Back in May 2012, I reviewed the Raidho C2.1, a smallish, three-driver, floorstanding loudspeaker from Denmark that retailed for $28,000 USD per pair. A lot has changed since then for the manufacturer of that speaker, Raidho Acoustics. The primary designer of the C2.1, Michael Børresen, has left the company to helm Aavik Acoustics along with his partner, Lars Kristensen. Aavik makes some very expensive amplifiers and a DAC-preamplifier.
The current incarnation of Raidho Acoustics is wholly owned by Dantax Radio A/S, which acquired the company in 2009. Among their team are chief technical officer John Peter Jensen and chief engineer Peter Larsen. Larsen has done engineering work for Dynaudio and driver manufacturer Vifa, and is now primarily responsible for Raidho’s speaker designs. Most recently, Dantax also acquired Danish electronics manufacturer GamuT Audio, whose Benno Baun Meldgaard has joined the Raidho design team. Rune Skov, Dantax’s sales director, contacted me and offered for review Raidho’s new XT-5 loudspeaker, which retails for $41,600/pair. I quickly agreed, and they sent a pair from their headquarters in Pandrup, Denmark.
Perhaps most surprising is that, in a press release, Raidho describes the XT-5 as its “flagship design.” Considering the fact that Raidho’s D-5.1 is still manufactured and retails for north of $200,000 USD/pair, eyebrows will rise at the revelation that the company now considers the XT-5, at little more than one-fifth the D-5.1’s price, to be its top-performing model. After e-mail exchanges and a phone call with Rune Skov, I began to understand Raidho’s strategy, which involves some fundamental improvements in their designs.
Most apparent to the new Raidho design team was that the Ceramix drive units used in Raidho’s speakers needed to be improved. The chief problem that needed solving was the woofers’ bass delivery, or the lack thereof. In short, the older woofers weren’t up to the task of handling the high amounts of power or delivering the high outputs Larsen and his team now saw as necessities. In response, Raidho greatly increased the magnet strength of the motor systems -- I’m told they’re 80% stronger than before -- and made changes to the surrounds, to permit greater cone excursions. The cone diaphragms, too, were improved: they’re now made of a membrane comprising seven layers of aluminum, ceramic, titanium, and titanium nitride. The result of all these changes is a more substantial driver that won’t be so easily stressed when reproducing low bass at high volumes.
The XT-5 has six 4” drive units. Two of these are used as midrange drivers, one above and one below the latest version of Raidho’s ribbon tweeter. The other four act as woofers: one at the very top of the cabinet, three at the bottom. The midrange drivers are crossed over to the tweeter at 3.5kHz, and hand off to the woofers at 220Hz, both crossovers accomplished with second-order slopes.
The slender, three-way XT-5 measures 52”H x 5.7”W x 18.5”D and weighs just 85 pounds. Its wing-shaped cabinet is ported to the rear via two segmented slots, one of them directly above the single pair of five-way binding posts. The cabinet, made of MDF walls that appear to be about an inch thick, is stuffed with an unnamed material. The drivers are mounted on integral aluminum baffles that are then bolted to the cabinet proper, to form the entire front face of the speaker. The XT-5 sits on two metal outriggers -- one front, one rear -- that attach to channels cut into the bottom of the cabinet, the outriggers in turn sitting on round isolation feet. The outriggers are mandatory and supplied -- without them, the speaker would tip right over.
The XT-5’s frequency range is specified as 40Hz-50kHz and its impedance as a nominal 6 ohms; Raidho doesn’t specify the sensitivity. The standard finish is High Gloss Black; Birdseye Maple Burl and custom colors add $5100/pair. My review samples arrived in fairly lightweight cardboard boxes strapped to a shipping pallet.
I was surprised that each XT-5 weighed only 85 pounds. Having had in my listening room models from Rockport Technologies and Magico, each weighing hundreds of pounds, I’m not used to speakers that my kids could easily move around. I was concerned that the XT-5s would ring like a pair of hollow boxes and thus add colorations to the music, but the results of the knuckle-rap test weren’t nearly as disturbing as I expected. The Raidhos were by no means as inert as those Rockports or Magicos; nonetheless, each emitted a fairly benign-sounding thunk, instead of the hollow honk their lightweight construction had led me to expect.
