Legacy Audio Studio HD loudspeaker

The day I installed the review samples of Legacy Audio's Studio HD loudspeakers, my friend Jay-Jay, a speaker manufacturer, dropped by to hang out and eat Mexican food. When he spotted the glossy black Legacys, he laughed.

"So, Herb—looks like these speakers are going to get a bad review."

"Why's that?"

"You told me you didn't like shiny speakers."

I grinned. "You're right, I don't—especially when they're heavy, and sparkle like a custom low-rider."

"Those Legacys you're looking at are finished in what they call Black Pearl, which is a pearlescent process that probably takes dozens of steps and months to cure. You tell me—how much does that cost?"

(I didn't mention it, but I thought the paint looked really good. The deep-set sparkles are wide apart and infinitely varied. Under a magnifying glass, they look like a starry night sky.)

Jay-Jay could not stop teasing. "Hey look! The woofers have some kind of funny woven cone material—you can probably hear that from the next room!" Now he was laughing. "So what's that cone made of? Kevlar? I thought you hated Kevlar."

"I never hate anything or anybody, okay? It's against my religion."

"Religion? What exactly is your religion?"

"My religion is not to assign virtue or value to people, places, or things—especially loudspeaker cones."

Legacy Audio's Studio HD ($1795/pair) is made in the capital of my home state: Springfield, Illinois. It's a stand-mounted minimonitor 13" high by 10.8" square and weighs 32 lb, and has an 8" woofer and a 1" folded-ribbon tweeter. Its cabinet is made of 1.125"-thick MDF, and its cloth grille is stretched over an MDF frame that's secured with plastic pegs.

To my eyes, everything about the Studio HD looks well-crafted and thoroughly considered, especially its tapered and faceted cabinet—despite that elegant finish, it looks stout and businesslike.

The speaker's rear panel is well appointed: at the top is a reflex port, and below it are two pairs of expensive-looking, five-way binding posts—remove their copper jumper straps to biamplify or biwire. The upper pair of posts is labeled Treble, the lower pair Bass, and next to each pair is a toggle switch, to control, respectively, the tweeter and woofer. According to the owner's manual, when both toggles are up, the speaker is set to "anechoic flat." Flip either or both toggles down, to their "Trim 2dB" positions, to drop by 2dB the tweeter's output at 10kHz, and/or the woofer's output at 60Hz. The former might help when listening in the nearfield, the latter when placing the Studio HDs near room boundaries.


The Legacy Studio HD looks and feels as if it should cost $1795 each, not per pair.

Legacy Audio's founder and chief engineer, Bill Dudleston, told me that "the goal was to achieve broad dynamic range and smooth power response in a compact practical package of 0.75 cubic feet. The woofer design requires an exceptionally linear dual-magnet motor, a hefty voice-coil attached to a polycotton spider, and a low-mass graphite diaphragm interwoven with silver thread. My design does not attempt to counter Hoffman's Iron Law governing box size, efficiency, and extension. It instead balances a compromise between these interrelated parameters. The polar tilt is carefully aligned for maximum summation to the listener."

I asked him about the grilles: on or off?

"The Studio HDs are designed with grilles off and minimal toe-in," Dudleston told me.

The Studio HD's average impedance is 6 ohms, with an output of 86.5dB at 1m on the tweeter axis with 2.83V input. Its 1"-wide pleated tweeter is an air-motion transformer (AMT) employing neodymium 45 magnets and a Kapton diaphragm. According to Dudleston, "The crossover occurs electrically at 2800Hz with a second-order high-pass network combined with a first-order low-pass network with Zobel phase compensation. An additional second-order high-pass network occurs at 42Hz."

Early impressions
I removed my reference Harbeth Monitor 30.2 speakers and placed the Studio HDs in exactly the same spots, about 6.5' apart and 36" from the front wall, the tweeters at my ear level, their axes pointed directly at my nose. The Legacys sounded a bit bright, but otherwise liquid and punchy when powered by my Pass Laboratories XA25 amplifier. Immediately obvious was their excellent boogie-jump-and-dance factor.

