Review: Sony SS-M7aes Speaker

Category: Speakers

Speakers are by far the most subjective piece in the average person's system and the one that tends to create the most excitement, whether positive or negative.
A multitude of evils can be overcome with the right speakers or every fault in the system can be made glaringly obvious. Let the mudslinging begin!
Several years ago I happened to wander into the local audio emporium to see what was new, exciting and due to my budget constraints, affordable. I glanced around at the latest offerings from B&W, Magnapan, and others of their types. Nothing caught my eye but one of their eager young salesmen felt the responsibility to show me the item they were currently trying to unload on unsuspecting customers. Of all things, a Sony speaker!
Being the savvy shopper that I am I would have no part of it. Everyone knows Sony does not make good equipment especially speakers.
Several years later I was in another store and the owner tried the same thing with the same speakers. On this occasion I must have had more time because I listened to his pitch and actually listened to the speakers. Much to my surprise they did not sound anywhere near as bad as I thought they would.
The salesman explained that Sony hired a reputable American speaker designer, gave him the checkbook, and told him not to come back till the job was done.
One of the models he developed was the SS-M7es. It was the first model released but in the middle of what would eventually become a three-model set of speakers. The SS-M3 was a two-way bookshelf speaker, and the SS-M9es was a floor standing four (or later a five driver) model which would eventually end up on Stereophile's class A list of recommended components.
The SS-M7es is a three way, three driver, stand-mounted speaker. None of the cabinet walls are parallel which greatly reduces the possibility of standing waves within the cabinet. The cabinet is made of 1" MDF and comes in many finishes.
The crossover is a third order Thiel type. The drivers were made for Sony but I do not know where they came from or who made them. The speakers themselves are made in the USA.
The speakers come with two sets of binding posts to facilitate bi-wiring, or bi-amping. I would like to see better metal binding posts instead of the plastic which comes stock.
The owner of the store offered to let me take them home and listen. Since no one else was in the store at the moment and no one would ever know I was going to listen to Sony speakers I took him up on the offer. How bad could they be, I wondered to myself.
I used them in place of the Focus .7's I had bought about five years earlier. The Focus impressed me with their overall tone and soundstaging. Alas I don't think the Canadian Company is still around.
I did not expect the Sony’s to compare very well with the Focus speakers, but since installing the Sony’s they have not been out of my system. Everything the Focus speakers did well, the Sony’s did better. Overall tone was as good as what I had been hearing and the soundstage was much tighter and better defined. The treble was audible to my ears to about 14 kHz, but Sony claim’s to go all the way to 20 kHz. Not that it matters to be since I can’t hear it anyway.
When playing LPs I have noticed on many occasions that there was sound coming from outside the spread of the speakers. The soundstage is much wider than the speaker placement. I know some think this is impossible, but I have heard it, as have others. The soundstage is also taller than the speakers are. One of the most pleasant improvements was the front-to-back depth of the soundstage. There is a palpable image presented in front of the listener. Instruments are tightly defined and located within that soundstage. Sound emanates from both the front of the speakers and from behind them.
I have listened to everything from heavy metal to chamber music with these speakers and they handle everything well. They are not perfect, the listener will not be fooled into thinking there is a flute player in the room, but nothing else will do that either. Natural timbre is very important to me, and the Sony’s do it well, but I know it is just recorded music. The biggest factor in musical enjoyment is still the listener’s imagination, not the electronics or speakers!
As I have replaced pieces in my system the Sony’s have continued to improve. I am on my third amp. When I bought the speakers I had a Forte amp, I sold it to buy an Aragon 8008st, and now am in the process of buying a Krell FPB 200. I also have had three pre-amps. Since buying the SS-M7es. I began with a Counterpoint SA 5.1, which I replaced with an Aragon. After a few weeks with the Aragon I bought the first of two Krell pre-amps. I am now using the KRC 2. I am only now thinking that it might be time to look at something better. I have listened to many friends system with much more expensive speakers and still did not think their speakers were better.
The only real fault to point out was also true of both speakers. Using the test CDs I own I was only able to discern bass down to about 45-50 Hz. Neither of the speakers will reproduce the deepest bass.
As I listen it is hard to fault these speakers. The worst attribute they possess is the anchor of the Sony label. People have decided that they cannot build a good speaker. I know from experience that these speakers would be very popular if it were not for that label. No one who has heard the speakers has said anything bad about them. The fact of the missing low bass registers has been mentioned, not as a complaint as much as an observation. Audiophiles have to say something you know.
If you want to buy a great sounding set of used speakers for a little cash investment you owe it to yourself to listen to these speakers. A buyer can spend a lot more money and not get a better speaker. Take the Sony label off of them and lie to your friends (if you must), they will be impressed by the sound.
These speakers might truly be one of the best bargains in Hi-end audio.

