Perlisten Audio S5m Loudspeaker Review

Posted on 2nd May, 2024

Perlisten Audio S5m Loudspeaker Review

Chris Frankland auditions this large and highly-capable standmounting speaker…

Perlisten Audio

S5m Standmount Loudspeakers

£11,800

Perlisten S5m Review

Many will know Perlisten for its highly regarded THX-certified home cinema products. The company lays claim to being the first to introduce a range of speakers to achieve THX Dominus certification—the newest and highest-performance rating. Yet among the extensive range of subwoofers and in-wall, in-ceiling, and centre-channel speakers are products that are equally at home in two-channel systems.

The company is headquartered in Wisconsin, USA and has a design and R&D centre in California, a sales and distribution centre in Copenhagen, and an Asian R&D team in Dongguan, China. The latter is where the manufacturing is done. It's still quite a young company, being founded by CEO Dan Roemer and chief engineer Stephen Mascenik in 2016. They were joined after six months by CTO Erik Wiederholtz and, in 2020, by Lars Johansen in sales. They were all engineers who knew one another and had been consultants for other brands for over twenty-five years. Roemer worked for names such as Acoustic Research and Advent, as well as in aerospace and automotive, while Johansen worked for JBL, Harman Kardon, Klipsch, Jamo and Peerless.

UP CLOSE

The S series, of which the S5m is part, was launched in 2020. The company does all design, testing and manufacturing in-house, which includes drive units, cabinets, crossovers and amplifiers. Wiederholtz tells me that the S5m “was designed to be a large-sounding speaker, but with a little less physical size than a tower, for applications where footprint was a concern”. The three-way standmount design measures 600x200x420mm [HxWxD]. Both loudspeakers and stands are finished to an extremely high standard, with a reassuring solidity to their construction.

Perlisten S5m Review

Solid is the operative word, as the S5m cabinets are made from high-density fibreboard (HDF), which is said to be thirty-five percent more dens than MDF. The front baffle is 80mm thick, and the other cabinet walls are 25mm. They also have multiple stiffening braces, and the interior walls are layered with damping material to help further suppress wall resonances.

The two 180mm woofers have TPCD carbon fibre composite cones, custom-made for Perlisten by Textreme, with a continuous, smooth contour with no separate dust cap. However, what I was most fascinated by was the Directivity Pattern Control Wave Guide (DPC) technology that sits at the heart of the Signature (S) and Reference (R) series models.

This uses three 28mm tweeters mounted on a moulded plate that also incorporates the waveguide for the central beryllium tweeter. That central high-frequency driver is topped and tailed by two additional tweeters made from the same carbon fibre composite as the woofers. The three tweeters take over from the woofers at 1kHz and work together up to 3.2kHz, after which the central beryllium tweeter plays on its own up to around 30kHz. The idea is that this tweeter placement helps to control time, amplitude and phase, resulting in a wide horizontal polar pattern and a vertical polar pattern between 900Hz and 20kHz that limits early reflections from the floor and ceiling that can smear vocals.

As Wiederholtz explains: “It is about equal path length to the ear. We can control the directivity of the speaker in the vertical direction, but you cannot control the horizontal dispersion. We also need to control time, amplitude and phase to make this all work. Time cannot be controlled passively but we can do it physically by offsetting distances. This is why the beryllium dome is behind in depth from the two midranges on the front face. Amplitude and phase are controlled via the crossover.”

Perlisten S5m Review

Perlisten's literature further explains that the three drivers overlap in a small band to reduce the effects of high driver excursions and deliver low distortion in the vocal region. It says that typical designs would be transitioning from a woofer to a (midrange) driver with a 130mm cone with a mass of 4 to 5g compared with less than 1.2g for the Perlisten 'midrange tweeters'. And so the DPC arrangement, says the company, results in lightning-fast transients. Apparently, the designers felt larger drivers were not required for the midrange and that by choosing 28mm drivers, they could keep them all closer together.

The cabinet is bass-reflex loaded through side vents on the bottom edges of the speakers. By inserting a plug, they can be converted to acoustic suspension to help control bass, but in my medium-sized listening room, this wasn't necessary. Just as the cabinets on my review pair were immaculately finished in a gorgeous high-gloss ebony veneer, so were the stands beautifully constructed and exceptionally solidly made. They add another £1,500 to the asking price, but many will think them worth the additional expense.

