Rogers LS3a Bookshelf Speakers Reviewed

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Certain visitors to the Rogers room at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January may be forgiven for their unavoidable double-takes. Just as it's impossible to proof-read your own writing because you'll subconsciously insert the odd missing letter, so did Rogers bank on a similar effect with this little bombshell: the new LS3a. Yup, there's a '/' and a '5' missing, but it stopped me and every other LS3/5a fetishist dead in our tracks.

Then I noticed the driver complement, the rear port, the flush baffle, the conventional grille material, the minuscule increase in dimensions. I looked at the show card again. Caught it the second time, 'LS3a', and emphatically LS3/5a. But that Rogers badge and the truncated name certainly call to mind a deceased classic, and not subliminally. So what is the Rogers up to with this wannabe? Is this their attempt at doing for the LS3/5a what BMW did for the Mini? Yank it into the 21st Century and make a mint at it?

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Move ahead a few weeks. Back in the UK, I run into John Bell. John, a mover-and-shaker in the used hi-fi underground, also happens to be one of the two or three most knowledgeable and fervent of LS3/5a supporters. He also has some history with Rogers, he's a good buddy of LS3/5a maven Andy Whittle [now MD of Exposure] and he's a pragmatist. When John asked if I would be interested in looking at the LS3a, I replied him, bluntly, 'Is it any good?' John was non-committal, only telling me, 'Try it.'

I'm always miffed by charlatanism, and I particularly loathe the exploitation of my beloved LS3/5a with bogus surrogates - even if it's just via misleading nomenclature. John, too, has seen it all LS3/5a-wise, and is as passionate as any about its revival. Sadly, Rogers isn't the only manufacturer of post-modernist LS3/5a clonettes guilty of this little wheeze.

Some might see 'creative badging' as cute or canny; I don't. This speaker would have to stand or fall on its merits, as I quickly ruled out any DNA link to the LS3/5a. £499-per-pair small two-ways are plentiful, generally of decent performance if of serious manufacture and saleable in huge numbers without any deception as regards heritage. It had its work cut out for it, even without the baggage imposed on it by a cynical marketing hack.

With the speakers sited on top of IF stands, I compared them to Rogers 15 ohm LS3/5As and PMC DB1+, the latter costing over £100 more per pair. Note that a good pair of LS3/5As will set you back £500-£600, or up to a grand for 'preferred' models, e.g. Chartwells, so the comparisons don't favour the LS3a. Neither, though, are they outrageously unfair due to price.

Hand on heart: I wanted to dislike these from the moment I saw them. OK, OK, so it's unhealthy for an old fart to get emotional about inanimate objects, but that's the way I am. And I have too much emotion invested in the LS3/5a to stand by while one of its previous licensees plays mind games with the heritage. Audio is shamelessly guilty of exploiting past glories with present defecation that someone just has to say, 'Stop!'

Only this time, I have to say, 'Not bad. Not bad at all.'

It's an impressive little spud, the LS3a, well-made, pleasingly finished and so easy to drive that retailers will love it. In fact, everything about this speaker is easy, including set-up and positioning. They liked a bit of toe-in, but also worked well with the speakers firing forward. What toe-in does is act like a dial-in control for increasing or decreasing stage depth proportional to stage width. If you like a panoramic soundstage but aren't a fetishist about depth, fire them straight ahead. If you prefer more front-to-back, '3D-ness', and don't mind a reduction in absolute stage width, toe them in. Simple - and a matter of taste, though a hard-nosed purist would prefer to drive him- or herself crazy tweaking it to the millimetre.

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