cambridge Audio didn't go with a port (I even used a flashlight to see through the grille to see if they snuck one back there - they didn't) should tell you that they were more worried about sound quality and a specific frequency response rather than trying to trick you into thinking their offering was good because of bloated bass.


The back of the Minx M5 bass module has a removable power cord, a power switch a voltage selector switch and a bass level volume knob. There is an input from the control unit (proprietary, grr....) which looks like a really big s-video connection and two proprietary outputs to the speakers. Just like every multimedia system on the market, there is no way to send a test tone just to the woofer (though you could try a really low note that the satellites couldn't reproduce but that probably wouldn't work for a number of reasons) so calibration will have to be done by ear. There is no volume adjustment on the satellites other than moving them closer or farther away (or putting something in front of them I suppose) so the bass is the only control you'll have to worry about. I found it fairly easy to dial in the bass but that could be because I've done this a few times before. You may have more problems.

Cambridge Audio Minx M5 Control Module

MinxM5_control_connectionI'm sure a few of the more observant of you when reading the previous section thought, "Hey now, where is the connection to the computer on the bass module?" You are right - there is none. Since bass modules generally end up on the floor near (or sometimes on) your computer, having the connection on the bass module makes sense (though I've seem them placed in one of the satellite speakers as well). Plus, in most setups the speakers are small and there would be no way of adding a connection to the computer there.

The Minx M5 Control Module changes all of that.

The really unique part of the Minx M5 speakers is the control module. This flat, square unit has a connected cable (for running to the bass module) and a few ports. On the back they have the main mini USB port for connecting to your computer with the supplied USB cable. It also has a 3.5mm input for adding your portable device. The front of the module has a 3.5mm output for headphones. The top has a soft, rubber spinning dial. The spin controls the volume and you can press on it to put the speakers into standby mode. I find this to be a very convenient setup as you can place the control module very close to you making the controls easily accessible without having to move (or locate) your speakers. Most computer speakers have the headphone and volume control on one of the speakers. I infinitely prefer the control module of the Cambridge Audio Minx M5 mulitmedia speaker system.


Now, if you are like me and keep your tower computer on the ground next to (or under) your desk, and the bass module on the floor, the wiring looks like this: Up from the computer to the control module, down to the bass module, and two wires back up to the speakers. That's four wires (and the control module to the bass module wire is very thick) added to your current setup. Plus Cambridge Audio has included a ridiculously short mini USB to standard USB cable (probably three feet long) making it necessary to place the control module on the same side of your desk as the computer adding to my frustration. Yes, it is a standard cable and yes you probably have a longer one somewhere but really? Three feet?. But, bear with me, I think the convenience is worth it.

You may also be like me and have not just a desktop but more than one laptop in the house. Most speaker systems connect to the audio output of your computer. That probably is a 3.5mm port. Sure, you could connect that to the headphone output of your MP3 player or laptop, but it requires getting behind your computer. And no one wants to do that. With the mini USB port on the control module, you can do as I do - just keep an extra (or that stupid short one they gave you) nearby and swap them out. I haven't found a device with a USB port that didn't play nice with the Cambridge Audio Minx M5. And if that doesn't work, use the 3.5mm input (with supplied cable) to your headphone jack. Either way, it is very, VERY easy to use the Minx M5's with multiple devices - something that most "multimedia" speaker systems can't claim with a straight face.


The last point that I think needs to be really hammered home here is that the USB connection means that the (probably crappy) DACs in your computer are being bypassed for the ones in the Minx M5 system. Cambridge Audio has a long history of high end gear including standalone DACs. Those DACs start at prices higher than the entire Minx M5 system and range all the way up to multiple thousands. So, yes, I trust the Cambridge Audio DACs long before I'd trust the ones connected to the stock $1 AV card in your Dell.

Cambridge Audio Minx M5 Setup and Use

As you probably guessed, rather than setting up the Cambridge Audio Minx M5 in some sort of weird, non-standard way that doesn't at all mimic the real world, I did what I thought most people would do - I put the bass module under my desk and the speakers flanking my monitor. Those of you that listen to the AV Rant podcast will know that I've been running the KRK Rokit Powered 6/10 speakers in my office. And, frankly, I love them. But when I moved back to the states from Australia, I had a choice between a dedicated home theater or a dedicated office.

For an Audioholic, that's no choice at all.


So my computer now sits off the side of my kitchen. A full sized sub and speakers with exposed yellow cones and dust caps just begging to be pushed in by tiny fingers is not a good combination for a common area. I needed something smaller. The Cambridge Audio Minx M5 looked to be just the thing.

Running the cables up and down four times was a bit of hassle but it didn't take long. As I mentioned, I found the right bass mix pretty much in the first 30 seconds of listening and was ready to go. Yes, at first the satellites sounded a bit harsh but they mellowed out very quickly. Once all that was done I was ready for a long session of listening.

Except I couldn't.

