You don’t need to be a connoisseur of compact loudspeakers to recognize that the Aerial Acoustics Model 5T is quite a looker. Short (a mere 15" in height), dark, and handsome, it’s a gracefully proportioned two-way in a bass-reflex configuration. In spite of its modest $3795 base price, the 5T in many ways mirrors Aerial’s larger and pricier models, the Model 6T and Model 7T. For example, it has comparable curvilinear cabinet construction; the same luxe, high-gloss finish; the same tweeter; similar refinements to its woofer; and similar premium crossover components and wiring. At the same time it also represents an all-new design at its price point, entering the Aerial line as a replacement for the 5B.
Readers may recall that the 5B was a smaller, acoustic-suspension two-way, with lower sensitivity. Aerial’s Michael Kelly says that “with the new 5T, we wanted to extend the bass, maintain good bass definition, and increase sensitivity slightly. The 5T accomplishes these things but uses about 30% more internal volume to do so.” Significantly, the 5T is also purposely designed to be flexible in placement—anywhere from two inches to two feet from a wall, and equally happy on a bookshelf, a tabletop, or mounted on a stand. (Aerial will be offering its own bespoke speaker stand later this year.)
The posh enclosure is crafted by bonding multiple layers of wood together under high pressure for 48 hours in a 20-ton press. Aerial then adds crossbracing to the already thick walls and damps the interior with New Zealand long-fiber wool. The slanted, front baffle is attached to the cabinet face with an environmentally safe damping glue. The port is front-facing and optimized with a streamlined flow for extended bass response near wall boundaries. Aerial has always been known for its exquisite finishes, and it hasn’t dropped the ball with a more modest effort like the 5T, using what it describes as “architectural veneers.” Four priming layers are applied followed by a ten-layer hand-polished gloss finish. The 5T is offered in Nero metallic black, high-gloss rosenut, or an all-new premium high-gloss ebony.
The driver complement comprises the same custom-made ScanSpeak 1" woven, ring-dome, dual-magnet tweeter from the 7T, with machined aluminum face plate, and a new 6.7" long-stroke, dual-magnet, papyrus-blend mid/woof, custom-made for the 5T. The high-order multi-element crossover uses polypropylene capacitors, silver solder, and Teflon-shielded wiring. Crossover is at 2.7kHz. The back panel has two pairs of binding posts with jumpers for single-wiring, bi-wiring, or bi-amping. A thoughtful touch: There are the four adjustable spikes with protective covers for furniture or bookshelf placement.
The sonic mission of the 5T came through loud and clear—a deceptively small footprint to disarm the listener and then, ka-boom, a full bodied, big-boy, musical signature. From the fusillade of winds, bass drum, and timpani that opens Copland’s Fanfare to the crunch-groove of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” the 5T stands as a rebuttal to the small compacts of yore that were not only bass-shy but carried stingers instead of tweeters.
In tonal balance, the 5T is not a speaker of extremes. It satisfies by concentrating its energy right down the middle, projecting a round, rich, colorful musical landscape that avoids any brittle, aggressive, or forward tendencies. Its balance is not of the over-hyped variety, either in the upper octaves or in the mid-to-upper bass. It has a forgiving character that keeps sibilance in check, soothing and smoothing the reedy rasp of a tenor sax or the smoky sensuality of a Stevie Nicks vocal on, say, “Dreams.” Its treble range is lightly shaded, and on occasion this lowers the ceiling of the acoustic. To my ears, the 5T was not pool-table flat over the frequency spectrum, either; yet, the overall truth of its warm midrange always kept its balance musical. In my opinion, when a fifteen-inch-tall loudspeaker trades some overall accuracy for a bit of added charm and musical flattery, it’s a fair exchange.