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Eminent Technology LFT-8b Floorstanding Speaker Review

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The Other Factor

Allow me to suggest an outlandish proposition for those desperate to own LFT-8A’s in the face of “Wife Antagonism Factor.” There exists in this world a myriad of fabrics. I found out when I built my own home theater screen, but that’s another story… Some of these materials are both acoustically thin and sonically transparent, displaying interesting colors or prints. They live at the nearest fabric store, and I’m guessing that if one searched enough, a suitable printed and acoustically transparent fabric could be found to cover the grills. The fabric on E.T. grill covers is held in place by a “rail and spline” system similar to screens on your windows (– go look at them now. What? You never analyzed how your screens stay in your windows!?) If the right replacement material could be found you just might be able to make them somewhat décor friendly and sway the significant other into foster parenting this speaker.

To anyone who is somewhat familiar with planar speakers, there is an unavoidable similarity between Magneplanar brand speakers and the Eminent Technology products. Bruce has tremendous respect for Magneplanar, so much so that he declined to discuss the advantages of his push-pull design over that company’s products. However, I can offer my impressions of the differences and will do so freely in this article.

“The use of a dynamic woofer and attendant cabinet takes the LFT-8A to depths that similarly priced planars just can’t go.”

Accept appearance of the LFT-8A and you will be rewarded with superior magnetic planar performance. The use of a dynamic woofer and attendant cabinet takes the LFT-8A to depths that similarly priced planars just can’t go. I have owned the Magnepan 1.6’s and compared them directly with the LFT-8A’s in my current listening room. While each has its lovely aspects (the Maggies, for one thing, are more aesthetically appealing) there’s no contest as to which speaker does low-end better. Below 40 Hz the LFT’s are king. The proprietary 8” woofer has a free air resonance at about 15 Hz, and in the sealed cabinet is flat in some rooms down to almost 25 Hz. I always found it necessary to utilize a subwoofer with the 1.6’s to round out the low-end, but the LFT-8A’s get me much closer to the bottom sans subs.

Though the appearance is tough, the fabrication is good. Having put together three pairs, I can attest that they are solid and that all the screws which anchor the metal frame to the woofer box fit into their holes. The manual asserts it’s a two person job to assemble them, but simply apply a bit of logic and one person can do the job easily. Place the woofer module on its side on top of a couple of paperback books of roughly the same thickness as the wooden trim, and you will be able to sidle up the planar element to the woofer box. The floor will act as your second set of hands to hold the planar portion of the speaker in place while you screw the pieces together. Take your time to line up the screws properly and all will go fine.

The LFT-8A comes with copper Price Edison binding posts. They are hefty and consistent with Bruce’s philosophy that sonics trump aesthetics. I usually tighten cables only by hand, as use of tools can break binding posts. I found a couple of these hard to tighten completely by finger. A large screwdriver or piece of scrap metal inserted into the slotted opening at the top of the post did the trick. The copper posts are not impervious to over-tightening, so one should guard against zealous cranking on them.

Also included are pre-fitted jumpers consisting of stranded copper wire. They are easy to remove prior to bi-wiring the speakers. The bugaboo is returning them to their position for single-wiring at a later point. The narrow slot they slip into requires the wires to be finagled and finessed to be positioned. I urge anyone using these speakers to eschew the jumpers and bi-wire if at all possible as the rewards are substantial.

The speakers were packaged quite well from E.T., yet one woofer suffered a pushed-in dust cap from the bass module parcel being dropped. This may be the most annoying relatively harmless damage to audio equipment. I detest pushed in dust caps; it looks so obnoxiously ugly! While sonically it doesn’t debilitate speakers, it’s aggravating to know that you’ve spent so much on a component to have such a glaring flaw staring you in the face. (Of course, the true audiophile must listen with the grills off, thus suffering the humiliation every listening session!) And everyone who sees will think, “Oh, my! He is an abusive audiophile!”

Bruce and I tried to think of everything to pop the dust cap out. The two most effective strategies, tape and vacuum, failed. Tape lifted fibers off the cone, the amount of fibers being stripped proportionate to the adhesive properties of the tape. Even a shop vac with the quarter-sized narrow nozzle couldn’t pull out the indentation. Those dust caps are tough! Another option is to remove the driver from the cabinet and pop the dent out from behind, which I opted not to pursue since it would be a major project – the drivers are glued and bolted into place. It can be done, but both Bruce and I felt that it was not worth introducing the potential problems associated with removal of the driver. I have never been able to detect the slightest distortion or error in my listening; the dent remains as testimony to the fact that we live in a Fallen (yeah, as in courier dropped my package, fallen!) world.

