LSA, or Living Sounds Audio, has been making loudspeakers since 2007, but recently the firm went through a major change. It was purchased by Underwood Hi-Fi, and its entire line of loudspeakers was redesigned. The first new offerings are the LSA-10 monitor and the LSA-20 floorstander. Each comes in two versions, Signature and the more upscale Statement. We will review the stand-mounted LSA-10 Statement version, priced at $3495 per pair.
From the front the LSA-10 Statement looks like just another mid-sized two-way mini-monitor in a shiny, curved cabinet. But if you look at the back of the LSA-10, you’ll find that practically its entire surface is a passive radiator. That’s not something I’ve seen on other two-ways.
In the words of its co-designer, Dan Wiggins, “We wanted to make a monitor that played like a tower…something small that was truly full-range. Clean, wide extension, big dynamics, and able to do this with as little sound of strain as possible.” Now the primary question is how well did he and co-designer Dusty Vawter succeed?
It’s not common for two independent designers to collaborate on a loudspeaker. According to Dusty Vawter, “After meeting with Walter, Dan and I discussed the design goals and the best way to achieve them, and then went to work. We started with cabinet design, and then Dan developed all the required drivers. Crossovers were created using my custom emulator system. This allows me to design many circuits with slight variations for comparison. For voicing, I listened to reference tracks, while Dan sat at the computer making on-the-fly tweaks based on my listening impressions. We then built physical models to confirm their performance and make the final selection of passive components.”
What they ended up with was the LSA-10, which is a two-way design with a large passive radiator. Although not high enough in sensitivity (at 83dB) for flea-watt tube power amplifiers, the LSA-10 has a slightly higher than “standard” impedance of 10 ohms. The crossover is not your cookbook second-order roll-off. Instead there’s an eighth-order filter that is purported to have “proper phase.” As a guy who has lived with loudspeakers with extreme crossovers, from Dunlavy’s first-order “natural roll-off” to Joseph Audio’s “Infinite Slope” (as well as Audience’s crossoverless designs), I have an open mind when it comes to whether a particular crossover outperforms others. Some will look better or worse in a particular test, but at the end, if a crossover is done well it will not be the weakest link in the loudspeaker. Other factors, such as physical size, driver characteristics, and power-handling capabilities generally overshadow crossover shortcomings.
The drivers for the LSA-10 comprise a custom 6.5" aluminum XBL2 mid/bass and a 1" copper beryllium dome tweeter. These two drivers are joined by a 5" by 7" passive radiator. The cabinet’s curved sides, which I mentioned earlier, have a sonic purpose (reducing in-cabinet resonances) in addition to giving the LSA-10 a less boxy and more stylish external profile.
I used the LSA-10 in two different setups. In both cases, careful placement was critical for the most linear harmonic balance. Unlike the vast majority of two-way bookshelf-sized loudspeakers, the LSA-10 has nearly as much bass extension and power-handling capability as a floor-standing design, so it will, in many rooms, require some additional space to breathe. This is not the sort of speaker that you will be putting close to room boundaries to enhance bass response. In some rare cases the LSA-10 may even be too much of a good thing for small underdamped rooms, which may have worked fine with less dynamic and bass-extended designs.
My nearfield system is set up in front of a large casement window, so instead of a wall that reinforces the bass response I have a space that allows some bass to escape. With most nearfield monitors I use this doesn’t seem to make much difference, since many have a bass response that rolls off before any serious bass enhancement could begin, but that was not the case with the LSA-10. Even without room-enhanced midbass the LSA-10 had more upper-bass to midbass presence than any monitor-sized loudspeaker I’ve installed on my desktop. I could have had even more midbass if I hadn’t placed the LSA-10 on IsoAcoustics speaker stands that raised them up so they were approximately nine inches above my thickly carpeted desktop surface. The stands located the drivers so that my ears were level with the top of the mid/bass unit and just below the bottom of the tweeter.