As a hi-fi tester, you hear quite a few components. It is like things that there are not only legends and highlights among them. All the better when both arrive together – as in the Rogers LS3/5a Classic Passive 2-way Compact Speaker (4,600 euros, sales). The legendary status of the LS3/5a is undisputed. These mini monitors garner a loyal following – and few other loudspeakers can look back on a similarly long production history.
You have probably read the history of the LS3/5a umpteen times, so here is just the short version:
For outside broadcasts, especially in broadcasting vans, the BBC needed a small studio monitor suitable for near-field monitoring in such small rooms – and specified and licensed several suitable monitor types to several manufacturers. In 1970 this was the LS3/6, and four years later, the LS3/5 was given an “A” in 1976 due to modifications to the mid-bass driver.
The Rogers company was founded long before 1947 in north London by a certain Jim with the appropriate surname. He first built tube amplifiers, and in the 1960s and early 1970s, he was one of the first British companies to follow suit with transistor amplifiers and tuners with a high sound standard. The company’s loudspeaker success story is based in particular on the LS3/5(a), of which Rogers says he sold a good 25,000 of the 60,000 to 100,000 (estimates vary) pairs that were put on the market. The BBC worked with eight licensees, including Spendor, Harbeth, Harwood, Chartwell, and Goodman.
The Fall of Man
Then, in the early 1980s, one of the few major changes to the specifications, which fans of the speaker considered almost a “treason,” came: the nominal impedance dropped from 15 to 11 ohms. Loudspeakers from before this fall are usually more expensive today than their recent successors from the 1980s and 90s. On the other hand, our Rogers LS3/5a Classic, which we loaded for the test, again offers the good old 15 ohms – like many other currently available variants, including those from Falcon (3,000 euros) and Harwood (1,600 euros).
Speaking of the “elephant in the room,”: The Rogers LS3/5a Classic is currently the most expensive model of the original BBC specification. The Harwood version is available as a kit for 1,150 euros. The differences? Well, the drivers haven’t all come from KEF for a long time – the prices can differ greatly just from this point of view. According to the German distributor Mediabit from Munich, Rogers analyzed the no longer manufactured KEF woofers and tweeters based on the original chassis and had them reproduced in every detail. You get as close to the BBC specifications as no other brand. More on that in a moment.
Rogers has been part of Hong Kong-based Wo Kee Hong since 1993. The development, the listening tests, the assembly of the membranes of the woofer and tweeter, the quality control, and the matching in pairs occur in England. In the development phase, different mixtures for the coating of the Bextrene membrane (a proprietary polystyrene copolymer, commonly known as plastic) of the 110-millimeter woofer were tried out and sound-rated over several months. In addition to its excellent internal damping, Bextrene has the unsightly property of a low Young’s modulus, meaning an untreated Bextrene membrane “breaks up” acoustically at 1.5 kilohertz. This is too low for a meaningful coupling of most tweeters. A coating should effectively counteract this bad habit. According to Rogers, however, the finding process was quite complex and lengthy because each coating entails a drying phase of 24 hours, after which a second layer of different material is applied. The possible combinations – and thus the time required – must have been enormous.
The 19-millimeter tweeter has a membrane made of Mylar, a PET film. Sounds unspectacular, but it’s got what it takes: Mylar offers one of the best weight and strength ratios that can be achieved. Nevertheless, mechanical protection is made of perforated metal sheeting above it – a good thing. Of course, the diffraction-absorbing rectangle made of felt, known from the LS3/5a, is located around the tweeter. The tweeter’s voice coil former, which perfectly matches the BBC specifications, is also not made from a material from the “usual suspects” group but from Nomex. This aramid fiber paper has high heat and flame resistance and does not melt to around 370 °C and drips. Nomex is used in demanding applications in the aerospace, military,
As small as the housings are, measuring 31 by 19 by 16 centimeters, the BBC insisted on further optimization and gave its licensees clear specifications: it should be birch plywood, with a thickness of twelve millimeters for the Side panels, the floor, the top, and the rear wall, and nine millimeters for the baffle, reinforced with beech wood struts at each corner and heavily damped on the inside. Rogers has the housing manufactured by a “designated special company” strictly according to the original BBC specifications. The covers made of Tygan, a heavy woven nylon fabric attached flush to the fronts with Velcro, are not only privacy and finger protection but also part of the acoustic tuning and should definitely remain on when listening.
On the back are 4-millimeter banana sockets for contacting the amplifier – but not just any, in Germany, silver-coated types from the Swiss company Stäubli (Multi-Contact). They may look simple, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be the first choice regarding sound. The sales department promises “a significantly better contact than the usual standard goods and therefore, of course, better sound.” Inside, quite thin copper cables conduct the signals to the crossover and from there to the chassis.
With the switch equipped with thirteen selected components, the effort continues: It is built on a single-layer fiberglass circuit board, whose conductor tracks are recruited from a total of one ounce (approx. 25 grams) of copper. All coils are hand-wound in England, and all other component choices result from lengthy listening tests. According to the sales department, all crossovers are matched in pairs.
