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SoundArtist ("BBC") LS3/5A Speaker Review

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 182 93.8%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 5 2.6%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 1 0.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 6 3.1%

  • Total voters
    194

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the SoundArtist clone of BBC LS3/5A 2-way speaker/monitor. It is on kind loan from a member. Sample is in Walnut and he paid $630 for it:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Review.jpg

Fit and finish is quite good with no blemishes that I could see. Nice modern terminals are provided in the back:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Rear Back Review.jpg

I got a kick out of that "CE" mark. What exactly did they test?

For those of you who are not familiar with the "LS3/5A" these were monitor speakers designed by BBC in 1960s. Their reputation has spun multiple companies to keep producing them. Some are licensed. This Chinese version is not.

SoundArist LS3/5A Speaker Measurement
As usual we start with our anechoic frequency response measurements:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Frequency Response Measurement.png

Wow! I don't think I have ever seen such a messy frequency response in 260 speakers I have tested! Not only is it bad, it barely resemble any published response for LS3/5A. Here is the measurements of my review of Rogers LS 3/5A:

index.php


I guess response up to 1 kHz is kind of close but then goes off the rails after that. The bit that is close is the wrong anyway. Let's motor through early window and predicted in-room response as they are not remotely pretty:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Frequency Response Measurement.png

SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Predicted In-room Frequency Response Measurement.png


Near-field response shows what is wrong:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone near-field Frequency Response Measurement.png


That is no way to cross a woofer with a tweeter. They are sticking to the 3 kHz crossover frequency but woofer's response is all wrong by that point.

Impedance and phase response show that this is not at all copying the original design:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Impedance and phase Response Measurement.png

Minimum impedance of just 1.7 ohm??? Roger's response was some 9 ohm at the same spot. Not only is that wrong, it will be very tough load for amplifiers.

Distortion is much higher than Rogers LS3/5A although in the same region that that speaker was weak (woofer playing too high):
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone relative THD Distortion Response Measurement.png


Here is the Rogers version:
index.php


Here are the absolute distortion measurements but please, as noted, don't rely on them as frequency response is so variable:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone THD Distortion Response Measurement.png


Paradoxically, horizontal directivity is better than Rogers LS3/5A (which was pretty bad):
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Horizontal Beamwidth Response Measurement.png


SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Horizontal directivity Response Measurement.png


Vertical response is twisted in knots so best to stay at tweeter axis:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Vertical directivity Response Measurement.png


Finally, here are the waterfall and step response:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone CSD Waterfall Response Measurement.png


SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Step Response Measurement.png


Edit: here is the listening tests and EQ:
Sound Artist LS 3/5A Speaker Listening Tests and Equalization
Owner wanted to see if I could salvage the speaker by developing an EQ for it. I connected it to the recently reviewed AIYIMA A07 Max amplifier. Initial impression was a muffled sound followed by incredibly boomy sound if there was any bass in the music. My room has a mode near where the big hump is in this speaker making it doubly bad. So out came a few filters:
SoundArtist LS3 5A BBC Speaker Monitor Clone Equalization.png


This was fair bit of work. Getting rid of boominess would result in brightness at times. So I hand tuned the 2 to 4 kHz filters. That helped some but brightness would come and go. As would boominess. I tried to fix the latter with little luck (you can see my erased filter at the bottom). Room modes interact with the speaker so just using speaker frequency response is not enough.

Then remembered the load dependency of AIYIMA amp so switched to my Mark Levinson Reference amplifier. Real or not, I thought that relieved some of the brightness. But after a minute or two, I hear the sound cut out with static! Jumped from my seat and shut the amp down even though it had recovered. I connected the speaker back to Fosi and all was well. Not sure if the amp was unhappy with the very low impedance of the speaker, or the amp is failing on its own. Whatever the cause, it did not make for a happy situation!

I think one of the barriers in equalizing this speaker is its distortion in the lower treble. We need to boost that area making matters worse, creating harmonic distortion that can make things sound bright.

Anyway, with the above EQ in place, turning it off made the music sound like it was under a thick blanket. In about 10% of the time though, the extra bass without EQ provided a better sound than all of my filters combined. Even with EQ, it is not a speaker I want to use and listen to.

Conclusions
Boy, this whole LS3/5A game is messy. Without measurements as a target, companies seemingly produce any and all responses. Original BBC document shows a flat response but it is not clear if actual speakers were such. Certainly the Rogers LS3/5A was not. Lack of publicized measurements results in people buying stories instead of a proper design in the form of SoundArtist LS3/5A. In addition to poor frequency response, distortion is also quite bad. The only thing "good" here is the packaging/look of the enclosure.

