- Frequency Response: 50-20Khz
- Sensitivity: 86 db Impedence: 8 Ohm Maximum Power: 50 watts
- Drive Units: 1” soft dome tweeter; 5” cone woofer
- Dimensions: 12”H x 7.5” W x 6.25”D
- Price: $560 assembled
B+ Bass Stand
- Frequency Response: 35-60hz
- Sensitivity: 86 db Impedence: 8 Ohm Maximum Power: 50 watts Drive Units: 5” cone woofer
- Dimensions: 24”H x 7.5” W x 6.25”D
- Price: $630
The British Broadcasting Corporation LS3/5A speaker project is a legendary tale, and this speaker has almost a universal appeal to enthusiasts throughout the different segments of the audio community. The story behind the LS3/5A speaker system is fascinating, and this diminutive speaker basically charted the course for the development of the compact British speaker movement for many years. One telling sign of the success of this speaker system is the number of companies that have chosen to follow the BBC blueprint. Other companies offer monitors that are directly influenced by the design characteristics of this speaker, and their products are basically a modern interpretation of the original design. Companies that have offered authentic LS3/5A speakers, or developed a variant include Harbeth, KEF, Stirling, Chartwell, and Spendor.1 These companies make up the backbone of the British speaker industry, and their acceptance of the LS3/5A design is a testament to the overall sound quality of this unassuming loudspeaker. Many audio enthusiasts still value the sonic abilities of the Rogers LS3/5A, and actively search for this speaker on the pre-owned market. A well preserved set of original Rogers LS3/5A speakers are capable of commanding in excess of $1000 a pair. As a general rule, these speakers do not come up for sale often, so finding a good pair can be a difficult task. The combination of high selling price and overall scarcity of well preserved speakers means that the everyday audio enthusiast will not have the opportunity to experience the performance of these superb monitors.
The GINI design team faced several daunting obstacles to their goal of producing a high quality LS3/5A inspired monitor. The original design employed the KEF B110 bass driver, and the T-27 tweeter. Of course, both of these drivers have been out of production for several years. Secondly, the individuals behind GINI were adamant that this speaker system had to be affordable, and chose a retail price cap of $500. Both of these factors required the engineering team at GINI Systems to diligently search for design alternatives in order to fulfill their mandate of producing an affordable monitor that emulates the defining characteristics of the prototypical British speaker. The GINI LS3/5A project took almost three years to complete, which is a significant investment of resources for this company. The BBC designed LS3/5A is one of the finest monitor speakers ever produced, and the design team at GINI worked diligently to build a speaker that embodied the spirit of the original design.
Since the drivers used in the original Rogers LS3/5A speakers are out of production, this became the first issue that needed to be solved in order to begin the development of the GINI speaker system. The self-imposed price cap of this project eliminated many of the potential drivers for this speaker. The engineers at GINI chose to forego the use of off-the-shelf drivers from the mainstream speaker manufacturing companies. Instead, the design team opted to develop a pair of custom drivers that met the needs of this project.2 The GINI LS3/5A speaker employs a 5-inch woofer and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. These drivers are not exact replicas of the KEF units, but they have been voiced with the original drivers as the target sound. During the lifespan of the Rogers LS3/5A speaker, KEF also became the supplier for the crossover network in this speaker. Just like the drive units, the crossover parts are no longer in production. The GINI design team has developed a crossover network that takes into consideration the custom driver electrical characteristics, and aims to recreate the sonic characteristics of the original BBC design.
The original BBC design called for the LS3/5A cabinets to be produced from 12mm Birch plywood, with fillets made of beech wood. The BBC technical report emphasized the use of these specific materials, and reported that changes in these materials resulted in the speaker falling out acceptable performance specifications. Given the cost of raw materials in the current market place, it is not possible to produce a birch plywood cabinet and still meet the self-imposed selling price of $500. There were just not enough funds in the project budget to accomplish this. The design team at GINI Systems decided to use a high density MDF with real walnut veneer for the cabinet material. GINI acknowledges that a standard MDF cabinet will not have the same mechanical or sonic properties as a birch cabinet would have. The design team spent many hours evaluating the effects of various coating materials that can be applied to the inside of the cabinet. The staff at GINI believes that the choice of internal coating and dampening materials allow the MDF cabinet to closely approximate the sonic footprint of the birch plywood cabinet.
The GINI Systems LS3/5A monitor retains the cosmetic appearance of the original Rogers speaker. The GINI LS3/5A measures 12”H X7.5”W X6.5”D, and are finished in a dark walnut veneer. The faceplate is recessed into the front of the speaker, and the grill is held in place with Velcro strips. The grill cloth is a medium brown, which is a period appropriate color. The tweeter has the appropriate foam strips surrounding the tweeter, which are partially responsible for the outstanding imaging characteristics of the original design. Even the crossover network is placed in the same location as where the BBC plans call for it to be.