The XT-5s’ painted finish wasn’t up to the best I’ve seen but was far from the worst. It had none of the orange-peel dimpling you see on the cheapest painted finishes, but wasn’t as smooth or mirrorlike as, for instance, a speaker from Tidal Audio. Some may be disturbed by the fact that Raidho’s speaker cabinets are made in the Far East instead of at their home base in Denmark, a country long known for its fine cabinetry. After all, you should expect the best quality available for more than 40 grand per pair. I examined the XT-5 from top to bottom, and concluded that in comparison with the brands mentioned above, it falls a bit short in terms of materials, robustness of construction, and finish. On the other hand, I really like the XT-5’s proportions -- the pair of them were super-easy to position in my room, looked great from my listening seat, and sounded quite good from the outset, even as I was still fine-tuning their positions. In fact, the Raidhos never sounded bad in my room, regardless of where I put them or what electronics I hooked them up to.
In my auditioning of the Raidho XT-5s I used two of the best integrated amplifier-DACs money can buy: Devialet’s D-Premier ($15,995, discontinued) and McIntosh Laboratory’s MA9000 ($10,000, brand new). My sources were either a MacBook Pro running Roon and Tidal, or an Oppo BDP-103 universal BD player running its Media Control app, also used to access a connected external hard drive housing my music collection. Wiring was Siltech Explorer-series interconnects, speaker cables, and power cords.
The Raidho XT-5s ended up 5’ 8” from the Music Vault’s front wall, 5’ 10” from the sidewalls, 11’ 10” apart, 11’ from my listening position, and toed-in until their tweeter axes crossed just behind my head. As the XT-5s sent me were demo samples, they were already broken in when I received them. Once I’d got them set up, I jumped right into the listening.
The Raidho XT-5s’ impact was immediate. I’m used to speakers that form precise aural images of performers with razor-sharp outlines within very well-defined spaces. Although I very much like that type of sound, I was taken aback -- in a good way -- by the soundstage cast by the XT-5s. Though far deeper and wider than I’m used to hearing in my room, it was more diffuse -- the sound was more spacious and enveloping. Playing the Cowboy Junkies made this readily apparent. “White Sail,” from their Pale Sun, Crescent Moon (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, RCA/Tidal), engulfed the speaker half of my room, and while lead singer Margo Timmins’s voice was at more or less the center of the soundstage, the image of her voice was larger, with less-distinct outlines, than I’m used to hearing. The fullness of the bass also made the Raidhos’ reproduction of the recording venue larger -- the front wall of my room seemed to disappear. In short, the XT-5s made the boundaries typically defined by edges of the widest-spaced performers extend even farther outward, and the acoustics of the recording space made the boundaries go out still farther. As a result, I heard big soundstages inhabited by large images. Moving on to “Floorboard Blues,” I heard more of the same. The XT-5s dug deeper in the bass -- close to 30Hz in my Music Vault -- than indicated by their frequency-range spec, and this allowed soundstages to more fully engulf the Vault. The image density was solid, and voices, in particular, seemed huge as the Raidhos played unapologetically full and big.
The bass was round and, as I’ve said, deep, but didn’t devolve into muddiness or sloppiness. The midbass wasn’t of the super-tight variety I typically favor, but, like the XT-5s’ soundstaging characteristics, it was a change I could easily appreciate, and made many songs that I enjoy sound more relaxed. The title track of Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat (16/44.1 FLAC, Reprise/Tidal) didn’t have quite the visceral impact I feel from some other speakers, but the bass was still deep and tuneful, if a bit rounder than what I’ve heard from, say, Magico and YG Acoustics speakers. The Raidhos found their groove in the way they could swing with the rhythm of the music, without locking it down with an iron fist. I could easily imagine the XT-5s overloading a small room -- proper matching of speaker to room size will be important, but of course that’s true of any speaker that can produce low bass.
The Ayoub Sisters’ version of Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Mark Messenger, from The Ayoub Sisters (16/44.1 FLAC, Decca/Tidal), was super enjoyable: there were long decays of the strings, which made the song sound less like a track played in my listening room and more as I’d expect it to sound in a live performance. Such is the nature of reverberation in recorded music, and the Raidhos seemed adept at reproducing it.
I attribute this ability of the XT-5 to its ribbon tweeter’s ability to reproduce the subtlest high-frequency sounds with great fidelity. The XT-5 went with the flow of the music, refusing to chain it up or tie it down: Music sounded less forced than it does through many other speakers. The piano was free-flowing and bouncy, with a beautifully resonant quality that bloomed fully in my room. The sound was in no way overdamped or dead, but alive and kicking. As I listened to track after Tidal track, the Ayoub Sisters kept making beautiful music, and I never experienced even a hint of listening fatigue. I easily spent hours in front of the Raidhos without tiring of their reproductions of recordings good and poor. At the same time, I wasn’t wowed by the precisely outlined image of a singer right there at 10:00 o’clock, 7’ 6.75” from my ears. Then again, these speakers didn’t miss the forest for the trees. They got the overall performance right, even if they didn’t position performers on soundstages with the microprecision of some loudspeakers.
