Graham Audio LS5/9, LS5/9f, and LS5/8
Review samples provided by Hexagon Audio
Retail starting prices in the Netherlands (per pair, incl. 21% VAT):
Graham Audio LS5/9 – 4.200 euro
Graham Audio LS5/9f – 4.600 euro
Graham Audio LS5/8 – 8.700 euro
Audio Origami PU7 gimbal bearing tonearm: 2.900 euro
Graham Audio loudspeakers are built in the UK under the supervision of Derek Hughes. Starting at Spendor, Derek updated the designs of the LS3/5A and the LS3/6 for Stirling Broadcast. In recent years, he has been working with Graham Audio, where he was responsible for reviving the LS3/5A, LS5/8, and LS5/9. All the Graham speakers are designed according to the thin wall construction method using birch plywood and many of them are manufactured and tested in accordance with BBC specifications.
The speakers offer convenient adjustments for treble output. With the BBC-derived monitors, this is done with solder clips and with the LS5/9f, this can be done at the flick of a switch.
The LS5/9 monitors are manufactured under license from the BBC while LS5/9f floor standers are based on the same design but with liberties taken in some aspects. Most obviously, their cabinets deviate from the typical BBC fashion by having the screwed-in panels on the rear sides rather than on the front. The BBC never developed floor-standing models and I’m not sure what this change does to the sound but, in my opinion, it certainly makes them look much prettier. At 89dB (2.83V, 1m) versus 87dB, the floor-standing model is 2dB’s more sensitive than the monitor model. Their larger cabinets also result in an extended frequency response of 40Hz to 20kHz, ±2dB whereas the stound-mount models are rated at 50Hz to 16kHz, ±3dB. In both cases, a 200mm Diaphnatone polypropylene woofer and a 34mm Audax HD13D34H tweeter are employed. The recommended amplifier power is 50-200 watts and during my listening tests, it was indeed confirmed that the speakers sound best when driven by a healthy dose of power. The LS5/8, finally, are also made under BBC licensing and may appear to be of a similar size in photos but at 76cm by 46cm by 40cm their cabinets are actually considerably larger. These may be monitor designs but really, they are larger than some floor-standing designs. Designed in conjunction with Derek Hughes and Volt Loudspeakers to sustain higher sound pressure levels, the LS5/8’s feature a huge 12-inch bass driver along with the same 34mm Audax tweeter that is used in the LS5/9 and LS5/9f. The LS5/8 was originally conceived as an active design, but the new passive crossover reportedly improves on the resolution and imaging of the original design while still conforming to the demanding BBC license. According to the manufacturer, the LS5/8’s design retains the same balance and midrange clarity of the LS5/9 while offering an extended bass response and greater authority at a high level in larger rooms. As I would find out later, the speakers do indeed sound extremely similar, except in the bass, where the LS5/8 monitor actually sounds more like the LS5/9f floor-standing model.
The notched connectors offer only a very small contact area when using Spades. It works well enough, but for a better and more reliable connection with a wide range of spades, I had preferred a larger flat surface area. The manufacturer commented that they use bananas exclusively.
The initial listening was done with the resident Antipodes CX music server, CH Precision C1 DAC and CH Precision A1.5 amp and later with the Lejonklou system still using the C1 DAC as well as a Linn LP12 turntable with the Lejonklou Slipsik phono stage that were both kindly provided by Marco Oudheusden of Hexagon Audio because my Origin Live turntable for away for an upgrade.
Besides Graham Audio and Lejonklou, Hexagon Audio also has turntable arms in its portfolio which leads to this LP12 being outfitted with an Audio Origami PU7 gimbal bearing tonearm (12-gram effective mass version with Cardas 33ga internal wiring and super OFC external cable). The interesting thing is that this particular LP12 sounds entirely different than the LP12 that I reviewed years ago: smooth, warm, & relaxed instead of thin and forward. The player is pretty much the same version and the exact same cartridge was used so go figure how much of an influence the arm has!
