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LOUDSPEAKERS ⸜ stand-mounted

Musical Fidelity

Price (when reviewed): 11 990 PLN/pair

Contact: 24-26 Fulton Road Wembley


Provided for test by:


images „High Fidelity”

No 231

August 1, 2023

MUSICAL FIDELITY, a British electronics manufacturer, was founded in 1982 by ANTONY MICHAELSON, a clarinetist and amplifier designer. The company became famous for its A1 amplifier, working in class A, the X-10D "piglet" and the reintroduction of nuvistors. On May 8th 2018, its founder sold the brand to Austria's Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH, the "house" company of the Pro-Ject brand. Michaelson remained the company's president and chief engineer. The LS3/5a speakers are the fulfillment of his personal dream.

OMPANY ACQUISITIONS MAY GO GOOD OR BAD, including audio companies. It can be an acquisition designed to exploit a brand to sell cheap products with its logo, usually in Asia. It can also be a viable attempt to help an experienced manufacturer, although the results can range from getting it back on its feet to complete marginalization. And finally, there are situations in which a well-positioned company with resources buys another, equally well-positioned and doing well to give it new momentum. This is the case, at least as I understand it, of Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH and Musical Fidelity.

Chinese companies buying British brands immediately moved their production to their factories, looking to take advantage of economies of scale and cheap labor. This worked out well for some companies, but not for others. Heinz Lichtenegger, head of Audio Tuning, had a different plan. He left the production of some equipment in Taiwan, started producing smaller ones in a cooperating factory in Slovakia, and some returned with production to England. This is also the case with the 3/5a speakers we tested.


I skimmed through the booklet Hearing is Believing. Since 1982, which describes the history of Musical Fidelity, and I didn't come across any mention of the company's speakers. And no wonder - from the very beginning, from the first preamp called Preamp in 1982, it was focused on electronics. So when Musical Fidelity sent out information in May in which it talked about three new products, two of which were speakers, one could assume that on the one hand this was a dream come true for Lichtenegger himself, and on the other a rational entry into the trend in audio called vintage, and which has been gaining momentum in recent times, fueled by the nostalgia of 50- and 60-year-olds.

This clue seems legitimate insofar as MF offered three products of this type at once: the LS3/5A and LS5/9 loudspeakers and the A1 integrated amplifier. While the speakers are new to its lineup, the amplifier in question is not. This is one of his best-known products, presented in 1984. It was a class-A device, outputting 20 watts and getting really hot while operating. Later years saw several more versions of the A1. It is said that this was the amplifier on which the owner of Pro-Ject made his first serious money, as a distributor, hence his later decision to buy the company.

While the new amplifier has been designed and manufactured in-house by Musical, things are different with the speakers, it seems to me. One only needs to look at the 3/5A model to see its similarities to the version produced by Falcon Audio, and the 5/9 model so it could be both Falcon and Graham Audio. However, since one can also see the differences between these products, probably the sound may be different as well.

▌ Model 3/5. History

⸜ Chartwell LS3/5a crossover

HISTORY OF THE LS3/5a SPEAKERS goes back even further than the first version of the LS3/5, because it began in 1964/1965, when Malcolm Jones, then KEF's Chief Designer, designed the drivers that were later used in them. Mr. Malcolm Jones, we might add, is the founder of Falcon Acoustics. Since 1975, when they were designed, all LS3/5a speakers sold between 60,000 and as many as 100,000 copies (the number varies according to sources; the monograph Illustrated History of High-End Audio Volume 1: Loudspeakers edited by Robert Harley cites the latter).

The speakers were designed in the research department of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) for professionals, engineers working in mobile sound production studios. Their story began in the late 1960s in the BBC Research Department, which was commissioned by its parent unit to create a small near-field monitor. By 1970, engineers had a prototype ready, the 9-ohm LS3/5, based on KEF's B110 (A6362) and T27 (A6340) drivers, with signal split in a BBC FL6/23 crossover. Its development cost a staggering 100,000 British pounds, and only 20 pairs were produced.

⸜ Falcon Audio LS3/5a crossover

At the time, it was decided at the BBC that the speakers would be produced under license by selected companies. Among the licensees over the years were a host of manufacturers: KEF, Spendor, Harbeth, Rogers Audio, Chartwell, Stirling Broadcast, Goodmans, FALCON ACOUSTICS and others. In total, there were eleven, at most three at any given time. Both these and other companies also had speakers similar to the LS3/5a, or perhaps - taking inspiration from them. Among them, the most important variations were presented by Linn, Harbeth and Chartwell.

