Amusement. Rigolade. Plaisanterie. It's what Google Translator claims fun means in French. Amusement in the sense of enjoyable entertainment seems to fit best. But what makes the M5 fun? A prior component I'd called out as being fun was the affordable Meze 99 Neo headphone. I would never call Sennheiser's HD800 fun even though it's the far more resolved and advanced design. Clearly max resolution has nothing to do with fun. In fact, resolution and the obsession with it are peculiar to critical listening. And one thing which fun most assuredly is not—hello!—is being critical. That's the rabbit hole. Critical listening implies that at will, we focus our attention down to notice more. It involves an effort. It's not sustainable for very long. Heightened by our effort to be critical, serious and hear more, our attention exploits the extra magnification of advanced systems as ingress points. When attention wanes from fatigue, we experience the same system in non-critical mode. Sadly, more often than not now we find that it no longer really talks to us. Its special features of audiophile FX turn out to be a hindrance to fun. It calls up the adage of 'nothing fails like success' where success is equivalent to arriving at a costly high-resolution system which we only listen to when we're in a serious mood and have the spare attention required for it. We just don't use it for fun and R&R. It needn't be this way but all too often is.

An excellent assessment for whether a system is fun is to clock how much we listen to it; and for how long each time. This isn't a case of less is more. This is a case of a lot more is a lot more. To pick up the still hanging review thread, the M5 of my first round-up was a great fun speaker. It was uncomplicated, unpretentious and conducive to lengthy sessions. The second hardware assembly had made it more serious. I had manipulated it into a vehicle for more critical listening which is always shorter-lived because our faculties burn up extra energy. And yes, I still haven't isolated what the M5's fun ingredient is. I'm afraid like ne sais quoi, it remains ambiguous. Pointers include words like juicy, loose, easy, chewy and bouncy. In audiophile lingo, more bottom up than top down. The conglomerate effect was tangible and easily demonstrable. I only had to go back to my original setup. However, saying anything more definitive about the 'it' factor eludes my dissective abilities.

Bibliothèque champ proche. From my intro, it's Googly French for nearfield monitor. Time to admit that I don't really believe in such a thing. There simply are speakers whose vertical driver spread is too large to cohere at 70cm close on my desktop, never mind which fit on it. Then there are endless minis whose small drivers cluster tight enough to behave close to the theoretical point-source ideal. Another mandate for nearfield fitness is to sound complete and full at the lower levels appropriate at close proximity. To my mind, anything that meets these criteria is suitable, whether its maker calls it nearfield monitor or not. Alain Pratali's M5 certainly met this target. For my desk, it was simply too large. As you see next, what fits there must be significantly narrower, with a footprint no more than a CD jewel case. That's not the M5.

However, as mocked up in the second-last photo, I did move my chair to within 2m of the M5 whose toe-in followed the change face-on. That worked swell. So does our Acelec Model One, Boenicke W5, EnigmAcoustic Mythology M1 or the sound|kaos Vox3a I reviewed months earlier. Simply none of their makers calls them a nearfield monitor. And, they work just as good in a typical audiophile setup at 4-5m from the chair; as does the M5. So much for 'dedicated' nearfield monitors. To my mind, the perfect nearfield specialist is active to maximally shrink the required enclosure/driver sizes and fit unobtrusively on an average desktop. That said, moving a passive speaker well away from the front wall then sitting rather close to it has many benefits. It creates a 'free-space nearfield' bubble that minimizes room interference and creates a more immersive experience. Try it. It costs nothing, just some curiosity.

Whilst sharing the same unique ultra-light tweeter as Alain's bigger models, the M5's overall voicing differs from the M1 and M3 already reviewed. Those are more 'serious' speakers. In the right hardware mix, they can be great fun too but are more demanding to balance out just right. The M5 is more fun with far less fuss. As logic dictates, that means it's less serious. Ouch? If like me you're of the wicked belief that listening to music ought to be fun, you'll appreciate how being less serious is precious. It's uncomplicated, easy, satisfying, always ready, never in your face to challenge or annoy you. In short, like a perfect friend.

That's the M5. In our 6x4m room, it was all you'd need. Our 60wpc integrated was just right. The subwoofer wasn't on. Big SPL still appropriate for the distance were no issue. I deliberately kept audiophile verbiage at bay for this gig because it'd do this speaker a disservice. That's not what it's about. The one serious thing about it—and it's most serious indeed—is just how a designer like Alain Pratali learned what that elusive 'it' is to strategically imbue the M5 with it. Many which measure great miss out on the fun. Though today's end result was all fluffy ease like that perfect soufflé, most deflate when put to the test. Clearly getting at easy isn't easy. Thankfully that's not our concern. Only the results matter. Here I find myself in perfect agreement with the designer's promise: "Easy, full of life but no fatigue".

Quite so and on all counts!

Alain Pratali comments: "I just read everything with care and pleasure. We 100% agree on all points. What more can be said? You listen like me. This is a very strong speaker. You can listen at solid SPL and that's nice. Now we are going to get down to serious business. If logic follows, you should find Junior tw2 really interesting because with it you'll have the sound I prefer under all circumstances. You'll see that it's still another world. Cyrille Pinton, development engineer at Supravox, now agreed to produce my special 25cm/10" woofer in carbon to achieve the lowest possible distortion rate. The Junior you'll review will be at the top of my art which is to say, with two back-to-back tweeters on top for the most homogeneous omni dispersion; and my own 25cm neo carbon woofer which must be the ultimate for my 4th-order band-pass application. It just won't be next month because we're overwhelmed with work. I hope in January. A thousand thanks for your wonderful work and constructive honesty. You confirm to me what I feel when listening."