Westlake Audio Lc5.75F loudspeaker Page 2

The Lc5.75F was designed by Glenn Phoenix, chief engineer and president of Westlake Audio. According to the company, the 30-year audio veteran has designed more than 50 loudspeakers, some of which have been in production for more than 20 years. He's also designed recording studios and personal listening rooms around the world.

Phoenix's design philosophy for the Lc series was to get the two drivers working together in "perfect synchronism" so that, over their shared output, each has to work only half as hard as it would alone. According to him, this leaves the listener with the impression that "there's more speaker doing the work than there actually is." The literature says that "The shared area on the Lc products is wide...or at least the shared area where the two drivers...are working exactly in sync."

According to the literature, "All Westlake speakers have their nodal summing points located perpendicular to the front board and aligned halfway between the two sound sources...(woofer and port in the case of the Lc5.75F)." That last bit of information explains why the stands are so tall. With the front-placed port located between the two drivers and the listener's ears best situated between woofer and port, the stand would have to be relatively tall to achieve that alignment for a listener seated in a chair of average height.

To get the best results, Westlake recommends "a well-damped environment, good source material...clean, low-distortion electronics...[and] a near- rather than farfield...listening setup" with the speakers firing on-axis at the listener—all of which I was able to accomplish in my room.

Setup and Sound
Though written for earlier models in Westlake's Lc series and thus not entirely applicable to the Lc5.75F, the 12-page instruction manual is extremely comprehensive, well-written, easy to read, and ends with "Good luck and good listening!" Now that's the voice of loudspeaker experience talking. Getting good sound with any loudspeaker in any room requires plenty of luck.

I positioned the Lc5.75Fs in the usual places in my room: about 3' from the back wall, 2½' from the side walls, 9' apart, and about 8' from my listening position, the speakers' baffles pointed directly at my listening position (per Westlake's instructions). Then I fired them up.

But instead of the thin, analytical, "pro audio" voicing I'd expected, I was greeted by a warm, inviting, easy-to-take balance—a presentation reminiscent of the Merlin VSM I'd written about in September, though that speaker needed to be listened to 10 degrees off-axis to achieve similar results. Relaxing and easy on the ears, the Westlake produced a pleasingly rich sonic picture that, on first hearing, didn't seem to skimp on upper-octave air or transient speed.

But regardless of technology, a speaker this small simply can't move a great deal of air or go really deep, so large dynamic swings and deep bass are out. And while HF response won't necessarily be compromised, it probably should be. With the bottom octave missing, a relatively flat speaker can be perceived as sounding thin and bright.

From the listener's point of view, a speaker designer's goal should be to create the illusion of a neutral voicing while still managing the sensation of deep bass without negatively affecting midbass balance or midrange clarity. Maximizing small-box performance strengths like image specificity, focus, and soundstaging can distract listeners from a small speaker's inherent limitations.

The Lc5.75F produced credibly free-standing, three-dimensional images on my live-recording reference discs, such as Frank Sinatra's Live at the Sands (Reprise 2FS 1019, LP; 46947-2, CD) and Mel Tormé and Friends at Marty's (Finesse W2X 37484, LP). Though image size and weight were somewhat diminished compared to my far larger and more expensive references, and the low-frequency "room sound" was limited compared to what a big, full-range speaker can produce, the Westlakes suggested enough of those things to encourage my ear/brain to fill in the rest. And while I expected the Lc5.75F's unusually high crossover point of 5kHz to reveal that the woofer beamed at the top of its passband, either it didn't, or it did but concealed this effectively enough to not encroach on this small speaker's ability to disappear.

Like the Spica TC-50—a cannily designed speaker from another era—the Westlake suggested much more than it delivered on the bottom, and the subtle midbass bump (intentional or otherwise) that did that suggesting did so in a way that was easy to ignore. For the most part, stand-up bass was free of overhang, male voices weren't chesty, female voices weren't hollow, and violins didn't sound like violas. Pianos didn't fare quite as well, especially at the lower end of the keyboard, but again, as with the Spica TC-50s: Unless I was fixated on this occasional and very mild "cuppy" coloration, the Lc5.75F's many other strengths kept me from noticing it.

However it was done and whatever its crossover design, this little two-way could play quite loud without sounding compressed or edgy. At late-night levels or at +100dB, the Lc5.75F held on to its relaxed yet detailed overall character. When I pushed it too hard, a hollowness did set in—perhaps the woofer's response close to the 5kHz crossover point became more noticeable. But even then, the tweeter refused to sound hard or edgy, and overall distortion seemed low.

Classic's vinyl Led Zeppelin reissues didn't embarrass the Westlakes or make them sound puny, but the bottom-end deficit and the speaker's smooth, debonair character might have rockers looking elsewhere at this price point, or buying with the intention of adding a subwoofer. As with the Merlin SVMs, when I got the Lc5.75Fs' woofers moving, the ports blew shots of compressed air clear across the room—only with the Westlakes, the air hit me in the face.

Westlake Audio
2696 Lavery Court, Unit 18
Newbury Park, CA 91320
(805) 499-3686