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What is it with the BBC LS3/5a?

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  • What is it with the BBC LS3/5a?

    As a Harbeth owner and former owner of various makes of the LS3/5a, what is it that attracts so many people to this speaker? OK, it's a competent loudspeaker. I enjoyed ownership and listening but admit to falling for the hype started, it appears, by (perhaps?) Hi Fi News. Various makes passed through my hands over the years, fueled by 'which is the best ', etc.. Prices started to rise as Far Eastern collectors bid ridiculous amounts for early examples by Chartwell and Rogers.

    Then various companies, such as Richard Allen and later Stirling Broadcast, started production using the approved KEF drivers. Now we have the situation of Chinese LS3/5as using copied KEF drivers and British ones using completely different drivers, but with BBC approval. Prices continue to rise, perhaps fuelled by nostalgia. After all my favourite bicycle of the 1960s, the Moulton, is commanding ever higher prices. When you see a pair of LS3/5as selling for the price of a pair of P3ESRs it does make you wonder, though... Martyn Miles .

    {Moderator's comment: No, the Sterling Ls3/5a does not use KEF drivers. They are, as far as we know, made by SEAS and use polypropylene cones (the KEF units used bextrene cones). We do not believe that the BBC are aware of, or have the resources to prohibit, anyone anywhere making "LS3/5as" with any combination of drive units, crossover or cabinetry. It is a completely unregulated and unregulatable jungle. The measurable and sonic performance chronically degrades with time as we have shown here in detail before. Caveat emptor}
    Last edited by Miles MG; 29-07-2013, 06:23 PM. Reason: Spelling

  • #2
    I think it's an issue of the heart ruling the head. There are many examples of antiques being treasured even though their performance, in objective terms, is really not that great. For example, there were many magnificent grandfather (long case) clocks in the National Trust properties we toured in the west country. They made a lovely sound, but not one told the correct time according to my modern digital watch. Who cares though?! They are what they are.

    Providing we are honest and realistic with ourselves, and don't make inappropriate comparisons between the old and new, there certainly is room in our heart for a genuine original. But a modern 'copy' of a classic using cheap mass produced parts? Er, no: that shouldn't satisfy anyone on any level.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

    Comment


    • #3
      Drive unit confusion

      Originally posted by Miles MG View Post
      As a Harbeth owner and former owner of various makes of the LS3/5a, what is it that attracts so many people to this speaker? OK, it's a competent loudspeaker. I enjoyed ownership and listening but admit to falling for the hype started, it appears, by (perhaps?) Hi Fi News. Various makes passed through my hands over the years, fueled by 'which is the best ', etc.. Prices started to rise as Far Eastern collectors bid ridiculous amounts for early examples by Chartwell and Rogers.

      Then various companies, such as Richard Allen and later Stirling Broadcast, started production using the approved KEF drivers. Now we have the situation of Chinese LS3/5as using copied KEF drivers and British ones using completely different drivers, but with BBC approval. Prices continue to rise, perhaps fueled by nostalgia. After all my favourite bicycle of the 1960s, the Moulton, is commanding ever higher prices. When you see a pair of LS3/5as selling for the price of a pair of P3ESRs it does make you wonder, though... Martyn Miles .

      {Moderator's comment: No, the Sterling Ls3/5a does not use KEF drivers. They are, as far as we know, made by SEAS and use polypropylene cones (the KEF units used bextrene cones). We do not believe that the BBC are aware of, or have the resources to prohibit, anyone anywhere making "LS3/5as" with any combination of drive units, crossover or cabinetry. It is a completely unregulated and unregulatable jungle. The measurable and sonic performance chronically degrades with time as we have shown here in detail before. Caveat emptor}
      With reference to the Stirling LS3/5a, I understand early ones ( circa 2000/2001) were made with KEF units before supply of these ceased. I am also aware the later Rogers (made by Stirling Broadcast ) used non-KEF drive units.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Miles MG View Post
        With reference to the Stirling LS3/5a, I understand early ones ( circa 2000/2001) were made with KEF units before supply of these ceased. I am also aware the later Rogers (made by Stirling Broadcast ) used non-KEF drive units.
        As far as I am aware, Sterling has never (knowingly) made Rogers-branded LS3/5as. What is the source of that information?
        Alan A. Shaw
        Designer, owner
        Harbeth Audio UK

