PRICE: $530 per pair LS3/5a
$630 per pair for the B+ Bass stands
If you missed the Great Small Speaker Shootout of 2007 hosted by Stereomojo, you missed a lot. This is another one of those speakers that really jumped out at me during the double blind shootout. The rules were simple, a bookshelf speaker with a retail price of under a grand. Easy enough? No, not easy enough. Actually, my first sight unseen impression of them was confusion. Not 10 seconds into their first playback I thought to myself, “Wait a second, how did they sneak a Beeb (BBC or British Broadcasting Company)) monitor in the mix?”. Could this be a little Stirling Broadcast or Harbeth? Can’t be, they wouldn’t meet the price point by several hundred dollars. It can’t be vintage, these were all current offerings. I let it go for the time being, figuring it had to be a small Spendor, or maybe even a ProAC in the mix, perhaps something I with shich I was not familiar.
Turns out, it was the Gini LS3/5a and what shocked me even more was the price they were selling it for - $560 assembled, and only $490 for the kit version if you felt so inclined.
Fit and Finish
The Gini LS3/5a are solid, well built speakers. They weigh in at almost a stone each, impressive for a speaker this size. The Walnut finish is very nice. The veneer has good grain but little depth - all topped off in a medium luster finish. Binders are a large gold plated brass variety, and will accept spades, bananas, BFA, or large gauge bare wire. The woofer features a woven fiber cone and foam surround. A silk dome tweeter rounds out the top end with a raised felt bezel added. Crossover components are laid out on a large PCB board using quality capacitors and air core inductors.
The grilles are a tossup for me. The function as they should, they do their job. The brown fabric is straight out of 70’s, and isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing – but short of taking pictures for this review, the grilles came off and have never been put back on. I’ve always liked the straight forward, all business look of an LS3/5a in the altogether. Besides, this hobby is first and foremost about the sound, and why shouldn’t it be? (Gini, go black on the grilles – I’m told it’s the new brown, and the Walnut veneer will ‘pop’ better against it anyway)
The Bangers and Mash
Ok, so I’ve done my listening, and I have my thoughts together, I’m ready to write my review. I check my email and there is something from Neil at Clearsoundaudio1.com, the Gini Systems dealer that sent Stereomojo the speakers for the shootout. In a nutshell, the word was that the B+ Bass stands have now become available for the Gini LS3/5a, and he asked if I wanted to have a pair to include in the review. Could I be any more of a Jammy Bugger? Of course I had Neil send them on.
What is the B+? It’s a custom made stand for the little Gini monitor, and oh so much more. It features a 5 inch cone woofer, almost identical in appearance to the driver in the LS3/5a, mounted in a tuned folded quarter wave enclosure. They round it off with a posh set of adjustable floor spikes, and a couple pairs of gold spade terminated jumpers - in case you aren’t one of those that choose to bi-wire.
Let’s focus on the monitors themselves for a spell. Is the Gini LS3/5a a REAL LS3/5a? Does it really posses the tried and proven design, the heritage, that classic and undeniable British sound? Absobloodylootley!
I dropped in my JVC XRCD Prestige Hifi release of Miles Davis All Stars – Walkin’. If you aren’t familiar with this recording, put it on your short list. Tracks one and two, Walkin’ and Blue ‘n’ Boogie are quintessential jams that bring all the good, and none of the bad from the Blues genre. Trumpet, Trombone, Tenor and Alto Sax, Piano, Bass and Drums. Need anything More? The horns come through with a very live presence – these anchor spreadable musicians came alive in my room. MY room. The resolution was breathtaking – great articulation and focus throughout the midband.
Next up, who some may call America’s storyteller, Steve Earle. There are a couple tracks of his latest album, Washington Square Serenade, that I focused on. Track five - Sparkle and Shine – Steve, his voice, and his guitar. I noticed a lot of air and presence in the selection – it’s never sounded better to be. Track eight - Oxycontin Blues - has a lot of drive, and the Gini monitors offered great pace and rhythm, and a super stable side to side image.
How about a trip back in the time machine, say 1971. Enter Abbey Road and Morgan Studios in London England. Enter Pink Floyd. I’m a big fan of the earlier Floyd offerings, and the Album Meddle is right at the top of the list. Surprisingly good weight and depth on the song Fearless. Gilmore’s voice was on timbre, with nearly perfect tonal balance. Echoes is just plain fun to listen to, if you have a speaker that can offer not only good side to side imaging, but front to back as well (and just short of 24 minutes to spare). The Gini LS3/5a handled it like a champ.
No, not Diana Krall, no Norah Jones to be found in this review. I’m going to give Jennifer Warnes and even Patricia Barber the day off too. Do you want to know who one of the best female vocalists you never heard of is? Lizzie West, and her 2003 release, Holy Road: Freedom Songs. Think Natalie Merchant meets Suzanne Vega, with dash of Liz Phair. Tracks five and nine, Miss You Baby and Doctor both have a great bass line, and I couldn’t believe the sheer volume of sound, the depth and weight exhibited by the small Gini’s. We’re talking a FIVE INCH woofer, in a sealed box nonetheless. Lizzie’s vocals are nothing short of stunning on track eleven, Prayer – the center image was spot on, and she seemed to float out a couple feet in front of the speakers and that gave real front to back depth to the recording.
Ok, so let’s include B+ in the mix. No, I’m not talking about your power tubes, or voltages that can offer only death if not treated with care. Enter stage right - Gini’s B+ Bass Stands, custom made for their LS3/5a (feel free to buy a pair for your *other* LS3/5a’s too, they work!) You thinking what I’m thinking? Where’s my Lyle Lovett CD?
