October 1, 2009

LSA Group LSA1 Statement Loudspeakers

I first encountered the LSA1 Statement loudspeaker at the 2007 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I went to Exemplar Audio/LSA Group’s suite to hear the Exemplar/Shanling SCD3000 CD player, which is heavily modified by Exemplar’s John Tucker. In addition to the SCD3000 as a source, a pair of LSA1 Statements were being driven by a Tucker-modified LSA Statement amplifier and a prototype of Tucker’s own XP-2 line stage. The electronics were what first drew my attention, and though the system sounded very good that Friday, I was only somewhat impressed by the minimonitors and went on my way.

On Saturday, I took a friend to Tucker’s room to give him a chance to hear the CD player. (I later bought an Exemplar/Shanling SCD3000 with special Teflon caps.) As I sat there listening, I was shocked at how much the sound had improved overnight -- the imaging and the bass were much better. After a long listening session, my friend and I both said how good we thought the Exemplar/LSA room sounded.

And on Sunday we returned, and again I was transfixed by the sound. I had never heard such realism at any audio show. Afterward, I was amazed that the Exemplar/LSA room and the LSA1s hadn’t gotten more press coverage. And that’s how, nearly two years later, I’ve come to review them.

In part, my purpose in reviewing the LSA1s was to find a small pair of speakers to use in my summer house. I’ve owned many pairs of small monitor speakers in my 40-plus years in audio, and I’m well aware of their limited bottom end, their power needs, and the importance of placement to maximize their performance. But there’d been no deficiency in the LSA1s’ bottom end at RMAF; in fact, John Tucker wasn’t using the larger LSA2 Statements he had on hand because they overloaded the room. No subwoofers were needed.

Description

The LSA Group’s Signature and Statement speakers are modifications of the Standard lines by John Tucker, who also designs Exemplar Audio products. The Statement is the most expensive of the three LSA1 models, all of which have a 6.25" midrange/woofer with a treated-paper cone. The LSA1 Standard ($1000/pair) has a 1" silk-dome tweeter, as does the LSA1 Signature ($1499/pair), though the latter has better internal wiring, resistors, and capacitors. The LSA1 Statement ($2599/pair) has a totally rebuilt crossover with AuriCaps, Mills wire-wound resistors, a 12-gauge air-core ribbon inductor, and, instead of that 1" silk dome, a folded ribbon tweeter -- the G2Si from Aurum Cantus -- that goes up to a rated 40kHz. All three LSA1s have the same striking, well-finished cabinet with nonparallel sides and a rear port. I have spent no time with the Standard or Signature models, but I briefly heard the Standard at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. From that brief audition, I concluded that it wasn’t in the Statement’s league

The LSA1 Statement measures 13.5"H by 8.75"W by 14.5"D and weighs 24 pounds. Its efficiency is claimed to be 88dB, its frequency response 45Hz-34kHz, +/-3dB. Dual binding posts are provided and biwiring is recommended. There is a five-year warranty.

Setup

While LSA does offer speaker stands for the LSA1, I used Kosmic Audio’s Superstructure stands, which are made of paper layered with phenolic, which Kosmic says has the sonic characteristics of ebony. The Superstructures are black as ebony and quite inert. They stand on Tiptoe points, and support the speaker on diamond-topped points (the base of the speaker is protected with caps). These were the stands the LSA1s stood on in the Exemplar suite at RMAF, and I suspect that they’re exceptional and contributed much to the sound I heard. However, the Kosmics cost only $400 less than the LSA1 Statements themselves, so you might want to consider LSA’s SS-26 stands, which cost but $375/pair. I don’t know what effect LSA’s stands might have had on the sound, because I didn’t use them.

The LSA1 Statements replaced my Acapella LaCampanella speakers, which I moved deeper into the corners of my room, with shorting plugs across their terminals. The review samples had not been used before, and took five days of constant playing before they sounded their best. I heard only modest improvements thereafter for the two weeks of my critical listening. It’s entirely possible that even longer use would have led to further improvement, but I think the majority of improvement was already there.

I did listen to the LSA1s during those first days of break-in, though not attentively. Their sound grew more open and less constricted, but the most noticeable improvement was in the bass, with openness of the soundstage being a close second. Despite this speaker’s small size, its bass grew quite satisfying and tightly controlled. LSA says that the LSA1s "deliver convincing bass down to and below 30 cycles," especially in small rooms, but when I used a signal generator, I had no response in the low-30Hz region in my large room.