        Comment


        • #5
          A quaint charm

          I shall have to look up the emails, but a long standing pal of mine did some research and Doug Stirling was very forthcoming. Apparently, there was a 'Rogers' speaker (LS3/5A Anniversary or similar) which Stirling made and calibrated for them. I'll check to confirm.. Also, the current Stirling BBC LS3/5A V2 as it's known, is individually calibrated to the correct spec and it wouldn't surprise me if the claim of superior performance to the variable originals isn't correct.

          Going back to the originals and speaking as a retailer of some of the various manufacturers, I believe that Audiomaster, in the case of the originals, and Spendor as well as Harbeth, of the later KEF-driver ones, did spend a long time optimising each sample and pair to be within spec. What used to alarm us was that if we needed a replacement bass unit for the 1970's Rogers models, we were sent a KEF B110 bass unit with no details of matching to the originals (I hope I can say this after thirty years). Doug Stirling claims that very few, if any, of the original models actually meet their specification now and certainly none of the samples he's measured.

          It's a bit like Spendor BC1's Martyn. Good surviving pairs are charming in their own way and with a potentially lovely midrange, but the drawbacks in maximum level and horrendous bass distortion, even in the later models, date them terribly on modern recordings (with vastly higher bass levels) unless you play them at low levels.

          Comment


          • #6
            The "Rogers Royal LS3/5a"

            Originally posted by A.S. View Post
            As far as I am aware, Sterling has never (knowingly) made Rogers-branded LS3/5as. What is the source of that information?
            The information was given to me personally by someone involved in the production of the speakers.

            The model I referred to, known as as Rogers Royal LS3/5a, was reviewed by Martin Colloms in the HiFi Critic magazine. I believe the same model was reviewed by Ken Kessler in Hi-Fi News.

            {Moderator's comment: Perhaps Derek can cast some light on this?}

            Comment


            • #7
              I think Derek was involved in the V2 design, wasn't he?

              Comment


              • #8
                Ongoing

                Originally posted by DSRANCE View Post
                I think Derek was involved in the V2 design, wasn't he?
                Yes,

                he was. He also employed by Harbeth at some point in his career, I understand. Martyn Miles

                {Moderator's comment: Derek is currently and has been engaged by Harbeth for many years. Harbeth (with it's RADIAL technology) are relaxed about Derek undertaking occasional support work for others in need of skills}

                Comment


                • #9
                  Helpful Derek

                  Originally posted by Miles MG View Post
                  Yes,

                  He was. He also employed by Harbeth at some point in his career, I understand. Martyn Miles

                  {Moderator's comment: Derek is currently and has been engaged by Harbeth for many years. Harbeth (with it's RADIAL technology) are relaxed about Derek undertaking occasional support work for others in need of skills}
                  Derek has helped many an enthusiast with their loudspeakers. I am aware of the time he took checking out a pair of RAM LS3/5as for a member of the Yahoo Forum dedicated to those speakers. Martyn Miles .

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Well out of original specification

                    Originally posted by Miles MG View Post
                    As a Harbeth owner and former owner of various makes of the LS3/5a, what is it that attracts so many people to this speaker? OK, it's a competent loudspeaker. I enjoyed ownership and listening but admit to falling for the hype started, it appears, by (perhaps?) Hi Fi News. Various makes passed through my hands over the years, fueled by 'which is the best ', etc.. Prices started to rise as Far Eastern collectors bid ridiculous amounts for early examples by Chartwell and Rogers.

                    Then various companies, such as Richard Allen and later Stirling Broadcast, started production using the approved KEF drivers. Now we have the situation of Chinese LS3/5as using copied KEF drivers and British ones using completely different drivers, but with BBC approval. Prices continue to rise, perhaps fuelled by nostalgia. After all my favourite bicycle of the 1960s, the Moulton, is commanding ever higher prices. When you see a pair of LS3/5as selling for the price of a pair of P3ESRs it does make you wonder, though... Martyn Miles .

