First up was an MP3 of Elton John's "The Wasteland" from his album Songs From the West Coast (Universal Music). I played the track through iTunes and while there was certainly a tradeoff in sound quality from what I'd heard with the lossless files during burn-in, I was still impressed with the sound quality. While the MP3 track was less detailed and a bit lacking in the low end, I was still able to enjoy the track as the LV3s managed to deftly convey the soulfulness of Elton's voice. While imaging was decent on this track, it turned out to be exemplary with CD (and above) quality tracks. The bass response was solid, belying the size of the speakers.
Next up was an Apple Lossless file in the form of The Black Eyed Peas "Imma Be," from their album The E.N.D. (Interscope). First of all, I love this song; secondarily, it's a great way to test the low-end mettle of a loudspeaker. While bass response was impressive, especially for a speaker of this size, true bass junkies might want to consider adding the LVSUB. That said, I don't think the LV3s were designed with bass junkies in mind; more along the lines of discerning audiophiles who are also concerned with how their gear looks in a room. But back to the track: on the upside the soundstage was impressive and wide. Imaging was also solid, with Fergie's voice floating in space in the middle of the room. Despite their somewhat diminutive size, the LV3s did an impressive job of filling my large listening room with detailed, engaging sound.
For the next round I cued up another Apple Lossless file in the form of Nat King Cole's "Stay as Sweet as You Are" from the remastered version of his album Love is the Thing (Capitol). This is a popular track amongst audiophiles as it's well recorded and gives you a good idea of how a speaker handles vocals. What I can tell you is that the LV3s are revealing, in the best sense of the word. To explain, some speakers are revealing to the point of being annoying, allowing a trained listener to pick up on every flaw in a recording. The LV3s are revealing, without that last degree of detail that might turn a pleasant listening experience into a frustrating one. The treble was open and airy, just the right amount actually, re-producing Cole's famous vibrato with stunning accuracy. While lost in the magic of how this track sounded, I again had to remind myself that I was listening to wireless speakers. This is actually the first set of wireless speakers I've ever heard that were able to convey that "You are there" experience that all audiophiles crave.
Moving on, I cued up Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run" (Hear Music), which I downloaded as a 96/24 FLAC file from HDTracks. While the LV3s max out at 48 kHz, I was curious if there would be an audible improvement with a high-resolution file. There was. Put simply, the sound quality of the title track was stunning, with every layer of the instrumentation brilliantly rendered. McCartney is one of my favorite artists, and it had been awhile since I'd enjoyed listening to "Band on the Run" this much. In terms of the sonic improvement of a high resolution file versus lossless or especially MP3, the sound was more room-filling and imaging improved perceptibly.
While I was only planning on using four songs for this review - one MP3, two lossless and one high resolution - I was so impressed while listening to"Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie (Atlantic/WEA) that I decided to include some notes on that as well. The three-way design of the LV3s really shined on this track as it sounded like I was listening to a surround mix of this song, rather than a lossless two-channel track played through wireless speakers. The vocals were coming from all around me and it was impossible to "place" the speakers in the room. The LV3s exhibited really solid low-end authority and the resolution was jaw dropping. The thought I kept having was that these are some really well engineered speakers, and well worth $2,000. I was already sold on the LV3s from my earlier listening sessions, but listening to "Soul Meets Body" is where the experience became transformative. You can try to call me out for being overly effusive in my praise of the LV3s, but I'd like you to audition them before doing so.
Competition and Comparison This part of a review is typically pretty straightforward - you draw on your own past reviews and general knowledge to point out similar gear in terms of price and performance, although this is going to be a bit more difficult than usual as I don't think the LV3s have any direct competition in terms of performance, aesthetics and wireless technology. That said, there are a couple of options that might help you out if you're researching wireless speakers. If the $2,000 LV3s are out of your budget, you might want to take a look at the JBL WEM-1, which is a $350 kit that allows you to add wireless capability to most speakers and subwoofers. Another option, if you're looking for home theater surround sound, is the Aperion Intimus 4T Summit Wireless 5.1 System, which retails for $2,499. Aperion is known for making great sounding speakers with a solid price to performance ratio, due to their online only direct to consumer business model.
The Downside There's a band of material around the inside base of each speaker grill, and the adhesive used to attach it catches on the speaker itself when you remove the grill. It happened with both speakers and left adhesive goo on each side of the speaker. While I'm not sure if this is isolated to my review samples, it was definitely worth mentioning.
While the LV3s certainly play loud enough for most, Audio Pro might consider a beefier amp for a few more bucks as an option. While they were more than adequate for listening by myself in a 350 square foot listening room, they might be a bit underpowered if you're hosting a party and have a room filled with people.
Conclusion The most striking audible characteristic of these speakers has to be their resolution. Comparing them to my Bowers & Wilkins 685s I thought the LV3s exhibited more control, better low-end thump and higher resolution. In all fairness though, the LV3s are three times the price of the Bowers & Wilkins 685s.
You know it's funny, I've jumped through a lot of hoops both physically and financially to build a great sounding home theater. We're talking about carefully matching source components, choosing the right cabling and trying out all kinds of speaker placement options. Not to mention the headache of
trying to get high resolution 96/24 files to play through my system. DACs that lack 96/24 capability through their USB input anyone? Having been through all of this, I'm astonished at how quickly and easily the LV3s can provide stunningly good sound quality.
Another very important fact about these speakers is that you don't need a state of the art computer to drive them, nor do you need high-resolution audio files. They're so good and so forgiving that even your sad little MP3 files will sound great. As a reminder, I ran MP3s, lossless and high res files through the LV3s in order to test their versatility. They passed this and every other test I threw at them with flying colors - ease of setup, aesthetics and most importantly - sheer audio bliss. They're also, due to the leather wrapping and cool design, a great conversation piece. I had plenty of people come in and out of my listening room while
auditioning the LV3s and every one of them asked about the speakers. The bottom line is that whether you have a rickety old computer on its last leg, or one of those shiny new Macs, your music is going to sound nothing short of spectacular through the LV3s and it's going to take you about 10 minutes to set them up.