ROYD MINSTREL SPEAKER REVIEW – THE ORIGINAL BOOGIE
Summary: NOVEMBER 15, 2015
Royd Minstrels (1st edition), 1993
The Royd Minstrels were designed by Joe Akroyd, who started his company in the UK in the early 1980s. Sadly, Royd Audio closed shop in around 2002. Recently, however, I believe the company name was purchased and the new owner plans to build speakers in keeping with the original Royd philosophy.
Floor standing, small enclosure, approx 26.75” tall, approx 4.25” deep by 7” 1/8th” wide, canted backward, resting on spiked, attached bases
5” midbass driver, cast chassis.Doped driver that has a sticky coating and sometimes has problems with sticking to the speaker’s centre pole (I have not had this issue, but have read about it)
19mm soft dome tweeter, crossed over at 3kHz
Frequency range: 33hz to 20khz, 87db@ 1 watt@ 1 meter
Recommended Amp 20-80wpc
Connectors accept banana plugs, spades, or bare wire.
They have foam rings surrounding the tweeters to help with cabinet reflections
Faux rosewood, vinyl covered
Removable grills. Fairly transparent cloth, but I do all my listening with grills off. Grills may remain on when having guests, for both protection and improved appearance.
Integrated amplifier: Sugden A48b, modified with point to point wiring by Dan Santoni. (A good jump up in sound quality from the original Sugden A48b).
Sources: Rotel RCD 971 and high resolution WAV and Flac files from my PC running through Nuforce uDac Mk1 (external D to A processing).
Cables: Speaker Cable used is Ecosse bi-wire cable, with stranded and solid cables spliced together (since these speakers are not bi-wireable/ bi-ampable). Interconnects are MIT, however the model eludes me.
Room: Current room: rectangular in shape, with hardwood floors. Room size is approximately 14’x 20’. No sound dampening is used, save for a 5’x7’ area carpet on the floor in front of the speakers and large house plants in the corners at the listener’s end of the room.
Previous room: 10’ x 14’ with carpeted floor. Open to kitchen.
I first heard Royd Minstrels at a little British gear based audio shop in Toronto. At the time, I was looking for an integrated amp, so although I noticed them, I didn’t pay them much attention. However, they did stand out in my mind as being a very interesting, little design (albeit just from a cursory look/ listen).
After owning several pairs of British speakers (Rega, Neat, Epos), when I saw these available online, I decided to give them a whirl, as the Epos ES14s I was using at the time were simply too large for my living room. And I’m glad I did.
When I brought mine home, they were in very rough condition, although the drivers were all intact. There was some white paint splattered on the side of one of the cabinets, and one of the foam tweeter rings was missing. The cabinets were not firmly secured to their bases and the vinyl veneer was peeling at the corners.
So, I removed the white paint by carefully scraping it off, then touched up the cabinet’s dings using a black marker (to make the dings less noticeable) and glued the vinyl down at the corners. I tightened the driver screws and the screws attaching the speakers to the base. I then took measurements of the intact foam ring around the tweeter, and made one for the other speaker using a foam sheet purchased at a craft store. The thickness and density of the foam closely matched the original and once the new foam was mounted, produced an equivalent result.
First, let me state that my listening rooms are always real-world living areas; they are not sound rooms by any stretch and are use no official treatment other than objects placed strategically around the room.
With that said, from the moment I fired up the Minstrels, I knew they were something special. Immediately, I remarked that the sound is light, lively, bouncy, quite clear, and provides a very good sense of space and image into the music. Bass is incredible for a speaker of this size, and in the right room, plummets almost as low as you would ever really need. What the Minstrels lack in bass depth is more than made up for by the bass quality; the bass is tight and easily revealing of differences in bass notes.
These speakers worked surprisingly well in my condo, where they were a perfect fit to the size of the room. They filled up the room with quality sound, which was not only pleasing while seated in the sweet spot, but also when walking around the room. In the sweet spot, their performance approached my Epos ES14s in that particular room, although they were not quite as good and were noticeably less refined in the midrange (although the Epos is very stiff competition in this regard, since they possess an almost incredible midrange).
The Minstrel’s treble is good and fairly extended, however not particularly refined or subtle, and has a hint of grain to its sound. The tweeter can also be a little unruly and some will consider it too bright, as it can become a little hot on some recordings. Again, a warmer amp mitigates this; my warm and robust-sounding Sugden is a great match with the Minstrels.
Conversely, a cool/thin-sounding amplifier will not be a good match to these speakers, and very poor or thin-sounding recordings will sound flat and shrill, and may result in the sound becoming intolerable, especially in the wrong room.