GINI Systems also sent along a pair of B+ Bass Stands for the LS3/5A speaker system. The B+ Bass Stand contains a 5” woofer, and is designed to extend the low end of the GINI Speaker system down to 35 hertz. The crossover network is designed to integrate with any LS3/5A speaker system, and does not change the impedance or efficiency of the monitor connected to it. The enclosures for the bass modules measure 24″H x 7.5″W x 6.25″ to 10.5″D, and are finished in a matching walnut veneer. A set of floor spikes are positioned on a set out outriggers that attach to the bottom the B+ Bass Stands. The LS3/5A speaker is to be placed on top of the bass module, and the wide footprint of the spiking system provides a high degree of stability to this setup. A short set of speaker wire jumpers make the connection between the bass module and the monitor speakers. The bass module are an aesthetically perfect match for the monitor, and these units have the visual appearance consistent with speakers being offered in the time period of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
The first listening sessions were conducted with the GINI LS3/5A monitors operating as a standalone speaker. The speakers were placed upon a pair of Target HS30 speaker stands, which have sand filled center columns.4 After evaluating the monitors on their own abilities, the B+ Bass Stands were added to the mix, and the complete GINI speaker system was brought into play. The amplification components consist of a Jeff Rowland Consummate pre-amplifier, and a Jeff Rowland Model 5 power amplifier. A Bolder Cable Company modified Squeezebox is used as a digital transport for an Audio Magic Kukama digital-to-analog converter. The speaker wires, interconnects, and digital cable come from the Audio Magic Illusion 4D product line. Power cords come from the less expensive Audio Magic Extreme series of cables. An Audio Magic Mini-Reference power conditioner takes care of the task of providing quality AC current to the rest of the system. The system resides in a pair of racks from AV123.
Early on in my audio journey I owned a pair of Mission 700 MKII speakers. I listened to the Missions for several years, and became well acquainted with the distinctive voicing of British loudspeakers.5 As a general rule, British speakers from the 1980’s era excelled at reproducing vocals, and all instruments residing in the midrange spectrum. Given the British influence that the GINI monitor pays homage to, it should be no surprise that the greatest strength of this speaker is its performance in the all-important midrange spectrum. Since the GINI monitors are a reflection of speaker design from the 1970’s and early 80’s, I thought it would be interesting to listen to music from that time period. “Don’t Give Up” [So; Geffen 24086-2] is a duet from Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, and these artists were at the forefront of the alternative rock movement during this time period. The GINI LS3/5A presents the vocals in a smooth and relaxed manner. The lower midrange band is rich and full, with a bit of bloom that is easy to listen to for an extended period of time. The overall tonal balance of the midrange is one aspect of the GINI speaker that I can appreciate. The midrange can be characterized as slightly forward, although it fits neatly into the overall character of this speaker. The hallmark of 1980’s era British speakers was a forward midrange, which in many cases skewed the tonal balance of the music in a noticeable manner. While I would not describe the voicing of the GINI LS3/5A as neutral, it is reasonably close to this objective, and yet has a forgiving nature that would be valuable to a wide range of audio enthusiasts.
The modern monitor class speaker is a champion at imaging, and this attribute was one of the strong points of the Rogers LS3/5A. There have been several changes in the construction techniques in the small speaker category, but the GINI speaker relies on “old school” design philosophy. 6Still, the LS3/5A design blueprint is a well-executed piece of engineering, and the GINI monitor is capable of generating a solid image of a performance. “Traveling Light” [Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra; GRP Records GRD-9590] is a live recording of Diane Schuur and the Count Basie Orchestra, and is an excellent test of the imaging abilities of a loudspeaker. The soundstage generated by the GINI LS3/5A has excellent width and height, especially when these speakers are placed on a tall set of stands.7 Another positive attribute of this speaker is how the depth of the soundstage is properly layered. The Diane Schuur disc has several distinct layers to the recording, and the GINI monitor is capable of properly sorting them out. Shuur is at the front and center of the soundstage, with the brass and woodwind instruments are located in an arc behind her. The percussion instruments are clearly placed at the rear of the soundstage, and it is easy to discern their position relative to the rest of the orchestra. The applause from the audience gets lost by these monitors, and tends to be scattered through the soundstage. There have been other current production small speakers that I have heard do a better job in regards to focusing the applause, but this is a fairly minor point in the overall scheme of things. Overall, I would say that the GINI LS3/5A speaker is adept at producing a believable soundstage. The imaging characteristics are not the same as a modern monitor speaker, but it does reflect the finer qualities of speaker technology from an earlier time of hi-fi.
Speakers that are fitted with smaller diameter bass drivers, and cabinets with low internal volume are going to have issues with generating lower frequencies. The BBC LS 3/5A specifications show a frequency response measurement of 80HZ to 20KHZ with a +/-of 3DB. The frequency response curve of the GINI version shows a bit more bass extension, with the cutoff point being 50 hertz. While the 5” woofer is certainly capable of generating sufficient quantities of mid-bass energy, it is inevitable that the lower registers are going to be diminished. Still, as a standalone speaker the GINI monitors are capable of respectable bass performance. Deja Voodoo [Ledbetter Heights; Grant 24621-2] by Kenny Wayne Shepard was quite enjoyable to listen to on these speakers. The bass guitar is rich and full sounding, with excellent tonal balance. The kick drum is sharp, and each drum strike has a clear decay pattern. The quality of the bass is impressive, however the quantity is a bit light. A recording from this band should pressurize a room, and have a physical impact to it. The Rowland Model 5 amplifier is a beastie, and can provide all the power necessary to evoke low-end performance from any speaker system. As I threw more power to the GINI LS3/5A, the sound got louder to a point, but the bass impact never did increase. Eventually the drivers were pushed past their point of comfort, and the sound started to compress. It is important to keep this in perspective, the Rowland amplifier is a powerhouse, but this speaker will never have the same bass performance as a quality floor standing speaker. Given the modest selling price of the GINI monitors, the bass performance is excellent, and should capture 70% or more of the low-end information found in most music.
There are several ways of addressing the low-end limitations of a LS3/5A loudspeaker. A powered subwoofer is one solution that immediately comes to mind. While this is a viable solution, getting a seamless blend with the monitor is going to take a bit of work, and the extra room taken up by the subwoofer might be an issue for people with smaller listening rooms. The GINI B+ Bass Stands offer an elegant solution to the bass extension issues associated with the small monitors. The B+ Bass Stands are a tall slender enclosure that is designed to have the GINI monitor placed on top of it. A 5-inch woofer is housed in a transmission line enclosure, and the system is designed to extend the bass response of the speaker system down to 35 hertz.8 When using the bass module in place of a conventional speaker stand, it is important to decouple the monitor from the bass unit. GINI recommends using a rubber pad, while I achieved superb results with a set of inverted brass tiptoes between the two units. With the B+ Bass Stands in place, I decided to replay the Kenny Wayne Shepard track in order to discern the differences between the different configurations. The effects of the bass modules are clearly evident, and it is obvious that the GINI monitors benefit from the addition of these units. The bass guitar on Deja Voodoo filled out, and sounded far more muscular. The GINI speaker system had better impact, and handled the dynamic swings of the song far better than the monitors by themselves. The monitors did not suffer any ill effects from the addition of the B+ Bass Stands, but seemed to gain a deeper soundstage due to the improved bass extension.9 The drum kit strikes had more snap, and a more realistic overall presentation. A set of B+ Bass Stands sell for $630, which may seem a bit pricey for a passive bass module which contains a 5-inch woofer. When you experience the sound quality of these bass modules, and how easily they integrate with the GINI monitor, it becomes apparent that the B+ Bass Stands offer a lot of value for their selling price.
The GINI LS3/5A speaker system offers an unusual experience to the adventurous audio enthusiast. This speaker system does not sound like the majority of the current production monitors in the marketplace. A modern monitor speaker system is the equivalent of a microscope, and these types of speakers excel at divining the subtlest of nuances from a recording. While the GINI LS3/5A is nicely detailed, it eschews the dissection of music in favor of a graceful and refined presentation of music. This speaker is easy to listen to, and any audio enthusiast who values this attribute will undoubtedly enjoy this speaker system. I cannot say that the GINI monitor is the sonic equivalent of the original BBC design, since I do not have a pair of vintage LS3/5A speakers to compare them with. However it is evident that the design team at GINI Systems has successfully implemented the design characteristics of the British speaker design philosophy. The frugal audio enthusiast can have a high quality full range speaker system for less than $1200. While the vintage audio collector can revisit a bit of history, and experience a speaker that is voiced in a manner reminiscent of 1970’s and 80’s. The retro appearance of these speakers can only add to the overall vintage experience. Where does that leave the rest of us audio nuts? Well, the GINI speaker system is quite versatile and will work well in a wide variety of systems. I could envision the hardcore audiophile using these speakers in a bedroom or office system. The GINI LS3/5A speaker system has something for everyone, and I suspect that even the most critical audio enthusiasts will enjoy listening to music through these speakers.
external link: Gini Design LS3/5A official page
from aﬀordableaudio, By John Hoffman