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Lenehan ML1 Reference Bookshelf Speaker Review

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Lenehan ML1 Reference Bookshelf Speaker

While I perused the Lenehan Audio site in preparation for this review I saw the following statement, ”The mission of Lenehan Audio is to provide high end audio leadership through the development of quality products that is value driven. These five words at the top of this page are the unwavering goal of Lenehan Audio!” I looked at the top of the page and it read, “Shopping Bag Drag & Drop Products”. Counting the contraction of the word “and” that was six words; obviously I looked too high. Dropping my gaze I encountered, “Build the word’s best loudspeakers.” That’s a fairly audacious goal for a small Australian company!

Then again, those Australians are a plucky bunch! They have to deal with a nasty arid geographic interior and a myriad of stinging, venomous critters. One thing is certain, just because the origin of a product is a bit more obscure does not mean it is less worthy of use in a fine audio system. International products are popular for their extreme creativity, if not always reliability. However, the Australian audiophile manufacturers and distributors in North America, few as they may be, like the indigenous wildlife seem to make up in intensity for what they lack in numbers. Like so many little but deadly critters running around in that one time British penal colony the Lenehan ML1 Bookshelf Speaker presents itself as an unassuming but lethal package of performance, ready to slay the unsuspecting speaker shopper.

Thus I present the Lenehan ML1, featuring good sound in a tidy but powerful package. This bookshelf speaker with a wondrously dense cabinet may be diminutive in form but aspires to high end sound. Its dimensions are not much more than a handful at 325 x 170 x 255mm (12.8 x 6.7 x 10.0), but its weight tells the real story. Picking it up elicits a, “Woa!” The secret of its inertness is an internal sprung steel casing, a Lenehan hallmark, upgraded to a copper plate lining in the ML2 Limited speaker. The steel casing seems to both deaden cabinet resonance and tighten up the bass response such that it sounds more like a sealed box design, though it has a small port at the rear.

A beautiful plum finish, oddly nearly matching the coloration of the Sony SSNA5-ES speakers also on review, has a glossy sheen making the rounded corners glisten and softening the small speaker’s appearance. When the magnetically attached black grill is removed the apparent quality and attention to detail is revealed in the coordinated plum hued Scanspeak 1” D2608 silk dome tweeter – a nice touch! At the company’s home page (lenehanaudio.com.au) are shown off white, red and silver samples of these speakers, which leads me to believe that custom colours might be available for an additional fee. However, I did not see the matching tinted tweeter on these others, so perhaps that is a special order item or only available with the Plum coloration.

The woofer is the Peerless 5.5” Nomex mid-bass driver. According to Mike, “…Nomex sounds like paper in the midrange and retains the weight and drive of bextreme or plastic comes in the bass.” At the rear a single set of Eichmann Cable Pods (binding posts), spaced a bit too closely for my taste, ensure a tight connection for speaker cables.

ABOUT LENEHAN AUDIO

Mike Lenehan, the owner and designer of this speaker line, began building speakers in 1971 after hearing a pair of JBL L55 Lancers. Among his speaker creations were transmission line, horn, bass reflex and sealed designs. By 1978 he was selling speakers. Lenehan Audio was officially started in 1994 as Mike designed a 6” two way stand mount speaker which had taken nearly two years to design. From there he has branched out to include a floor standing speaker range.

Based on the north-eastern shores of Australia in Queensland, Lenehan makes three speakers ranging in price from $2,750 to $15,000; two bookshelf models and one floor standing. All are available in two additional levels of modifications to materials used in the front baffle, variants of Duelund capacitors and resistors, and Ribbontek internal wiring. Details are clearly discussed on their website. Pricing is as follows for the speaker on review: basic ML1 is $2,750 AUS (for US dollar prices go to a website like themoneyconverter.com and select “currency converter”; recently the U.S. dollar had a ratio of approximately .894 to the Australian dollar), enhanced ML1 PlusR at $3,600 AUS and statement ML1 Reference model under review at $5,200 AUS. The ML2 speaker’s pricing ranges in build levels from $4.5K AUS to $5.5K AUS, and the ML3 floor standing model ranges from $6.5K AUS to $15K AUS.

The speakers arrived in individual flight cases, a wise choice for shipping considering the logistics involved in moving them from Australia to North America. Even at that one case was damaged such that when I removed the figurative rolls of tape applied to the lid it pulled off completely when the latch was unsecured, having suffered a broken hinge. The speakers ensconced in a thick foam shell were unaffected.

As an add-on to the review I was sent a pair Lenehan’s Ribbontek Speaker Cables which were said to be particularly efficacious with the speakers. It would stand to reason a synergy would reveal itself considering the speakers used the Ribbontek product internally. These speaker cables were flat 1” wide, wrapped in a tightly woven black nylon mesh jacket, like a half-width version of the lovely Magnan Audio Cables I so enjoyed reviewing years ago. Generously sized spades – odd considering the narrow spacing of the Eichmann posts – with a notch in each allowing for attachment to ¼” or 5/16” posts — were terminated cleanly with shrink wrap tubing bearing a simple, skinny arrow showing directionality.

The speakers were set up using my 24” high Target stands filled with sand, placed right at 8’ from the head wall and in approximately 24” from the side walls. This is my “nearer” field listening position at about 8 feet from my head. This affords a comfortable listening experience with minimal interference from the room boundaries. I typically remove the rear spikes from the stand to give the speaker a slight backward tilt, which I often find more appealing than leaving the speaker level and below ear height.

3 Responses to Lenehan ML1 Reference Bookshelf Speaker Review


  1. vdorta says:

    Doug, I hope you can review the Lenehan ML-2 in the future.

  2. Mike Lenehan says:

    Many thanks, Doug. A well penned and descriptive reflection of the ML1Reference.

    We did our best to make this loudspeaker a neutral conduit for what comes before them! So kudos for using high rez front end equipment for the review, particularly the Pass gear (very neutral electronics).

    The Ribbontek cables are also designed with a tell it like it is mindset, so were basically a follow on from the internal wiring used within the Loudspeakers themselves.

    Best regards, Doug.

    Mike Lenehan
    LenehanAudio

  3. John Burchell says:

    I have known Mike for 10 years or so.
    Mike is a rare combination of passionate, incredibly capable, generous with his time and a genuine person to do business with. How many other manufacturers will install and individually balance your speakers to the room they are to perform in ?! Try that at you re local Hi Fi shop !! In short, listening is always subjective. No matter where you are in the world, you must audition these speakers. If you are in Australia, you d be a fool not to audition them. !

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