Sensible Sound Review of Legacy Studio
Review Date: July 2000
Publication: The $ensible Sound - Issue #69
Reviewer: Karl W. Nehring and Bruce W. Vigon
Related Product(s): Studio HD
"I confirmed that the Legacy Studios were the overall best-sounding small speakers I had ever auditioned in my listening room."
"Having listened to big speakers for the past 13 years, I could not believe the quantity and quality of bass these little boxes produced."
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When I received these speakers for review, it was at a time when I was becoming somewhat discouraged. I had just spent a bunch of time with the Coincident Speaker Technology Triumph Signatures (the original versions, not the Series IIs reviewed by HF above) and had found them to be a real disappointment. Although they were clean sounding, they could not begin to convey the heft of real music, and when I would play music such as The Planets through them, they nearly made me laugh out loud. I know there are reviewers and audiophiles who swoon over this type of sound, but I am not one of them. For nearly a grand, I thought the Triumph Signatures offered mediocre value at best, and I dreaded having to write a review. However, Coincident Speaker Technology saved my bacon by recalling the speakers because they were to be replaced by a Series II model, so I requested that those be sent to HF. I thought it would be best to have someone else listen to them with a fresh set of ears. I had also spent some time listening to the NEAR 15Ms. Although I preferred their tonal balance to the Triumph Signatures, I felt they had something of a hollow quality in the midrange that I could never quite listen around. But at least they were significantly less expensive than the Coincidents. At any rate, I decided that maybe I was getting cranky in my old age, so I packed them off to BWV without comment and decided to let him have a go at them.
As a foil to these two pairs of speakers I had been reviewing, I had pulled out the pair of Platinum Studio Ones that had been languishing in the corner for a while. They pretty well restored my faith in small speakers, with a tonal balance similar to the NEARs but with only the faintest hint hollowness in the midrange. They also seemed to convey dynamics slightly better than either the NEARs or the Coincidents. But I wanted to get back to my task of doing a Double Double review of The Planets, and was getting pretty darned tired of small speakers. I really wanted to get back to my Focus.
But no, I could not yet do that. I had another pair of small boxes stacked in my room — the Legacy Studios. With some reluctance, but driven by a sense of duty, I cut open the boxes and began the unpacking process.
The first thing I noticed was how nicely finished the Studios were. With rounded corners and a beautiful rosewood veneer, they looked like the product of a fine furniture maker, one who takes great pride in his work. Fine cabinetry has been a hallmark of the Legacy line, but it was still a surprise to encounter the same level of quality at the bottom of the line. Very impressive!
The Studios are a two-way ported design with the port exiting to the rear. Enclosure dimensions are 13.5”H x 9.8”W x 10.2” D. The driver complement includes a 7.5” Kevlar midwoofer and a 1” titanium dome tweeter. The crossover is specified at 2.4 kHz, sensitivity is stated at 90.5 dB, nominal impedance is 4 ohms, and the recommended amplifier power range is 10-200 watts. On the back panel are a sturdy pair of gold-plated 5-way binding posts and a couple of toggle switches. The toggle switch on the left activates a first-order high-pass filter with a hinge point of about 80 Hz. It is designed to allow the owner more flexibility when combining the Studio with a subwoofer. This is a really nice touch, and I am surprised that more speaker designers do not include such an option, particularly when sub-woofers are becoming so popular. The switch on the right can be used to shave a few dB from the Studios' response in the 3-8 KHz range (I presume this is the famous "Gundry dip" pioneered by the BBC for its studio monitors). This control can be used to take some of the edge off bright studio recordings.
The owner's manual recommends placement on 2024” stands. I employed my usual double-milk-crate 24” stands and hooked the Studios into the system. Associated equipment included the Dynaco CDV-Pro CD player, AVA Fet Valve EC preamp, and AVA Fet Valve 550hc power amplifier, which drove the speakers through 10í lengths of Kimber 4VS speaker cable terminated with banana plugs.
Five minutes out of the box and it was all over. The Studios were so much better than the other small speakers I had been auditioning that it was not even close. The Studios had good tonal balance, but not a hint of hollowness. They had a lively sense of dynamics, really making music come alive, but without sounding bright and forward. On the bottom end, they were quite surprising. Although they will not rattle the walls, they went down through the midbass with cleanliness and authority, and were even able to do a credible job on large orchestral works.
After receiving such a positive first impression of the Studios, I began to wonder whether they would strike me so positively after I had lived with them for a while. After all, there is the old "different equals better syndrome" that many audioflake companies have used to sell their equipment. Could the Studios be trading on a coloration that would lose its charm after more extended auditioning?
I left them in the main system for a while, with the whole family using them. I got some questions from the family along the lines of, "what are those pretty little speakers? Going back to them again with my critical ears on (these look like what you can get at Disney World, except they are gold rather than black), I found that my initial impressions still held. Using the Platinum Audio Studio 1s as a foil, I confirmed that the Legacy Studios were the overall best-sounding small speakers I had ever auditioned in my listening room. The biro technology L/1s at nearly $1,500/pair may have been clear-cut. The biro L/2s at $995/pair, my previous benchmark in this size and price range, may also be a touch more tonally neutral, but no better in terms of imaging, and no match in overall bass and dynamics.
