Reviewed in the United States on November 11, 2020
As a matter of background information, I do quite a few blogs about various audio gear - mostly, within the budget categories below $300 - $400 or so (with exceptions). Recently, I began to focus my attention on a variety of active powered book shelf speakers. All listening was accomplished by connecting the speakers (via a DAC) to a desktop PC system, using a variety of DAC's, audiophile cables, etc. Music used for evaluation included classical, jazz, big band, Latin, and other large instrumental genres - because being able to discern from among a wide variety of instruments reproduced by a speaker system, is key here.
Let's first talk about the Product Box: To begin with, I was (still am) NOT a happy camper with regards to the product box and the ridiculously small amount of styrofoam used. Amazon (or the vendor here) does NOT double box this product and as a result, the box arrives at your doorstep with photos of the speakers plastered all over the box (for all the world to see) - but more so, the handling left the box pushed in, the highly brittle styrofoam destroyed on the inside (it crumbled completely), and the box I received is definitely not usable again. The cardboard used on this box is rather thin (unlike other competing speaker brands) and the styrofoam they use is flimsy and very brittle - thus the crumbling. The vendor should double box their products for a variety of reasons. This is completely unsatisfactory for a number of reasons - specifically, scenarios involving the theft of the boxes on your doorstep after delivery, and/or damage to the speakers inside.
Next - after inspecting the speakers to ensure that nothing was damaged, I hooked everything up - using a variety of power cables (beginning with the stock cables that came with the E5 XT's, then moving on to 10 gauge Tripp heavy duty cables, and finally, some 8 gauge (monster sized) audiophile power cables). The very first thing that struck me was how much electrical noise can be heard from the speakers when using RCA audio cables - that is, either hum and hiss - or both (do note, however, I was forced to use RCA audio cables alluded to later on in this review).
Now here is where the "BUT" comes in (from my subject header line). The Presonus speakers have several inputs on the rear that include the regular unbalanced RCA cables input, and two balanced inputs (both XLR and TRS). At first, because I didn't have any balanced audio gear, I naturally resorted to using audiophile quality RCA cables. But I soon found out that with Presonus active speakers it is best (and I strongly mean "best") to use their balanced inputs (XLR or TRS). Why? Because the RCA inputs on these Presonus speakers are highly susceptible to any types of RFI (and other) noise which can manifest in the forms of buzzing, hum, or hiss (or a combination of all 3 like I experienced). In fact, with my setup, the buzzing and hum was quite prominent and I was at the point where I was "almost" ready to send them back to the vendor. But before I did any type of return, I tried every remedy given to me by knowledgeable audiophiles - but nothing worked. Then one gentleman introduced me to the concept of "DI boxes." Now mind you, my not being a musician, I had no clue what a DI box was (of which there are both passive and active models). A DI box converts unbalanced audio signals (coming from RCA cables, which plug into one end of the DI box) to fully balanced signals (where you plug in XLR cables or TRS cables on the other end of the DI box). So I took a chance and invested in a DI Box - here's a model right here:
I then ran RCA cables from my DAC to the inputs on my Subwoofer. My subwoofer also has RCA outputs (filtering music below a certain point, channeling the lower frequencies to the sub), and I had RCA cables running out from there. I inserted the RCA cables coming from the subwoofer to the DI Box, and then I connected XLR cables from the other end of the DI box going to the Presonus speakers. When I did that, the difference became a night and day scenario. Gone was any semblance of noise - nothing, nada! I even put my ear up to the speakers - nothing, just pure silence! That made me a believer, but it also made me aware that Presonus speakers should really only be purchased if you are going to their balanced connections, as this humming and buzzing did not occur when I was evaluating other brand active speakers. Keep that in mind.
