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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

DanielT

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Just because it's an old design doesn't make it inferior. There are some speakers from the 70's and 80's that do sound (and measure) ok.

Some designers really knew their stuff, and didn't need CAD to design a good speaker.
Absolutely. For example Stig Carlsson's OA12 from the 1970s. Measurements measured by a state institute (why a state institute, that's another question) in a listening room, placed, I think, according to Stig Carlsson's instructions:
OA12-3.jpg


They are still popular, here with new speaker elements (plus new crossover if I remember correctly).Those things, drivers, crossover, and so on, have been
assembled, matched together by a talented loudspeaker designer, Ingvar Öhman. If I remember correctly that is.:)
Sonab-OA12-49342.jpeg
 

Sokel

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Actually I sort of get where he's coming from with that 'Romantic side of neutral' - I mean if we throw caution to the wind and go all-out subjectivist, just for a minute or two.

But I've listened to LS3/5a many, many times. You can't move in the UK without falling over a pair.

I would not bother to own some. I would not pay thousands for them even after a hard blow to the head. But I do sort of understand why some people think they have some merit.
I would agree if we were talking about similar but the specific fake ones have absolutely no resemblance to the ones made by the traditional companies,a comparison with the Rogers Amir reviewed just before is the greatest tell.
 

DSJR

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These style speakers have a rep for a certain sound. Don't people buy these style b/c they like the sound - the sound that even on the originals and the licensed ones - isn't anything near flat or accurate? And I think that was intended at the BBC.

Most people don't look at measurements - they simply think something "sounds good" - even if it is highly inaccurate.
If you show them it's not accurate, they won't care.


Signature sound[edit]​

Similar to sealed-box speakers of similar size, the 3/5A has little or no low bass, but the design reinforced its lower register by a boost at around 160 Hz, giving the subjective impression that the speaker is more bass-rich.[7][10][15] It has a gently rising frequency response above 5kHz,[14] leading reviewers to notice the sound being a little bright at the treble registers, or that the speakers "reproduce the high-end roughness of solid-state amplifiers mercilessly" thus suggested partnering with valve amplification would be advantageous.[16][17][18] A slight nasal quality in the midrange has also been noted in the earlier versions.[3][10][18] The accuracy and stability of its stereo imaging and its clean midrange reproduction are also appreciated qualities.[10][17] J. Gordon Holt suggests that the quality was "comparable to that from Quad Electrostatics, at far lower cost and with added bonuses of slightly smoother high end, better stereo imaging, a broader listening area".[18] John Atkinson suggests in Stereophile that the LS3/5A is ideally suited to the reproduction of program having a limited dynamic-range requirement, for example chamber music;[16] he said that the LS3/5A "has never boogied and never will; it's just too polite ever to cut the mustard on rock, or even straightahead jazz"


"Yes, there's a touch of nasality in the upper midrange, the treble is less smooth than, say, the Paradigm or Dynaudio, and the upper bass is less well defined than audiophiles now expect from even inexpensive speakers. But when it comes to accuracy and stability of stereo imaging and sheer purity of midrange reproduction, the tiny BBC-designed speaker is still a contender."

the above includes links to several measurements of some of the more well known variants.
Nah, they just thump, squeak and tizz (and pop if you play them a touch too loud) - that's all you need to know (runs for the hills).. :D

P.S. I'd NEVER EVER in a million years call the 3/5A's sound 'romantic' in any shape or form - save that for the 5/8, 5/9 (if the stark tweeter is managed properly), the Rogers Studio Ones with their rolling bass quality or the 12" two and three ways Spendor used to make with a kind of lush over-ripeness if the cone surrounds haven't hardened...
 
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Geert

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Found this Soundartist review https://futureaudiophile.com/soundartist-ls3-5a-loudspeaker-review/ which is full of factual inaccuracies, should be a red light right away.

"There is something special about the sound of the LS3/5A, it has everything to do with the tonality in the midrange. Many would describe it as perfectly neutral , but I've always described it as a little on the romantic side of neutral..."