For audition purposes, the importer suggested I might like to use the Primare PRE35 preamp/DAC and A35.2 power amplifier for my review, so I spent a week with these sitting between my Audio Note CDT-Five transport and DAC Five Special and Russell K Red120Se speakers to get to know them. I found that they delivered a very acceptable performance, so I had no qualms about using them with the Perlisten S5m, connected using Chord Company Epic cable. After some experimentation, I ended up with the speakers 35cm from the rear wall and 45cm from the side walls.

THE LISTENING

The S5m is a clean and dynamic yet detailed and delicate-sounding loudspeaker. Its bass is nimble and tuneful, and it stops and starts well, making it an engaging and enjoyable sound with well-recorded jazz, such as A Place for Skipper from guitarist Larry Carlton's Discovery album. I was struck by the leading-edge detail on his acoustic guitar and how the speaker let me hear the nuances of his playing while the bass guitar line was tight, deep, tuneful and controlled. The track moved along nicely, and I found myself delighting in the inner detail of percussion, cymbals and snare, which were well-struck yet delicate.

Perlisten S5m Review

With Perlisten claiming to have gone to great lengths to ensure its speakers perform well on vocals, I turned to one of my favourite female vocal tracks, namely Lo Siento Mi Vida from Linda Ronstadt's superb Hasten Down the Wind album. I immediately found myself smiling at the effortless way the S5m separated out the two guitars in the intro and conveyed the power, range and emotion in her wonderful vocals. It was easy to listen into what the pedal steel and other guitars were playing, and the bass line was tight and tuneful. Overall, the S5m conveyed the emotion and impact of this track superbly well.

Changing the mood back to jazz and for a real test of what the S5m could do in the bass, and I put on Stanley Clarke's fantastic Hideaway album and played his excellent cover of Stevie Wonder's Overjoyed. Here, the Perlisten perfectly portrayed the distinctive voice and character of his Alembic tenor bass as well as the twists and turns and skill of his technique. At the same time, drums and percussion were also dynamic and detailed. Stanley Jordan contributes some brilliant guitar work to the mix, and that came across well, providing insights into what every musician was playing and how.

I let the track run on to the following track, which has some wonderful soprano sax from George Howard. On that, I was particularly impressed with how I could hear exactly what and how he was playing, to the extent that I could even hear his fingers coming on and off the keys. A great performance from the S5m, then.

Perlisten S5m Review

I could not resist trying something from my favourite jazz singer/songwriter Ben Sidran's Enivré d'Amour album, which is a superb recording with great vocals and complex instrumental parts. On the track Sunny Side of the Street, his voice was beautifully coherent, articulate and natural. Meanwhile, percussion and drums were dynamic and tight, as was the bass line, which really moved well with that distinctive walk that underpins the lilting rhythm of this track.

Dynamically and rhythmically, the Perlisten sounded effortless and in control. In his comments about the tweeter array, Erik Wiederholtz mentioned “lightning-fast transients”, and the drum work indeed proved tight and with good definition on snares, splash cymbals and hi-hats. But you also hear that speed on fast runs of piano notes, with the S5m still keeping each note well-defined individually. It also means that this big standmounter conveys the pace and energy of the music really well.

THE VERDICT

Perlisten's S5m standmounter is beautifully made and exquisitely finished, but its appeal is more than skin-deep. It delivers musical nuances in your favourite recordings that you may not have noticed before. This loudspeaker can delight listeners with its dynamics, detail, subtlety, and grace—and as such, it comes highly recommended.

Visit Perlisten for more information

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    Chris Frankland's avatar

    Chris Frankland

    One of StereoNET’s most experienced reviewers, Chris has written for a multitude of hi-fi magazines, from Hi-Fi Answers and Hi-Fi Sound, to The Flat Response and Hi-Fi Review. A regular concert-goer, his quest continues to find hi-fi that gets as close as possible to conveying the raw emotion of live music.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Loudspeakers Bookshelf / Standmount Applause Awards 2024
    Tags: perlisten audio  karma av 

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