I can't recommend the SoundArtist LS3/5A. Please spend your money on a proper speaker.
------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

  • SoundArtist LS3 5A Frequency Response.zip
    60.6 KB · Views: 52
Last edited:
OP
amirm

amirm

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Manufacturer Specifications:

2-way infinite baffle (sealed box)
Freq Resp: 70Hz - 20kHz ± 3dB
Sensitivity: 83dB. 2.83V, 1m
Impedance: 15 ohm
Dimensions (HWD): 305 x 190 x 165mm
Weight: 5.35Kg each
 
Last edited by a moderator:

martin900

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We can easily call this speaker 'broken'. I wouldn't even be surprised if there is a generic 2-way crossover hidden inside the box.
This speaker is simply a dangerous load for most amplifiers. The LS3/5A xover is also quite special because of the transformers.

Sadly this is still quite often the case with Chinese hi-fi 'clones' - looks the part but the performance is nowhere near because they couldn't (or didn't bother) copying the technicals accurately.
 

Michael Fidler

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Another very interesting review. I've never really been a fan of these types of speakers, but this really is taking the cake!

I wonder if they cheaped out on the crossover for this design? There are quite a lot of components in the original design. To my memory the original LS3/5A used a polypropylene cone, which is kind of the recipe for most low-cost commercial speakers you can find in HiFi magazines as you can get away with a first order crossover without peaking the response, so they might have just looked at the combined response and said 'good enough', even though it really isn't ofc.

Looks a lot cheaper than the original type, using electrolytic caps to set time constants is never a marker of quality... They may even be going a bit dry, losing value, and pushing the Xover point up, resulting in more out-of-band driver distortion. Pure speculation on my part, though. From memory, crossover impedance can dramatically drop if unloaded at certain frequencies, so my bet would be on those electros causing that shocking 1.7 ohm impedance dip. If there's an LC section feeding into an electro and it goes dry then it will be unloaded and resonate, causing a horrible impedance dip like the one in the graph.

IMG_1711-800.jpg
 
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thewas

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There are so many variations over the years with different versions, clones, tolerances and ageing that people who think get THE LS3/5 sound can get quite different "intepretations" of it. ;)
The measurements of Stereophile in the past had also shown that:
 

Michael Fidler

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Isn't the placement of both coils in the top right corner also pretty bad from a xover designer's point of view? I know it's probably the least of the concerns, but still.
Good spot! It's pretty ugly to look at. Usually when serious class B amplifiers are designed with two channels on the same board the output/stability chokes are oriented at 90 degrees from each other to avoid transformer action at HF inducing crosstalk.

Whether it makes a measurable difference (in terms of the acoustic performance of the speakers) is somewhat debateable, especially given all the other ills this design is clearly suffering from. As you say, it's a marker of poor attention that serves as an accurate omen of what kind of overall result we're likely to get...
 

Waxx

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I would love to see the Harbeth LS3/5A fom the 1990's tested, that was the only one that resembled the real BBC LS3/5 i heared (altough aged). The Falcon and the Rogers were off, and this one probally also (but i don't even want to hear it).
 

martin900

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I would love to see the Harbeth LS3/5A fom the 1990's tested, that was the only one that resembled the real BBC LS3/5 i heared (altough aged). The Falcon and the Rogers were off, and this one probally also (but i don't even want to hear it).
I'd like to see the measurements of the early 15 ohm 'white belly' models with excessive bextrene coating many audiophiles rave about as compared to the later 11 ohm version (there are also fake 15-ohm ones, where the cabinet says 15-ohm but they clearly have the later revision of the B110 that made the LS3/5A 11 ohm). Some manufacturers like Spendor didn't even bother putting the impedance on the the label but you can tell they were 11 ohm with the different woofer.
 

audio_tony

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I got a kick out of that "CE" mark. What exactly did they test?
Here in the UK I believe that 4mm jacks have to pass CE tests by being adequately shrouded and they should also contain plastic pins in the socket part.

If the speakers were made in China, it could also mean "China Export"! The font of the 'CE' logo varies very slightly between the two.
 

TonyJZX

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1.7 ohm oh boy - is that the lowest ever measured???

is that at 80-150hz?
 

FeddyLost

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Looks like some weird attempt of el cheapo reminiscence of original BBC LS3/5A. Current technology allows manufacturing of decent midwoofers with controlled breakup and acceptable distortion even with high crossover and low orders.
Of course it will barely fit mentioned price, because woofer might be something like M15CH002, but it's completely another story.
 

Maiky76

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Here is my take on the EQ.

Please report your findings, positive or negative!

