Westlake Audio Lc5.75F loudspeaker
I've asked myself that each of the past few years, whenever I've walked past Westlake Audio's room at the Alexis Park Hotel. My mental excuse for not going in the Westlake room was that I was covering analog, so why bother? What I was really telling myself was, Westlake is a pro audio company, so why bother?
Assigned a few months ago to review Westlake's tiny Lc5.75F minimonitor ($1699/pair), I had to bother. I accepted the task with a mixture of curiosity, resentment, and amusement: "Aren't there already enough speaker companies in high-end audio? Isn't being all over the studio map enough for these folks? Okay, Westlake may know about monitoring music, but what does that have to do with listening to it? Whose bright idea was this, anyway? I know it's going to be a 'bright' experience!" And so on.
Then I got a call from Westlake's PR guy, who told me that he wanted me to hear the speakers using the company's speaker cables and stands and their modified Boulder amplifier. Fine, whatever—I'll listen standing on my head—but I told Mr. PR that "I'm sticking to one variable for the actual review, and that's the speakers on their stands."
After the care packages were delivered, but before I'd had a chance to open any of them, a FedEx envelope arrived containing a bag of long wooden cotton swabs—the kind you see engineers chewing on in recording studios—accompanied by a note about how Westlake has discovered that cleaning contacts can have a huge effect on the sound, that if I'd been unaware of this I was no longer, and that I should be sure to dip the cotton into alcohol and swab all of the connections when I reviewed their speakers.
What a shock!
In short, I went into this review somewhat skeptical, and not exactly looking forward to listening to teeny-weeny speakers, given that I had Sonus Faber Amati Homages and Audio Physic Avanti IIIs on the premises. The only glimmer of hope came from my time with the diminutive Red Rose Music R3s, which had filled my room quite effectively when I reviewed them last May. But when I removed the tiny Westlakes from their boxes, the R3s looked positively steroidal by comparison.
How was Westlake doing in high-end audio?
Very well, thank you, according to the background information they provided. Founded in 1971, Westlake Audio now has three divisions: a pro audio dealership "considered the largest...in Southern California, and one of the top 10...in the country"; a recording services group that "operates seven recording rooms from two locations in the Hollywood/West L.A. area" and is used by everyone from "Limp Bizkit to Frank Sinatra"; and a manufacturing group that builds loudspeakers for both "recording professionals and audio connoisseurs."
The biggest news: "within the last 15 years the company has seen the ratio of pro vs consumer sales shift dramatically to the point that hi-fi sales now account for over 70% of the manufacturing group's total business." That can be taken three ways, of course: Westlake's consumer business has grown dramatically, its pro business has declined dramatically, or both.
Westlake began with big, horn-loaded, three-way designs featuring dual 15" woofers and active crossovers requiring multiple amplifiers. As consumers began buying some of their studio gear for home use, the company realized that, to reach an even larger audience, it would have to make smaller, easier-to-drive speakers that were not geared for ultra-high SPLs. The result is the company's Lc Series, an extensive line of consumer and professional loudspeakers of which the 5.75F is the newest and second smallest.
The compact (14" by 6½" by 9") Lc5.75F features a 5" "polyglass"-treated paper-cone woofer and a ferrofluid-cooled, ¾" soft-fabric-dome tweeter that's capped in the rear for better isolation within the front-ported box. The extensively damped cabinet of veneered MDF is available in a choice of North American Black Walnut or maple. (A black utility finish is also offered.) The fit'n'finish looked excellent, and the 18-lb box felt solid and well-braced.
A good start, I thought, as I set the speakers on the prototype lightweight metal stands Westlake had provided, though I thought the "Westlake Audio" logo was a bit too prominent on the front baffle. The relatively tall (about 3') supports were encased, top to bottom, in soft meshy foam designed to absorb and/or diffuse reflections.
The Lc5.75F's frequency response is said to be 60Hz-18kHz, though no "±dB" figure is cited, nor are distortion specs provided. The sensitivity is just below average, at 86dB/m for 2.83V input, while the nominal impedance is 7 ohms, 4 ohms minimum. Connection is via a single pair of gold-plated, five-way binding posts with plastic nuts. The 20-component crossover is wired point-to-point and set at an unusually high 5kHz (at 12dB/octave).