Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a (£2,475)​

vs Sound Artist LS3/5a (£600)​

Review by Martin Virgo


A couple of years ago I decided that I needed a better pair of speakers for my near-field system and naturally my thoughts turned to the BBC LS3/5a. I then noticed that the Chinese manufacturer Sound Artist had their version of the LS3/5a and looking at the modest, in LS3/5a terms, price decided to take a punt.

Our editor asked if I fancied putting pen to paper about them, but I didn’t. The fact is that I have had damned little exposure to the LS3/5a and I felt for such a piece to be AT ALL worthwhile the elephant in the room had to be addressed, does it deserve the LS3/5a appellation at all.

When I went over to Guildford Audio to listen to the SME Model 60 a few weeks ago I mentioned this to Trevor Martin, owner of Guildford Audio. He told me that he had a store of interesting equipment and thought he might have a pair of Falcons I could borrow …..and so it proved. THANK YOU Guildford Audio.

I won’t retread the LS3/5s history, there are LOTS of articles covering this, including:
Stereophile Review;

Falcon Acoustics sell speaker parts, kits and cabinets. They decided to build a fully licensed version of the BBC’s LS3/5a. At the other end of the spectrum, you have Sound Artist, they have produced something which echoes the size and the type of parts used by the BBC design, but not something that could be licensed in its current form, but it is 25% of the price.

Is the extra eighteen hundred pounds worth spending?

Of course, ANY speaker can only perform in the context of the system into which they are placed. It is here that many aficionados of these speakers may complain, a solid state amplifier system, perhaps even WORSE a CB Naim 140 power amp. Not a valve in sight! All I can say is that this is the near-field system that I use and I don’t currently have any valve amps at home.

Test Tracks: The Good, The Bad and the Bright​

The tracks were selected to allow:
  • Comparison of local and Qobuz sourced versions of the same tracks;
  • Comparison of standard and remastered versions of the same track;
  • Comparison of older and modern tracks, with their different mastering priorities;
  • How problem tracks were presented.
Review Playlist: https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/12708363

Problem Files: https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/12623970

Falcon LS3/5a​


These are a nicely made pair of speakers that come in Baltic Birch Ply. The whole speaker looks and feels solid and well made.

The specs:
2-way infinite baffle (sealed box)
Freq Resp: 70Hz - 20kHz ± 3dB
Sensitivity: 83dB. 2.83V, 1m
Impedance: 15 ohm
Dimensions (HWD): 305 x 190 x 165mm
Weight: 5.35Kg each

Sound Artist LS3/5a​


The Sound Artist certainly are presentable, just do not brush against the name on the speaker grill, you will find it is formed of multiple sticky letters that quickly detach and form a jigsaw puzzle.

You have three finish options, Rosewood (default and included in the base cost) and two premium finishes, Walnut and Macassar. I took the Rosewood. It is not robust, sitting on my desk next to my laptop the edge nearer the computer has lost bits of the dye.

The speaker banana sockets look and feel robust. The overall construction seems perfectly reasonable, although my left-hand speaker has something inside that rattles when the speaker is turned over; I did mention this to Sound Artist who after an initial contact failed to reply. It doesn’t appear to affect the functioning of the speaker but hardly inspires confidence.

The case itself is made of MDF, not the prescribed ply. For this reason, I tend to refer to the Sound Artists as a faux LS3/5a.

The specs:
2-way infinite baffle (sealed box)
Frequency response: 70Hz - 20KHz
Sensitivity: 83db
Max power: 50W - 150W
Impedance: 11 ohms
Dimensions(W×D×H/cm):19 × 17 × 30.5 x 2pcs
Net weight:5.3kg x 2

Nearfield System​


The source was Roon, primarily Qobuz, with headroom enabled and sample rate NOT enabled. In effect this means that the music is sent -3db down, this gives space to allow upscaling to occur without causing potential issues if 0db is crossed in the processing. I leave the headroom enabled in case I choose to turn on upscaling for a particular ‘problem’ recording.

I set the LS3/5a up on acoustic foam wedges so that the tilted drive unit axes cross just in front of my sitting position.

Let me address the Achilles of the LS3/5a immediately, all together now, the BASS. Yes, it is a small sealed box. To be really unkind I set up a playlist to ruthlessly expose this issue, there is NO point in avoiding a weakness, the question was how well did they cope?

Falcon Listening Notes:


The short answer is very well. They fail gracefully. Further than that, while they cannot project bass weight, they do allow you to hear the detail of what, for instance, an electric bass player is doing; there is enough bass to support and underpin the vast majority of music in an attractive and effective way, whilst being nimble enough to allow you to hear the technique being employed.

You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker, Qobuz, 44.1/24
The track opens with a male voice ensemble that blossoms excellently through the Falcons, this draws you into the song. This is a superb track with some truly wonderful bass underpinning. The few repeated bass notes may not be as present as in a full-range speaker but they do their job, and a sense of tension is delivered. The voices are well formed, excellent verisimilitude. When I was younger I would have criticised Cohen’s inability to sing, now I am captured by the voice’s ability to project emotion.

