5degrees No. 17

Hardware Review

5degrees No. 17
Friday, July 17, 2020
floorstanding loudspeakers
Trevor Butler

An offshoot of a better known speaker brand, the newest floorstander from 5degrees finds Trevor Butler enraptured by the finesse of a ribbon tweeter that he just can’t stop enjoying.

This is my fifth, or possibly sixth attempt to commit this review to print. Why? Because before each one I thought I would just reacquaint myself with the loudspeaker, and every time I just could not tear myself away, being totally immersed in the performance. In a nutshell that’s probably all you need to know to put the 5deg No. 17 on your shortlist if you also listen predominantly to acoustic music, and choral works in particular. But, let’s put some flesh on the bones and you will see just why I loved these two-ways so much and am so sorry that they now have to go back to the manufacturers.   

Horns is a Polish speaker brand many will have seen if not actually heard. They are on demonstration at many a hi-fi show and in an increasing number of high street dealers. They are very shiny and stylish with separate horns for bass, mid and treble in the larger models, even the more conventional models have some degree of horn loading and their emphasis is very much on high sensitivity for tube amplification. In order to broaden their appeal the company has created an off-shoot marque in the shape of 5degrees (or 5deg for short) as a sister line-up sans the horn element.  

Technology
One good thing is that the 5deg range comes in at lower price points than their longer-established derivatives. In place of horns are slightly inclined enclosures (not just the baffles), with the tall and elegant model 17 offering a lot of speaker for the price and without the added cost of stands. Here are some European-built, nay crafted, transducers beautifully finished in a flawless zebrano veneer which benefits from the addition of clear varnish to create an almost piano lacquer finish. Stable, height-adjustable metal feet support the ensemble of the bass-reflex box which sports a single pair of WBT cable terminals.

A seven-inch, German-sourced doped paper cone bass/mid unit has been skilfully combined with an air motion transformer ribbon tweeter set in a short waveguide. This is the unit’s secret weapon. I have often remarked how virtually all loudspeakers have a hallmark: be it the midrange accuracy of BBC-style monitors, or the imaging, or an earth shattering bass response.  With the 5deg 17 it is a sublimely beautiful tweeter which generates high-frequency dynamics with immense detail which is to kill for. 

Sound quality
Setting up the speakers was not difficult and, after some experimentation with placement, the 5deg 17s worked best in my preferred location of a straight-on position, parallel to the walls. This gave the most balanced presentation without that glorious treble becoming over-powering in relation to the bass response. Low frequencies can be increased by moving the speakers closer to the rear wall, the front baffle port ensuring that boominess should not be an issue. In the end I had them less than one-meter away which also meant they didn’t dominate the room or get in the way of the living space. Coupling was to my usual Hegel 190 DAC/integrated/streamer with the addition of Trigon monoblocks from Germany for comparison. The speakers showed no preference and are likely to be an easy match with a wide range of solid-state amplifiers, noting their low-ish 85dB sensitivity.

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My primary requirement of a transducer is to create a realistically natural presentation of the recording venue. In this regard the 5deg 17 is among the very best in its class and achieves this at lower cost than some of the obvious competition. The accuracy and detail created is mind-blowing, revealing fine nuances on well-recorded material which many a speaker simply blurs. 

The majority of my preferred listening is to acoustic music, almost entirely  classical and most of that comprising choral material across a variety of ages and scale. Here the 5deg 17 excelled and a planned test listening session of one hour turned into an extended one of about seven or eight as I re-lived a host of material I had not heard in a long while. 

From the 2018 recording of Teach me Thy Statues (PaTRAM Institute Male Choir) I was immersed in 15 compositions from Pavel Chesnokov (1877–1944) by the joint Russian-American ensemble under Vladimir Gorbik. The CD was recorded in an historic Russian church with the acoustic successfully transferred to my modest listening room; the magnificent richness of reverberation and longer decays than on many modern recordings. Truly an example of fine Russian monastic singing, rarely heard outside that country: totally absorbing.

And so it was with disc after disc, composer after composer and performer after performer in this genre. Hildegard of Bingen’s twelfth century Antiphons came alive from a 1993 recording (Canticles of Ecstasy/Sequentia), the period instruments combining with the beauty of the refined yet natural voices to create a superbly musical atmosphere. Purcell’s 1692 composition The Fairy Queen (London Classical Players/Roger Norrington on Virgin Veritas) lost nothing of the tremendous forces of this lavish production, completely retaining the recording’s lively sprit. 

On heavier, rock and pop material the cabinet’s size was evident, as was the relatively small port tube. At times the 5deg 17s showed they had a good sense of timing and adequate pace if not the choice for bass junkies out there. That is not where these masterpieces excel. As with so much in life, what it does it does well but it can’t do it all. 

At first I felt that the 5deg 17s were slightly lumpy through the midrange which is all important for accurate rendition of human voice. But the published frequency response shows a slight suck-out in the all-important 1kHz region which will ensure that there’s no chance of nasality; while the tailoring at and below 800Hz will eliminate the unpleasant boxy ‘honk’ prevalent in many an ill-conceived design. The absence of any sibilance can be attributed to the minor dip around 7-8kHz, with a subtle boost at 5kHz ensuring that vocalists cut through the mix in the presence region.

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Live performances were thin on the ground during the review as the Coronavirus pandemic swept the globe and concert halls fell silent. Thankfully broadcasters have access to myriad archive recordings and we were treated to re-runs of some truly great performances. Venues small and large were successfully transferred to my room, courtesy of the 5deg model 17. The stereo soundstage presented was wide and deep, with the performance set in line with and behind the front baffle. So many modern design seem intent on placing the performers in the listener’s lap in a most unnatural way. With the model 17 I was transported to the recording venue in a highly believable fashion – the hallmark of a good loudspeaker. 

Conclusion
I lived with the 5deg model 17 for many weeks and they became my everyday loudspeaker through much of that time. This is clearly a competently designed model with excellent sonic performance. Its HF response is magnificent and reveals innermost detail from good recordings; a fine implementation of the ribbon tweeter which exhibited an almost omnidirectional behaviour. 

Certainly no ‘snap together’ Chinese box, here we have a hand-crafted unit made in Europe to a high standard of engineering competence. Not only does the cabinet look drop-dead gorgeous, but the sound is in the top class for the price. The speakers play loudly enough for domestic settings; expect a maximum 100dB or so at the listening position if required. Highly recommended, especially for acoustic music, and good value for money.

Specifications: 

Type: Bass reflex loaded two-way floorstanding loudspeaker
Crossover Frequency: not specified
Drive Units:
Mid/bass – 7inch coated paper
Tweeter – 1.8inch ribbon
Typical frequency response: 45Hz – 30kHz
Nominal impedance: 8 Ohms
Connectors: single wire WBT binding posts
Sensitivity: 85dB 1w/1m
Dimensions HxWxD: 1000 x 210 x 250mm
Weight: 20kg
Finishes: natural veneer, RAL colours
Warranty: 2 years

Price: 
£2,304
Manufacturer Details: 

Horns
T +48 602 647 173
www.horns.pl

Distributor Details: 

G-Point Audio  
T 01435 865540
gpoint-audio.com