Legacy Audio has been making speakers amongst the cornfields in Springfield, IL for over 20 years. Bill Dudleston (president and founder) and Doug Brown (VP) gave me a tour of their facility last summer which allowed me to see first hand how their speakers are assembled, tested, tuned and shipped. Their top of the line speaker is the Whisper HD and their smallest is the Studio HD which is reviewed here. Though the Studios share some of the same technology as their big brother, would they share some of the same audio characteristics?
- Design: 2-Way, Ported
- Drivers: One 1″ Dual Pole New Ribbon, Folded Kapton Diaphragm, One 8″ Carbon Fiber Mid/Woofer
- MFR: 41 Hz – 30 kHz ± 2 dB
- Impedance: 4 Ohms
- Sensitivity: 93 dB at 2.83V/Meter
- Recommended Amplification: 25 – 200 Watts
- Crossover: 2.8 kHz
- Binding Posts: Two Pair for Bi-Amping
- Dimensions: 13″ X x 10.8″ W x 10.8″ D
- Weight: 28 Pounds/each
- MSRP: $1,450/pair USA
Design and Setup
The Studio HD is a compact-sized monitor speaker that sports an 8-inch cast frame bass driver with a three-layer diaphragm and a custom-designed 1-inch neodymium-folded ribbon tweeter. The tweeter, by being folded, allows for more surface radiating area in a small space. This design reminded me of a similar tweeter design used by Martin Logan in their Motion Series speakers. The ported reflex cabinet provides bass augmentation for the small 13-inches (H) 10.5-inches (W) and 10.8-inches (D) cabinet, permitting the Studios to reached down to a claimed 42 Hz. This is usually low enough for most music applications, but a sub would certainly round out the very low end of the spectrum. I listened to these speakers with and without a sub and they mated well with my Velodyne SC600-IW.
Overall specifications included a factory rated frequency response of 42 Hz- 22k Hz (+/- 2 dB). The crossover frequency is 2.8 kHz. Power rating range is listed from 25 watts up to 300 watts continuous RMS. Impedance is rated a 4 ohms nominal. My Emotiva LPA-1 (125 watts / channel) had no trouble driving these guys. My Studios arrived well packaged and individually wrapped in a black velvet sack. Nice touch!
The cabinet’s internal bracing and thick hardwood housing make for an extremely inert package that produced no audible midrange or treble coloration. Though they look diminutive, they were deceptively heavy for their size. Finishes include rosewood, cherry and black pearl. Having visited their factory last summer, I know that more “exotic” finishes are available for extra cost. The angled edges and sloping front to back top panel are said to enhance dispersion, but my conversation with Doug revealed that it is mostly a cosmetic design choice. In any case, the beveled edges look pretty sharp (pun intended). By the way, each speaker is “hand tuned” or voiced at the factory which means you get a “matched” pair in your listening room.
Cable connections can accommodate spade or banana plugs and the speakers can be bi-amped or bi-wired by removing the jumpers from the speaker posts. The posts are very high quality and solidly built. They are all metal, without plastic parts.
Two toggle switches on the back allow for subtle reduction in the mid bass and treble attenuation to compensate for room and location effects on the sound — about -2 dB. The treble and bass switches offer you a chance to fine tune for locations that may be a bit too lively or boomy when placed closely to the back or side walls. My personal experience with some of the newer, more esoteric tweeter designs is that they have a tendency to draw too much attention to themselves. I did not find that to be the case with the Studios.
I preferred the”flat” position for most of my auditioning, but it was nice to have the option available. The tweeter exhibited good response without the extra boost in sibilance that you might expect. It also exhibited a wide dispersion pattern that allows you to sit outside the “sweet spot” with little loss of treble or imaging. Sound stage was broad and 3 dimensional, which is often a hallmark for a well designed monitor. Where these guys really excelled was in the depth of the sound stage image. When listening in a darkened room, the music sounded like I had no front wall and it extended into my neighbors house (sure, his house is about 6 feet away from mine, but fortunately, he never complained during my listening sessions). Orchestral music emanated from well beyond the confines of my front wall and instrumental placement was easily discernible and stable. In reality, my wall is only about 10 feet in front of me, so this “illusion” was quite surprising, yet enjoyable.