I listened only semi-critically for a full week before I began to experiment with positioning. During that week I realized that while the Studio HDs seemed smooth and well integrated through their 2.8kHz crossover region, they also seemed tipped up between 1 and 5kHz. This gave a lot of what I played, especially 7" 45rpm singles from the 1960s, extra oomph and an enjoyable presence.


This elevation in the presence region would have been more enjoyable had it been supported by some extra body in the lower midrange, but it wasn't. The full range of male voices seemed thin and lacking in growl and testosterone. This slight emasculation robbed Buddy Holly's voice and guitar of their full measures of mass and color in his Down the Line: Rarities (16-bit/44.1kHz stream, Geffen/Decca/Tidal).

I wore grooves in my floor as I switched between speaker stands: ultra-light, 27"-high TonTrägers and super-heavy, 24"-high, spiked and Blu-Tacked Sound Anchors. (I ended up with the latter.) I tried the Studio HDs nearer and farther in every direction, and ultimately left them with 25" between the speakers' front baffles and my front wall and only 5.5' between them, with no toe-in.

With the Pass Laboratories XA25
When suddenly I find myself listening to recordings but not staring at a pair of dome tweeters, I realize, in their absence, just how much dome tweeters sound like dome tweeters. When I switched from my Harbeth M30.2s (domes) to the Legacy Studio HDs (folded ribbons), I noticed right away how much the Legacy's AMT tweeters affected their overall sound character, even in the bass. The Studio HDs played music with a supple dynamic quality. High frequencies were clear, focused, and airy.

At first, with both Trim switches in their nominally flat positions, I thought the Studio HDs' frequency response sounded tipped up, with a slight steely emphasis in the octaves between 2.5 and 10kHz. I tried cutting the tweeter by –2dB, but that made the sound a little blurry and lackluster.

Next I experimented with amplifier compatibility. I tried every amp in my bunker (see Associated Equipment), only to realize that the Studio HD's tweeter is truly extraordinary—and unusual in its effects. In its anechoic flat position, the Legacys generated grainless, breathy top octaves whose benign quality was the opposite of noticeable, annoying, or fatiguing. I have rarely heard massed strings, cymbals, or the top 20 keys of a piano sound more natural.

The Studio HD's upper octaves were so fine that I became addicted to my latest art love-crush, avant-garde violinist Hilary Hahn. On my favorite Hahn album, Silfra, she collaborates with Düsseldorf-based composer and pianist Volker Bertelmann, aka Hauschka (16/44.1, Deutsche Grammophon/Tidal). The two entered a recording studio in Iceland for a 10-day recording session without any preparation: the entire album is improvised, with no retakes or overdubs. The music is terse and spontaneous, the sound clear and textural. The album is a semi-staccato dream piece, and the Legacy Studio HDs reproduced it with mesmerizing élan. My only complaint: I felt that the midrange color of Hahn's violin, an 1865 Vuillaume, was only partially fleshed out, its sound leaning slightly toward thin and cool.

Legacy Audio
3023 E. Sangamon Avenue
Springfield, IL 62702
(800) 283-4644

beave's picture

JA, in your measurements you state: "...presumably to protect it from subsonic overload below the port tuning frequency." 'Subsonic' means below the speed of sound in a given medium. Isn't the correct word 'infrasonic,' which describes sound waves with a frequency below human hearing?

Russell Dawkins's picture

I think you are right. In a similar vein, just today I saw 'supersonic' being used to mean 'ultrasonic'.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Boogie Fever" ........... The Sylvers :-) ..........

Anton's picture

My Jungian intuition and Myers Briggs type are telling me “no” for some reason.

I loved your review but it made my spider senses tingle.

tonykaz's picture

Well, damit, thanks for giving Bill Dudleston's designs a good "listen to". I've admired his Whispers for some time but Wifey keeps veto powering me. ( double-damit )

I think that I agree on the LS3/5a greatness and the British Greatness for that matter. I can't imagine a "Glossy" finish on Loudspeakers. Who wants loudspeakers to be Glitzy? or Garish?
I'd probably distrust any Outfit relying on Glossy to sell, it says "flash" over function.

