There has always been something magical about the Raidho line of speakers. Why do I mention Raidho in an article about Scansonic speakers? Great question—well, if you didn't know, these are designed by Michael Børresen, the same designer of the Raidho line of speakers! This is, admittedly, what attracted me to these speakers in the first place. I can still recall, vividly, a demonstration of the smaller bookshelf Raidho speakers and thought to myself, wow, how can so much sound come out of such a little driver? This, too is when I first met Lars Kristensen—a very passionate aficionado of great 2-channel sound if I do say so myself.
I then soon realized that the Raidho line of speakers was not in line with my current audio budget, so of course I was a bit let down but then came the answer, Scansonic! They wanted to build a higher-end line of speakers and teamed with the Raidho designers and thus what was born is the Scansonic HD line. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical—I mean, how would they encapsulate all of that (or some of that, I should say) magic into a lower priced model?
Off went my journey into research—and it's an interesting story indeed. Scansonic (also out of Denmark) has a long history of electronics and loudspeakers. They originated as the brand ScanSpeak (depending on your tenure in the industry, you may have heard of them!), back in the 70s and wanted to create a higher end line of speakers which is where the new namesake came in to play (Scansonic). Then, a larger electronics pioneer out of Denmark bought the name brand (Dantax Audio) which were an originating partner of driver designs—supplying for the likes of Bang and Olufsen, and such. Yes, lots of history here. This is not some new-age speaker design company trying to make a quick buck, but tried and true engineering over years and years of driver design.
First thing you'll notice is that the design isn't as "elegant" as the Raidho line, rather, they are a bit more contemporary. Wrapped in carbon fiber (the drivers are also carbon fiber), they are reminiscent of climbing into a high-end Ferrari or the likes. Maybe this is what drew me in, since I am a car guy myself—they reminded me of a sleek sports car ready to hit the track. Curvy lines (aerodynamics), carbon fiber (light weight yet rigid), fitted to an aluminum base with adjustable feet. No exotic wood / veneer here, no this is more like the interior of an Enzo. So... they look the part, but how do they sound?
These guys are deceiving to say the least. Small-ish drivers (4.5 Inches to be exact), in large quantities (4!) surrounding an amazing Kapton-backed ribbon tweeter, giving a really cool "tall" and "in your face" line source sound. The crossover is designed for 2.5 way (huh? Yeah, that is initially what I thought, too); the 5 works as a 2.5-way speaker design, where two 4.5" carbon coned midrange-woofers are supported by two additional Carbon coned drivers for additional base performance. The two carbon midrange-woofers are run in series for an increased and dynamic power handling. Quite ingenious! This results in a nice cohesive sound (no driver sticks out). If you've followed any of my other reviews, you would know that I have an affinity for the sound of a ribbon driver (I own Apogees) so I always chase after designs that have taken queues from such designs—unfortunately though what I've noticed is that most modern speakers using ribbon technology isn't going full dipole, which is easy to accomplish (with the right enclosure design) but with something a bit more robust and reliable—usually backed with some sort of strengthening material in a fully enclosed baffle—but at least we can still reap the benefits of the natural tonality, and the (what I like to call) timbre matching that of a human vocal cord. What do I mean by that? I've always felt that ribbon drivers capture the sound of the human voice, or drum set. As long as the crossover is executed properly (I've also heard a ribbon driver sound equally as bad!) then there is just no match for the speed and accuracy of a ribbon.
Another great feature of these speakers is the lightning fast mid-bass response—which one would expect with a myriad of small drivers. Lower mass in larger quantities (also, if executed correctly) hits hard on the right notes, giving both the pleasure of ribbon and bass of dynamic cone drivers all at the same time. Another aspect of a ribbon driver is that if it's not matched with the proper cone drivers, the resulting sound will just not jive well leading to a poor listening experience. Well, not here! They really got this one right. High number of small cone drivers matched with a ribbon is the ticket! Don't get me wrong, these small drivers matched with the right amplification, can output frequencies way below audible providing the other important part of listening to music, which is the physical part—feeling it! I've got a sub in my room that isn't even connected to the system where everyone that hears these speakers assumes the sub is in the chain—but once I show them the disconnected power plug, the jaws start to drop. Yeah, I realize my current listening room is on the small side (12' x 14'), but I have heard them in larger room as well... they are quite deceiving!
At the moment I'm listening to one of my old favorites, Autechre's Tri Repetae++ filled with all sorts great electronics and quick beats—a really engaging experience if one is in the right mood – and it touches on all of the right notes. Lightning fast highs, punchy mid-bass, and tons of low-frequencies exciting glass-wear in the farthest reaches of my audio room and I just can't get enough. There is nothing like listening to an old favorite that if executed properly (on the right gear) can always bring back a trickle of nostalgia. In fact that has happened several times to me while writing this—I'll stop typing, close my eyes, turn the volume up and be transported away almost immediately. There really just is nothing like it. These speakers do everything right—and not kill the wallet. Highly Recommended.
I'll admit, I'm intrigued by the MB-5's larger brother, the MB-6, and will pursue a set for review after I'm done with these. More drivers! More height! What can go wrong there? Stay tuned…
All images courtesy of Scansonic