This is one of the most cheap tiny speakers in recent memory. It’s a two-way reflex ported bookshelf design, as expected, but that’s where the routine ends. It has an Usher UA25-10 25mm silk dome tweeter and a KSW2-5029B 125mm mid/bass unit with a polypropylene cone; the latter is an interesting choice; this material was first introduced in the 1970s with the Spendor BC1 and remained popular until the end of the 1990s, but it’s unusual to see it in a speaker released at the end of the decade. It produces a notably smooth, sumptuous, and – if we’re being honest – soft sound, which tonally complements the contemporary, silk-dome tweeter.
These two drivers are housed in a small 180x250x300mm box, with a claimed power handling of 50W, which is likely due to the polyprop cone. Even if you have a powerful amplifier, their sensitivity of 86dB/1W means they won’t go too loud; they’re best kept in small to medium sized spaces where they fit hand-in-glove. The Taiwanese-made Usher, which retailed for £350 in the United Kingdom in 2008, is particularly well-presented in a choice of wood finish, gloss white, or black. The 6.8kg cabinet is tight and rigid, revealing nothing to price competitors, both then and now.
The S-520 produces a pleasant tone. Given its price and date, it’s an uncommonly warm listening experience, prompting some of the less enlightened periodicals of the day to discount it. It won’t blow your socks off, but when used at the end of a good front end, it’s more than capable of revealing the quality of the source and/or recording. Although the bass lacks the grip and articulation of other competitors, it is undoubtedly tuneful – in fact, it is one of the most pleasurable of all the Usher speakers I’ve heard. Midband is detailed, open, and spacious, but it doesn’t thrust the soundstage at you; instead, it gently hangs instruments back and allows you to gaze into the recorded acoustic. At 2kHz, it switches to one of the loveliest upper midrange and trebles you’ll hear for less than £1,000. The Usher has been fine-tuned to produce a pleasant, smooth, and spacious treble.
Usher S-520s are a terrific second-hand buy, and you can pick up a pair for under £200 – and that’s a lot of speaker for the money. You’ll be rewarded with a remarkably sleek sound if you feed them a competent source and a moderately clear and strong amplifier.