I'm very sensitive to subwoofer placement. I found an 80Hz crossover to be too high in most cases. I can locate that too often and I find it extremely distracting to have Darth Varder's voice coming from the side (or back) of a room. The bass module at my feet just contained far too much of the vocals for me. It was like someone had hidden the band I was listening to in the basement and I was hearing them though a floor vent.

I'm sure you'd find that disconcerting as well.

Fortunately for me, I was able to place the bass module behind my monitor. I have mine on an articulated arm. When in use, I pull it toward me. When I "put it away" I would push it back. Since the bass module is only 8" or so deep, I just don't push it back any more. So, when you are reading the rest of this review you need to ask yourself you are as sensitive as I am to bass modules. If you don't think so, this isn't a concern. If you are, you need to make sure you have space on your desk for a bass module. 


Have I mentioned I loved the control module? I LOVED it. Having the connections so accessible and the volume control where I could actually reach it was a Godsend. I just kept a cable close at hand and never had to worry about someone saying, "Hey, I downloaded this great track. You want to listen to it on my phone?"

No, no I don't. But I will listen to it on the Cambridge Audio Minx M5.

The only weirdness there was that the 3.5mm input and the mini USB port were both active at the same time. So if both were playing something, the Minx M5 would do both. I also wished that the Minx would remember the volume settings on each input/output type. There were no numbers or any indication of what volume level you were at so when you changed USB or 3.5mm inputs, you risked damaging the speakers if the gain discrepancies were too large. I did like that when you plugged in you headphones (or unplugged them) the volume would fade up and not just "pop" to the level. It gave you a bit of warning. Though, again, I wished the M5s would remember the last volume level for the headphone output as it was often dramatically different from my computer's volume setting.

Cambridge Audio Minx M5 Sound and Conclusion

MinxM5_inboxThe proof is not how the speakers look or how much I loved the control module. The proof is in how good the Cambridge Audio Minx M5 sounded. With the bass module basically pointed at my face (albeit from behind my monitor) and the satellites on either side I can sum up the Minx M5 sound thusly - Damn good.

For multimedia speakers they held up very well. Cambridge Audio has the Minx M5 rated down to 45Hz which is true. It isn't very loud but something is coming out of the speakers at 45Hz. If you are looking for real, usable output, you'd be better off closer to 70-80Hz. But there was significant output as low as 60Hz in my listening tests. And this is a multimedia speaker system we're talking about. Anything lower than 100Hz is pretty good in my book.

With 2" drivers in the sats, you can't expect them to give you much high end though the Minx M5 satellites do an admirable job. The highest frequencies distort audibly but most of the top end sounded pretty good. The midrange was clear and strong and a quick sweep of the test tones off my Rives Audio test CD didn't reveal any glaring holes in the frequency response. Even as the bass module crossed over into the satellites everything sounded very smooth and even. That may be partially because of how I placed the bass module, but I have to say I was very impressed. The Minx M5 multimedia speakers were obviously designed to provide as good of sound as then could within the design constraints.

I found the dynamic range to be pretty good though detail quickly got lost at lower volume levels. The soundstage was as large as it needed to be (wider than my desk) and imaging was very good. Left right separation, even though the speakers weren't that far apart, was impressively well defined. But, as desks tend to get cluttered, this was highly depended on making sure the speakers were evenly spaced and equidistant from me.

The bass, as I said, was lacking and it was most noticeable in bass heavy tracks from Yello (Junior B) and Seal (Crazy). In Junior B the bass run that I use to test out subwoofers was present in spirit only. It was like the scent of a quickly extinguished candle - you knew it was there but you just couldn't see it. The heavy bass of Seal's Crazy was completely missing though his vocals sounded absolutely stunning. Together the Minx M5 speakers make a very formidable force. A formidable force in dire need of a subwoofer.

And here is where I will get back on my soapbox. If there were some non-proprietary connections on the back of the Minx M5, you might think about adding a subwoofer to the mix to round the whole thing out. The high end deficiencies were minor but the lack of lower bass was really noticeable. Sure, once you started working and not paying so much attention, you didn't mind. I didn't at least. But every once in a while, I'd think about adding one of my subs. It would be nice to have the option.


I can take almost nothing away from the Cambridge Audio Minx M5. This multimedia speaker system sounds like it was designed by people that love good sound and really want to bring it to you. The problems come (for the most part) from the design constraints. You can only do so much with a couple of tiny satellites and a bass module. And Cambridge Audio did a lot with the Minx M5. The higher frequencies and midrange sound fantastic. I mean, REALLY good. Better the harder you listen to them. The bass isn't as deep as you'd like, but what are you going to do with a 5.25" woofer in an 8" cube? The real standout is the control module. Putting volume and power control where you can reach it is one thing. Pairing it with the main USB input, a 3.5mm input, and a headphone output is brilliant. The Cambridge Audio Minx M5 is a speaker system truly deserving of the moniker "Multimedia". This may be the only system you use with more than one device. And it will be so easy you'll wonder how you ever survived without it.

Cambridge Audio Minx M5 Multimedia Speaker System

MSRP $229



The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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