Sony SS-CS5 Speaker

These affordable speakers deliver high-res audio

The premise behind Sony's SS-CS5 stereo bookshelf speakers is that their 3/4-inch supertweeters make them good for high-resolution audio. From a purely technical standpoint, that's true.

Whether or not high-res audio ever achieves importance is still an open question, but if you're into it, it makes some sense to seek out tweeters with extended response.

What matters is how these low-priced mini speakers sound.

 

Sony SS-CS5 Features and Specs

Sony SS-CS3 top 2
Brent Butterworth

• 0.75-inch fabric-dome supertweeter
• 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 supertweeter, of course, but also the foamed mica woofer cone. Seeing this material in a woofer cone is unusual, but it's admirably light and stiff — as a woofer cone should be.

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

Sony SS-CS5 Performance

Sony-SS-CS5-back-2.jpg
Brent Butterworth

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 $200+ 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.

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 minispeaker like the Music Hall Marimba.

Sony SS-CS5 Measurements

Sony SS-CS5 frequency response
Brent Butterworth

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
Brent Butterworth

The SS-CS5 is one of the smoothest-sounding speakers you can buy for under $400. It can compete with many of the decent $400/pair minispeakers, although most of those have a 6.5-inch woofer and an extra 10 or 20 hertz of bass. If you want a $200/pair minispeaker for light pop, jazz, folk or classical, the Sony SS-CS5 is a good choice.