The one and only applicable LS3/5a model had to be licensed by BBC, and this was only possible if it passed the corporation's meticulous laboratory tests and measured identically to the first units made by KEF.

KEF released a limited edition in 1988, and its hallmark was a high impedance of 11 ohm (more → HERE |PL|). Rogers was the first to show its version back in 2014, after this model had been absent from the market for years. Stirling Broadcast, a company founded by Derek Hughes, who was involved in the design of the original LS3/5a, presented them in the early 2000s.

⸜ Musical Fidelity LS3/5a crossover

Falcon Acoustics, led by Malcolm Jones, another key figure for the creation of the LS3/5a, redesigned the original B110 and T27 drivers in 2011. They are newly manufactured, but using the original materials once used by Falcon Acoustics and applied to their version (more → HERE).

In 2017, a Chartwell version is developed with drivers made after the originals by Volt (more → HERE |PL|). In 2019, they are joined by a faithful copy of the LS3/5a by Falcon Audio (test → HERE |PL|) and, finally, this year we get a very similar version by Musical Fidelity.


THE 3/5a STAND-MOUNTED SPEAKERS were designed in BBC's research department in 1975. They are near-field studio monitors designed for portable radio broadcast studios, usually housed in specially adapted TIR trucks. Because of their purpose, they are tiny, measuring 305 x 190 x 165 mm and weighing 4.9 kg each. The two drivers operate in a sealed enclosure and are exact copies of the original 1975 drivers. Company materials say the design meets the standards stipulated by the original 1976/29 BBC R&D design license.

That’s what MUSICAL says about their speakers:

The LS3/5A was originally designed for listening in space-constrained areas such as mobile TV directors booths. Their goal was linear frequency response down to 100 Hz while maintaining excellent sound quality.

With their enclosed cabinet, the LS3/5As impress with their clear and fast sound. Since this model was designed for studio applications, its midrange is extremely detailed and realistic. The soundstage and imaging of vocals and instruments are truly remarkable.

⸜ →, accessed: 20.06.2023.

The ø 19 mm tweeter dome has a diaphragm made of Mylar, and the ø 110 mm woofer is made of a plastic called Bextren. We also have the same cabinet as the original, made of 12 mm birch plywood ("Baltic Birch"). And finally, there's a 15-ohm crossover, which is exactly like the original LS3/5a. The difference is, among other things, the grille, here made of a different material, and the speaker terminals. The speakers are slightly lighter than the Falcons, so they probably used slightly different materials for damping the cabinet or different components in the crossover. Also, their efficiency is a hair lower than the Falcons, and the manufacturer-declared frequency response is also different.


˻ HOW WE LISTENED ˺ The Musical Fidelity LS3/5a speakers were tested in a HIGH FIDELITY reference system. In this case, I used both the amplifier I use every day, that is, an Ayon Audio Spheris III tube preamplifier and a Soulution 710 solid-state power amplifier. They were connected to the Soulution 710 by a Siltech Triple Crown cable. From the listening session, it appears that the speakers need a lot of current and will not satisfy with every amplifier. The manufacturer understandably recommends the new Musical Fidelity A1 amplifier for them. In truth, this pair was conceived to work with each other and so "tuned".

The speakers stood 230 cm from the listening position and 230 cm from each other, counting from their vertical axis, slightly closer to each other than, standing there every day, the Harbeth M40.1. These are speakers designed for near-field listening, so it makes sense to place them a bit closer to the listening spot than usual. They were 90 cm from the rear wall, also from their axis and top edge. The speakers were toed-in directly at the listening position. If the room has a lot of reflective surfaces the sound may be too bright. It is then worth reaching for the resistors included in the set.

I determined the distance between the speakers and their leveling using a Bosch PLR 50 C rangefinder. For more on loudspeaker positioning, see the article Micro-tuning. That is, we set up speakers, HIGH FIDELITY № 177, January 1, 2019, → HERE. For more on HF listening room acoustics, see the article Room acoustics and how it works according to MARIUSZ ZIELMACHOWICZ, HIGH FIDELITY № 189, January 1, 2020, → HERE.


⸜ TSUYOSHI YAMAMOTO TRIO, Midnight Sugar, Three Blind Mice/Impex Records IMP8308, Gold HDCD (1974/2015).
⸜ MADONNA, Ray of Light, Maverick | Warner Bros. Records 9362-46847-2 | WE 852, CD (1998).
⸜ BENNY CARTER, Jazz Giant, Contemporary Records/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 24/96 (1958/?).
⸜ MARY KOMASA, Degenerate Love, Warner Music Poland/Tidal, SP, FLAC 16/44,1 (2019).
⸜ VOICES8, Winter, Decca/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2016).


