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Loudspeakers | floor-standing

Graham Audio

Price (when reviewed):
• cherry – 14 500 PLN /pair
• ebony, oak, rosewood – additional 1500 PLN

Contact: tel.: 0044 (0)1626361168


Provided for test by: AUDIOPUNKT

do not know if you remember the button, or the switch one could find in some amplifiers marked "Mon" or "Monitor". Today it occurs sporadically, for example, in the amplifiers and preamplifiers manufactured by Accuphase and EAR Yoshino and by the end of the 1980s it could be found in most amps. It is part of the so-called a tape loop, or a separate preamplifier circuit consisting of a tape recorder input and a recording output.

The "Monitor" button made it possible to listen to the signal coming from the tape recorder while recording a signal from another input. The idea was to monitor the signal recorded on the tape, read by the reading head. In 2018 this feature is completely anachronistic. It only makes sense if we use a three-head cassette recorder or reel-to-reel recorder while recording - and tape recording is today extremely rare.

I mentioned this function not accidentally - so-called "Monitoring" is a word derived from the language of the professional audio industry that has penetrated into the hi-fi dictionary and is used to emphasize relationships with the recording studio, almost always used when describing loudspeakers. 'Monitors' in this sense would indicate 'fidelity', 'lack of coloration' and 'transparency', meaning features that are of key importance in a studio.

But there is also another meaning of this word we use in “audio” language. We call small, stand-mounted or shelf loudspeakers 'monitors' too. It is not hard to guess that this term was created in reference to studio speakers, most often small and stand-mounted, but it does not describe the sound characteristics of a given design, just its physical features. Today “monitor” is synonymous with “stand-mount” speaker.

| LS6/f

So when on the boxes the Graham Audio Chartwell LS6/f speakers are delivered, it reads "monitor loudspeakers", and what is inside is actually a floor-stander, we can be sure that the term is used in the original, i.e. studio, meaning. Sometimes companies simply transfer their experience from recording studios to our industry. I mean brands such as: JBL, KEF, Dynaudio, PMC, ATC, and from our home market, Sveda Audio. In most cases, companies in our industry calling their loudspeakers: monitors, simply misuse the original meaning.

However, there is a group of producers that not only have their roots in recording and production studios, but in fact created this category of speakers and introduced the word 'monitor' to our language. I am talking about the "BBC" group, that is: Spendor, Harbeth, Rogers, Graham Audio, Chartwell and others. Historically speaking, only stand loudspeakers, even if the stands are small/low, as with the Harbeth H40.1, used to be called "monitors". For some time now, however, we have seen companies trying to go beyond these limits.

First came models from Spendor, which in 1998 introduced FL series models (FL = Floorstanding Loudspeaker) to its lineup. After these came more models, and today the company has two series with floorstanding speakers: A and D, and in the Classic series there is a top model, SP200. Both FL and A and D are loudspeakers that with their external appearance fit right to the mainstream. Same goes for the speakers we test this time: the LS6/f. The company sees their origin in the LS 6 model sold under the Chartwell brand. Its story, however, is much longer. They were based on the Spendor's first speakers from 1969, the Spencer Hughes' BC1 model. They were a starting point for many other models from the "BBC club" member companies. Recently, their version of the LS/6 model was presented by Stirling Broadcast, and later also by Graham Audio under the Chartwell brand.

| Monitor by BBC

You can say with a high degree of certainty that there is such a thing as the stereotype of the "British sound". It is almost certain that it is about the "BBC" sound. As Paul Seydor wrote in the chapter entitled The BBC Monitor. Birth of a Legend: "the BBC monitor is neither a product nor a construction that could be precisely defined. It would be rather about very carefully selected goals for precisely selected places and conditions of use." (The Absolute Sound's Illustrated History of High-End Audio, Volume One: Loudspeakers , edited by Robert Harley, p. 293).

Precision they were selected with and how these assumptions were enforced inspire utter respect. Although today this type of sound is regarded by engineers as "anachronistic", because it does not match the modern measurement standards, in fact it was created in research and development laboratories of the British Broadcasting Corporation, i.e. in an elite place. The designer who create it, extremely talented, educated engineers, whom today we would call "technophiles", also belonged to the elite of their time. Using the latest measurement systems and techniques, experimenting with materials used for the production of membranes, they created a series of loudspeakers designed to monitor radio transmissions, as well as for usage during sound recording in recording studios.

