Equator Audio Research D5 Monitor Review

Feb 1, 2012 9:00 AM, By Bobby Frasier

COAXIAL SELF-POWERED STUDIO SPEAKERS

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photo of Equator D5 front

The point-source design of the D5 makes for a wide sweet spot.

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing Equator Audio’s Q12 monitors for Mix (February 2011) and was impressed with many of their features—most importantly, the sound of those formidable 12-inch coaxial speakers. With the D5, Equator continues its philosophy of point-source sound reproduction, albeit in a greatly reduced footprint, power rating, maximum SPL and price point. Although the D5 is not meant to compete with its bigger brothers, Equator’s design criteria remains consistent: a self-powered, front-ported box with a wide sweet spot and detailed, linear reproduction for $299.99/pair, a price that is nothing short of “stupid-cheap.”

SMALL FOOTPRINT, BIG SOUND
Not too long ago, small speaker designs sounded, well, small and boxy, exhibiting nonlinear reproduction that forced you to guess at how your mixes would sound when translated to other systems. Lately, I’ve been listening to a plethora of well-designed small speakers and came away with the impression that these small-footprint designs are getting better all the time. By using a greater degree of advanced materials, DSP and advanced acoustic-modeling software, the “art of the small box” is rapidly advancing in its design, implementation and detailed reproduction. The D5 sits firmly in that category.

Equator D5 Try This image

The D5s are only sold online, direct from the factory. This distribution philosophy, along with cost-effective production in China, benefits the end-user by making these speakers affordable for all. And the icing on the cake: They sound good. The speaker’s dimensions (9.75x7x8.5 inches), along with its front-ported design, allow the D5s to be placed in any environment—meter bridge, desktop, OB van or mounted on a wall.

INGREDIENTS IN THE PUNCH
The D5s offer a good sense of tight, punchy low end, down to the rated 53 Hz. The cabinet is physically a bit deeper than some small designs I’ve recently tested, and this increase in cabinet size no doubt contributes to the amount of bass response that the speaker delivers. The D5 employs a 5.25-inch polypropylene low-frequency driver. Equator Audio tuned the 1.75-inch front-extended port for linearity down to the rated response. An onboard digital power amplifier with a 100-watt RMS drives the D5’s woofer and 1-inch-diameter silk tweeter. However, the user manual does not mention how this power is being split between the drivers, nor does it explain the amp’s operational design. The front baffle, as well as the rest of the cabinet, is made of wood, providing rigidity and reduced cabinet resonance; but again, there is no mention of whether the construction is laminate, solid or particleboard.

A fourth-order digital crossover (24dB/octave slope), along with internal DSP, is tuned to deliver less distortion in the critical midrange (900 to 3k Hz) and “matched transducer output.” A small, circular port on the back panel is labeled “For Calibration Only,” and is used exclusively by Equator to tune the speaker. The back panel sports an IEC connector, on/off switch, XLR and ¼-inch TRS inputs, a continuously variable detented sensitivity control (-10 dBV to beyond +4 dBu) and a “boundary control.” This control is simply labeled 1, 2 and 3, corresponding to Corner, Front of a Wall and Free Standing, respectively. Response curves are not provided for these settings, but from listening to the variations, it is apparent that the low-frequency response is rolled off to adjust for the associated build-up of bass amplitude when speakers are placed in a corner or next to a wall. There is limiter and driver protection, as well as thermal and short-circuit protection—all characteristics of a well-thought-out, professional transducer.






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