Stirling Broadcast BBC LS3/6 loudspeaker Page 2

In my 19' by 12' room, the Stirlings sounded best when sited approximately 34" from their respective sidewalls and approximately 52" from the short wall behind them. (All dimensions are with respect to the center of the front baffle.) Aiming the enclosures more or less directly at the center of the listening area provided the best combination of good balance and spatial performance, although I found it easy to enjoy the Stirlings from off axis, as well. Amplifier connections were made with my usual pair of Auditorium 23 copper cables; I did not experiment with biwiring.

The overall balance of the Stirling LS3/6 was a shade lighter than that of my reference loudspeaker, the much larger Altec Valencia: The Stirling didn't extend as far into the bass range, while its highest-frequency driver, though not the least bit bright, was forthright in reporting the treble content of my recordings. For the first day and a half of the Stirlings' residence in my system, those trebles were just a bit grainy—a quality that then receded, leaving in its place a treble range that sounded natural, smooth, and downright pretty. And from that time forward, regardless of which of my amplifiers were in use, the Stirlings played recorded music with what can be described only as exceptional clarity and openness. For example, when driven by my 25Wpc Shindo Corton-Charlemagne monoblocks, the LS3/6s gave a lovely, explicit reading of Lorin Maazel and the Vienna Philharmonic's recording of Sibelius's Symphony 5 (LP, Decca SXL 6236). And the sharply limned chords at the end of the final movement showed that the Stirlings' cleanness came, in part, from their very good way with note decays, and their resistance to overhang and smearing.

314bbc.2_250.jpgGiven their provenance, I expected to hear from the Stirlings a steady supply of natural-sounding voices and lush, warm strings. I wasn't disappointed on either count, yet I admit to being more amazed by a quality that I didn't expect: Even—I would go so far as to say especially—when driven by my 10Wpc Shindo Cortese amplifier, my review pair of Stirlings delivered a surprisingly satisfying degree of touch for a loudspeaker that even the most optimistic, generous-spirited audio maven would consider of no greater than moderate efficiency (footnote 3). On the famously fine recording, by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony, of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra (CD, RCA Living Stereo/JVC JMCXR-0007), the gently tapped drum at the opening of the second movement was the first hint I heard of the Stirlings' prowess in this regard. The many pizzicato lines for strings that follow in this and subsequent movements had a pleasantly nice sense of impact: not as much as one would get from a very efficient loudspeaker, such as the DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96, the Volti Vittora, or the Altec Valencia, but far more than I'm used to hearing from a stand-mounted monitor of more conventional design.

The LS3/6's reproduction of singing voices was wonderful. "Never Will I Marry," from the classic Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley (LP, Capitol SM1657), presented Wilson's distinctive voice with color and without coloration (likewise Adderley's alto saxophone—although I wish the double bass had exhibited the depth, weight, snap, and temporal sharpness that I hear through my Altecs' big, taut woofers). The no-less-distinctive voice of tenor Peter Pears sounded similarly fine in a 1961 recording of Benjamin Britten's first, second, and third Canticles, with boy alto John Hahessey, horn player Barry Tuckwell, and the composer at the piano (LP, Argo ZRG 5277). The Stirlings also did a lovely job with the notably rich piano sound on that recording. With other, less decidedly rich piano recordings I heard a slight lack of power and volume in some left-hand notes, but that may have been more a function of my room's mildly raggy power response in that range.

String tone was also wonderful through the Stirlings: naturally warm, rich, and well textured, with the same amount of digging in one hears from the attack components of such sounds in real life. A new reissue of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony, recorded in 1961 by Ernest Ansermet and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (LP, Decca/Speakers Corner SXL 2292), was sensational in that regard, as was the even more distinctly textured but less up-front recording of Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht by the Ramor Quartet, augmented by violist Edith Lörincz and cellist Zsolt Deàky (LP, Turnabout TV 4032 S).

With the Prokofiev I also noted the Stirling's good overall dynamics and apparent power-handling capabilities, the speakers remaining very poised and relatively uncompressed during the raucous climax at the end of the fourth movement. Yet expectedly—virtually unavoidably—the Stirlings compressed dynamic extremes far more than my Altec Valencias. The floor tom in the opening of "7 Chinese Brothers," from R.E.M.'s Reckoning (LP, IRS SP70044), sounded more like a polite tap on the table than the forceful strike that it is, and the rhythm guitars throughout the Quintet of the Hot Club of France's Hot Jazz collection (78rpm shellac, Victor HJ6) lacked the tactile quality heard through very efficient loudspeakers.

