There are several names in the Audio Biz that could be called legends; Altec, Audio Research (AR), Fisher, JBL, Marantz, Quad, Scott, and more. The LS-3/5A speakers are unique on the list of legends because they were manufactured by more than one company. They were designed by the BBC for monitoring of on-location broadcast and recordings. Somehow they managed to hide the complex equalizer and phase-corrected crossover inside a cabinet only slightly wider and not quite as tall as a shoe box. Designed for use in a small control room, they were definitely not designed to play back at the levels most rockers desire. Despite their diminutive size they are in no way thin-sounding. In fact, they produce an overall balance similar to that of many full range British speakers from the seventies and eighties. It was because LS-3/5As were so well-balanced that they were so beloved at the time.
Why is there still such interest in a speaker design that is 36 years old, designed by a small group of BBC engineers, and which is about the size of a shoe box? Well, maybe it is because the original LS-3/5As were almost perfectly balanced between being a high resolution speaker while at the same time possessing incredible musicality. These little boxes did so much right and sounded so unnervingly real that even by today’s standards they are very enjoyable to listen to. Yet as good as they are in many respects, they are obviously limited and dated in other ways. Maybe that along with it’s now legendary reputation is why the Roger and Spender LS3/5As have become a very hot item on the used market. Right now it looks like the LS3/5As are on the same road in Asia as Marantz tube gear, Altec, JBL, and SET amps.
So Audio Space set out to make a real LS3/5As, but there’s a catch: After 36 years you can’t really reproduce the original BBC 3/5As. For one thing the original was a 15 Ohm speaker, followed some years later by a more amp-friendly version that was 11 Ohms. Even if you could get an agreement on which of those was best you would still have to deal with the fact that the original KEF drivers went out of production in 1998. This brings us to Peter Lau‘s Hong Kong-based company Audio Space. He has decided to take a chance in building a brand new version of the legendary speaker.
Well, one thing is for sure, they look like the original Rogers LS3/5As I owned. Both of my sons who are in their 20s said they looked old school. Like the original LS3/5As the Audio Space speakers are small, inefficient, rather high impedance 2-ways. Since they don’t play any real bass below 70Hz the fact they aren’t very efficient isn’t quite as big a deal, since of the power goes into produce bass. They seem to play very well with 30 watts or more, but not much more, 50 watts is about all they are designed to handle.
There are three different speakers from Audio Space, each of which pays homage to the LS3/5A. Around 2007 Audio Space brought out their GINI LS3/5A. It was their own rendition of the legendary LS3/5A-inspired monitor in a kit form. As with most legends the LS3/5A has a large following. Various speaker makers in recent years have developed and marketed their own version of the LS3/5A. I think the last attempt was by Sterling, but none of the new production models have had the original KEF T27 and B110 drivers which ceased to be produced by KEF in 1998.
Audio Space has spent more than two years developing from the ground up its newest LS3/5A, including their own drivers. They say they took on the project mainly because there was renewed interest in LS3/5A speakers in Asia, and because they felt they could do a good job in the new LS3/5A market. Last year they brought out their AS-3/5A and now their very own LS-3/5A. They only called it the Audio Space LS3/5A because they felt that they had finally been able to replicate the essence of the legendary LS3/5A better than all of the new LS3/5As on the market today.
Even though these speakers are very small and it is tempting to sit them up against the wall, like you did with Linn Kans or Linn Saras, don’t! This is not where they were designed to be placed and if you do that you will get a rather thick sounding lower midrange and lose some of the magic in the midrange.
I ran the speakers with several amps in the respective bi-wired and singled wired configuration. I ended up liking them best with a single run of Audience Au24 and Au24 jumpers. Let me list the amps and make a quick comment before I get into the meat of the review.
Audio Space Mini-Galaxy 1 USB DAC/Integrated Tube Amplifier: This little amp has only 13 watts per channel, but in my office it sounded very nice with the Audio Space LS3/5As. It had nowhere enough power downstairs in much bigger rooms.
Atma-Sphere M-60 Mk. 3.1 OTL Monoblock Amplifiers: Way too much money to spend on amplification for these speakers, but I have to say if you want to hear the Audio Space speakers at their best, this is the amp. It controlled their upper bass hump, and voices were simply lifelike. I could even get plenty of power and volume downstairs in the big rooms. No, it doesn’t turn them into full range, full scale, music reproducers, but boy are they easy to listen to with this combo.
Peachtree Audio Decco Amp: The Decco is an audiophile-grade 50 watt per channel, hybrid tube integrated amplifier with built in DAC. To me this is one of the best values in all of audio. It sounded very good indeed with the Audio Space LS3/5As.
Roksan Caspian M Series-1 Integrated Amplifier: You would think this little 80 watt British integrated would be just what the doctor ordered for these speakers and you wouldn’t be far from wrong. A great match indeed and if you can pick one up for a great price it might well be the best match for the money, but at full retail I would go with the refurbished Decco from Peachtree Audio. If you don’t have a great DAC then the Decco is surely the best buy for the Audio Sapce LS3/5As.
Wavac EC300B: Of course no one in their right mind would pair these speakers with a $30,000 8-watt single-ended amp with a $30,000 Shindo preamp, but I already own them so I thought what the hey! Well guess what, eight Watts isn’t nearly enough power to play them really loud, but for moderate listening levels the Wavac/Shindo combo really did the best job of bringing these little boxes to life.
After playing around, I thought the best amp for these speakers, sound wise at anywhere near a reasonable cost was the Peachtree Audio Decco. So, the rest of the review talks about listening to that combo in my digital system.
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