Unbelievable Wide Sound Stage For Tiny Speakers!
December 10, 2014
In many ways the SS-CS5 reminds me of the vintage Baby Advents designed by the legendary Advent Corporation (founded by the even more legendary Henry Kloss). The Baby Advents had a big sound and decent bass response for their small footprint. While Sony has bragging rights for innovations on the electronic side of things they have been lauded quite a bit less on speaker design. The SS-CS5 are an impressive step forward.
The solid, well built enclosure itself is an uninspiring rectangular box with what feels like a vinyl finish (although, according to Sony, underneath the finish is actual wood). Yes, they are inexpensive bookshelf speakers…but a wood finish feels so much more high-end in my opinion. The cloth grills are also rather standard and boring. Remove the grills though and you are looking at a very handsome face: the three drivers are quite attractive and when exposed give the set a much more contemporary feel.
BASIC FEATURES & SETUP
The cabinet is a three-way design featuring what Sony calls a ¾-inch super tweeter (output up to 50 kHz), 1-inch tweeter and 5-inch woofer (output down to 53 Hz). There is also a port directly behind the woofer. The port is an obvious necessity with a bass driver of this size.
I connected the SS-CS5s to a two channel amp and fed it the optical output from my Apple TV. I used vocal tracks from Diane Schuur, Dire Straits as well as Lorde to evaluate the overall balance of the system. As usual with Sony speakers (and especially given the inclusion of the super tweeter) the high-end response was more than enough (too much). After making some adjustments with iTune's onboard EQ I was able to tame the highs and balance out the sound to where it was very listenable, clear and full. That last adjective is what I will talk about a bit more: full.
In what on the surface looks like a simple three way design Sony has managed to create a speaker that with no active electronics creates a sound field that literally wraps around you. The sound is incredibly live and expansive with the vocals rock solid in the middle of the soundstage. Especially when listening to the Lorde tracks I kept looking to see if somehow my main system was on and powering the rear speakers!
Placed on the floor and with a few EQ tweaks you can tease some pretty decent bass out of SS-CS5 (although I feel the bass is not tight as would be the case with a sealed design). They perform well with modern pop music (with it’s electronic rhythm section) and excel with jazz and classical. As there is a separate optional subwoofer you can add this to the set at a later date if you really want more on the low end.
I also placed them on stands and was a bit less satisfied with the overall balance. I feel that these speakers will produce a more balanced sound when they can interact with the surfaces around them (e.g. the floor, wall, bookshelf or table).
As strictly bookshelf speakers, and with a little equalization applied, the system provides a balanced sound that should satisfy casual and even more discerning listeners. The expanded soundstage and articulate vocals though put it in a very different class. I can’t overemphasize how impressed I was with the width and depth of the soundstage created by these very unassuming little speakers. And they are dirt-cheap.... Read More