Review: Usher Be-718 Monitor

Category: Speakers

A second hand Wilson CUB costs about the same as a new Usher Be718. I’ve had the former for nine years, and I had the latter in my living room for three days. The CUB is large, aesthetically dubious, and garnered reviews that mixed positive comments with reservations. The Be718 is neatly proportioned, sweetly finished, and seems to be the darling of the audio press. Contemplating a change from the Wilson to the Usher, I was hoping to retain a level of audio performance while improving things visually. Wishful thinking? Well, look, we can all dream. I'm writing this review in part to address expectations that might be inspired in others reading reviews of the Ushers - should you buy them without an audition? Are they "that" good? Are they, as I've heard said, the "best bookshelf speaker in the world"?

A recent house renovation had left the CUBs looking more than a little out of place. These are bachelor speakers. They’re sixty centimetres deep, have grills made of air-conditioner foam or, alternately, a spray of chrome screws like buckshot embedded across their faces, sit on four-square black steel stands, and look ready to insult any house guest ornery enough to look their way. These are machines for making music. Yes, they are coated in gloss black automotive paint, but since when did anyone park their car in the living room? A smart wife will not be impressed, she’ll simply tell you to put them in the garage.

In contrast, the Be718s are polite and well-dressed. They too have a plane of gloss black, but this is more evocative of the effect of a Prada handbag, rather than the monolith from “2001”. They have decorative wooden appliques on their flanks. The flashing for the beryllium tweeter, and various plaques and Allen screws, tastefully come in a satin gunmetal. If your daughter was dating a speaker, you’d hope it was the Usher Be718.

The CUBs are routinely reviewed as sounding bright and forward. One man’s bright is another’s lively. For me, they make music sound involving. They have kick. There seems to be consensus at least on the fact that they image very well, provide detail to the midrange, and have a tight, punchy bass. The Ushers are frequently compared to speakers twice their price. Few flaws are mentioned. So what happened when they, adulterously, sat on the pedestals reserved for the CUBs?

Well, in short, not much. The beryllium tweeter is undoubtedly very smooth. It truly does make poor transfers and recordings listenable. There is detail, but fingernails never screech down the chalkboard. Everything is very relaxed. Too relaxed, however, blends in with soporific, and I think this is the danger with the Usher. Compared to the CUB there is notably less information, especially in the range of the larger cone. The performers are all still there, playing their little hearts out, but they sound more distant. Paradoxically, this relaxed presentation can actually prove tiring – having heard details on a recording once, you search for them again, and deciphering their presence can amount to a strain, even when this occurs semi-consciously.

Perhaps the simplest way to summarise my experience is to revisit an audio cliché. Reviews, and real life, have the story of playing all your favourite recordings deep into the night under the thrall of a new piece of equipment. You hear things you have never heard before. A recording you swore you knew suddenly reveals a whole new perspective. Time flies, and before you know it the clock shows the wee hours and you’re resigned to being sleep deprived at work the next day, but you’re happy. With the Ushers, I went to bed early. Even managed to read a chapter or two of a good book. Putting on a track I was inevitably impressed by the beautiful presentation…but often I would not finish listening to the song in its entirety.

Of course this comparison is less than fair. The Ushers were new out of the box. They were driven by a Jadis Orchestra Reference, a 40wpc tube amp, and they are said to like power. Perhaps they might have done better on stands higher than the 19” perfect for the CUBs. And I do not disagree that they do a great job for the price. Still, with all these caveats, there was the possibility that they would sit there, sing, and make the CUBs shrivel – but that didn’t happen.

As a fiscally irresponsible (and probably irrelevant) postscript I might mention that I listened to Wilson Duettes, brand new and not run in, with a Jadis Orchestra Reference, albeit in a retail showroom, and these provided more detail than the CUBs – not just detail, more everything, really. If your daughter was dating these, you’d be worried.

