The Taiwanese brand Usher is perhaps best known for its big loudspeakers using state of the art driver materials like beryllium and diamond for comparatively low cost. Our recent test of the Be 20 DMD in issue 112 highlighted that value; it’s a £30,000 loudspeaker with a £15,750 price tag. The N-6300 standmount is a different proposition.
Usher’s N-series is designed as the entry level for those with audiophile aspirations. The Usher N-6300 is a two-way, front ported standmount, but it is entering into an arena filled with two-way ported standmount loudspeakers from famous UK names, and the price differential between those rivals and Usher is a lot slimmer. The N-6300 costs £1,250 per pair, and that doesn’t give much room for undercutting those other brands.
That’s not to say that Usher’s traditional high-value, lower-cost ethos isn’t a key function of this loudspeaker. As two-way standmounts go, this is a biggie, with a cabinet size reminiscent of an Epos ES14 or possibly a taller B&W 805. Our traditional ‘bookshelf’ concept at this kind of price is typically not much larger than an LS3/5a, so in pound per pound terms, you get a lot of speaker for the money.
Finished in a thick matt walnut veneer (or an optional lighter ‘violin’ finish), with contrasting black top tweeter cowl, the overall look is ‘purposeful’ and ‘understated’ rather than ‘bling’. That’s no bad thing, when viewed next to the garish ‘tart’s handbag’ piano-gloss finishes that seem fashionable elsewhere. The N-6300 speaker is boat-backed, front ported and (slightly) back-swept. At the rear is a bi-wire terminal block sporting four of Usher’s versions of the plastic-coated WBT speaker terminal, and a thick, gold plated set of jumper bars for single wiring. My advice here is get rid of those jumper bars and use proper cable connectors – they make a difference. Similarly, lose the thick grille that covers the mid-bass unit at the front; although it leaves six hex studs standing proud of the cabinet by about half a centimetre, the thick plastic surround of the grille undermines the performance of the N-6300.
Unlike many loudspeaker brands that call upon a range of suppliers, practically everything on the N-6300 is made in-house. Including the drive units. While the more upmarket designs can use state-of-the-art materials science, at this price point the smart money goes with more traditional materials, and Usher has gone with a conventional fabric dome tweeter covered by a rigid protector and a carbon-fibre/doped paper woofer not dissimilar to the very popular ScanSpeak 18W/8545 (the cones are sourced from the same European manufacturer apparently), but from the Usher features greater cone excursion thanks to it’s proprietary ‘Symme-motion’ technology. Beneath the two drivers is a letterbox front port. Usher divides its crossover networks into boards for each drive unit in its higher-end models, and does the same here. The boards and their components are of a suitably high-quality as befits the product, and the component count is minimal; not first order, one-capacitor-across-the-tweeter minimal, but a relatively straightforward circuit design implying a second-order crossover network. Peering inside the speaker cabinet shows a thick MDF cabinet; well wadded, but with no additional bracing. Despite this, the cabinet is rigid and any form of knuckle-rapping test is met with the right kind of dead noises throughout.
Despite the height of the loudspeaker, which would suggest it might work best on a low loudspeaker stand, this the N-6300 has its best driver-to-driver integration on a 48cm or even 60cm stand. This may look top-heavy unless a solid stand is used (that’s a good recommendation, anyway), but sonically places the drivers at a similar height as seen on the N-Series floorstanders.
The loudspeaker itself is a comparatively easy eight-ohm load, with a rated sensitivity of 86db/W/m. This last figure is relatively low by today’s standards, but notionally shouldn’t pose a problem with most amplifiers, unless you are considering playing a lot of heavy metal in a big room with a single-ended triode amp. Usher is keen to be a responsible loudspeaker maker too, and the manual gives a lot of advice about sound pressure levels and hearing damage. I suspect the nature of the sound of the loudspeaker, its overall appearance, and its sensitivity will put the N-6300 in the homes of more refined listeners.
The nature of that sound is one of inherently low colouration, with just the merest sense of ‘expressiveness’ toward the top end. It’s not zing or brightness, just a slight sense of enhanced presence in the upper midrange. How this manifests in real terms is more articulation in Matt Bellamy’s almost histrionic vocals at the end of most Muse tracks. The N-6300’s slight emphasis toward the upper-mid registers and Bellamy’s ‘impassioned’ vocal noodling are in perfect lock-step and as a result you can make slightly more sense of what he’s singing about. While in reality it might be better to leave this as ‘worthy word-salad’, the recording does highlight the upper regions of the speaker’s vocal articulation, which as emphasis goes is both useful and benign. This does mean, however, that the choice of partnering equipment needs to be made for performance rather than power, and it’s probably best to steer clear of ‘forthright’ sounding electronics. Fortunately, it doesn’t automatically follow that the only partners are expensive ones, just that care in partnering results in greater rewards.
Curiously, typically loudspeakers with an emphasis in the treble tend to sound forward, but the N-6300s present a more wide and deep image instead of pushing the image into the lap of the listener. This is both rare and well received; the N-6300 presents a ‘natural’ and ‘clean’ sound.
Bass in particular highlights this. This is not the fast-transient, European-Modern audio sound, neither does it have the big-boned powerful bass of an American design. It’s a more romantic, sonorous bass; uncoloured, yet not ‘thin’. Despite this being a relatively big cabinet for a standmount, it doesn’t delve too deep into the lowest octaves. Instead, the N-6300 is more about the spirit of bass rather than the onslaught. It’s a loudspeaker for people who don’t demand their loudspeaker tap out a rhythm for them, and it’s a loudspeaker for those who want to hear the richness of a bowed bass, rather than the slam of a bass cabinet. That isn’t to say this loudspeaker lacks dynamics, but instead it places its dynamic energies into resolving the midrange.
I don’t like the ‘good for…’ descriptions because they are typically too broad, and often used as a back-handed insult; ‘good for jazz’, for example, is functionally meaningless because jazz covers everything from Dixieland through big-band to be-bop, free jazz, minimalist Scandiwegian electronica, and ‘pazz’ (English jazz-punk, from bands like Polar Bear), and is frequently touted by those who don’t understand and dismiss the genre. Nevertheless, through the N-6300 I found myself gravitating toward the acoustic end of my collection. Whether that was operatic aria, string quartet, or folk guitar, the N-6300 made a lot of sense of both the instrument and the space in which it was recorded. By way of contrast, anything electronic (but in particular the click-track controlled deep synth bass of Trentemøller) or amplified simply sounded artificial. For many, that perfectly describes their musical likes and dislikes, and the N-6300 deserves their attention.
The Usher N-6300 makes a sophisticated sound in an unsophisticated world. The ‘now’ sound in audio is often a forward, boomy-tizzy affair with either an imposed sense of a rhythm, or an over-emphasis on soundstaging. Usher dances to a different beat with the N-6300, making a sound that focuses on flow and mid-range articulation. If you seek immediate, edge-of-the-seat rewards from your loudspeakers look elsewhere, but if you just want to listen to good music without all the histrionics of modern day audio, the N-6300s make a whole lot of sense. Recommended for grown ups!
Type: two-way, front-ported standmount loudspeaker.
Driver complement: One 25mm 9950-20 fabric dome tweeter, 180mm 8945A carbon-fibre/doped paper bass driver.
Inputs: Two pairs of 4mm gold-plated connectors
Crossover frequency: 3kHz
Frequency response: 36Hz – 28kHz (-3dB)
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Dimensions (HxWxD): 44.5 x 23 x 35cm
Finishes: walnut, violin
Manufacturer: Usher Audio Technology
UK Distributor: DECENT Audio
Tel: +44(0) 5602 054669