This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

The Canadian distributor delivered the speakers and stands in person. The stands arrived assembled but normally would come in a single triple-layered cardboard box protected by 1.5" to 2" thick hard polyester foam. In the short time between bringing in the stands and coming back with the speakers, the stands had been positioned and leveled ready for use, testament to how user friendly the setup procedure was.

The 24" high stand is a three-part affair comprised of base plate, center pillar and top plate. The base plate is ½-inch thick machined aluminium in a curved concave triangular shape housing three threaded leveling spikes on the outer edges. The Charisma Audio badge is displayed on one of the outer edges of the bass plate. Large knurled machined aluminium knobs sit atop the spikes and a threaded circular locking nut is mounted below the base to lock the spikes. The spikes can be adjusted by hand or Allen key upon removal of the top knobs. Three large machined discs with recesses for the spikes are supplied for wood or similar flooring. The main pillar is a similarly concave curved triangular shape with vertical ridges made of reinforced cast aluminium. Three M6 screws fix the pillar to the bottom plate and an additional three fasten the 6¼ x 6¼-inch top plate. The entire structure is exceptionally rigid and acoustically very dead but the pillar can be filled with sand for additional damping and mass. The stand eschews spikes on the top plate, relying on its own inertness to provide sufficient damping and support. Those preferring to add a bit of sticktion to safeguard against accidental bumps and curious pets can use bluetack. The stand cuts no corners and is an aesthetically pleasing package. The stands provided were finished in black. Silver is available too.

The pair of speakers came in a double-boxed cardboard with logo and product detail on the outside. The pair were individually wrapped in a tough gray fabric bag with top drawstring and sandwiched between thick high density foam caps, i.e. well protected against accidental mishap. The AS-3/5As were rock solid and finished in a luxurious deep satin red cherry wood veneer (black walnut wood veneer is also available.) Their dimensions were compact indeed, measuring a mere 12 inches high x 7½ inches wide x 6½ inches deep. In the style  of the original, the reinforced dark cloth grill is recessed into the cabinet and sports the Audio Space badge. Removing the grill revealed an arrangement of 1 1/8" tweeter with its own perforated grill termed a phase correction plate and an internally mounted 4½" woofer (outside surround measurement). Internal wiring is high-purity copper. Velcro strips on the front face mount the grill and thick felt strips surround the tweeter to prevent reflection. Driver fasteners are hefty black Allen hardware and Phillips screws.

Each rear panel has four knurled high-quality gold-plated copper binding posts with gold-plated copper jumpers. Purists may raise an eyebrow at the biwire arrangement but the BBC gave the nod to that option provided it did not compromise single-wire performance. A product sticker with specification details and serial number completes the affair. Build quality was flawless. While the styling was old-school 70‘s retro, execution was first-rate modern.

The speaker presents an 11-ohm load and is highly inefficient at 82.5dB. The power rating is 30 to 50 watts. This translates as a power-hungry design which should be easy to drive, show limited dynamic capability but be compatible with a broad range of good-quality amplification either tube or transistor. My initial setup was with the Audio Space Reference 2S, Audio Space CPP-8A CD player and Bel Canto 200.4 amplifier, with the Paradigm Servo 15 subwoofer used to check for integration. The second round went without sub driving the AS 3/5 A full range. To eliminate the distinct possibility of a fortuitous system match, the Audio Space CD player and preamplifier were then removed and the custom Luxman CD player run directly into the Bel Canto amp. The speakers were run in both biwire and jumpered configuration with and without grill covers in place. Best performance was achieved biwiring which achieved gains in detail and dynamic gradation. The response with the grill off was a little more incisive on top and somewhat softer with the grill in place.

"Blue as a Gun called Love" from Crucifix in Dreamland [Marc Jordan EMI 50999 918003 29] is a CD that would come under the broad heading of pop with some progressive  country overtones although it mixes up a good assortment of styles that keeps the cuts interesting and fresh. This is a slow number that manages a good amount of lyrical depth and a sound reminiscent of a darker grittier James Taylor. Decent quality studio record that doesn’t have audiophile aspirations but rather strong musical ones.