Reviewers reverting to descriptions like musical and romantic gives away they're clueless. Use terms like that to communicate to engineers designing audio equipment or sound engineers working on a recording, and they'll stare at you like a cow at a passing train. It's why Harman has a listening training program.
 

Mart68

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I would agree if we were talking about similar but the specific fake ones have absolutely no resemblance to the ones made by the traditional companies,a comparison with the Rogers Amir reviewed just before is the greatest tell.
yes - talking about the real ones not this Soundartist tat.
 

DanielT

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Actually I sort of get where he's coming from with that 'Romantic side of neutral' - I mean if we throw caution to the wind and go all-out subjectivist, just for a minute or two.

But I've listened to LS3/5a many, many times. You can't move in the UK without falling over a pair.

I would not bother to own some. I would not pay thousands for them even after a hard blow to the head. But I do sort of understand why some people think they have some merit.
Romantic side of neutral. If he experiences it as a positive sound, he does. Those are his subjective experiences and I see absolutely nothing wrong with him experiencing that. People get to experience what they want and it's nice that people experience things as positive and pleasant.:)

I have absolutely nothing against anyone describing subjective experiences. Whether it's about speakers, food, wine and so on. On the contrary, it can be fun if conveyed with passion and poetic expressiveness.As long as one is aware that they are individual subjective personal experiences and take them for what they are.
 

DSJR

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Absolutely. For example Stig Carlsson's OA12 from the 1970s. Measurements measured by a state institute (why a state institute, that's another question) in a listening room, placed, I think, according to Stig Carlsson's instructions:
View attachment 329430

They are still popular, here with new speaker elements (plus new crossover if I remember correctly).Those things, drivers, crossover, and so on, have been
assembled, matched together by a talented loudspeaker designer, Ingvar Öhman. If I remember correctly that is.:)
View attachment 329431
I disliked the small ones, but the larger models (OA12 and I think the OA7) could throw a great attractive wall of sound in a living room not given over to 'HiFi' gear. Soundfield too amorphous for me but like the Allison models, the larger ones could work really well back then.
 
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DanielT

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That is trash, even my first attempts of building speakers (long ago) without any knowledge worth mentioning was better. That impendance dip is fatal for a lot of amps. This should not be allowed to sell i think. The Rogers is at least safe on electronic level.
My friend Björn who holds a Vintage DIY fair every year has been, in my eyes and I have told him, almost obsessed with old KEF elements. This despite the fact that he heard many really good DIY speakers with new speaker elements. Okay, at least it was his niche and why not it's just a hobby anyway. He has built some LS3/5A replicas.

I've heard these LS3/5A replicas, but I mostly concentrated on the tube subwoofer, which can also be seen in the picture::)

IMG_4268.jpg


In any case, now that Björn is renovating his apartment, he is selling off a lot of old KEF elements, which he has collected over the years. A lot of t27 tweeters for example, BUT it turned out that about half of them measured so much wrong, compared to spec, that he had to throw them away, or rather he gave away a lot of them for free to someone who would have them for something.

I just wanted to show that by getting hold of the drivers that are in the LS3/5A and building a copy, you can do it (why you would do it is another matter) but the quality of such old speaker elements can be extremely doubtful.:oops:
(with the reservation that I don't know how Björn stored the speaker elements over the years, that might have affected its functionality)


 
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MaxwellsEq

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Nasty speaker, but they're so so old what do you expect, I mean at least the design is so so old I don't know when this particular speaker was manufactured or if it's been refurbished along the way.
They are not old. These are new and a junk visual copy without replicating any of the original electrical or acoustic properties of the thing they are copying. Like a $3 "Rotel".
 

MaxwellsEq

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Actually I sort of get where he's coming from with that 'Romantic side of neutral' - I mean if we throw caution to the wind and go all-out subjectivist, just for a minute or two.

But I've listened to LS3/5a many, many times. You can't move in the UK without falling over a pair.

