Reviewer: Peter Familari
Financial interests: click here
Turntable: Linn LP12/Alphason HR100S/Garrott P77
CD player: Audio Research CD6
Preamp: Audio Research SP16, Electra Audio Preamplifier
Power amp: Audio Research Reference 75
Speaker cable: Chord Signature
Interconnects: QED Reference Audio Evolution XLR and QED Reference Audio 40 RCA
Power cables: Nordost Valhalla, Analysis Audio Plus Oval 10
Racks: Quadraspire Q4L Bamboo
Wall-mounted shelf: Quadraspire Q4L Bamboo TT shelf
Speaker stands: Soundstyle S1
Speakers: Rogers LS35/A circa 1987, last of the 15Ω versions, serial N° 030494 A/B; Quad Z1
Review components retails: $2'250/4'499 AU respectively

Prelude to an audio classic. At the end of a punishing winter and what's sure to become an El Nino-inspired vindictive summer, a couple of compact speakers arrived to dispel the glacial gloom. In situ and driven by the always never less than expressive Audio Research Reference 75 amplifier, both engendered a wonderful cosseting sound, dispelling all memories of the rain and the cold and the sleet and the impending Australian drought. The two speakers are the the 65th Anniversary editions of the BBC's inspired designs known globally by legions of devotees as the LS3/5A and the LS5/9. Yes, I know that Rogers were bought by a Hong Kong company. But before you say, "not another review of a woulda'been, coulda'been LS3/5A?", allow me to field these innocent questions. Would you like speakers with to-die-for midrange and palpable 3D imaging qualities? Speakers which for their size create a soundstage with breathtaking depth, height and width and moreover have a natural tonal palette replete with the most subtle as well as the most obvious hues? Would you not covet speakers with the ability to disappear, leaving listeners with a realistic soundfield on a scale that's simply believable in small to mid-sized living rooms?

To clinch the debate, what if I told you that either speaker was affordable. In Australia, the LS3/5A goes for $2'250/pr, the LS5/9 for $4'499/pr. It gets even better when you're outside looking in at a currency that's heading South faster than a heavy boat anchor in deep waters; a battered currency where one undernourished Aussie dollar buys 71 of America's finest cents. You're asking what the downside is? Well yes, everything in audio has a flaw. Nothing is perfect. The outstanding products paper over any flaw so it becomes a sin of omission rather than addition. As far as the LS35/A is concerned, your money buys a speaker, KEF drivers aside, that's identical to the original. The beautifully finished cabinet of my Red Oak pair (Black and Rosewood are also available) measured 31x19x16cm, the same as the repainted 15-ohm original we'll still encounter. The cabinet is built of Birch ply and like most original LS3 5/A, has a screwed-in front baffle and glued-on back. The rear is finished with two sets of decent biwirable terminals. During listening, the biwired LS35/A (and the LS5/9) sounded more open but less dynamic than in single-wired mode. John Bell confirmed that the rear terminals, grill material and fabric around the tweeter are identical and from the same supplier as the original mid/late 1990's Mitchum production Rogers.

The drivers which I'm told are manufactured by Roger's new owners comprise a fine 19mm dome tweeter crossing over to a pressed steel chassis 110mm mid/woofer propelled by a hefty double-wound voice coil and large ferrite magnet. The crossover according to the importer remains essentially unchanged save for accommodating a tweeter that’s more sensitive than the famous KEF T27. Martin Colom’s measurements put the sensitivity at 83dB/W/m which he found was 1.5dB higher than the 15-ohm original. Average impedance is about 7 ohms. As far as the LS5/9 goes, there’s scant information about its development, drivers or cabinet. The new owners are not very communicative and the company website is less than informative. What can be said about my sample's Rosewood cabinet is that it was superbly finished and measured 72.5 x 46 x 28.5cm WxHxD. There is no data on the tweeter and all that can be said about the mid/woofer is that’s it's a 20cm specimen. The LS5/9 is a two-way bass reflex said to have a frequency response of 50Hz-16kHz at ±3dB. Nominal impedance is 8 ohms.

Like all the BBC-inspired speakers of their era, the original LS3/5A and its larger sibling the LS5/9 were not as overtly dynamic as the better modern speakers. Even so, both are rhythmic prodigies with an almost intuitive reproduction of music's ebbs and flows. The key word is ‘intuitive'. It's used in the opposite sense of ‘mechanically predictable'. Moreover the classic LS3/5A was never less than revealing and contemptuous of inferior components upstream of it. Amplification had to be chosen with care. I've heard them sound sublime driven by a Radford STA25 and awful with much more powerful pedigree-class valve or solid-state amplifiers. Power-wise, my advice is to suck it and see. If unsure, be an adult and back off the volume because while the LS3/5A requires power, you have to know when to stop.