Spin track two off the It’s Not Big, It’s Large cd and be ready to change your undercrackers. The dynamic range and weight were completely involving. I can’t believe these ‘little’ woofer stands can sound so rich and full. Lyle and his large band stretched beyond the boundaries of the room, and bordered on defying physics. It’s a treat to hear nuances some 8 feet to the side of the speaker, when the wall is only 3 feet away.
I’ll take a step back, I did get the B+ stands out of the box, and the bass was a tad slow, with some overhang, and the decay didn’t match the speakers perfectly. Around 25 hours into it, things changed, and oh did they change. The bass is nothing short of jaw dropping. Gini rates the extension to 35Hz. Running test tones in my (lets not say small) intimate listening room the Gini system loaded up into the low 30’s.
Dummy. Ok, ok, ok. I’ve used a lot of British slang in the review so far, but I don’t mean a baby’s pacifier. I mean Portishead’s "Dummy". You want bass? See Portishead. Cuts three and five - Strangers and Wandering Star – offer up deep trolling synthesized bass beats – kind of low fi meets hi fi (London FFR by the way, under the Go! Disc label). The impact and weight again are shocking, for the speakers and drivers that I am sitting here looking at. Track seven and nine, Numb and Pedestal, enveloped not only the room, but my senses as well. Simply spectacular imaging, both width and depth. FULL RANGE bass. No bollocks, no joke – these are the real deal mates.
Last and certainly not least, enter Shooter Jennings. Shooter who? Waylon’s boy, perhaps you’ve heard of him? Keeping it somewhat obscure, and hoping to broaden some musical horizons, let’s continue! I grew up with my dad playing his dad’s songs, and every time I hear his voice it takes me to a great place, a happy time in my life. That is if the speakers can handle the vocals correctly. Not very many can. The Gini LS3/5a is one of the few exceptions. Check out the Electric Rodeo album, specifically tracks two and three, Gone To Carolina and Some Rowdy Women. The Gini system showed excellent pace and attack, with a ton of dynamic range. The vocals were haunting. It’s rare, but a find for sure when a speaker can really bring forth the emotion in the music.
God Save The Queen
Ok, so there is somewhat a love - hate thing going on with the LS3/5a and the British (midbass) bump. Most blokes don’t fall in the middle, they fall on either side. Regardless of what side on which you reside – you MUST respect the design, and the history. That being said, I wanted to make this Gini system review NOT an LS3/5a comparison, just a review of a speaker system.
James L. Darby
I had the LS5/3a's in my home prior to the Great American Small Speaker Shootout and got quite a bit of listening in before I transported them to Texas. However, that was before the Bass Cabinets were available. I was able to hear the combo at the CES Show in Vegas. There were set up in the Small Room powered by the LSA Signature Hybrid integrated amp. I also used a Triode brand 300B tube integrated. I think Russ pretty much nailed the sound presentation of the monitors and the combo system. I found them to be very musical - meaning I did not get the impression I was listening to speakers, rather that I was listening to music. What surprised me most was the size of the soundstage. I thought perhaps the square boxiness of the cabinets with the recessed drivers might inhibit dispersion and thus the quality of the image. I think the felt-like material around the tweeter and the inside perimiter of the front baffle aided greatly in that regard. Our review of the similar "Diffraction Be Gone" speaker aplique accessory proved the worthiness of such an add-on.
The only thing I might add is that this system is most suited to small or medium/small rooms. Gini says they are only 86dB efficient with a max of 50 watts input. Russ didn't say how loud he played them, but I don't think these are Cerwin Vega/Klipsch type "turn-it-up-till-your-ears-bleed" speakers. Oh yeah, they will rock, but reasonably - not extremely. The LSA has 150 wpc and pushing the little Brits too much caused them to audibly strain.
While the soundstage is immense, it is only so when you are in the sweet spot which, while not narrow like a planar, is not as wide as some other monitors.
Our measured impedance of the monitors is not such that adding the bass cabinets in parallel would cause problems for any amp.
They do give you a lot of music for the money - even more so if you are a DIY'er and opt for the kit.
The Gini LS3/5a has a removable metal grill over the tweeter. The reviews were both conducted with them removed. It’s held in place magnetically – you aren’t going to need a screwdriver, you aren’t going to mar the finish. It can be removed in a second by hand. Our measurements for the Shootout showed that they do make an audible difference.
Thanks again to Neil at Clearsound Audio for providing these speakers for the Shootout and our review. Neil carries a great line of products from Audio Space, Gini Systems, Art Audio, Gemme speakers, Cary Audio, Acoustic Zen amd Cambridge Audio among others. Check him out here: http://clearsoundaudio1.com/index.html
What exactly do you get with the Gini system? The Gini monitors offer 97-98% of what the current BBC (or BBC styled) selections do in the mid-band and top end, and at a THIRD or less of their asking price. Here is the kicker. Add the B+ Bass Stands into the mix, and you get 100% of what those posh monitors DO NOT offer - bass. Not just bass, but presence and weight to the music, an entirely different listening experience. If I could sum up how well the Gini LS3/5a did I would have to say outstanding. If there are any sins of this little monitor, they are of omission, rather than commission. What they do, they do VERY well. Recommended for small rooms.
Because of their outstanding performance at a low pricepoint, the GINI LS5/3a with the B+ Bass Cabinets
have earned our highest
Stereomojo Maximum Mojo Award.
GREAT AMERICAN SMALL SPEAKER SHOOTOUT
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