"Ride of the Firemares" and "Epilogue and End Titles" from Krull [James Horner La-La Land Records LLLCD 1143] are only two examples of a welcome reissue of what is one of the major early Horner works.  These compositions for Roger Corman’s studio drew attention to the aspiring young artist and Star Trek 2 made him one of the most in-demand composers of the period. Krull was a huge canvas that demanded a broad palette. It drew heavily from its predecessors with a hefty dose of Korngold, Holst and Hermann but added a complexity and sweetness which surpassed earlier efforts and presaged his use of choir on the Glory soundtrack. The recording is remarkably sweet given its heavy use of brass and in the style of Hermann emphasizes orchestral texture. Detail level is high to tax a system’s responsiveness every bit as much as it did the performers.

"Woods Rocks and Mountains" from The English Lute Song [Julianne Baird DOR-90109] is simple material but the soaring vocals have tremendous dynamics that illuminate the hall with sympathetic reverberation. A fine test for how a system will maintain the integrity of the performer under dynamic stress - delicacy and power.

"E’en so, Lord/Dadme Albricias: Modern Mandolin Quartet" from A Winters Solstice II [Various Artists, Windham Hill Records WD1077] is a complex and diverse CD with a wealth of talented artists on a small audiophile label. A gentle little piece that captures the delicacy and color of the mandolins in a warm acoustic. A wonderful CD to warm the mood on a cold winter’s eve.

"Hopak from Maazeppa: Tchaikovsky" from Exotic Dances from the Opera [Eiji Oue, Minesota Orchestra  Reference Recordings RR-71CD]  exhibits all the strengths of Reference Recordings. Dynamics, warmth, detail and venue are all captured beautifully. This cut has the sweep and fire to give your system an exhausting and entertaining workout.

"San Damiano: Sal Solo" from Hardest Hits [SPG SPG-004] is certainly one of the rarest hits of the 80s on a CD that excels at finding the most unusual singles and mixes. It features a choir with electronic background to challenge a system's ability to articulate vocals and delineate the individual members.

"It’s a Jungle Out There"  from Sweet Tea [Buddy Guy, Silvertone Records  01241-41751-2]  is a representative example from a raw blues recording that vacillates from 60s rock recording style to naked acoustics on others. Brooding, dark and delicious for those who like some variation in their blues material.

The AS 3/5A proved admirable in terms of resolution but different in terms of where that detail was focused compared to other speakers. There was a prioritising  of fundamental information rather than secondary reflections creating a darker hall acoustic. A good equivalent would be the sound of a concert hall like the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Some speakers illuminate the hall acoustic on a full-time basis emphasizing reflections. This creates tremendous transparency but less instrument density. The Audio Space speaker integrated detail with the event, revealing air and ambience as a result of the interplay between instrument and venue allowing the music to decay into a darker richer acoustic. Fans of transparency may find such an interpretation a little controlled and damped but this approach gave credibility to the body of instruments, consistently making them more dense and real.

Dynamics were a high point but again different from normal expectations. The Audio Space followed the British tradition of being a little polite in maximum output although it could soar with unexpected power when presented with the right material especially vocals. The AS 3/5A's major dynamic forté was in the opposite direction. At progressively lower levels it held on to detail and frequency balance with a vice like grip that challenged ESLs. This consistency was maintained over an extremely wide range and the two drivers reached both upper and lower dynamic limits as a matched pair. 

While the potential was there to push the speaker too hard especially given its modest power rating, it was generally well behaved in practice, choosing to become polite rather than unpleasant when pushed by gently compressing peak dynamics within the limits of its volume range. No rock monitor status here but the AS-3/5A proved capable of filling a room in convincing fashion. By itself the speaker proved effective enough to be rewarding with a reasonable range of music especially acoustical, falling short only on material with massive dynamic range and/or prodigious bass. Paired with a subwoofer the system shed some of those limitations by gaining major extension and a small amount of dynamic range. The Heavy Metal crowd will remain unimpressed but acoustic music fans will enjoy the additional orchestral weight and increased ease.