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SoundStage! Simplifi reviews the FIVE17

Thank you "SoundStage!" for your review of the FIVE17 system!

A few notable quotes are captured here, for the full review follow the link at the bottom of this post!

"Could these stand-mounted speakers actually deliver bass output below 27Hz, as Heavenly Soundworks claims? You betcha." ... "these speakers had solid output down to about 25Hz."

"Cassandra Wilson’s cover of “Don’t Explain” sounded wonderful" ... "it was almost impossible not to sway to Wydler’s hypnotic floor-tom beat. The huge soundstage evoked a cavernous nightclub, but despite being soaked in reverb, every element—electric guitar, piano, bass, drums, loops—was clearly defined on that stage, with Wilson right at the center. It was easy to imagine sitting in a smoke-filled club, wrapped in a boozy haze, and think that Wilson was singing right to me."

"I find recordings of solo piano useful for assessing a speaker’s timbral consistency, freedom from resonances, and dynamics. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to Plays, a compilation of live concerts by the late Chick Corea (24/96 FLAC, Concord Jazz/Qobuz). I played this 112-minute album in its entirety several times through the FIVE17s, and it sounded glorious." ... "Corea’s playful right-hand trills and chords sounded ideally crisp and articulate, not overlit or etched—just natural. And when he slid into the lower-register rolled chords that begin his arrangement of Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach’s “Yesterdays”—wow! Although those chords were gentle and restrained, the FIVE17s conveyed the size, power, and harmonic richness of Corea’s instrument. Dynamics, macro and micro, were very impressive. The FIVE17s delivered Corea’s big staccato phrases effortlessly, and in legato phrases showed off his subtle dynamic shadings. Throughout both tracks, piano tone was completely convincing, and consistent through the instrument’s entire range."

"I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a solo acoustic piano reproduced more convincingly in my living room."

"To assess the FIVE17s’ ability to deal with dynamic extremes, I cued up a 2014 live recording of Camille Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No.3, “Organ,” by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, with James O’Donnell playing the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall organ (24/96 FLAC, LPO/ProStudioMasters). This massive instrument has 7866 pipes, including 32′ pedal pipes that can play down to 16Hz." ... "This also gave me an opportunity to verify the usefulness of the FIVE17s’ preset modes. Through much of that slow movement, the strings play a serenely ecstatic theme underpinned by a deep organ-pedal note. While the EQ tamed those troublesome modes, when I listened at quiet levels, those pedal notes sounded too faint. Engaging Preset 2 made those pedal notes more audible, and the cellos and double basses fuller, for a more pleasing balance of the LPO strings. I listened to the entire 10:26 movement with these settings, and it was meltingly beautiful. The FIVE17s resolved the gentle bowing of the LPO strings, scaling up naturally in orchestral swells. The attacks of pizzicato notes later in the movement were fast but not overlit, each pluck of string decaying naturally into the resonance of the instruments’ bodies. Bowed violins sounded just a tad steely, but the cellos were gorgeous: woody and richly resonant. The FIVE17s threw a wide, deep soundstage populated by precisely drawn aural images, while also providing an excellent sense of the hall ambience, which seemed to extend far out into my listening room." ... "Through the FIVE17s, it sounded magical. The strings and piano floated in space between my speakers, and the organ filled my room."

"to confirm Heavenly Soundworks’ claims of the FIVE17s’ bass response" ... "I cued up the title track of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones’ Flight of the Cosmic Hippo (24/88.2 MQA, Warner Bros./Tidal). On this album, Victor Wooten plays a five-string fretless electric bass guitar, its bottom string tuned to B0 (30.87Hz). The big, lumbering, two-note bass riff that opens the track sounded huge and effortless, confirming that the FIVE17s could indeed go very deep." ... "Halfway through this track, Wooten plays a long solo: the first verse on his bass’s upper strings, the second on its bottom string. In that second verse, there’s loads of bass between 30 and 40Hz, and the FIVE17s showed no hint of struggle in reproducing it. Quite the contrary—these deep notes sounded big, bold, and effortless" ... "The FIVE17s were just as satisfying higher in the audioband. The star of this show is, of course, Fleck’s banjo. Each plucked string exploded out of the Heavenlys without sounding the least bit harsh or etched, followed by the twangy decay of the banjo’s head and resonator. It was glorious."

"To try those presets one more time, I turned the volume way down, so that I was getting peaks of 68dB. Wooten’s bass still sounded delicious, but not as big and bold as it had at higher levels. Selecting Preset 2 restored that impact" ... "For late-night listening, or keeping peace with the neighbors, these presets can be a great feature."

"When Kevin and Jonathan Couch founded Heavenly Soundworks, [The goal for us was the best possible reproduction of sound,] Jonathan told me. [For us, it was reproducing as closely as possible what the artist or mastering engineer intended.] To a great extent, they’ve succeeded." ... "what stood out ... was these speakers’ impressive dynamics, lively sound, revelatory detail, and deep, authoritative bass. And the workmanship is impeccable—make that luxurious."

"I’m sure many DIY speaker builders dream of turning their hobby into a business. But it’s a huge leap from assembling one- or two-off speaker kits to developing a serious consumer product and bringing it to market. Bravo to Kevin and Jonathan Couch for successfully making that leap. In the FIVE17, they’ve created an active speaker that deserves—no, demands—to be taken seriously."

Check out the full review over at SoundStage!

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