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Musical Fidelity jumps aboard the LS3/5a train

  • Choo choooo! That’s the sound of the retro loudspeaker train pulling into a new station. Today’s tracks have been laid by Pro-Ject CEO Heinz Lichtenegger, not for his Austrian turntable-centric brand but for Musical Fidelity (which he acquired in 2018). The latter’s forthcoming LS3/5a standmount loudspeaker is intended for small rooms and/or nearfield applications but anyone wanting decent bass below 100Hz is advised to pony up for a suitably fast subwoofer.

    However, bass isn’t the point. And to explain why, we need to momentarily bring our incoming train to a standstill for a quick jaunt down Memory Lane.

    The LS3/5a was originally designed by BBC engineers in the 1970s for use in outside broadcast vans where wiggle room was at a premium. This shoebox-sized loudspeaker’s design brief was to deliver the most accurate reproduction possible of the human voice. The result was a small 2-way loudspeaker in a sealed cabinet whose manufacture wasn’t handled by the BBC itself but licensed out to some of the most well-respected British loudspeaker manufacturers of the time: Rogers, Spendor, Harbeth, KEF, and Chartwell. Each company had to adhere to the BBC’s rigorous standards in order to ensure that the LS3/5a’s sonic characteristics and performance were maintained across the different production lines.

    And it wasn’t just the BBC who bought numerous pairs of the LS3/5a. The small cabinet size and above-average midrange transparency made it popular with audiophiles who could easily put their own cash down for a pair at a local hi-fi dealership — until production ceased in the late 1990s.

    The decision to discontinue the loudspeaker was primarily driven by the BBC, which was no longer involved in the manufacturing process. As the years passed, the original components used in the LS3/5a became increasingly difficult to source, making it economically unviable to continue production. Additionally, changes in the BBC’s monitoring requirements and advancements in loudspeaker technology further diminished the demand for the LS3/5a. Despite its discontinuation, the LS3/5a remains highly sought after in the used market, with enthusiasts valuing its unique sound and historical significance.

    And that historical significance has slowly driven demand for new iterations of the LS3/5a. Rogers, the original manufacturer, restarted production in 2014 after a long hiatus. Stirling Broadcast, a company founded by Derek Hughes, who was involved in the original LS3/5a project, began producing its version of the LS3/5a in the early 2000s. Falcon Acoustics, led by Malcolm Jones, another key figure in the LS3/5a’s history, started producing its version in 2013. These manufacturers aimed to preserve the legacy and continue the tradition of the LS3/5a by faithfully recreating the original sound and design of the loudspeaker.

    Musical Fidelity how joins that list of new production LS3/5a manufacturers with a version that has been built to “BBC R&D design 1976/29”. The upshot is a nominal impedance of 15 Ohms and a 82.5dB/W/M sensitivity rating.

    The full specifications list is as follows:

    • Type: Two-way, closed
    • Frequency response: 80Hz-20KHz +/-3dB
    • Nominal Impedance: 15 Ohms
    • Sensitivity: 82.5dB/W/M
    • Woofer: 110mm cone
    • Tweeter: 19mm dome
    • Recommended amplifier: 20-150W
    • Cabinet: 12mm birch plywood
    • Finish: Palisander veneer
    • Dimensions: 305 x 190 x 165mm (HxWxD)
    • Weight: 4.9Kg (each speaker)

    From Musical Fidelity’s website: “Due to the closed type cabinet, the LS3/5A convinces with its clear and fast playback. As the speaker was designed to be used for studio applications, the midrange is extremely detailed and realistic. The sound stage and imaging of vocals and instruments are truly extraordinary.”

    Pricing will land at €2499.00 when the Musical Fidelity LS3/5a goes on sale this summer.

    Further information: Musical Fidelity

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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