Associated gear
Benz Micro Glider Cartridge
Sota Star Sapphire sIII Turntable
Rega RB-900 Tonearm
Sony SC-D777es CD Player
Krell KRC-2 Preamplifier
Aragon 8008st Amplifier
Krell FPB-200 Amplifier
Sony SS-M7aes Speaker
Purist Proteus Interconnect
Purist Colossus Interconnect
Cardas Golden C Interconnect
Kimber Kable KCTG Interconnect
Tara Labs Pandora S Interconnect
Monster Cable M 2.4 Speaker cable
Nakamichi RX-505 Tape deck
Home made power cords Power cord
Tice Audio powerblock 2 AC filter

Similar products
Focus .7
Okay Nate, you've convinced me. How much do you want for them? Can I run them with my 2 watt Berning?
I use a pair of the Sony 7s in my bedroom system (2 channel, both music and movies). I picked them up 5 years ago for $700 at one of the Sony outlet stores and I consider them one of my most astute purchases. As Nrchy points out, they don't do deep bass, but they do the mid-bass very well, they are also tonally smooth and overall very quick sounding. They work best with solid state amps and they like power (100w minimum). People don't believe it when I say it, but they are comparable to the smaller Avalon models. I don't remember the reviewer, but these speakers were raved about in "Fi" magazine.
Tom I don't think I will ever own anything you would actually want, but I can always hope. I don't think the Sony's are sensetive enough for your amp. They are about 87 db. What are the lothar's?
I can't sell these speakers. After the amp purchase (of which I'm sure you would not approve) I am going to be broke for a long time!
Onhwy61 I agree with your assessment. This is a name issue. If these said Avalon, Theil, or any number of other good names they would have sold very well. The name kills them.
Yup, these are terrific speakers as are the SS M9ES and the grand daddy of them all, the Sony SS M9ED. I've owned the SS M9ES and they were great and the M9ED which I now own is certainly reference grade. Too bad snooty audiophiles can't get past the Sony badge. Dan Anagnost knows how to build speakers from the M7a to the M9ED(which is world class). Why wouldn't Sony with it's seemingly unlimited resources, clout and engineering prowess not be able to develop such a product versus a smaller speaker manufacturer and it's limited resources.
Makes sense to me.
Congrats on your review and M7's
Hey, aNrchy where can I buy the Sonys and how much should I expect to pay for them? I thought about "lothar's", but the proper enclosures are too large for my room. Thanks for sharing the review with us.
If you are really interested in the Sony's I have sen them here on AudiogoN. I have seen them priced anywhere from $350-500 which is obviously less than I paid for mine. At full retail they are a good deal, at the price I just mentioned they are a STEAL!
Good luck.
Nrchy and following posties:

Ah, there is nothing like the unrequieted longing for a lost love. I have waded through a plethora of tranducers in my search for my own slice of audio nirvana. When I came upon the SS-M7s I was forever smitten. I received a great deal on them because of the aformentioned Sony badging and consequent lack of sales. The system I put together with these beautiful works of sonic (and visual) art (Adcom GCD-575 cd player, Audio Alchemy DLC preamp, circa 1978 Marantz 256wpc amplifier - sorry, I cannot remember the model number, Sunfire True subwoofer) created such a wonderful synergy that my (sometimes) obsessive desire to upgrade was cured forever (or so I thought - but hey, a cable here and tweak there never hurt anybody, right?). Unfortunately I got married and the lack of WAF forced me to sell, though I did win a pair of Wilson CUB IIs from (she liked those). Now we are divorced (don't mess with my system!) the CUBs are gone (a fine speaker but they demanded electronics I could never afford) and I have been saving my sheckles for a return to Xanadu. I found a person selling a new pair, complete with deicated stands (very rare) on Ebay for $800. Come on tax return!

Good luck to you Nrchy (yes, it is a bit anarchistic to purchase an audio component based soley on performance and eschew lables - wierd, eh?) and all owners of this rarified product.

