Stirling Broadcast LS3/6

An Oldie But A Goodie

Equipment report
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Floorstanding
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Stirling Broadcast LS3/6
Stirling Broadcast LS3/6

HOW THE LS3/6 SOUNDS

But if these general principles are worth noting, still in the end the devil is in the details. One could surely make a speaker of this general type that would not have the remarkable sonic quality of the LS3/6. Derek Hughes has done a wonderful job of carrying the unforgettable sound of the original into the modern era. And most wisely he has firmly resisted the idea of modernizing the speaker in the negative sense of making the bass amusically tight and removing the warmth and fullness of the original. While the bass is less loose than my recollection of the Spendor BC- 1, the LS3/6 still gives a warm full sound, indeed, with good pitch definition as well. The LS3/6 will please the appreciators of the low mids/upper bass of the original and at the same time will make new converts among those not coming at it from past glories. Similarly, the LS3/6 remains determinedly not excessive in the top end. Top-end extension there is, but aggression that is all too often the modern style there is not. (Strictly speaking, there is a little perceived roll-off at the truly extreme top, but this is musically inconsequential and perhaps even advantageous in practice.) And the midrange itself remains in the top echelon for a combination of clarity , resolution, and neutrality. And perhaps most of all, coherence—there is no crossover like no crossover, and the LS3/6 speaks with one voice over what amounts to almost the whole range of music.

Since one of the strengths of the BC-1 was string sound, I decided to play as my “first impression” the Budapest Festival Orchestra/Fischer recording of Dvorák’s Nocturne for String Orchestra on Philips, one of my current string-sound favorites. Talk about putting a smile on one’s face! This is the kind of music I play myself all the time—I belong to a chamber orchestra that plays a lot of pure string music. And the real sound was much in evidence here. The feeling of hearing the sound I hear at my rehearsals was considerable, to say the least.

Next I tried Bis’ masterpiece of piano recording, Freddy Kempf playing Rachmaninoff’s transcription of Kreisler’s Liebesleid. The realism of the piano was most striking, and the beauty of it, too. And the micro-structure of the piano notes, their complex attack and decay and interplay of overtones, was remarkably convincing. Indeed, one could not help feeling that there is some real magic in having a single driver cover so much of the musical range—and cover it so well.

On orchestral music, the LS3/6s has both a compelling tonal naturalness and a striking level of what I might call “informativeness.” Often speakers give perceived detail because of an exaggeration of some area of high frequencies. But the LS3/6s offered unusually detailed information about complex music without treble exaggerations. Indeed, this persisted even if I deliberately turned down the treble with an EQ device below its natural, correct level. The LS3/6 really does have, it seems, an intrinsically high level of information-transmission on complex music. Every individual instrumental line in the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances (Proarte, Dallas, Mata) and in the Dvorák New World (Delos, New Jersey, Macal) was made extraordinarily clear, as was the reverberation of the individual lines. Things like the separation between say a trumpet call and the hall’s response to it were revealed exceptionally well. Textures were all naturally presented and very cleanly articulated. But none of this involved any aggression in the sound at all—it was just detail as it naturally occurs.

Attached to this is an unusual kind of perceived dynamic punch. Speakers seldom exhibit literal dynamic compression until quite high levels are attempted. But things like snare drum strokes come out especially well-defined on the LS3/6. Even at low levels, where literal compression could not be an issue, the LS3/6s give a special articulation that comes across as dynamic excitement. Perhaps this is attached to the fact that the signal is undivided over most of the range, with the sound coming from a single driver. In any case, for what ever reason, the effect is there. This and the sonic impressions of the previous paragraph suggest yet one more time how well the BBC “lossy” cabinet construction idea actually works, a point that tends to escape most contemporary designers, who are enamored of “rigidity” on what often seems a reflexive basis.

You can hear the effect I am referring to on that old standby, Opus 3’s Tiden bar gaar, where the drumming and plucking have unusually clean and articulate character and sound unusually “dynamic” for lack of a better word (though dynamics are not what is literally involved), without being over-etched in the least. And comes to that, the (Swedish) words are unusually well articulated as well and the voice has a very natural quality.

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