Associated gear
Jadis Orchestra Reference; Audio Research CD1; REL Storm III

Similar products
Wilson CUBs
Don't blame the Ushers, it's that euphonic Jadis that's to blame. Try another amp on the Ushers and report back.
Yes it is true the tiny dancers love power! We have used a number of different power configerations from 18w/channel to 150w/channel. all with success but a totally different presatation. When we demo them at our showroom (home demo room) the 150w/channel power amp (Usher R1.5) is our nicest match. The other note regarding all Usher speakers is that they need breakin time. The tiny dancers need at least 200 hours then you will see a larger soundstage smoother transition between top end and the mids, plus greater bass extension.

honest review stating your preferences and past experience but the speakers you reviewed weren't broken in and possibly underpowered.
Honest review, however, the Usher's do not come close to their potential when paired with under powered tube amplification. The Be-718s need a high current amp with a damping factor of at least 100 to truly reach their potential. Tube amps can work if they meet the criteria, but the Usher's really sing with solid state power. Recommended amp brands are Belles, Pass Labs, Bryston, Usher, NAD Master Series, Cambridge Audio, Oracle, NuForce, Moscode.
Thanks for the feedback. Your comments are in line with the professional reviews. Usher in Australia distribute to Sydney, a city of 5 million people, through two dealers - Kevin Low from E-home Solutions was kind enough to allow me to borrow a pair; the other distributor has no showroom, and did not offer any way of auditioning them. Kevin also recommended high power solid state amplification, but was interested to see what the Jadis could do. As mentioned in the review, I realise the limitations of my experience, and would still consider the Ushers in the future, but only for a second system with a SS amp. Perhaps it's also worth saying that these Be718s came from the official Australian distributor - I'm not sure if this means they have the "USA" modifications or not.

The Be-718s I auditioned did NOT have the USA modifications. Stan Tracht from Musikmatters, the US distributor, clarified this for me via email. For non-USA consumers he stated that he is unable to sell the complete modified Be-718s outside the US, due to contractual obligations to Usher, but he is able to sell the crossovers and the JPS wires.

How do I contact Stan about purchase of upgrade crossover components and JPS wires for my Be-718s? What is cost? What is estimated cost for me to hire electical technician to install the upgrade kit in my Usher Be-718s? I purchased the Be-718s in Taipei and assume they do not have upgrade components installed.
Hi Steve. I contacted Stan via the website - just use their "contact us" information. The cost is US$500 plus shipping. I don't know what a technician would charge to install these. If you tell Stan the serial numbers of your pair of speakers, then he can confirm whether they have the USA modifications fitted or not.

Cheers, Robert.
I just want to reiterate again that the Be-718's require more break-in and solid state power to sound their best. Also, very important, the stands need be higher as well. Mine sits on 28 or 29" Core Furniture model "B" to sound their best and I am short. Originally, had them set at around 20" and just sounded like the top end was muted or that the music wasn't intended for me but the bugs on the floor.

My $.02,

In the end I purchased a pair of Ushers. I needed a second pair of speakers for use in another room, with a video projector. So for three months the Ushers have been making music.

They are on 22" stands - I experimented with heights and anywhere between 22" and 24" sounded fine. To address the power issue I've purchased a Wyred4Sound ST1000 power amp - the ICEpower modules provide something like 600 watts per channel given the Usher's resistive load. The pre-amp is an ARC SP9MkIII, disc player an ARC CD1, and cabling from Audioquest - Crystal 2 speaker cables, Quartz interconnects. And there's a REL Storm III sub.

The speakers and power amp have been run in for over three months - which equates to 300+ hours.

My impressions have shifted, but I still have reservations. The system has incredible transparency in the upper frequencies and midrange. There is an ease and naturalness to the sound. Obviously with the sub, the bass goes down deep. But the definition and clarity in the upper bass is still less than compelling. Needless to add I've experiemented with room placement and speaker isolation etc. My comparison is largely with the Wilson CUBs, but I also borrowed a friend's Proac Tablette 50s and even these little guys had more detailed presentation of upper bass information. Going from the ridiculous to the sublime, I took the amp and pre-amp to Audio Connection and listened to a pair of Revel Studio 2s - as far as lower-mid and upper-bass drive and rhythm this was another world; even the Wilsons, no slouches for definition in this spectrum, paled. But, to be fair, the Ushers had the sweeter high frequencies, and just as much appeal in the mids as the Revels - solo violin sounded better on the Ushers, which is saying something given a price differential in Australia of near to $20,000. Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" was marginally more alive on the Revels, but most of the difference was in the bass. Some orchestral music was, if anything, a little "colder" on the Revels, but stunning nonetheless. The Revel's beryllium tweeter has a different flavour compared to the Usher's - of other high-end speakers I've auditioned, with caveats re varying ancillaries etc, the high frequencies of the Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento seem most like the Usher's in tone (this is meant to be high praise).

