Sound Artist LS3/5a or System Building​

Review by Martin Virgo

Sound Artist LS3/5a = £495


A few months ago I reviewed the Sound Artist in comparison with the Falcon LS3/5a. I reproduce the near-field system section below, heh re-use is very green!

My nearfield system uses a Naim NAP140 as its power plant. As good a power amp as it is, it is not the first power amp one would think of to use with an LS3/5a; I was very aware of this but had no ‘toob’ amp in the house.

Having given you the delights of re-reading my prose and original comments I will introduce a valve amp, and then play with an alternate streamer.

My main amps for the past thirty years have been valve, the EAR-Yoshino. Now these are not appreciated by a certain clique of valve enthusiasts and love by others. To me they introduced all the round earth strengths that my Naim 32.5/Hicap/250 lacked, whilst retaining the PRAT.

I won’t repeat the history but two years ago I moved to SBLs and Naim NAP300DR. The speakers just work brilliantly in my room, and the 300DR worked better than my EAR534 with the SBLs.

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


Stereophile Review;

Falcon Acoustic LS3/5a.

I will stick to the same playlists I used with the original review.

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.

Qobuz Playlist:
Problem Files:

Sound Artist LS3/5a​


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

Original Nearfield System Observations - Solid State Amp​


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?

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 pulls 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’s 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 I had already made, adding nothing to the review.

Nearfield System Observations - Valve Amp​


If you have leap-frogged the last section then I think a fair summary would be that on the end of the solid-state amplification the Sound Artist LS3/5a were OK. Bass was a bit bloated, masking detail, and the top end could easily become hard. I put my feelers out for a valve amp that was not too expensive, this is MY money folks! The one that caught my imagination was a World Audio Design 6550 power amp. Now this thing must be over twenty years old, but it is well made. Designed by Andy Groves of Audio Note it is solid and suitably weighty. I have been told the transformers were specially wound for the project. Apparently, a previous owner had had various components uprated.


The 6550 valve is, much like EAR-Yoshino, not thought to be the most valvey of valves. Not being big and fat or overflowing with harmonics. The previous owner of this amp described it to me as not having the deepest bass, but working well in the mids and upper frequencies.


The LS3/5a are not a speaker that will ever produce bass in quantity. Its strengths lie in its ability to insightfully produce a sound-field upon the mid and high frequencies, with enough bass to give a sense of balance. As such the WAD 6550 power amp felt like a natural fit. I arranged to borrow it and have a listen.

Having listened to the WAD 6550 through a pair of sacrificial speakers, just in case, I plugged in the Sound Artist LS3/5a, fed by my Meridian 210 and Chord Hugo TT. After half an hour I phoned the WAD 6550 owner to buy it.

I thoroughly enjoyed what I was listening to, the system had a balance, insight and resonance that was infectious. Whilst wishing I had the Falcons to hand, I realised I had the Chord 2go/2yu under my desk. Now this streamer is on a par with my dCS Network Bridge and digs out more detail than the Meridian 210, which is thoroughly enjoyable whilst being a tad more relaxed. I thought this might make a synergistic source for this system, and so it proved.

Time for some listening notes.

I frequently find that using cross-feed makes little to no difference. NOT so in this system. Adding in cross-feed added depth to the sound field, and so I ran with cross-feed on the Chord Hugo TT set to MAX.

You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker, Qobuz, 44.1/24
The WAD 6550 Power Amp may produce less bass, but what it does produce works brilliantly here. No bloating or imprecise blossoming here. The bass to precise and resonant, and does nothing to mask Cohen’s growling bass-baritone. Excellent imaging. I am not going to try and compare it to the Falcons, which I suspect would up their game in this system.

Hallelujah, Sarah McLachlan, Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, Qobuz, 96/24
Now the SA is producing this music very well. The brushed cymbals are there in spades, as is the vibrating sax reed. McLachlan’s voice projects the song’s emotionality.

Superstar, Elkie Brooks, Pearls, Qobuz, 44.1/16
This is one of the best representations I have heard of this track. The traces of spitting are almost gone, apart from one line. The bass is lithe and informative.

Train Song, Holly Cole, Temptation, Qobuz, 44.1/16
Interestingly I was listening to this track on a top system, that of our erstwhile editor George; and superb it was. I am not sure that listening to it on this small system was any less enjoyable, although on a smaller scale. The opening effects, such as brushed metal, were present and correct. The percussive way the double bass is played and the wonderfully husky voice were present and correct.


When I had finished the Falcon vs Sound Artist comparison I wrote:

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.

Not so when powered through this system.

The Falcons are so transparent that I suspect they will blossom in this system, but that does not detract from the fact that here the Sound Artist LS3/5a perform excellently, and well above their asking price.

The system responds well to the increased detail wrought by adding the Chord 2go/2yu followed by the WAVE Storm Reference, this adds more detail to its other fine qualities, although this might have tilted it a tad too far, certainly I have ended up returning to the Stereovox SPDIF.

More recently I returned to the Sound Artists having reviewed the Harbeth P3-ESR XD and left the Meridian 210 in place. I very quickly put the Chord 2go/2yu back into the system.

I have been fighting off the desire to buy a better quality pair of monitors, these changes may well have succeeded in allowing me to stick!