The Stirlings' spatial performance was engagingly good, and although their overall sense of scale was smaller than I'm used to, the LS3/6s exhibited greater-than-average degrees of specificity of placement and stage depth. One of the most entertaining examples I noted was at the beginning of the original recording, with Michael Riesman and the Philip Glass Ensemble, of Glass's Einstein on the Beach (LP, Tomato TOM-4-2901), with speaking voices emerging, directly and very clearly, from the left and right speakers, while other voices were strung between the two channels in a curved line that extended a considerable distance upstage—all, I presume, as the producer intended. And in the forthcoming reissue, by the Electric Recording Company, of the stereo recording of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, by violinist Leonid Kogan and Constantin Silvestri conducting the Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris (Columbia/ERC SAX 2386), the spatial relationship between soloist and orchestra sounded convincing without exaggeration (although, again, the whole of the thing sounds bigger through the DeVore Orangutan O/96s and Altec Valencias).

I suggest that the LS3/6 buyer resist the temptation to move his or her listening seat nearer than usual to a room boundary in an effort to maximize perceived bass response: In my room, it seemed that overall balance, musical and sonic detail, and smoothness of response were at their best when my listening seat was just slightly farther from the speakers than the distance between the speakers. Whether or not one is an imaging fiend—and I most certainly am not—it seems to me that, when the Stirlings' spatial performance was dialed in, so, too, were most other key aspects of their sound.

Compared to my memory of the Spendor SP1/2 loudspeakers I used to own, the Stirling LS3/6s were considerably more impactful and present, with a more up-front spatial perspective. Love them though I did, those older loudspeakers—which I drove with electronics by Naim, a brand rightly known for superb musical timing and dynamics—could, with some records, fade into the wallpaper.

In any event, it must be said that the Stirling LS3/6, though no Altec Valencia in the Department of Touch and Impact, was never dull, never boring, and, in my system, never less than enjoyable.

Another comparison: My friend Sasha Matson recently traded up to the Harbeth 30.1 monitor speakers (ca $6000/pair). In his room, the Harbeths played with greater bass extension and bass power than the Stirling Broadcast LS3/6s. Yet back home in my room, the less-expensive Stirlings were no less natural, no less explicit, no less musically enrapturing overall. And as for value, I came away from my experience of the Stirlings with the impression that the LS3/6 is a solidly good buy.

Can very accurate, very neutral, very professional be very fun? Yes—and here's your proof. Heartily recommended.

Footnote 3: High efficiency being defined, for my purposes and those of most hobbyists of my acquaintance, as a propitious combination of high electrical sensitivity, high impedance, and benignly flat phase-angle curve.
Stirling Broadcast
US distributor: Fidelis Home Audio
460 Amherst Street (Route 101A)
Nashua, NH 03063
(603) 880-4434

Bill B's picture

Maybe it's just me, but Art over-uses italics in his reviews.  I don't care for the extra elbow in ribs tone.

Regadude's picture

Complain much? Geez, too much italics. Call the cops dude! no

tmsorosk's picture

I didn't see a problem either .

commsysman's picture

Is there anyone who actually thinks this ugly poorly-made speaker system is competetive with the excellent speakers you can buy now for $4500?

Why does the Stereophile staff keep trying to drag these old British monitors out of the grave, where they should remain buried?

While they may have been good in their day, we don't need a history lesson on them every few months. The reviews of various rebirths and iterations of the LS 3/6, SP 3/X,etc. etc, ad nausem seem to never end!

The description of how well the packing boxes are made is interesting; it sounds as if the packing boxes are made better than the speaker enclosures themselves. That is a new manufacturing strategy. Maybe they are designed to sound better if they are never unpacked.

Let's focus review articles on what is the best for the money in a given price range; that certainly does not apply here. This might be a mildly interesting speaker if it cost around $1500 or so, but the price is outlandish for what you get.

I would be interested in a comparison between these and a pair of Vandersteen 2C speakers, which cost half as much and almost certainly sound better, or one of the PSB or other popular modern speakers such as the Synchrony One.

It annoys the hell out of me when the only speakers the reviewer compares to the reviewed speaker are obscure rare models that less than 1% of the readers will ever have heard. How are such comparisons useful to the reader? It's like doing the review in French because that is the reviewer's favorite language.

It would be very helpful if Stereophile had a rule that revewers MUST compare a speaker to some recently reviewed or very well-known speakers so that the reader has some chance of interpreting the comparisons in a useful context.

