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Article Index
Graham Audio BBC LS5/9
page 2 Sound Quality
page 3 Conclusion
page 4 Measured Performance
All Pages

SOUND QUALITY
At first listen, the LS5/9 may not make you sit up and take notice. If ever a loudspeaker needed time to work its charms, it is this one. The more I listened the more I became aware of just how impressive it is. First off, there’s a warm, natural, easy-going nature to the way it goes about presenting the music. The LS5/9  digs deep into the musical information of my favourite tracks, but it doesn’t shout about it in the manner of some recent designs that over-emphasise the bass or treble to gain showroom attention. With the Grahams the presentation is more nuanced – and can be all the better for it.

   A slice of charging jazz like Acoustic Ladyland’s ‘Last Chance Disco’ has tremendous depth and scope to its presentation. This is densely-packed music that needs a resolving loudspeaker to adequately unpick the various instru-mental strands – and the LS5/9s do it with aplomb. There’s no sense of stress or strain to the presentation – just an undeniable sense of confidence about the way the loudspeakers go about their business. No wonder they were designed by the BBC for monitoring work, as they have the ability to get out of the way of the music and give you the sound of the partnering equipment.

   Choose that partnership carefully, though. These LS5/9s benefit from a good slice of power to really give of their best. Think 60 Watts or more of solid power to really get them singing. They worked well on the end of a Naim Supernait 2 – seeming to thrive on the amplifier’s natural rhythmic swing and timing. Couple them with something less beefy and the sound can become a trifle thin. Also make sure to position carefully. I found them best with a good degree of toe-in and rather wider apart but closer to the listening seat than normal. That might well be down to their monitor design heritage. But spend the time to get the positioning right and there is an ideal sweet spot that you can’t miss when you get them set up correctly. My music flowed and soared with an undeniable naturalness.

   Listening to the piano of Keith Jarrett on Arvo Part’s ‘Tabula Rasa’, it had both body and resonance. When the low notes faded away they did so in an entirely realistic way – just as you’d imagine they sounded in the studio. Switching to female vocals – such as Nico on The Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ – and she was there in front of me. Fans of pounding dance tracks may find the bass slightly lacking as, in common with most standmount loudspeakers, the LS5/9s don’t go down to sub-sonic levels. But there is certainly plenty of low-end power on hand if the music demands it, with the ‘speakers having a distinct thump to them. The rumbling synth lines of Leftfield’s ‘Rhythm And Stealth’ had plenty of attack. There was a slight sense of overhang at times – with a feeling that the bass was lagging just a little behind the rest of the music but nothing which detracted from the overall propulsive feel of the album. But it’s when you move up the frequency register that things really start to shine.

   The polypropylene mid/bass driver has a deliciously creamy quality that makes all forms of music sound rich and appealing. It is also extremely good at layering the sounds in complex pieces so you can hear into and around the musical parts. Take John Coltrane’s ‘Ascension’. This is a squall of a free jazz sound that can sound hard and harsh on some modern loudspeakers – especially those that seem to throw the sound at you. Via the Grahams it’s a much more measured piece of music. The tonal balance is spot on while individual musicians are clearly definable in the mix. In other words it’s doing just what a studio monitor should by letting you hear the sound without imposing too much of its own character.

   Admittedly, there may be some people who find this presentation a little too safe and unexciting – relegating the LS5/9s to the realms of ‘pipe and slippers’ equipment fit only for those who crave a laid-back presentation. But that would be a mistake. These ‘speakers have enough detail and drive to sound exciting when the music demands it. But they can also be extremely refined when that’s what is required. Play some modern, signal-compressed rock or pop and the Grahams will soon you let you know all about it. But let them have well-recorded high-resolution music and they’ll reveal it in all its glory. In the end they just sound honest.



 

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