Price: $2,995 per pair
Facts you need to know
before reading this review
We believe our readers need to be aware of any possibility of conflict of interest or even appearance thereof in everything we publish. In this case, an explanation and full disclosure is in order.
This speaker was designed solely by Danny Richie of GR Research. Danny is also the Technical Editor here at Stereomojo. As such, Danny does not write reviews or offer subjective opinions of any equipment under review. Danny uses state-of-the-art equipment to very objectively measure speakers for reviews.
The author of this review knows Danny and would be considered his friend. We believe strongly that Art Smuck has written a review that is very much in keeping with the opinions of others who have heard the speaker who are not associated in any way with Stereomojo. We have gone out of our way to include their unbiased and critical observations in this review.
Also, it should be noted that based on his months of experience with these speakers, he has chosen to buy the larger version of this same speaker, the LS9, to use as his reference speakers with which to evaluate other speakers and components for future reviews. Because he has the ability to purchase most any speaker he chooses, the fact that he has “put his money where his mouth is” and chosen this particular product (even over many others Danny has designed) for his own reference, we believe his observations are honest and forthright.
It should also be noted that I, as publisher, have pre-ordered and will pay for this same model from AV123, also to be used as a principle reference speaker.
It is always up to you to decide the integrity of anything you read. It is our responsibility to honestly and openly inform you of the facts underlying any review. To us, “transparency” is not just a word to describe audiophile sound, it is the philosophy of everything Stereomojo does in terms of our publishing integrity.
Keep in mind that these speakers (fully assembled from AV123) are not even in delivery stage as of this review date. You can pre-order them, but you can't take a pair home. The final production model will have a higher level of finish but will sound exactly the same.
However, you CAN order the kit version now from GR Research - James L. Darby, publisher.
Since December of 2006, I’ve had the prototypes of the soon to be released LS-6 Line Arrays from AV123 here in my listening room in Texas. The LS-6 is a 2-way, 14-driver line source vented enclosure with 8 flared ports around back. They feature 6 customized BG Neo 8 midrange/tweeter panels and 8 custom 6.5” XBL² woofers per speaker. At 68” , they stand almost 6’ tall. They are just over a foot wide, with a cabinet depth of 16.5” and weighing in at close to 150lbs each. These are not tiny speakers and really need a mid to large sized room to breathe and come to life.
The LS-6 is from the mind and hands of Danny Richie of GR Research, and is offered as a kit through GR Research and will be offered as a finished product through the Mark Schifter helmed AV123.com. Anyone familiar with both men knows they are going to put a high value per dollar product on the table, but with this latest series of Line Arrays (the LS-6 and it’s bigger brother the LS-9) they may have exceeded even their own expectations.
Yep, I’m getting to that right out front here, no leaving anyone in suspense. These are really incredible speakers, and not just at the price points they are being sold at. I believe they compete far up out of their price class, and I am having LS-9’s made for my reference speakers, they’re that good. Are there better speakers? I’m sure that argument can be made, no component is perfect, but my experience with the prototype LS-6, and I mean months of experience, leads me to believe they contend very closely with some of the bigger name and bigger price tag speakers out there.
Okay, with my blurting out the end of the story like that, let’s back up a bit to the evolution and design goals of the LS-6…
THE DESIGNER SPEAKS
“The goal was to design a full range line source to offer as a kit,” said Danny “The challenge was to take it to a level above any other line source offered by any other company and still keep the price point low enough that the average audiophile can afford to build a pair. The new LS-6 (and later the bigger brother LS-9) kits were also to replace the our discontinued Alpha LS kit which was very popular. The way we set out to hit our performance goal was to design drivers purpose built specifically for the line source application. This was a time consuming process that took a little longer than expected, but in the end I think it was well worth the extra effort and the wait. The result can speak for its self.”
So how did the LS Series end up at AV123? “It was as the project was nearing completion that Mark Schifter asked me if I would allow him to offer these two models fully assembled as an AV123 product.” Richie explained, “After thinking about it briefly I decided it would be a good idea. Most people shopping for speakers in this price range are not kit builders anyway and this would open them up to a wider market. In typical Mark Schifter fashion, he will be offering them fully assembled for about the price of the kit plus a pair of enclosures. I think he really enjoys setting these new price-to-performance standards just to shake the rest of the industry up. His enclosures go a bit beyond the norm in fit, finish, and quality, so the value is more than exceptional.”
With 8 woofers Danny, how low do you think they will go? "Bass response is really solid. RTA (in room) responses showed solid output to 20Hz. In fact where it is sitting right now I get a slight peak at about 80Hz followed by a dip in the 50Hz region then climbing back up to flat at 20Hz. It does tell me that they will easily hit -3db down points in the mid 20's even in a large room. The minus 3db down point in the bottom end will be in the mid 20's. Drum tracks like the Chinese percussion from the Burmester 3 CD, or Drum solo's really make the LS-6's shine. The extremely low distortion and low frequency extension really take covering this type of music to another level. Hard drum hits are made with good output levels and a minimum amount of cone movement. With the woofers hardly having to move, they settle back into a resting spot very quickly with no stored energy or inertia forcing a long decay time. The hit of the drum sounds more real than any other speaker I have listened to. It's amazing how many different aspects there are to it and how most speakers blend these things together. There is the sound of the initial hit of the mallet (or stick), then the sound of the skin of the drum and the resonation of the surface. Then there is its decay. Most speakers reproduce the hit but the decay of the drum gets lost in the decay of the woofer trying to recover from the hit. This aspect of the LS-6 is amazing".
Danny, in the final production model, will there be any room adjustability built in? "There is a bass management system built into the LS-6 that will allow some flexibility in tuning the speaker to a particular room. Changing the resistance value can add or take away bottom end centered in the 70 to 100Hz range. This will allow them to be used in a room that might otherwise be overloaded. Still I wouldn't recommend them for small bedroom sized rooms; recommended listening distance from them is 9 to 10 feet or more. You can get away with an 8 foot distance or less but you are starting to get to far into the near field.
Many people think the mids are the most critical. "The LS-6 has really low distortion due to the multiple drivers covering that range and with a lower 1kHz crossover point to the woofers, the Neo's quickly pick up upper level harmonics with excellent speed and resolution"
And how about the high end? "The LS-6's have a much lower crossover point to the woofers (1kHz) than most speakers and it is really noticeable. The crack of a cymbal sounds more real in the LS-6. It has a much larger playing surface covering this area and much lower distortion".
"My pleasure, Art".
THE SOUND OF THE SIXES
The LS-6 Prototypes produce one of the widest and deepest soundstages I've ever heard a pair of speakers produce. Not exaggerated, just very expansive and responsive to what’s in the recording. The sonic picture extends to the walls and beyond and everything is playing very deep in layers behind the speakers. On standard fare such as Ryan Adams “When The Stars Go Blue”, there are two guitar players that come in at different points in the song. Both are 3 to 4 feet outside the LS-6 and somewhere around 2 to 3 feet behind the plane across the front of the speakers.
On recordings made to present aural images moving around the room, such as Roger Waters “Amused To Death” the LS-6 create a staggering sense of space and depth on all sides, far beyond what any previous speakers in my system have been able to create. "Amused to Death" is recorded in "Q-Sound", a special mixing process that uses phase manipulation to trick the ears into thinking they are hearing sounds all around them - wherever the engineer places them - in a 360 degree sphere that can seem to come from far back in the sounstage to far beyond the speakerss on each side and even behind the listener. Speakers must be positioned properly and the listener right in the sweet spot to hear the entire effect. It can be quite amazing. For instance, cut one starts with a dog barking to the extreme right between the speakers and the listener. In my case, the dog sounds like it far OUTSIDE of the room and across the street in my neighbor's yard - a sound I hear every day because their dog barks constantly. Cut 1 sounds just like it. Obviously though, the better the speaker, the better the image. - publisher
Imaging is exceptional as well, players have their own defined space and there is room between notes so everything sounds very natural. These speakers create a life-sized and holographic image as to where instruments and voices are in the soundstage. My friend Brian summed this up best while listening to them "I keep wanting to move the speakers because I'm afraid I'm missing something in the soundscape behind them"
Whether you are listening to Jack Johnson or full scale orchestra, the LS-6’s do an exceptional job of creating depth, placement and realism in terms of image. On Reference Recordings “Scheherazade” the layout of the orchestra is reproduced with astonishing clarity, to the point where you can actually estimate the height of the riser on which the the percussion section resides, and how far back in the auditorium it is from the microphone.