                    {Moderator's comment: No, the Sterling Ls3/5a does not use KEF drivers. They are, as far as we know, made by SEAS and use polypropylene cones (the KEF units used bextrene cones). We do not believe that the BBC are aware of, or have the resources to prohibit, anyone anywhere making "LS3/5as" with any combination of drive units, crossover or cabinetry. It is a completely unregulated and unregulatable jungle. The measurable and sonic performance chronically degrades with time as we have shown here in detail before. Caveat emptor}
                    A pair of early Chartwell LS3/5as have recently sold for 2,178 on eBay. If this is a true price ( and I have no reason to believe it isn't) it must be a record. They will be very old and far from the BBC specification by now. Probably added to a Far East collector's stash of '3/5as. Strange...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Just accept for what they are

                      Hello

                      I made some LS3/5a's from a kit provided by Falcon Acoustics. I have no way of knowing how close they get to real ones, the drivers are probably not as close to spec as the BBC would have specified (sourced from a mid 70's KEF kit speaker pair bought locally).

                      I do know I spent many happy hours ensuring each aspect of the construction was a precise as I could make it. The bitumen pads are mm perfect, the box is completely airtight. I love the speakers, its the only pair I own that I doubt I will ever sell.
                      Sound wise, everyone who has heard them thinks they are pretty special (I'm selective with source material when showing them off!) I listen to them a lot (they do TV duties as well as hifi) and I'm familiar with the weaknesses, but on the whole, they're doing a good job.

                      I think Alan got it right with the grandfather clock analogy. Hifi, for most of us (hopefully) is a fun hobby. My favorite watch happens to be my least accurate, if I was to buy another motorbike it would be an old Moto Guzzi (not the best at anything, but I like them for some reason) etc. etc.

                      Have a flick through the history section here: www.ls35a.com/

                      If you still fail to see the appeal of having a pair of these little pieces of history knocking about the place and filling in when required fair enough. But I fully understand the appeal, as obviously do plenty of others (many with deeper pockets than me!)

                      Maybe if you accepted them for what they are (a fun thing to own) rather than what you wanted them to be (the best small speaker available) you could have enjoyed them more?

                      Ted.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Slipping into the glorious past ...

                        Originally posted by tedwin View Post
                        Hello

                        I made some LS3/5a's from a kit provided by Falcon Acoustics. I have no way of knowing how close they get to real ones, the drivers are probably not as close to spec as the BBC would have specified (sourced from a mid 70's KEF kit speaker pair bought locally).

                        I do know I spent many happy hours ensuring each aspect of the construction was a precise as I could make it. The bitumen pads are mm perfect, the box is completely airtight. I love the speakers, its the only pair I own that I doubt I will ever sell.
                        Sound wise, everyone who has heard them thinks they are pretty special (I'm selective with source material when showing them off!) I listen to them a lot (they do TV duties as well as hifi) and I'm familiar with the weaknesses, but on the whole, they're doing a good job.

                        I think Alan got it right with the grandfather clock analogy. Hifi, for most of us (hopefully) is a fun hobby. My favorite watch happens to be my least accurate, if I was to buy another motorbike it would be an old Moto Guzzi (not the best at anything, but I like them for some reason) etc. etc.

                        Have a flick through the history section here: www.ls35a.com/

                        If you still fail to see the appeal of having a pair of these little pieces of history knocking about the place and filling in when required fair enough. But I fully understand the appeal, as obviously do plenty of others (many with deeper pockets than me!)

                        Maybe if you accepted them for what they are (a fun thing to own) rather than what you wanted them to be (the best small speaker available) you could have enjoyed them more?

                        Ted.
                        The LS3/5as I enjoyed most were a pair assembled by an ex. BBC engineer, using the requisite Kef B110 and T27 and an upgraded Falcon Acoustics crossover all housed in an ex. RAM cabinet. Whether they exactly met the BBC spec. I don't know, but I enjoyed using them. Now with someone in Germany who gets great pleasure from them.

