Scansonic MB5 B Floorstanding Speaker Review
A couple of months ago, Enjoy the Music.com head-honcho Steven Rochlin (his official title is Creative Director) emailed the writing staff inviting us to review the Scansonic MB5 B speakers. After viewing the photo of the MB5 Bs, but before reading anything else about them, I replied to his RSVP as quickly as I could. This was because the resemblance to the two different pairs of Raidho speakers recently reviewed in Enjoy the Music.com was uncanny. In July of that year, I reviewed the Raidho model TD4.2, and Matt Clott reviewed a pair of Raidho TD3.8s in December 2021's issue.
The Scansonic MB5 B not only looks like Raidho speakers but is designed and manufactured by the same company. Scansonic is owned by the Danish high-end audio manufacturer Dantax, which owns Raidho and Gamut Audio. On their website, Scansonic claims that all Scansonic products are "built on the experiences, knowledge, and research gained from making Raidho speakers." Compared to Raidho, Scansonic speakers are much less expensive. Scansonic adds, "The challenge was to bring down Raidho's technology to a more affordable line of speakers."
Most speakers in the affordable category make their cabinets out of medium-density fiberboard, or MDF, and these Scansonic speakers are no exception. In their literature, Scansonic claims that the MB5 B are made from "high-density MDF," which is the cutest oxymoron I've heard in a while. Since their first language is Danish, we should let that pass. Nevertheless, it is a good sign that they care about the cabinet's stability, bracing, and especially the speaker's teardrop-like shape when viewed from above that lessens vibration's harmful effects and prevents standing waves.
Obvious to me is that the MB5 B's three woofers work in tandem to produce a bass that sounds not only deep but very musical. In my review system, they were able to reproduce not only the lowest strings of a guitar but those of a double bass. The musical quality of these speakers I heard made it clear that they were also reproducing much of the resonant frequencies that are reproduced along with those deepest notes.
The MB5 B speaker's low-frequency prowess didn't occur by accident. Scansonic designed their drivers to match their slim cabinets, building them around a carbon-coned membrane. They state on their website that the carbon cone benefits from its light weight, and when combined with a powerful magnet system, it gives them their dynamic sound. The driver's basket is made from die-cast aluminum, and the edge wound voice coil is made from Kapton. Because this type of polymer remains stable across a wide range of temperatures, the aerospace industry often uses it for space blankets and flexible printed circuits. DuPont developed it and is used in spacecraft, satellites, and various aerospace instruments. It is also used in the drivers of Scansonic speakers!
I love the excellent sound quality of recordings made at the dawn of the stereo era. The engineers and producers cared very much about the sound quality of their recordings. A bonus is that this album has some great music, using a large orchestra with an extensive array of percussion.
On side 1, the Roger Sessions piece, The Black Maskers was composed as a four-movement instrumental score compiled from the incidental music he wrote for a performance at Smith College in the 1920s for their adaptation of the Edgar Alan Poe short story The Masque Of The Red Death. It's a melodic score, reminiscent of a film score, as I can imagine each musical motif describing actions within the play.
This Living Presence LP was a demonstration disc for the Scansonic MB5 B speakers. The macro and micro dynamics of the score were reproduced with incredible accuracy, and the speakers did not even break a sweat during the ffff passages. Bowed double bass in the first movement when simultaneously playing a theme with the horn section flaunted the speakers' dynamic distance. Different instruments playing simultaneously and at the same volume were kept in discrete areas of the SM5 B's huge, perfectly scaled soundstage. The speaker's imaging was patently lifelike, as instruments captured by the tape recorders middle microphone came through an imaginary center speaker.
