With the 5T positioned about two feet from the back wall of my listening room, I enjoyed bass response that was smooth and tuneful, with extension into the 50Hz range. (Response weakened when the speaker was moved further out into the room, lending credence to Aerial’s claim that the 5T is, indeed, optimized for wall proximity.) The 5T was also lively and nicely weighted in the critical mids and lower mids—the range that captures the physical presence of vocalists, cello resonances, and the bloom of a concert grand piano. For example, during the cello solo from Nickelcreek’s “Green and Gray,” the 5T provided a real sense of the way the movement of the bow creates a ripple of harmonics as it passes over the lower strings. Keep in mind that in order to extract the quality of bass I was enjoying, amplifier power is important—the 5T’s really start to sing with 100Wpc but will be even happier with more.
Low-level resolution was also very good. During Harry Connick, Jr’s rendition of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”—a tasteful, intimate track for voice, sax, and bass—the textures were velvet, relaxed, and forgiving. Micro-dynamics and transient information were good, and the percussive hand-tapping upon the bass was nicely defined though not quite as crisp as I’ve heard it sound on my reference ATCs. Port artifacts or overhang were close to nonexistent, even when the speaker was facing the challenge of pipe organ during Rutter’s Requiem. Only a slight looseness crept into the lower reaches of its midbass. All in all, the 5T performed uncommonly well in this regard for its modest size, and while a great small sub like the REL T7i would add to the bottom-octave festivities, the little speaker rarely left me unsatisfied.
One of the key strengths of the 5T is its reproduction of soundstage and dimension. As I listened to Audra McDonald’s performance of “Somewhere” from her album How Glory Goes, her vocal clearly projected from a point slightly further upstage than I usually experience with this recording. Equally impressive was the manner in which symphonic music was conveyed with a depth and section-layering that often extended to the back wall of the auditorium. If you picture yourself in a concert hall, the 5T presents a row G perspective—a little further back than average but still a seat that would allow a listener to gather in the entire ensemble while also zeroing in on individual musicians. Part of the credit for this perspective might be owed to the warmer general character of the 5T, and a small drop off in the upper-mid or presence range. Also playing a role is the absence of diffraction artifacts, due to the narrow baffle.
In the final analysis, some loudspeakers feed the head, while others like the Aerial 5T touch the heart. Its performance, warm listenability, and fetching cosmetics are uncommon in a small loudspeaker in this range. The 5T is a speaker you can curl up with and enjoy all day, everyday—as I found myself doing.
A compact to covet.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Two-way, bass-reflex compact
Drivers: 1" soft-dome tweeter, 6.7" papyrus-blend cone mid/bass
Frequency response: 48Hz–25kHz +/-2dB
Sensitivity: 87dB at 2.83Vrms and 1.0 meter on axis
Nominal impedance: 4 ohms (3 ohms min)
Dimensions: 15.0" x 7.9" x 12.6"
Weight: 23 lbs.
Price: $3795/pr. (high-gloss rosenut or Nero metallic black); $4195/pr. (high-gloss ebony)
100 Research Drive
Wilmington, MA 01887
A Few Words with Michael Kelly, Aerial Acoustics
What are the challenges in designing a modest two-way compact?
The new 5T is the smallest speaker we make, but it has about 30% more internal volume than our previous 5B and is slot-vented. We wanted to reach lower, avoid a bass signature (a typical problem with small speakers), and improve sensitivity and dynamics while correctly balancing bass and midrange using just the woofer—also a challenge in a two-way design. I think the 5T’s combination of a long, smooth slot vent with low tuning and a unique crossover design with modified crossover “knees” achieves those goals. The laminated and heavily braced curved cabinet is lavishly built and is exceptionally inert for a small speaker.
Do you learn something from every new model—something that makes you a better designer? If so, what did the 5T teach you?
Well, it is always fun to make something small that turns out better than you expected and does almost everything right. It is my kind-of “desert island” speaker—a speaker that has sufficient bass to be satisfying on most music without a sub, is excellent from about 50Hz up, is exceedingly natural and transparent, images well, and ages well. By that I mean it doesn’t have some characteristic that over time starts to annoy you. It is always satisfying—yet small.
Could you name a couple things that TAS readers would be surprised to know about Aerial Acoustics?
Aerial was started in 1989 and incorporated in 1991 by David Marshall and myself. Dave and I worked together at Analog and Digital Systems (ADS) for many years before that where we built all of our own drivers in-house on a large scale. I learned about driver design and manufacturing at Braun in Germany and was the guy who transferred that know-how to the U.S. Today we have custom drivers made mostly in Denmark. Our complex, high-quality laminated and curved cabinets are made in various places using the latest German and Italian furniture machinery. We have always designed and assembled 100% of our products here in our small but modern factory in Massachusetts near Boston. Our goal is to provide exceptional performance at a reasonable price that people will enjoy for a long time.