Country of Origin


Courbet N°5

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref as USB bridge/SD transport, Jay's Audio CDT2 MkII & DAC2-SE
Preamplifier: Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, SIT-3, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; SAG AIO
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar; Kroma Audio Mimí; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL 3000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €3'000/pr in matte white, gloss black or light Oak veneer


It exists between people, hifi components and audio companies.

Take Olivier Visan and Simon Lee. One operates the Davis Acoustics speaker house of France whose 300-strong catalogue of drivers with exotic membranes of graphite, kevlar and carbon-fibre supplies brands like Apertura, Avantgarde Acoustics, Goldmund, Jadis, MBL and more. The other used to head April Music but today runs Simon Audio Labs out of Korea's Seoul.

As friends, they enjoy sharing an exhibit at Munich HighEnd. After this year's installment, Simon again accompanied Olivier back to Troyes where together they listened to Simon's All-In-One CD receiver and Olivier's Courbet N°5, a slim-line compact 3-way floorstander.

"Do you want matte white, piano-gloss black or light oak? I think the matte white with wooden plinth is really nice."

I agreed with Olivier who says about himself that he's an engineer who married a pianist then took over his father Michel's loudspeaker business. Because I already had Simon's AIO on hand and a full-length review of it in our archives, today's gig was on. Specifically, I'd review the N°5 speakers and AIO as a system which both makers had signed off on beforehand. They appreciate that readers like system tests. Of course it doesn't mean that your local Davis dealers will necessarily carry SAG or vice versa. This simply is a proven combo that both men enjoy, that attracted attention in Munich and that I could easily recreate for guaranteed synergy.

The Courbet N°5 is a front-ported 4-driver 3-way with 28mm soft-dome tweeter, 13cm Kevlar mid and paralleled 13cm carbon-fibre woofers. The slightly slanted lot slots in just below 1 metre tall with a tidy 16×25.5cm footprint and very manageable 18kg. Filter hinges sit at 400Hz and 4kHz to have the midrange reach unusually high. Sensitivity is 90dB and published bandwidth spans 50-25'000Hz. Given Olivier's expertise at designing/manufacturing advanced drive units, one expects far from run-of-the-mill transducers. We'll let him present those details and the gestation story of the N°5. Chanel after all don't own the exclusive on that number. As to Courbet, Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. Committed to painting only that which he could see, he rejected academic convention and the romanticism of the previous generation. From that we might assume that the Courbet N°5 too is dedicated to realism not romanticized interpretations.

"As you can imagine, the purpose of Courbet N° 5 is to propose a nice-looking speaker with good sound. To remain an attractively slim tower, we use nothing bigger than 5" drivers, thus the name. When you reviewed my MV One in Switzerland, it was the 'UFO' of our catalogue where most of our speakers use a similar kevlar cone for their midrange. This technology we know well because we have produced such drivers from the very beginning of our company in 1986. For the bass, the cones must obviously be stronger so we often use carbon fibre like we do here. The two small woofers connect in parallel, giving the combined cone surface of an 8.5" woofer spread across two motors.

"The technology for the tweeter is very interesting and took us time to develop. It has gaps even behind the surround to reduce distortion. These drawings will convey a better understanding. The tweeter voice coil diameter is 28" to lower the resonant frequency to 1'000Hz rather than the 1'250Hz typical for 25mm voice coils." The cross section of Olivier's tweeter in fact reminded me of Laurence Dickie's tapered tube geometry for Vivid. "The enclosure separates internally below the midrange and the small rear vent on top isn't a bass reflex, just a decompression vent. The midrange works down to 300Hz. The front port is an actual bass reflex for the two woofers which install in the same air volume.

"In these pictures of the internal cable loom, you can see that for the tweeter the cable is very thin, for the midrange it gets thicker but is still from the same family of Hifi Cable et Cie's portfolio with Teflon dielectric. For the woofers, the cable gauge is lower once again to reflect the higher current-carrying requirements. The tweeter is highly sensitive and the very high-gauge hookup wiring there is a good combination. For the Courbet range, we really experimented extensively with many different cables. The tweeter wire is really thin. I was amazed the first time I saw it. It strangely transformed the sound by increasing output yet reducing brightness. As to kevlar, we've been using it for 33 years. This now is the 6th generation. We like this material because it gives us a lot of information, especially in the mid frequencies. The kevlar cone in the Courbet N°5 is the same for the whole Courbet range and also Balthus line. It has a special coating in the back to render it damp proof. This 5-inch cone is always associated with a 1-inch voice coil which seems to be the ideal combination."