From this audiophile-quality LP featuring this relatively modern music, I enjoyed the lush string sound from the Scansonic speakers. The ultra-transparent "see-through" midrange came with some traits that I could only describe as magical, especially considering these speakers' surprisingly reasonable price. When reviewing the Raidho speakers last year, I took note of its ribbon tweeter and how perfectly it not only reproduced high-frequency sounds but how seamlessly it blended in with the speaker's dynamic drivers. Yes, the ribbon tweeter in the Scansonic is much less costly than the one in the Raidho. Yet, it had some of the same magical traits as the Raidho, the ability to disappear into the music, making it difficult to evaluate because I wouldn't hear the tweeter. I'd hear the music.
This ribbon tweeter blended perfectly with the rest of the speakers' drivers, so when taking notes about the speaker's midrange, I'm sure that the lowest frequencies of the tweeter were aiding the midrange of the Scansonic MB5 B. Since the tweeter didn't call any attention to itself, it was often impossible to determine which driver was contributing to a specific sonic trait.
The midrange of the MB5 B speakers was the star of the show. As it should be. Given the quality of the recording, it was amazing how lifelike the reproduction of instruments, voices, and other sounds with lots of midrange energy sounded. In other words, practically all of them. The transparent midrange of these Scansonic speakers also made them responsive to slight equipment changes upstream. And so, I feel that these speakers would match very well with a system that has excellent associated equipment feeding them. If not, rewards will be plenty when making upgrades later on.
Since my teens, I have been hooked on Genesis' 1975 opus The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. This album was their last studio album that featured lead singer Peter Gabriel. I've gone through many pressings of the double LP and CD over the years but have narrowed it down to only two copies for serious listening. One vinyl copy, one digital copy. The vinyl version was pressed in 2001 by Classic Records, the digital copy on DVD-A, which I spun on an OPPO UDP-203 Blu-Ray/universal disc player. This DVD-A is a new 5.1 mix folded to 2-channel that was issued as part of a box set 1970-1975 along with Genesis' other Gabriel-era albums.
Most fans of this album might wonder how well these speakers reproduced Mike Rutherford's Dewtron bass pedals, which are synthesizer bass pedals akin to organ bass pedals. I believe Mike at first was using bass pedals made by Moog, their popular Taurus bass pedals, but had moved up to these newer Dewtrons by now. But I digress.
When first playing this album, the bass seemed to reach so low I wondered if I had forgotten to disconnect the small subwoofer I often use in this system. The bass pedals on this album are not mixed at a low volume. They are meant to shake the foundations of the listing rooms of those enjoying this album. Yes, I've heard a more powerful bass in my main system, where I use two mighty SVS subwoofers with 16-inch drivers. But in the system using the Scansonic SM5 B speakers, the gestalt of Rutherford's of the bass pedal's tonality was still there - the power of these bass pedals was consistent with the music they reinforced.
This was true even without using the small, inexpensive SVS SB-2000 subwoofer that I often use in this system. If there were any frequencies below 20Hz, they were now audible. I often used this sub regardless of the speakers used. When I used the subwoofer with the SM5 B's, I raised its volume only until it was audible. With the SM5 B speakers, it didn't need much more. Only those who use these speakers as the main speaker in a home theater system should feel that one or two subwoofers are imperative.
These positive traits that I heard when listening to this Genesis album were many, as they were when I played music of all genres. These speakers' large, enveloping soundstage was likely aided by its ribbon tweeter, which reproduced vocals, especially on well-recorded music with zero sibilance, or any other anomalies. And like all the different instruments, voices, and sounds that these speakers would emit with a lifelike presence that belied their reasonable price.
Conversely, $7490 might represent a considerable chunk of change for many. Calling these speakers "affordable" is relative. But the technology of these speakers has trickled down from a brand of speakers costing much, much more; they are a ridiculous bargain. They have inherited more than I expected, given the considerable price difference between the Raidho and Scansonic speakers.
I could easily fill Enjoy The Music.com's server with praise for the Scansonic MB5 B. Many times during the audition period, I would sit back and enjoy the music (pun unintended) because I would forget that I was reviewing these speakers while listening to both old favorites and enjoying new musical finds. That's what it's all about.
I highly recommend the Scansonic MB5 B.