LFT-8B comment 2: The replacement of the tweeter did not alter the appearance of the woofer. If you are nearly asleep as you read this, you will nod vacantly, failing to recognize the inanity of it, and move on.


E.T. Positioning

Positioning of the LFT-8A’s may sound a bit unorthodox to some. I toe them in, and not just a bit, but plenty. I have tried several times to position them parallel to the head wall as some planar dealers suggest. Because of the limited horizontal dispersion of planar drivers, it just doesn’t cut it for me. There is a loss of detail and nuance that can only gained by directing the panels right toward the ears.

I recently reviewed the Von Schweikert VR4 SR MKII speakers. A similar off-axis effect is built into their top M/T module. The locus of the high-end is about 20” above my head when I listen to them. When I stand I can center my ears inside it, but when I sit the slightest degree of detail is lost. Thankfully, they’ve designed their speakers with a rear firing “ambience driver” which recovers much of this. With the LFT-8A’s, a similar loss of precision happens when the speakers are heard off-axis. The correction for this is simple, just turn them inward. The sound stage is plenty wide for me even with them toed-in. I might go so far as to say the sound stage teeters on abnormally wide and begins to splay the center image focus when they are not toed-in. With them in my favored position, I could move my head about without concern of losing the sweet spot.

Similarly, use your freedom to experiment with the tweeters to the inside versus the outside. In the case of both the LFT-8A’s and the Magnepans I have at times listened with the midrange to the middle and tweeters on the outside. Bruce tests the speakers with the tweeters inward and suggests this setup if the room is wide enough. There is a slightly higher emphasis on the treble and a more compressed center image in that configuration. Conversely, a gently emphasized midrange and spread center image results from the tweeters on the outside.

LFT-8B Comment 3: One reason I experimented with the tweeters on the outside was to see if I could ameliorate what I felt was a sharpness in the tweeters when they occupied the inside position. I finally settled on the inside position prior to the upgrade, having accepted the bit more edgy treble. However, with the improved tweeters I have lost all desire to shift the speakers around. The inside position for the tweeters sounds excellent.

17 Responses to Eminent Technology LFT-8b Floorstanding Speaker Review

  1. Niyom Ratbamrung says:

    I need to know power and preamplifier match to EMINENT TECHNOLOGY LFT-8B.

  2. charlie mathews says:

    OHHHHHhhhhh…. a great review. I often think Doug just kinda skims over products (ie DACS) but I really think he has done an exceptional job of reviewing these speakers! I have to admit that I am tempted to buy a pair of the new LFT 8B’s and compare them to my very wonderful 1.6 Magnestand’s. Doug you done good!

  3. irenee Grand says:

    I own a pair of LFT 3 from 1987 and have upgraded the crossover and cabling.
    I use a Wells Audio Innamorata amp (200wts in 4 ohms) and it is plenty to drive them to very realistic levels. No preamp apart from the level preamp built in my Benchmark DAC 2.
    Still very hard to beat, sound wise.

  4. Charlie, irenee,
    God’s Peace,

    Charlie, I had to laugh a bit when you said I skim over products like DACs! If you knew the hours I put in on extra exploration of a product, especially opamp rolling the Eastern Electric DACs! It could be a second job! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the LFT-8 review.

    irenee, you should have a lovely combo with the Wells amp and Benchmark DAC2. If you haven not, spend some time working with various power cords, interconnects and speaker cables, as this will reward you.

    Douglas Schroeder

  5. Gary,
    God’s peace,

    I do not know whether there have been any running changes to the speaker. That is a question best placed with Bruce Thigpen of ET.

    Douglas Schroeder

  6. Gary,

    Bruce has notified us of a forthcoming response in a few days. Stay tuned.


  8. Jim Allen says:

    Hi, Doug and thank you for a GREAT review. I was wondering if you have had a chance to compare the Maggie 3.7i to the LFT 8B. Are they in the same ball park? Is the bass better in one or the other. I know the 3.7i’s cost three times as much. Thanks!

  9. Jim,
    God’s Peace,

    I appreciate your appreciation! Thank you for the complement.