WHEN I DON'T KNOW WHAT to expect from a product I'm testing I reach for "sure things". They allow me to avoid unpleasant surprises, because they usually sound well with a wide range of equipment and speakers, and on the other hand they give me insight into how the product really sounds, because I know the music almost by heart. Such was the case this time, too, when TSUYOSHI YAMAMOTO TRIO's Midnight Sugar disc started playing in the Ayon player.

Recorded on March 1st 1974 at AOI studios in Tokyo on a 16-channel 3M S-79 tape recorder and mixed on a Philips MM-II console to that company's Pro-51 tape recorder, it sounds great, in any edition. And I listen to it most often from the Impex Records digital reissue, that is, on a gold HDCD remastered in analog domain by Kevin Gray, currently the most sought-after mastering engineer in the US.

This album sounds remarkably clean, dynamic and palpable. It has a very high volume, as it was mixed on powerful Altec 604E loudspeakers, once a basic equipment used in studios in the United States, and nowadays used mainly in Japan - see the Briphonic (for more go → HERE). These are speakers with a large woofer in a large enclosure, guaranteeing speed and scale, with quite low bass.

And now, finally-finally: the tiny Musical speakers played it in an insanely cool way, just insanely cool! When the slow double bass enters at the very beginning, it had a beautiful timbre with them and was shown right in front of me, some two meters behind the speakers. The softly piano on the left had a sonorous, incredibly fast beat and attack.

But when at the beginning of the I'm a Fool to Want You Yamamoto's right hand plays, his characteristic phrase, so very rhythmic and percussive, the left hand is delicate, putting the background underneath. These small speakers beautifully showed the scale of the recording, its dynamics, but also its enclosed melancholy. They differentiated the sound of the instrument remarkably well, recorded with just a pair of Neumann M-49 C tube microphones.

Looking for recordings of even greater scale, my choice fell on MADONNA's Ray of Light. It was recorded and produced by William Orbit at Larrabee North Studio, located in North Hollywood, primarily using an old Atari ST computer and Cubase software running at sixteen bits and a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. After recording two-thirds of the material, the computer burned out and the sessions were completed on Pro Tools. Although this is not a high sample rate recording, it is in many ways exemplary.

I haven't talked about this yet, but when the Yamamoto’s album played, the speakers disappeared from the listening room, to use a well-known audiophile buzzword. But not that they "disappeared" (here I'm making quotation marks in the air), but they really evaporated. The sound came somewhere from outside of them, also far behind them. Madonna's album went even further, because after the intro on the synthesizer that came from the space exactly in front of me, when the sounds resembling drum beats entered, they sounded right behind me. The same was also true of the electronic bass that wandered between the speakers.

This is a design that doesn't draw attention to itself. Even if you use them with material as large-scale as that of Madonna, they won't "choke" on it. Their power handling may not be the highest, but the time coherence and excellent „chemistry” between the two drivers make them show off sounds without encapsulating them in their cabinet. Spatial effects are insanely good with them, something that can't always be said about the 3/5a series speakers.

I’ve mentioned the bass already, right? Because the bass here is surprisingly active. It is mostly, it goes without saying, about its mid and upper range, but its low-end components are signaled by harmonics that these speakers reproduce in harmony with the fundamental sounds, without diluting them. That's why even recordings like Madonna's have a powerful scale and don't seem too light. This is a phenomenon, because with such a perfectly timbre-coordinated speaker in a closed enclosure, this should not happen.

I've heard most of the 3/5a speakers (and their derivatives) that have been produced over the past twenty years, plus a few original models. While a large number of them meet the exact same BBC license requirements, each of them sounds different. They all have excellent tonality, are fast and accurate, but differ in the way they form their sound attack, soundstage and how much they color the low midrange.

These are admittedly studio monitors, but they were intended for mobile studios, where they played in small rooms, close to the engineer, who needed to have a slightly larger sound picture than was available from such small enclosures. Therefore, a large portion of them had the low midrange emphasized. Even if that's the case here too, with the Musical Fidelity model, I don't hear it. The tonality seems beautifully balanced and continuous. But when Frank Rossolino's low trombone from BENNY CARTER's Jazz Giant album was played in one channel, it had a big, dense sound. When, on the other hand, Carter's alto saxophone sounded in the same left channel, it was noticeably different, but still big and still dynamic.

