Its intriguing to say at least to contemplate about how to start with the review of the Boenicke W5 speakers. By looking at them 90% of audiophile crowd would simply just sway away with their heads in creating an uniform instant hordes of naysayers waving with their red flags of wisdom and truism.
Yet. Hearing W5 and taking a bit time to listen as well as lurking into the impressive history of Sven Boenicke brings a completely different light into the scope. We’re still dealing with the basic philosophical level of theory, even before talking about the sound when it comes to the creation of these Swiss beauties…
“Perhaps I have spent more time in concert halls recording live music than most other loudspeaker manufacturers. Wherever I go, the tone of real instruments is with me. In my memory, in my body - and I promise you can hear it in our products.”
“I confirm with my signature and by our reputation that it is our upright wish and goal to invent, design and manufacture the most honest products possible. That means that here, you do not get less than what meets the eye from the outside. But even much more.”
- Sven Boenicke
Boenicke W designation stands for the solid wood construction and as such is special in the whole company speakers line. All the Boenicke speaker are from solid wood. B line do have side panel from the chosen wood, but the rest is the same as with W series. Sven wanted to keep the things as pure as possible. This is the reason for many design choices; 1st order crossover being among few of them. This is the reason for many design choices; 1st order crossover being among few of them. Further… To engage mid-low frequencies in such potent way, Sven Boenicke designed a dedicated internal labyrinth, that provides low frequency remarkable solidity for such enclosure and a strong foundation for the upper mid base.
Fountek FE85 full range driver in combination with 5.5” Peerless SLS series mid/woofer seamlessly bring music to life. Non expected energy float! The review W5SE model didn’t Peerleesov bass driver, but Tang Band driver, that goes even 10Hz lower then Peerless v W5. Non expected energy float!
Sven philosophy follows the his theory of implementing only one driver unit with natural rolloff. Crossover if needed must be ultra linear and extremely simple 1st order design (only at tweeter). Speaker enclosure is designed in such what, that by itself helps with the cut frequency spectrum of dedicated unit.
W5 bass driver is capable of 16 mm linear excursion and this empowers focused, solid and fast bass. What comes from 2.8 L volume is really something to hear and experience. On the back of the W5 speakers miniature ambient tweeter servers the duties of stand out off-axis response:
“For this reason, the W5 has an excellent polar diagram – which is crucial for breathtaking sound staging capabilities.”
As written in the end you can go feature crazy with the W5’s to the level, that your budget allows you to. Now Swiss premium chocolate can morph into the finest grade hand selected cocoa beans without the deluxe hand cooked cocoa paste. This sum up into the finest hand wrapped truffles. Talking about variety and premium feel galore…
SMALL MONITORS GALORE
I’ve always been a fan of small monitor speakers. Perhaps this routes back into my busier time at the recording studios and my affection for the quality and sound performance of some small studio monitors. But W5 takes things to another level and in the realms of high-end audio. Where most studio monitors of the past and many of the present fails is correct harmonic structure of the music. Pro monitors can deliver impressive level of directness, detail and depth. Yet, their timbral, tone and colour correctness is far from where I can normally talk about the real musical DNA and how music supposed to sound when being reproduced at the level one can call high-end high performance.
We can talk about many technical norms that must be met to bring palpable audio illusion, but without proper voicing or tuning everything collapses at the end. Reproduction of music if far more complex, then most speaker manufacturers are willing to admit or even speak about it openly. This is where Sven milage and experienced trained ears comes into the picture. We too often forget about the real endeavours of making the speaker “sing” to the tune of the real music with its inherited imprint, that triggers our inner complex mechanics to the level of reality, that we can acknowledge such experience as pristine and objective.
Lots of audiophiles and audio critics simply fail in writing about the one and only reference of high-end; Acoustical music recorded in real acoustical spaces. My life’s journey brought me touring with the renowned large accapella ensamble across some of the European “musical” monuments, that offered majestic acoustical spaces. These imprints carved my strong perception of how music should sound in real. We often combined our performances with the classical orchestras or we performed one after another. In that way it was best way for my audio banking psycho acoustical reservoir being loaded with lots of imprints.
