Energy Connoisseur C5 Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Written by Brian Kahn   
Monday, 01 July 2002

The Connoisseur C5 is the smallest floor-standing speaker in the seven-speaker lineup that makes up the new Energy Connoisseur line. The Connoisseur series utilizes much of the technology pioneered in Energy’s flagship Veritas speaker line. The Connoisseur C5 retails for $750, with the remainder of the line value priced as well. As a basis for comparison, the similarly configured and appointed B&W CM4, to which the C5 bears a striking resemblance, retails for twice the price.

The five-speaker offerings in the Connoisseur line come in either Black Ash or Canadian Maple finishes over an MDF (medium density fiberboard) enclosure. I found the Canadian Maple finish of my review sample to be gorgeous and better-looking than darn near any other speaker in this price range. The C5 cabinet is 36 inches high, 7.75 inches wide and 15.5 inches deep. The front of the speaker bears a strong resemblance to the recently-reviewed B&W CM4 with its silver-colored baffle and three-driver array. With the grille removed, the aesthetic design of the Connoisseur C5 is sexy and modern.

The entire baffle, with the exception of the front baffle of the tweeter enclosure, is silver/gray. The one-inch tweeter sits above two 6.5-inch woofers, which are situated above a large, flared port. The entire cabinet sits on silver stabilizing feet that match the baffle in color. The front two feet stick out about two inches to the side and pleasantly remind me of the fins on the futuristic Disneyland rockets in shape. The back of the speaker continues the silver theme with a large, plastic cup with oversized, gold-plated binding posts. There are no provisions for bi-wiring. The cabinetry joints are barely visible around the perimeter, but they are not seamlessly flush with the rear surface.

The drivers and port are flanked by what look like five silver buttons on each side. These button-like pieces are part of a very clever speaker grille assembly. The black cloth speaker grille has magnets that correspond to the position of the buttons. To place the grille on, simply hold it in front of the speaker, press, and it snaps into place -- quick, easy and simple.

The Connoisseurs are constructed from dense MDF utilizing Energy’s Interloc system and Spherex baffle, developed for the Veritas line. The Interloc system, as utilized in the C5, produces a cabinet more rigid than many other comparable speakers. The baffle utilizes Spherex, a material found on some other Energy speakers. This material is extremely strong and allows the designers to mold complex baffle shapes in an attempt to enhance dispersion.

The drivers also feature fairly new technology that has trickled down from the flagship Veritas line. The tweeter used throughout the Connoisseur line is the highly-regarded, one-inch Aluminum Dome. This tweeter features its own chamber and allows for higher powered handling and a lower crossover point. The crossover point is set at 2 kHz on the C5. This lower crossover point is said to minimize the dispersion pattern problems inherent in a higher-frequency crossover design. The twin 6.5-inch drivers also derive from the Veritas line. These aluminum polypropylene composite cones sit in a special butyl rubber compound that is also silver in color. This speaker’s surround is more than aesthetically pleasing. The surrounds were developed for use in the Veritas line to provide critical damping and control of the drivers.

The C5 and the remaining floor-standing models feature what Energy calls a tapered crossover. Despite only two driver sizes, Energy classifies the C5 as a three-way speaker, due to its tapered crossover technology. The dual woofers work together on the lower frequencies to provide a large piston area, but only the upper driver is utilized for the midrange frequencies where large volume displacement is not necessary.

After I removed the C5’s from the box, I noticed that there was some assembly required. The four feet and one filler piece have to be attached to the bottom of the speaker cabinet. The only required tool is a screwdriver and the entire process takes about five minutes per speaker. If one looks closely at the bottom of the speaker front, the spaces between the filler piece and the "rocket fin" legs are easy to see, but I did not find this to be noticeable or distracting unless I was looking with nerd-like scrutiny.

The C5’s binding posts are simple to access, making it easy to connect the C5’s to my stereo system for break-in. I let these speakers break in for over two weeks before doing any serious listening. I moved the speakers around quite a bit before settling on having the front baffles 32 inches from the rear wall and the cabinet's inner sides five feet and 10 inches apart, with the speakers toed in about 20 degrees. All critical listening was done without a subwoofer in the system.

The Music
I started my listening tests with the reasonably-priced Myryad CD player and integrated amplifier, but ultimately became “less reasonable” by hooking up my reference $3,200 Krell 300iL integrated amp to the system. My first impression was that these speakers produce a great deal of bass energy for such a small cabinet. I successfully moved the speakers farther away from the rear wall to smooth out low-end sound created by the powerful Krell and the C5s.

The C5s did very well with Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” from her album No More Drama (MCA). Blige’s voice was silky smooth, with no sign of annoying sibilance that can frequently be heard on other speakers that are designed more for size than for sound. The bass with the C5s was surprisingly powerful and deeper than expected on this cut. The C5s produced a solid soundstage image, albeit a smaller one than the $2,400 per pair Final 0.3 hybrid electrostatics that I have become accustomed to lately. The fifth track on the album, “PMS,” features Blige singing with simple instrumental supporting tracks. I paid close attention to the guitars, which feature Lenny Kravitz’s handiwork. While Blige’s voice imaged solidly, the lower chords on the guitar seemed somewhat less resolved.

I continued with Sheryl Crow and her new album, c’mon, c’mon (A&M). The “Soak Up The Sun” track was familiar to me from recent radio play and a few spins on the B&Ws. Crow’s voice was instantly recognizable and emotionally engaging. The vocals and guitar work were vibrant and detailed throughout the midrange. The C5s consistently performed well with the difficult-to-reproduce female vocals, giving them body and clarity without the harshness normally associated with affordably-priced speakers.

Having had good luck with the C5s on more intimate recordings, I next listened to Eric Clapton’s Unplugged (Warner Brothers). His rendition of “Before You Accuse Me” again demonstrated the C5s' midrange neutrality and ability to portray smaller to mid-sized soundstages with conviction and believability. Toe tapping was irresistible.

Lastly, I auditioned Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington’s Together Again For The First Time (Mobile Fidelity). I began with one of my favorites, “Duke’s Place,” which has horns that sounded spectacularly smooth and full, with plenty of detail. The high end of the C5s was wide open, with an ever-so-slightly laid-back character.

The Downside
Aesthetically, those who prefer a traditional look should keep the grilles on the C5s. I personally found the C5s to be visually appealing, whether the grilles were on or off. A friend commented that they looked kind of “funky," but this is just a matter of personal taste. I have few aesthetic criticisms of the review sample. From the front, I'd like to see less of the slight gaps at the base between the legs. From the rear, I would also to see the back panel a bit more flush with the cabinet walls, and the “Energy” label moved down to the binding post region, so as not to distract from the beautiful maple finish.

The C5s are certainly more mellow and laid-back than the B&W CM4s, despite having a little less control in the lower registers. Placement is critical with the C5s in order to get an even low end, considering their prolific output of bass. For home theater applications, this could be of little or no concern. However, if you invest in Energy Connoisseur C5s, you will surely be listening to music. They are that good.

The new Connoisseur C5s have no business being only $750 speakers. If you are shopping for more expensive speakers, I urge you to audition these first, because they could easily be priced at twice their cost. I know the C5s will rock home theaters and new formats like DVD-Audio and SACD, which need strong bass response and clear vocal articulation.

Energy did a fine job of bringing much of the high-end technology from its more expensive speakers down into reasonably-priced and attractive new speakers. The C5s are the right size, they look sexy and they sound silk-smooth with a lightly laid-back character. The bar has been raised.
Manufacturer Energy
Model Connoisseur C5 Loudspeakers
Reviewer Brian Kahn

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