As far as setting up the speakers (adjustments provided on the rear of each speaker box), I left the mids and highs in their flat default position as that's where they sounded just fine on my desktop setup, along with the volume levels left in their default 12 o'clock position. NOTE - I never turn my active speakers off - I leave them on. Right out of the box, music was highly defined with lots of depth. But as time goes on - like after 24 - 48 hours - the sound becomes warmer and lucid. These speakers are amazing in my opinion. These monitors are, in my opinion, exceptionally accurate and capable of providing quite an immersive audio experience.
Once everything was adjusted, I began to listen to a variety of music (whose styles I delineated above). And here is where the Presonus shines.
Now keep in mind that the Presonus Eris E5 XT is a "monitor" speaker and there is quite a difference between that designation and the regular speakers you typically purchase for general listening. Most speakers now-a-days - even those costing in the thousands - may say "flat" in their specifications, but the equalization, cross-over, or whatever else is involved, may push the mid-base, elevate the midrange somewhat, and slide up the treble somewhat to account for driver deficiencies. This is done to make the speakers sound "lively," with a more immediate sound. Some speakers may emphasize the bass at the expense of the treble, and the list goes on. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that as thousands of us enjoy various speakers of this genre. The problem (or reality, I should say) is that you get accustomed to those types of sound signatures.
Good monitor designated speaker models let you hear exactly how the music was recorded - no less, no more. These E5 XT's that I just purchased replaced a well known (more expensive) brand of active desktop speakers. At first (initially), I thought the E5 XT's sounded a little flat - that is, initially lacking the immediacy I was accustomed to. However, it didn't take long for me to realize (and gladly so) that with superb recordings, the E5 XT's left you with goose bumps, whereas, if you fed them poor source material, your ears would pay the price. So I'm sooooo glad that I purchased these Presonus models. The thing about speakers such as the E5 XT's is that it raises your standards for what you expect out of your musical performances.
The music that I listened to had plenty of dynamics and E5 XT's handled them all with aplomb. The sound-staging, imaging (both front and fear) and depth were superb, filling in the entire front of the listening area. Now do keep in mind that I'm 71 years of age (as of this writing) and my high frequency hearing drops off rapidly above 8500 KHZ. Even with that, the highs and mids coming from the E5 XT's were dynamic, smooth, and not harsh at all (at least to my ears). Bass from around 45HZ and above appeared tight and not bloated at all. As I write this, I am listening to Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, and when the musicians strike the kettle drums and bass drum, you take notice - as if you were sitting right there by those instruments! When an orchestra goes to a full crescendo, the speakers do not break up at all - rather, they reproduce everything tightly and with undiminished dynamics. So audio-wise, you just can't go wrong with these - and based on audio capabilities alone, I'm assigning it 5 stars. To make a long story short, I'm keeping these for sure and may invest in a Presonus subwoofer in the near future.
Accessories and source material equipment used were (all of these products shown below can be purchased here on Amazon):
iFi Zen DAC - DAC
FX-AUDIO DAC X6 II DAC
Schiit Modi 3 - DAC
SMSL M200 - DAC
Micca OriGen 2 DAC
Soundavo HP-DAC 1 - DAC
RCA cables were the Blue Jeans Cables LC-1's. All the DAC's used were connected USB-wise to a Lenovo Desktop PC with 64 Gigs of RAM using Audioquest USB Pearl cables. None of my source equipment had balanced outputs, so I was relegated to having to use RCA cables to connect to the speakers - until I discovered the miraculous uses of a DI box. No more wishing I had more balanced equipment as the DI box converts unbalanced signals into a balanced output.
The Audioquest Pearl USB cables (used to connect various DAC's to the PC) are here:
So in Summary, the strengths of the E5 XT's are with the reproduction of music. Any negatives - which in many cases can be traced to the unbalanced RCA inputs on Presonus speakers, can be alleviated if you're willing to do what I did (mentioned above with the purchase of a DI box).
So after spending quite a bit of time listening to the E5 XT's (and they do get better with time), the superior sound capabilities of these monitors alone caused me to award them 5 stars. They are highly recommended and now I'm firmly in the Presonus camp!
Enjoy, and have a great life!