The following EQs are “anechoic” EQs to get the speaker right before room integration. If you able to implement these EQs you must add EQ at LF for room integration, that is usually not optional… see hints there: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...helf-speaker-review.11144/page-26#post-800725

The raw data with corrected ER and PIR:

Score no EQ: 2.7
With Sub: 5.1

Spinorama with no EQ:
SoundArtist LS3 5A No EQ Spinorama.png

Directivity:

Better stay at tweeter height
Horizontally, better toe-in the speakers by 10/20deg and have the axis crossing in front of the listening location, might help dosing the upper range.
SoundArtist LS3 5A 2D surface Directivity Contour Only Data.png


EQ design:

I have generated two EQs. The APO config files are attached.
  • The first one, labelled, LW is targeted at making the LW flat
  • The second, labelled Score, starts with the first one and adds the score as an optimization variable.
  • The EQs are designed in the context of regular stereo use i.e. domestic environment, no warranty is provided for a near field use in a studio environment although the LW might be better suited for this purpose.
Score EQ LW: 5.4
with sub: 7.4

Score EQ Score: 6.1
with sub: 8.0

Code:
SoundArtist LS3 5A APO EQ LW 96000Hz
November242023-204820

Preamp: -3.5 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 40.47,    0.00,    1.44
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 130.37,    -8.32,    1.29
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 285.98,    1.98,    1.09
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 881.93,    -5.53,    0.94
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 1235.60,    -2.63,    4.98
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 2322.84,    4.92,    0.62
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 5047.80,    -5.36,    2.07
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 8821.07,    -1.29,    2.22
Filter 9: ON PK Fc 15905.47,    -6.71,    3.16

SoundArtist LS3 5A APO EQ Score 96000Hz
November242023-204820

Preamp: -2.7 dB

Filter 1: ON HPQ Fc 40.42,    0.00,    1.44
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 130.87,    -8.04,    1.10
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 264.59,    2.16,    1.10
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 842.36,    -5.21,    0.96
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 1227.60,    -3.29,    4.98
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 1922.50,    3.45,    0.50
Filter 7: ON PK Fc 5010.51,    -5.29,    2.40
Filter 8: ON PK Fc 8439.90,    -1.99,    2.22
Filter 9: ON PK Fc 15923.47,    -7.86,    2.32

SoundArtist LS3 5A EQ Design.png

Spinorama EQ LW
SoundArtist LS3 5A LW EQ Spinorama.png


Spinorama EQ Score
SoundArtist LS3 5A Score EQ Spinorama.png


Zoom PIR-LW-ON
SoundArtist LS3 5A Zoom.png


Regression - Tonal
SoundArtist LS3 5A Regression.png


Radar no EQ vs EQ score
Nice improvements
SoundArtist LS3 5A Radar.png


The rest of the plots is attached.
 

Attachments

  • SoundArtist LS3 5A APO EQ Score 96000Hz.txt
    488 bytes · Views: 29
  • SoundArtist LS3 5A APO EQ LW 96000Hz.txt
    485 bytes · Views: 25
  • SoundArtist LS3 5A 2D surface Directivity Contour Data.png
    SoundArtist LS3 5A 2D surface Directivity Contour Data.png
    295 KB · Views: 25
  • SoundArtist LS3 5A 3D surface Vertical Directivity Data.png
    SoundArtist LS3 5A 3D surface Vertical Directivity Data.png
    383.1 KB · Views: 21
  • SoundArtist LS3 5A 3D surface Horizontal Directivity Data.png
    SoundArtist LS3 5A 3D surface Horizontal Directivity Data.png
    377.1 KB · Views: 24
  • SoundArtist LS3 5A Normalized Directivity data.png
    SoundArtist LS3 5A Normalized Directivity data.png
    511.1 KB · Views: 25
  • SoundArtist LS3 5A Raw Directivity data.png
    SoundArtist LS3 5A Raw Directivity data.png
    669.3 KB · Views: 25
  • SoundArtist LS3 5A Reflexion data.png
    SoundArtist LS3 5A Reflexion data.png
    318.7 KB · Views: 23
  • SoundArtist LS3 5A LW data.png
    SoundArtist LS3 5A LW data.png
    296.4 KB · Views: 21
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Purité Audio

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Makes U.K hi-fi seem reasonable well done Sound Artist.
Keith
 

Gio

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Amir, in the last few posts you have destroyed some myths of the last 50 years in the HIFI world
 

uwotm8

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Told you Rogers version was fine and overall proper:p

@amirm Would be so cool if you had not only listen to these but also A-B compared them to Rogers (if you still have them).

Quite interesting how bad or not bad that sound to ears, especially distortion
 
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