Cheers and a great thread!
Thanks for the thorough discussion. I've always admired the design of these speakers, though I can't remember ever hearing them, but I did see them in person. A while ago you were talking about looking for new speakers, I thought - any update?
Zaikesman, I have taken a fair amount of flak from fellow AudiogoNers, but I have to say they still sound very good. I know they are not a great speaker. They will never compete with a pair of Watt Puppies or Soundlabs, but they cannot be beat for $1000 more than the retail price. For a person looking to buy the less expensive Theils, or any number of good, inexpensive speakers, the Sony's are a steal.

Every time I add a new piece of gear or cable, the Sony's sound even better. I just bought some of the new (and much cheaper than in the past) Purist interconnects and speaker cables. They are still breaking in, but they already sound very good, or should I say the system sounds better than it did with the former cables.

I know that based on the value of my system the Sony's are disproportionally cheap (retail of the electronics is about $30,000, and the speakers are about $1500 new) but I still sit back and listen with a big stupid grin on my face.

I am saving to buy a new pair of speakers this summer. Hopefully I will be able to get a pair of Wilson's or Soundlab's, but until than I don't feel terribly short-changed by my Sony speakers.
Hey, not only that, but if you wind up getting either of those speakers you mention, you'll probably find you've opened up a whole other can of worms (and possibly 2 or 3) in trying to get everything (including the room) to work as well together as you might well be enjoying now, within its limits...

Two steps foward, one step back...I'd hang on to the Sonys through the switchover, just in case. :-)
No, they have a new line of 'better' speakers but they are nowhere near as good as the SS-M series. I looked at them recently at Abt electronics and they are a big step backwards. These SS-M7es come up for sale from time to time here on AudiogoN.
I will probably be selling mine this summer. I'm looking for a pair of Wilson Watt/Puppies or a pair of Soundlabs. As good as the Sony's are once I get into the range of those two speakers I don't think there will be much comparision but how do you compare a $20,000 speaker with a $2000 speaker?
The value/dollar ratio of the Sony's is still excellent!
Although purchased several years ago, I am now posting this due to some good listening session w/these speakers only recently.
When first set up they sounded nice,imaged out of the cabinet well,but they had constrained dynamics,volume,and lows.Top end was detailed in macro sense.
The SSM7 would not deliver convinving vocals or volume levels for many music
formats although.Please don't get me wrong I am not looking to loosen plaster.
What a differnce some intensive listening and experimenting makes!Afer many weeks of closer listing to these and several other loudspeakers I had accumilated over time I took the mids out and looked them over.Due to several years doing car systems I had aquired an ear for problems in sound, just a nack from making literally every mistake possible
I was always bothered by way the ssm7 portrayed vocal fem/or male this belied thier high marks on a casual "Stereophile"
review of them from a show report.Maybe my pair were different then others?
I noticed when removing the mids they had the as spec implied lambswool dampen
ing material. A lot of it it was packed in tight,very tight.I removed 1/2 reassembled then listened,wow!Different speaker altogether mids now floated in 3d space between the speaker more convincing then ever before. Vocal had a full fleshing out now hootiness was gone,the mids together w/ the tweeters had an electrostatic like speed and openess.With time and patience I added back carefully matched wads of lambswool back in mid chambers till I noticed the degredation start then backed up one wad.Up and running they were magical in many respect except bass had a restricted fast roll-off in its character.So I removed the woofers and they to where packed way to tight but with dacron fiberfill(I asume lambswool was a costly makers choice so
sony used dacron as cost balance due to the sheer amount that would have been needed to fill main chambers).
I did about the same as w/mids only I re-
moved all the dacron and measured it back in in as careful as I could amounts.
These speakers are open fast dynamic,it has a completely convincing soundstage.
Also if you place them on heavy wood stands they play wood bodied inst very well,on more solid stands they convey speed much better or combine as I have a stack of 5 12 by 12" concrete step pavers with small balls of poster tack between all atop a short wood stands for a decent balance of the 2. All in all the Sony's can sing. saw 2 pair for sale ad dates early June both sets around 6 bills. just type sony ssm7 into search engine...
In response to previous posts,I believe the crossover is 4th order,cabinet walls 3/4",driver baffle 1".
Drivers Peerless classic series. Tweeters and woofers appear to still be available,midrange however I can't find cataloged.
NE1 else have any info on these wonderful loudspeakers please post here....
clbeanz, do you know which version of the SS M7 you have? My comments were made about the later SS M7a. Some of the drivers were changed. The tweeter was upgraded and I felt was always one of the strong points of this speaker. It played bells and triangles along with other high frequency signals very well. On occasion I was surprised by how lifelike some of these sounds were reproduced.
Back of cabinet [SS-M7] Mine have what appears to be peerless classic DH105 4 ohm
1" fabric dome. Made around 1994? The brace behind/below woofer does not attach to front baffle,as they did on later production.This as told to me by Sony es rep at"Hi -FI 97"
After a very long break-in period top end had nice smooth character but would not keep up with midrange or woofer.
So I did some tweeter tweaking. Took voice coil off magnet ass'y and removed the foam insert replaced with small wad of lambswool, much improved after two more adjustments as to amount of dampning in chamber behind dome.
They no longer sound laid back on highs.
Personally I think the things got wicked fine mids.If you remove most of the lambswool from mid chamber.Bi-amp these speakers.Now I do not normally tear into speakers like this but I had put these speakers away after trying them awhile.
I had purchased them after reading a short paragraph by Barry Willis was it? He raved about them and I had no idea what they looked like or how they really sounded, ah to be young and foolish. They arrived ,I listened,thought they
sounded awful recessed mids,no low end,tilted way down at the top. I put them away many years and went through other speakers,finally getting them back in a system and doing some trial-n-error tweaks, they my faves now,try them near-
field they are impressive up close.
clbeanz, interesting experience you had with these speakers. I didn't have the problems with the SS M7a version that you mentioned. I don't use these speakers anymore. After several years with them I bought a pair of the SS M9's.
I liked the 7's a lot but the 9's are definately better speakers. Highs, mids, and lows are all improved.
If I was as brave as you I might try opening the cabinets and trying the things you mentioned. I tryed removing the tweeters of the 7's once but none of the allen wrenches I had fit well into the little screws. I was afraid to damage them.
The rubber restorer from radio shaak worked very well on the rubber around the drivers though. They sounded faster after one use. Give it a try!!!
I'll give that ratshack treatment a try. Using a stepped resistor line stage on the highs and active line stage on the lows the transparency and pacing have improved another notch. What size room are you running your 9's in?
Thanks for the tip.
clbeanz, the room is about 7H x 14W x 22D. I know these dimensions can be problematic, but I think I've tamed a good deal of the concerns with room treatments.