It should be clear that all this effort with the LS3/5a from Rogers – meticulous attention to detail, depth of development, production partly taking place in England – cannot be realized for nothing. Especially since Stereophile colleague John Atkinson said long ago about the LS3/5a that “the housing alone costs the manufacturer as much as a typical mass-market speaker does for an end customer.”
By the way: If the Rogers LS3/5a Classic seems too small and produces too little or not sufficiently deep bass, you can buy the newly developed AB3 subwoofer modules for exactly 4,600 euros, which also function as a stand.
I already explained why I like compact loudspeakers in my recent reviews. And with the Rogers LS3/5a, this preference is once again very impressively confirmed – albeit in a somewhat more special way than with the studio monitor derivatives from Stroud in the Cotswolds. How exactly? Continue reading!
Size matters – or maybe not
It starts with the fact that the EUR/volume ratio of the Rogers LS3/5a is likely to be as high as that of only a few other loudspeakers, especially below the 10k limit. What I take as an opportunity to say again: Yes, and? Only one reasonably reliable conclusion can be drawn from a passive, closed loudspeaker that DSPs have not equalized: Deep bass, brilliant coarse dynamics, and the highest maximum level are not to be expected. And with that, we have already exhausted the truth content of “size matters” in loudspeaker construction.
Because with the right setup (depending on the room between at least ten and a maximum of 40 centimeters away from the back wall), the Rogers is not even overly slim in the bass but feels astonishingly complete – even if nothing substantial arrives below 50 Hz in the whole listening room. Bass drums and large toms don’t produce any physical impact but don’t seem powerless. When playing the drums in Hiromi’s “Wonderland” from the album Spark, the Rogers deliver sufficiently powerful bass and upper bass and an exceptionally colorful, warm, and earthy basic tone, letting the electric bass grumble in the same piece.
The intentionally built-in slight emphasis at 160 Hertz certainly plays a role. Still, I can only perceive a hint of an audible increase, commonly said about the LS3/5a, in my room and with this setup. In my experience, achieving a natural balance of bass and fundamentals takes some experimentation with the Rogers’ placement—but it’s not rocket science. In my 25 square meters, well-damped listening room with small bass peaks at 45 and 90 Hertz, I achieve the best results with at least 30 centimeters of air behind me. That’s how heavy rock like “The Runner” by Foals comes(Album: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Part II), if not full or fat, then surprisingly complete, grounded, and with drive and stamina from the Winz speakers. Of course closer to the taut and sober ATC SCM20PSL than to the full-bodied Raidho X1.6 (7,300 euros), but either way: amazing!
Typically British? No/Yes way!
Overall, I can’t describe the mids of the Rogers LS3/5a Classic as “typically British” with a clear conscience. Rather, I find them reasonably linearly fitted into the surrounding frequencies, possibly with a minimal tendency towards transparent slimness, probably due to the harsh treble (see below). The Rogers reproduce voices as openly as the ATC and even a touch clearer than the Raidho X1.6. In “Tear Jerker” by Chilly Gonzalez’ and Jarvis Cocker’s mega-album Room 29, goosebumps trickle down my spine; so clearly, expressively, and precisely articulated the Rogers Cockers portray fragile-warm, intimately captured vocals. Sibilants can have a certain sharpness – but only if so on the recording. So this is not a general trend.
However, what is typically British are the rich yet not overpowering tones, the attention to detail, and the transparency in the middle register. In “Pure Pleasure Seeker” from Moloko’s album Things to Make and Do, I have rarely been able to follow the modulations of the synths and the saxophone in the mid-range so clearly through the fluffy soundscape and the slightly dominant bass recorded – perhaps with the ATC SCM20PSL. It’s harder for the Raidhos to keep up. Even dense structures like in the intense “Blood of the Past” by The Comet Is Coming feat. Kae Tempest (Album: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery) uncovers the Rogers LS3/5a Classic with stunning ease, lending iridescent color to the hard-played saxophone. That doesn’t sound analytical or annoying at all, but simply clear and is “there” as a matter of course.
With open cards
Up top, the Rogers LS3/5a Classic plays fresher and livelier, livelier and more extroverted than the majority of loudspeakers in their class, including the ATC SCM20PSL, and with a level that rises gently towards the top, just as the BBC specification envisages. The Mylar dome does not reproduce the treble as finely silky or a little harder than the tweeters of the ATC or even the Raidho X1.6 – and they do not achieve the fine dynamic elegance and the microscopic resolution of the Danish magnetostatics. On the other hand, the Mylar tweeters put a little more energy into it when it comes to transient attacks and up in the direction of the super treble so that the bells in Erika de Casiers“Polite” appear a touch silverier and brighter than their more expensive competitors.
In its class, there is hardly a box that beats the Rogers in terms of good dynamics – the LS3/5a unmistakably underlines that fine dynamic gradation can increase the realism of the reproduction to an even greater extent than coarse dynamic unlimited capabilities. Clear: Most of the time, we don’t hear loud enough to reproduce a bass drum in its entirety dynamically. However, modulations in the intensity of a piano, a voice, or guitar strings can be displayed and perceived well even at low volumes. This is certainly because, on the one hand, the Rogers does not try to impress with “a lot of bass and slam from a small box,” and on the other hand, the developers have managed to blend the strengths of the LS3/5a so skilfully that one immediately “Keeps hanging”.