Also, the strong electronic playing from MARY KOMASA's Degenerate Love from the Disarm album did not cause the speakers any problem. There was, it goes without saying, no low bass, that's not expected. But the whole thing was so emotionally engaging that I didn't pay attention to it. I paid it instead to the beautifully molded vocals. I should have told you about this earlier, but what fun would it be if I talked about everything right at the beginning, right? So I'm saying now: these are speakers that play a wonderful, big sound, but on which vocals sound in such a way that you need very, very expensive large-box speakers to show something better. But not much better, and mostly in terms of volume, because not in terms of tonality.

That's why, when Komasa's voice came in around 3:15, run through an effect spreading it across the channels, it had a remarkably well-handled timbre and was showed in a big, really big space. Also, VOICES8's ethereal album Winter, an album from 2016, had the momentum and scale that audiophiles dream of, but that music lovers rarely get the chance to experience. I would even say that few even know how spacious the recordings they listen to with such commitment are, thus losing much of their musical value. Because in order for music to sound its full potential it must be reproduced on the best possible equipment - for example, by Musical Fidelity 3/5a speakers.

˻ GRILLS ˺ The 3/5a speakers were designed by the BBC to work with the grilles on. However, we are used to the fact that in audio, the grilles have to be pulled down because they attenuate some of the treble, unfortunately narrowly, and worsen the propagation of sound waves that bend and bounce off their frames. It's different with the Musical Fidelity version of these speakers.

Without the grilles, the sound is brighter and has a stronger "punch." This is obvious. But it also gets slightly "fuzzier," in the sense that the focus of the sound deteriorates. I don't know how this is possible, but perhaps it's because the change in tonality distracts from the perfect tonal balance achieved with the grilles on, so that the mix of the recording no longer "agrees". At least, that's how I hear it.

The grilles of these speakers give the whole thing panache and organize the sound. It should be the other way around, but that's how it goes in this case.


The BBC LS3/5a VERSION offered by Musical Fidelity is excellent. Its sound is not colored in the lower midrange, yet the scale is thrilling. The soundstage, too, has precisely located sound sources. When needed in stereophony in front of us, and at other times around us and behind us. The speakers disappear from the room and this is not a trite "cliché", but a fact.

Although tiny, they are able to convey the power of the recording, mainly due to the higher harmonics. The bass is light, but you can't hear it at all. That is, you can hear what I'm saying, but you don't pay attention to it. And that's because these are speakers with a perfectly balanced sound, playing like a broadband speaker, but without its problems of timbre and density. Well, that's right - the 3/5a in Musical's release is saturated and full. It's beautiful playing, one of the best you can get from this type of speaker.


The MUSICAL FIDELITY LS3/5a are small, closed-cabinet stand-mounted monitors designed for close-field listening. Their proportions are different from those of contemporary speakers, as they are wider rather than deeper; their dimensions are (H x W x D): 305 x 190 x 165 mm and they weigh 4.9 kg each.

The LS3/5a is a two-way speaker, with replicate drivers from KEF, made, if I'm not mistaken, by Volt for Falcon Acoustics: it's a T27 dome tweeter with a mylar diaphragm, and a B110 with a diaphragm made of Bextrene, a type of plastic. The larger driver is mounted on the back of the front panel, while the smaller one has a metal mesh in front of it, and is also surrounded on four sides by felt elements to reduce reflections from the frame we mentioned. A nameplate is affixed to the back, and there are also single gold-plated speaker terminals.

Their enclosure is made of not very thick birch plywood. The walls are not thick, because the cabinet in the BBC "school" speakers plays an important role in shaping the sound. The front panel is lacquered black and is recessed, leaving a small frame all around. It is needed in order to push in the, Velcro-mounted, grille. The walls of the case are lined with bituminous mats, attached with a staple gun (as in the original), and not too thick sheets of foam.

The crossover was assembled on a single circuit board. Although it looks similar to that of the Falcon speakers, it is of much higher quality. The coils, manufactured by Volt, have a transformer carcass and look identical, but already the capacitors and resistors are much better in the Musical Fidelity version. They are, respectively, products of Vishay and Dale - the resistors are wire, non-metallic, and the capacitors are polypropylene. Let's add that the board is supported by a thick patch of felt, which reduces vibrations and closes off the outlet from the rear of the tweeter diaphragm. Important - unlike Falcon speakers, in the MF version the front panel is screwed not with wood screws, but with long screws.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Frequency range (+/- 3 dB): 80 Hz – 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 82.,5 dB (2.83 V)
Nominal impedance: 15 Ω
Recommended amplifier: 20-150 W
Dimensions (H x W x D): 305 x 190 x 165 mm
Weight: 4.9 kg/pc.


Reference system 2022

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC