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Sony SS-CS5 review

It’s always a good day when I get to talk about the gear I love. If you read some of my previous speaker reviews you might have noticed I often compare affordable speakers with the Sony SS-CS5, and that’s because it offers refinement and accuracy you’d never expect from a bookshelf speaker under $200 a pair.

If you’re on a tight budget but still want to get the best possible sound out of your audio system, this three-way, three-driver bookshelf speaker might well be the perfect solution for your audiophile needs.

However, as a budget-friendly speaker, it comes with some caveats, and there are other alternatives within the same price range that offer similar performance. Still, I love them! So here’s my review of the Sony SS-CS5 and why you should get a pair too.

About the author

I am an audiophile and audio engineer with over 10 years of experience in the music industry. When testing speakers, I’m interested in clarity and neutrality, first and foremost, but I also want the sound to be enjoyable and engaging. When I use my hi-fi equipment for deep-listening sessions, I pay attention to the quality of frequency response across the spectrum, and when it comes to bookshelf speakers, it’s crucial they can perfectly reproduce whichever music I throw at them.

Sony SS-CS5 bookshelf speakers review
Image: Sony, Higher Hz
  • 1″ tweeter
  • 0.75″ super-tweeter
  • 5″ woofer
  • 53 Hz to 50 kHz
  • 100 W peak power
  • 6 ohms impedance
  • 87 dB sensitivity

Final verdict on the Sony SS-CS5 4.0

For their price, a pair of Sony SS-CS5 offers unmatched sound quality. Yes, you might get a better soundstage from, let’s say, the KEF LS50 Meta, but these are speakers that cost eight times more, so to me, the SS-CS5 rightfully deserve the popularity they gained among audio enthusiasts.

The sound is clear and transparent across the whole spectrum, with seamless cohesion between the three drivers. The highs are vibrant and accurate, thanks to the independent super-tweeter. The midrange is smooth and enveloping, slightly tending towards the warm.

While the low frequencies might lack some depth and consistency, the speaker still offers enough power to satisfy the needs of listeners into rock, pop, classical, and not bass-heavy electronic music.

There are very few budget-friendly speakers that can match the sound quality of the Sony SS-CS5, and even if its design might not be the most appealing in the market, the sound fully compensates for the aesthetics.

What I like

  • Best possible sound for the price.
  • Three-way speaker with an excellent blend between drivers.
  • Extensive compatibility.

What I don’t like

  • The design and build quality are not as exceptional as the sound.
  • Low frequencies lack some depth.
Buy Sony SS-CS5 at: AmazonB&H

Build quality 4.5

Build quality is good, and you get the impression the SS-CS5 is built to last. Sony has a reputation for using high-quality components even for their most affordable products, and in this speaker, you’ll find a solid, all-wood construction that’ll not only protect your gear but also remove unwanted resonances.

Furthermore, the Mica Reinforced Cellular (MRC) cone ensures you won’t hear distortions even when playing loud, heavy bass music. The SS-CS5’s layout is optimized to bring to life an excellent sound with a solid and compact bookshelf speaker.

Design 4.0

The Sony SS-CS5 is designed to be compact, powerful, and transparent. These characteristics are hard to combine in general, let alone budget-friendly speakers! Yet, the SS-CS5 succeeds in offering a professional sonic performance despite its size simply by overlooking aesthetics.

The bookshelf speaker looks cluttered in the front, especially because of the super-tweeter. Plus, the screws scattered all around the front panel make it look a bit steampunk compared to the cleaner design of modern speakers.

The speaker grilles can be attached with grommets (not with magnets), though the SS-CS5 looks decent both with and without them. All in all, there are better-looking speakers out there.

Compatibility 4.5

This versatile speaker is highly compatible with most amplifiers or receivers, whether you have an old audio system or modern gear like the Denon AVR-S570BT or a Marantz PM8006. In general, with an input power of up to 100 W, you won’t need a monstrous amp to make them work.

In terms of sound across the room, the SS-CS5 performs well in most environments, and given its small size, it’s the perfect speaker for small or crowded spaces.

Bear in mind that this is a wired speaker, meaning that it doesn’t come with built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity options.

Sound 5.0

The sound offered by the Sony SS-CS5 is a perfect combination of transparency and natural tonality, with the super tweeter providing an airiness and coherence that many two-way bookshelf speakers often lack. The result is a truly immersive soundscape you wouldn’t expect from speakers this size.

The combination of crisp highs and intricate mids delivers an exceptional sound texture that I imagine will please classical music enthusiasts. The 5.25-inch woofer performs well, though it won’t galvanize listeners with a passion for bass-heavy music.

With a high-frequency response up to 50 kHz, music feels vibrant and energizing, and the transparent sound is further enhanced by the film condensers and woofer’s silicon steel plate, which improve the soundstage and mitigate resonances.

Ultimately, the Sony SS-CS5 makes high-quality listening experiences accessible to anyone, which is why so many music lovers have fallen in love with it over the years.

Compared to other bookshelf speakers

The SS-CS5 is a great budget option and some of my favorite bookshelf speakers in any price range. But here’re a few other options that are worth your consideration.

