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

And the LS3/6s can play loudly, as noted above. They are easily capable of satisfying orchestral levels in a room of moderate size, with dynamic capacity to spare. With well over 100dB levels possible without strain at 2m, I felt no dynamic constraints at all in my 14' by 27' living room. I could blast away if I wanted to, with headroom to spare. With a subwoofer or two, volume capability could be extended even further but for me, adding subs would be for only ultra-deep bass extension, not for the sake of higher levels. The LS3/6 is a much more robust speaker than the original Spendor BC-1 and plays far louder without difficulty—one of the things modern drivers can do better than earlier ones!

The LS3/6s deal successfully with the floor interaction in the low midrange and upper bass. They sail down from 300Hz into the 40Hz region with no dip and no weakness, in contrast to the “floor dip,” the hole in response between 100 and 300Hz, that all too many other speakers exhibit. The LS3/6s thus give the orchestra the proper weight, substance, and solidity. And as with the Spendor SP1/2, DSP correction here finds nothing to correct. And this happens with almost any reasonable setup: It is not a matter of inch-by-inch tweaking. This is a design that just works, although, of course, like any speaker it has to be placed reasonably. The proper performance in the 100 to 300Hz region is crucial to the correct perceived balance and feeling of realism and musicality of full-range music. And here you get it. Bravo!

Incidentally, while the grilles of the LS3/6 can be popped off without much difficulty, I recommend not doing so. Grilles off brings up 6–7kHz a little and makes the sound less accurate tonally without actually giving any more in the way of real detail. To the extent that the (lower) tweeter is not absolutely smooth, it has a little hint of excess around 6–7 kHz, and to remove the grilles is to bring this to the fore. With the grilles on, much better, indeed excellent, smoothness is attained. And the removal of the grilles exposes edges in a way not, I should think, to advantage in terms of diffraction. Leave them on!

I do not have a pair of BC-1s or original LS3/6s in functioning condition. But I do have a pair of Spendor SP1/2s in good order, Derek Hughes’ design from the early 1990s in the same general style—same driver configuration, same box size, itself a lineal descendent of the original BC-1/LS3/6 design. The speakers are similar but the exact balance is a little different, with the SP/2s having a bit more energy in the 1–2kHz octave than the LS3/6. Even within neutrality as commonly understood, there is room for variation! The LS3/6 has a more precise, slightly crisper sound, with a little more perceived definition, the SP1/2 has a perhaps even more precisely correct rendition of instrumental sound and a slightly smoother treble, set at a slightly lower level. A close call to choose between the SP1/2 and the LS3/6, down to the point where room conditions would make the difference perhaps. Both great speakers, and clearly from the same family! (The current Spendor model called SP1/2R2 is a quite different speaker: see Issue 218.)

RADIATION PATTERN AND IMAGING

When the LS3/6 first appeared, speakers that were close to neutral were a rarity. Nowadays, quite a few speakers offer an essentially flat on-axis direct arrival, though far from all of them do. In this context of speakers that are in general terms flat, additional importance becomes attached to the radiation pattern of the speaker, to how it projects sound into the room and what the resulting in-room sound is like. And of course possibilities abound, ranging from omnidirectional MBLs to the ultra-beamy Sanders 10b electrostatic, to take some obvious extremes. On the corresponding Web sites, you can read what the advocates of each approach have to say. Stereo playback has no real paradigm: stereo sounds weird anechoically, at least as stereo recordings are actually made, and failing that, user’s choice comes into play as to which kind of radiation pattern into a non-anechoic environment (which we all live in anyway!) gives the most satisfying stereo or, for that matter, the most exact tonal character.

Here the current LS3/6, like its ancestor, occupies a middle ground but is even so somewhat distinctive. The LS3/6 is, like all boxes, omni in the bass and switches to primarily forward radiation further up. But it becomes a little beamy above 1kHz because of running quite a large (7") bass/mid driver up to a 3kHz crossover point, stable near the axis but rolled off at angles beyond say 45 degrees.

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