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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.5.10 in direct/integer mode 1, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega, Apple iPod Classic 160 AIFF-loaded, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pure i20, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, RWA-modifed Astell&Kern AK100
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent, Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03
Power & integrated amplifiers: FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2; Crayon Audio CFA-02, Bakoon AMP-12R, Goldmund/Job 225, Gato DIA-250, Aura Note Premier
Loudspeakers: soundkaos Wave 40, Boenicke Audio W5, German Physiks HRS-120, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, Zu Audio Submission
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom; KingRex uArt, Zu Event and Light Harmonic LightSpeed split USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; Van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fiber Toslink
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 + Vibex Two 1R on amps, Vibex Three 11R on front-end components
Equipment rack:
Artesania Exoteryc double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Desktop system: iPod/AK100 digital transports, Wyred4Sound minT, Gato Audio DIA-250, Gallo Strada II + TR-3D
Room size:
Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 9.5m open floor plan combines the living/listening room, kitchen and office. Added to this space the speakers see the air volume of the entry hall and a long corridor plus the 2nd-storey 6 x 9.5m loft. Wood-panel ceiling slopes up to the loft. Parquet flooring. Lots of non-parallel surfaces ('vertical gable' windows, twin-angle ceiling, spiral staircase enclosure, fireplace enclosure). For a pictorial tour, see here.
Review component retail: €3'500/pr

Sven Boenicke and Milomir 'Miki' Trosic at HighEnd Munich 2014

Ode to joy: A second (short) look at the W5. By featuring as the first room of my show report, the Boenicke/Auris exhibit stood out very deliberately as one of my favourites and certainly so for its combo of sound quality, living-room-friendly looks and speaker size—as you see, neither the W8 nor the W5 reached their designer's belt line—and what by high-end standards were realistic prices.

As I'd stated in their original December 2013 review, I would trade my CHF16'450/pr Boenicke Audio B10 floorstanders for two pairs of W5. The Ash review loaners went to my wife. To get my own Walnut pair then took six months. Shortly after my review, Peerless had discontinued the W5's 5-inch mid/woofer. Once Sven Boenicke ran out—which didn't take long—a frenzied search began for remaining inventories at various vendors. This merely postponed the inevitable. Soon the driver was no more. Sven then eventually negotiated for his very own production run with Peerless. This took both a quantity commitment and extended lead time of more than 3 months but finally those drivers did arrive in Basel. Rebirth!

To bridge that gap and accommodate ongoing customer inquiries, Sven had identified a Tangband flat-cone woofer which, with suitable crossover parts changes, he could offer in the interim. As it turned out with his particular cabinet loading, this very potent long-throw driver with massive roll surround produces 4dB more output at 50Hz. That's significant. It made the W5 suitable for solo use in even quite large spaces. Hence it's since become an option called W5se for special edition. When their Munich exhibit played the W5, people invariably looked for a subwoofer but in vain. All that room-filling bass really came just from these small woofers gripped by 100 watts of Auris Audio 6550 push/pull valve power.

Prior to picking up my walnutters, I had done a final comparison between my wife's W5 and my B10 both for our own assessment and also the amusement of music-loving but non-audiophile friends. Though the B10s' opposed sidefiring 10-inchers worked rather better in our new space than they had in the narrower layout of Villeneuve, the little stand-mounts still beat them on speed, openness and transparency. By contrast the B10 sounded heavier, darker and just a tad hazy - quite as though the in-room power response favoured the upper and mid bass whilst depressing fine upper harmonics. With Ivette's Ash W5, I ran my tall white Zu Submission's low-pass at 45Hz for just a bit of bottom-octave subwoofer assist. At less than $10'000 for the combination, our two friends and us were agreed. In our setup, the threesome had it over the costlier narrow floorstanders.

Rear-firing ambient tiny Tangband tweeter with top-line WBT posts and a slot port.

Returning the latter to Basel to finally conclude our trade's second half, Sven surprised me with a W5se pair in Walnut. Until then I didn't even know of any 'se' version. Upon return to our digs, I had two different finishes and two driver flavours. Enter the reason for this brief missive. With the optional Tangband driver, my Submission's 4th-order low-pass set to 20Hz still outputs too much in the mid bass to blend ideally. For 95% of all music, it's no longer needed. Whilst this does eliminate true 20Hz reach, it now gives me useful solo reach to ~35Hz and very solid output at 50Hz.

The upshot is very simple. If your room conforms to my prior room's narrower dimensions and short-wall setup—5.5 x 12m—you're better off with the Peerless driver. If your room is similar to our current one (roughly 100m² of open floor plan plus a 2nd-storey loft), the W5se becomes a surprising solo proposition, no subwoofer needed or really useful. If you did want to drive a sub, I'd seriously look for that rare specimen whose 20Hz low-pass is steeper than 24dB/octave to prevent undue leakage into the 40Hz+ octave. With the W5se, that would become audibly counter-productive and undesirable. In Tangband's catalogue in fact, that feisty 5-inch driver appears in their subwoofer driver category.

The 'se' sports the same W5 rear-panel decal and doesn't appear as a separate model on the website. It's simply an option buyers can mull over at purchase time. Either way this Swiss mini continues to be a sterling option for the 99-percenters who peruse the majority of show reports aghast over both the pricing of many modern speakers and their size and general styling.

When I reviewed the W5 half a year ago, there was little to no additional feedback on it. With its showing at HighEnd 2014, that's changed. If you needed additional opinions, there are now a number of veteran commentators on record who are equally smitten with and also befuddled by this petite Swiss performer.

As my own trade-in confirms, sometimes less isn't just more, it's plain enough! With sufficient power behind it (the €1'695 Goldmund Job 225 is one good and cost-effective match), the vast majority of listeners with normal-sized rooms really won't need more speaker. And given just how unobtrusive its dimensions and styling are, the Boenicke Audio W5 should also encounter little to no resistance relative to décor and live-with-ability. Hence my ode to joy opener. With the new 'se' option, this little speaker just added to its already solid list of strong points.

Boenicke Audio website