Perlisten Audio S Series 7.1 Speaker System Review

hccrefstatusbadgeThe performance of some high-end speakers from a new US brand makes Mark Craven sit up and listen

With so many speaker brands competing in the home cinema/hi-fi markets, it can sometimes be hard to muster real enthusiasm when another one comes along. Yet Perlisten Audio, a new company from Wisconsin in the US, has arrived with a potent offering that immediately stands out. It helps, of course, that Perlisten debuts with a fully-formed range of models that will suit system builders, including subwoofers and height/surround cabinets.

And, yes, the fact its S Series loudspeakers are certified THX Dominus is notable too, even if the whole THX thing doesn't seem to be anywhere near as popular in the UK as it is in the US. Most importantly, though, Perlisten Audio's speakers sound superb. Superb enough, perhaps, to make their price tags look not unreasonable.

Tested here is a 7.1 system comprising its S5m monitor speaker (£5,725 each), S7c centre (£5,725), S4s surrounds (£3,400 each) and D12s subwoofer (£3,600). The combined cost comes to around £34k – more if you opt for Perlisten's High Gloss Ebony finish (pictured, p61) for the L/C/R speakers instead of standard High Gloss Black or White. That's a huge chunk of change but do note that, in S Series terms, we've tried to keep the pricing sensible. There are S7t floorstander models (£16,000 per pair) and larger subwoofers also available, should you want your soundfield to go bigger and deeper.


The S5m monitor has an internal Helmholtz resonator that can be left open (bass reflex mode) or sealed. It outputs via a side vent in the speaker's base

All S Series models feature the same driver, crossover and cabinet technologies, and it's when you start digging into these that you begin to understand their high-end status. For example, at the heart of the Perlisten 'story' is its patent-pending DPC (Directivity Pattern Control) array, found on every model. This combines a 28mm beryllium dome tweeter with a pair of same-size 'Textreme' thin-ply carbon diaphragm (TPCD) mid-range drivers. The tweeter is mounted at the centre of a waveguide, the two mids slightly overlapping its edge above and below. Extensive R&D, including acoustic modelling software, has been used to determine the shape of the waveguide, plus the size and position of the three drivers, in order to deliver the preferred horizontal/vertical dispersion characteristics and manage interaction at the crossover point. Crafting the DPC, says Perlisten, took 18 months.

This array is flanked by a pair of 7in Textreme woofers in the S5m monitor (and four in the case of the S7c centre), while it sits above (or below, depending on orientation) a single 7in unit on the S4s. All the drivers are then mounted to a curved HDF baffle designed to limit cabinet diffractions, while the cabinets themselves are beautifully finished, rock-solid, and very pleasing on the eye.

Perlisten's D12s sub is the baby of the bunch below 15in and dual-driver models. Yet it adopts the same engineering principles and features the same app-based control and EQ platform. We'll be auditioning one of the larger units on a standalone basis in a future issue.


The DPC array combines a beryllium tweeter and two Textreme mid-range units within an acoustic waveguide

Let's Jump To It
Clock the price tag of this array, and the obvious R&D effort that's gone into these cabinets and drivers, and you'll rightly expect a standout performance. And that's exactly what you get, although perhaps with a bit of surprise that Perlisten's speakers and sub aren't all about brutal aggression.

As an example, the Etihad Towers fight scene/car jump stunt in Fast & Furious 7 (4K Blu-ray) is delivered with a practically obscene amount of resolution, brawn and subtlety. Think of all the good things you want from loudspeakers – they're here.

When Michelle Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey start scrapping, every blow lands with a huge, thudding kick, and a wickedly fast, crisp edge. There's a beautiful blend of sharp high-end details and fat, rich bass, and while all this is going on the score is pouring out of all channels. It's large and musical with trombones, strings and drums sounding utterly convincing.

When the two fall over the balcony into the party below, the sub and speakers find another level of pure output. A tight wave of LFE surges through the room, and the rear and surround channels come alive with the gasps of startled party guests. In truth, I was a bit startled too.

Perlisten Audio