Usher BE-718 stand mount loudspeaker in Piano White Pioneer finish. Beryllium tweeter with excellent dynamics and great bass extension for a modest sized stand mount design. Joseph D'Appoito assisted design and easily Usher's most successful and acclaimed speaker. Multiple audiophile reviews. A substantial 40 pounds per speaker. Extremely clean very close to new out of the box look and condition with full original box and packing.
Description: Two-way, reflex-loaded, stand-mounted loudspeaker. Drive-units: 1.25" beryllium-dome tweeter, 7" doped-paper–cone woofer. Crossover frequency: 2.06kHz. Frequency response: 42Hz–35kHz, ±3dB. Nominal impedance: 8 ohms. Sensitivity: 87dB/W/m. Power handling: 200W. Dimensions: 15.2" (390mm) H by 10.2" (260mm) W by 16.9" (430mm) D. Weight: 37.9 lbs (17.2kg).
While I still have some reservations with regard to the way they're marketed, the Be-718's proof is in the listening and it's a stellar performer by almost any measure. Fed by an adequately powerful amplifier, be it tubes or solid-state, these Tiny Dancers are terrific performers combining a surprising and class-leading quality and quantity of bass brawn with excellent dynamics, a beautifully articulate and expressive mid-band and an honest yet fatigue-free treble. While the market is full of well-designed speakers that seem to cross a lot of 't's and dot a lot of 'i's, in my own experience most of these designed-by-numbers speakers sound great but fail to involve the listener and seldom become the object of the listener's affection as I predict these speakers will. I find these Ushers exceptionally endearing and involving, which is by far their most important characteristic. If I were in the market for a stand mount these would be my first choice because, in this price class, I think a speaker that hits all its marks is difficult enough to find but one that is as engaging to listen to as the Usher Be-718 comes along only once in a blue moon.
The doped-paper 7" midrange/woofer is the best Usher makes; ditto for the 1.25" beryllium tweeter. The crossover, designed by Tsai Lien-Shui and tweaked for American ears by Joe D'Appolito, is specced by Danny Richie of GR Research, who stuffed it with Sonicaps, Mills resistors, and various goodies from Erse: polypropylene capacitors and high-purity, oxygen-free, copper air-core inductors. All internal wiring is from JPS Labs.
As my audition of the Be-718s continued—I was having too much fun to rush it—I realized that the Ushers reminded me most of the Dynaudio Confidence C1 ($7000/pair), which I reviewed in the November 2007 Stereophile (Vol.30 No.11). Like the Usher, the Dynaudio has uncommonly deep bass for a smallish two-way design. The two were also similar in needing to be bossed around by a powerful amp, the Ushers seeming to need a touch more Welly.
The sonic resemblance was remarkable. The Confidence C1 really is remarkable—but at half its price, the Be-718 came eerily close. I began by listening to Leif Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic's recording of Einojuhani Rautavaara's Symphony 7, Angel of Light (CD, Ondine ODE 869-2), and was hard-pressed to determine a preference. The C1 delivered more bottom-end extension—or, at least, more easily heard detail—but also had an ever-so-slightly more forward top end. The Be-718 had an admirably relaxed top end while surrendering not one whit of detail.
"Beneath Still Waters," from Emmylou Harris's Blue Kentucky Girl (CD, Reprise 3318), was perhaps the singer's purest foray into country music prior to her spectacular acoustic triumph Roses in the Snow. When Harris sings "But each and every heart / Must take its turn at misery," her voice soars straight into Patsy Cline territory. But the next lines—"And this time it's me / And I'll cry alone"—are delivered with such purity that they meet Pound's definition of poetry: It is news that stays news.
In my review of the Confidence C1s, I remarked that they had an ability to deliver female vocals that was nothing short of magic. I still think so—Harris broke my heart again. As she did through the Usher Be-718s. Was one speaker better than the other with women's voices? They were close, but I'd give the slight edge to the Confidence C1s, again noting that Harris's transition from chest to head tones seemed smoother and rounder. The Be-718s were just a shade less liquid. I wouldn't bet my paycheck on the difference between them. Both were scary good.
And remember, the Ushers are half the price.
They say that committees are a great way to prevent things from getting done, but the men who designed the Usher Be-718 have achieved something remarkable: a small speaker that sounds big, and possibly twice as good as it has a right to. And they made it good-looking as well.
If you can't live without bottom-end extension below 30Hz, if you listen to death metal in a warehouse cranked up to 11, well, the Usher Be-718 isn't for you. Look elsewhere.
But if you don't want to spend a penny more than you have to for not simply good but great sound, if you love music and want to keep the affair alive, you should listen to the Usher Be-718—and buy a powerful amplifier with the money you'll save.
You won't regret either decision.