I recently bought a couple of these little boxes, so here are my impressions.
I'll skip the detailed descriptive stuff; you can look it up on the informative Equator
First impressions are that these monitors are small and
cute, missing the cute-ness by a hair, due the to all-in-one driver and port
baffle with its annoyingly bright blue LED.
Mounted on the rear plate are the
IEC mains inlet plus switch, and separate TRS and XLR inputs. The TRS input will defeat
the XLR input with a jack inserted. Also on the rear panel are two controls: An input knob
with the confusingly labeled ranges +4dBU to -10 dBV. Twiddle and see is my advice, they
give a good range from pro gear to consumer.
Back to the front, you get to
clock the intriguing concentric drivers. The bass/mid driver is 5.25 inches across, with a
nice big voice-coil surrounding the silk dome tweeter in its short flare, which sticks out
proud from the base of the speaker cone by about a centimetre. The whole thing looks well
built, and nothing pokes out from the front of the boxes, which is neat. The edges of the
boxes are nicely rounded, and the finish is a cool textured matt dark grey.
So ... What do the D5s sound like? Rather good overall but with with some problems. The
stereo imaging is very good and solid, with a wide sweet-spot. Reverbs are detailed and
revealed, but maybe with a little less depth perception than I was expecting. The
transient response is good, except at higher levels: I suspect soft limiting is coming in
early. This is OK for hyper-compressed material, but not so good with loud dynamic
acoustic stuff like tabla, snare and guitar. But you have to remember these are
tiny boxes! The mid range is excellent. Well defined, solid. Another good point is that I
can hear tiny 'headphony' details like clicks, mouth noises, distortion and so forth that
I'd not noticed before on other speakers
Tonally, the D5s have a couple of
weak points: A surfeit of high top end, and a really annoying bump centred at 71 Hz. For a
product that boasts of special internal Eq tweaking to match each individual box, and a
generic voicing by a bevy of mixers and producers, I find these response lumps rather hard
to understand, especially the bass one ... Quote: <1.75" Tuned Front Port For Accurate
Low-End Extension>. All I can say is accurate to what?
On experimenting with a
signal generator and my ear two feet away for each D5 in various parts of my studio, it
seems the 71 Hz is a port tuning or resonance problem: Block the port, and the bass is
even from the low mids and downwards, but is less powerful in the sub 55 Hz regions of
course. But I have a sub so to me that matters not. The overall effect of these peaks is
to give the D5s a tiring top end after louder monitoring, and a boxy, congested feel on
the bottom. The port 'chuffles' with lower frequency loud bass notes, by the way, but is
not noticeable on normal mixes.
The boundary setting switch is worth a
mention at this stage, as it affects the bass end with its 71 Hz hump. For those who don't
know, boundary settings are to help integrate speakers with their positions in rooms, as
their bass response will change with the distance from any surface and corner. So, if you
place a speaker near the rear wall, the bass response of the speaker will go up, and if in
a corner, it will increase even more. The boundary control can be used to compensate to
give less bass, thus giving a more accurate bottom end. Likewise, away from walls, you can
tweak the bass up to compensate for no walls nearby. So, what are the D5s boundary
settings like? They don't work very well, for me, anyway. Yes, they do
increase the bass response, but at the expense of some of the lower mid range, as can be
seen on the lower plot. This lack of response of lower midrange gives the speakers the
feeling that the mids lack punch, which impression is aided by the slightly boosted high
top range. So I find I can't use the Boundary 1 setting; it takes away too much of the mid
to lower mids. The Boundary 2 setting is the flattest, with a small lowering of the
top-end, and the Boundary 3 gives a bigger bass lift, with a dip in the 1 to 2k region.
And too much bass even free from boundaries! But, with a lower frequency switch point and
a tamed 71 Hz hump, the Boundary settings would be brilliant, rather than a bit
Are these monitors good value? Well, at a mere $300 direct from the
factory they are, and one can learn to live with their funny frequency response, love
their fabulous wide mid range, good imaging and neat compactness. For serious mixing I
find I have to use a sub, and block the ports, or at the very least constantly check with
good headphones. These little boxes make really good location recording monitors. With two
fifty watt RMS Class D amps, they go nice and loud for near and mid field monitoring, and
run very cool with no need for a heat sink.
Checking out the D5s is really
worth doing in North America as Equator do a 60 day money back guarantee if you do't like
them, which is good news and makes it a no brainer with the low shipping costs there. But
for us in Europe, the cost of importing makes them more expensive, but still worth a look
at, though sending them back from here is quite costly.
The Equator website
has a lot of
detail on it as well as their other intriguing speakers. Well worth visiting.
My conclusions are that the D5 is a good, but flawed speaker. The flaws and be dealt
with, however. It's weird that so many positive reviews have not caught that annoying bass
bump, though I remember some mentioning the top end bump. As both my D5s do this, I assume
that's what they're like, rather than a one-off.
If Equator had made a model
with no port, with a sealed box's gentler bass roll-off, a tamed high end, and the
Boundary Eq to come in gradually much lower, and the option to switch out the 'voicing',
I'd be ecstatic!
I'm trying my D5s with the ports blocked for now, with a
matched setting on the sub so I'll see how I get on.
Below are a couple of
interesting graphs from the Equator website.
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