Finally, the Graham Audio speakers were also listened to using the very powerful Bryston 4B and 14B Cubed amps and the Electrocompaniet AW600 Nemo mono monsters. The speaker cables used are primarily the Jorma Trinity but the Lejonklou-modified Linn K400 cable and the Kimber 8TC were also tried. For comparison, I used Kroma Audio Carmen, Martin Logan ESL15A, and Paradigm Persona B loudspeakers.
Going from the very clean and neutral Paradigm Persona B‘s to the Graham Audio LS5/9’s is a bit like going from a sports car to a limousine. Most notably, the LS5/9’s are more relaxed and considerably warmer. The LS5/9’s presentation is also big and lush. Centrally-placed instruments and vocals are quite distinctly focused but otherwise, the imaging within the soundstage is not incredibly specific. Nevertheless, the stereo panned sounds hoover effortlessly and freely around the speakers and a manner that is reminiscent of the way that full range Apogee magnetostatic speakers handle imaging.
Another aspect that is reminiscent of those Apogees is the LS5/9’s bass performance. Even-handed, deep and lush, it lacks tightness and punch, not only when compared to the Persona’s but also when compared to many other recent speakers. This may prove a dividing factor for some people but it really also is a matter of personal taste, especially since this kind of behavior in the bass does match the speakers’ behavior in the midrange and treble perfectly. Speaking of which: upon first glance, the tweeters do not seem to be anything special but they behave absolutely non-intrusively. Very well-behaved, well-resolved but never edgy or forward. I don’t hear the same amount of resolution as with ribbons or electrostatics but the treble behavior is highly refined, sweet and forgiving, and always gentle. I suspect that with this aspect alone the speakers will already win many hearts.
Typo? …for Stirling Broadcast, Graham has been working…
Fantastic loudspeakers. Somewhere along the way we have lost something in a lot of modern designs.
Thanks for pointing out that crooked sentence. Now corrected. And indeed, I agree:-)
Christiaan, recently I started listening to two new pairs of stacked LS3/5a’s in close quarters. All I can say is that very often you will hear a kind of “rightness”, a kind of more “there” there than I experienced with other designs. I cannot pinpoint why this is, but I am convinced that besides thorough engineering a lot of listening was part of the design process of these BBC designs. With deep understanding of music and human ears. Addressing the technical matters that really matter for our ears and balance them in a design seems to be the way they did it. The hunt for dynamic range and resolution, like in photography, does not bring us closer to the emotion by default.
When you say “The hunt for dynamic range and resolution, like in photography, does not bring us closer to the emotion by default” I wholeheartedly agree! And this is precisely what I am advocating in many of my articles. Annoyingly, the two often seem to be even contradictory… Ultimately, I can only describe what I hear (and feel) in relation to other products and the reader can distill from it what is important to them.
Dear Christiaan, thank you for this article. I own a pair of Graham LS3/5 (no A),
9 ohm – 83 db, and I m using it with a small new tube amplifier from Luxman, 10 watt – 6 ohm. They sound great together. I was just wondering how it could be this amplifier matched with Graham LS5/9 or even the new LS6. They both have the same specs, 8 ohm – 87 db . Many thanks . Best regards
Hi Simone, While I have not heard the LS3/5’s in a long time and not in the context of my reference system I can, however, tell you that the LS5/9’s sounded a little too soft and relaxed to me even when powered with the relatively powerful Ayon Spirit III tube amp. Even if the specs are the same I fear that the bigger bass drivers do require more oompf from an amplifier in order to be well-controlled. However, if you like your sound a little round and are not looking for the tightest bass or biggest slam then you might consider testing one of the bigger models with the Luxman.
Would love to hear these Graham speakers with the all new Yamaha A-S3200 Integrated amp! Did you see the latest review on this amp on Low Beats.de ?
I read it indeed and as someone with plenty of Yamaha-experience, I think the A-S3200 may pair very well with Grahams.
Hi, which Bryston amplifier would have more live music like sound while paired with for Graham LS5/9f speakers.