Dynamics are really incredible; from the strike of a piano key, the snap of a drumstick or hand on a drum skin, shimmer of a cymbal, the pull of a rosined bow on a string, everything is very lifelike and has exemplary attack and decay. The Drum Track on the Burmeister Demo Disc made my kids run upstairs to see what was happening, they thought we had real drums up there....a real strength of these speakers.
Attack, decay and overall speed are all parts of the equation that makes the dynamics seem so realistic. On tracks such as Katie Melua’s “Blue Shoes” from “Piece By Piece”, the piano has that nice bite and front edge, but then the notes seem to linger and drift off into the very shape of the her space along with her voice. There’s also a muted trumpet that sounds so real through the LS-6 that it is mind-boggling. Clean and dynamic, with almost non-existent distortion are all hallmarks of the LS-6 sound.
The bass on the LS-6 is very deep, but also taut and fast. It drops easily into the high teens in frequency response and is prodigious. It's not bloated at all and expresses individual notes and tone very well. On Brian Bromberg’s “Slang” from “Jaco”, the bass notes are round and fat with a tight feel to them. And “feel” is the operative word. They deliver not only chest rattling low end, but very realistic and earthy.
The LS Series has a Bass Management System feature in which you can placet resistors in and out of the chain (easily I might add) to adjust low-end performance for your listening area or taste.
Midrange and high end are also done exceptionally well. There’s a seamless integration with not only the low end, but the entire spectrum for that matter. Great extension without sounding grainy or harsh at all, voices and strings soar with silky beauty. Smooth as all get out on material I know to be a bit tough to handle for many speakers I've heard, but somehow keep the sparkle or magic in the mids and highs.
Alison Krause’s voice has long been a measuring stick for me on mid and high-end performance. On her song “Maybe” from the excellent “Forget About It”, she sings with both a quiet whisper and a soaring strength that very few speakers at any price handle equally well. The LS-6 and the custom BG Ribbons handle both ends spectacularly.
A line array that gives you that full room of sound field, handles the entire spectrum well and has terrific dynamics isn’t really big news. Where the LS-6 separates itself from any other I’ve heard (and almost bought) is the low end and smoothness of the sound. Listening to it is simply beautiful – the sound AND the experience.
The LS-6’s are very efficient at 8 ohms and 91db/1 watt 1 meter and can be driven handily with tube amps, even lower powered SET’s, but will also take whatever you throw at them. I found the 150 watts of my VAC Phi 300.1 tube amp to be more than enough, my ear’s volume threshold gave out before the speakers did.
Am I gushing? Yes I am. These speakers absolutely take you to another place and give you repeated moments of "back that up I want to hear that again" or "Holy moley! Did you hear that?"
The LS-6’s have given me hours of listening pleasure, amazed at what I'm hearing in recordings that are very familiar to me. More than a few people who have come by to hear them have been very impressed and some quite shocked at how good the LS-6 sound. This is a very serious speaker....what they are asking for these will make you laugh once you've heard them. I've been listening to speakers in the $15-$20K range such as those from Avalon, Escalante, Dynaudio, Vandersteen, Thiel, Genesis and Eggelston Works for some time now, and they have all been terrific, but I cannot for the life of me tell you what they have that the LS-6’s at $3,000 for a pair do not.