    No, I have not compared the 3.7i to the LFT 8B. My expectation would be the 3.7i would seem much more impressive, as the radiating surface is much greater, and he sense of “wall of sound” would be more pronounced. The bass would be more widespread, but it is not as deep. It seems the 3.7i reaches a loose spec of “35Hz”, which may be closer to 40Hz +/- 3dB, pretty weak. The LFT 8B in comparison reaches 25Hz +/-4dB, or about 29Hz +/- 3dB.

    Single sheet drivers get sloppier with higher listening levels, and my understanding is that there is no double magnet array in use in the 3.7i, as opposed to the LFT 8B. I would expect the LFT 8B to sound cleaner with higher listening levels. Importantly, the tweeter of the LFT 8B is able to be tuned in terms of output. That makes for much better matching potentially with any given system.

    Essentially, it comes down to scale and coherence, with the 3.7i winning in those respects, and the LFT – 8B winning in terms of frequency extension and likely, cleanness.

    Douglas Schroeder

  10. Thanks for the Great Review!
    I live in the Tampa Florida area, and just bought a pair of LFT 8 somethings, used. Bruce thinks they are LFT 8A’s, but needs the serial numbers to be sure. I go pick them up tomorrow afternoon. I will most likely upgrade them to the LFT 8B. I feel so lucky to find a used pair! You almost never see any for sale that are used.

  11. Chris,
    God’s Joy,

    You did well! There are precious few speakers that carry as much sound quality per dollar as the LFT-8 series. Well worth upgrading! They deserve the best electronics you can manage. Play around a lot with placement and toe in. You will love them.

    Blessed Christmas,
    Douglas Schroeder

  12. Derek says:

    Hi Doug. I’m hoping you can provide me with a comparison between the ET LFT8b and the new Maggie LRS +. Clarity (lack of veil), emotional engagement and dynamics (quiet to loud transients with gradations) are my priorities.l Yours thoughts and observations please.

  13. Derek,
    God’s Peace,

    Not having used the LRS, I can’t comment on direct comparison. Having used the .7, I was not impressed by the speaker dynamically. I thought it would be a cool model to use for my Landscape Orientation, but it was like driving a brick, pretty lifeless without ridiculously high power. If the LRS is in the vein of the Maggie house sound/tech, then I would not expect it to be a very lively speaker dynamically. In that regard, I suspect the bass of the LFT-8B would be more impactful.

    As to clarity, I would focus on the components and cabling versus getting hung up on the speaker’s “clarity”. All speakers put out only what the components and cables deliver, and imo in a comparison such as this the components and cables will dominate the result. The Maggies are said to be SO clean, clear, but in my experience they are not all that, at least in the lower end of the line. A speaker like the PureAudioProject Trio15 Horn1 in direct comparison was cleaner/clearer. So, perhaps don’t be over-awed by dipole technology as though it’s the end all, be all.

    One option is to save your money and work toward a speaker like the PAP Trio15 10″ Coaxial and you’ll have the best of both worlds in dynamics and cleanness. It’s a lot more $ but worth it.

    Emotional engagement depends on how well the system is built. I can make nearly any speaker sound emotionally engaging or meh. So much is dependent upon the level of gear and skills of system builder. Here’s a tip; never dump detail/resolution for warmth. There is no such thing as too much resolution, and if you think the system is too resolving, it is almost always a tonality issue to address.

    Don’t get the idea I hate Maggies, as I do not. I have owned the 1.6QR and the MMG, and use the surrounds for my HT. It’s a bounded technology and they are simply not built closer to a cost-no-object fashion, which hinders their performance. Also, with a sock over the panel, they are quite compromised, as is easily heard when listening to a dipole where you can remove the grill, such as the Kingsound King III electrostatic. For that reason alone I likely would hesitate to own a Maggie today. Same with Vandersteen with fixed grill. A lot is sacrificed pushing a wave through a grill. That would be one reason I wouldn’t be surprised if in direct comparison I thought the LFT-8B was cleaner/clearer than the LRS. This is conjecture as a direct comparison has not been done.

    I have zero interest in arguing with any hard core Maggie fans. A long time ago I was one of those dipole newbies and arguing they were the best speaker, blah, blah… Wow, I was so inexperienced. A very nice system can be made with either LFT-8B or LRS, but such doesn’t come together magically. It would take a lot of adjustments, tuning, etc. to achieve it, likely at a minimum 8-10 system changes including cables, components, etc. You shouldn’t expect to simply drop any speaker in a rig and for it to be optimized. To that end, an optimized LRS might seem more emotionally satisfying than an LFT-8B, or vice versa.