There is nothing ultimately "wrong" with the Ushers. They present music in a no-nonsense, natural way. I find myself listening to the music, rather than being distracted by the vivid reproduction of this or that particular "sound". Although I should qualify this by saying that occasionally the bass becomes distracting in its bloom and lack of pace. The very transparent and high powered Wyred4sound amp is a great match, but even it can't overcome this issue. I still feel the tweeter is the star, while the 7" driver is a bit less than stellar.

Again, I admit that I'm comparing a speaker that costs Aus$2,500 against ones that are many times that new. Still, I hope this limited criticism is helpful, since most of the Usher reviews hardly voice a negative.
Hello Bezimienny,

Thanks very much for the review and follow-up. Curious if you bought the U.S. version or have them modified with the same innards (crossover and JPS wiring).

Also, if the Wyred for Sound is anything like the original Bel Canto Ref 1K (MK I) which I owned for 6 months, the bass will not have much rhythm and pacing or details. Since I have switched amp over to the Nuforce's latest V2, the sound has transformed completely and the music is now totally engaging. Bass is now fast and furious if called for but controlled and has great pitch definition and impact. Just thought I share a bit of my experience.

This is a great thread...glad i stumbled upon it. I have tried these speakers with 2 different amps...Rogue 150 mono's and an Arcam AVR350...oddly enough I greatly prefer them with the Arcam...the biggest suprise came when I bi-amped them using channels 6 and 7 from the Arcam (reprogrammed to bi amp with the main 1 and 2 taps)...the amp went from 125 watts to 200 watts. Huge improvement. Totally engaging.

Now I am looking to see what a nice dedicated amp would many opinions out there and I appreciate hearing from owners. Almost took a flier on Bel Canto but someone warned me that they were a little lifeless...also concerned that Class D isn't fully fleshed out yet. What are some other amps that have worked for everyone?
Hi Kenobi. Thanks for the input. The Ushers are the non-USA version. I really enjoy the Wyred4Sound amp - as far as bass control and definition it sounds amazing with the Wilson CUBs - detail is terrific across all frequencies, actually (despite a weakness for tubes and the Jadis brand in particular, I'd rate the Class D amp ahead of it objectively, even in terms of sweetness of tone)- so at the moment I have to point the finger at the Ushers re bass issues. Glad to hear it's not everyone's experience. I'll be ordering custom stands in the next few months and will post some more follow up.
I owned Usher Be-718 for the past 6 months and they are great. The pair is connected to a pair of Primare A32 stereo power amp(250 watts)-biamping. Pre-amp is ARC LS26. Yes, the Usher need good power to shine. Yet, there is one weakness that I see, bass bloom especially if the particular track has double bass or the recording is poor. That is the only thing that troubles me. Otherwise, I'm happy with my purchase and I don't intend to upgrade soon.
The pair is connected to a pair of Primare A32 stereo power amp(250 watts)-biamping.

Wow, Jimel71! Biamping with two 250 watt power amps - now that's some power! Fully agree with your comments. I also own the Be-718s in a second system driven by 150w/ch (puny, I know :))Musical Fidelity A300 and they are superb from about 60hz up. But in the low bass, they occasionally come unstuck with the lower octave seeming to trail the rest of the music and become over-bloated. I've toyed with the idea of blocking their slot port to see if that eliminates the problem but to be honest, it's only on occasional tracks that it is noticeable. Other than this, I think they are terrific monitors.
They definitely love power. I use the Bel Canto REF1000 MkII monoblocks and they really like having 500W per side available.
Interesting discussion, I have owned a pair of BE-718 (non US) for several months now sat on Partington Broadsides.
Has anybody compared the version with standard crossovers against the ones with modded US crossovers?
I've a range of amps , Burson PI-100, Hypex UCD400's, Avondale NCC200's and also find the upper mids to be slightly thin, midrange gives the impression of being a little distant, the treble can sometimes be a little sharp.

The question is will the modded crossovers be a worthwhile upgrade? every review I've read where these speakers had glowing results used the modded crossovers
Thanks Hens. I guess you cannot get everything in life. I was looking for a sweet treble when I found the Usher. I used to have Paradigm Studio Reference 60v3 but the treble is very metallic sounding. I cannot stand the zing produce by metal tweeter (or aluminium). I used to listen to Thiel but the same tweeter problem although they produce very revealing sound (honest and very transparent). The Usher has the best treble as far as I can say (people may differ) especially on acoustic track. As far as the lower bass concern, I now try to avoid any recording involving double bass.
Thanks for this excellent review of the Be-718 speakers. I have to agree with most of what is said.

