2022 Golden Ear: Rogers LS3/5A Classic 15-ohm Special Edition Loudspeaker
Rogers LS3/5A Classic 15-ohm Special Edition Loudspeaker
In hindsight, it is easy to acknowledge that this BBC-spec mini-monitor is, in fact, one of the most influential loudspeakers of all time, having inspired a host of imitators since its inception in the late 1970s. In view of its cult status, I’m certain that most hard-core audiophiles have had a chance to audition a pair over the years. My close encounters with the LS3/5A began in the 1980s, and although I was enamored with its spectacular imaging and natural midrange, its limited dynamics were cause enough for us to part company. Fast forward a few decades, and meet up with Rogers Hi-Fi’s Andy Whittle, who started experimenting with Panzerholz, a German high-tech, resin-loaded wood product that is compressed to half of its original dimensions. It is much denser and acoustically inert than ordinary wood. His goal was to improve the LS3/5A’s jump factor. Toward that end, he replaced the thin front baffle with Panzerholz, which is now standard in the Special Edition, together with upgraded drivers and crossover resistors. After auditioning this version, I’m convinced that it represents a major increase in performance. Nothing has been lost in spatial conviction or image focus, but midrange transparency has increased. ‹ber alles is the sensation of compelling emotional tonality that consistently draws you into the musical performance, with enough detail and micro-dynamic conviction to satisfy even an old hand like me. Quite a surprising feat from what is nominally a 5″ mid/bass driver.
Being a sealed-box design makes for a significant improvement in bass-line definition over a bass-reflex box. The bass rolls off gently at 12dB per octave below 80Hz. True, there isn’t much deep bass, but the midbass is plenty satisfying. I had almost forgotten how much more natural sealed-box bass could sound relative to bass reflex. One thing is certain, unlike so many stand-mounted mini-monitors that manage to sound anemic through the upper-bass range, the Rogers manages to generate sufficient tonal weight to do justice to piano tonality.
The Classic is a true 15-ohm nominal load with a benign 12-ohm impedance minimum. Not only is this an easy load for a tube amp, but the impedance magnitude is fairly flat from 1.5kHz to 20kHz, thereby minimizing tube-amp load interactions and ensuring tonal accuracy through the upper mids and treble. I cycled through a few of the tube amps in my collection, including the Berning EA-230, JWN 807, and Will Vincent Dynaco ST-70, and discovered that the Rogers is exceptionally revealing of an amplifier’s intrinsic sonic character. It is also a match made in heaven for any Futterman-style OTL. In particular, my refurbished Futterman H3 OTL purred like a fat cat on a hot tin roof. This coupling with its honey-sweet midrange textures exemplified soothing and luxurious sound at its best.
The tonal balance changes with the grilles off, being more forward. This is confirmed by measurements which show increased output in the presence and lower-treble regions (4kHz and 9kHz). With the grilles on, the balance is more mellow and perceptually sweeter through the midband. In either case, the frequency response shows that notorious peak (+3dB) at about 1.2kHz that has been observed in the past. With the grilles on, I could not detect the peak as a coloration, but with them off it was audible as a slight case of nasality. The moral of the story is to be sure and leave the grilles on. And in case you’re wondering, the matching Panzerholz stands do improve performance and are a recommended coupling ($1995).
The LS3/5A has weaved quite a spell over me. It has simply made it difficult to stop listening to the music, and that is a high complement, indeed. The legend lives on!
By Dick Olsher
Although educated as a nuclear engineer at the University of Florida, I spent most of my career, 30 years to be exact, employed as a radiation physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, from which I retired in 2008.More articles from this editor
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