Regadude's picture

D'accord, vous n'aimez pas ces hauts-parleurs. C'est votre opinion, et je la respecte. Mais, pourquoi ce cher Art ne pourra pas faire quelques test d'équipements en français? Son sens de la répartie se transmettrai très bien dans la langue de molière.  wink

John Atkinson's picture

commsysman wrote:
this ugly poorly-made speaker

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but poorly made? I don't think so. Or, as Art would say, I don't think so, :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

RyanJL's picture

These speakers are beautiful.

Not everyone wants the now-ubiquitous 8" wide, 42" tall floorstander these would compete against. They certainly look better than some of the plasticy ones you mention.

Bill B's picture

Yes indeed, my comment about italics is kinda petty, but it's in the context of direct comments on his article, so it's in the right place at least. It goes to Art's tone in his columns, which is sometimes a bit condescending toward those who don't share his vintage preferences. But whatever. I essentially agree w commsysman above about art's tendency to just review and compare ultra-niche items to other ultra-niche items. 

corrective_unconscious's picture

I agree these sorts of speakers seem expensive for what you apparently get. I guess Spendor and Sterling and Harbeth really have some magic going on in their driver and diaphragm construction.

What is objectively more weird is going from about an 8" woofer to a 1" tweeter when there is a .75" tweeter present. Those three driver choices leaves a large dispersion discontinuity at the first crossover from the relatively big woofer to the first tweeter, when it could have been avoided.

Could have been avoided even if the design objective of these boxes is to get that first crossover happening above sensitive 3k or so. Does it really have to be above 5k or wherever?

tmsorosk's picture

I have to agree with commsysman for the most part . Because I'm a member of an audio club i get to hear many speaker incuding the above , and although there not my cup of tea there is something to be said for these units when listening to single instuments or small intimate ensembles . The midrange has an uncongested purity that many costlier speakers can't match . They may not do well in all sonic perimeters but for those that have specific music listening tastes they can be quite enjoyable . 

xyzip's picture

Wow, there is a reason that nobody reads these comment sections.

Doesn't seem too much a stretch to say that some of the comments here seem a little petty & trollish. 

Dudley talks about other fairly well known highend speakers, and other relatively classic speakers (something about harbeth, devore, spendor, altec, that are unheard of ? ..did he miss something you purchased lately? ).   The requests for specific comparisons ---  does anything suggest 'similar-to-vandersteen' about these? can't have been, say, the size of the baffle---  are kind of far fetched. 

The review's rundown on construction specifics may be grounds for further discussion:  does the lack of  threaded inserts indicate corner-cutting or does roughly doubling the metal content by doing so disrupt some other part of the strategy...  either way, the reviewer isn't saying these are poorly constructed.  ("Exceptionally well-crafted" doesn't seem equivocal.)  The commenters are sure they're not, though. 

Which brings up an interesting point;  the commenters seem to have pretty set objections to the methodology, as well as the actual equipment here.  For his part, Dudley says how he evaluated these speakers pretty succinctly.  The commenters aren't saying whether they have ever seen these speakers, let alone heard them or given them weeks worth of dedicated listening.  

All in all, good review, AD.  And commenters---  can't say for sure, but the general public might get the idea that audiophiles are ever-so-slightly more petulant than average people if you stick with this approach.  Italics? Writing in French? Freedom-fries, anyone? 

Let's all cringe along together:  the Audiophile Troll must be the most delicate troll on the internet.  Princesses of the practice, in fact. 

Carry on, everyone. 


Regadude's picture

Nobody reads the comments section. Well at the very least, there is me and you xyzip...

How is writing in french petty? It was a tongue in cheek, but sincere response to someone who was complaining. If you could actually read french, you would have realised my comment was not petty at all. 

Freedom fries? What's your point? 

"Carry on, everyone."

Carry on we shall.

SimplySpeaking's picture

The author writes "...garage with a brace of tools, including a hydraulic lift..."

A brace, in the sense I assume he somewhat intends, means two somethings. He might as well as shared the other item of garage equipment to spare us the agonizing guessing game of figuring out what additional item might make a humble garagiste envious. Perhaps an espresso machine?

..And veneer prevents warping? Seriously?

John Atkinson's picture

SimplySpeaking wrote:
veneer prevents warping? Seriously?

Yes. MDF that is veneered on only one side will warp. For long-term stability, the MDF sheet should be veneered on both sides.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

chtgrubbs's picture

Yes a board veneered on only one side is prone to warping due to the different expansion/contraction characteristics of the veneer material and the substrate.

Doctor Fine's picture

In a world of over hyped super crispy annoying speakers here come the British with somewhat retro designed glorious open sounding actual classic speakers designed for the music lover.

