Westlake Audio Lc5.75F loudspeaker Page 3
Charlie Haden's Nocturne (CD, Verve 440 013 611-2), Classic's recent reissue of Holly Cole's Temptation (two LPs, Blue Note/Classic JP500 3), and the late Harold Land's (with the late Billy Higgins) Promised Land, on the new audiophile label Audiophonic, are the kind of recordings I could sit down with, listen to, and find myself asking, What more could I want?—even though I knew the answer. Ditto Sundazed's absolutely essential mono LP of Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin' (Columbia/Sundazed LP5108). The Dylan really shone through the pint-sized Lc5.75Fs: his voice properly sized, three-dimensional and detailed, with a palpable sensation of a non-electronic fleshy entity singing and plucking wirewound strings. That's a record you need to own even if you haven't yet bought a turntable.
With these types of discs, the Westlakes seemed to depart the room, leaving a satisfying, credible sonic picture in every sense of the word, as long as I didn't crank them beyond levels appropriate to the music. While not the last word in upper-octave extension, detail, or air, the Lc5.75F delivered enough to satisfy without turning the balance bright and calling my attention to their lack of deep bass.
Once I'd gotten a handle on the Lc5.75F, I decided to hear if the Audio Physic Rhea subwoofer (with the Westlakes still running full-range) could integrate with them. With a minimum amount of fuss—dialing up the Rhea's low-pass rolloff to coincide with the Rc5.75F's 60Hz low-frequency response limit—I was able to achieve a superbly coherent full-range picture. The result was a much bigger soundstage, with greater depth and image dimensionality.
Westlake insisted that I listen to the Lc5.75Fs driven by a Westlake-modified Boulder amplifier and Westlake's own cables, and I obliged. The combination of the unusually supple twisted-pair cables, the modified amp, and the Lc5.75Fs performed as promised: there seemed to be a bit more extension and detail on top, better overall focus and immediacy, and, generally, a greater sense of musical control. Given that the powerful Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300 also exhibits these characteristics and is capable of delivering huge amounts of power at very low impedances (1000W into 2 ohms), I have no explanation for the differences I heard—unless the Boulder amp's high-frequency characteristics are somewhat more in-your-face than the MF's, and thus were a better match for the Westlake's top end.
But the Boulder is a Westlake-modified amp and not for sale as such, so I'm not sure my experience with it is of any value to you. Still, I concluded that this warmish-sounding speaker will sound most immediate and involving when partnered by a powerful solid-state amplifier that's comfortable driving low-impedance loads.
I was also sent a pair of gray foam Speaker Muffs ($112/pair), which fit over and frame the Lc5.75F's baffle. They're designed to improve imaging and soundstaging and increase "apparent" bass response, but in my well-treated room I heard no difference with the Muffs on or off. In more "live" rooms, I have no doubt that they'd be an effective if ugly accessory.
The Westlake Audio Lc5.75F was a very pleasant surprise—not at all what I expected, whether from a pro audio company or from a tiny vented box. Clearly, Glenn Phoenix used listening to music as a foundation for his work, along with measured performance. He's designed a small, well-balanced speaker that delivers an impressive amount of music from a compact, very-well-built, reasonably priced package.
It will be interesting to see how kind John Atkinson's test bench is to a system whose woofer extends to 5kHz—well into the upper midrange. Whatever measurable problems might be caused by pushing a woofer that high seemed more than offset by a coherent midrange—which was perhaps achieved by not handing off the music to the tweeter somewhere in the more usual 2.2-2.5kHz range.
In the end, of course, a speaker is meant to be listened to, not measured, and the Lc5.75F was an enjoyable performer. The key to its success was a balance of strengths unmarred by such serious deficiencies (for a very small vented box) as consistently audible frequency blemishes (nasality, chestiness, sibilance, "hoot," grain, etc.), doubling or other gross forms of distortion at high SPLs, or dynamic compression. Whatever deficiencies the measurements might show, they were cannily hidden.
As long as you don't press the Lc5.75Fs beyond reasonable limits (you can probably push them harder than you might think), you'll be amazed by what these well-engineered little speakers can do—so long as you provide them with a clean environment and appropriate associated equipment, including the right stands. (Your ears must be level with the area between the port and woofer or there will be considerable high-frequency rolloff.)
The Lc5.75Fs combine a pleasing, open frequency balance, fine low-level resolution, an authoritative and coherent rhythmic presentation, and superb imaging and soundstaging. They can't fill a large room the way the $3500/pair dipolar Red Rose Music R3 can, or go as low as either the R3 or the $2000/pair powered-woofer Infinity Intermezzo 2.6. But these $1699 speakers did fill my room when I listened in the nearfield, and were more reminiscent of the $8000 Merlin VSMs in their overall supple, lucid presentation than the Red Roses or Intermezzos. That makes them a very attractive choice if you're strapped for room or cash or both. Don't let Westlake's pro-audio heritage stop you from checking out the Lc5.75F.