The W5 is the first loudspeaker from the brilliant Swiss manufacturer Boenicke Audio. They have 4 models in their range and each model is available in 3 versions, standard, SE and SE+, they all look identical but the differences between these 3 versions are quite marked.
The Standard W5 are £5145 a pair, the SE are £6540, rising to £8534 with the SE+. As you progress through the 3 different versions you essentially get a number of substantial internal upgrades that obviously make up the increased prices, but you do get a lot for your money, notably better imaging and greater coherency as you move up through the 3 models. The differences are outlined on the main W5 product page (link on the next line down).
I became a Boenicke Audio dealer in the Summer of 2021 and the W5 SE is the first model I have put on permanent demonstration, the first floor-stander in the range, the W8 will be following very soon, in the guise of either SE or SE+.
The W5 is tiny, smaller than most people would imagine and when customers see them in the flesh just about everyone says something along the lines of ‘I knew they were small, but not that small!’. They stand at just under 30cm tall (29.3cm to be precise) and they are just over 10cm wide so you can easily pick them up one handed. They weigh in at a solid 3.5 kg each, this weight is down the fact the cabinet is made from solid wood, no MDF carcass covered in veneer here thank you, which is quite unique, both at this price point and beyond.
The build quality, fit and finish is outstanding, a lot of love, care and time has gone into producing them. The speakers are essentially 2 halves that are glued together down the middle. The inside of the cabinet is a work of art, a complicated maze of curves and shapes – carefully designed and implemented to assist bass response and to avoid unwanted turbulence.
The top and bottom front and rear edges are all beautifully curved and it gives the cabinet a very elegant appearance.
All 3 versions of the W5 come with a pair of speaker stands, which are very simple and understated but they work well. The W5 has 3 drive units, a 3 inch forward facing wide-band driver, a rear facing ambient tweeter and a side firing 5.25 inch long throw bass driver, this is useful as depending on the room and the speakers position within the room the bass driver can fire in or out. There is no right or wrong position, it will differ from one room to another, it’s all about listening and make no mistake that drive unit can move plenty of air! I’ve had a couple of customers almost dismiss the W5 in conversation as they are so small and therefore they ‘can’t do real bass’ – don’t fall into that trap, there is an abundance of immersive bass that fills my listening room (4.5m x 4m with a 2.5m high ceiling) quite easily.
I used the W5 SE in a few different systems at wildly different performance levels , a Gold Note DS-10 DAC/Preamp with a PA-10 Stereo Power Amp (and also with a pair of PA-10 running in mono), a Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe Integrated Amplifier, and the Vitus RI-101 mk2.
First off positioning – In my room the W5 SE stood in relative free space, best performance had them sited just over 2m apart with around 80cm behind them, I got the the best results with the bass drivers on the inside in my room, they had a moderate amount of toe-in, but not a lot. They certainly appreciated a little time and care getting them just right,
From the off they W5 SE are incredibly impressive, given the tiny cabinet size they paint a huge musical landscape in front of you. Starting off with a DS-10/PA-10 they sounded detailed and engaging and they certainly put a smile on my face.
To be fair the W5 are not the easiest speaker to drive so re-configuring the system from a single PA-10 to a pair of them in mono brought about a big improvement, the extra amplification and power was very much appreciated, a pair of PA-10’s were controlling the speakers much better and as a result the presentation became a lot more incisive and informative, particularly at lower volumes. It’s obviously great to play music loud, but not everyone can (or wants to) all of the time.
Switching across to the £5000 integrated the IS-1000 Deluxe there was an increase in weight and body, I can imagine some people preferring the DS-10/PA-10 presentation over the IS-1000 – there is no right or wrong, but the fact the differences were obvious is good as it means the W5 SE is transparent and resolving and not masking what the rest of system is doing.
Next up was the Vitus, as you might expect switching over to the RI-101 mk2 was a rather significant jump, but in defence to the Gold Note at over 3x the cost of an IS-1000 Deluxe something would be wrong if the Vitus wasn’t a monumental step forward.
The W5 SE responded beautifully with the Vitus, they really raised their game on every level. There was an obvious increase in resolution, scale, weight – the extra power and current delivery of the RI-101 meant the Boenicke was better when pushed but they also improved when played at more conservative volumes. They remained completely even handed and balanced, the additional resolution was never thrust out at me, we’re talking Vitus here of course, the speakers responded quite magnificently to the 101.
As mentioned above the W5 SE paint a huge image, the soundstage is vast, there is real front to back depth and a real holographic aspect to it, you really do get fully immersed in the way they present the music. They are open, coherent, detailed and given how small they are there is ample bass, I never once felt short-changed with how low they were reaching, sure they don’t extend as low as a pair of Avalon’s or Vimberg’s but that’s not an exactly fair comparison given their size and price points!
The W5 SE are a very addictive listen that’s for sure. I love it when a system just makes you want to play one more track, then another, one track reminds you of another and before you know you’ve lost another hour and it’s another late night – this has happened more often than not whenever I’ve spent time with the W5 SE! If you value being engaged and emotionally connected to your music I’m confident the W5 will tick lots of boxes for you!
I have a wide varied taste in music and I always try to explore the far flung corners of my library when I’m playing with new equipment and I listened to Nick Cave, Tony Allen, Elbow, GoGo Penguin, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Laura Marling, Miles Davis, The National, Taylor Swift, Radiohead, Jon Hopkins, Shabaka Hutchings to name just a few.
If you already have a good amplifier or system and you want or require a small loudspeaker the W5 SE are definitely one to listen to for sure. If you are starting from scratch or looking to make a more fundamental change to your whole system a pair of W5 SE combined with an IS-1000 Deluxe and a streaming subscription of your choice (the Gold Note does Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Spotify plus Roon) you literally have a complete system in a rather neat package.
If budget permits step up to the Vitus RI-101 mk2 with the DAC streamer board fitted. It’s a colossal step up in performance and for many will be an end-game upgrade! It really does elevate the W5 SE to a completely new level.
Let’s not forget the importance of system foundations as well……..any hi-fi is only as good as the weakest link in the chain ultimately, a Shunyata or Entreq power cable, speaker cables and Ethernet/USB cables all serve to lower the noise levels which improves every aspect of the system. Too many systems are held back by inadequate and poor cabling and all it serves to accomplish is strangle your music.
Home demonstrations/loans of the W5 SE are available upon request and part exchange is welcome too, I’m happy to take your existing speakers in trade in if it helps makes the numbers work.
The first floor-stander in the Boenicke range, the W8 will make making an appearance soon as well so watch this space!
I’m delighted to be representing this brilliant, but quite unconventional loudspeaker brand, their performance is truly magical and if you love music they not fail to impress! Please get in touch to arrange a home demonstration or for more info