I recently purchased a pair of Be-718 speakers -- only a few days ago and not completely broken in yet. I spent a little bit of time listening to them using my Marantz MM8003 8-channel amplifier (140 WPC) through my Onkyo 885 preamplifier and Panasonic Blu-ray player (I don't have a dedicated CD player yet). My previous speakers were the Superone NHT speakers ($350 speakers that I bought about 10 years ago), and listening to the Ushers for the first time I immediately noticed that the Ushers were so much clearer in the high-frequency and the soundstage was much wider and deeper on the Ushers than the NHT speakers -- probably because of the bigger sized drivers. I felt like the sound was coming from everywhere with the Ushers and they simply disappeared when listening to them.

I listened to the Best of Diane Krall CD and noticed that the clarity in the piano, bass and her voice was just amazing -- I felt like all the musicians were in my room. There was a clear separation between the instruments.

However, when I listened to Wycliff Jean's Carnival II and MIA's Paper Plane CD, I thought that the bass was a little soft compared to the NHT speakers. The bass on the NHT seems to be tighter -- probably because of the smaller 6.5" woofer -- and cleaner, but the NHTs do not have the bass extension of the Ushers, which made the piano sound on the Ushers fully present. One other thing that I noted when comparing the NHT and the Ushers speakers was that there is a slightly lack of energy in the upper midrange on the Ushers. It seems that the voice of MIA (track 1 of Paper Plane CD) did not pop out as much as I heard it on the NHTs.

I do have to agree that Ushers do an amazing job with the high-frequencies. Listening to the guitar on Rodrigo y Gabriela's debut album was quite an experience. I really did not appreciate that CD on the NHTs until I heard it on the Ushers.

Please report back after you had adequate burn-in with the Ushers. I suspect the midrange will open up more as well as extensions on both ends. Also, it is important to fine tune the speaker placement in your listening room as it is quite sensitive.


40wpc is very low for usher. I'm using with 250wpc tubes power and they sing!
I auditioned Ushers with a 100 watt solid state amp. I would agree, there was a lot missing. Maybe I need a 400 watt amp. Why would I bother with a 400 watt boat anchor? Considering your equipment, I think there are better choices. I am currently looking into the Merlin TSM. Very well reviewed. They would probably sing with your setup.

What 100 watt solid state amp are you referring to above? You can't judge the speakers' performance if mismatched or underpowered.

It is an Audio Research amp. I have never had a problem driving anything with it. I just listened to them again through a 200 plus watt Marantz solid state amp about a week ago and did not hear a difference. In fact, the Audio Research piece I feel did a better job driving them. They sounded good, just not for me.

I can see why others would like them. They are smooth sounding. The best that I ever heard them was through 1000 Watt McIntosh Monoblocks. I am not sure that the overall sound of the speaker changed that much even with that much power. What I am saying is that I can see how his experience with these speakers parallels my own. I did not fell involved no matter how hard I tried.
I'm still breaking in an American pair of Tiny Dancers. I'm at around 300 hours and the sound continues to improve.I hear none of the anomalies people here are complaining about. The highs are as accurate as any I've sizzle and no ringing. Double bass is fast and clean except for the very lowest notes.

Too bad the American distributor is barred from shipping over seas. it sounds like all the tweaks take a fine speaker to a whole nother level
It could be that my room was not big enough at the time of audution. Gary, how big is your listening room?
I have lived with a pair of Be-718's for a year now and can report that they really do begin to open up after 100+ hours of listening. That surprised me because I'm basically a non-believer when it comes to the idea that electronics require any kind of break-in period, and only slightly less skeptical when it comes to speakers. However, since conventional speakers are in part mechanical devices made of various materials I can see where a break-in period may affect the sound as the drivers "loosen up". It certainly seems that way with the Be-718.

My other main stereo speakers are Epos es14's which I purchased new in 1988. After living with the Epos for such a long time the Ushers at first sounded very thin to me with a recessed lower midrange. There was no comparison in the highs however. The Ushers have the sweetest high end that simply soars beyond the range of the human ear. There is no zinging, ringing or breakup. Now that I have 100+ hours on the Ushers the midrange continues to come out of hiding and is moving to the front. However, I'm not sure that the midrange will ever match the Epos, so I'm keeping both. I do not find the bass of the Ushers to bloom, at least in my listening room which has a 19' ceiling.