Sony SS-CS5 vs Jamo S 803

While the Jamo S 803 is undoubtedly a good-quality speaker, I don’t particularly like its midrange reproduction. When compared to the SS-CS5, mids feel flat and slightly colored. However, the bass feels deeper and more pronounced, so if neutrality is not as crucial as an energizing low-end, you should consider the S 803.

Sony SS-CS5 vs Polk Audio T15

Even cheaper than the SS-CS5, the Polk T15 is ideal if you’re on a tight budget and looking for a speaker that enhances low-end frequencies. However, when it comes to neutrality and immersive soundstage, there’s no match: the Sony is by far superior.

Read the full Polk Audio T15 review

Sony SS-CS5 vs Klipsch R-41M

The Klipsch R-41M is a great bookshelf speaker that combines high-quality sound reproduction and affordability. In terms of audio reproduction, the R-41M delivers a precise performance similar to the SS-CS5, especially thanks to the horn-loaded tweeters that enhance the natural vibrancy of music.

Read the full Klipsch R-41M review

Sony SS-CS5 vs Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2

Another exceptional and affordable bookshelf speaker, the Elac B5.2 is perhaps the only speaker I’d consider superior to the SS-CS5 within this price range. This speaker offers a neutral, extremely-detailed soundscape, defined by accuracy across the spectrum.

Furthermore, a pair of Elac B5.2 will perform magnificently wherever you place them in your room, while the SS-CS5 might require a bit more trial and error. They’re both exceptional speakers, but to me, the winner is the Elac B5.2.

Read the full Elac Debut 2.0 B5.2 review

Who are the Sony SS-CS5 bookshelf speakers best suited for?

The Sony SS-CS5 is for music enthusiasts who want to start their journey into the world of high-fidelity audio on the right foot.

This bookshelf speaker is affordable yet offers a tremendous sonic performance: precise reproduction, immersive soundstage, and low frequencies engaging enough to provide an energizing listening experience.

It’s also an excellent option for experienced audiophiles who need an extra pair of speakers and don’t want to compromise on quality too much.

Again, for the price, the Sony SS-CS5 is worth trying, regardless of your experience level.

Buy Sony SS-CS5 at: AmazonB&H

  • Finally review I was looking for.i have pair and am happy with my cs5s.but had urge to buy some speakers on ebay.i should not be looking to spend more money on speakers when I have 12 ceiling speakers to put in yet..but I was looking at other speakers the speaker slot that I am.i am going to stick with my cs5sthat aren’t even broken in.Thanks

  • Kanto 5.25″YUP6 and 4″YUP4 are outstanding values in this segment of affordable yet great sounding bookshelf speakers.If you want an even more streamlined and minimalist system then the Kanto’s bluetooth powered speakers in various driver sizes are an excellent choice in bookshelf speakers.

    • It’s a great option for home theater, for both front and/or rear surround. They have great dynamics and the frequency range is broad enough to create an immersive cinematic experience.

  • I have both the Sony SS-CS5s and the Micca RB42 bookshelf speakers. I have A/B ‘ed them, more than once, hoping to really enjoy the Sony speakers. I’m a long time Sony fan, so I’m always optimistic.
    In the end, I always prefer the Miccas sound quality. No fatiguing highs or booming bass.

  • I have had my Sony SC5 speakers for 2 years and they are fantastic, I listen to pop, rock, alternative, heavy metal music through Deezer in HiFi FLAC and yep that produces awesome sound soundstage through the speakers. Guests comment on the sound they produce. This review is accurate, I agree with all of it. I have the speakers connected to a Sony STRDH-190 receiver. Both are Hi Res Audio certified. I lookes at the Klipchsh R41M and Elac B2 – price won me over on the Sony speakers I sure bought a unicorn! Highly reccomended

  • I totally concur with your review! I love them! I bought a pair two years ago to hook up with an old Sherwood 2×50 that journeyed to the basement system that I never use. I replaced the Sherwood that was my garage system with a Yamaha rx-v1400i picked up for a hundo and it literally is like brand new. Front mains are Yamaha 6490 3-way cheapies. 10 inch powered Dayton subwoofer replaced with an MTX subwoofer. It sounded decent prior to hooking up the Sony CS5’s last night for fun! I hooked them up to the presence outputs running in 7 channel stereo. BOOM! the airiness is definitely obvious. I did my best with manual setup to blend all speakers and I’m quite impressed. The Sony’s definitely shine and open the width of the soundstage to just just right! Great review!

    • Thank you so much, Mike! Thank you for sharing your experience with these great little speakers! It sounds like you’ve created an amazing setup with your Yamaha receiver and the switch to an MTX subwoofer, really bringing out the best in your audio system. Happy listening!

  • Can these speakers be placed on their side or would you say their dispersion is strictly suited for standing them upright?

    • Hi Jeff! It’s best to keep speakers upright for the clearest sound. They’re designed to spread sound beautifully this way. Laying them on their side can mess with their magic, making the soundstage not as the engineers planned. For that perfect audio experience, upright is the way to go.