Those used to the sound of hard-dome tweeters may find the XT-5’s ribbon something different: I found its sound lighter and airier, and never did it sound overbearing or bright. It sounded agile, even quick, like some hard domes, but without the razor-sharp leading edges that can sometimes harden the sound. Nor did it sound like a soft dome. Dynaudio’s soft-dome Esotar tweeters sound more tonally dense in the heart of the treble, but sound heavier at the top of their range than the Raidho ribbon.
One way to describe the Raidhos’ sound -- a way that might not be helpful at all -- is that they were fun. I’m not so sure a 50-year-old man should be moving as I was to the Imagine Dragons + Khalid’s single “Thunder/Young Dumb & Broke” (16/44.1 FLAC, KidinaKorner/Interscope/Tidal), but I’m pretty sure I’m right when I tell you that the Raidhos rocked this song -- my kids ran up to the Music Vault, wondering if Dad had lost his mind.
And since I was on a pop kick, especially Imagine Dragons, I cued up “Whatever It Takes,” from their Evolve (16/44.1 FLAC, KidinaKorner/Interscope/Tidal), and turned it up. I had to see if those little 4” woofers would give out. I cranked up the McIntosh MA9000, then cranked it up more, to well over 90dB. When lead vocalist Dan Reynolds sings “’Cause I love the adrenaline in my veins / I do whatever it takes / ’Cause I love how it feels when I break the chains,” I wondered if those woofers would break. Nope. The sound got big, but the XT-5s survived. Then, when the next track began -- “Sucker for Pain,” by Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, and Imagine Dragons, from the Suicide Squad soundtrack (16/44.1 FLAC, Atlantic/Warner/Tidal) -- the bass thumped pretty hard. The woofers still did not cry uncle. Still, these are 4” woofers -- even though each XT-5 dedicates four of its half-dozen to the bass, I wouldn’t expect a subwoofer-like low end from this speaker -- figure 35Hz in-room. Nonetheless, Lil Wayne rapped over a beat that I felt with real impact in my chest. It didn’t sound weak or lightweight in any way.
Who would buy these?
I can see a lot of folks liking the sound of the Raidho Acoustics XT-5. This speaker doesn’t try to fit the mold established by so many of today’s speakers: It’s not a superprecise scalpel that lets you dissect recordings to reveal microscopic details that the artists themselves might not know made it through the recording chain. Its bass doesn’t give an impression of being produced by woofers whose action is so pistonic that their output could break concrete. I found the Raidhos more easygoing than all that. Nor was it a speaker that will demand much from its owner. The pair of them weren’t hard to find good spots for in my room -- they sounded plenty good even before I’d discovered where they sounded best -- and they worked great with the Devialet and McIntosh integrateds I used. I suspect you could pair these speakers with a Hegel Music Systems integrated at half the cost of the McIntosh MA9000 and still be absolutely satisfied.
The Raidho XT-5s also looked terrific in my room. This speaker is modern-looking and well proportioned, and was not so big as to be intrusive. However, the XT-5’s build quality is not Rolex-like. You’ll find better painted finishes elsewhere, and joins of even tighter tolerances from a number of other brands. Whether that’s something you consider a deal breaker in a speaker costing $41,600/pair will be up to you. I’d like to see better construction and finishing, and even more substantial packaging.
The XT-5 scored major points: It always sounded great, whether I was playing an “audiophile recording” of the highest pedigree, or a rap track designed to sound good over a car stereo system with a couple of twelves in the back. It wasn’t forgiving in the sense of glossing over details -- rather, it had a lighter, airier, nonfatiguing treble mated to a fairly neutral midrange and a largish, round bass. All of that added up to a sound that was never offensive, and worked well with a wide array of musical genres, whether recorded well or rather poorly.
I think that, in the XT-5, Raidho Acoustics has produced a loudspeaker that will appeal to many listeners, and that seems to have fewer limitations than their past speakers -- for instance, it will play plenty loud. I’ll be anxious to hear what the next generation of Raidho’s D series sounds like, but for now, you can audition the flagship Raidho design whose price doesn’t ascend to six figures.
. . . Jeff Fritz
- DAC-integrated amplifiers -- Devialet D-Premier, McIntosh Laboratory MA9000
- Sources -- Apple MacBook Pro running High Sierra 10.13.3, Roon, Tidal streaming; Oppo Digital BDP-103 universal BD player
- Cables -- Siltech Explorer interconnects, speaker cables, power cords
Raidho Acoustics XT-5 Loudspeakers
Price: $41,600 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
c/o Dantax Radio A/S
Phone: +45 98-24-76-77