I would not bother to own some. I would not pay thousands for them even after a hard blow to the head. But I do sort of understand why some people think they have some merit.
It's worse than that! They are waxing lyrical about speakers which have no electrical or acoustical resemblance to professional or domestic LS3/5As. Like expecting to pick up a $10 diamond ring in a street market and thinking it's genuine and worth something.
 

Robbo99999

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They are not old. These are new and a junk visual copy without replicating any of the original electrical or acoustic properties of the thing they are copying. Like a $3 "Rotel".
(Design they're based on is old).
 

MaxwellsEq

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(Design they're based on is old).
The way the box looks is the only thing this shares with a specific 1970s speaker. Like someone thinking a paint-by-numbers copy of a Picasso has a similar value with the original.
 

Helicopter

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Wow. That dip in impedance is the icing on the cake. Even if you don't care about fidelity, these aren't suitable electronically for use in many of the systems where they are likely deployed.
 

GXAlan

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That said, I'm not sure if they should be called fake. Because most subjective reviewers find them relatively similar to other LS3/5a models.

Such is the power of sighted bias. It is also worth asking how many of those subjective reviewers received the Sound Artist speakers for free?

What makes the LS3/5a a LS3/5a?

Appearance?
BBC license?
Component selection?
Measured performance?
Subjective performance?

There is definitely a glass half full vs glass half empty perspective that one must take. Both statements are objective, but the subjective experience is different.

At least to my ears, with the Rogers L3/5a, when I listen to them fresh, I don’t hear the woofer dip. I hear the smiley face response with the midrange boost. But when I bring in a neutral speaker and then switch back to the LS3/5a, I just hear the dip and my brain cannot turn on the “hear as smiley face” again until several hours later.

It’s a little bit like this classic optical illusion except the audible illusion is harder for me to switch at will.

IMG_0605.jpeg


Along those same lines, I suspect that if you are hearing the LS3/5a as smiley face response the “differences” from speaker to speaker just reflects the boosts. Since the Soundartist LS3/5a has the woofer dip, maybe this is the essential element of the LS3/5a sound.
 

MaxwellsEq

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What makes the LS3/5a a LS3/5a?

Appearance?
BBC license?
Component selection?
Measured performance?
Subjective performance?
For me the answer is simple. It meets the specifications set by the BBC, such that any LS3/5A is interchangeable with any other without the need to check that it's a match.
 

GXAlan

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For me the answer is simple. It meets the specifications set by the BBC, such that any LS3/5A is interchangeable with any other without the need to check that it's a match.

So for that, it means that the subtle high-resolution differences between vendor to vendor isn't sufficient to be meaningfully different in terms of intended use in recording vans.

Do you know if the 15 and 11 ohm's were intended to be interchangeable? That is, is the sensitivity the same given identical voltages from the amplifier? Or could you only interchange 15 ohm with 15 ohm LS3/5a's and 11 ohm with 11 ohm LS3/5a's without needing to check for a match?

Could you also mix and match from different vendors, or was the spec just that you could switching within a vendor without needed additioal matching?
 

MaxwellsEq

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So for that, it means that the subtle high-resolution differences between vendor to vendor isn't sufficient to be meaningfully different in terms of intended use in recording vans.

Do you know if the 15 and 11 ohm's were intended to be interchangeable? That is, is the sensitivity the same given identical voltages from the amplifier? Or could you only interchange 15 ohm with 15 ohm LS3/5a's and 11 ohm with 11 ohm LS3/5a's without needing to check for a match?

Could you also mix and match from different vendors, or was the spec just that you could switching within a vendor without needed additioal matching?
Yes to all of those. Cubicles could end up with two speakers from different vendors and generations. Worth noting that they all had XLRs on the back.
 

DanielT

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Speaking of how close a replica should be to the original to be called LS3/5A.

As long as the speaker looks like an LS3/5A, it seems it can be sold as such. Even completely different elements than the original, probably a completely different crossover as well. Which of course actually means a completely different speaker than the original LS3/5A, but it is still called LS3 because it apparently sells::oops:
Screenshot_2023-11-28_080359.jpg


 
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