Legacy Audio Studio HD loudspeaker Page 2

Let me interrupt this story to remind everyone: The raison d'être of expensive audio gear is to let the listener experience the sound and feeling of masterfully crafted violins being bowed by artists propelled by singular life forces. Robbing a violin recording of its natural color spectrum is a denial of the violin's, the artist's, and the recording's purpose.

The Studio HDs reproduced the momentum and intense artistry of Hahn's playing, but diminished her violin's rich tones and unique textures. I hoped a tubed power amp would help.

With the PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium
The 35Wpc PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium tubed (EL34) amplifier specializes in tone color and instrumental texture. Not surprisingly, it gave the Legacy Studio HDs a more physically attractive sonic presentation. This combination's greatest moment came with the Hana SL moving-coil cartridge, in my AMG Giro G9 record player, playing the tremendously popular and widely-covered "Willow Weep for Me," from Frank Sinatra's Only the Lonely (LP, Capitol SW1053). For me, this is the most perfect album by one of God's most perfect singers, singing perhaps American music's most perfect song—not to mention, it's a stunning recording. Through the Studio HDs, Sinatra's voice had a plethora of delicate textures and subtle dynamic inflections. My mind followed every subtle sway and pregnant pause, and I smiled blissfully as each song ended. Nevertheless, I felt timing and timbre were still not 100% right.

With the Bel Canto Design e.One REF600M
For best sound, Legacy encourages the user to apply some big power to the Studio HDs—up to 300Wpc. I used AudioQuest Oak cables to biwire the Studio HDs to Bel Canto's powerful e.One REF600M class-D monoblocks, which can produce 600W into 4 ohms or 300W into 8 ohms.

Most class-D amplifiers do a bang-up job making the audioband's bottom five octaves sound strong, tight, and clear, but often the uppermost octaves will sound vacant and skeletal. Not the REF600Ms, which deliver ten octaves of rich (for class-D), burnished, ribbon-microphone–like sound into every low-impedance, low-sensitivity speaker I've tried them with. I was sure the Bel Cantos would add testosterone to the Studio HD's vocal and bass regions. They did.

I haven't said much about the Studio HD's reproduction of bass, mainly because, so far, the bottom octaves seemed shelved down. Turned out the HDs just needed a dose of Vitamin D—with the Bel Cantos, they played Dead Combo's A Bunch of Meninos (16/44.1, Dead & Company/Tidal) with genuine pop and swagger. The bass was now fuller, tighter, and more forward than with the low-powered class-A amps I'd been using.


It was the full moon in June when I played Johnny Hartman's The Voice That Is! (2 LPs, Impulse!/ABC ASH-9036), Johnny Cash's Johnny Cash (LP, Sun 1220), and Mel Tormé's At the Crescendo (LP, Bethlehem BCP-6020). The planets were properly aligned, and so was the Shibata stylus of my Hana SL. Desperate to get these men's voices right, I flipped the Legacys' Treble toggles to Trim 2dB. VoilÖ! This time the Studio HDs did not sound dull—these three legendary voices now sounded like legendary voices, not canned imitations. Subjectively at least, more power and less treble brought up the 80–500Hz octaves to a point where I could really enjoy these three recordings.

I then played Man from Plovdiv, by Milcho Leviev (CD, M•A Recordings M018A), whose piano has some fierce energy going on between 50 and 500Hz. The powerful Bel Cantos helped the HDs show me the piano's soundboard and how it was physically putting across Milcho's manic improvisations. The Bel Cantos energized the Legacy's bottom octaves and seemingly enhanced the beauty of their treble.

Against the Magnepan .7
The Legacy Studio HDs sounded best when driven by the Bel Canto REF600M monoblocks. So did Magnepan's .7 quasi-ribbon panel speakers ($1400/pair)—to my happy surprise, the Magnepans sounded big and wet and musical, just like the Studio HDs they replaced.

It was uncanny how similar these two speakers sounded. Both let me feel a vivid, almost psychedelic pleasure while listening to Sinatra sing "Willow Weep for Me." Both preserved Sinatra's moody lyricism and conductor Riddle's elegant tempo shifts.