As many of you already learn over my reviews and writings I love to talk about the anchor points in high-end musical reproduction. The level of quality and quantity of anchor points revive the believable sound illusion that is close to the real musical events. Some companies and people became an experts in that field. But not thorough the CAD and modelling. They’ve achieved their prominent results in the way it was done back in the mids of last century. With the combination of real technical approach enriched by the actual listenings. For me, one without the other doesn’t make any sense and it cannot work. Playing merely on the joker of the purist tech intellectual excursion creates the speakers, that are impressively specced, but lacks of the proper timbre and harmonical rightness. On other hand sole voicing by ear might bring some aspects, but will lack anything objective, as their designers overlook the most basic physical rules and corner stones of speaker building logic.
We live in the era where anyone can proclaim himself as a grand new speaker designer and manufacturer. And sadly, high-end audio industry is in a bloom of such products, that not only threw the bad light on our society, but utterly dissect and kill the core of the music. I always repeat like crazy how ones love, appreciation and immersing into the music avidly reflects into the end product. This is usually revealed at the first few notes strikes. All the technical extravaganza became superfluous instantly. Instruments must sound like instruments. And human voice like an actual human voice. Nothing added or subtracted. Not overly closed or opened. I can understand some speaker designers urges to prove certain points or proudly show the certain technological highlights. But then they must be labeled as such. An exploration of the idea or simply a creation of an expensive EQ and not the transparent window to the actual musical universe.
Recognising the timbre is like recognising the taste of the food. Each food has its own inherited flavour, that you can instantly distinguish. Its not the matter of discussion or debate. Here we’re talking about the solid facts. And its the same with recognising the real acoustic instruments. They always sound the way they do. There cannot be even a slightest subjectivity of objective twists when it comes to the real high-end audio reproduction. These things must be clear and treated as utmost important.
There is a certain magical impact coming from the small monitors, that no other speakers can handle in similar way. Many audiophiles and music lover settled for this compromise happily and enjoys their respected repertoire without even blinking at the grandness of the large scale sized boxes.
Another thing is God forbidden addition of subwoofer. For some this is still heretic endeavour of highest degree. For many, especially upper echelon Asian audiophiles implemetnation of the subwoofer become the only acceptable reality.
W5 in addition of smartly designed subwoofer smaller (and larger) speakers can gain so much. Another topic worthy of elaboration, but at some other time. Nevertheless. Addition of subwoofer with frequency cut at aprox 40hz creates an interesting bump in performance. We’re possessing an intriguing complex aural receptor machine, that works parallel on many levels. Working both in the realms of actual measurements and pyscho acoustics one can immediately spots the benefit of such system. Mid and upper mid bass gains the scale and proportional raise and most intriguingly the high spectrum become more airy and earthly featherlike. This is an experiment anyone can take with ease if being to strongly embraced with the non believers camp.
Boencike W5 gains in similar way described above. Its a solid performer by itself, but adds to the general performance well noted boost joining with the sub. I didn’t have opportunity to explore W5 with the company’s own subwoofer, but tried it with 3 different subs including Ubiq Audio SUB-12.
SET UP AND PLACEMENT
Easy to set up. Uncluttered..
W5 are non problematic to set in space due to their unique design. As bass driver is positioned sideways, this gives an uncluttered, little fuss instalment, that its not subjected to the typical rules of sidewall affection in the same level of importance as with front loaded woofers. So for most audiophiles this and music lovers, this is no brainer.
THE WORLD OF RESONANCES
Its said, that everything around us resonate at certain frequency. As such world is a multiplex, endless space of different resonating frequencies correlating in one way or another with each other, culminating in something that creates our specific awareness of things around us including everything related to the sound and music.
Enter the perplexed audio and musical realms. Our musical and audio universes are intimately connected with the world of resonances. Wood of the instruments, guitar strings, resonances of the voice etc. Its not easy to aligned with the basic and prime rules of inherited instrument’s DNA, that we call timbre. Timbre is a unique signature of every instrument and it gives us instant recognition of certain instrument. Like mentioned above it can be closely related to the taste of the food. You can at once recognise the taste of strawberry, potatoes or any other food. In similar way, but what it seems more complexly we react to the timbre of the instruments.