To the point
One of the great strengths is the fantastic timing and the successful temporal coherence of the Rogers LS3/5a Classic. The ATC SCM20PSL, which I often feel reminded of when listening to the LS3/5a, will now have to share the title “World’s best two-way full range speaker” with the Rogers. No matter which instrument I pick out, I never have the feeling of hearing a multi-way system. The piano and the guitar, played with strong transients, in “Temptation” from Diana Krall’s album The Girl in the Other Room get “on point” at best. Class!
In the recommended setup with the treble axes crossing in front of the listening position, the Rogers LS3/5a separate the sound from the loudspeakers extremely well; they are not perceived as sound sources in the room. They illuminate the stage on Brendan Perry’s “This Boy ” (album: Ark) far to the left and beyond the base width of the loudspeakers and only delimit it deep in the room behind the loudspeaker plane. The overtones of the piano in “Tear Jerker” or those of the drums in “With All My Love” by Melanie De Biasio (Album: No Deal) float away into the depths of the room and linger longer than with most other transducers – no matter how what class – that I know.
The Rogers manages the trick of not always placing voices on the same level as the instrumentation: for example, when the strings in Brendan Perry’s “This Boy” or the jazz band’s drums in “Danny Boy” by Jacintha are quite far into the depths of the Playing in a room, the Rogers LS3/5a Classic place the vocals clearly differentiated or sometimes just in front of the speaker base – just as it can happen on a stage. In all of this, they reproduce three-dimensionally similarly to the ATC SCM20PSL, even if they may not separate individual sound events quite as cleanly as the Raidho X1.6, which is outstanding.
The LS3/5a are legends for a reason, and with the current Rogers variant, BBC design has reached a pinnacle. The Rogers LS3/5a largely evade commercial price-performance evaluation attempts and does not want to be everyone’s thing, but is fascinating, with special loudspeakers with a clear focus on transparency and coherence as well as timbre and impulse fidelity.
On the bass side, they don’t even begin to cover the entire audible range – and therefore don’t create a physically perceptible experience with cracking coarse dynamics. In addition, they are not romanticizing whitewashing but serve details quite unvarnished. The overall balance can therefore appear a bit slim at first, especially when the speakers, just about the size of a child’s shoebox, are too far away from the rear wall or the electronics tend to be analytical.
The tonal and dynamic characteristics of the Rogers LS3/5a indicate the music genres that one particularly likes to hear about them. So I wouldn’t describe techno and hip-hop as Rogers’ profession. On the other hand, I like heavy metal and good electronic music with the little Brits – both come across as cohesive, coherent, and coherent.
In terms of room size, I dare say that everything goes from just under ten and up to just over 30 square meters if you can work with the setup accordingly. And the electronics should be neutral to slightly warm and, above all, of high quality. If you want to use the speed talent of the Rogers LS3/5a, you should invest in correspondingly fast electronics. But be careful: the Rogers immediately unmask the superficially extroverted playing electronics.
If everything is right in the periphery (space, distance, electronics), the Rogers LS3/5a Classic should be ideal for many music lovers. They are among the most musically engaging speakers I know. Not because they play “attacking” forward and you’re almost constantly waiting for the next storm of impulses, but because you can concentrate effortlessly and distraction-free on the music and you don’t have to squint at the tonal parameters, because they are on such a high level ” were composed.”
The Rogers LS3/5a Classic…
- Offer transparency and definition from the basic tone to the super high tone that is rarely found in their price class.
- Play homogeneously and with great timing.
- They are fast, precise, and unpolished in the impulse and transient response.
- Have a very good resolution in the treble and do not show any weakness up to the super treble. In terms of quality, they are more on the clear and crisp side than on the fine, silky, subtle side.
- Virtualize a large stage that can extend deep into the space behind the speakers. The boxes disappear as objects completely from the sound image.
- Project extraordinarily three-dimensional sound sculptures from the speaker level to well behind them, which separate significantly more expensive competitors even more clearly from one another.
- Must be reasonably close to walls and in rooms up to a maximum of around 35 square meters. Then they play in the bass down to about 50 Hertz, not necessarily powerful, but substantial enough to sound believable.
- Give fine dynamic nuances priority over rough hit-and-run attacks.
- Have an earthy and naturally warm base tone.
- Enchant with open, clear, and yet colorful mids. Your voice reproduction is exceptionally natural, detailed,, and emotional.
- Model: Rogers LS3/5a Classic
- Concept: Passive two-way monitor loudspeaker with closed housing
- Price: 4,600 euros
- Dimensions & Weight: 19 x 31 x 16 (W x H x D), 4.9 kg/each
- Finishes: RAL colors, real wood veneers in walnut, rosewood, and olive as standard; other finishes on request
- Nominal Impedance: 15 ohms
- Efficiency: 83dB 2.83V/m
- Miscellaneous: 19 mm Mylar dome, 11 cm Bextren woofer, birch plywood cabinet with beech stiffeners.
- Guarantee: 2 years