Hallelujah, Sarah McLachlan, Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, Qobuz, 96/24
An album of people who CAN sing; doesn’t mean that they are better. The band was co-ordinated by Larry Klein, a man with a long and varied career. Cohen often feels like poetry put to music. McLachlan has a lovely voice and her technique is on full display via the Falcons. The sparse instrumental support, including double bass, piano, guitars and alto sax, are nicely presented. The recording quality is excellent.

Superstar, Elkie Brooks, Pearls, Qobuz, 44.1/16
An album on which I was brought up. This can be problematic on my CD rip through my main system and Linn Kazoo. Through the Falcons there were slight traces of spitting in places. The bass weight I am used to is reduced but where the player adds emphasis can still be heard, in fact the detail of the playing technique is fully on show. As crescendos are reached the increased urgency is well delivered.

Train Song, Holly Cole, Temptation, Qobuz, 44.1/16
A superb piece of music absolutely leaning on a percussively plucked double bass. As her husky voice delivers the song Holly Cole’s vocalisations are surrounded by a host of percussive sounds and beats. Regardless of the attenuated bass depth this is simply MUSIC. The Falcons allow you to hear right into the music as the resonances roll over you.

Rakim (Live), Dead Can Dance, In Concert (Live), Qobuz, 44.1/24
Amazing really. The players virtuosity are on fine display and the subterranean bass may be less present BUT you still get a feel for what is there. It is not just tone but timbre that is delivered.

Mambo Sun (Album Version), T. Rex, Electric Warrior, Qobuz, 44.1/16
Another main system problem track when delivered via Minimserver/Linn Kazoo. Still has a touch of spitting, but the percussive elements are delivered with a startling attack.

O Tannenbaum, Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas (Remastered & Expanded Edition) (2012 Remastered & Expanded Edition), Qobuz, 192/24
All sorts of subtlety going on here. Opens with a nice simple piano before being joined by the band. Simply drew me in and nicely deposited me out the other side – what, you expect me to write about this stuff when I am just enjoying it! From a HiFi perspective you can follow the individual instruments. On a macro level the tracks dynamics expand and contract beautifully. On a micro level you can hear, and almost feel, as each musician leans on particular notes. Back to the music!

Das Rheingold, WWV 86A / Scene IV: Heda! Heda! Hedo! Zu mir, du Gedüft! (Edit / Remastered 2022), Eberhard Wächter, The Golden Ring: Great Scenes from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Qobuz, 192/24
As the bass delivers the libretto I can feels my chest muscle reacting in sympathy. The force and controlled passion on display here is infectious, as you await the clap of the hammer. The tension in the music as you build towards the crescendo. I think my last sentence is telling, I am not concentrating on the speakers but on the music.

Sound Artist (SA) Listening Notes:

In these speakers the bass is more present. But it is slower and fatter and masks the fast detail that pull you into the music with the Falcons.

You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker, Qobuz, 44.1/24
This track plays to the Sound Artist strengths. The bass weight is more present. However, the imaging is not quite up to the Falcon and musical detail is masked and less readily heard or followed, as the mid-range is hidden behind the blossoming and imprecise bass.

Hallelujah, Sarah McLachlan, Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, Qobuz, 96/24
The sparse instrumental support, which surprised and interested through the Falcons, is present and almost uninspired through the SA, the music is somewhat flat. There is nothing that offends, and McLachlan’s voice is present but her technique is a touch less apparent.

Superstar, Elkie Brooks, Pearls, Qobuz, 44.1/16
Interestingly this track is on a par with the Falcons. the traces of spitting are less apparent. The bass is a touch more present, if not lithe or informative.

Train Song, Holly Cole, Temptation, Qobuz, 44.1/16
The slight warmth of the SAs reduces information, such as brushed metal. The percussive way the double bass is played is not obvious. The husky voice loses some of its character.

At this point my notes continue to repeat the points that I had already made and so add nothing to the review.


This has been an interesting comparison and I am very grateful to Trevor at Guildford Audio for the loan of the Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a.

The Falcons are the better built speakers, but does this make for a sensible purchase over the far cheaper Sound Artist (SA) LS3/5a?

The Falcons keep control of the music and so project a detailed and musically infectious sound stage. The detail is superb and shines a light into the mix and the musicians performances. Yes, the bass weight is necessarily decreased from a bigger or open baffle speaker, but the grip and speed of the speaker keep you informed as to the bass line and the artists’ technique and intentions.

The Sound Artist project a tad more bass heft, but that bass pollutes the mid-range and masks much of the detail that the Falcons delight you with. Music is simply a tad less interesting via these speakers.

The Falcon LS3/5a show the Sound Artist a clean pair of heels, but the Sound Artist LS3/5a are not offensive. At £600 they are a perfectly respectable pair of speakers, just don’t kid yourself.

So, are the Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a worth the extra eighteen hundred pounds? There are a whole series of value judgements here, the first being, do you have the readies to hand? Assuming you do I would say that, depending on how much you use your near-field system, you would be foolish not to do the demo.

As a reviewer, these things are damned tempting! They are a window into the rest of your system as well as the music.