Now, we can say that all speakers recreates specific timbre to a certain degree. What does this mean in reality and in the terms of high performance high-end audio reproduction is another story and tour de force. Why? With the mixture of some materials for speakers chassis its hard to get level of believability, that we can get with wood based enclosures. This is by no coincidence implemented by many speaker manufacturers to a lesser or higher degree of general satisfaction. Some went or go too far, some just use the wood for a hint or spike of the tasting.
When set correct and implemented to the right degree, wood as material becomes itself a resonating transducer correlating closely to the sound of the actual instruments.
It becomes very easily fuzzy in the 80-500 hz range for any speaker. This is where the definition of instruments happens and where the three dimensionality of instruments is being formed. And this also closely correlate with the basic material structure and the way certain speaker deals with the resonances. Boenicke W5 speakers represent really well researched and finalised product, that took the best propensity of the wood in creating something different and musical sounding.
Boenicke W5 might come as highly exotic or even esoteric creation, but have no fear. They can be easily driven with well designed integrated amplifier, that needs no mind wrapping labelling and pricing. Tune them to something like newly born Crayon CIA-1 integrated and you’re already taking the heavenly stairs to the gates of the musical enjoyment.
Swiss made!? Yes, its hard not to be both intrigued and impressed with Boenicke W5 speakers looks. Seamless integration of the wood and embossed/carved logo creates a feeling of solidity and completeness as well as premium feel. They are like little big majestic objects, that you would find in some upper echelon high couture shop. With W5 you instantly see where the money was spent.
What makes any speaker good, great or excellent? Among other things its the level of the details it can bring without being strained with physical constraints. Its quite amazing what Boenicke W5 can achieve when driven by the right amplifier. The advantage of small level monitors is the unrestrained level of micro detailing being presented. Of course when they we’re being designed properly. Yet, it does nothing or a little if these details are reproduced in artificial and accented way. The real mastery is combining the feather like lightness with the timbral and harmonic correctness. When this two are met at the certain level and in the right way the real coherency takes place. Our internal indicators lights up and we feel the presence of music in it best way.
Piano recordings reproduction is not an easy task for any speaker to perform. The share complexity of complete piano scale is a giant project to grasp for any speaker under the scope. Of course when talking about the full scale, full bodied sound illusion you need to move quite some air in order to project a palpable projection. Still combining the physical presence with the harmonic correctness in a viable way is darn hard. Here, W5 managed to convey the piano recordings with much of what makes such audio illusion palpable.
Ry Cooder Paris Texas as well as Meeting By The river are both very special albums. Soundwise, atmospherically and close to my hearth. I know both of these albums very very well, and they represent a pinnacle of recording and performing. If you want to hear how good real acoustical music sounds on your speakers, then Meeting By The River expose everything. Recorded by Kavi Alexander at analog tape and with two mikes, this timeless recording simply breaths with life and transcendental energy floating around. W5 retained their solidity across the whole album and reproduced warm and detailed presentation that would blew many bigger speakers away with their delicacy and sense of the space. Down to the smallest details.
As said. Piano replay is never an easy task and combined with the vocal it creates a complexity of it own. I always love to spin Anne Bisson’s Blue Mind to test integrity as well as how speaker under the testing scope holds in the recreation of sibilants and natural decays - delays. Boenicke W5 holded firmly its pace and rhythm as well as the balancing performing act.
Montreux Alexander - The Monty Alexander Trio Live at the Montreux Festival is a true dynamic burst. It can quickly brings any system at their knees. Subtle or avidly! Or in combination of both. This recording along with Doug Mcloud’s Come To Find are both one of my safest compasses for the dynamic purity impact. W5 interacted openly and emphasised on the life like audio reproduction.
Renato Borrghetti Gauchos on AAA Analogue Audio Association is another gentle reminder of importance of analog recording ad it still have its strong place under the stars. Packed with southing musical escape you must be touched by this then something in not right in the grand scheme of things. W5 speakers again motivated me highly into lurking towards the passionate rhythms, rhythmic sound escape and the core of the soulful music.