Listening

Associated Equipment

Digital sources -- Exemplar/Shanling SCD3000 SACD player, Exemplar Music Server, Exemplar/Xindak XD-1 DAC

Preamplifier -- H-Cat P-12R X8 line stage

Power amplifiers -- H-Cat DF-100.2 power amp, LSA Statement integrated amp (only amp stage used)

Loudspeakers -- Acapella LaCampanella

Digital cable -- Synergistic Research Tesla D3

Interconnects -- Synergistic Research Apex, Precision Reference, Accelerator

Speaker cables -- Synergistic Research Apex

Power cords -- Synergistic Research Hologram D, Hologram A, Tesla T2

Power conditioner -- Synergistic Research PowerCell 10 SE

With break-in, the LSA1 Statement’s folded-ribbon tweeter became very fast and extended, seemed very accurate within its range, and mated quite seamlessly with the mid/woofer, which crosses over to it at about 3kHz. I think this tweeter is a major strength of this speaker. All else being equal, the imaging of such small speakers is usually quite good. The imaging of my H-Cat P-12R X8 line stage and H-Cat DF-100.2 power amp is extraordinary, and the LSA1 Statements passed it along. The imaging was also quite good when I substituted the LSA Statement amplifier.

I had not expected that these minimonitors would have the bass or the gusto to reproduce symphonic works in my large room as they had in that small room at RMAF, and that ended up being the case. In a smaller room, however, you might be very happy with their reproduction of such recordings. Apart from that, these speakers might shock you, as they did me at RMAF. Singers had a clarity and a realism that rivaled how they sound through speakers many times more expensive. You might expect to hear box colorations from such minimonitors, but I heard none. On his Greatest Love Songs (CD, JVC XRCD2 CJVC 34463), Nat King Cole’s presence was striking. Cole’s mouth was convincingly sized and placed in space. I noted this with other closely miked vocal recordings.

In fact, rendering voices realistically was this speaker’s strong suit, and several other selections provided further examples. The final track of Frank Sinatra’s Only the Lonely (Capitol/Mobile Fidelity Koch B001BJ65SU), "One for My Baby," sounded very intimate and full of pathos through these speakers. This album was intended as a bluesy collection, and on this song especially, I could sense in Sinatra’s voice the loss he was experiencing. I could also sense the space inhabited by Nelson Riddle’s large orchestra, which enters late in the song. I then listened to Carol Kidd singing "When I Dream," from Best Audiophile Voices, Vol.1 (CD, Premium B001718TZM). This recording offered, through the LSA1 Statements, the best sense of a recording venue I have heard. With this track, and to lesser degrees with several others, I could sense the presence of other performers around the singer, as well as the depth and width of the recording studio.

When I listened to Duke Ellington’s The Great Paris Concert (CD, Atlantic UK B00000213G), "Kinda Dukish" and "Don’t Get Around Much Anymore" were nicely resolved into a precise soundstage, although the big band in the background fell short of the dynamic range it would have had had I been there at the concert. This has always seemed to me a poor recording of a great performance. The sound is congested, perhaps because of multiple miking, but the LSA1s nonetheless effected placements of individual performers that seemed plausible and therefore real.

I have been asked whether or not a subwoofer might give more bottom-end body to the sound of the LSA1s. I’ve never had much luck mating monitors to subs, and I didn’t try it with the LSA1 Statements for the simple reason that I had no subs to try. I do know a dealer who reports great success with the LSA1s and the Zu Audio Method subwoofers.






At the other end of the audioband, I do have a pair of standalone Murata supertweeters, although the Muratas alone cost about the same as the LSA1 Statements. When I tried them supplementing the LSA1s, the Muratas gave a greater sense of depth to the soundstage. Listening with the Murata-LSA combo to all of the recordings mentioned above, I got a greater sense of the studio. As in Murata’s own demonstrations, I merely covered the supertweeters with a heavy cloth to remove their contribution. I tried this only after I’d taken all my other notes for this review and was about to change back to my reference speakers, with which I always use the Muratas.

Conclusion

I have owned several minimonitors over the years: Rogers LS3/5As, Fulton FMI-100s, and Philips RH532 self-powered, motional-feedback speakers. Imaging and convenience are their long suits, lack of bass their short. The LSA1 Statement is the finest minimonitor I have heard, and they would be quite satisfying in a smaller room. I have a small house in the mountains of New Mexico with a small third bedroom that could serve as a listening room. Initially, I was going to settle for Grado GS-1000 headphones to use there, but given what I’ve heard from the LSA1s, I’ll use them instead.

Many other minimonitors are available at or near $2599/pair. I’ve heard some of them at audio shows, but never have I been so taken by a pair as I was at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest by the LSA1 Statements. They surely realized the hope I had for them when I got them in my listening room.

. . . Norm Luttbeg
norml@soundstageav.com

LSA Group LSA1 Statement Loudspeakers
Price: $2599 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.

LSA Group
6949 Charlotte Pike, #107
Nashville, TN 37209
Phone: (615) 356-0180

Website: www.thelsagroup.com

 


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