Hi Biju, that would be the 3B Cubed! 14B Cubed is also an option but frankly overkill.
Hi Christiaan, thank you for great reviews! I wanted to ask you an opinion: I am interested in a pair of Graham LS5/9. I have an YBA cd player (CD2 Classic series) and an older YBA 1 alpha preamp, which I like for natural,neutral,airy sound. In this time I’m using them with a pair of ATC actives 50 Anniversary edition (incredibile speakers), that, it hurts me, I need to change because in the new room I have a normal living room and I need smaller speakers. What do you think of using the YBA preamp and a power amp 3BCUBED? the 4Bcubed is out of budget, and I read in your previous review that the 3B3 is a great amp anyway. It would match perfectly with the Graham too , as you said here. I listen to progressive music, also symphonic prog, with a lot of variations and classical music reminiscences. For me bass extension is not so important, it’s more important that the bass section is fast, and controlled. I like neutral sound but with a tip of smoothness in the upper end, and a good sense of rhythm. Otherwise which other amplifiers do you suggest me in the price range of the 3Bcubed of little more pricey?
I wanted to rekindle this beautifully written piece with the LS5/5’s. I currently have the BHK Pre -> Bryston 4B3 -> Grahams LS5/5
I was thinking of the Absolare Signature Integrated or the Audionet WATT. do you think any of these combos would sound better than my current combo with the LS5/5 ?
Hi Cell, Ouf, this is a difficult question that requires a good amount of speculation on my part. I’ve not heard the LS5/5 but have spoken with the Dutch distributor about them and I think I have a good sense of how they sound relative to the Graham speakers that I reviewed. I’ve read many Audionet reviews and have a feeling that I would very much like the brand but I’ve yet to hear a unit in a controlled environment.
Absolare, I know only of a friend’s system in which I have heard the all-tube top preamp + mono power amp combo combined with components that I am relatively unfamiliar with and without making any comparisons.
All that said, I am pretty sure that you can expect a leaner, tighter, faster, and more direct sound when going from BHK/4B3 to the Audionet amp. However, the sound will also be less smooth and less rich, less romantic if you will. I’ve only heard the full-tube Absolare pre-power combo and not the hybrid integrated and to be honest, I really don’t know what to expect of it at all.
Hope this helps a little bit.
Christian, what does your „good sense“ tell about the sonic differences between LS5/8 and 5/5? What can I expect from the 3-way design and slotted front of the 5/5? You should indeed review the 5/5, maybe once again in direct comparison to the 5/8! Thanks and best regards, Balázs
Having read all the documentation, I would think that the 5/5’s may sound livelier and more open in the midrange than the 5/8’s, less warm perhaps, but not having heard them, I can only guess. A review has been discussed and may still materialize, but nothing is planned for that ATM.
I have the LS5/9 and since 2 months the 5/5 also. I never heard the 5/8, but based on the Christiaan 5/8 review and comparison with the 5/9 (” I do not personally see the benefit of the LS5/8’s over the LS5’9’s but I should also note that I do not tend to listen very loudly”), the 5/5 are way much better of both 5/9, and 5/8 too……the 5/5 sounds like a big floorstanding speaker, and it has a midrange woofer which adds much more details to the presentation. It seems nore neutral than the 5/9 because the 5/9 presentation has a midrange more forward (voices seem in evidence). With the 5/5 you have a more complete speaker, in the bass region too, obviously. If you buy one of them I do not suggest you to buy the original stands, because a model like the Foundation Designer stands gives much more quality to the sound. I had the origina foundation designer for the 5/9 and now I have build a replica for the 5/5.
Thanks Christian. It certainly does. When and if you do hear the LS5/5 do let us know what your dream pairing is.
Hi Christiaan, could you suggest me a pair of speakers, which have many qualities of the Ls5/9, such as the detail, the total finesse, the transparency, the natural midrange response, the ability to portray each single sound layer of the track and great depth and imaging….
but bigger than 5/9? Apart the 5/8, other brands I mean, to have more impact, more physical presence than the 5/9? Not only bass response, physical global impact I mean.
