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Lenehan ML1 Reference Bookshelf Speaker Review

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The Reference model of the ML1 is internally wired with Lenehan’s Ribbontek flat cable, so a lovely synergy was achieved when the speaker was used with the supplied Ribbontek Speaker Cables.

Mike had been using ETI Quiessence Ref1 Interconnects ($8,700 AUS) and Ref1 Speaker Cables ($10K 8ft pair), “Even though I bought them wholesale I would clench my teeth every time I recalled the cost, but they were brilliant.” The prohibitive cost drove Mike to develop his own cables, but the results were variable. A bugaboo (do they use that word in Australia?), which had to be addressed, was the tendency of ribbon copper wire to oxidize. The solution was to coat the ribbon to prevent contact with the air. Lenehan experimented with 11 different recipes of varnish and Xylene Isonel blends until one was secured which was deemed neutral sounding. Perhaps description of the time and experimentation in this process will give the reader some appreciation as to why the prices of boutique cables typically have higher MSRP than store bought wires.

The experience using the Ribbontek speaker cables with flat conductors mirrors that of my Magnan Cables review. I truly enjoyed those wide and at times unwieldy wires, as they held a supple character transmitted to whatever component they linked. The idea behind the flat conductor was elimination of skin effect, a mistiming between frequencies transmitted over and through the conductor. I’m not sure that is what accounted for the beauty of the Magnan sound, but I’m getting a similar low stress, rich sound with the Ribbontek as well.

Recently I finalized an in-depth yearlong project regarding the Legacy Audio Clarity Edition Whisper Speaker, a collaboration between Legacy Audio, Clarity Cables and myself in which my set of Whisper speakers was refitted with 10 Ga. Clarity Cable throughout. Along with Clarity Caps (no relation to Clarity Cables) and the new Legacy Audio Air Motion Tweeter system the speaker has elevated this already formidable speaker.

In use of the several cables on hand testing the Clarity Edition Whisper one particular brand stood above the rest. Can you guess which one? Yes, it was Clarity Cables which yielded the best performance with the Clarity Whisper, which to people who know cables should not be surprising. When a gorgeous sounding cable is put into a system the result of adding more of the same cables is an even better sound. The same is true for adding more of the same cables to the inside of a speaker. For this reason the Ribbontek speaker cables lend their smoothness and subtlety to the ML1 enhancing the speaker’s performance.

In speakers with no dedicated Midrange the audiophile has to be careful, since the cabling selected may be too bass or treble heavy, obscuring the single driver or two-way speaker’s sweet spot, the Mids. Using a smaller gauge cable like Morrow Audio which is thinner in the bass, bright and clean with shimmering treble, the ML1 loses thickness in vocals, and falls a bit short on fullness with stringed instruments like the upright bass. Clarity Cable in this application brought so much bass presence that the smallish driver sounded too thick to my ear. The Ribbontek carried an appropriate amount of resolution and weight.

Turning to a more whimsical piece for assessment, the odd “Diary of Horace Wimp” by ELO (For those under 30 that’s Electric Light Orchestra, one of those geriatric rock groups!) incorporates synthesizer, and spoken voice, both of which are greatly affected by the cabling used with the ML1. I spent time analysing the nature of the background voice which lists the days of the week. The Morrow speaker cables made this voice sound nasal, as if the speaker were pinching his nose when he spoke. When the Ribbontek cables were inserted, the nasal tightness disappeared.


My reviewer’s bias toward the quality of fancy pedigree products has been severely challenged in recent days as I have been both reviewing and demoing various products from Musical Fidelity’s M1 line. Having been in need of a Redbook player I took a chance and tried the M1CDT as a low cost replacement for a $10K player. Silly, I know. Ah, but genius sometimes shows itself in trying unorthodox solutions, and in this case the Musical Fidelity components perform brilliantly! I have been in ecstasy and was so impressed that I requested a pair of M1PWR Amps to see if this design coup was a fluke. It was not! Currently I’m running the M1CDT, the V90-DAC, the heavy hitting Pass Labs XP-20 Preamplifier, and the M1PWR amps together. What a bizarre combination! Yet, the Pass preamp is the only high pedigree performer running with the Legacy Audio Clarity Edition Whispers I crowed so much about earlier – ¬these are the electronics making it happen!

So, what do you think would happen if I were to put these electronics on the demure ML1 bookshelf speakers? I had a very good sense of what would happen before I put together the system, as I spent considerable time with the electronics and speakers. I expected a more blown out, larger scale soundstage, a radically improved degree of cleanness and precision, a tighter mid-bass on down to 35 Hz and more seamless integration with the Legacy Subwoofers. I anticipated a much more moving, “flesh and blood” experience. On all counts the ML1 and M1PWR delivered.

It can be disorienting for a person accustomed to hauling big amps occasionally in excess of 100 pounds or sources and preamps topping five digit prices to be impressed by a dinky seven-pound box which seems like it is filled mostly with air. When a pair of $500 amps which the preponderance of audiophiles can afford are able to do this the audiophile community at large needs to wipe the sleep out of their eyes and have a close look. Save your five thousand dollars and move from the compromise $2,000 bookshelf speakers to the ML1’s and get some serious sound. One would do well to go with the combination of the ML1 and the M1PWR, as lopsided as that may seem.

Then again, if you wish to go more upscale with the ML1 it will certainly accommodate it. The superb performance of the M1PWR is an anomaly, but the superb performance of the ML1 speaker is not. I could easily see between $15-20 thousand dollars spent in upstream components being suitable for this speaker.

I was very pleasantly rewarded in spending time with the ML1 and it has put Australian speakers on my mental map. Though it is a world away geographically, the tiny ML1 drew near to my heart. For those with very high aspirations for systems and very low tolerance of big speakers, the worst case scenario being the smidgen of a shelf on which to place them in a crowded corner, fear not, for extremely high fidelity is yours to discover in the Lenehan line. Drop a granite-like thick block of Lenehan ML1’s on the left and right of your favourite petite system components and luxuriate in as fine sound as is found in petite form in the high end.

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

  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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