Baroque Tedesco from 1993 was released by The EAR Enhanced Acoustic Recordings label from our Stefano Bertoncello. Recorded on Revox G 36 tube tape recorder custom modified by Tim De Paravicini and with stocks on N.O.S. tubes on hand. This record was an exploration and antithesis of multi/over miked contemporary techniques, that more then often (and still do) brought unmusical recordings. The EAR team followed the heritage and in footsteps of pioneers like Kenneth Wilkinson, Christopher Parker, J.F. Pontefract, David Hancock. And the result is marvellous. This record is very hard to find, but its a real hidden gem. For me its also a part of my reference testing arsenal and is both pure musical enjoyment as well as tool of trade. Here Boenicke revealed their mighty nature of brining out the smallest nuances of acoustical space in the best way. Captivating and free floating journey into the classical heaven.
In the world of mediocre speakers Boenicke W5 speakers reveals something fresh and unique. Their aura hits you instantly when seeing them in person. Many people commented how they were shock ed when they’ve seen W5 actual size. Yet, when music starts pouring out of these mini Swiss beauties people are smitten by their performance.
Everything around Boenicke W5 radiates with different energy. They are designed differently, sounds differently then expected, are sized differently and they look differently. This this differently stands for something better and stand out and I’ve enjoyed Boenicke W5 highly during the testing and listening period.
Sven Boenicke managed to create something special. He envisioned a project, that lingers both sonically and aesthetically long after you leave the premises enriched by the W5 presence.
There might be quite few people out there being reserved and sceptical about the actual potency of W5 based on their size. Yet, upon first few notes strike things changes dramatically. These are by no means you typical small desktop monitor speakers.
Bounce W5 speakers deserve more recognition for what they represent. Acting as a mighty little giants, that proudly stand on its own. The share scope of their transparency and ambient projection is far out. It is the same with the physical sense of bass notes in lower register. Yes, you won’t get the mega bass of large floorstanders. What you’ll experience is a non overblowing bass, that closely correlate with the way actual instruments sound in real. And this is the Sven Boenicke magic in motion. He encompassed all the right things in creating the viable illusion, that recreates musical moments with believable impact and grander sense of both emotional and atmospheric energy.
We’re to often forgetting about the main purpose of loudspeakers. They are last in the system chain and our closest messengers of beloved audio material being transported towards the listener. Its always about the real, unspoiled interaction between the performer and listener. Without the emotional energy exchange what good any speakers can do in their primal role. We have the abundance of soulless speaker projects on the market, that leaves one untouched and unmoved. And with the price tags, that are mind boggling.
Yes, Boenicke W5 speakers are not cheap. For a change you can instantly see where the time, efforts and money went. And unlike many speakers out there you’re getting something special. The feeling of proud ownership. I cannot recall the similar feeling being present so often in our industry. Sure I’ve met many outstanding creations along with my 25 journey in high-end. There are lot of speakers addressing certain kind of people’s value. Boenicke W5 are taking things further. They are harmonically rich and vibrant.
Nobody sane can expect hell wrenching air pressures from Boenicke W5 speakers. What you can expect and what you’re getting are solidity in micro details, harmonic correctness, spot on timbre, tone, colour and enough dynamic impact, that projects a vivid musical illusion being both captivating and intimate.
These speakers stand out in the best possible and positive sense of the word. Impressive!
Premium class WBT Next Gen binding
Sensitivity: 87 dB / watt / m
Nom. impedance: 4 ohms
Weight: 3.5 kg / piece (speaker only)
5.25″ long throw bass driver, tuned to 65 Hz, 1st order crossover
3″ widebander, 1st order high pass filter, unique electromechanical parallel resonator installed.
Internal wiring orientation-optimised silk-wrapped high-frequency stranded litz
WBT NextGen binding posts
Rear ambient tweeter
longer stroke bass driver running without crossover, tuned to 50 hz
Added electromechanical parallel resonator to bass
Different crossover layout, even higher quality crossover components
Added electromechanical series resonators to both drivers, all parallel and series resonators of STAGE II type
Added proprietary acoustic phase linearisation network
Choose from walnut, oak, ash tree and cherry.
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