As of now (remember they aren't out yet!), four finishes are planned - all real wood veneers. Rosewood and a new finish called Sapelli are the two standard colors, but piano high gloss in Rosewood and Black will be available in limited amounts for more money.
Speaking of people coming by to listen, here’s a sampling of the commentary from about 8 people who came by earlier this year for a listening session:
General comments regarding overall impressions and size of speakers:
“The LS-6’s are very impressive speakers for sure and represent a truly outstanding value”
“First off I really enjoyed listening to these speakers as I could sit there all day and listen to any kind of music… The speaker was very balanced which is a major pet peeve with me. Everything was smooth and balanced. “
“We played Nickelback to Berlioz, and all I wanted to do was just keep feeding them different stuff to find something they didn't play well - and from "Fluffy Clouds" to "Cosmic Hippo", it all sounded crazy good.”
“I have not always been a big fan of ribbon tweeters, but Danny can make them sound a lot better than anyone else that’s for sure…”
“I do not know how much of my personal experience was created as a result of your front-end components or the speakers, or the liveliness of the room - BUT that being said - I thought they were pretty fantastic.”
“I came to your place thinking that if the LS-6 were everything that was written about them, then I'd buy these instead of the OB-5 that I was considering building. They did turn out to be everything that I expected them to be except in one major area, their size. These are much, much bigger than I thought they would be.”
“I have not heard a speaker at this price point yet that can touch them. I am serious enough about it that I want my wife to hear them, and that is scary.”
“All in all, the LS-6’s are amazing loudspeakers. These really should be selling for a much higher price point but I’m not complaining. Every once in a while during a song I would just get a big smile on my face. One such occasion was when listening to a track on “Amused to Death” when sounds were coming from way, way outside the speakers. I really like the LS-6’s. “
“Wow, that sums it up for me, wow”
“These will surely be the speakers that I'll buy once I move out of my smallish apt. But for now, these are too big for my 12x13 audio room.”
Comments on Staging, Axis and Imaging
“The first thing that struck me about their sound was the scale. Never before had I heard music so huuuge! Even at very high volume, they never sounded congested. Their imaging was pinpoint, and sound staging was like earlier mentioned, huge. With the speaker at the same height with me (I'm 5' 9"), i could not detect any loss in highs when I stood up.”
“They possess a wide soundstage, image great, and faithfully reproduce what is fed to them when in the “sweet spot”. The LS-6’s are physically big loudspeakers, bigger than I was expecting and the sound that emanates from them is every bit as big as the speakers themselves.”
“After listening for several hours, I realized that not only was the soundstage wide, but it was deep, a real transparent depth that frankly I have not heard the like of, except by modified exaggerated delay systems and synthesized "sound scapes", eg. Processors that give fake depth of field mimicking a "cathedral" or "jazz club" - but these speakers gave this depth without the overly pronounced muddy muffled echo of those generated halls - it was immediate and yet expansive, enveloping and changed with the quality of the recording.”
“Overwhelmingly, most speakers I get a chance to hear have a tendency to get congested at times when playing recordings that are instrument and vocally “crowded”. Not so with the LS-6’s. Even with the full orchestral dynamics every instrument was identifiable and cleanly separate from the others.”
“Oh and the finger pointing was apparent to me too - I myself was pointing to instruments that were seeming to come from far to my left and right side, and a dozen feet from the closest speaker - the separation and imaging were superb.”
“I also enjoyed listening to them from all areas of the room… Yes the middle was the best however they are really enjoyable no matter where you were at…”
“I can’t find much at fault with LS-6’s when sitting in the ideal position. That would be sitting down and of course in front of them by 10 to 13 feet (they were placed 9.5’ apart from each other). While the speakers still sound good when standing, the magic of “being there” was diminished.”
“Hmmm...I think that these speakers could be finicky to room size and make-up, but I really have nothing to base this on - except that the timbre of the sound changed even with minor changes in listening position - not that it sounded bad when you moved from the sweet spot, but it was a different beast.”