I am a fan of vintage SS equipment. I have three SAE amps... a 2400, an A201 and a class A X-10. All three can drive the Ushers with authority as they all have high damping factors. I have two SUMO Athena and one Athena II preamps. All have class A topology and mate with the SAE amps like they were made for each other. They make some sweet music with the Epos and the Ushers.

I'll be keeping the Ushers. They do almost everything you could ask from a monitor. Now, if I could just get the Epos and the Ushers to mate...
These stands provide an unexpectedly marked improvement in the sound. Previously I used 30+ kilogram sand filled steel stands (from the Wilson Cubs), with bituminous dots as an interface between stands and speaker. I also tried cinder blocks with Blu-Tac, in order to vary the height of the speakers.

The Usher stands bolt, literally, to the underside of the speaker - they screw tight, and small silicone pads are squeezed between speaker and top plate. The plinths are heavy, fashioned from some kind of stone, and feature adjustable spikes, with optional separate metal discs to protect the floor. The build quality is outstanding.

Previously I complained of lack of speed and definition in the bass. The stands noticeably improve matters. In fact, sound throughout the frequency spectrum gains in detail. There are no down sides.

KCAudio in Melbourne were very helpful. KC himself said that Usher say the stands were specifically tuned for there monitors and I have no reason to disagree. Interestingly reviewers and UsherUSA do not seem to emphasize the advantages of the stands - I'll leave it to them to explain this, but frankly their lack of enthusiasm led me to do without the stands for two years - and frankly I look back on that time with regret. The stands definitely make music more enjoyable.

As a side note - I added a Wyred 4 Sound DAC2 to the system, using the Audio Research CD1 as a transport - The W4S is phenomenal. Again, no down sides, and only gains to be had in terms of articulacy, bass weight, and definition. The ARC CD1 is old, but still easily bested the Oppo BDP83-SE for CD playback - so to have its onboard DAC so obviously outdone by the W4S was a pleasant surprise. And all this further revealed the Be718s strengths - they really are very good.
I missed this thread somehow, and though realizing its dormant, thought I'd contribute.
I have the BE-718's, presently bi-wired to two Cambridge 840W's in bi-amp mono bloc config, so 500 watts according to the manual (though the math of 200+200=500 eludes me). Preamp is the Cambridge 840E, with various source units. Audioquest DIY cables. I just hooked them up again after sitting dormant for 3 years.
Sitting right next to them are Wilson Sophia's driven by Sonic Frontier Power 2, so same room comparison. I find the Usher's compare very favourably in most areas except for lower bass, which isn't surprising given the size of drivers. Great detail, soundstage and high details.
I picked them up in Taiwan whilst there visiting my son who was living there at the time, so they aren't the US x-over modified models.
As Bezimienny points out, the stands are very complimentary, in sound and looks, and I didn't even know they existed until I saw them in the store in Taiwan....and I researched the speaker very well and specifically went looking to buy them in Taiwan. Also agree with Bezimienny, why the stands aren't marketed more aggressively is odd.
The price of these speakers in Taiwan are ridiculously low making them one of the worlds great audio bargains IMHO.
Bezimienny, any chance you know the bolt thread and size for the bolts that mount the speaker to the stand? Mine are long lost in one of my moves.
After a long time absent, a brief update.  I now have two pairs of the original Be-718s - and I've upgraded both of them to USA status, with crossovers from GR Research.  The crossovers did improve resolution and bass articulation.  The improvement was significant - at least as great as adding the Usher stands.

I also tried the Diamond tweeters - to my ears, the Beryllium version is sweeter (and I reverted to that).

Both sets of speakers are driven by W4S amps - an STi500, and an ST1000 (with a DAC 2 DSD SE).  The main music system is now computer based - with Pure Music software; the home theatre has the Oppo BDP 83 SE. 

Periodically I've auditioned more expensive alternatives - just to see if it's worth a change.  Nothing has really struck me as significantly better.  Yes, a pair of Wilson Alexias would do it - but they're not a realistic option for me.

Definitely the Ushers relish an improved input - the upgrades in DACs have been instantly obvious - in fact the DSD SE is with Wyred now, being upgraded to V2 status.

Of course, the Be718s are no longer manufactured - but if you can find some second-hand, I wouldn't hesitate.  Cheers, Robert.