In developed countries such as Singapore, space constraints had forced audiophile to sacrifice the scale of their setup considerably to a much smaller deployment. Bookshelf speakers or studio monitors triumphed in such situation and provide consumer an alternative with uncompromised music reproduction.
Among the many bookshelf speakers / monitors with various sizes, Graham LS5/9 is one of the remarkable product that best represents the pinnacle of box shelf speaker’s development. Since its strategic entry and affiliation with the BBC R&D for their production licensing, Graham LS5/9 has increasingly attracted many fellowships over the years.
The review subject for today’s article is, apparently the Graham LS5/9 speakers. With courtesy from Audioline Singapore, a pair was delivered to my audiophile den for review. I sincerely appreciate their generous support and time to make this review possible.
Build & Design
The Graham Audio LS5/9 aesthetically was not far from the original LS5/9 that was first designed in 1983 by BBC. Ample care was taken to ensure that the music reproduction would stay faithful to the original with latest drivers and cross over components. As the two drivers were no longer identical to the models produce 30 over years ago, changes were made on the crossover section of the speakers to ensure overall tonal balance achievement being close to the BBC original prototypes. Revised design was conducted and with new crossover and drivers, BBC approved the design and licensed for production of the Graham LS5/9 we see today.
The LS5/9 is a 2 way reflex speakers with front port located on its top right corner above the tweeter. The cabinet is made of birch plywood with teak veneer finishes. The dimension measures at 28x27.5x46cm, and weighing 14kg per unit. The size will not be consider as a typical bookshelf speakers but they do save substantial legroom space if you want to place them on a shelf or equivalent, blending in with our home without disrupting the furniture layout.
Frequency response base on the website stated 50Hz to 16KHz at +/-3dB. But during my audition, with proper placement it can achieve quite substantial bass output that is satisfactory for most music genre. The speakers have a nominal impedance of 8 ohm and 87dB SPL sensitivity. Not being exactly easy to drive on paper and it was proven true when I fed them with Balanced Audio Technologies VK655 power amp that pushes 600W at 8ohm. With more power channeled to the LS5/9, the speakers were able to sing with ease and muscle with the melodies.
Behind the grille you can find a tweeter adjustment facility. It retained the original raw form since the early days of BBC LS5/9 and one can use it to adjust the tweeter settings accordingly. However, all Graham Audio was being preset to achieve the best performance during their production. I leave them as it is during my audition for a more conclusive assessment.
Many would have heard of the famous Rogers LS3/5A and ecstatic over its uniquely tuned BBC sound. The Graham LS5/9 just brings it to another level at a bigger scale with better bass lines comparatively. The speakers were connected to the Rogers Fidelity EHF200mk2 integrated amplifier with source from both analog and digital domain. The setup was run in for couple of weeks prior to a detail critical listening.
For those whom have not heard of BBC monitor speakers’ performance, they may take sometimes to adjust and appreciate its sonic character. The variants of BBC design had spread across to various brands and each had reproduce original BBC sound signature with pinch of alternative flavors. The Graham Audio LS5/9 I would say stayed closed to the original prototype I listened years back. Time may play some trick to our memories but the authentic trace still prevails in this pair of well-made LS5/9.
The overall tonal performance was mid centric focus with a forward accretion to emphasize on vocal reproduction. This effect was further enhanced with tint of resonation from the thin wall of cabinet. Making it sounded uniquely favorable for jazz and orchestra performances, bringing a sense of nostalgic reminiscence of what you once heard on BBC speakers in the past.
The treble was slightly attenuated, dipping to facilitate the midrange highlights for the design. This was barely noticeable, as one will be easily distracted by the sumptuous midrange performance in the reproduction. The highs were not extended like many loudspeakers but that actually made prolong listening a joy. They were less fatigue comparatively with those with etching highs that arouse your aural senses initially but irritate disturbingly after substantial listening.
The midrange was where the magic was. Its performance was breathtaking with truthfulness to vocal pieces. This is where one should pay attention on its careful emphasize and contribution over the midrange reproduction. Its tonal development was dense and with a good flow of laudable smoothness. This made listening to most genres of music pleasurable, encasing your focus easily and enjoyably.
On the bass notes, bass lines have a natural decay and dug deep into the lower octaves with extension that sounded effortlessly. It may not give the kind of bass impact that one would expect from full range speakers. But they do provide suffice bass that will impress you desirably. On bass heavy tracks, you may find it sounded hollowly and lacks density in the slam segment. However, this does not affect the whole listening experience or in anyway annoying.
Soundstage wise, it was fairly wide and spacious, with a decent reverberation effect that makes symphonic works a marvel to listen to. The pair of Graham Audio LS5/9 can bring you the “right there” sensation when your eyes were closed. Immersing perfectly into the music with what I called as “Hall” mode in terms of sonic effects. Intricacies were well defined and articulated despite the hitch on its treble. I was able to differentiate and pinpoint the various music instruments in a complex assemble performance.
Summary / Conclusion:
In general, the BBC signature sound is something that audiophile should give it a listen in his audio journey. There is a reason for its long reputable existence and popularity. Some hated it but eventually embrace it at their later part of their life. Those who love it pledged devotedly and even swear by its performance.
The Graham LS5/9 is a remarkable reproduction, which exceed in some aspect in term of the performance to the older LS5/9. Some may find that the retro box design looks comparatively unfashionable with many others that come with exotic shapes and color variants. However, beautiful things do not seek for attention, and the Graham Audio LS5/9 is one sonic beauty that deserves our utmost praise and attention.
- Smooth and warmly affectionate midrange
- Unique house sound from BBC family
- Suitable for most music genres
- Bass lacks the impact to enhance the ambience for complex orchestra performances
- Limited cabinet veneer choices