Additional Comments on Dynamics and Tonality
“These babies have dynamics in spades. The high frequencies are open and clean. Bass hits hard and fast. Equally, the LS-6’s have the ability to accurately communicate the subtleties and emotions of recordings in intimate settings. One of the tracks played was from an opera (“Martin Guerre” by Cameron Mackintosh) where a soft duet of a man and woman singing about their love for one transitions into a full orchestra onslaught with full dynamics of all the instruments. The LS-6’s handled it beautifully and with ease.”
“The bass at very low freqs was at times boomy but was not due to the speaker in my opinion. Art mentioned that he has future plans for the room that will address this issue”
”One issue that I did notice was the bass appeared to be a little muddy on some recordings. It seemed to me as if the 6.5 drivers where trying to work hard to get really low… When trying to go really really low (which these speakers will) I'd rather have a sub and let the 6.5 drivers do what they do best… Not act as a 10” +plus driver…”
“These were not quite as sparkling as I am used to, but they were also much less fatiguing and natural sounding after the first hour of all kinds of music...the weird thing is, the dynamic levels challenged and superseded my horns, which is a damn hard thing to do - If it hadn't for the lack of face shearing treble, I would have thought they were horns on first listen. Since the main problem folks have with horns is those uncontrolled high spikes that will shine the back wall of your skull, this may be a strong alternative.”
“The sound top to bottom was smooth and seamless, another thing to me that was rather amazing - I expected some roll-off given what I thought would surely be a three way system, I mean a line array with multiple cones having all of the (presumably) same characteristics would have the same roll off or spike problems between the notches, right? However, once I was told it was a two-way, I understood better the seamless transitions, but I was shocked at how low those little 6.5" cones could go - giving good and even bass performance (except for certain frequencies that caused some boominess - but the general consensus was it was a room problem, not these speakers (NOTE: my listening room was untreated at the time of this session) while playing high enough to make alto vocal jazz smooth and creamy - really an awesome feat. Usually, in my limited experience, several different sets of speakers are good at different things, some music that sound good on my horns, do not sound good on other competent but different speakers.”
“Jacintha sounded wonderful thru the LS-6. But I was kind of under whelmed when I heard Mark Knopfler. Maybe the recording wasn't up to the mark. These speakers could majorly rock as clearly demonstrated during the DMB track. I especially enjoyed Bela Fleck through these speakers, and its lows as heard by the "sK8er boi" track, was powerful. Sound seemed seamless, and effortless ... which are the two most important things that I look for in speakers.”
Like every speaker on the planet, the LS-6 is not for everybody. They’re big; your significant other will most certainly notice them in the room. They need room to breathe so we don't recommend putting them back against a wall - there are EIGHT ports back there! You will also need 10 feet distance from them - these are not for near-field fans. That all means you need a pretty good sized room to get the best out of these, so those with smaller rooms should not even consider them. The low-end pressurization of the room will necessitate treatments to hear what they can really do in all but the most cavernous of rooms, but room treatments are almost always helpful in any room for any speaker. In addition, because of their mid range and high end, while absolutely excellent, lack that last bit of texture or body that a dome speaker gives me, but it's only the very last bit. I am at a loss to come up with much else by way of what the LS-6 doesn't do well.
There are tradeoffs between every speaker and component. In some areas some may be a notch better than others, including the LS-6, but for overall performance the LS-6 is right at the top for me. The LS6's are easy to drive and happy with either tubes or solid state. They will easily repond to improvements in your system all the way up the price ladder to the very top, meaning this is a speaker you can keep for a long time while you improve the components around them. The fact that they are available as a kit for those who love woodworking just adds to their value quotient. Add to that the ability to save $10K or better for a fully assembled pair versus comparable sounding speakers and it's a no-brainer, IF your room can handle them.
Maximum Mojo Award for a Prototype? A big YES.
In room response