                        Owning unusual objects is a hobby of mine and not just with audio components. (Bicycles, for instance ) I am currently refurbishing an old pair of Celestion County loudspeakers. An old paper cone mid/bass driver and HF1300 tweeter. They sound nothing like my small Harbeths, but I love the 'retro' look and the old technology. Put on an old record, enjoy the sound and fall into the past. Enjoyment ? Yes...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          DIY project

                          Originally posted by tedwin View Post
                          Hello

                          I made some LS3/5a's from a kit provided by Falcon Acoustics. I have no way of knowing how close they get to real ones, the drivers are probably not as close to spec as the BBC would have specified (sourced from a mid 70's KEF kit speaker pair bought locally).

                          I do know I spent many happy hours ensuring each aspect of the construction was a precise as I could make it. The bitumen pads are mm perfect, the box is completely airtight. I love the speakers, its the only pair I own that I doubt I will ever sell.
                          Sound wise, everyone who has heard them thinks they are pretty special (I'm selective with source material when showing them off!) I listen to them a lot (they do TV duties as well as hifi) and I'm familiar with the weaknesses, but on the whole, they're doing a good job.



                          I think Alan got it right with the grandfather clock analogy. Hifi, for most of us (hopefully) is a fun hobby. My favorite watch happens to be my least accurate, if I was to buy another motorbike it would be an old Moto Guzzi (not the best at anything, but I like them for some reason) etc. etc.

                          Have a flick through the history section here: www.ls35a.com/

                          If you still fail to see the appeal of having a pair of these little pieces of history knocking about the place and filling in when required fair enough. But I fully understand the appeal, as obviously do plenty of others (many with deeper pockets than me!)

                          Maybe if you accepted them for what they are (a fun thing to own) rather than what you wanted them to be (the best small speaker available) you could have enjoyed them more?

                          Ted.
                          I am in the process of building a pair of ' LS35a type ' speakers for my brother. I realise, as Alan has said, that one cannot build something as good as a loudspeaker company. The fun is in the building.
                          I have a scientific/engineering background and two friends, one an audio amplifier designer and the other a sound engineer with a background in designing and building mixing desks.
                          Between us we will make the necessary measurements and do listening tests. The result will not be a BBC spec. LS3/5a, but a loudspeaker that will bring pleasure. Martyn Miles.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Goodmans Maxim

                            That LS3/5as make 2k+ on the Bay is lunacy...
                            They are well past their sell by date just like the BC1
                            How much are Goodmans Maxims making now, the first mini monitor of note. (600 I see )

                            The BBC had a powered version with an equalised amp for OB use, that was a cracker if a little quiet (the first nearfield ?). Not sure the surrounds would be any good now. Anyhow it was brilliant for its day, the first 5" hifi speaker.
                            13,0sh,6d quite a bargain in 65.

                            {Moderator's comment: The (domestic) Maxim was Alan's first quality speaker. He has one of those powered versions .... would you like a picture?}

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Maxims again

                              Originally posted by Rolo46 View Post
                              That LS3/5as make 2k+ on the Bay is lunacy...
                              They are well past their sell by date just like the BC1
                              How much are Goodmans Maxims making now, the first mini monitor of note. (600 I see )

                              The BBC had a powered version with an equalised amp for OB use, that was a cracker if a little quiet (the first nearfield ?). Not sure the surrounds would be any good now. Anyhow it was brilliant for its day, the first 5" hifi speaker.
                              13,0sh,6d quite a bargain in 65.

                              {Moderator's comment: The (domestic) Maxim was Alan's first quality speaker. He has one of those powered versions .... would you like a picture?}
                              Back in 1969 (!) I ordered a pair of Maxims for some friends. My Father had an account with Duval's in Oxford. Duval's was the trade side, I believe, of Westwood's Audio in George St. Oxford.

                              I don't recall what was paid, but at the time I think the Maxims were priced at 29 . I suspect about two thirds of the retail price.

                              The little speakers stood each end of a long mantelpiece in a bungalow. Dedicated wiring and sockets were fitted for them.

                              The strange thing is that I was out for a bicycle ride yesterday, and went through the village and past the bungalow. I was tempted to glimpse in the window and see if they were still there !

                              Comment

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