As with most other speakers, placement is very important to reap the best of what they have to offer. Unlike most speakers, however, moving them away from the wall did not necessarily result in less bass; moving them out into the open seemed to mostly affect their dimensionality, making the sound deeper, wider and more three dimensional overall.
A good recording will reward you with sound quality that greatly belies the Minstrels’ diminutive size.
Bass is fast and is not billowy like on some larger speakers. It goes fairly low (very low, considering the driver size), but loses some amplitude in the lower registries. The bass quality is very, very good, if lacking a little bit in quantity; the Royds will produce what bass is on the recording, but will not embellish with bass exaggeration. These speakers will not rattle the walls, but they do provide a solid, open soundstage with a good degree of ‘fullness’, at medium-low to medium-high volume levels. Suitable for smaller to medium sized rooms, preferably no larger than 12’x15′ or so, the smaller room sizes allow the speakers to fully energize the room and allow them to really shine. They become lost in rooms that are too large. Although still providing good sound, they lose the fullness they are capable of in small to medium sized rooms. Also, given the bright nature of the speaker, it’s best to use them in a fairly well-damped room.
The side ports assist with placement options in terms of sound performance. Depending on the room, one may get good results by having the ports facing each other. In other rooms, pointing the ports outward can be beneficial. I found that facing the ports outwards was the better in my smaller condo; facing them inward is better in my larger living room in my new residence.
The Minstrels can really float a nice image, providing a very good sense of space/ dimensionality. Although the midrange provides quite an open, transparent window to the music, it is not the best I’ve heard in this regard (it is very good, however). This speaker leans to the 3d, multi-dimensional type of sound, floating images in-between and to the outside of the speakers, rather than having a ‘wall of sound’ kind of quality that other systems may deliver.
In a direct comparison to my Epos ES14, there is no contest. The Epos ES14s produce an almost perfectly transparent midrange and make the Minstrel sound somewhat veiled by comparison (I stress, though, that the Epos are exceptional in this regard, and that the Minstrels are not too far off the mark, albeit not quite as good). Further, the Epos are able to play significantly louder without any strain at all (to deafening levels), whereas the Minstrels are very limited in their output volume capability. Beyond a certain volume, they compress and will break up if pushed. However, the maximum volume they are capable of should be more than enough for most normal listening.
My Rega Ara speakers, once positioned correctly and matched to a proper amp, offer a more transparent midrange than the Minstrels as well, being a delight on female vocals, but again, the Minstrels are still no slouches and have the advantage of offering a much more full-range presentation. The combination of clarity, bounce, articulation and imaging the Minstrels offer remains fairly uniform when moving around the room, and quite readily instills foot tapping and perhaps a dance move or two. The Rega Aras, by comparison, lack the delivery of lower frequencies in a larger room and can sound very thin under the wrong circumstances. The Regas work in small rooms; they were excellent in my bedroom system at my previous residence, with a room size of approximately 12’ x 10.5’.
The Minstrels do a great disappearing act and the music never seems to come from low to the ground, as the driver height would imply; the image they throw is higher than the speaker height. The musical image is fairly solid and stable, keeping singers and instruments from ‘wandering’ from their location in space. The Minstrels do not seem to possess any really obvious ‘boxy’ sound, which is a fairly common trait amongst relatively inexpensive British designs (my Regas require careful positioning to avoid an overly boxy sound).
I love these Royd speakers. They have a lot of qualities I enjoy and very few points against them. Their small size and sound quality make them very suitable if placed in smaller to medium rooms; they are perfect ‘full range’ speakers for today’s small-sized condo spaces.
Further, they are revealing enough to easily display differences amongst associated gear during times of upgrade, and will play nicely with gear in much higher price brackets.
As a final note, these speakers outperformed a pair of Neat Mystique IIs that I had in my condo when driven with the same system. Since those speakers retailed for between 2000-2500 CAD at the time, to say this was impressive is an understatement. Technically, the Mystiques are much better speakers, however in that room, with that gear, the Minstrels took the cake. This is clear proof that system synergy and room matching are of utmost importance with respect to audio reproduction.
The Minstrels are super-fun speakers that, although not perfect, have an uncanny ability to put a smile on my face almost every time they are played. This is what I would call audiophile speakers on a budget; they will give you a small taste of what very high end designs can accomplish.
The Royd Minstrels are becoming more and more rare on the second hand market; if you do see a pair, don’t hesitate – grab them before they are gone. Even when I buy different speakers (which happens every so often in my world), I will still hold on to the Royds; in my opinion, they are too enjoyable to let go.
Caveat emptor: avoid sterile/ cold gear/ thin sounding gear, as it will exacerbate the Minstrels inherent weaknesses. They play well with British gear along the lines of Sugden, Naim, Exposure, Creek, Cyrus, Rega.