Yet these things held your attention to the exclusion of all else with their energy, style and enthusiasm ( mesmerizing élan ). That is a POWERFUL summary followed by a complaint about the coloration of Hahn's violin "leaning" "slightly toward thin and cool" . hmm, a small price to pay in terms of design compromise considering I've always felt Hilary's playing leaned to Cool & Thin compared to the instruments she plays against. I kinda get the feeling that our lovely Hilary Hahn is a totally Cool & Thin person ( compared to YoYo for instance )

This review alone makes the entire Issue worthwhile, best writing in Audio, best descriptives, wonderful additives, adjectives & adverbs. We'll be reading this Review 100 years from now thinking how 2018 was the Golden Era of Audio Journalism.

Tony in Michigan

ps. 16 ohm Audiophile resistors from Nelson Pass? love to hear some observations

Ortofan's picture

... " jump or slam" - build a system with a pair of LS3/5A size "satellites" and a separate dual-channel transmission line (sub)woofer.

Harbeth should make such an add-on low frequency unit to go with their P3ESR speakers, but that will never happen because Alan Shaw despises transmission line type loading. At one time, however, Harbeth did sell the Xtender bass unit to complement their P3.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

ELAC Adante AS-61 may be a better value for the money, at approximately the same price. AS-61 may be the loudspeaker to beat in this price range :-) ...........

Anton's picture

I think I spend more money going to listen to gear than I have actually spent on my gear!

I have yet to hear those, so will seek them out.

Appreciate the recommendation.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

ELAC also sells a matching sub-woofer, if you want to go that route :-) ............

Indydan's picture

I've heard a good number of speakers in this price range. The Ryan R610 beats them all. I would love it if Herb reviewed the R610.

bsher's picture

The Adante AS-61 costs $5000 a pair. They may be the speakers to beat at THAT price, but comparing them to these speakers makes little sense.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

From what I see on the specs, ELAC Adante AS-61 bookshelf speakers price is $2500 ..........

bsher's picture

Oops. My bad. I thought I saw them for $2500 EACH, which some speaker manufacturers do. And you're right: any Andrew Jones Elac is likely the best speaker for the money by miles. Wish he made a pair around the $1K mark. Not sure the Uni-Fi bookshelfs can compete with some of the new stuff in that price range from DALI or Wharfedale.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You may be referring to AF-61 floor stander .............

avanti1960's picture

review the Legacy Calibre?
Very intriguing design.

Anton's picture

I would pay extra for that!

Herb, go for it!


Bogolu Haranath's picture

The very capable and much more versatile KEF LS-50 active, DSP wireless (wi-fi capable) Nocturne speakers are $2500 :-) .............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

HR reviewed Technics premium class book-shelf speakers $1699 pair ........ Listed under Stereophile Class-A ...........

dcolak's picture

If the author of the design wanted to EQ the sound, why didn't he simply do it with a digital EQ before it went to a DAC?!

Why in the world would he spend time to design so badly performing speaker?

If he had it linear, one would be able to EQ it any way he wanted.

dalethorn's picture

The $64 question. Interested to learn more, since there's so much new discussion on EQ.

tonykaz's picture

Has anyone else ?

I probably would've carried the entire Legacy Line if they existed in 1982 ( in addition to Thiel Loudspeakers ).

This is a darn nice Company with darn nice products.

Tony in Michigan

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Legacy makes external add-on EQ/DSP units. Check their website ...............

DougM's picture

I think it's kind of funny that on an expensive speaker like this, they still use a cheap cardboard toilet paper roll looking tube for the port, just like a lot of $200-300 a pair speakers, while some lower priced speakers like B&W's cheaper lines (among others) use flared and dimpled port tubes for reduced port noise.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be Stereophile could review Legacy flag-ship Valor? ........ May be MF? :-) .........