Page 1 of 4
GRAHAM AUDIO BBC LS5/9 REVIEW
A NEW CLASSIC
It’s 1983. What’s happen-ing? Well, the Chancellor announces public spending cuts, England’s football team are castigated after losing at Wembley and red rain falls across the UK due to storms in the Sahara. It seems some things never change. In the world of hi-fi the year sees the CD format go on sale in the UK...and the launch of the BBC’s LS5/9 monitor loudspeaker. While spending cuts, football embarrassments and strange weather patterns have stayed with us, the CD is struggling to hold its own in the face of the digital download onslaught and as for the LS9/5...well, surely things have moved on in loudspeaker design during the past 30-odd years to make it somewhat redundant?
Maybe not, if you hold to the tenet that a good loudspeaker design can stand the test of time. And the BBC’s have certainly done that – as the success of the various licensed LS3/5a variants have shown. While that model was designed primarily for speech monitoring in small spaces, it has still proved a classic choice for audiophiles who place sonic accuracy above artificiality. Its LS5/9 counterpart was a larger, front-ported loudspeaker engineered to give a greater sonic range and be suitable for larger areas. But that 30-year time gap still proved a hurdle when Devon-based Graham Audio decided to revive the classic design.
Chief among them was while the 34mm soft dome tweeter used in the original is still available from French manufacturer Audax, the 200mm mid/bass unit once manufactured by Rogers has long gone out of production. To compensate Graham Audio turned to loudspeaker expert Derek Hughes – son of Spendor founders Spencer and Dorothy Hughes – to design a new main driver as close as possible to the original specifications. The new unit uses the same polypropylene diaphragm as the original loudspeaker but has slightly different characteristics, meaning a revised crossover also needed to be brought into play.
That done, the rest of the changes are minimal. Dimensions are the same as the original at 28cm x 27.5cm x 46cm, while the cabinet is thin-walled birch ply – although a more high-tech constrained layer critical damping is used instead of the original’s bitumen. Take off the recessed cloth grilles as well and you’ll see that BBC monitor design has been followed to the letter. In short, it’s less than beautiful. The veneered baffle features a plethora of screws as well as a metal grille over the tweeter assembly (with more screws) and a hand-soldered adjustment plate for high-frequency level. Frankly, you’ll probably want to put the grilles back rather quickly. But, then again, the LS5/9 wasn’t designed to look good – merely sound accurate.
Round the back there’s a single pair of sturdy speaker binding posts. So, all in all, the Graham Audio does look every inch a design from the early 1980s compared to some of today’s sculpted, injection-moulded cabinet loudspeakers. But, as we all know, it’s the sound that counts...