For me, audio pleasure and high-fidelity playback depend entirely on lifelike timbres, preservation of tempo, force, density, and articulation of space—in that order. The Magnepans reproduced "Willow Weep for Me" with slightly truer timbres, slightly bigger images, and slightly more precise renderings of tempo and space than did the Studio HDs. But these differences were subtle.

Against the KEF LS50
When critically auditioning audio components, sequence is everything. The previous product's strengths will usually direct my attention to its replacement's weaknesses—or strengths. The first thing I noticed when I replaced the Legacy Studio HDs with KEF's LS50 minimonitors ($1499/pair) was how the KEFs made Milcho Leviev's piano sound smaller. The soundboard became less dense, and therefore more imaginary than corporeal. The reduction in woofer size was obvious. But the LS50s' rendering of timbres was more natural throughout the piano's entire range, and their soundfield was more focused and coherent, if smaller. The two speakers retrieved similar amounts of detail, though ambience and soundstages were more fully audible through the KEFs. But the Studio HDs had more punch and boogie.

Against the Harbeth P3ESR
Reviewing loudspeakers one right after the other makes me feel like a gourmand eating in a different restaurant every night: No matter how nice they all are, there's always one I can't wait to get back to. For me, that speaker is Harbeth's little LS3/5a look-alike, the P3ESR ($2299/pair), one of the most naturally balanced speakers I know of. It's small and plays small, but a pair of them image big, and make recorded timbres sound exactly the way I think they should sound. My main complaint about the P3ESR is that its little 5" woofer can't jump or slam like the 8" woofer in the Studio HD. The Legacy is a small box, but it can play really big and really loud—like the Magnepan .7.

When I played a couple of 7" 45rpm singles—Frankie Ford's cover of Huey "Piano" Smith's "Sea Cruise" (Ace 554) and Matt Lucas killin' Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On" (Smash S1813)—the Studio HDs wound them up and let out all the rock'n'roll.

Important Note
When reviewing loudspeakers, I always try to listen to the "whole box" as if it were a rattling can filled with wire, iron, and cone materials. With some speakers, I can hear the woofer cones "speaking" with an accent. (Tap any speaker cone with your finger. That sound is the accent.) I can hear their domes straining, their ports whistling. With speakers that have thick, heavy cabinets, I can usually hear the wood grumbling its heavy-log grumble.

The Legacy Studio HD seemed free of such colorations. I couldn't hear the box or port at all. The tweeter remained inaudible even when I listened for it. But I wasn't sure about that graphite-and-silver-thread woofer cone. I imagine that the highly experienced Bill Dudleston did a careful job of designing it, which leaves me no choice but to wonder: Were my struggles with male vocals some byproduct of the HD's cone material? Maybe. But I don't think so.

Legacy Audio's Studio HD loudspeakers generated a conspicuous sense of spirited liveliness: something very often missing in audiophile-sanctioned loudspeakers. In my room, to my ears, the Studio HD emphasized the presence region and deemphasized the meaty part of the lower midrange. Its folded-ribbon tweeter conspired with its woofer's bass alignment to emphasize tempo and timing in ways I found 100% agreeable. Therefore, if you're a foot-tapping fanatic of pace, rhythm, and timing, this might be the loudspeaker of your dreams. And if you're a rock aficionado, just assume that the "HD" in the name stands for Heavy Duty boogie.

I recommend Legacy Audio's Studio HDs, though not to imaging freaks and in my room, their sound wasn't balanced or concise enough. I recommend them to the young in years or spirit, audiophile music lovers with wide-ranging tastes and at least 100Wpc to throw at these speakers.

Legacy Audio
3023 E. Sangamon Avenue
Springfield, IL 62702
(800) 283-4644

beave's picture

JA, in your measurements you state: "...presumably to protect it from subsonic overload below the port tuning frequency." 'Subsonic' means below the speed of sound in a given medium. Isn't the correct word 'infrasonic,' which describes sound waves with a frequency below human hearing?

Russell Dawkins's picture

I think you are right. In a similar vein, just today I saw 'supersonic' being used to mean 'ultrasonic'.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Boogie Fever" ........... The Sylvers :-) ..........

Anton's picture

My Jungian intuition and Myers Briggs type are telling me “no” for some reason.