Actually, I think the Qln Prestige Five’s may be just what you are looking for! Unlike the smaller Qln monitors, they have the Graham’s lushness, liquidity, and natural midrange along with prodigious and super-deep bass. But they are priced quite a bit more extravagantly…
Thanks for the idea, I didn’t know Qln speakers honestly, I search informations about them. How would you consider Wilson Benesch speakers?
For my thoughts on WB, please see my review on this site. In short: they’re very different from Graham.
Ok, WB are different and less “monitor” than Grahams. It’s always difficult to make comparisions without listening, also because you listen to a whole system and not only the speakers. For me, for example, the 5/9 are not warm, they have the medium-range more forward, and this is clear, this is part of the original BBC project, but I don’t feel them warm honestly, they can change their sound and character depending from the recording, if the recording is dryer, they sound dryer, if the recording is warm they sound warm, as a monitor, keeping always an eye on fine detail and resolution. They don’t have always the same sound. Maybe other speakers are always dry for example, I feel that the 5/9 are more natural sounding. This is only my opinion of course with respect. When I had the ATC 50 actives they had a more liquid and fluid sound and a lot of more sense of rhythm and slam, but now I heard even more details than with ATC, which costed a lot more. Maybe now it’s also thanks to the very good Swiss Physics 5 and 6A preamp and amp I use. So, it’s difficult to keep the good things of the 5/9 adding more impact and presence, maybe the 5/5 would be the ideal upgrade.
I was torn between the 5/8 and the 5/9 but can surely follow why you’d find the monitors to sound more natural. When focusing on the midrange, I think I agree. Ultimately, the 5/9’s do so many things so very well that it will be hard to make a marked improvement by going to another model, even from the same vendor, while maintaining everything you like about them. Oh well, you have to try of course. Best of luck!
The Qln you suggested, could be similar to Marten? thank you again
Qln, either the P1 or the P5, don’t sound like Marten at all.
I have the integrated Accuphase e560 2 x 30 A watt (actually measured to 55 watt) with the LS3/5 speakers – it’s good. But what do you think about the constellation with the LS5/9? Would the Accuphase be too “laid back” in your opinion? Thanks!
Hi Soren, what do you mean with “constellation”? Actually Christiaan already replied you. Anyway if you are interested I have a pair of LS5/9 on sale in ebony finish. If interested you could contact me writing to : dvlever @ gmail .com (attached) regards
I have an integrated Accuphase E560 with 2 x 30 A watt (actually measured to 55 A watt) with LS3/5 speakers and this combo is very good. But what do you think about this amplifier with the LS5/9? Can this amplifier manage these speakers? The difference between the sensitive of LS3/5 and LS5/9 is 4 db – 83 db and 87 db. Would that make an difference?
Hi Soren, I think the E560 would be more than adequately powerful with the LS5/9’s. Not only is the bigger model more sensitive, it also sounds more spritely and expansive than the LS3/5’s.
Sorry about my late reply, but thank you very much! The new thing to me is, that you’re telling me, that the LS5/9 is more spritely and expansive. I didn’t know that, and it’s very interesting for me to know. Thank you!
Indeed, due to its small drivers and small enclosure, and potentially for crossover, or other reasons, the LS3/5’s sound a little restrained to me and indeed less expansive.
Yes, you’re right. The only thing I’m worry about is the bas reflex system. I really like the bass on the LS3/5. Yes it is a small speaker, but the bass is dry and precisely. Maybe the bass reflex system will make a more soft, inaccurate and laid back sound. Thanks!
Not at all, the 5/9 woofer is very accurate, quick, the bass is , of course compatibly with the dimentions, very articulated, precise, and also they have an excellent power handling.
As David mentioned, the LS5/9 does not sound slow but you’re right, it is a bass-reflex design versus a closed cabinet design. This will bring inherent differences and depending on the room, one or the other might work better. Certainly with speakers, it’s always best to audition them in your own room prior to purchasing.