Opera has a problem. Its name implies any speaker it builds specialises in just a narrow band of music. In the past this was true: a fluid, full-bodied midband, coupled to top-class refinement and a smooth tonal balance were all standard issue for the brand. Use an Opera speaker with classical music, particularly the small-scale variety, and it would shine without fail.
However, put on something more energetic – the twin Rs of rock and rap, or even some upbeat pop, such as Madonna – and things would fall apart faster than a reality-TV contestant's post-show career.
A Mini adventure
Take a listen to the brand new Minis and you'll know that things have changed. Yes, they're small, so require a close-to-wall position to sound balanced. But once that's done, you'll be greeted by a beautifully integrated sound and a sonic image substantial enough to fool you into thinking you're hearing something larger.
The Minis have attitude, too, and while they'd still not be our first choice as party speakers, they'll deliver the likes of George Clinton with a fair degree of verve. All of which, on top of the Opera brand's traditional sonic strengths, makes this a formidable design.
So we know that the Opera Minis sound good, and cover most sonic bases with a fair degree of skill. What you won't know is that they are beautifully built – well enough to make otherwise very impressive rivals seem just that little bit ordinary.
The Minis' cabinets may no longer be solid hardwood, as in earlier Opera speakers, but the combination of curved MDF, lovely real wood veneers and leather-effect front baffles looks classy in the extreme. The Minis could cost twice as much and we'd still be impressed by the build and finish.
If you want a pair of superbly built small speakers that'll work well close to a rear wall the choice is limited. The Opera Minis would be high up on our shortlist.