    Douglas Schroeder

  14. Robert Struzinski says:

    As someone who has taken on building or assembling my own idea of what a speaker could or should sound like, I have found the process takes time and patience to even get started. I’m 2 years into my build and I have been challenged every step as I proceed. The materials used are the biggest part of how things look as well as how they work for assembly. A single change of 1 wire can be an all day project.

    I have found that combining ascetics with ultimate over all sound is the one aspect that seems to become the largest issue. The overall sound has to come first or you’re just compromising the project and limiting the final objective. There’s no simple way to make some of the parts and keep things looking like they came from a million $ company that has the ability to make dies and molds to form plastic parts drawn in CAD for a one off design. There is an understood acceptance to see some roughness and unrefined parts used when the need for strength and rigidity is required.

    When you think in terms of money sometimes the obvious choice is the only option since it has been proven to work. Simplicity is something that’s rarely demonstrated now. The idea recently is to make things so they can’t be upgraded or fixed by the end user. My hats off to Bruce for trusting his buyers to do upgrades and for planning ahead by making the changes be as simple as possible.

    Of course we all know for most other speaker makers, they will void your warranty if anything was touched.
    When you make a product that has the build quality and is made to perform at levels far beyond most comparable models, especially when you know that the chance of burning up drivers or other parts is not part of the equasion, the mention of warranty becomes nothing but words. Taking care of each buyer on a one on one level is more than a warranty, there is a connection directly with the maker that brings a level of assurance in the speaker that cannot be found when dealing with a large company.

    This is also something rarely found in this day and age. Anyone who is looking at buying these speakers for the dole reason of price and performance needs to put all of aspects behind. There cannot be a wife running the show, the fact that there is an unrefined exterior is part of the allure. Wrapping any speaker I’m a sock and hiding everything is the easy way out. I have considered that myself. I’m a firm believer in screws. I have recently become a fan of hot glue to hold electrostatic panels in place.

    When you’re assembling a speaker that uses 14 panels per side you have to be open to things you may have counted out previously. Hot glue has 1 very nice quality in that it is impervious to rattled, it lends a damping at the contact points and is invisible when applied correctly.

    My speakers would not be good for shipping and would never be something I would expect anyone to be able to assemble. That’s another point that Bruce has been able to overcome. These things take time and can end up costing more. It’s rare to find a hand crafted speaker with the emphasis on producing higly accurate sound at a reasonable price. I have about the same cost invested in my speakers plus a few years worth of planning and work.
    I don’t own a set that can compete with mine and I have owned at least 100 pairs of speakers made by the big names of speaker makers.

    I can’t say how loud they go since I wasn’t interested in that end of the rainbow. Realistic levels are easily achieved and sonically true reproduction of any content at any level is what was achieved. There is a slight difference between good recordings and bad recordings as expected but there is a cushion that seems to bring things in a listenable realm. Of course I’m not using the best amps available, wires are left over 12 ga from a competition car stereo build in 1999. At least the wire is actual copper strand, which is almost impossible to find now. My cables are all XLR pure copper strand again the cables were made in the early 1990s and all custom made by myself. Amps all AB analog, output at 4 ohms is 350 watts 2 ohms 700w. Bi-amped 2 way design using an active crossover.

    The blending of the panels with the woofers was the one aspect I did the most testing and I have found that the common way of thinking (sharp slopes and low frequency points) was the one thing that kept the blending to be seamless. I found an overlap of 100Hz aimed directly at a point where both drivers had a drop in attenuation was the target. That point has to be found and not simply chosen arbitrarily by any math or psuedo guessing. Only real-world plots could show that specific point. The best way to accomplish this was to find the rolloff of the panels. Then find woofers that had a drop around that same point. I was lucky and found a combination after testing only about 50 drivers and 100 combinations. It might be easier to study manufacturers plots to try and find the perfect match. That didn’t work in the real world as far as my tests results showed.

    The overlap is under table. The strange thing is I can reverse the polarity of either driver and see no loss or gain, I attribute that to the natural down points not being forced by a sharp slope. I had to use a 3 way active crossover and not use the midband to achieve this. Sometimes the path to success is not the proven one but rather the unexplored.

    Once again, I have much respect for Bruce’s work and the way he has chosen to make a great sounding speaker available at a fraction of the cost of others.!

  15. Ken Schwarz says:

    Thanks for the Great Review!
    I live in the Tampa Florida area, and just bought a pair of LFT 8 somethings, used.

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