Chartwell is back in business and once more producing the original fabled LS3/5 BBC monitor… note that’s the original version, not the LS3/5a that came later!
The Chartwell LS 3/5 is being manufactured by English company Graham Audio, which now owns both Chartwell and Swisstone brands. It’s using bespoke drive units and crossover networks made by Derek Hughes, whose father was Spencer Hughes, who founded Spendor and was on the original team of BBC engineers who worked on the development of the LS3/5; only 20 pairs of which were ever made.
The LS3/5 was conceived and developed by the BBC Engineering Department in the early 1970s. Having found no commercially produced small loudspeaker that met its stringent requirements for naturalness and sonic neutrality, the BBC specifically set out to design a speaker to achieve natural overall sound quality and good dynamic range for monitoring broadcasts in tightly confined spaces. The LS3/5 was designed around KEF’s B110 (A6362) bass/midrange driver and the KEF’s T27 (A6340) tweeter. After an exhaustive design process (estimated as equivalent to £3M today) the BBC itself built 10 pairs of the LS3/5.
However, just as the BBC was about to go into mass production, it learned that KEF had stopped building both drivers, claiming they were too difficult and costly to produce. KEF had discontinued the B110 (A6362) and replaced it with the B110 (SP1003), and discontinued the T27 (A6340) and replaced it with the T27 (SP1032). According to Hughes, the new drivers didn’t work properly using the cabinet and crossover used for the original design. The tone of new bass/midrange driver was no longer neutral, and it also caused the cabinet to resonate, which added colouration to the sound. Hughes says that when the new tweeter was used in the old cabinet, it ‘developed a pronounced lispy quality.’
The BBC modified the crossover and the cabinet and added a protection cover and felt over the tweeter to correct the discontinuities, and it’s this second version, known as the LS3/5a, that went into commercial production, with the BBC giving many British companies a licence to produce the design. However, according to Hughes, the BBC’s engineers always preferred the sound of the original LS3/5 over that of the LS 3/5a.
For the new Graham Audio Chartwell LS 3/5 design, Derek Hughes has worked in conjunction with English driver manufacturer Volt Loudspeakers to produce the drivers originally specified for the LS 3/5, and with a cabinet-maker to produce the cabinet originally specified for the LS 3/5, so that the new LS 3/5 is not only exactly as originally designed by the BBC, but is also completely made in England. ‘Graham Audio is manufacturing the most famous of all the BBC speakers under one of its most cherished names with the attention to detail and sound that made Chartwell so famous,’ said George Neophytou, of Neophonics, which distributes Chartwell in Australia. ‘The result is that Graham Audio now becomes the first and only company to be granted a license for the LS3/5, and now brings the LS3/5 to the market for the very first time.’ Available now, the Graham Audio Chartwell LS 3/5 retails for $4,695 per pair in a Cherry finish, and for $5,295 in a Rosewood finish.
Manufacturer’s Specifications: Chartwell LS3/5
Frequency Response: 80Hz to 20kHz ±3dB.
Nominal Impedance: 15Ω
Sensitivity (1w/1m): 83dBSPL
Bass/Midrange: 110mm cone
Tweeter: 25mm Mylar dome
Crossover: 3 kHz, 13 Precision Elements.
Dimensions (HWD): 300×190×170mm
Price: $4,695 (Cherry); $5,295 (Rosewood)
For more information, contact Neophonics