Got to visit the LX521 on their “native turf” for a couple hours Sunday (my first visit to their “place of birth"), and to listen on them to some very familiar (and somewhat flawed) recordings that I heard up close and personal both in rehearsal and in performance. Since I was primarily interested in further evaluating the new midrange I took a soprano aria (Christina Major singing Ruhe Sanft, Midsummer Mozart Festival) and the Serenade #10 for winds (Gran Partita, also Midsummer Mozart). SL then played a couple “studio mixed” recordings that highlighted issues of “phantom image” formation (more about that later).

First, about the lower midrange bump (I previously described it as “forward sounding”) that I noted at BurningAmp. It is entirely absent in SL’s listening room, and as I speculated before it is now clearly an artifact of the space at Ft. Mason. No speaker can be completely immune to the room. In SL’s room (which is itself relatively “live” and reflective) overall balance and “timbre” are as good as it gets. There was simply nothing wrong with the reproduction of the various winds in the Partita.

Second, regarding issues of the midrange crossover and driver integration . . . I had heard no problem with that at BurningAmp, but it has been suggested that there might be some, and that, more than anything else, is what I went to listen for. Put it to rest, there is no “problem”. The lower and upper mids sound like one driver, and there is not the slightest hint otherwise. And, to answer your next question, it’s one very good driver indeed . . . every bit the match for ORION’s W22 in the lower midrange and Millennium in the upper, but without the oft discussed issues those two have around crossover. The higher order crossover that is simply a necessity with the drivers in ORION is not needed with the LX521 drivers . . . whether the increased phase shift of a higher order crossover can be heard or influences “image formation” is here moot, since it is not necessary. This makes putting the passive (first order) crossover between the two midrange drivers the obvious, and correct, choice with these drivers.

But back to “imaging” and the “auditory scene” . . . that’s more a “mixed bag”, not because of any LX521 problem but because they ruthlessly expose problems in the recording. When it’s there it’s there, when it’s not it’s not. These are rightly called “monitors”, and they will embarrass many a recording engineer who might listen to his previous work product on them (even though it might not be entirely his fault . . . there are unavoidable “issues” with two-channel stereo). The female vocalist in one of the clearly mixed-and-pan-potted recordings SL played was “present” as a near perfect phantom when I listened centered on axis, but fled into the speakers when I move more than a few degrees to either side. Christi (singing the Ruhe) was less precisely located in her actual left-of-center position, but she stayed there as I moved around the room (that recording was straight through from a ORTF pair). We’ve still got a lot to learn about creating stable “auditory scenes”, and I expect the LX521 (or something like it) will play a significant role in learning and demonstrating what it is.

I much preferred listening from the back seat (you can find pictures of SL’s listening room at the linkwitzlab site). I don’t know exactly what that means, or how it will translate to my room (where I generally prefer a somewhat “further back” position with ORION as well). For the “average listener” they (the LX521) may be almost too ruthless in the way they “expose” a recording. For someone in the trade, on the other hand, they should be regarded as indispensable . . . it just doesn’t “do” to have a client demonstrate to you on their own speakers flaws in your work that you cannot hear on your own “studio monitors”. (Deward Hastings, 11-19-2012)