I think the speakers could be used in a much larger room without any real limitations placed on their ability to throw out good music.

It's funny, but even the ratshack can have useful products once in a while.
I figure you run the 9's on a long wall.Sitting 8'or so
back.Then 9's out into the room about 2-3'.Listening chair out about 3-4'out from back wall.
The bass from the 2 eights in each SSM9 would be boosted
by wall behind you,which could effect openess in the mids
maybe.Room treating bumped up bass has been elusive for me.
Treating higher frequency problems by fine tuning placement
and room treatments (mostly pictures and a tapestry in my humble room)in addition to where you place your furniture.
I went long wall first but didn't dig the room boom I got
from having 12x20'ceiling angles from 7 to 9'.So I of course thought a mini amphitheater put the gear on long short wall sat at tall side. Due to bass being re-enforced
by back wall,it felt like I was hearing it instead of the
speakers.So I went with speakers on short wall and amps,pre
and CD player behind the speakers so I could keep all by
cable runs really short.The details went up from short quality cabling and I could run speakers away from back wall
3-4 feet easy,and still sit in a listening spot with no wall right behind Me.Speaker posistion from side walls reflection were solved mostly by listeng nearfield with a lot of toe-in.I moved the around bit by bit,and found about a 1" play could really effect image on side wall and 6"play
from wall behind speakers could tune it quite a bit.
When I hit 31" to tweeter center,44" to cabinet face from back wall....Nrchy I have to say it's like the wall behind and next to the speakers did not exsist any more.Now I'm
going to hazzard a guess and say since the ceiling run low
from the left and rises as it goes right,that I'm not getting a hot spot from highs down to listening chair?
I really like the sound of no wall behind Me or from around the speakers very much.Side wall reflection was the most time consuming thing to tune out by moving the speakers bit by bit and lots of listening into late hours.
"Fun ain't it!" lol
What kind floor is in your music-room raised foundation or
concrete slab?
Ah the "Shack" can most certainly fix "Audiotweakerjones"
I be glad one is 10 minutes away,but when you need one of something you always got to buy it in packs of two.