Using the “golden triangle” rule for set up, with the speakers toed in slightly, I was able to achieve the best performance from the Studios. I had just finished up with a lengthy audition of the PSB Synchrony Ones, so adjusting to these smaller monitors took a bit of getting used to. I will not compare the two sets of speakers as they are “apples and oranges”. The towers have certain strengths and the monitors have certain strengths. I enjoy the overall sound reproduction of towers, but I also enjoy the more intimate, close field sound with monitors. If you add a sub with the monitors, you gain their particular strengths and add some of the low end that a tower can deliver. This, for many readers, can be a boon for full sound in smaller package. Also, you have the ability to control your bass with proper location of the sub, without making placement compromises with the monitors. Ultimately, you can gain that great sound stage and the added dimension of deeper bass. What’s not to like?
Alright. Let’s get on with the music, shall we? First up is Loreena McKennitt’s The Visit. Besides the fact that she has the voice of an angel, her backing musicians play all sorts of exotic and semi-exotic acoustic instruments that sounded wonderfully on the Studios. Her voice can go from a whisper to loud, medium range to “way up there” and back again. The Studios presented her range well, retaining both her power and beauty. The fancy tweeter design did not call undue attention to itself by becoming shrill or beamy. Deep drums had impact and definition. Sound stage was good with depth being greater than width. My experience with small monitors is that can often image better than bulky towers. It may have to do with the close proximity of the (usually) two drivers and less reflective size of the front panel. In any case, the Studios were as good, if not better, than other monitors I have listened to. The Studios were just shy of my definitive sound stage reproducers, the “point source” Kef XQ10s. I would say the Kefs were broader in staging, but the Studios were deeper.
Next up were some orchestral delights from Bela Bartok. This particular disc is well recorded (and over 50 years old!) and allowed me to listen for details in the complex arraignments. The Chicago Symphony sounded expansive and all of the details I was used to hearing via my F12s were there. From the tinkle of the triangle to the whump of the kettle drum…all instruments were present and accounted for. Horns, in particular, had a nice resonance and natural sound quality. The drums lacked the real “gut punch” of a larger speaker, but that is not a design flaw. It is just the nature of a smaller box. When teamed with a sub, the really low end was restored and the overall sound was quite satisfying. I’d venture to say that for 85-90% of the music you’d listen too, the very low end would not be missed. These little guys would not be considered anemic in the bass department by any means. I might also add that they can be played loudly, too, without fear of them becoming strident or pinched at higher volumes. I never got them to stress out when pushed. In fact, they seemed to open up even more the louder they got.
For a final test, my favorite rock “concept album” by The Who, Quadrophenia. (When will this album be re-mixed in multichannel SACD?) Full of sound effects, plaintive ballads and out and out rock-n-roll, the Studios never faltered in their presentation. Even the “scream” from Roger Daltrey at the close of “Love Reign O’er Me” came across with clarity and passion. Instruments never melded into an incoherent jumble, but remained distinct and well spread across the front of the room. Never once did the Studios give themselves away as being just a small speaker. Their impact and finesse compared pretty favorably with many bigger speakers I have heard. I will mention here that the original recording of Quadrophenia is not exactly pristine, and some of the flaws and warts in the source came through loud and clear. Yet another hallmark of a good monitor.
I am a big fan of monitors. If the crossovers are well thought out and the drivers are well designed, they often can produce very full and accurate sound. The Studios possess those qualities and will generate a large, solid sound stage when setup properly. They teamed up well with my Velodyne and held their own when going solo. I can see why some professional recording studios pick Legacy speakers as their choice for music play back. If you are looking for big, detailed sound in a small and beautiful package, the Studio HDs may be just what the doctor ordered. Springfield can now boast of being the hometown of Abe Lincoln and a top class speaker company. Quite a legacy (pun intended)!