I loved your review but it made my spider senses tingle.

tonykaz's picture

Well, damit, thanks for giving Bill Dudleston's designs a good "listen to". I've admired his Whispers for some time but Wifey keeps veto powering me. ( double-damit )

I think that I agree on the LS3/5a greatness and the British Greatness for that matter. I can't imagine a "Glossy" finish on Loudspeakers. Who wants loudspeakers to be Glitzy? or Garish?
I'd probably distrust any Outfit relying on Glossy to sell, it says "flash" over function.

Yet these things held your attention to the exclusion of all else with their energy, style and enthusiasm ( mesmerizing élan ). That is a POWERFUL summary followed by a complaint about the coloration of Hahn's violin "leaning" "slightly toward thin and cool" . hmm, a small price to pay in terms of design compromise considering I've always felt Hilary's playing leaned to Cool & Thin compared to the instruments she plays against. I kinda get the feeling that our lovely Hilary Hahn is a totally Cool & Thin person ( compared to YoYo for instance )

This review alone makes the entire Issue worthwhile, best writing in Audio, best descriptives, wonderful additives, adjectives & adverbs. We'll be reading this Review 100 years from now thinking how 2018 was the Golden Era of Audio Journalism.

Tony in Michigan

ps. 16 ohm Audiophile resistors from Nelson Pass? love to hear some observations

Ortofan's picture

... " jump or slam" - build a system with a pair of LS3/5A size "satellites" and a separate dual-channel transmission line (sub)woofer.

Harbeth should make such an add-on low frequency unit to go with their P3ESR speakers, but that will never happen because Alan Shaw despises transmission line type loading. At one time, however, Harbeth did sell the Xtender bass unit to complement their P3.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

ELAC Adante AS-61 may be a better value for the money, at approximately the same price. AS-61 may be the loudspeaker to beat in this price range :-) ...........

Anton's picture

I think I spend more money going to listen to gear than I have actually spent on my gear!

I have yet to hear those, so will seek them out.

Appreciate the recommendation.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

ELAC also sells a matching sub-woofer, if you want to go that route :-) ............

Indydan's picture

I've heard a good number of speakers in this price range. The Ryan R610 beats them all. I would love it if Herb reviewed the R610.

bsher's picture

The Adante AS-61 costs $5000 a pair. They may be the speakers to beat at THAT price, but comparing them to these speakers makes little sense.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

From what I see on the specs, ELAC Adante AS-61 bookshelf speakers price is $2500 ..........

bsher's picture

Oops. My bad. I thought I saw them for $2500 EACH, which some speaker manufacturers do. And you're right: any Andrew Jones Elac is likely the best speaker for the money by miles. Wish he made a pair around the $1K mark. Not sure the Uni-Fi bookshelfs can compete with some of the new stuff in that price range from DALI or Wharfedale.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You may be referring to AF-61 floor stander .............

avanti1960's picture

review the Legacy Calibre?
Very intriguing design.

Anton's picture

I would pay extra for that!

Herb, go for it!


Bogolu Haranath's picture

The very capable and much more versatile KEF LS-50 active, DSP wireless (wi-fi capable) Nocturne speakers are $2500 :-) .............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

HR reviewed Technics premium class book-shelf speakers $1699 pair ........ Listed under Stereophile Class-A ...........

dcolak's picture

If the author of the design wanted to EQ the sound, why didn't he simply do it with a digital EQ before it went to a DAC?!

Why in the world would he spend time to design so badly performing speaker?

If he had it linear, one would be able to EQ it any way he wanted.

dalethorn's picture

The $64 question. Interested to learn more, since there's so much new discussion on EQ.

tonykaz's picture

Has anyone else ?

I probably would've carried the entire Legacy Line if they existed in 1982 ( in addition to Thiel Loudspeakers ).

This is a darn nice Company with darn nice products.

Tony in Michigan

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Legacy makes external add-on EQ/DSP units. Check their website ...............

DougM's picture

I think it's kind of funny that on an expensive speaker like this, they still use a cheap cardboard toilet paper roll looking tube for the port, just like a lot of $200-300 a pair speakers, while some lower priced speakers like B&W's cheaper lines (among others) use flared and dimpled port tubes for reduced port noise.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be Stereophile could review Legacy flag-ship Valor? ........ May be MF? :-) .........