Usher S-520

USHER S-520 loudspeaker review

From Hi-Fi World - January 2009 issue




The Usher S-520 is one of our long term favourites. It is distinguished by its clear polypropylene woofer, which has the same sort of smooth, well damped sound you get from Spendor loudspeakers. Like Spendor, Usher use a static phase plug, as do Quad, Wharfedale and B&W in this group, to disperse high frequencies from the bass/mid cone until the large 25mm soft dome (i.e. fabric) tweeter takes over. It does this at a low 1.5kHz our measurements show, improving drive unit integration and lessening audibility of break up modes, contributing to the 520's cohesive sound. The S-520 comes in handed pairs, the tweeter's inside position close to the baffle edge improving stereo imaging, whilst asymmetry reduces influence of surface waves. Ports are front mounted. Measuring 300mm high, 180mm wide and 250mm deep the S-520 is sized to fit shelves or a stand. It weighs a normal 6.3kgs, feels sturdy and ours had a deep gloss black finish. Connection is via bi-wire terminals.



Alison Goldfrapp's vocals were beautifully resolved, sounding a tad dry but with strong revelation of vocal intonations and textures. The Ushers similarly pulled Gerry Rafferty from The Ark and highlighted his slightly nasal delivery and plaintive vocal style. The reason for the dryness of tone was that raised high frequency output is highlighted by the Sugden A21a, which is no shy flower in this area. But superb insight brought concise enunciation from Rafferty, as it did from Goldfrapp and other singers; the S-520s were a class act with vocals, even though sibilants were made a little obvious at times.

Bass lines were in good balance with all else and here the Ushers sound clean and tuneful. They can hold onto strong bass lines with a grip that is impressive. Like the iQ30s and 685s, bass goes low but not down to subterranean depths. The Ushers throw out a wide sound stage and project forward quite well too. They aren't a match for the B&Ws, but otherwise sound spacious and unfettered in their imaging, the 'handed' tweeters creating well etched images. These same tweeters also did a good job with cymbals and violins, bringing a strong sense of intense detail, although this is helped by their forward nature. Superb vocal handling had me transfixed by Renee Fleming singing Madame Butterfly. The S-520s are pure class with material like this, their unaffected naturalness resolving Fleming's wonderful steadiness of tone and strength of delivery. The Ushers draw you in and delight with their fine range of strengths.

verdict five globes

A thoroughly impressive loudspeaker that others struggle to approach.

USHER S-520 £320

Hi Audio Distribution

+44 (0)8450 525259


- smooth, clear midband

- clean, tight bass

- concise imaging


- forward treble

- limited low bass

- occasional sibilance


Usher S-520 frequency response lifts at 800Hz and continues on and up smoothly to 6kHz, where it lifts again to plateau up to 20kHz. This will give ‘obvious’ treble and strong midrange detailing. Bass extends down to 50Hz, supported by a port +6dB up at 80Hz relative to forward output, and that works down 46Hz. Below this frequency output plunges, so they will sound fast and punchy. The drive units give unusually smooth output and the early decay spectrum reflects this across the critical midband, where the S-520s are very ‘clean’.

Sensitivity of 84dB is low against recent designs, and a minimum of a 60 Watt amplifier is needed for decent volume, partly because of an unusually high measured impedance of 9 Ohms. The Usher S-520s need more power than rivals, but they have an unusually smooth response, free from undulations, that suggests good drivers of low colouration. NK


usher s-520 stepped sine fr4 screen

Green - driver output; Red - port output


usher s-520  z4  screen


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