X5 Review

July 16, 2021

The sound of the X5 reminds me of what Jerry Seinfeld said about his old show... really. It was a show about nothing. Once this speaker has 100+ hours to run in, it is truly a speaker about nothing. It simply vanishes. You are not listening to the speaker and constantly analyzing. Thinking about the things you like, and also the little things you don’t like and will have to learn to live with, as with every other pair of speakers you have owned. How certain recordings would drive you crazy as they interacted with your speakers and room. That little honk in this vocal or that. The brightness of certain instruments. I really don’t hear any of that with the X5. I have owned a number of speakers, and any of the good ones would do the usual floor to ceiling image with the vocalist always appearing at the point where the wall and ceiling met. Sound stage was always at least a few feet wider than the speakers. Depth varied with the quality of the speakers. Well, like any good speaker driven by a really good tube system, the X5 does all of the above of course. I was worried they would not have the micro detail of the big Audio Nirvana drivers. Wrong. They have all of it and more. The sound stage with the X5 is immense and very 3D, and will almost wrap around you on certain recordings. What they lack is anything I don’t like. They simply are not there. I find that the speakers really have very little interaction with the room.

Ultimately, I guess I would say the best compliment I can give the X5 is that it doesn’t sound like anything. It is truly a speaker about nothing. That was pretty much Clayton’s design goal and he nailed it. I know that is what I try to make my tube gear sound like... nothing at all. Just the music. The X5 simply vanishes. It is like removing the speaker from the equation. It is not warm or cold, fast or slow, bright or dark and seems to have very little interaction with the room compared to other speakers I have lived with. It is not from the East Coast or West Coast American School, nor does it tend towards the British or French sound, nor the horn or full range sound, or any other. I have heard all of those types of speakers and lived with a few. They can all be endearing, but they all have a “sound” and compromises. The X5 really doesn’t. It just isn’t there. You don’t even notice them because you are simply listening to the recording. I can objectively analyze why that is so, with the open baffle design, perfect integration of the drivers, minimal crossover, an almost full range driver from 1 KHz to beyond 20 KHz that is mounted in a wave guide, much like a horn, a wonderful 12 inch mid bass driver that gently rolls off at about 90 Hz, and a built in powered sub that has the perfect fill in below 90 Hz.

Don Sachs