Audio Space LS3/5 - Part I and II

Dec 9, 2010
Extra: Kari Nevalainen

This is an ingenious loudspeaker! No doubt, one of the best I've ever heard in its category. For one thing, the overall tonal balance is brilliantly executed. The minus 3dB point for the bass is said to hang around 70 Hz but the balance is so clever and so natural that with most program material one pays no attention at all to lack of midbass or lower. And whatever upper bass boost there might be, it too is so realized that it doesn't feel incorrect, just good and justified (at least in my listening room). This speaker, despite its size, sounds amazingly full-range.

Second, the response is superbly smooth and liquid over the frequency spectrum, and it's smooth especially in the vocal  midrange. All voices get a stunning treatment by these little monitors. No deep thundering bass, no sky-creeping highs, just the mellow, blossoming singing ... pleasent but still delightfully neutral sounding midrange.

Third, and most importantly perhaps, reproduction of harmonics is so rich and tense and harmonious that it will make you cry. With well recorded not trivial chamber music, this speaker touches the soul both of the music and the listener. It's a master of reproducing string instruments. Believe me, this speaker can sound beautiful. I've haven't heard anything similar for a long long time.

This little gem can be listened to hours after hours, with classic and less artistic material, and it won't irritate, distract, or dull you. If I ever get my horn speakers sound equally appealing and balanced, I'll be in heaven. OK, I may exaggerate a bit but the truth is that I've been truly amazed and excited about what this speaker can do with music. And, although this ain't the core of the matter, all for 900 euros per pair.

Right, so what is it? It's Roger LS3/5. Well, well, well. Rogers LS3/5 doesn't exist any more, so let's call it Audio Space 'Rogers' LS3/5. How this speaker is born is a long story, and pieces of it is given below. Also is explained why this speaker probably sounds very close to the original Rogers LS3/5 despite the fact that components that go into the speaker aren't the same.

Audio Space AS-3/5A Audiophile Test CD explains how the legend was born, first in the Department of Scientific Research and Development of British Broadcasting Corporation where the original LS3/5 was upgraded to the 15 ohm LS3/5A with the KEF B110/SP1003 woofer and KEF T27/SP1032 tweeter, and then in the minds of thousands of audiophiles over one generation (1974-1998). BBC needed a near field monitor that would reproduce vocals with high fidelity and one that would preserve natural and smooth intermediate frequencies and harmonious sliding between high and low pitch, and that's what they got.

Rogers was the first licenced to manufacture the LS3/5A, and over 50000 pairs left the factory in 25 years. But there were others too: Chartwell (3000 pairs), Audiomaster (2000 pairs), RAM (100 pairs), Goodmans (2000 pairs), Spendor (10000 pairs), Harbeth (5000 pairs) and KEF (2000 pairs). The story very much came to an end when KEF discontinued the production of the B110 woofer.

After the eight manufacturers Sterling took after the production of the LS3/5A in 1999. It bought all the remaining products and components left by Rogers including the B110 woofer and T27 tweeter. The production went on until it run out of the units and parts. In 2007, Sterling was again licenced to produce the LS3/5A. The new speakers had a new woofer, a new tweeter and a new crossover but it followed the specs of the original 11 ohm BBC LS3/5 and was toned according to the reference frequency response of the BBC monitor, as shown in the below figures.

The Audio Space LS3/5A is one such speaker: tonally and visually as close as possible to the original but different drivers, different crossover and the cabinet modified inside. The AS wants to be the one that carries on the legend - sweet and natural, soft without sharpness, bouncing bass etc. - recommended especially with vocal music, orchestral music, chamber music, jazz etc. - all BBC's bravures. As far as I am concerned, they've succeeded. I've heard some versions of the LS3/5A before but not enough to compare the As to the original BBC/Rogers LS 3/5A. But having now listened to various music through the AS LS3/5 I think I'm beginning to see why the LS3/5A was such a cult object. To me this inexpensive monitor has been a true revelation.

I had a chance to compare the AS LS3/5A with both the Spendor S3/5R (loan from Sound Factor - thanks Mitro) and Harbeth P3ESR (Highend Studio Helsinki), and I will tell more about those experiments very soon. So still wait for the full review. The speakers are packed now and back in the owner. When I retired from audiophiliaI, and only agree to listen to music for its own sake, these will be the speakers I first get hold of.

Spendor S3/5R

Spendor S3/5R sounds fine and likable and has a very good 3D soundstage but is musically not quite as meaningful as the AS LS3/5A. The AS sounds cleaner, has less bass but is better defined in the upper bass and lower mids, is more revealing in higher frequency bands, provides more detailed info on the recording. Spendor sounds warmer, softer, and tonally more modern overall. The AS LS3/5A is more neutral and smoother. The way in which the speaker is tuned makes the listener feel that there is still an adequate amount of bass for many music. True, with certain orchestral medieval music Spendor's tonal balance with slightly more bass energy served the music better. The AS sounded more raw but otherwise handsome and healthy. As said, the AS is so balanced that it sounds amazingly full-range and mature; the Spendor does not exhibit similar sophistication. With lovely violin sounds, and harmonically rich overtones in general, the AS sounds more like a speaker that has been subject to very careful consideration; there is nothing in its sound that would sound cheap.

Harbeth P3ESR

Like the Spendor, the Harbeth P3 is a good sounding speaker in multiple ways. I really liked it. Its sonics reminded me of that of the Spendor in that both sound more modern than the AS LS3/5. What this feature seems to come down to is their ability to deliver more echoy, more airy and spacious sound than the AS LS3/5A. The AS is not bad at imaging (eg. the center image is particularly stable) and the soundstage but it in comparison, it sounds drier (less lively), more intensly defined, and more forward. The AS is less bassy and tonally more forgiving in the higher frequencies than the Harbeth P3 (cembalo sounds more forward with the P3), but it is not incorrectly muted in the treble. As a result, some piano recordings sound spectacular with the Harbeth P3 but more honest and truthful with the AS LS3/5A. With chamber music the Harbeth P3 sounds nice and pleasant but with the AS such music gets a meaning, more thinking, more introspection, more civilized interpretation, one reason being richer harmonics of the string instruments. The AS is very good at directing the listener's attention to the vocal music, chamber music, small and bigger acoustic music and also keeping the listener in its hold.

So in conclusion, the AS LS3/5A is a wonderful sounding speaker that really impressed me deeply. It's not perfect, and I guess if the listener is not initially receptive to its musical undercurrents, the more mistakes can be listed. But I don't think it can be denied that this speaker possesses many strong sonic points: for instance, how it moves from the lower octaves to the midrange and above, and how this speaker is all about the "tone", not speed, not imaging, not extraordinary bass for the size etc. but tone, one splendid overwhelming tone. The AS LS3/5A has become my reference in this category (c. 900 euro per pair). It really makes many music sound so good.



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