Context. To describe the sound, allow me a brief detour into a prior version of it. Except for models which do with reflections from their sealed ear cups, headphones generally don't see room gain. So they don't see its impact on the time domain where late-arriving reflections add acoustic reverb. With box speakers, this reverb injection is at max in the bass. Here omni dispersion reflects off all our walls, floor, ceiling and hard furnishings. My reference for recorded truth thus are the Raal-Requisite SR1a below which eliminate even headfi's much diluted form of boundary gain. As true transformer-less ribbons mounted in winged dipole baffles, there are no reflections, no stored energies. That means a maximally lucid very fast sound of intense transparency and dynamics. It betrays none of typical speakerdom's thickening and blurring in the bass; none of its overlay onto the midband. I approximate that gestalt with box speakers by crossing them out at -6dB/80Hz to hand over to active Ripol bass. Its highly directional cardioid dispersion eliminates most room gain and its time delay across the first 2+ octaves. Those arriving from regular box bass—that's everyone except dipole owners—at first hear lack of room gain as less or weak bass. Normal bloom, extra fat, warmth and mass are all gone. Once they acclimate, they notice how the associated temporal discontinuity has disappeared, too. Bass now is demonstrably more adroit, light and articulate. It's no longer bedeviled by late stoppage, by overhang and in-room pressure murkiness. If they're fans already of open-backed thin-film planar headphones like HifiMan Susvara or electrostats, they'll feel right at home. They won't miss the lack of thick heavy bass and its weighting of the lower vocal range. In fact they welcome its absence as a lack of temporal blur and room disturbances. They hear it as a clear gain in textural seamlessness and overall intelligibility so an upshot in resolution. Now we have today's sonic archetype.

The SC5 behave very similar. That'll appeal for the same reasons so also dispels by them. Raal freaks applaud to shout out "finally a small speaker that (mostly) sounds like my ribbon headfi". Fans of box-speaker sound predictably decry the lack of lower midrange weight/warmth and having to trade heavy pressurized for light velocity bass with no sub bass. So this smallest DMAX sits right on a deep dividing line. On one side is the promised land; if you're a believer. On the other side is a no-fly area if you're not. There's no demilitarized zone in-between. It's very basic. Know thyself to understand whether the SC5 plays for or against you.

Re: (mostly), nothing I know does treble like true ribbons within mere inches from my ears. The SC5 didn't equal the Raal's airiness or brilliance on high. Nothing else I have does either. Contrary to popular assumptions, the SR1a also hit 30Hz. The Slovakians do not. By virtue of no energy storage, the ribbon earspeakers are also more dynamic and transparent. As sealed boxes, the SC5 must still suffer some internal reflections making it back out through surround and diaphragm. What closed box successfully absorbs all internal acoustic energy? Just so, their overall gestalt—call it climate, flavor or presentational style—shared plenty of common ground with my Serbian headfi. It's why calling the SC5 a compact speaker version of a premium open-backed planar headphone really is on point. As such I was in love especially since this unusual clarity, in-sight and intelligibility started at low SPL. In my book, superior hifi stays fully present longer as we turn the volume farther counterclockwise. It delays the fading of gumption, saturation and depth.

Looked at from the other end, the sooner playback comes alive just above mute, the higher its resolution and practical utility. Without any noise from its budget amplifier, the SC5 kicked in at pianissimo levels. Being fond of saying that I must hear myself think to work (how loud is a thought?), Andrew's boxes proved truly brilliant for users like myself. At levels low enough to work, I could hear all of my tunes in a more satisfying manner. They didn't devolve into sonic wallpaper or ambient filler. They didn't trigger the fight-or-flight reaction of turn it up or off. They managed this greater satisfaction at still softer SPL than my usual desktop actives. That was the exact opposite of quite loud mixing/mastering jobs which this cube was presumably groomed to excel at so nothing I expected. Yet here was a bona fide nearfield hifi whisperer. Given its overlay with personal workplace priorities, I'd already decided not to return this pair. So I ordered in these Kanto S6 supports to install the SC5 permanently with a better look than that funky IsoAcoustics erector set.

By turning these cubes 90°, you decide whether you prefer the frontal veneer to show horizontal or vertical grain. As you see, I went sideways.

But not everyone likes it quiet. What if one twists this throttle with a goodly crank for far more vroom? What are low, medium and high levels to begin with?

Armed with an SPL app on an iPad, the ambient noise of my desktop measures 20-25dB. What I call low levels—speakers 1m center to center, ears at 80cm—are 35dB average, 55dB peaks. Add 10dB for medium, another 10dB for loud. In this setup, I'd never exceed 55dB/75dB average/peak levels. For pleasure I sit at 45-65dB or below. The SC5 was decidedly unimpressed by my loudness needs so sailed through all swells without distress.

That's quite loud!