It is assumed that the "British sound" was born in 1948, when the BBC employed Harwood Dudley and D.E.L. Shorter to search for loudspeakers that could be used to monitor radio broadcasts. Paul Seydor quotes their response: "None of the tested speakers met our expectations." This is how the BBC project began to build their own monitors, which gave birth to the entire audio industry in the UK.

The LS6 and LS6/f speakers were designed by Derek Hughes, son of Spencer Hughes, who, together with his wife Dorothy, once founded the SPEN-DOR company. Derek has been very active in this field for years and has designed loudspeakers for Spendor (SP1/2), Stirling Broadcast and - which is partocularly important to me - is the author of the Harbeth M40.1.

The LS6/f are floorstanding speakers (f = floorstanding), 2-way design, with a bass-reflex loading. The drivers used in them are typical for this manufacturer and have already been used in the LS6 model: on the top they used a 19 mm, modified SEAS tweeter, midrange and bass feature 165 mm polypropylene drivers from the same brand. The latter is loaded with a large bass-reflex cabinet. Its port fires downwards and in order to control its operation, it was covered with a large plinth, directing its outlet forward.

The speakers are slim and sleek, and they measure 960 x 320 x 320 mm. The natural veneer also looks great. The cabinet was made differently than it is usually done today, because of thin walls with heavier damping elements applied in selected places. This is to help move distortions into regions of the band where the human ear is not so sensitive to them. As the manufacturer claims, high-end components were used in the crossover. The plinth is painted black and the whole stands on small spikes.

The latter are quite small and - to tell the truth - they do not really fit such an elegant design. Same as the average speaker terminals, only a bit better than those I have in Harbeth M40.1. They are mounted at the height of the mid-bass woofer not to use long runs of cables inside the cabinet. The drivers can be covered with a black magnetic grill.

A special feature of BBC speakers was the possibility to adjust the level of high and often medium tones. In the Graham Audio LS5/9 this could be performed by soldering a cable on the front panel, and in the original LS5/3a by soldering a cable in the crossover inside the cabinet. Switches of this type were to help in adjusting the tonal balance of the speaker to a particular room. In the case of the reviewed model there is a three-position switch, allowing user to raise the level of treble by 1 or 2 dB.

This a medium level sensitivity speaker with its 87 dB SPL (2.83V @ 1m). The company suggests using an amplifier with a decent output, although the nominal impedance is high and amounts to 8 Ω. And indeed - to play with strong and full sound they need a lot of power. I don't have any problem with trying it with a not very powerful tube amplifier, but on condition that the room is not large, you are sitting close to the speakers and you don't tend to go too far up the volume scale.

The speakers in my room sounded best when toed-in, but they didn't have to be directed precisely at me. It is also worth trying the option with much more toe-in, I mean with their axis crossing in front of listening spot – it will result in a darker sound, but with a much better coherency. During the test, I placed them exactly where my reference speakers, Harbeth M40.1 stand, and they were directed at me. Under the spikes I placed the Acoustic Revive SPU-8 brass ring and the CP-4 washers.

GRAHAM AUDIO in „High Fidelity”
  • TEST: Chartwell LS3/5a | loudspeakers
  • TEST: Chartwell LS3/5 | loudspeakers
  • TEST: Graham Audio LS5/9 | loudspeakers

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

    • Puer natus est, Stile Antico, Harmonia Mundi USA HMU 807817, SACD/CD (2010)
    • Arne Domnérus, Jazz at the Pawnshop. Vol. I, II & III, Proprius/Lasting Impression Music LIM UHD 071 LE, 3 x UltraHD CD + DVD (1976/2012)
    • Bill Evans Trio, Portrait in Jazz, Riverside/Fantasy RISA-1162-6, SACD/CD (1959/2003)
    • Takeshi Inomata, The Dialogue, Audio Lab. Record/Octavia Record OVXA-00008, SACD/CD (1977/2001)
    • Tomasz Pauszek, LO-FI LO-VE, Audio Anatomy AA-006-17-CD, 2 x Master CD-R (2017);
    • Tomita, Snowflakes Are Dancing, RCA Read Seal/BMG Classics 63588, “High Performance Series”, CD (1974/2000)
    • Vangelis, Blade Runner, Atlantic Records/Audio Fidelity AFZ 154, „Limited Edition | No. 2398”, SACD/CD (1998/2013)
    • West 8th Street, West 8th Street on Castle Ave., Audio Lab. Record/Octavia Records OVGL-00025, SACD/CD (1976/2012)

    Japanese issues available at

    Chartwell LS6/f are not the same kind of speakers as other floor-standing ones, maybe except for the Spendor A-series. Their performance is quite different from current standards that choose definition and transparency over richness/saturation. Although they are not really warm sounding, that's the impression they do create. It is mainly caused by the way the recording is presented, not by the tone of the speakers themselves.

