List Price: $4,500 pair
Liberty Acoustics is a new company founded by Carl and Kelly James of USA HIFI. They have been in the audio business for many years and have moved from being a local dealer to an international retailer and internet powerhouse, to a North American importer/distributor of many high quality brands and now adds to his list of responsibilities being president of his own audio manufacturing company. He is working on a full line of speakers for stereo and home theater usage and electronics to match. This model is the first product to be released and we are very honored to be the very first publication in the world to hear and review them for you. Thank you Carl!
This speaker does not look like it is the first effort from a new company. It’s not a half baked prototype made of scraps of wood like a 5th grader’s bird house made in pop’s shed in the backyard. This speaker looks so good it will shame 95% of the other speaker manufactures making ugly wooden boxes with drivers in them. These speakers are a true work of art and look like a million dollars with their high gloss rosewood finish and piano black plinths. They are also available in piano black and light burl. The sides curve and taper towards the back like other lookers such as Dali, Sonus Faber and LSA to name a few. This, of course, is to reduce standing waves and resonance within the cabinets. It also adds quite a bit of labor and expense to the product. The front edges are radiused to reduce diffraction.
The drivers used in this speaker are a twin ribbon tweeter and two Morel 6.5” mid/woofers which are ported out the back side. The crossover points are 1100 Hz and 2200 Hz, the entire enclosure is made of MDF, the curved side panels are made of 8 layers of 3mm thick pressed MDF. The crossovers are custom made with German Music Caps. The frequency response is 35 Hz to 58 kHz + or - 3dB and the sensitivity is rated at 90 dB. The speakers are also a 4 ohm load and have two sets of terminals for bi-wiring. The speakers come with largest spikes I have ever seen. They are massive 5/8”-11UNC threaded chromed spikes with jam nuts for locking them in position. For example, it takes only one 3/8” grade 8 bolt to lift a half ton truck in the air.
My review samples were well broken in by Carl and sounded amazing from the get go. The first thing I noticed when switching to them from my Nola Viper References was the Liberty’s amazing tweeter. This thing sings up to 58 kHz and is clear as a bell without irritation and has a massive amount of detail. Cymbals shimmer and sparkle without sizzle or splash. The additional extension of the tweeter gives the whole speaker an open and clear window to the musical event.
While listening to Patricia Barber’s “The Thrill Is Gone” from the CD “Café Blue” I was confronted by a new found resolution amongst the entire frequency range. The top end sparkles and has more detail than the average dome tweeter. On the track “A Taste Of Honey” from the same disc, there is a shaker that is used for percussion. This is filled with beads and with the Liberty Acoustics LA38 you can hear the sound of every bead moving which is not possible with the Nola Viper References. You might think it is because the treble is prominent but that is not the case.
The first system I hooked them up to uses the Talk Thunder 3.1B Balanced CD Player into the CR Developments Woodham 300 Classic Tube Preamp. The amps I used were the Kavent P-1100 Tube Class A Monoblocks. The sound was good with excellent imaging. I then switched amps to the Spectron Digital 1 which puts out 1000 Watts per channel into the Liberty Acoustics 4 ohm load. This resulted in a more immediate sound with a little glassier top end but power and gravitas in the bottom end. I then switched preamps to the new Bent Audio TAP-X autoformer-based, fully balanced, passive line stage. This definitely kicked things up a notch with even better, stronger and deeper bass.
With this set up I tried Infected Mushroom’s song “Avratz” from the CD “Converting Vegetarians”. This is one of my favorite tracks for testing bass extension and dynamics. With this set up these seemingly shy Japanese geisha-like wallflowers transformed into ready to battle Samurais. The dynamics were razor sharp and engrossing and the bass truly filled the room with percussive impact. This track also highlights the speakers ability to let go of the music and reveals very little boxy colorations of any kind - the type of boxiness you find in say, a $2000 floor stander, is here totally banished.
The Morel woofers fill in the bottom quite well and provide a good foundation for the rest of the music. Being only 6.5 inches means that the extreme bottom octave is missing. The bass that is there is exceedingly tuneful and quick to respond. There is also detail in the bass with lots of information in bass guitar and percussion. I noticed a very strange thing while listening to rock and then switching to pipe organ music: The bass in the rock music seemed restrained but when I switched to pipe organ it was if an invisible subwoofer turned on and came alive. Here were these little woofers reproducing the flutter and menace of the mood. I could not believe what I was hearing.
The integration between the tweeter and the mid/woofer is handled commendably. The mids are natural and not too nasal. With a tweeter this good, it is quite a job for the other drivers/players in the band to keep up. Midrange information is not trapped in the crossover but comes out very well. Only the slightest dip in the midrange lets you know that there are two drivers covering the range and not one full range driver like an electrostat. I heard the Martin Logan CLX with matching Descent subs at Montreal which sounded dull and lifeless in comparison.
The soundstage is quite good with a broad and open window to the sound. With this track star tweeter the window is very clear and realistic as well. Imaging specificity is excellent with solid images cast. A note: While listening to the speakers slightly toed in and on their spikes, I raised myself up slightly and noticed that the soundstage improved significantly. If you can just see the tops of the speakers the image improves. It may have something to do with the tweeter being set into the speaker’s face. If you listen further up the tweeter begins to become predominate over the rest. So adjusting the rear spikes according to your listening height is important. These speakers sound precise but natural enough to be endearing. The sense of envelopment and realism that you get from the Nolas is not quite there, but is very good for the price point. I think that the Nolas additional bottom end extension helps in this regard.
I could easily live with these speakers and call it a day. In fact I purchased them as a new mid-priced reference. Liberty is manufacturing a matching sub to compliment the roll off of the speaker with a matching finish. I think that my two Nola Thunderbolt III subs would also be a perfect match in control and speed. They would complete the bottom end. These speakers to my ears set a new benchmark for what can be achieved under $5,000. They look amazing, are not huge and sound wonderful. Even when I compare them to my $26,000 Proclaim speakers they are not embarrassed. That in itself is reason to say why spend more money.
We received this email from Michael Hoff who owns the Liberty LA 38 speakers:
"A speaker of exceptional build quality in any price range, the Liberty 38’s are a natural sounding speaker with sparkling highs, fast deep midrange, and exceeding transparency. This speaker excels in many musical genres including Jazz, Blues, and Techno. May run bass lean for some types of music (e.g., Metal, Classic rock), however, a sub of like speed more than compensates. "
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Because the Liberty Acoustics LA 38 speaker presents a very high level of fit, finish and a very high level of performance compared to its cost, we happily present it and its designer Carl James our rare and coveted Maximum Mojo Award. It also ranks high in our list of potential Products of the Year. Libery and Mr. James are preparing other speaker and possibly even electronics products in the near future. We anxiously await their arrival.
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