In truth I am somewhat angry that the modern well educated over technical platoon have no offerings which do anything to move the soul the way these out of date conservative British relics seem to do.  And do consistently.

I recall John Atkinson and Art Dudley both drooling over the Harbeth mini BBC monitors which easily and eerily replicate an approach done well over a half century ago by Altec, JBL and other truth talkers..  Except the Harbeths were in miniature.

So here's the deal you modern marvel guys---cough up a design--even ONE that makes the soul juices of a gumbo crayfish cajun bayou lovin music sophisiticate go mad with lust.  Where in fact is LUST nowadays? Seems to me that LUST has gone a missing along with soul and cool and a lot of other words and concepts...

I would argue much has been  lost in time except for  these timeless "correct" speakers of great pedigree.  Pedigree is a word lost in a world that worships dumpster diving garbage encrusted late comers that wear gold encrusted gold teeth and tatoos.

Me and my brothers and sisters that love music do not need such tacked on congestion.   We prefer the open sound of the best of the best.

Try and compete you deaf modernists---we are all waiting with baited breath...

Regadude's picture

Doctor Fine wrote:

"So here's the deal you modern marvel guys"

Who you talking about? Iron man? Hulk? I am more DC. Gimme Batman and Superman anytime! 

Doctor Fine wrote:

"Where in fact is LUST nowadays?"

Where?! If you saw me watching a Katy Perry video, you would see a ton of lust in my eyes, on my face, in my pants...

Starbucked's picture

$4590 for these boxes with specs: 45 - 17k at 87 db.

I just bought new, German made Elac BS 53.2 bookshelves with a range of 46 - 25 k at 87 db.

They are smooth, transparent and image well. Look great too.

I paid $325. Once again: 325 dollars. I've heard stirling, and yes, they sound very nice. As do my $325 Elacs. Think the $4300 difference is just absurd

corrective_unconscious's picture

Even if these British box type speakers cost a lot and are curmudgeonly in various ways, and even if the Elacs you mention are fine for you, that was a preposterous deployment of "specs" to make your claimed point. Yours is not the worthiest troll I have encountered on the internetz in the past five minutes, or ten years, I am afraid.

JBLMVBC's picture

At this $4,500 price, one can truly design and build a DIY high efficiency studio monitor with real professional drivers that would blow this new old thing away: for instance 2226 JBL pro 15" bass driver, Compression Midrange 2426+2370 and a lovely Fostex T90A super

RoryB's picture

If you have the time, wherewithal, and experience to do a good job if it, maybe this would be an option. But DIY is not an option for most people who are not technical, don't have shop tools, etc., so as a DIYer myself I always scratch my head at these comments.

jeffstake's picture

Thank you for this excellent review. Also, this is a great choice in type of product to review, something that is expensive enough to deserve spending time on comparison shopping, but also not so expensive that no one can afford to buy it.

RoryB's picture

In the UK and other Eurozone countries, banana plugs are required to be spaced more than 3/4" apart to prevent a common Schuko style European plug from being inserted, or to prevent banana leads from being used as AC power cables. So there is a reason why none of your speakers from the UK can use American dual banana plug assemblies.

Echolane's picture

I so wish reviews would be more comparative. I’m having an awful time trying to discover which speakers to buy. I have pretty much fallen in a big way for the Sony SS-NA5ES Speakers. There are a half dozen reviews on them, everyone of them seemingly vying with each other to use more superlatives. And yet no one ever mentions them. Because they are made by Sony? Sony went all out on these speakers. For example: They even have their own FOREST of Scandinavian birch and the cabinets are made like the finest cabinetry possible. They were a pet project of the Sony Japan president. Their designer, who very unusual for Japanese projects, worked alone instead of as part of a group. There was no ceiling on the budget. None. They are reported to sound wonderful. They have amazing bass, especially for a tiny speaker. The reviewer, Robert Greene, of The Audible Difference, called them “a Masterpiece”. Why weren’t they flying off the shelves. Why weren’t they mentioned in comparison to this speaker? Or to any other? Is it their $6000 price? Is it that they were made by Sony and Sony can’t do audiophile? Why?

John Atkinson's picture
Echolane wrote:
I have pretty much fallen in a big way for the Sony SS-NA5ES Speakers. There are a half dozen reviews on them, everyone of them seemingly vying with each other to use more superlatives. And yet no one ever mentions them...

Stereophile favorably reviewed this speaker in 2016. See However, I believe Sony's speaker distribution in the US since then has been patchy.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile