Here is a copy of my ARX A5 that I posted on The Audio Insider site:
I have not fully broken in my A5s, but I have some definite impressions already. They are quite slim at a only a little over 7” wide. My wife referred to them as “elegant” which is not often applied to ARX. Like the A1b, these are heavy and rock solid. These are nominally 6 ohm speakers, but I left my receiver’s setting at 8 ohms and had no problems, even at high volumes. These speakers have a high 91dB sensitivity and will not tax any reasonable modern receiver, at least not at normal volumes. I can’t speak for the amp requirements for Buford’s speaker torture tests.
The speakers are closer to the front wall than recommended; less than two feet to the front baffle, but that did not seem to hurt the bass in any way. All listening was with the ports open. The port plugs were missing, due to a shipping error.
My choice of source material could not be more different than Buford’s. First I listened to Beethoven's Ninth (Karajan, 1984). This contains double-bass solos, full orchestra, four solo voices and a large chorus. This is a real test for any speaker. I'm using 2-channel stereo mode with the A5s set to large and the center speaker off and no sub. The A5s have a great soundstage with amazing imaging. I could pinpoint each solo voice clearly. What distinguishes the A5 from other speakers I have heard is its clarity. Both solo voices and the chorus are amazingly clear and well-defined. There is not a hint of mushiness or vagueness in the orchestral parts.
My wife, Marguerite, commented that "it sounds like you are actually there," meaning the speakers disappear and you just hear the music. This is much more significant than you can imagine. My wife is an intensely visual person. She is an artist; she teaches ceramics at a city museum, but she is much less interested in sound. With our old HT setup she would listen to TV through the TV speakers and not bother to turn on the receiver (though that’s partially because of the quality of our old speakers). She thought the A1bs sounded pretty good and were clear, but the A5s really impressed her. The sound was absolutely transparent.
Buford said to get the woofer cones moving for break-in. I don’t have any bass-heavy music, but I remembered the creation scene in the movie Tree of Life had a lot of bass. It also has a single soprano voice singing some kind of hymn. With the other sound effects, this is a good test of the highs, the lows and the midrange. While my wife was out I cranked up the volume, put the Blu-Ray on repeat chapter and gave the A5s a workout.. Once again, the music and the sound effects were a model of clarity. You will not get fatigued listening to these speakers. Even with the volume too loud (for me), the A5s sounded effortless. There were no signs of strain or increased distortion. Yes, the cones were moving visibly.
I continued my testing with The Stones, Santana, Eric Clapton, U2, Stan Getz, Brubeck, Tchaikovsky and Bach. It became very clear that the limiting factor is the source material, not the speakers. U2 was vague. Getz was mixed. Listening to Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo A La Turk” recorded in 1959 my wife said, “it’s like there’s a piano in the room.” The clarity was amazing. They really cleaned up the original source material. On the other hand, the Leningrad Philharmonic playing Tchaikovsky sounded compressed and rather vague, even though it is a digital recording. I blame the engineers, not the speakers. With the A5s, you will really find out how good your source material is. You may be disappointed in some material that sounded good with lesser speakers.
I did not do any critical listening to movies. In stereo mode I did find dialog from TV and movies clearer than with my center speaker on. If it’s just you at the LP, the A5s handle the center channel fine. I did not test it off-axis, where I would expect a center channel speaker to be better. I’ll leave it to others to review the A5s with other types of music and movies.
Listening to the A1bs as mains before the A5s arrived, I wondered if I had made a mistake spending so much more to get the A5s. The A1bs played loud enough for me and had no obvious flaws. I have nothing bad to say about the A1bs and I can’t quantitatively explain the difference in sound. However, the A1bs sound like good speakers and the A5s sound like there are no speakers, just the music (with good source material). I guess the dedicated midrange help put it over the edge. This makes the A5s an incredible value. I thought it would take at least the Salk SoundScapes to achieve this level of transparency. I admit that this is an exaggeration for anyone with a better ear than mine.
With apologies to Monty Python, there is one word to describe the A5 speakers: clarity. And transparency. Two words: clarity and transparency. And effortlessness. Three words: clarity, transparency and effortlessness. And value. Four words: clarity, transparency, effortlessness and value. Nobody expects a speaker this good at its price.