Since I had sought BWV's second opinion on the NEARs, I thought it would be appropriate to see what he thought of the Studios, so I passed along the speakers to him, again without any comment.? KWN
What a difference a couple of weeks makes! When I initially received these mini-monitors (Legacy's term, not mine), I was in the midst of auditioning the NEAR 15Ms and only got a chance to casually listen to the Legacies for a few minutes. I was not initially impressed. The Legacies sounded overly bright and they imaged poorly. After completing my review of the NEARs, which I found to have a good if not knockyour-socks-off sound, I turned my attention to the Studios. I was careful this time to optimize their placement in my living room. I also went to the trouble of getting down to my local audio emporium and picking up a set of honest-to-goodness speaker stands. The differences were not subtle.
In my room the Studios sounded best at a distance of 21 inches from the rear wall, about 7 feet 4 inches apart and well away from the side walls. The stands I placed them on were 24 inches tall, which when I was seated on my favorite couch, put the tweeters an inch or two above my ear level. The stands were not filled with sand or lead shot or any such filler materials although there is provision for such treatment. However, they were spiked on the bottom. I put pennies under the spikes to keep my spouse from going through the roof about putting holes in our newly refinished oak floor. Like the NEARs and, unlike my former reference Magneplanar MG IIIs (I say former because I sold them about a week before this review was completed), the Studios did not benefit from toeing-in toward the listening position. Although doing so slightly increased the center image focus, it had an undesirable effect on the tonal balance. The rest of the setup was my typical Krell/Denon electronics and connector assemblage.
Well, to cut to the chase, I don't know if it was the stands, the additional break-in period, the optimization of the room positioning, or all three, but these diminutive speakers sound great! Having listened to big speakers for the past 13 years, I could not believe the quantity and quality of bass these little boxes produced. Yes, they did not go that low (probably 50ish in my room), but the mid and upper-bass was solid, reasonably well resolved, and eminently listenable. The acoustic bass lines on Bob James's Straight Up were readily apparent and reasonably full bodied. The last bit of body was not there, but both the power of the instrument and the little details of string movement were reproduced in excellent fashion. On power rock such as ZZ Top or Led Zeppelin there was little sense of overload or congestion in the bass region, though there was a considerable amount of air coming from the rear ports. In fact, the Studios were able to equal or slightly better the MG IIIs in bass quantity if not ultimate resolution. (Yeah, I know some folks think Magnepan's speakers have no bass to begin with, but that is definitely not true).
The midrange was very clean and dynamic. I thought the NEAR 15Ms sounded somewhat warmer than the Legacies due to a slightly veiled mid-range and a less prominent lower treble, and were dynamically constrained at higher listening levels. The Studios never sounded as if they were running out of steam dynamically. At least up to average levels in the lower 90s dB-wise (easy to get to with very modest dialing up of the volume control on my preamp considering their >90dB/watt sensitivity), the Studios did not get disjointed sounding the way some speakers can. I typically judge this trait unacceptable when the sonic landscape either turns into a jumble on transients or certain notes or pushed into the room to differing degrees due to cabinet or diaphragm resonance. However, the upper midrange was emphasized relative to either the NEARs or the MG IIIs. This had the effect of moving the image forward and slightly bleaching out the tone on some instruments. Shirley Horn's vocals on the NEARs and the MG IIIs were slightly left of center and several feet behind the speaker plane.
On the Legacies, she was positioned slightly in front of the speakers and had a somewhat disembodied quality. This effect seemed to be consistent from one CD to another, the degree to which it was noticeable and distracting dependent on the quality of the recording. On most material, particularly if it contained more than a solo vocal, solo instrument arrangement, it was nearly undetectable.
Ambience recovery and overall soundstage spaciousness was very good if not quite up to that of the 15Ms. Spatial aspects of several recordings (Sting's Ten Summoner's Tales and Peter Gabriel's So are good examples) were well served. Image specificity and localization, apart from the noted occasional effect on female voice, were also credible. Images were not associated with the speaker boxes, but created a solid spatial perspective between and generally behind the speakers (and outside and above when the out-ofphase content was high). Image height was somewhat compressed compared with the MG IIIs, but not to the degree noted with the NEARs.
One of these speakers' truly strong suits is their treble. The titanium dome tweeters never sizzled or gave any indications of unmusical effects. Cymbal taps and brushes were clean, tonally distinct, and harmonically intact. As long as the recording wasn't overly close-miked, the 10 foot wide drum set syndrome was absent. The resolving power of the tweeter on complex material was notable. Trumpet, string transients, upper piano notes, and percussion were all presented in a very natural and non-fatiguing way. Since the tweeter on these units handles frequencies above 2.4 kHz, it is responsible for a great deal of the musical tonal range and it performed with aplomb. My enthusiasm for the Studios should be obvious. They are not inexpensive as these things go, but should provide a very substantial return on your investment. Last but not least, the cabinet fit and finish are top-notch. They are solid for their size, with high quality, knurled input connectors on the rear, and the wood veneers are gorgeous. The spousal acceptance factor in our household was very high. Highly recommended for an audition, but be prepared to spend some extra money for good stands and some extra time in getting them positioned properly to provide their ultimate performance.