Sony SS-CS5 Bookshelf Speakers Review

These mid-range speakers deliver high-end audio—but not without a few drawbacks.

Vinyl records and loudspeaker box on hardwood floor

Jorg Greuel / Getty Images

The idea behind Sony's SS-CS5 stereo bookshelf speakers is to deliver high-resolution sound at an affordable price. Their 3/4-inch super tweeters extend the frequency response and deliver mid-range clarity that's hard to find for less than $200.

Whether or not high-res audio ever achieves mainstream appeal is still an open question, but if you're an audiophile on a tight budget these speakers need to be considered.

Sony SS-CS5 Features and Specs

Sony SS-CS3 top 2

Sony

• 0.75-inch fabric-dome super tweeter
• 1-inch fabric-dome tweeter
• 5.25-inch foamed mica woofer
• Five-way speaker cable binding posts
• Dimensions: 13.1 x 7 x 8.6 in
• Weight: 9.4 lb

What's unusual about this speaker is the super tweeter, of course, but also the foamed mica woofer cone. Seeing this material in a woofer cone is unusual, but it's still light and stiff—just as a woofer cone should be.

Even though the grills are attached with old-school grommets instead of magnets, the speakers look great with the grill on or off.

Sony SS-CS5 Performance

Sony SS CS5 back

Sony

The SS-CS5 reveals its strengths and weaknesses quickly. Its real strength is voice reproduction. Its weakness is that the 5.25-inch woofer doesn't put out much bass.

The overall sound was nice and full, even on non-vocal recordings, but the treble sounded comparatively unrefined. It has some peaks and dips in the response above about 4 kHz.

For a $150 speaker set, the woofer performed about as well as expected. Purists will find there isn't enough bottom end to get their foot tapping or head bobbing, with the low-end dropping off at 53Hz.

The SS-CS5 has a fuller sound, and maybe a slightly smoother midrange than the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR, but its treble is softer.

If you want a fuller sound with more bass, get a subwoofer or spend the extra for the SS-CS3 tower. If you want a more detailed, audiophile-pleasing sound, get a more audiophile-oriented mini speaker like the Music Hall Marimba.

Sony SS-CS5 Measurements

Sony SS-CS5 frequency response

Lifewire

This chart shows the frequency response of the SS-CS5 on axis (blue trace) and the average of responses at 0, ±10, ±20, and ±30 degrees horizontally (green trace). Generally speaking, the flatter and more horizontal these lines look, the better the speaker sounds.

The SS-CS5's response looks pretty smooth, especially for the price range. On-axis, it's +/-3.4 dB from 70 hertz to 20 kHz, which is an extremely good result for a speaker at this price. There's a slight boost around 1.1 kHz, which may make voices stand out a bit better. Plus there's a slight downward tilt in the tonal balance, which means the speaker is unlikely to sound bright or trebly or thin. Averaged on/off-axis response is close to the on-axis response, which is good.

Impedance averages 8 ohms and dips to a low of 4.7 ohms/-28° phase, so no problem there. Anechoic sensitivity measures 86.7 dB at 1 watt/1 meter, so figure somewhere around 90 dB in-room. This speaker should work nicely with just about any amp with 10 watts or more per channel.

Sony SS-CS5 Final Take

Sony SS-CS5 top view

Sony

The SS-CS5 is one of the smoothest-sounding speakers you can buy for under $200. It can compete with many of the decent $200 mini speaker pairs, although most of those have a 6.5-inch woofer and an extra 10 or 20 hertz of bass. If you want a $200 mini speaker pair for light pop, jazz, folk or classical, the Sony SS-CS5 is a great choice.