    The foreground is presented by the reviewed speakers close to us. This is this type of design that is able to recreate the atmosphere of a small jazz club in a more tangible way than most other speakers. The naturalness of this presentation is so immense that every now and then listeners are due to be surprised by elements that break out of the "sequence of sounds", let it be an unexpected descent of the saxophone into the low areas on the West 8th Street on Castle Ave., or a more powerful drumming in the Jazz at the Pawnshop.

    These are things that we know from live performances, where they do not make such an impression. They do so with the Grahams, because the sound they convey is a kind of pill closed between the speakers, and on the one hand it has a smaller scale than the live event, and on the other it is more intense, because in this smaller space/scale as much sound must be fit in.

    In other cases it could be dangerous and lead to chaos - but not here. The LS6/f phenomenally order the presentation. They do it by above-average distribution of events in the music layers. These are not speakers that would accurately indicate individual sources of sound, and thus layers. They do it in a much more sophisticated way, because although all elements in front of us are connected with each other, dense, we are still under impression that we see selectively all instruments, that we can point out where they are placed on the stage. Although – let me repeat that – they are not "cutting them out" from the background.

    The scale of sound also helps in such spectacular imaging. It is large, expansive and natural. And I think that this was the main reason for making the cabinet for the LS6 model larger, it was not in attempt to get better bass extension. Bass is quite powerful, dense, but it's hard to talk about some "powerful bass foundation" because it is not there. The extension is great, very natural and not only with sophisticated jazz productions, as on the aforementioned West 8th Street ..., but also on CDs with electronic music, such as LO-FI LO-VE by Tomasz Pauszek and Snowflakes Are Dancing by Debussy interpreted by Tomita. And the Audio Fidelity Blade Runner sounded phenomenal! (By the way – I learned this morning that this company is going out of nusiness...)

    Integration of the low-midrange driver and bass-reflex seems perfect. The latter delivers exactly what it is used for – scale and richness, but without boomy effect or blurring of the bass attack. It's a really great combination. Same goes for the transition to the range reproduced by the tweeter. The speakers sounds like a single transducer, in a very orderly, coherent way reproducing a dense presentation in front of a listener, and when needed - like on the Tomita album - also behind him. Which proves that the drivers in these speakers are phase-coherent, which may also be a reason of such a natural sound.

    Graham's speakers are also very dynamic. It is actually an inherent feature for BBC-school monitors, but in this case it makes a unique impression. Immediate attack and stopping - these are the elements that the reviewed loudspeakers are very good at, better than many much more expensive designs. The opening of the treble range also contributes to that. Do you remember that I wrote at the beginning that it might seem that the LS6/f sound warm? Now you can forget about it. The way the treble is presented seems to me the most important difference between them, and - say - Spendors A4 and A7.

    The tested speakers present a more open and more "unambiguous" sound than both Spendor models, but also different than my Harbeth M40.1. The differences are not as big as between the "BBC clan" and other loudspeakers, but it is important enough so that they almost completely change the way one perceives this sound. It's a natural, saturated sound, but with a more defined higher midrange and more open cymbals. Which version is true? Actually – none of them, both are only approximations of real sound. But thanks to the fact that there is no one "true version" we have a free choice as to the final “shape of the sound” that we want to have at home.

    +2 | 0 | +1

    So why is there a switch on the front panel? Since the sound of the LS 6f model is so open, why would it need even more energy in the upper part of the band? There is no position of the switch that decrease treble, right?

    I think that it is about putting the final decision into listener's hand. The presence of the switch obviously allows, to certain extent, user to adjust the tonal balance of the speakers to room's acoustics, but that's only one of the possibilities. Another is: "since everyone claims that the classic by BBC speakers sound warm, let give users a chance to correct this element."

    And that's my understanding of this option. When you switch to the +1 position, the sound really opens. It would seem that it is "only" 1dB, but in a good system and with such good speakers as these it makes a big difference. The presentation becomes more vivid and stronger. It goes even further in this direction after switching to the "+2" position. However, while +1 dB position still offered (for me) a natural sound, the +2dB didn't. The treble lost some definition and although the whole presentation was brighter, it seemed - paradoxically - a little less transparent. For me, the correct position was "0". However, for you any of these three might work.

    I think that's what it was about, I mean both the tonal balance of the speakers and the presence of the switch – it was about offering a choice. Grahams are therefore slightly different from the other designs of this manufacturer, other than the Harbeth and Spendor A series. Closer to the Classic series of the latter brand. While retaining the advantages of Graham's base models, we get a more universal sound in the sense that it's closer to what is considered mainstream. Not everyone will like it, of course, because some sacrifices had to be made. I am talking mainly about less "presence" of the sound in a room. With LS6/f a different space is created in our room, instead of transferring instruments to our space.


    Drive them with a tube amplifier, for example Qualiton A50i or Fezz Audio Silver Luna, or a solid-state offering some tube-like qualities, such as one of Soul Note models - and you will hear what we all value Graham for. There will be a fantastic timbre and coherency. The dynamics will exceed your wildest imaginations, unless of course you associate it only with a low bass descent -you won't find it here. When it comes to "pure bass", so to speak, they are closer to the stand-mount speakers than to the floorstanding ones.

    Designers used larger cabinet to allow sound to breathe, to increase the clipping margin. Even loud listening will not cause distortions that irritate with brightness or harshness. These are loudspeakers for long listening sessions, but not for napping - the open top does not allow it. It's a very nice transfer of the "BBC school" to the mainstream.

    The LS6/f are Graham Audio loudspeakers. Their naming shows the evolution of the products of this company. In 2015, Graham Audio purchased Chartwell, an equally accomplished company, and presented the first product with its logo: model LS3/5. They were sold under the Chartwell brand, same as the LS3/5A there is also the LS6/f model, which is officially named Chartwell LS6/f and is sold under the Graham Audio brand. It's a bit complicated, but that is the case with ideas that change before our eyes.

    Anyway, the LS6/f are floor-standing, two-way speakers, with bass-reflex cabinets. The BR port is placed on the bottom panel and is covered with a thick plinth, that directs the sound waves towards the listening position. The drivers were made by Norwegian SEAS. The dome features a small diaphragm with a smooth surface that looks like polypropylene and a thick fabric suspension. It uses a classic ferrite magnet. In turn, the 165mm low-midrange driver has a polypropylene membrane, a rubber, inverted spring-like suspension, a solid cast basket and a large magnet.

    The drivers are connected via copper strands to a large crossover PCB, screwed to the back panel. The loudspeaker sockets are screwed into it directly. A tape runs to the treble level switch. There are a lot of elements in the crossover, so it looks like the impedance is linearized. There are air and core coils as well as nice polypropylene capacitors from Jantzen Audio Denmark.

    The cabinet is made of not too thick MDF boards and finished from the outside with a nice veneer. Inside it is reinforced with a rib located below the larger driver. Its damping features three elements: a foam below the rib, in the part where the bass-reflex tunnel is located there are three packages with mineral wool enclosed in a material pouch and thin plates, looking like bituminous, attached to the walls in the part with drivers.

    The speakers stand on plinths integrated with them, to which - from the bottom - we screw in small spikes. They are not easy to unscrew and do not look very nice – you think about replacing them. The drivers can be hidden under a magnet-mounted grills with the Chartwell logo. The speakers are sleek and look really good. The make is also really good and it resembles what the Polish Pylon Audio offers.

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

    System: 2-way, reflex loaded
    Frequency range: 40Hz – 20kHz (± 2dB)
    Nominal impedance: 8 Ω
    Sensitivity: 87dB SPL (2.83 V/1m)
    Maximum output: >100dB/pair/2m
    Recommended amplifier power: 50 – 150W
    Dimensions (WxHxD): 960 x 320 x 320 mm (including plinth)
    Weight: 21 kg/pc.



    - Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
    - Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
    - Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

    - Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE

    - Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
    - Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    - Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

    - Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    - Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
    - Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
    - Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
    - Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
    - Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
    - Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

    - Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
    - USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
    - LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
    - Router: Liksys WAG320N
    - NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
    System I
    - Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
    System II
    - Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

    System I
    - Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
    - Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
    System II
    - Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
    - Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
    - Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
    - Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
    - Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
    - Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

    - FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One